This week's releases are full of food, fun, and fighting.
The Hundred-Foot Journey, Grade B: An Indian family launches a restaurant across the street from a popular French restaurant. Helen Mirren stars.
Director Lasse Hallstrom has put together his latest cinematic dish as a tasty three-course meal that only slows between main course and dessert. Hallstrom blends romance and cooking to create a sweet tale of love that's 50 shades of gravy. It's the rare case where both sides are justified in their personal and culinary opinions. That makes it easy to root for them to find a way to come together.
Most of the film is predictable, but that's like looking at a menu and ordering items you've had many times before.
The familiar can be just as good if presented the right way. When Mirren's involved, characters are elevated to the highest quality.
Cantinflas, B-plus: The Spanish-language biographical movie (with English subtitles) provides a context for why Mexico's Mario Moreno belongs among the names of the great film comedians.
Director Sebastian del Amo skillfully shows the professional highs and emotional lows that went into making Cantinflas such a national treasure.
Del Amo doesn't allow the movie to drift into melancholy, always slipping back to the whimsical work of Cantinflas or the parallel story of Mike Todd's efforts to lure Hollywood's elite to his movie Around the World in 80 Days. The biggest flaw is that that story isn't as interesting; it would have been better to explore Cantinflas' rise in more detail.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, B-plus: This updated tale of how apes surpass man as the dominant species has plenty of big battle sequences. But it gives equal time to personal issues like respect, loyalty, and family. The combination makes Dawn a solid pick.
Director Matt Reeves (Let Me In) gives Dawn a very human touch, both through the humans' emotional complexities and the social structure of the apes.
Also new in stores:
The Hero of Color City: Crayon box transforms into a colorful world.
Fifi Howls From Happiness: Look at Iranian artist Bahman Mohassess.
Jingle All the Way 2: Two dads compete to make this the best Christmas ever.
Broad City: Season One: Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer star in the cable comedy.
The Strain, Season 1: Mysterious virus is unleashed. Corey Stoll stars.
Field of Lost Shoes: Teen cadets must defend Shenandoah Valley.
The Dark Matter of Love: Documentary follows three children from Russia and the family that adopted them.
The Simpsons, Season 17: Contains 22 episodes of the Fox animated series.
WWE Fit Series: Stephanie McMahon: WWE mogul and mother helps viewers achieve the physique of the WWE Divas.
San Francisco Giants World Series Collector's Edition: Follows the winning efforts of the Giants.
Resurrecting Richard III: Scientists look at the king's physical condition.
Star Trek, The Next Generation, Season 7: Final voyages of the Enterprise can be seen on Blu-ray.
Stanley Kubrick, The Masterpiece Collection: The best films of the director, including Full Metal Jacket.
Lalaloopsy Girls, Welcome to L.A.L.A. Prep School: Based on the Lalaloopsy Girls dolls.
My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Season 4: Twilight Sparkle still wants to have fun.
Tales From the Crypt/Vault of Horror: Includes two horror films.
Speak No Evil: Every child in town disappears.
Gutshot Straight: Gambler makes bad deal. AnnaLynne McCord stars.
Kung Fu Girl /Whiplash: Two martial arts films on one DVD.
Julius Jr., Snow Monkey Adventures: Includes six episodes of the preschool series.
Drawing With Mark, Let's Go to the Zoo & Zoo Stories: Former Disney illustrator Mark Marderosian teaches children to draw.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: Jimmy Stewart film is available on Blu-ray to mark the 75th anniversary.
Legacy of Rage: Brando Lee stars in the martial arts film.
Into the Woods: Bernadette Peters stars in this film version of the stage production.
Extant: First season of the Halle Berry science fiction series.
Robin Williams Remembered, A Pioneers of Television Special: One-hour look at the comedian's life, work.