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'War Horse,' 'Chinatown' Among Top Blu-ray Releases This Week


Following up a so-so run in theaters at the end of 2011, director Steven Spielberg's historical drama "War Horse" hits stores on DVD and Blu-ray in a slow overall week for new releases. Cameron Crowe's uplifting drama "We Bought a Zoo," starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, will also get launched in the home market this week and film buffs might be interested in the high-definition version of Roman Polanski's timeless classic "Chinatown."

Backed by some critical support, "War Horse" hit theaters on Christmas Day looking to find a niche with audiences of all ages, though popular titles like "Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol" and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" made it a difficult sell. Not helping its commercial outlook was its grim subject matter, and "War Horse" wasn't able to take off like Spielberg war films from years past.

But even if "War Horse" didn't make the commercial or awards season impact it was expected to, it was still far from a box office dud. "War Horse" was able to ride Spielberg's popularity overseas to a worldwide intake of $173 million, a solid overall total for a $66 million production. Spielberg will be back to historical territory by the end of the year with the release of "Lincoln," a biopic of the famed U.S. president starring Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role.

While PG-13 "War Horse" is probably too intense for families with younger kids, PG "We Bought a Zoo" should find a segment of the family demographic despite struggling in theaters. "We Bought a Zoo" tells the remarkably true story of a man (Matt Damon) who does exactly what the title suggests, only to find that running a zoo isn't always as fun as it sounds. From writer/director Cameron Crowe ("Almost Famous," "Say Anything"), "We Bought a Zoo" was politely applauded by some critics, though it was ultimately dismissed as one of Crowe's weaker films.

Aiming for a slightly more cynical audience, director Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" finally gets its Blu-ray release this week for audiences looking to celebrate one of the most revered films of the 1970s. Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston, "Chinatown" boasts an Oscar-winning screenplay from Robert Towne, who was lauded for his tale of power struggles and corruption in 1930s Los Angeles. Released in 1974, "Chinatown" ended up rejuvenating the moribund film noir genre and pushed young star Nicholson to the very top of the A-list.

Also looking to attract a few older film fans will be "West Side Story," the beloved musical starring Natalie Wood and George Chakiris. Heavily inspired by "Romeo and Juliet," "West Side Story" would go on to win 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, following its 1961 release, making it one of the most acclaimed musicals of all-time. Even with a soundtrack that hasn't aged particularly well, "West Side Story" remains one of the most impactful films from Hollywood's musical golden age, prompting it to be named the second best musical ever by the American Film Institute.

Next week might also be a nice one for film buffs with the Blu-ray releases of a couple different prominent older films, including the Marlon Brando-starring "A Streetcar Named Desire" and George Méliès' famous silent film "A Trip to the Moon." For those looking for a film slightly more recent than 1902, Meryl Streep's latest Oscar-winning role will be on display in "The Iron Lady" and sci-fi lovers can turn to thriller "The Darkest Hour." Documentary lovers will also get a chance to see Werner Herzog's "Into the Abyss," an unabashed look at the life of a man winding down his time on death row.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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