CATEGORIES DVDs, Movies, Blu-ray DVDs

Into this week's mix of animated ('Rio'), melodrama ('Soul Surfer') and documentary ('Exporting Raymond') films comes the completely unexpected: 'Stake Land,' the sophomore outing by director Jim Mickle. Mickle takes the typical vampire/zombie trek saga (as epitomized by 'Resident Evil: Extinction,' 'Dawn of the Dead' and even 'Zombieland') and foregrounds the gritty, lonely circumstances of the main characters and the journey they take -- without dialing back the horror of a post-apocalyptic world. It's a nice moody, stylish take on a by-now shopworn genre. Or can we never get enough of vampires and zombies? Read on.

'Stake Land'
What It's About: An epidemic of vampirism has turned the United States into a post-apocalyptic wasteland of empty cities, with human survivors clustering in small rural communities and fighting off the bloodsuckers when night falls. A lone survivalist, known only as Mister, teams up with a young boy, a disillusioned nun and a pregnant young woman on a trek north to Canada, searching for the rumored safe haven of New Eden. Along the way they also have to contend with brutal religious fundamentalists, who are more of a danger than the vampires, who they see as messengers of the Lord.

It's Kinda Like: 'Dawn of the Dead' meets 'The Road'

What We Say: This is a vampire film with a heart and a soul: Despite its straight-ahead vampire killing action, there's plenty of time for characterization and the development of subthemes; director Jim Mickle and writer Nick Damici work in thoughtful conversations and ideas about loneliness, teamwork, freedom and family. In fact, the film revolves around a nuclear family of sorts: the survivalist (Damici), who takes the young man (Connor Paolo) under his wing and becomes his surrogate father, teaching him the ways of the world, the motherly nun (Kelly McGillis) and the pregnant girl (Danielle Harris). It's a stylish, moody, trippy coming-of-age story with a stake in your hand.

• Extras: Commentaries, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a very cool series of "Character Prequels" that explore the pre-apocalypse life of the main characters.
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'Rio'
What It's About: Captured as a young bird from the wild, Blu (voice of Jesse Eisenberg) is a domesticated Spix Macaw living thousands of miles away from his homeland, Brazil. When his human owner Linda (Leslie Mann) discovers that he is the last male of his kind, they head south to Rio de Janeiro to meet the only other female. But it's far from love at first sight between the socially-awkward, flight-challenged Blu and the fiercely independent, high-flying female, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Shortly after Blu's arrival, the two rare birds are captured by greedy animal smugglers and find themselves lost in the Brazilian rainforest and face a struggle to get back to safety.

It's Kinda Like: 'Finding Nemo' meets 'Madagascar'

What the Critics Say: 'Rio' got mixed reactions from the critics, with most siding with Film Threat's conclusion: "With bold, tropical colors, salsa sounds, and refreshing voiceovers from Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and more, 'Rio' is pure, light hearted fun." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone liked the color but little else: "'Rio' is a brightly-colored, dizzying pinwheel of 3D animation in which nothing much happens," while Nick Schager of the Village Voice said "Too timid to be either inspired or outrageously inept, 'Rio' is merely a bird of a familiar feather."

• Extras: Behind the scenes featurettes on the making of the movie and the sights and sounds of Rio.
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August 2 Blu-ray Debuts:
  • 'Better Off Dead' (1985) The 1980s coming-of-age cult-classic makes its hi-def debut. Starring John Cusack as the awkward teen Lane Meyers, the romantic dark comedy follows Lane after his girlfriend dumps him for a more popular guy. After many unsuccessful attempts to win her back -- and having to deal with several family crises -- he decides that suicide is the only answer until he befriends a beautiful foreign exchange student who helps him turn his life around.
  • 'Conan the Barbarian'(1982) Arnold Schwarzenegger tears up the scenary as the barbarian seeking vengeance for the slaughter of his village -- and his family.

Other New August 2 DVD Releases:
  • 'Exporting Raymond': Phil Rosenthal, the Emmy Award-winning creator of 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' takes a journey halfway around the world to detail his struggle to remake one of America's favorite sitcoms into a successful Russian TV series.
  • 'The Music Never Stopped': Once close, Gabriel and his father Henry have spent the last 20 years estranged from each other. But when Gabriel is diagnosed with a brain tumor that doesn't allow his mind to create new memories, he returns home, where Henry hires a music therapist to help engage the young man; eventually the two men forge a common bound trough classic rock music. Stars J.K. Simmons, Lou Taylor Pucci, Cara Seymour, Julia Ormond.
  • 'The Perfect Game': In 1957, a team of impoverished baseball-loving kids from Mexico achieved the impossible. Standing tall against hardships no child should face -- poverty, intolerance -- they crossed the border to achieve a dream: Compete in and win the Little League World Series. Stars Clifton Collins Jr., Moises Arias, Ryan Ochoa, Jake T. Austin.
  • 'Quarantine 2: Terminal': Sequel to 2008's 'Quarantine.' The deadly virus has escaped the infected building from the first film and is now on board a late night flight.
  • 'Soul Surfer': The incredible true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), who lost her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcame all odds to become a champion again, through her sheer determination and unwavering faith. Her adventurous comeback turned her loss into a gift for others. Also stars Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood, Kevin Sorbo, Lorraine Nicholson.

Check out more August 2 DVD releases at OnVideo.