News Column

New on Dvd

August 9, 2013


In stores

MUD (2013, Lionsgate, PG-13, $20) -- For his follow-up to "Take Shelter," writer/director Jeff Nichols has crafted an absorbing thriller involving two teenagers (Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland) and an outlaw named Mud (a raggedy but mesmerizing Matthew McConaughey). No sooner do the kids encounter Mud on a deserted island in the Mississippi River than they're smuggling him food and passing letters to his girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon). Rites-of-passage pictures don't come any more nuanced and exciting than this wild adventure that touches on themes of love, survival, friendship, justice and the bittersweet sting of childhood crushes. Extras: featurettes and commentary by Nichols.

OBLIVION (2013, Universal, PG-13, $30) -- Joseph Kosinski's sci- fi actioner sure looks pretty but doesn't make a lick of sense. Tom Cruise stars as a repairman who, post-apocalypse, tinkers with drones as one of the last men on earth. His only companion is a workmate/lover (Andrea Riseborough) who monitors his actions via computer. On one of his missions, Cruise stumbles upon a mystery woman (Olga Kurylenko) as well as a cadre of scruffy rebels led by Morgan Freeman. Thanks to early scenes that evoke "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Oblivion" initially seems interesting. Too bad the film descends into utter nonsense right around the time Cruise unlocks the mystery of his identity. Extras: featurettes.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2013, Universal, R, $30) -- The latest from Derek Cianfrance ("Blue Valentine") is a smart, ambitious thriller that investigates how a single crime reverberates through two generations. The action is divided into three segments, dominated by Ryan Gosling (as a motorcycle stunt rider/bank robber), Bradley Cooper (as an ambitious rookie cop) and Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen (as the sons of Gosling and Cooper, respectively). Despite a patchy third act, "Pines" stands above the multiplex pack thanks to its rich, complex story and the performances of its razor- sharp cast (including Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta). Extras: deleted scenes, featurette and Cianfrance commentary.

TO THE WONDER (2013, Magnolia, R, $27) -- Two years after "Tree of Life" comes another woozy meditation on faith and love from Terrence Malick. Ben Affleck stars as an American engineer who falls hard for a free-spirit (Olga Kurylenko) he meets in France. But once he brings Kurylenko back to Oklahoma, the relationship cools. Or so it seems. There's very little dialogue to clue you in on what's happening. Eventually, Kurylenko returns to France, and Affleck drifts in the direction of a childhood friend (Rachel McAdams). In between murmured voice-overs and nature shots, Javier Bardem pops up as a depressed priest. "To the Wonder" is beautifully photographed but too formless to make much of an impact. Extras: none.

THE SAPPHIRES (2013, Anchor Bay, PG-13, $27) Go ahead and try to resist this 1968-set feel-good charmer about a quartet of Australian women (Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens) who, under the guidance of an R&B-loving Irish musician (Chris O'Dowd), transform into a girl group capable of wowing the troops in Vietnam. The early scenes are the best, as the gals rehearse can't-miss numbers and work through their sisterly tensions. It's a smidge too pat and predictable, but "The Sapphires" is also a delight, brimming over with spirit and soul. Extras: featurettes, including an interview with the real Sapphires.

WEST OF MEMPHIS -- (2012, Sony, R, $30) In the wake of three terrific HBO documentaries about the wrongfully-convicted West Memphis 3 along comes yet another chronicle of the case. Refreshingly, it's not only a compelling overview of the whole saga but it digs deeper into a possible link between the murders and Terry Hobbs, one victim's stepfather. (Hobbs has not been charged with the crimes). As a reminder of the fact that the American justice system is full of flaws, "West of Memphis" packs quite a punch. Extras: deleted scenes and commentaries.

TWIXT (2011, Fox, R, $30) -- Mostly silly but occasionally gripping, the latest from Francis Ford Coppola at least starts from a nifty idea: third-rate novelist Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) believes he's found material for a new book in the strange crimes that haunt the small town of Swan Valley. It's a premise that allows for black comedy and a sense of dread. The cast is impressive too, including Elle Fanning as a goth ghost, Bruce Dern as the sheriff and Ben Chaplin as Edgar Allen Poe. Sure, the plot's too tricky for its own good but it's fun to watch Coppola try his hand at an old- fashioned thriller-diller for the first time since 1992's "Dracula." Extras: featurette.

THE JEFFREY DAHMER FILES (2013, IFC, unrated, $25) -- One of the most riveting crime stories of the 20th century is chronicled in this slim but haunting documentary. Director Chris James Thompson coaxes revealing interviews out of a Dahmer neighbor, a medical examiner, and the homicide detective in charge of the case. Most chilling of all are the lo-fi re-enactments of Dahmer preparing for his crimes. There's nothing creepier than watching the oddly polite serial killer strolling through a hardware store looking for everyday items he'll soon put to stomach-churning use. Extras: deleted scenes and featurette.

WELCOME TO THE PUNCH (2013, IFC, R, $25) -- An intense James McAvoy stars as a policeman obsessed with catching the thief (Mark Strong) who shot him during a daring heist. But what McAvoy and his partner (Andrea Riseborough) don't know is that there's a vast conspiracy at work involving the police, mercenaries and mobsters. With explosive gun battles and a plot that moves like a runaway train, "Punch" wrecks havoc on your nervous system. Director Eran Cleevy is one to watch. Extras: featurettes.

PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED (1986, Image, PG-13, $18) -- Looking better than ever on Blu-ray, this underrated gem from Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most poignant and charming time-travel films ever made. Fortysomething Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) is about to divorce her cheating husband (Nicolas Cage) when she faints at a class reunion and wakes up back in high-school with a chance to undo all of her mistakes. Shot in honeyed tones and filled with mentions of Edsels, saddle shoes and Buddy Holly, "Peggy Sue" is a sugar rush of nostalgia. Extras: none.

BRUCE LEE: THE LEGACY COLLECTION (1971-,1978 Shout Factory, R, $120) Hot on the heels of Warner Bros. 40th anniversary edition of "Enter the Dragon" comes this massive set of four Blu-rays and seven DVDs showcasing Lee's best films. On tap: "The Big Boss," which marks Lee's first starring role; "Fists of Fury," in which Lee introduced nunchuks to the movie screen; the Italy-set, Lee- directed "Way of the Dragon;" and "Game of Death," which was completed six years after Lee's death. Also included are three feature-length documentaries. Extras: deluxe book, commentaries, featurettes and outtakes.

POLITICAL ANIMALS: THE COMPLETE SERIES (2013, Warner, unrated, $20) -- The best reason to check out USA Network's mini-series about a Hillary Clinton-esque secretary of state is Sigourney Weaver, who delivers a stinging turn as a former first lady juggling dreams of a future presidential run with fallout from a scandal involving her soon-to-be-ex-husband (Ciaran Hinds). It would have been easy for Weaver to overdo the ferocity, but she communicates her character's vulnerabilities, too, especially in scenes with her outspoken mother (Ellen Burstyn). Extras: deleted scenes.

STRIKE BACK: SEASON TWO (2012, HBO, unrated, $40) -- At the start of the second season, anti-terrorist crusader Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) accepts a job as a desk jockey. But when his comrade (Sullivan Stapleton) is taken hostage during a botched mission, Stonebridge springs back into action. There's a new Section 20 boss (Rhona Mitra) as well as scores of fresh villains, all vying for possession of a box of valuable nuclear triggers. Not since "24" has a series so successfully balanced gun play and chase sequences with smart plotting and relatable characters. Extras: commentaries with cast and crew.

COMMUNITY: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (2012, Sony, unrated, $45) - - Even without series creator Dan Harmon at the helm, the cult show retains its distinctively dark and twisted edge. The misfit members of everyone's favorite study group (Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie) are back and ready for mischief. Among the highlights: peaks inside Pierce's (Chevy Chase) mansion, an "Inspector Spacetime" convention with guest star Matt Lucas ("Little Britain") and competing Sadie Hawkins/Sophie B. Hawkins dances. Extras: outtakes, deleted scenes, featurettes and commentaries on every episode.

-- Amy Longsdorf



Tuesday -- "The Big Wedding," "The Company You Keep," "Emperor," "Olympus Has Fallen."

Aug. 20 -- "Scary Movie V."

Aug. 27 -- "The GreatGatsby," "Pain & Gain."

Sept. 3 -- "Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie," "Stories We Tell."

Sept. 10 -- "Love Is All You Need."

-- Jaclyn Antonacci

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