The week’s DVDs begin in Tony Stark’s laboratory:

DVDs and streaming for Oct. 6 by Boo Allen

 

 

This week, we begin in Tony Stark’s laboratory:

 

 

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (***)

Joss Whedon returns as writer-director of this highly successful franchise that delivers chaotic, non-stop action along with the expected fireworks. This time, the gang of Tony Stark-Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers-Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner-the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff-the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton-Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and a few others team up to fight Ultron (voiced by James Spader), the all-powerful Transformer-like gizmo created by Stark and Banner but that now wants to destroy the world. The dismissible, convoluted plot serves at the pleasure of the special effects, as again an array of dazzling fireworks makes this summer spectacular fun viewing.

Rated PG-13, 141 minutes

Extras: commentary with Whedon, 12 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, four “making of” featurettes totaling around 33 minutes, and a four minute gag reel.

 

 

 

Spy (***)

Melissa McCarthy plays desk-bound C.I.A. agent Susan Cooper. When her favored secret agent (Jude Law) seemingly meets his end, she convinces her boss (Allison Janney) to put her, Cooper, in his place. She then travels to Paris, Rome, Budapest and beyond to apprehend the sultry villain (Rose Byrne) out to steal a nuclear weapon, or some such. Paul Feig wrote and directed this funny but absurd spy-satire, squeezing an hour’s worth of quality comic material into two hours. For her part, McCarthy makes the most of her infectious comedic talents. Jason Statham scores by poking fun at his own image, playing a clueless, boastful fellow agent. The strong supporting cast includes Miranda Hart and Bobby Cannavale.

Blu-ray includes both R-Rated (120 minutes) and unrated (130 minutes).

Extras: commentary, three deleted scenes, 15 alternate scenes, two gag reels totaling 11 minutes, 11 “making of” featurettes totaling around 45 minutes, eight brief “behind-the-scenes” featurettes, and more.

 

 

 

Dark Places (**)

The obvious main pull of this dark mystery-thriller is that Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn penned the source novel. But the murky, slow paced film never reaches those heights, with its strained plot and funereal atmospherics. Charlize Theron plays Libby Day, perpetually scowling underneath her ever-present ball cap. As a child, she witnessed the murder of her mother and two sisters. She then served as the major witness in convicting her older brother Ben (Tye Sheridan as the younger, Corey Stoll as the adult) of the crime. A cult following now surrounds the murders, with various conspiracy theory groups adding varying interpretations. Years later, as an adult, Libby still has a grudge about her unwanted celebrity, but not enough that she doesn’t take the proffered chance to speak to a group of conspiracy theorists who believe Ben innocent. The incarcerated Ben has never refuted anything, a conundrum that sends Libby for a prison visit and an eventual self-questioning. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner flips among past and present while drenching his scenes in shadows and dark interiors and slowly progressing the plot.

Rated R, 113 minutes.

Extras: 23 minute “making of” featurette, nine minute featurette on Gillian Flynn, with interview.

 

 

 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service—limited edition steelbook (**1/2) (and other James Bond goodies)

To coincide with the release of the new James Bond film, Spectre, MGM-Fox Home Entertainment releases several collectible box sets along with a new, limited edition Blu-ray of one of the most often over-looked Bond films. Overlooked because it stars, in his only appearance as Bond, much maligned George Lazenby. Despite its shortcomings, the film features some impressive aerial photography of the Alps, along with the usual array of Bond gadgets and a full cast of Bond beauties, including Diana Rigg and Joanna Lumley (TV’s “Absolutely Fabulous”). Terry Savalas plays villainous Blofeld, the head of crime organization Spectre. Directed by Peter Hunt and actually based on an Ian Fleming novel. 1969.

Rated PG, 142 minutes.

Extras: commentary, featurettes on casting and George Lazenby, as well as other, vintage 1969 original “making of” featurettes.

As part of the Fox Home Entertainment Holiday Collection, Fox is also releasing the Ultimate James Bond Collection, which includes all 23 Bond films, with supplements, in a single Blu-ray box set. Other limited edition Steelbook offerings will be dedicated solely to the six films featuring the Spectre Organization and the three recent films starring Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall).

 

 

 

Earthfall (**1/2)

Despite a name that sounds like it’s the next James Bond movie, this cheesy sci-fi flick sports special effects ranging from laughable to passable. In the not-so-intense thriller, the fate of earth once again hangs in the balance as it has been knocked from its orbit by the always-dreaded movie villain, the “rogue planet.” Half of earth faces the sun and the other rests in shadows. Thankfully, in California, Steve Lannon (Joe Lando) might have the solution to restore earthly balance even though he must first rescue his wife Nancy (Michelle Stafford) and daughter Allie (Diana Hopper). As ordained in these disaster flicks, director Steven Daniels flips among the three story-lines to keep the action moving just fast enough to distract you from thinking about it.

Not rated, 89 minutes.

 

 

Last Shift (**1/2)

In this minimalist horror flick, a young rookie police officer, Jessica (Juliana Harkavy), must sit in a deserted police station waiting for a hazardous-material unit to come and remove the dangerous substance before the building is razed. She has the usual empty-nest creepy encounters before finally confronting what may or may not be a disembodied evil spirit. Be afraid.

Rated R, 85 minutes.

Extras: a “making of” featurette, a featurette on the sound design, a viral video, a “behind-the-scenes” photo gallery, and more.

 

 

 

We Are Still Here (**1/2)

In this familiar looking horror entry, Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton play New England couple Paul and Anne Sacchetti. When they lose their teen son Bobby in an auto accident, they do what is required in a horror film: they move into an isolated haunted house. And more, they discover that the residents of the nearby small town also have some other-worldly secrets. Ted Geoghegan co-wrote and directed, creating some effective atmospherics to gloss over the shaky narrative.

Not rated, 84 minutes.

Extras: commentary, a “behind-the-scenes” featurette, and more.

 

 

 

He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown

Charlie and his friends head for summer camp in this feature length animated adventure. Joining the group is Lucy’s brother, Rerun, who makes the mistake of bringing his prized collection of marbles. When Rerun loses his marbles, Charlie Brown must help him stand up to the bully who unfairly took them.

Not rated, 69 minutes.

Extras: the short “It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown,” and an episode of “The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show.”

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Air, The Ardor, Fresh Dressed.

The week’s DVDs begin in Hollywood:

DVDs and streaming for Sept. 29 by Boo Allen

This week, we begin in Hollywood:

 

 

Entourage (**1/2)

The boys are back, and by “boys” we mean the four aging adolescents originally from Queens, New York. They now approach middle age while still pursuing their Hollywood dreams and empty lifestyles. This fluffy movie based on the HBO series of the same name picks up right where the series left off, and it again delivers more of the entertaining, sybaritic silliness that made it popular. That is, a constantly revolving roster of beautiful women (some clothed), and sightings of actors and celebrities, including Mark Wahlberg, Kelsey Grammar, David Spade, and others. Even Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban pop up (as do many sports figures). Now, the quartet of Vince, Turtle, Drama, and “E” (Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly, respectively) stress out over Vince’s love life and professional career, including his directing debut. Jeremy Piven again appears as strident super-agent Ari Gold. Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment play broadly-drawn father-and-son financial backers from, where else?, Texas. Show creator Doug Ellin wrote and directed, delivering what might be expected and wanted from the series’ fans.

Rated R, 104 minutes.

Extras: the 15 minute “making of” featurette “The Gang—Still Rockin’ It,” nine minutes behind-the-scenes in “Hollywood Baby!,” five minutes on the movie-within-the-movie “The Making of ‘Hyde,’” 19 minutes of deleted scenes, a three minute gag reel, and two brief segments on young Lucas Ellin, who plays Ari’s son.

 

 

 

In the Name of My Daughter (***)

French director André Téchiné teams for the seventh time with Catherine Deneuve, his, understandably, favorite leading lady. In a supposedly true story, she plays casino owner Renée Le Roux, also the co-writer of the film’s source novel. She has run her establishment for years on the Cote d’Azur but now faces a forced sale from a menacing mafia figure. To compound her troubles, Renée’s recently divorced daughter, Agnès (Adèle Haenel), returns home. Once there, the daughter falls in love with her mother’s lawyer, Maurice (Guillaume Canet). He has his own secret agenda and persuades Agnès to join him in deposing Renée as owner. He then plans on selling out to the mafia. It becomes a three-way power struggle with extra romance and intrigue, all topped off by a surprising third act mystery.

Not rated, 116 minutes

Extras: an interview with director-actor Guillaume Canet

 

 

 

What We Did On Our Holiday (**1/2)

Initially, this British comedy looks like it might be derivative of the American “Vacation” movie series. Instead, it takes a respected cast and delivers a lumpy mixture of various genres. Noted Shakespearean actor David Tennant and Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) play married couple Doug and Abi. They have separated, but they reconcile long enough to attend the 75th birthday bash of Doug’s father, Gordie (Billy Connolly). Subsequently, the couple take their three young children for a long drive from London to Scotland, setting up the road-trip gags that never come. Tempers barely subside once in Scotland at the home of Doug’s obnoxious brother Gavin (Ben Miller). On the day of his big fete, Gordie takes the children for a day outing on one of Scotland’s picturesque beaches that accentuate the blue waters and endless greens of the Scottish Highlands. From there, director-writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin take the film in a completely different direction, mixing in more dark humor with already grating situations. Jenkin and Hamilton mar their narrative further by concentrating on the too-precious ramblings of the children and virtually ignoring Scottish comedy treasure Connolly. Some entertaining material survives but a chance for something special disappears.

Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.

Extras: directors’ commentary, a nine minute “making of” featurette, and four deleted scenes.

 

 

 

White Shadow (**1/2)

This raw African film from Tanzania centers on a subject rarely covered here either culturally or in the media. Noaz Deshe makes his directing debut with this work about a albino boy, Alias (Hamisi Bazili), who must flee his home and then constantly stay on the run. His life lies in constant peril because murderous gangs pursue him for his supposed healing powers, as local folklore says albino body parts have magical properties. Alias makes his way from the rural area to a big city where his uncle employs him selling items on the street. Alias has several close brushes with danger but eventually finds the rare friend he can trust. His arduous, eventful journey, however, has alerted him to his life-long exposure to peril.

Not rated, 117 minutes.

Extras: six brief “making of” featurettes.

 

 

And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

 

 

CPO Sharkey—season two

The 22 episodes of the sophomore season of this overlooked comedy series starring an American icon now arrives on three discs. From 1976 to 1978, Don Rickles starred as Chief Petty Office Otto Sharkey, the snarky naval officer who loved to berate his men stationed at their San Diego naval training center. During the season, Sharkey breaks in new sailor Apodaca (Phillip Simms), has combative exchanges with Captain Bruckner (Richard X. Slattery), devises several schemes with Chief Robinson (Harrison Page), and has various other comedy adventures.

Not rated, 548 minutes.

Extras: featurette on 2015 cast reunion with Rickles, Page, and others.

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: The Connection, Cop Car, Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot, Poltergeist, Unexpected.

The week’s DVDs begin in Northern England:

DVDs and streaming for Sept. 22 by Boo Allen

 

This week, we begin in Northern England:

 

 

Happy Valley (****1/2)

BBC Worldwide North America now releases two of their excellent unrated crime dramas, and, as usual, they consistently surpass their American counterparts, with more complex yet realistic plots, a heightened grittiness, sleek, intelligent scripts, and classically-trained casts. The much lauded Happy Valley—season one (352 minutes) won the coveted BAFTA, the British Oscar equivalent, for Best Drama Series in 2014 along with two acting nominations. Like HBO’s “True Detective,” its six episodes, on two discs, offer a self-contained drama centered on a single crime. Here, it’s a kidnapping gone wrong, but without the “Fargo”-like humor. An excellent Sarah Lancashire plays Catherine Cawood, a sergeant in the police force of Happy Valley, a grim, crime-ridden industrial area of England’s West Yorkshire. Ivan Strasburg’s pristine cinematography of the area, specifically Northern England’s Calder Valley, captures its contradictory beauty. Sgt. Cawood’s personal life has various demands constantly pressing down on her, while she remains pre-occupied with the release from prison and then the subsequent local re-appearance of Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton, also fine). He previously raped Cawood’s daughter, sending the young woman to a subsequent suicide. Unknown to Cawood, Royce inveigles himself into the kidnapping scheme, setting off the season’s complex plot which remains consistently taut and suspenseful throughout.

From 1996 to 2004, Amanda Burton starred in 44 episodes of the still running Silent Witness as forensic pathologist Samantha Ryan. These dramas centered on Ryan helping the local police solve murders through her forensic expertise, while also giving time to Ryan’s romance with her detective superior Peter Ross (Mick Ford ). This collection from season two (1997, 384 minutes) arrives on two discs and features four, two-part episodes. In “Blood, Sweat, and Tears,” an anonymous auto hits and maims a boxing trainer. Later, one of his fighters dies in the ring and, when she attends the body, Dr. Ryan discovers previous injuries may also have led to the death. She must then help uncover if the road accident ties in to the ring fatality, which brings in the community’s sleaziest characters. A young Idris Elba (possibly the new James Bond) plays one of the boxers. Ryan must uncover why two AIDS patients die prematurely in “Cease Upon the Midnight.” The culprit turns out to be an unlikely source. In the equally surprise-filled “Only the Lonely,” Dr. Ryan must determine whether a woman’s death has been caused either by a jealous husband, or by her lover, or perhaps someone else. A 72 year-old woman is beaten and left for dead in “Friends Like These.” Dr. Ryan must establish whether it was the work of two young thugs or a straggly street person.

 

 

 

Saint Laurent (**)

Gaspard Ulliel plays the title character in this meandering bio-pic about the famed fashion designer. Bertrand Bonello co-wrote and directed, centering on Yves St. Laurent’s life from 1967 to 1976 when he was at the peak of his work and reputation. Bonello paints Monsieur St. Laurent as the typical tortured genius whom few understand while he spends his time, repetitively, taking drugs, drinking, smoking, and having gay sex. His life doesn’t seem to change that much when he meets his main love, Jacques de Bascher (Louis Garrel). The film and the outfits are uniformly gorgeous, but little revelatory or insightful happens–and even that takes too long.

Rated R, 150 minutes.

Extras: a brief interview with director Bertrand Bonello and an equally brief featurette on “The Characters.”

 

 

 

 

The Beginner’s Bible—volume four

Volume four of the popular children’s animated series returns with four more Biblically-based stories: “The Story of Joseph and His Brothers,” “The Story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den,” “The Story of the Battle of Jericho,” “The Story of Jonah and The Whale.”

Not rated, 120 minutes.

 

 

 

 

The Red Road-season two

The six episodes, on two discs, of this grim drama from Sundance TV take place in several feuding communities in upstate New York near a Lenape Native American reservation. It seems everyone in the area grew up together, so sheriff Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) and his wife Jean (Julianne Nicholson) are naturally well acquainted with recently paroled bad seed Phillip Kopus, played by Jason Mamoa (memorable as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones). In season one, Kopus witnessed something he used to extort favors from the sheriff. He also had the sheriff looking the other way during several transgressions. The season begins when the tribe gains federal recognition, setting off conflicts involving pride, money, and ancestry. Various other dramas concerning the Indian tribe also play out, such as the pollution of its land, the possible construction of a casino, and tribe members resenting Kopus and his relatives. And Kopus’ young brother Junior (Kiowa Gordon) continues to cause trouble, helping maintain the season-long sense of unease.

Not rated, 265 minutes.

Extras: the 11 minute “making of” featurette “Inside the Red Road,” and the three minute segment “Sundance on Set.”

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Blumenthal, The Farewell Party, The Heart Machine, In the Name of My Daughter, Pitch Perfect 2, Results.

The week’s DVDs begin in a Magic Kingdom:

DVDs and streaming for Sept. 15 by Boo Allen

 

This week, we begin in a Magic Kingdom:

 

 

Cinderella (***)

This glossy Disney production stays close to the traditional Cinderella story, meaning the absence of many trademark Disney “touches.” For example, animatronic-interaction with cutesy animals is limited. But, elsewhere, a pumpkin still turns into a golden carriage, mice become horses, and lizards become footmen. An unlikely Kenneth Branagh directs from Chris Weitz’ script that allows the familiar story of Cinderella (Lily James) to tell itself. The work of the superb technical crew is headed by Sandy Powell’s grand costume designs. The women receive the most attention, specifically mean step-sisters Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger). Director Branagh delivers an impressive sequence with the grand ball of the king (Derek Jacobi), while Cate Blanchett shamelessly mugs through her role as the evil step-mother. Helena Bonham Carter narrates and plays the delightful fairy god-mother. And, at the familiar core, Prince Charming (Richard Madden) meets and falls in love with Cinderella at the ball, only to find her again with the famously lost glass slipper.

Rated PG-13, 105 minutes.

Extras: a ten minute “making of” featurette, a three minute costume test, 12 minutes on the intricate “Staging the Ball” sequence, four minutes on “Ella’s Furry Friends,” an alternate opening, a “Frozen”-derived eight minute animated short “Frozen Fever,” five deleted scenes of about 12 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Seven Five (***1/2)

In this compelling documentary, director Tiller Russell documents a period of rampant corruption in New York’s Police Department. Russell showcases former policeman Michael Dowd, who, like Gertrude, is “stew’d in corruption.” Sitting for a prolonged interview after his 12 years in prison, Dowd recounts his exploits in Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct. The natural progression begins with small payoffs in the early 1980s, followed by Dowd and his partner, Ken Eurell, also interviewed at length, graduating into full fledged drug dealing. Russell adds plenty of crime footage from the era along with extra interviews with some of the still-standing criminals, as well as the law enforcement officials who brought them down. Overall, it’s a compelling story, filled with colorful characters and outrageous behavior.

Rated R, 104 minutes.

Extras: trailer.

 

 

 

Closer to the Moon (***)

This comedy-drama, based on a true story, is a movie about making a movie about the pretending of making of a movie. The English language film, set in 1959 Rumania, centers on a group of five Jewish ex-members of the Communist Party who fought the Nazis during World War II. They rebel against their diminished post-war status by robbing a bank delivery car while pretending to film a movie. When they are caught and sentenced to death, local authorities decide they can best serve their country by re-enacting the crime and filming it. From there, the film veers slightly into the absurd with some beautiful irony and biting wit. Always interesting Mark Strong plays Max Rosenthal, the default gang leader who ends up taking charge of the filming even though he knows he is doomed. Vera Farmiga appears as Alice, the only female conspirator, and one who gives inspiration, and succor, to Virgil (Harry Lloyd), the young waiter-turned-cameraman who finds his life has magically changed.

Not rated, 112 minutes.

Extras: trailer

 

 

 

The Monkey Kingdom (***)

This latest release from the esteemed Disneynature team showcases the intricate hierarchies of Sri Lanka’s macaque monkeys. With Disney’s famously intrepid photography teams, director Mark Linfield documents an extended family of these lovable simians as they live, eat, sleep, forage for food, and fight to defend their territory. Tina Fey supplies the cloying, over-anthropomorphizing narration that nevertheless helps familiarize viewers to specific monkeys.

Rated G, 81 minutes.

Extras: a brief “Thank You” from Disneynature, the 13 minute “making of” featurette “ Tales From the Kingdom,” six minutes “On the Set” with Jane Goodall and Wolfgang Dittus, an eight minute featurette on Disneynature’s “The Conservation Story,” and a music video.

 

 

 

 

Finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

 

 

Lego: Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles

In the four episodes, on one disc, of the animated series, Yoda and Obi-Wan find the Holorons before Darth Vader. Danger follows.

Rated TV-Y7-FV, 88 minutes

Extras: an alternate ending of the episode “Clash of the Skywalkers.”

 

 

 

Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection

This collection of the animated exploits of Charlie Brown and his gang, including Snoopy, the world’s most famous but fourth best beagle, brings together 11 Peanuts specials, on two discs, that earned Emmy Awards or nominations. All of the selections include “Charlie Brown” in the title and all have been remastered for picture and sound.

Not rated, 265 minutes.

 

 

 

Haven—season five

As if it were possible, things grow even more convoluted with all the “troubles” infecting the bucolic title town in this season’s 14 episodes on four discs. Based on the Stephen King novella “The Colorado Kid,” the series follows, mostly, the travails of a select trio: former FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) who begins this season by being possessed by her former, more evil, self, Mara. Former police chief and Audrey-lover Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant) and local resident scamp Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour) combat Mara’s weekly destruction which eventually involves murder, traveling through various dimensions, fights, spells, and confrontations. Dwight (Adam Copeland) takes over as police chief, and brothers Dave (John Dunsworth) and Vince Teagues (Richard Donat) briefly and secretively leave Haven for North Carolina.

Rated TV-14, 554 minutes.

Extras: commentaries, 13 “Inside Haven” featurettes of around five to six minutes each. Plus, the eight minute featurette “Haven: Origins: Witches are Born,” and the seven minute featurette “Haven: Origins: Native Breaks Free.”

 

 

 

Homeland—season four

This intense thriller, one of the best dramas on television, regained its footing in this latest season of 12 episodes on three discs. Emmy winner Claire Danes returns as manic-depressive C.I.A. agent Carrie Mathison and shows once again she will do anything to apprehend a terrorist, including lie to him and sleep with him. The season takes place mostly in Pakistan with Carrie heading the local office. Quinn (Rupert Friend) has disappeared, and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) has been kidnapped. Carrie pretends to be a journalist to lure young Aayan (Suraj Sharma) into betraying his terrorist uncle. Once again, the season, part of the Fox Home Entertainment Holiday Collection, ends with unexpected fireworks auguring a precarious situation for next season.

Not rated, 650 minutes.

Extras: 11 minutes of deleted scenes, a six minute character profile of Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), four minutes on Aasar Khan (Raza Jaffrey), and seven minutes on Fara Sherazi (Nazanin Boniadi). Also, three separate featurettes on “From Script to Screen”: nine minutes on “Caught in the Crosshairs,” six minutes on “Brody’s Return,” and nine minutes on the impressive bombing sequence, “Storming the Embassy.”

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Fast and Furious-7, Love and Mercy, Nightingale, Reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Second Mother (**1/2) not rated, 112 minutes, Opens Friday, Sept. 11 at the Dallas Angelika

Val (Regina Casé), a domestic worker for an affluent Sao Paulo family, is a second mother to the family and specifically to the college-age son. Then, Val’s young daughter Jessica (Camila Mardila) arrives after not having seen her mother in ten years. Expected complications follow as Val begins to question her priorities as a mother. Interesting enough but not terribly insightful. In Portuguese. Written and directed by Anna Muylaert.

The week’s DVDs begin in Texas:

DVDs and streaming for Sept. 8 by Boo Allen

 

 

This week, we begin in Texas:

 

 

 

 

Texas Rising (***)

This five part mini-series, now on three discs, originally aired on the History Channel. British director Roland Joffé, known best for serious fare such as The Mission and The Killing Fields, directed from an event-filled, historically dubious, script by a trio of writers. The story centers on Texas’ 1836 battle for independence, or, more accurately, battles for independence because Joffé covers several skirmishes before the concluding Battle of San Jacinto. Ft. Worth native Bill Paxton persuasively plays Sam Houston as an arrogant but masterful commander of a ragged army itching to fight before he gives the signal. But before that, the script provides numerous other sub-plots, such as an Indian attack, a battle field romance, a looting episode, a desertion, and other dramas. The series begins, wisely, after the defeat of the Alamo and goes up to and a little beyond Houston’s inauguration as Texas’ first president. Filmed in and around the beautiful area of Durango, Mexico, the series also offers an engaging diversion with its wide casting, as various recognizable faces pop up on names Texans see every day on schools, streets, cities and counties: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Deaf Smith, Chad Michael Murray as Mirabeau Lamar, Rob Morrow as James Fannin, Jeff Fahey as Thomas Rusk, Christopher McDonald as Henry Karnes. The expansive cast also includes Brendan Fraser, Thomas Jane, Crispin Glover, Kris Kristofferson (as Andrew Jackson), Jeremy Davies, Ray Liotta, Jake Busey, and other notables. The weakest casting comes with French actor Olivier Martinez playing Mexican General Santa Anna as a pompous buffoon with a strange accent. Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays Emily West, the so-called “Yellow Rose of Texas,” who goes from Houston’s bed to Santa Anna’s, distracting him just enough in his time of crisis to cause the general to learn to, paraphrasing, prick not your finger when you pluck it off, lest bleeding, you do paint the yellow rose red. Overall, the history may not stand up, but “Texas Rising” serves as rousing entertainment and, if you are lucky enough to be Texan, great fun.

Not rated, 450 minutes.

Extras: a 15 minute “making of” featurette. Plus: two examining featurettes of, respectively, 14 and 12 minutes, on the fascinating characters Sam Houston and Santa Anna.

 

 

 

 

The Age of Adaline (**1/2)

The age of Adaline is 29, and that’s what it stays throughout this treacly romance resting on a far-fetched science-fiction twist. Brook Lively plays ever-perky Adaline, the victim of an early last century accident (picnic, lightning), explained in scientific mumbo-jumbo nonsense, that leaves her forever stuck at the same age. We should all be so cursed. Adaline grows old, or older, but, because the government once wanted to know her secret, she must move around, changing identities and avoiding much human interaction. So, of course, in present day San Francisco, she fights against falling in love with Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman). But obviously she does, or the movie would not exist. Inevitably, the duo goes to meet his parents, where Adaline discovers that Ellis’ father William Jones (Harrison Ford as father and Anthony Ingruber as the younger in flashback) just happens to be the great love of her life when she was younger. The audience may now roll its eyes as complications follow. Director Lee Toland Krieger, working from a script from a trio of writers, fights against his material that creaks under the weight of its silly plot. He succeeds in delivering an overly emotional however absurd romance.

Rated PG-13, 113 minutes.

Extras: commentary, a 30 minute “making of” featurette on “A Love Story for the Ages,” an 18 minute featurette on the film’s styles in “Style Through the Ages,” eight minutes on actor Anthony Ingruber, and five minutes of deleted scenes.

 

 

Redeemer (**)

A former hitman, Pardo (Marko Zarar), now known as The Redeemer, is a vigilante protecting the oppressed. Just to make him more menacing, he favors hoodies and quotes scripture. So, naturally, sparks fly when he meets up with brutal drug lord Bradock (Noah Segan) and his army of drooling minions. And, before long, serial killer Scorpion (Jose Luis Mosca) joins in on the blood-flying mayhem. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza directed, with an emphasis on the chaotic martial arts fight scenes.

Not rated, 90 minutes.

Extras: deleted scenes and a “making of” featurette.

 

 

The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes

Carol Burnett herself picked out these 16, never-released to DVD so-called “lost” episodes that first broadcast on CBS from 1967 to 1972 in the series’ first five seasons. These early broadcasts, now on six discs, feature such talents of the era as Carol Channing, Bob Newhart, Chita Rivera, Don Rickles, Burt Reynolds, Flip Wilson, Bing Crosby, Phyllis Diller and many others. The episodes feature several skits familiar to Burnett fans. A single disc holding three episodes and supplements is also available.

Not rated, 1255 minutes.

Extras: the five hours plus of supplements include thirteen extra interviews, featuring Julie Andrews, Alan Alda, Jack Jones, Jim Nabors, Don Rickles and others. Plus: an on-set tour of CBS Studio 33, the site of the series’ original filming. Also: bloopers, outtakes, “making of” featurettes, bonus sketches, and the opening number from the renowned “Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center” TV special.

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: American Heist, Misery Love Comedy, Paper Planes, The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

 

 

 

“Prick not your finger when you pluck it off, lest bleeding, you do paint the white rose red.” Henry VI-I

This weeks DVDs begin on the road:

DVDs and streaming for Sept. 1 by Boo Allen

 

 

This week, we begin on the road:

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road (***1/2)

With this adrenaline-fueled production, director George Miller returns to the franchise he began in 1979. In this latest version filled with the latest effects and computer imaging, Miller again renders a bleak view of a post-apocalyptic world filled with outlandish creations and chaotic action. Tom Hardy stars as the titular Max, a stranded warrior in the Australian desert. And Charlize Theron plays Imperator Furiosa, a soldier in the army of the evil ruler of a society bereft of water and gasoline. The plot from a trio of writers has numerous twists, but it can be summed up simply: the Imperator has escaped with five beautiful young women in an attempt to free them, and she is being chased by several armies filled with cartoonish villains riding even more cartoonish vehicles. After an initial confrontation, the now-pursued Max joins Imperator. From there, it’s almost entirely out on the road as various armies fight against each other in a series of spectacular sequences. Director Miller made cinematic history and influenced action films for decades in his original. Now, he has followed up admirably with this effort that seamlessly mixes gripping action, breath-taking stunt work, special effects, and impressive computer imaging.

Rated R, 120 minutes.

Extras: six “making of” featurettes, including the 24 minute “Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road.” The 23 minute “Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels” examines the cars and souped-up vehicles. The 11 minute “The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome” highlights the supermodels and actresses who play the freed hostages. The four minute “Fury Road: Crash and Smash” gives a look at the film’s expert driving and effects-free stunts. Plus: 15 minutes on “The Tools of the Wasteland,” and three deleted scenes totaling around four minutes.

 

 

 

 

The Hunger (**1/2)

On demand Warner Archives brings to Blu-ray this first feature film from director Tony Scott (Top Gun, True Romance, Crimson Tide). The stylish vampire tale has gained well deserved notoriety and caché since its release, mainly because the two main actors, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, have graduated from minor icons to full canonization. Scott bathes his beauties, and everyone, in dark shadows and extreme close-ups as Deneuve plays Miriam Blaylock, married to John Blaylock (David Bowie). She of course has been around forever, but John, alas, is quickly deteriorating before our eyes. Enter Sarah Roberts (Sarandon), an expert on aging and someone who catches the eye of the perfidious Miriam. Before long, Miriam seduces Sarah in a steamy scene for 1983. Eventually, Scott renders several blood-soaked sequences more titillating than scary. But that’s o k too.

Rated R, 97 minutes.

Extras: commentary from Sarandon and Scott.

 

 

 

The Beginner’s Bible: volume three

This latest edition of the kids’ animated series, with theme song from Kathie Lee Gifford, offers three well known Biblical stories: “The Story of Jesus and His Miracles,” “The Story of the Good Samaritan,” and “The Story of the Prodigal Son.”

Not rated, 90 minutes.

 

 

 

And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

 

 

 

 

Scorpion—season one

Geekdom receives its due in this fun action series created by Nick Santora. Using a familiar formula of gathering genius misfits to form a team, the series features a group of young whiz-kids who have been recruited by Homeland Security agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick) to weekly thwart impending disasters, crimes, murders, terrorist plots and various misdeeds. That is, a special response team. Elyes Gabel stars as requisite computer genius and team leader Walter O’Brien. To help Walter meet the weekly challenges, he recruits psychologist and behaviorist Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas), engineering and mechanical expert Happy (Jadyn Wong), and ace mathematician and statistician Sylvester (Ari Stidham). Katharine McPhee plays Paige, the waitress summarily recruited because her young son Ralph (Riley B. Smith) is a genius. In the season, they uncover a CIA mole, prevent a massive airline catastrophe, capture escaped convicts, ward off a deadly virus, visit Las Vegas on a personal assignment, go undercover on a cruise ship, take a witness on the run, and more. Twenty-two episodes, including the pilot (directed by Justin Lin), arrive on five Blu-ray, six DVD, discs, with an extra disc of supplements available on a promotion.

Not rated, 15 hours, 16 minutes.

Extras: commentaries, cast and crew interviews in the 15 minute featurette “Building Team Scorpion,” a five minute featurette on the stunts and special effects in the first episode in “Chasing the Plane,” a two minute featurette on “When Hetty Meet Scorpion,” a five minute gag reel, a 20 minute “making of” featurette, 11 minutes on the stunts, a brief six part interview “Inside the Brain” with Eddie Kaye Thomas, 15 minutes to “Meet Team Scorpion,” approximately ten deleted scenes, and more.

 

 

The Hee Haw Collection

This once-popular series began on CBS in 1969 and ran briefly before being syndicated in 1971. Roy Clark and Buck Owens hosted the entertainment show that featured the era’s most prominent country singers. Five new-to-DVD episodes arrive on three discs along with generous supplements. Talents delivering performances include Roy Clark, Lulu Roman, Charlie McCoy, and many others, as well as various comedy acts.

Not rated, 369 minutes.

Extras: additional interviews with Jim and John Hager, Lulu Roman, Roy Clark, George Lindsey, and others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Backcountry, Dior and I, Good Kill, I’ll See You in My Dreams, That Sugar Film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2872462/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Mistress America (**1/2 ) rated R, 84 minutes, opens Friday, August 28 at Landmark Magnolia and Angelika Plano

Eighteen year-old Tracey (Lola Kirke) moves to New York City at attend college. She hooks up with Brooke (Greta Gerwig), whose father is about to marry Tracey’s mother. The flamboyant, non-stop Brooke shepherds Tracey through various chaotic adventures like a latter-day “Auntie Mame.” It’s amusing and even fun at times, while never adding up to much before all the characters eventually turn annoying. Noah Baumbach directed and co-wrote the script with Gerwig.

 

 

Meru (***) rated R, 87 minutes, Opens Friday, August 28 at Dallas and Plano Angelika

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and noted mountain climber Jimmy Chin directed this gripping documentary about an ascent to the notorious Shark’s Fin on India’s Mount Meru. The film covers two attempts, a failed one in 2008 and then another attempt in 2011 by the same trio of climbers—Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk

The week’s DVDs begin in Belgium:

DVDs and streaming for August 25 by Boo Allen

 

 

This week, we begin in Belgium:

 

 

Two Days One Night (****)

The Criterion Collection releases this relatively recent ticking-clock social drama from Belgium’s Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc. Oscar-nominated Marion Cotillard stars as Sandra, a mother and the wife of Manu (Fabrizio Rongione). When her depression keeps her home, she loses her much needed job at a small, local manufacturer of solar panels. When she tries to regain her job, she discovers her coworkers have voted to take a bonus instead of letting her return. Sandra and Manu then spend the next two days, and one night, visiting her co-workers in an attempt to persuade them to change their votes. The couple’s heart-breaking effort underlines the Dardennes’ trademark concern for social problems.

Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.

Extras: two separate interviews with the Dardennes: 51 minutes from April, 2015, and a previous 21 minute segment. Plus: a 23 minute interview with Cotillard and Rongione. A 37 minute featurette visits four of the film’s locations with the Dardennes. In the nine minute “To Be an I,” critic Kent Jones examines the Dardenne’s recurring theme of hope. Also: the 40 minute 1979 Dardenne documentary about a devastating 1960 strike in Belgium, and a five page essay from critic Girish Shambu.

 

 

 

 

Elsewhere, more favorite TV shows arrive this week:

 

 

The Walking Dead—season five

The 16 episodes of the fifth season of the most popular show on cable television now arrive on five blu-ray discs. This unlikely phenomenon somehow stays fresh, with its blend of terrifying situations and dynamic challenges and emotions. This season begins with Carol (Melissa McBride) freeing everyone from the Terminus cannibals. From there, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), the de-facto leader of the zombie-evading survivors, leads the group north to a settlement in Alexandria, Virginia. Along the way, they pick up a priest (Seth Gilliam) and locate Beth (Emily Kinney) but lose a character or two. The season’s second half unfolds in Alexandria’s self-contained community that seems to offer shelter and safety. But, as they learned from their cannibal encounter, everything is not as it seems. The group stays leery of the camp, its inhabitants, and its leader, Deanna (Tovah Feldsuh). And of course, during the season, zombies attack, always coming close enough to frighten, and, sometimes, gruesomely gnaw down on some unfortunate straggler.

Not rated, 710 minutes.

Extras: commentaries with a wide variety of cast and crew. Every episode receives an approximate six minute “making of” featurette along with a six minute or so “Inside ‘The Walking Dead’” featurette. Plus, a ten minute segment on creating the Alexandria set. Four featurettes of around six minutes cover the separate journeys of characters Beth, Bob, Noah, and Tyreese. Two separate eight minute featurettes center on the long days and the preparation required from actors Michael Cudlitz and Josh McDermitt. The entertaining five minute “Rotters in the Flesh” examines how the grisly zombies are created. Also, deleted scenes.

 

 

 

Elementary—season three

This CBS series may be based on a gimmick, but it continues to improve, thanks mainly to solid direction, well written scripts, and on location shootings. It also excels because of Jonny Lee Miller’s serious but whimsical portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, who now lives in Manhattan and works with his partner in crime, Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). Holmes and Watson continue to work with N.Y.P. D. Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and detective Marcus Bell (John Michael Hill). This season of 24 episodes, on six discs, sees a new arrival, a virtual trainee, from England, Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond). She helps Sherlock with some early-season mysteries but has to work her way into Watson’s graces. Also this season, Sherlock and Watson grapple with cases involving a murdered police officer, several missing person cases, artificial intelligence, a math whiz, a severed hand, a zebra kidnapping from the zoo, a frozen murder victim, and the eventual disappearance of Holmes’ addiction-therapy sponsor Alfredo (Ato Essandoh).

Not rated, 16 hours, 57 minutes.

Extras: select commentary, the eight minute featurette “Watson Style” looks at Lucy Liu’s wardrobe, the eight minute “ Hello Kitty Winter” introduces the new character, the 25 minute “Partners in Crime” gives a comprehensive “behind-the-scenes” look at the season, cast and crew are interviewed in the 13 minute “The Elements of Deduction,” the 11 minute segment “Bell on the Scene” features Jon Michael Hill examining his character detective Marcus Bell, and a four minute gag reel.

 

 

And for more of this week’s movie arrivals:

 

 

Falling Star (**1/2)

This measured Spanish language drama looks at a brief yet mostly forgotten moment in Spanish history. In 1870, through a quirk of circumstances, Italian nobleman Amadeo van Savoy (Alex Brendemul) becomes King of Spain. But once in Madrid, the vainglorious usurper finds himself ignored and with little power. He wants to institute liberal improvements but finds his attempts thwarted. So, he keeps mostly to the palace, making this first directing effort from long-time producer Luis Minarro a dark, claustrophobic affair with long, indulgent takes. With little dialogue and even less lighting, Minarro shows the misguided sovereign going about his daily duties while discovering his own helplessness. The erstwhile king proved a testy sort, however, as he returned to Italy in 1873 and died at 44.

Not rated, 110 minutes.

Extras: a ten minute “making of” featurette.

 

 

I Am Chris Farley (**1/2)

The life of the beefy comedian receives a comprehensive analysis in Brent Hodges and Derik Murray’s documentary. The duo assembles impressive background materials on Farley, including old home movies along with abundant personal photos and memorabilia. Covered are Farley’s Wisconsin childhood, his college days at Marquette, and on to his stint at “Second City” before arriving at “Saturday Night Live.” Farley’s starring movie roles are also covered. Many former Farley colleagues sit for interviews, including Bob Saget, Adam Sandler, Molly Shannon, Mike Myers, and many others. In addition, the directors interview Farley’s four siblings.

Not rated, 94 minutes. A featurette on “The Farley Brothers . . . and Sister.”

 

 

 

Welcome to New York (*1/2)

Provocative film-maker Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) has cast an appropriately nauseous Gerard Depardieu for this disguised yet still slimy portrayal of an actual event. Depardieu plays Devereaux, admittedly patterned after former International Monetary Fund minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The film follows Devereaux as he arrives in New York for a conference. On arrival, he indulges in sex and drug parties, all lovingly captured by Ferrara. Later, off-camera, this supposedly fictional Devereaux sexually abuses a hotel housekeeper. She files charges, enabling police to nab the Frenchman before he steps on the plane for home. Incarceration follows, along with media attention and the arrival of Simon (Jacqueline Bisset), who tries to manage the ordeal. It’s a sleazy production about a sleazy subject.

Rated R, 108 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: After the Ball, Aloha, Citizen Four, October Gale.

The week’s DVDs begin in front of the TV:

DVDs and streaming for August 18 by Boo Allen

 

This week, we begin in front of the TV:

 

As the fall TV season approaches, several favorites from last season have begun to arrive:

 

 

NCIS—season 12

This TV warhorse continues its admirable long run with its core cast intact throughout its12 seasons. In these latest 22 episodes, on six discs, tracking the adventures of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Major Case Response Team, Mark Harmon returns as Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Michael Weatherly plays Anthony DiNozzo, Pauley Perrette is Abby Sciuto and David McCallum again appears as Dr. Donald Mallard. Among this season’s many mysteries and adventures, a Naval officer is killed on the way to the White House, Dr, Mallard and Bishop (Emily Wickersham) travel to England, a local scientist is decapitated, the team tracks down a Russian terrorist, the wife of a SEAL is murdered, and more. The series’ highlight takes place in episode seven, “The Searchers,” with renowned character actor Bart McCarthy playing retired Marine Master Sargeant George Hawkins. The versatile McCarthy again shows why his presence always elevates a drama.

Rated TV-PG. Approximately 946 minutes.

Extras: select commentaries; a ten minute featurette about the difficulties of shooting on location; an eleven minute segment (“Bad to the Bone”) on Sergei, the main terrorist-villain; a 25 minute featurette on “Inside Season 12”; seven minutes on actor Rocky Carroll’s directing debut; a 30 minute roundtable discussion with cast and crew in “Table for Ten”; a seven minute featurette examining the NCIS phenomenon that has reportedly made it the world’s most popular TV drama; extended and deleted scenes and more.

 

 

 

 

Person of Interest—fourth season

This season confronts, in the words of its two main characters, “a brand new world.” Things have indeed changed for the mysterious John Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), the inventor of the all-seeing, all-knowing Machine that propels the series’ weekly plots. The season begins after last season’s ending looked like the Machine had been compromised and replaced by another device owned by the bad guys, including Senator Ross Garrison (John Doman). North Texas is well represented with former natives Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi playing, respectively, Root and Shaw, Reese and Finch’s deadly operatives. The season’s 22 episodes, on four blu-ray discs, begin with the four main characters assuming new identities along with “real” lives, all while weaving their way through a convoluted narrative with weekly missions against the nefarious Brotherhood. In addition to John Doman, season guest stars include Cara

Buono, Aasif Mandvi, Connor Hines, Patrick Kennedy, Adria Arjona, and many others.

Not rated, 957 minutes.

Extras: an 18 minute featurette on the series’ music, a five minute set tour with Michael Emerson and Amy Acker, a three minute gag reel, and 29 minutes of a Comic-Con panel featuring creator Jonathan Nolan and other cast and crew.

 

 

Mike and Molly—season five

When she takes a breather from being one of Hollywood’s most visible and successful actors, Melissa McCarthy still assumes her Emmy-winning role of Molly Flynn, life partner to Mike Biggs (Billy Gardell). The season begins with Molly returning from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with a book contract and a big advance along with it. But, early in the season’s 22 episodes, she develops writers’ block, not helped by Mike’s weekly shenanigans. The season progresses with Molly fighting her writing assignment until the book’s release, while also dealing with a seemingly unstable publisher. McCarthy directed the series’ 100th episode, “Mike Check,” in which Mike goes to the doctor for the first time in ten years.

Not rated, 419 minutes.

Extras: a gag reel.

 

 

 

The Killing—fourth season

The six episodes, on two discs, of this excellent noirish series originally based on a Danish series and now set in Seattle bring the enigmatic drama to its close with yet a new mystery to solve. But during this new challenge, lead detectives tightly-wound Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and loose cannon Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) strive to hide their past transgressions, specifically their surprise elimination of their former boss at the end of season three, Lt. Skinner (Elias Koteas). Now, however, the two have been assigned a multiple family murder that has left only the injured 17 year-old Kyle Stansbury (Tyler Ross) as the remaining survivor. Naturally, Kyle stands as the main suspect, as questions mount as to whether he staged the gruesome scene. He returns to school at his strict military academy, run by domineering and uncooperative Colonel Margaret Rayne (reliably solid Joan Allen). Holder and Linden slowly uncover family secrets along with some that burden the Stansbury’s shady neighbors. While the two detectives continue their investigation, pressure mounts at their precinct as detective Carl Reddick (Gregg Henry) closes in on unraveling the mystery behind the disappearance of Lt. Skinner. Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) directed the series’ final episode.

Not rated, 346 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Rookie Blue—season five, volume one.

This collection of the 11 episodes, on three DVD discs, of last season comprise the entire season but is billed as “Volume one” for some vague contractual mysteries. The summer series, seen here on ABC-TV, begins with Sam Swarek (Ben Bass) and Chloe Price (Priscilla Faia) still in critical condition from their gunshot wounds. From there, the season offers its regular menu of weekly crime fighting, topped off by the expected inter-office romances. Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym) breaks up with Nick (Peter Mooney), struggles to break in new rookie Duncan (Matt Murray), helps discover a human trafficking ring, and ends back up with Sam Swarek. Gail (Charlotte Sullivan) begins a new love life with Holly (Aliyah O’Brien), Chris (Travis Milne) finally confronts his drug problem, and Dov (Gregory Smith, who also directed several episodes) seems to find endless problems in his relationship with Chloe. Other characters such as Traci Nash (Enuka Okuma, who co-wrote an episode) and Oliver Shaw (Matt Gordon) share in the weekly confrontations.

Not rated, 470 minutes.

Extras: the seven minute featurette “Life is Not a Fairytale,” which includes cast and crew interviews, and 10 webisodes totaling around 30 minutes.

 

 

And, finally, something for the kids this week:

 

 

 

Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection (****)

The Disney Animation Studios has selected twelve excellent shorts (or, if you prefer, “cartoons”) for this single disc collection. The selection includes titles from 2000 to the present. Seen here are such tie-ins as the Frozen-related Frozen Fever (2005), along with Best Animated Short Oscar winners Feast (2014) and Paperman (2012), as well as one-time Oscar nominees Get a Horse! (2013), The Little Matchgirl (2006), and Lorenzo (2004). All are excellent selections.

Not rated, 79 minutes.

Extras: each short receives a director’s introduction, a segment on Disney’s “Shorts Program,” and the Oscar nominated 2004 short “Runaway Brain” featuring Mickey Mouse.

 

 

 

Also on DVD and streaming: Club Life, Little Boy, The Riot Club, Skin Trade, Strangerland, Vendetta.

The week’s DVDs begin in Dorset:

DVDs and streaming for August 11 by Boo Allen

 

This week, we begin in Dorset:

 

Far From the Madding Crowd (***)

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg renders this fairly faithful adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s title novel set in 1870 Dorset, England. A persuasive Carey Mulligan appears almost constantly on screen playing Bathsheba Everdene. Hardy’s Bathsheba is a self-described independent woman, one who does not want to rely on a man for her happiness or survival. She inherits an estate, but only after turning down the first of two marriage proposals from shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts). Bathsheba then turns down land baron William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) before marrying ill-suited Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge). Yet during her formative experiences, she somehow manages to keep her farm and estate solvent. The usually provocative Vinterberg avoids excess shocks or flourishes, concentrating instead on the characters found in novelist Hardy’s transparent determinism.

Rated PG-13, 119 minutes.

Extras: ten deleted scenes along with extended and alternate endings, three separate five minute featurettes on adapting the film, its look, and the locations, along with featurettes of around four minutes or so on Bathsheba, Gabriel Oak, William Boldwood, Sergeant Troy, director Vinterberg, and more.

 

 

Day for Night (****)

The Criterion Collection has digitally remastered with a 2K resolution one of the most popular films from French master filmmaker Francois Truffaut. This entertaining confection centers on what the director knew best, that is, making movies, because the film takes place almost entirely on a film set during the making of the fictional “Meet Pamela.” Taking his meta-role seriously, Truffaut plays the film’s director, Monsieur Ferrand, thereby directing himself directing a movie. The film showcases an excellent ensemble cast, as various colorful characters drop in and out, all portrayed by an international array of 1970s stars. Truffaut favorite Jean-Pierre Léaud takes a prominent role as the film’s star, Alphonse, who simultaneously carries on a romance with the continuity girl, Liliane (Dani), while constantly walking around asking people “Are women magic?” The cast and crew eagerly await the arrival of famous American film star Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bissett), who arrives, bringing her own problems with her. Day for Night documents what life is like on a film shoot, with all its clashing egos, clandestine love affairs, unpredictability and tricky problems, both human and otherwise.

Not rated, 116 minutes.

Extras: nine cast and crew interviews, a 12 minute video essay on the film from director Kogonado, a 21 minute featurette looking at the subsequent rift between Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, a 17 minute documentary on the film by Annette Insdorf, seven “behind-the-scenes” minutes from 1973, about 14 minutes on the film from 1970s French TV, and a 12 page pamphlet with essay from David Cairns.

 

 

 

The Last Survivors (***)

This spare but compelling post-apocalypse tale (known alternatively as “The Well”) takes place “Years from now . . . and years from the last rain.” The dry years have stretched to a decade and now, in an isolated Oregon valley, young Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) uses her considerable wits to survive. She and her disabled boyfriend Dean (Booboo Stewart) (no relation, no relation) hide out in an abandoned building, once ironically a home for Wayward Youth. There, Kendal works to escape her situation while ingeniously fighting off several harmless looking groups who falsely claim to come in peace. Tom Hammock makes his directing debut by deftly executing several harrowing scenes punctuated by convincing action. And, to its credit, how many post-apocalyptic films end with an all-girl face-off?

Not rated, 95 minutes.

Extras: two deleted scenes with commentary, a five minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette, a slide show, and a four minute segment featuring Haley Lu Richardson’s audition, along with a clip of the director calling her to tell her she has the part.

 

 

 

The Salvation (***)

Kristian Levring directed his Danish countryman Mads Mikkelsen in this standard but stylish western. Mads plays Jon Jensen, a Dane living with his brother in the western U.S. in 1871 when Jon’s wife and young son come to live. Immediately, Jensen’s brother and the two new comers meet a grisly end from the hands of the brother of the local town terror, the comically overdrawn Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). From there, Jensen methodically goes about seeking his revenge on Delarue’s gang. Eva Green plays the dead brother’s not-so-grieving widow, Madelaine, a fragile soul whose tongue had been cut out during her Indian captivity. Levring delivers a succession of violent but sometimes creatively choreographed sequences.

Rated R, 93 minutes.

Extras: around 50 minutes total of six cast and crew interviews and a seven minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette.

 

 

 

Descendants

Disney has cleverly re-worked several of their franchise characters into this loopy fairy tale directed by Oscar-winning choreographer Kenny Ortega. Mitchell Hope stars as heir apparent Ben, the son of Beast and Belle. Once a sovereign, Ben eventually offers redemption to Cruella de Vil (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth), and Jafar (Maz Jobrani), all temporarily stuck on an island with a roster of other gleeful miscreants. The young descendants of these colorful villains can now enter the kingdom for school along with various other Disney icons, such as the Fairy Godmother, Sleeping Beauty and others. While the young decide on taking either the good or evil path, the stage is set for the film’s lively song and dance sequences.

Rated TV-G, 112 minutes.

Extras: a blooper reel, a featurette on the backstage dance rehearsals, and a featurette of Mal’s story.

 

 

 

And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:

 

 

 

Hell on Wheels—season four

This increasingly popular western series from AMC chugs along, much like its characters, ex-Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) and real-life railroad entrepreneur Thomas C. Durant (Colm Meaney). The feuding duo has now reached Cheyenne, Wyoming in their quest to take the Union Pacific railroad across the country. But mountains slow down the quest, meaning most of the action takes place in town for the 13 episodes, on four discs, of this entertaining fourth season that now coincides with the arrival of the series’ fifth and final season. Bohannon starts the season off at a Mormon fort with his new wife Naomi (MacKenzie Porter). General U.S. Grant dispatches John Campbell (Jake Weber) along with his small yet violent civilian army to be Wyoming governor, immediately setting up his season long conflict with Bohannon and Durant. Elam Ferguson (Common) returns, briefly, after being brutally attacked by a bear. Conflicts in town between Campbell and Durant and Bohannon escalate and, before the season ends, several cast regulars meet their ultimate fates.

Not rated, 556 minutes.

Extras: a five minute tour of the Cheyenne set along with five brief additional featurettes on various topics: Colm Meaney, Jake Weber, Anson Mount, the season’s new characters, and season four. Also, each episode receives its own “behind-the-scenes” featurette of around six minutes.

 

 

 

Also on DVD: Hot Pursuit, Match, Patch Town, Unfriended.