A fine family film and a thoughtful documentary lead these films that are newly arrived on Blu-ray and DVD.
"We Bought a Zoo" (Fox/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2011, PG, three discs, $39.99). If you're one of those people who likes to leave a film feeling uplifted rather than pummeled, this Capra-esque yarn (based on a true story) is just the ticket, as a widower with two kids buys a big house that just happens to have a rundown zoo in the back.
Matt Damon brings layered warmth to the role of a newspaperman who quits his job and buys the property without any real thought as to what an enormous undertaking it will be to restore the zoo. But an eccentric but devoted crew (led by Scarlett Johansson), he dives in and the comic and dramatic struggles begin.
As you may suspect, the project gives his children — and himself — something to believe in. Most enjoyable, without being cloying or sloppily sentimental.
Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers, trailers (also on single-disc DVD, $29.98)
"Into the Abyss" (IFC/Blu-ray, 2011, PG-13, $29.98). The great filmmaker Werner Herzog, who moves from documentaries to narrative films and back with regularity, here tackles the death penalty. And though his personal view is evident, he allows audience members to make up their own minds. Interviewed are killers who committed a particularly senseless crime — one of them residing on death row — as well as an executioner, a pastor, and families of both the condemned and the victims. The result is riveting.
Extras: widescreen (also on DVD, $24.98)
"Enter Nowhere" (Lionsgate, 2011; R for language, violence; $26.98). What starts with a typical "Don't Go Into the Woods" slasher motif turns into a sort of "Twilight Zone" episode, as three auto-accident victims find themselves led to a remote cabin where they gradually discover that they have something in common. Low budget and uneven acting make it a bit wobbly but it's worth a look for fans of the supernatural. Stars second-generation actors Katherine Waterston (daughter of Sam), Scott Eastwood (son of Clint) and Sara Paxton (distantly related to Bill).
Extras: widescreen, featurette, trailers
"The Darkest Hour" (Summit/Blu-ray, 2011, PG-13, $30.49). Two Americans pick up a couple of tourists while in Moscow, just in time for an alien invasion in this latest reboot of "War of the Worlds," but the effects are cheesy and the conflicts wheezy. If that's not enough, the filmmakers apparently ran out of money before the big reveal, so we're told the aliens are invisible. Really?
Extras: widescreen, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes (also on 3D Blu-ray, $34.99)
"Film Noir Double Feature: Homicide/The House Across the Street" (Warner Archive, 1949, b/w, $19.95). A couple of low-rent B-movies, but both are worth a look for fans of the genre. "Homicide" gets a boost from location shooting in this tale of an apparent suicide that leads a suspicious Los Angeles detective to murder in the orange groves. "House Across the Street" benefits from an emphasis on comedy as a pair of newspaper reporters (Wayne Morris, Janis Paige) investigate a murder.
Extras: full frame (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
"Hate for Hate" (Warner Archive, 1967, $19.95). Fans of obscure spaghetti westerns will enjoy this fairly typical entry, which has John Ireland and Antonio Sabato forming an uneasy alliance to go after a villain who has double-crossed Ireland and kidnapped his family. Good action, solid use of location scenery. (Filmed in Spain.)Comment on this story
Extras: widescreen, trailer (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
"The Cats" (Warner Archive, 1968, $19.95). This English-dubbed thriller (which opens with Italian credits and its original title, "I Bastardi") has a jewel thief (Giuliano Gemma) double-crossing his evil brother (Klaus Kinski at his most oily), which leads to escalating bad blood. Rita Hayworth, in one of her last films, plays their alcoholic mother (a role turned down by Joan Crawford!). Add an extremely bizarre ending and you have camp to spare. (Not rated but in R territory for nude sex scenes.)
Extras: widescreen (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)