“Zero Dark Thirty” (Columbia, 2012; R for violence, language; $30.99, DVD and digital versions, featurettes). Jessica Chastain earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination (one of five the film received) for her performance as a CIA agent at the center of the U.S. government’s lengthy operation to find and take down Osama Bin Laden.
The opening torture sequence has been widely criticized and questioned as to its authenticity, but it serves to set up the intensity and high stakes that made this enterprise so crucial as the investigation hits dead-ends and misinformation before finally locating the target.
The result is gripping from start to finish, and a strong companion to director Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker.” (Also on Blu-ray, $40.99)
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, three discs, $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions, featurettes). Martin Freeman is perfectly cast as Bilbo Baggins in this prequel to “Lord of the Rings,” and the rest of the players are also very good. The film, which has Bilbo reluctantly joining a quest to reclaim a lost kingdom, is entertaining, if puerile in places and way overlong at 169 minutes. And it’s just the first of three movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 300-page book! (Also on 3D Blu-ray, $44.95, and DVD, $28.98)
“Les Miserables” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2012, PG-13, two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; audio commentary, featurettes). One can quibble about the voices of the various cast members here singing live on the soundtrack, but Anne Hathaway certainly earned her supporting-actress Oscar as the tragic Fantine. The rest of the cast is up and down but my main complaints have to do with directing choices, especially the overuse of close-ups. Still, the show’s many fans are strong defenders, as you will quickly discover if you criticize this film in a group. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“The Big Picture” (MPI, 2012, not rated, $29.98, in French with English subtitles, trailers). This Hitchcockian French thriller brings to mind “The Talented Mr. Ripley” with its plot of a man (Romain Duris) taking over the identity of someone he has killed, though in this case it’s a bit less sinister. The suspense builds gradually until it really ratchets things up in the final reel. Catherine Deneuve has a small supporting role.
“Rust and Bone” (Sony Classics/Blu-ray, 2012; R for sex, nudity, violence, language; $35.99, in French with English subtitles, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). Marion Cotillard stars in this French melodrama laced with tragedy (and graphic sex) as a marine-park whale trainer who loses her legs in an accident just as she begins an affair with a bachelor who has a young son and commitment issues. (Also on DVD, $30.99)
“The Other Son” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 2012, PG-13, $29.98, in French with English subtitles, deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers). Interesting twist on the old switched-at-birth plot has an Israeli family and a Palestinian family learning when their sons turn 18 that they were given the wrong infants, leading to questions about faith, culture and identity. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“This Is 40” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2012; R for sex, language, drugs; two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted/alternate/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers). Judd Apatow’s latest plucks two characters from his hit “Knocked Up” for the usual sleazy antics as a couple (Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann) ponder the milestone age of the title. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“The Great Magician” (Well Go, 2012, not rated, $24.98, featurette, trailers). Convoluted plotting muddles this mix of romance, magic and comedy as a European-trained magician returns to 1920s Beijing to rescue his mentor and the woman he loves from an evil warlord. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)
“Cyberstalker” (Lifetime/Lionsgate, 2012, not rated, $19.98). Cable TV thriller stars Mischa Barton as an artist who was stalked years earlier by someone who eventually killed her parents. But the killer was never identified and now, 13 years later, the artist comes out of seclusion only to discover that the stalker is still after her.Comment on this story
“Angus Buchan’s Ordinary People” (Sony, 2012, not rated, $22.99, featurette). Based on three true stories of troubled souls who find hope at the Mighty Men Conference, an annual gathering for Christian males led by self-styled evangelist Buchan (“Faith Like Potatoes”).
“Hellgate” (IFC, 2012, not rated, $24.98, trailer). Cary Elwes is a car-crash survivor whose wife and son were killed, but when he has visions of them in a shadow world where their souls are trapped, William Hurt tries to help him rescue them from threatening demons.