A nominee for last year’s best foreign-language Oscar leads these new movies on DVD and Blu-ray this week, which also include comedies starring Tina Fey and Steve Carrel.
“No” (Sony Classics, 2012; R for language; $30.99, in Spanish with English subtitles, audio commentary, featurette). Gael Garcia Bernal stars in this true story of the campaign to oust Chilean dictator Pinochet and open democratic presidential elections, that is, the advertising campaign that became a key element behind the movement.
Bernal plays the public relations wizard that put his career as well as his life in jeopardy by taking on the job as the film portrays the struggles from within and without to make it work and the effect it had on the opposition. Fascinating look at the power of advertising on the general public, particularly through television, as well as the obvious political implications of this particular drive. (Also on Blu-ray, $35.99)
“Admission” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; featurette). The charm and chemistry of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd help this overly contrived and only sporadically amusing yarn about a straight-laced Princeton admissions officer (Fey) who reluctantly helps a prodigy that may be the child she gave up for adoption. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted/alternate scenes, featurettes, bloopers). Shrill farce about cutthroat competition in the world of magic tries uncomfortably to blend family comedy with dark, edgy humor. Steve Carrel is horribly miscast as a pompous, whiny idiot whose career spirals downward after an encounter with a twisted street magician (Jim Carrey). Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde and especially Alan Arkin try in vain to save it. (Also on DVD, $28.98)
“The Host” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette). Sappy romantic sci-fi based on Stephenie Meyer’s futuristic book (she also co-produced the film), a variation on “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with aliens taking over humans and erasing their minds. Strictly for undemanding fans.
“The Call” (Sony, 2013; R for violence, language; $30.99, audio commentary, featurette). Halle Berry stars as a 911 operator for the L.A. police who becomes depressed and takes six months off after the killing of a kidnapped teen she tries to help. When she returns to work she’s thrown into another call from a new victim of the same kidnapper/killer. Berry is good in this OK action picture until the final third embraces wild implausibility and everything goes off the rails. (Also on Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo, $40.99)
“A Place at the Table” (Magnolia, 2013, PG, $26.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, trailers). Poignant and jarring advocacy journalism about starvation in America, especially among children. The focus is on the struggles of three families that act as a microcosm of the problem, and you are guaranteed to feel moved, as well as saddened and angered.
“Cody the Robosapien” (Anchor Bay, 2013, PG, $22.98). Family comedy has a young science genius stumbling upon a robot designed for search and rescue, but which bad guys want to use for a weapon. The boy and the ’bot bond, the machine becomes more human-like and anyone who’s seen “Short Circuit” experiences déjà vu. (Available exclusively at Walmart)
“The Happy Poet” (Cinema Libre, 2013, not rated, $24.95, audio commentary, webisodes, bloopers). Low-budget “mumblecore” independent film out of Austin, Texas, has a laid-back shlub trying to peddle a healthy food cart in a large public park with decidedly mixed results. Very low-key comedy is equal parts charming and inert, with way too much R-rated language.
“As Luck Would Have It” (IFC, 2012, not rated, $24.98, trailer). Offbeat, dark comedy-drama about a former advertising executive (Jose Mota) that can’t find work when he is seriously injured in a freak accident that makes the news. Before life-threatening surgery he tries to leverage his 15 minutes of fame into a moneymaking proposition, while his wife (Salma Hayek) tries to stave off the media circus.
“The Rambler” (Anchor Bay/Blu-ray; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; $24.99). Dermot Mulroney is the title character, fresh out of prison, dressed as a cowboy and hitchhiking cross-country (undoubtedly violating parole), meeting strange characters along the way, including a mad scientist trying to record dreams onto VHS. Gory, uneasy mix of horror, romance and comedy. (Also on DVD, $22.98)
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parents Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com