A batch of interesting new movies has been released on DVD and Blu-ray this week, led by “Captain Phillips,” which may cause you to scratch your head over why Tom Hanks was snubbed by the Oscars last week.
“Captain Phillips” (Columbia/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, two discs, $40.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; audio commentary, featurettes). Hanks stars as the real-life title character whose cool-headed demeanor worked to his advantage when his cargo ship was boarded by Somali pirates, and especially when he was ultimately taken hostage.
Director Paul Greengrass’ fidgety camera work is annoying in places, but he knows how to ratchet up the suspense and this one will keep you on the edge of your seat right through the final minutes. And Barkhad Abdi, as the leader of the pirates, certainly deserves the nomination he received as best supporting actor. (Als
o on DVD, $30.99)
“Instructions Not Included” (Lionsgate, 2013, PG-13, $19.98, in English and in Spanish with English subtitles, DVD and digital versions, audio commentary). Mexican superstar comedian Eugenio Derbez co-wrote, directed and stars in this surprise hit at the U.S. box office last fall (the biggest moneymaking Spanish-language film ever). He’s a playboy left with a baby he didn’t know about but with whom he quickly bonds, changing his hedonistic ways. He tries in vain to find the mother, becomes an unlikely Hollywood stuntman, and six years later his daughter (played by adorable Loreto Peralta) is all he cares about.
Derbez is a good physical comic and there are many funny sequences here. But two-thirds in, the film (which is a bit long at nearly two full hours) goes all sentimental as Mom returns to take back the child. Think “Kramer vs. Kramer” as directed by Jerry Lewis. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“Terraferma” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 2011, R for language and nudity, $39.98, in Italian with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). Thoughtful, sentimental melodrama about moral choices, coming of age, respect for the law and sacrifice. Poor families living on a small island near Sicily must decide whether to help destitute African refugees or turn a blind eye. All the more engaging given the current cynical political climate regarding illegal immigration. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“Old Goats” (Music Box, 2014, not rated, $29.96, deleted/extended scenes, featurettes, short film). Amusing and warm fictionalized semi-documentary look at three oldsters at different phases of retirement and their interactions in Seattle. The characters essentially play themselves: lonely British man lives on a small houseboat and reluctantly joins the computer age, primarily for a senior dating site; Bob, the oldest, has written a self-published memoir filled with incidents that may or may not be true; and Dave is the new guy who referees the other two and enjoys the camaraderie so much he’s neglecting his wife.
“In a World ” (Sony, 2013, R for language, $35.99, deleted scenes/alternate opening, audio commentary, trailers, bloopers). Here’s another comedy that has charm and wit but so much sexual language that it becomes distasteful after awhile. Comic actress Lake Bell wrote and directed this insider Hollywood satire, and stars as a voiceover actress living in the shadow of her bombastic father. (Also on DVD, $30.99)
“Blue Caprice” (IFC, 2014, R for violence and language, $24.98, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). Chilling true story based on the Beltway sniper shootings that occurred in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002. A teenager abandoned by his mother falls under the spell of an angry man (Isaiah Washington) who becomes his father figure, indoctrinating him before they drive East in his outfitted blue Chevy Caprice to kill innocent people driving the freeways.
“The Prey” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 2011, R for violence and language, $34.98, in French with English subtitles, featurettes, trailer). Highly charged thriller, loaded with exciting stunt work, despite a contrived plot. A bank robber in prison makes the mistake of taking his seemingly weak cellmate under his wing, unaware the guy is really a sadistic serial killer. When the killer is released, he stalks his old cellmate’s family — so the robber breaks out of prison to stop him. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“Life’s an Itch” (Monarch, 2014, not rated, $24.95, featurette). This low-budget comedy tries for a Jack Lemmon vibe (circa the 1960s). A composer stays home to work while his wife heads off to Hawaii with their kids and her mother (a slumming Kathleen Quinlan). At the last minute he’s informed that a yoga teacher is moving into their guesthouse. As you might expect, she’s attractive and free-spirited, and all the friends and neighbors that drop by are oddballs. Forced, silly farce.
“Richard the Lionheart” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for violence, sex, nudity; $26.98, featurette, trailers). Malcolm McDowell is King Henry II, who sends his son to a prison where he will battle villains and learn to rely on his own strength, ingenuity and character.
“Machete Kills” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013; R for violence, sex, language; two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; $34.98, deleted/extended scenes, featurette, trailers). Ridiculous over-the-top action film by Robert Rodriguez, starring Danny Trejo as the character he played in the first “Machete,” which was based on a fake trailer in “Grindhouse.” Charlie Sheen, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara and Mel Gibson co-star. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com