Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank, Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan receive Blu-ray upgrades this week, leading new movies on home video.
“Two Weeks Notice” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2002, PG-13, $19.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers, trailer). Sandra Bullock plays an activist who reluctantly becomes the assistant to a spoiled, self-centered gazillionaire (Hugh Grant) and the sparks fly. Romantic sparks take a little longer to develop. This is a funny and endearing romantic comedy thanks to the dead-on snarky dialogue delivery of its two stars. (Watch for Bullock’s sly Utah-polygamy joke.)
“Million Dollar Baby” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2004, PG-13, $19.98, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). This best-picture Academy Award-winner also earned Oscars for Clint Eastwood as director and Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank as actors, and all are terrific in this tale of a determined female boxer (Swank) who convinces an aging, grumpy trainer (Eastwood) to help her go pro. The relationship that develops between them is irresistible before it veers into soap opera and a controversial ending.
“City of Angels” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1998, PG-13, $19.98, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, music videos, trailer). Hollywood remake of the great German film “Wings of Desire” makes annoying changes to the story and tamps down the spirituality as an angel (Nicolas Cage) falls in love with a mortal (Meg Ryan) and gives up immortality to be with her. Taken on its own terms it’s an OK mystical romance but nowhere near the heady experience of the original.
“About Time” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, R for language and sex, two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers). Funny, charming and aggressively eccentric time-travel comedy with buoyant performances by Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson and especially Bill Nighy. Unfortunately, it sours its goodwill with foul language and sexual content that goes too far, earning its R rating. (Also on DVD, $20.98)
“Dallas Buyers Club” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013; R for language, sex, nudity, drugs; two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, featurette). Matthew McConaughey stars as real life Texan Ron Woodruff, a homophobe who contracts AIDS, which changes his world view and leads to his smuggling unapproved pharmaceutical drugs to help himself and others. McConaughey, who lost weight for the role, and Jared Leto, as a transgender patient, are considered front-runners for this year’s Oscars. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“The Lady Vanishes” (BBC, 2013, not rated, $24.98). Nifty British television adaptation of Ethel Lina White’s novel “The Wheel Spins,” which became a classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller in the 1930s. This one sticks closer to the book as a snooty ’30s socialite (Tuppence Middleton), traveling across Europe by train, tries to convince fellow passengers that a woman (Selina Cadell) has disappeared. (Fans of “Doc Martin” will recognize Cadell as the unbalanced pharmacist on that show.)
“Burton and Taylor” (BBC, 2013, not rated, $24.98). This British TV movie builds on a real-life incident late in the lives of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. After they were twice married and divorced, Taylor talked Burton into co-starring with her in a Broadway revival of the Noel Coward play “Private Lives,” which proved to be a disaster. Dominic West is pretty good as Burton but Helena Bonham Carter is excellent as Taylor (certainly miles better than Lindsay Lohan’s “Liz & Dick” debacle in late 2012).
“The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for language, drugs, sex; $19.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). This sincere film with a cumbersome title has a hard time settling on an appropriate tone, which is too bad since it boasts a compelling story. When a drug-addled mother (Jennifer Hudson in a change-of-pace role) is carted off by police, her 13-year-old son is left to fend for himself, along with a younger boy that’s been living with them.
“A Case of You” (IFC/Blu-ray, 2013; R for language, sex, drugs; $29.98, featurette, trailer). Justin Long (who also co-wrote/co-produced) stars in this by-the-numbers independent romantic comedy as a writer who creates a phony online persona for a dating site, then tries to keep up the charade for a woman (Evan Rachel Wood) who falls for the lie. Underdeveloped and underfunny, despite a good cast that includes Peter Dinklage, Brendan Fraser and Vince Vaughn. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“Finding Faith” (eOne, 2014, not rated, $14.98, featurette; 12-page activity guide). A young teen named Faith corresponds on a Facebook-style site with a teenage boy from another state, but it turns out he’s fictional, and soon she is kidnapped by a predator planning to sell her to sex-traffickers. Well-intentioned but heavy-handed church-funded film is a timely cautionary tale about the dangers of social media but is undercut by amateurish production values, weak performances and sluggish pacing.
“The Booker” (IndiePix, 2013, not rated, $19.95). Documentary about Steve Scarborough’s attempts through his wrestling school to bring the sport of pro wrestling back to a place of respectability and demand for professional athletes.
“House of Versace” (Lionsgate, 2013, not rated, $14.98). Gina Gershon plays fashion designer Donatella Versace in this Lifetime cable-TV movie, based on Deborah Ball’s book, “House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival.”
“Wings” (Lionsgate, 2014, G, $14.98, featurette, trailers). Josh Duhamel, Hilary Duff, Rob Schneider and Tom Skerritt provide voices for this dubbed Russian animated feature (88 minutes) about a young fighter plane taking part in competition. (Any resemblance to last year’s Disney film “Planes” is purely coincidental.)Comment on this story
“The Little Penguin: Pororo’s Racing Adventure” (Lionsgate, 2013, $19.98, featurette, trailer). Dubbed Korean animated feature (79 minutes) follows Pororo the penguin as he joins in a Super Sled race. Voices are provided by Rob Schneider, Anthony Anderson and Utah’s own Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”). (Exclusively at Walmart)
“Code Red” (eOne, 2013, not rated, $19.98, featurettes). Action/horror blend about a top-secret nerve gas lost during World War II that resurfaces in Bulgaria, turning locals into zombies.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com