A pair of Disney hits — the animated “Frozen” and “Saving Mr. Banks” — lead new movies on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
“Frozen” (Disney/Blu-ray, 2013, PG, two discs, $44.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, featurettes, music videos, cartoon short: “Get a Horse”). Disney’s biggest non-Pixar animated triumph in two decades was also No. 3 on last year’s box-office hit list (after the second “Hunger Games” and Disney’s own “Iron Man 3”). Not bad for the studio that’s expanding its reach with all things Marvel, Muppets and Star Wars.
But in some ways “Frozen” takes Disney back to its roots, an animated adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” though it definitely goes its own way. In fact, it’s bizarre and muddled in its plotting with its story of two young princesses growing up in a cloistered castle, one with the potentially lethal power to freeze all that surrounds her, ultimately sending her into a panic and a bit over the edge.
However, the animation is gorgeous; the humor quite witty, with the usual anthropomorphic sidekicks (in this case including a snowman); the songs very hummable; and the voice work — especially from Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel in the lead roles — is exceptional. Plus the innovative Mickey Mouse cartoon that accompanied the film in theaters is here too. What’s not to love? (Also on DVD, $29.99)
“Saving Mr. Banks” (Disney/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $36.99, Blu-ray and digital versions, deleted scenes, featurettes). Lots of people suggested Tom Hanks deserved an Oscar nod for “Captain Phillips,” and he did, but he also shined in this end-of-year gem as none other than Walt Disney himself, a wonderful, subtler turn that speaks to Hanks’ versatility. Emma Thompson also deserves kudos for her performance as prickly P.L. Travers, the author of “Mary Poppins,” and she is really the film’s central focus of this based-on-truth story of Disney wooing the irascible Travers so he can film her most famous book, which she contends is too personal to trivialize. In flashbacks we learn why. (Also on DVD, $29.99)
“American Hustle” (Columbia/Blu-ray, 2013; R for language, sex, violence; two discs, $40.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted/extended scenes, featurette). Despite being nominated for 10 Academy Awards, this dark comedy-drama was shut out. Excellent performances from Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give it a boost but this true story of con artists and the FBI in collusion has trouble settling on a tone and is, as a result, very uneven. (Also on DVD, $30.99)
“The Patience Stone” (Sony Pictures Classics, 2013; R for sex, violence, language; $30.99, in Persian and Farsi with English subtitles, featurette). Intimate observation of an Afghan woman suffering in a brutal arranged marriage whose husband, a terrorist, is comatose after being shot. As the woman speaks to him she begins to reveal her true feelings, which she never could have done if he were conscious.
“Swerve” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 2012; R for violence, language, sex, nudity; $34.98, featurette, trailer; eight-page booklet). Australian film noir aims high but settles for B-movie thrills as an innocent man becomes enmeshed in jealousy, robbery and murder after witnessing a deadly car crash from which he rescues a femme fatale and a suitcase full of cash. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“Reasonable Doubt” (Lionsgate, 2014, R for violence and language, $19.98, deleted scenes, featurettes, trailer). Prosecutor Dominc Cooper leaves the scene after he drives drunk and hits a pedestrian. But when he discovers that someone else (Samuel L. Jackson) is going down for the crime, he contrives to get the case so he can throw it and set Jackson free. But after he does so, he learns that Jackson isn’t the innocent he pretends to be. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“Commitment” (Well Go/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $29.98, in Korean with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). Tense thriller has the teenage son of a North Korean spy being coerced into spying himself to save his sister, which sends him to South Korea, where he is soon at odds with his superiors. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“Kingdom of Conquerors” (Lionsgate, 2014, PG-13, $26.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles or English dubbed, featurette, trailers). In the 13th century, Genghis Khan builds an empire covering nearly all of Asia while nomadic clans of Mongolia are at war.
“The Wrath of Vajra” (Well Go/Blu-ray, 2014, not rated, $29.98, in Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles or English dubbed, featurette, trailer). In 1930s Japan, a young boy is trained as an assassin, then, as an adult, he returns to China and vows to protect his people from Japanese invaders. (Also on DVD, $24.98)Comment on this story
“Contracted” (IFC, 2013, not rated, $24.98, audio commentaries, featurettes, trailer). Gory, slimy horror about a party girl infected after a one-night stand with a mysterious stranger, but it’s not an STD; she’s been zombiefied! Echoes of “Contagion” and whatever zombie movies come to mind.
“Flu” (CJ, 2013, not rated, $26.98, in Korean with English subtitles or English dubbed, deleted scenes, featurette, art gallery). A horror-movie version of Avian flu runs rampant in this Korean effort that also has “Contagion” on its mind.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com