A contrived Hollywood melodrama leads new movies on Blu-ray and DVD, while the rest are independent productions of varying quality.
“Labor Day” (Paramount/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/VOD, 2014, PG-13, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette). Every once in a while a film comes around that has a plot that is so old-fashioned, sentimental and clichéd that one wonders if a studio in the 1930s might not have rejected it. Such is the case here with a highly implausible story set in the 1980s that is nearly saved by the chemistry between Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.
She’s a depressed single mother with a young son; he’s a wounded escaped con accused of killing his wife. When he forces her and her son to harbor him while he plots an escape, she does the natural thing she falls in love with him. Complications ensue.
“Bucksville” (Monarch/DVD, 2014, alternate ending). Here’s a low-budget vigilante drama that attempts to be an exploration of militia groups that's more thoughtful than usual. In the Pacific Northwest, a young man wrestles with his conscience when his late father’s “lodge,” which dispenses backwoods justice, joins forces with a wealthy extremist (Tom Berenger) who has sinister national ambitions. The tone is right, but the script needed another rewrite and some performances are a bit amateurish.
“The Selfish Giant” (Sundance/DVD, 2013, not rated, featurettes, trailer). Based on a fable by Oscar Wilde, this stark British drama follows two young teenage boys who struggle to survive as scavengers in a depressed Northern England town. The boys are played very well by nonactors and the story is compelling, if dispiriting. But the constant foul language and some startling, disturbing sequences make it difficult to wade through.
“The Legend of Hercules” (Summit/DVD/Digital, 2014, PG-13, audio commentary). Speaking of old-fashioned, here’s a Hercules movie that makes Steve Reeves’ 1960s efforts look positively glossy, an origin story (as if a sequel were in the cards) that unfolds as a biblical-epic wannabe. This is the first of two Hercules movies this year (another opens in July with Dwayne Johnson) and it was directed on the cheap by Renny Harlin, who, in better days, gave us “Die Hard 2” and “Cliffhanger.”
“Prince Killian and the Holy Grail” (aka “Captain Thunder,” Shout!/DVD, 2014, not rated, in Spanish with English subtitles or English dubbed). Another period “epic” is this sword-and-sandal yarn from Spain, based on a European comic book. Prince Killian is a knight-errant during the Crusades who sets out to find the Holy Grail, which is being held by an evil wizard.
“The Rise and Fall of the Clash” (Shout!/DVD, 2014, not rated, new interviews, archival interviews, archival performance footage). Documentary about the English punk-rock band offers an unfettered look at backstage shenanigans as well as the music and includes previously unseen footage of band members in harmony and when they, well, clashed.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com