Many genres and themes are represented in this week’s DVD and Blu-ray releases, led by a German film with a compelling story linked to World War II.
“Two Lives” (IFC/DVD, 2014, not rated, in German and Norwegian with English subtitles, trailer). Juliane Kohler stars as Katrine, happily married and living in 1990 Norway with her family, including an older woman who is apparently her mother (Liv Ullmann).
When she is approached by a lawyer gathering evidence to seek reparations for now-adult children born of a Nazi plan to breed “perfect” Aryans, Katrine has gaps in her story, and flashbacks indicate she may not be a victim after all.
Excellent performances and the inherently interesting subject matter keep this one afloat, although it suffers from a jumbled narrative and some unfortunate plot holes.
“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” (IFC/DVD, 2014, not rated, deleted scenes/interview outtakes, featurette, trailer). Entertaining, amusing, poignant documentary/biography of Stritch, a Tony- and Emmy-winning actress/singer now in her 80s, a Broadway star but probably best known to a wider audience for her nine-episode recurring role on the TV sitcom “30 Rock.” In addition to clips of her work, there are testimonials from Nathan Lane, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, etc.
“Winter’s Tale” (Warner/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes). Supernatural fantasy set in a mythical Manhattan over the course of a century, with Colin Farrell as a thief in love with a dying woman (Brown Findlay) whom he tries to save while being pursued by his former mentor (Russell Crowe). Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind”) makes his directing debut with a screenplay he adapted from the popular novel by Mark Helprin.
“Walk of Shame” (Universal/Blu-ray//DVD/Digital, 2014, R for language and sex). Elizabeth Banks tries hard to make this sleazy comedy work as a zany farce but she’s let down by writer-director Steven Brill (“Little Nicky,” “Drillbit Taylor”). Banks is a TV reporter up for an anchor job when, after a night of binge drinking, she wakes up in a strange part of Los Angeles without her car or purse. Can she get across town in time for an interview? Not easy when you’re being mistaken for a prostitute, a stripper, etc.
“300: Rise of an Empire” (Warner/3D Blu-ray/2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; featurettes). Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, this sequel to the equally stylized and blood-soaked 2007 hit “300” has a Greek general battling invading Persian forces. Stars include Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green and Lena Headey.
“Blood Ties” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014; R for violence, language, sex, drugs; featurette). Clive Owen is Chris, an ex-con whose police officer brother Frank (Billy Crudup) tries to help him out, but when the straight and narrow proves difficult, and his old life of crime comes calling, Chris finds it difficult to resist. Co-stars include James Caan, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana and Lili Taylor.
“Repentance” (Lionsgate/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2014, R for violence and language, featurette). Self-help writer (Anthony Mackie) with a dark secret agrees to counsel an unstable admirer (Forest Whitaker) but finds he’s in over his head. Mike Epps, Nicole Ari Parker and Sanaa Lathan co-star.
“Fracknation” (Magnet/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, PG, deleted scenes, featurette, TV ad spots). Earnest, if one-sided, documentary about hydraulic fracturing, drilling into rock to extract gas and oil. A crowdfunded film via Kickstarter.
“The Chef, the Actor and the Scoundrel” (Well Go/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014, not rated, featurette, bloopers, trailer, in Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles). Despite a seemingly serious plot — during the World War II Japanese occupation of China, Chinese spies kidnap a Japanese chemist to halt a cholera epidemic caused by germ warfare — this is a strained, sloppy comedy with too many bodily-function gags.
“Deadly Revenge” (Monarch/DVD, 2014, not rated). A young woman (Alicia Ziegler) becomes engaged to the “perfect” man only to discover that he may be poisoning her — and he may have done the same thing to his high school sweetheart. Donna Mills co-stars.
“The Jungle” (eOne/DVD, R for language). While looking for a rare leopard in an Indonesian rainforest, a team of conservationists comes across the legendary “forest demon,” a werewolf-like creature that may be stalking them. In glorious shaky-cam.