The big-budget Hollywood epic “Noah,” now on Blu-ray and DVD, is wacky, weird and owes more to “The Lord of the Rings” than Genesis. Also newly released are two French films and a British salsa comedy.
“Noah” (Paramount/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014, PG-13, featurettes). This epic Hollywood yarn claims to be based on the biblical story of Noah, but it employs enough weird sidesteps to qualify as something by J.R.R. Tolkein or Ray Harryhausen. The Earth is to be destroyed because humans are strip mining the land, rock monsters help build the ark, a villain deploys a rocket launcher, the same villain stows away on the ark and Noah decides that God wants him to kill his own family after unloading the animals. Yikes!
“On My Way” (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, not rated, in French with English subtitles, deleted scenes, featurette). At 70, Catherine Deneuve remains luminous, even if she’s now playing grandmothers. This road-trip melodrama casts her as a former beauty queen stuck with running a financially troubled restaurant and recently dumped by her boyfriend for a younger woman. So when she heads out an errand she just keeps going. She reluctantly picks up her young grandson, who is happy to come along for the ride. Deneuve offers a terrific performance that is matched by everyone around her.
“The French Minister” (Sundance Selects/DVD, 2014, not rated, in French with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). While some of the inside jokes may be lost on American audiences (as they were on me), it doesn’t hinder enjoyment of this breezy political satire from the unlikely source of Bertrand Tavernier, better known for mysteries and social-commentary dramas (“Coup de Torchon,” “Death Watch”). Thierry Lhermitte’s unruffled title character is a hoot.
“Cuban Fury” (eOne/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, R for language, featurettes). British comic actor Nick Frost co-wrote and stars in this comedy about regaining self-confidence and standing up to bullies. He’s an overweight schlub who was once a teenage salsa-dancing sensation but has allowed his life to stall. Inspired by his beautiful new boss, he takes up salsa dancing again, prepares to enter a competition and stands up to a workplace bully (Chris O’Dowd). It is intermittently funny and has some great dancing scenes but is undermined by aggressive coarse language. (Frost’s pal Simon Pegg does a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it unbilled cameo.)
“Finding Vivian Maier” (Sundance Selects/DVD, 2014, not rated, Super-8 footage, audio recordings, photo gallery, trailer). This justly acclaimed documentary is about the now highly regarded photographer who was a nanny in Chicago for 40 years, secretly taking street photos during that time. Her more than 150,000 pictures were never seen publicly during her lifetime.
“The Protector 2” (Magnet/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, R for violence and language, in Thai with English subtitles, featurettes, trailers). More or less a retread of the first “Protector,” Tony Jaa’s second martial arts franchise (after three “Ong Bak” films), but this one suffers from shaky camera work undercutting the action. Some wild stunt work from Jaa but not much else to recommend.
“Ong Bak Trilogy” (Magnet/Blu-ray/DVD, 2003-10, R for violence and language, three discs, in Thai with English subtitles, featurettes, music video, alternate version of “On Bak 2”). Repackaged set pulls together the three films in the “Ong Bak” martial arts franchise. The plotting is pretty silly in all three films but the reason to watch is Tony Jaa, whose agile stunt work is nothing short of astonishing. Movies like this seem to have been made with the fast-forward button in mind, so you can get to the good stuff.
“1 Chance 2 Dance” (Monarch/DVD, 2014, not rated, bloopers). A high school dancer is moved from Los Angeles to the East Coast in her senior year and finds herself torn between two boys while trying to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Distaff “Footloose” on an independent-filmmaking budget.Comment on this story
“Legendary” (Lionsgate/DVD, 2014, PG-13, featurette). Dolph Lundgren stars in this fantasy horror about an archaeologist (Scott Adkins) and a hunter (Lundgren) searching for a giant lizard.
“Dragonwolf” (Well Go/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2014, not rated). Martial arts thriller about two assassins who become bitter rivals over a woman in a city where lethal violence is a way of life so to speak. Thai film badly dubbed in English. (Includes sex scenes with nudity.)
“The Den” (IFC/DVD, 2014; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; audio commentary, featurette, trailer). A grad student working on her thesis explores a video-chat site called “The Den” to chronicle the habits of its users. When she sees a teenage girl murdered, the police dismiss it as a prank.