A period melodrama and Adam Sandler’s latest farce lead new movies on DVD and Blu-ray this week, all of them rather disappointing.
“A Promise” (IFC/DVD, 2014, not rated, trailer). This romantic period piece, set in 1912 Germany, has an aging steel magnate (Alan Rickman) hiring a newly minted engineer (Richard Madden) as his personal secretary. As Rickman is in failing health and confined to his home, Madden moves in, where he meets and falls for Rickman’s much-younger wife (Rebecca Hall). Madden and Hall have zero chemistry, and the slow pacing here makes the average “Masterpiece Theater” epic seem jaunty. Only Rickman survives unscathed.
“Blended” (Warner/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2014, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes). Whenever Drew Barrymore teams up with Adam Sandler, I hope she’ll be able to rise above his usual dreck. Never happens (although some may argue about “The Wedding Singer”). Here, Sandler’s penchant for the tasteless and puerile dominates as they play single parents who have a disastrous date and are then thrown together for a jungle safari vacation. Despite the presence of children on the screen, they should not be in the audience.
“The Stream” (Cinedigm/DVD, 2014, PG, featurettes, music video, trailers). This family comedy faintly resembles “Stand By Me” as several young kids in the 1980s follow a stream that leads to the local mall so they can purchase a new plastic bat to replace one destroyed by a bully. Narrated by one of the boys as an adult (Rainn Wilson), with Mario Lopez, Christopher Gorham and Kelly Rutherford among the adults. An ’80s pop-music soundtrack helps, and there are lots of “Star Wars” references. (Twenty percent of the video's proceeds benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.)
“The Double” (Magnolia/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, R for language, featurettes, trailer). Jesse Eisenberg has two roles in this offbeat British film based on Dostoyevsky’s titular novella. Simon, a mild-mannered office drone, is shaken when James, a new employee, proves to be his exact double. Since James is as brash as Simon is shy, they at first conspire to help Simon romance a woman he’s loved from afar, but things get dicey when James seems to be taking over Simon’s life. Mia Wasikowska co-stars, with Wallace Shawn in support.
“The Normal Heart” (HBO/Blu-ray/Digital, 2014, not rated, featurettes). Powerful, well-made dramatic exploration of the early days of the AIDS epidemic among the gay community in the 1980s stars Mark Ruffalo and aspires to importance. Unfortunately, as this is an HBO film, it tends to undermine its best intentions with aggressively R-rated content. Co-stars include Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, B.D. Wong and Julia Roberts.
“Triad” (Well Go/DVD/Digital, 2014, not rated, in Cantonese with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). This Chinese thriller is the allegedly true story of three childhood pals who choose a life of crime by pursuing involvement with a violent group of Hong Kong gangs known as Triads, which seems to serve them well until a conflict pits them against one another.
“A River of Skulls” (Lionsgate/DVD/Digital, 2014, R for violence and sex, featurette). A woman, who finds herself alone and struggling to survive in the wild West of the 1870s, brings more trouble on herself by falling in love with a “half-breed” Indian, which doesn’t sit well with the locals. Low-budget, independent Western is slow and undercooked.
“Revelation Trail” (eOne/DVD, 2014, R for violence and language, audio commentary, featurettes, music video, bloopers). It had to happen: Old West zombies. A conflicted man of the cloth called The Preacher teams up with a town marshal to take on the undead in this genre mix of Western and horror.
“Blood Glacier” (IFC/DVD, 2014, not rated, in German with English subtitles/English dubbed, trailer). This is a modern creature feature built around global warming as a team in the German Alps discovers a glacier oozing some kind of red liquid that turns the local wildlife into mutant monsters. Think Al Gore meets John Carpenter’s “The Thing.”