The recent theatrical films “Hidden Figures,” “The Founder,” “Walking with the Enemy” and “Split” are on Blu-ray, DVD, digital and on-demand streaming sites this week.
“Hidden Figures” (Fox, 2016, PG, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, photo gallery). During the early 1960s space race, female African-American mathematicians were recruited as “human computers” to help launch John Glenn into orbit. You may find yourself asking, “Why have I not heard about this before?” Refer to the bonus features here, which are every bit as engaging as the film.
The movie itself is passionate and rich in character, with a through line focusing on three of these women, played magnificently by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. Racism is explored in its complexity, underscoring the importance of the civil rights movement in its genesis. What really makes this film special is a heartfelt script and three magnificent central performances. Kevin Costner co-stars.
“The Founder” (Anchor Bay, 2016, PG-13, featurettes). In 1954, Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a traveling salesman from Illinois who happens upon a Southern California fast-food burger joint and sees something bigger. Eventually, he turns it into a billion-dollar enterprise, along the way revealing himself to be a self-centered fox in the henhouse. Kroc is less than likable, but Keaton’s kinetic, riveting performance makes up for a lot.
“Walking with the Enemy” (Fox, 2017, PG-13). Yet another true story is this tale of a young Hungarian (Jonas Armstrong), who, out of desperation, dons an SS uniform and poses as an officer in an attempt to free fellow Jews threatened by the Final Solution during the waning months of World War II. Meanwhile, Hungary’s leader (Ben Kingsley) faces a showdown with Nazi Germany. It's hampered by a cliché-ridden script and an unnecessary voice-over narration, but it’s sincere and worth a look.
“Split” (Universal, 2017, PG-13, deleted scenes/alternate ending, featurettes). If you’ve just about given up on M. Night Shyamalan, here’s his shot at redemption. After striking gold with “The Sixth Sense” in 1999, followed by a few lesser “Twilight Zone”-style successes, the filmmaker began spiraling out of control with a string of box-office disasters. But this one works: a spine-tingler about a kidnapper with 23 personalities, played expertly by James McAvoy.
“Believe” (Sony, 2016, PG, deleted scenes, featurette, outtakes). A Virginia businessman (Ryan O’Quinn) struggles to hang on to his small-town auto-parts business, and by extension, the annual Christmas pageant, until a young boy’s faith helps him find a way to do both while also helping disenfranchised locals. Merry Christmaspring, I guess.
“A Cowgirl’s Story” (Sony, 2017, PG). Bailee Madison stars as 17-year-old Dusty Rhodes (insert your own joke here) who moves in with her grandpa (Pat Boone — where’s he been?) while her soldier-parents fight in Afghanistan. At her new school, she forms an equestrian drill team and puts on a show to salute those serving overseas.
“Ocean Waves” (GKids/Universal, 2017, PG-13, in Japanese with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). Two teenage boys in Kōchi, Japan, are best friends until the arrival of a girl who comes between them and proves to be troubled and quite manipulative. It is another gorgeously animated feature for older kids and adults from Japan’s Ghibli studio (“Spirited Away”).
“Arctic Adventure on Frozen Pond” (Lionsgate, 2017, PG, featurette). A villainous one-eyed frog plots to steal the magical Crystal Frog, which will make him the ruler of Frog Kingdom, so it’s up to Freddy and friends to save the day. The voice cast includes Jon Lovitz.
“Bigger Fatter Liar” (Universal, 2017, PG, featurettes). This in-name-only sequel to the theatrical comedy “Big Fat Liar” (2002) has a lazy tech genius and chronic liar (Ricky Garcia) outraged when a gaming mogul (Barry Bostwick) steals his hot new idea, so he plots comic revenge.
“The Watcher” (Monarch, 2016, not rated/probable PG-13). A young couple buys a million-dollar home in a posh neighborhood, unaware the house has a tainted history until they begin receiving creepy written messages and even creepier packages. This is a Lifetime Channel movie supposedly based on a true story.
“Punching Henry” (Well Go, 2017; not rated/probable R for language, sex, drugs; deleted scenes, featurettes, trailer). Deadpan comic-singer Henry Phillips plays a version of himself as a hapless stand-up comedian facing possible stardom with a reality show that paints him as a loser. It is a follow-up to Phillips’ 2009 film “Punching the Clown,” with J.K. Simmons.
“Sleepless” (Universal, 2017, R for violence and language, deleted scenes, featurette). This is an overly familiar crime thriller with Jamie Foxx and rapper T.I. as dirty Vegas cops, although Foxx is actually undercover for Internal Affairs. After they steal a cocaine shipment from a mob boss, Foxx’s young son is kidnapped and ransomed for the drugs. Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney and Gabrielle Union co-star.Comment on this story
“Isolation” (Lionsgate, 2017; R for violence, language, drugs). This is a twisty thriller about a young couple on a remote island in the Bahamas who find their money and passports stolen by modern pirates. They naturally turn to another couple for help — bad idea. This is another allegedly true story, with Dominic Purcell and Stephen Lang. (It will be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart for the first few weeks.)
“Chupacabra Territory” (Maltauro, 2017, not rated/R for violence, sex, language; featurettes, photo gallery, trailer). This one’s an overly familiar found-footage monster movie about four friends going into the woods to document the mythological chupacabra to their eventual regret.