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Home theater: Fall DVD lineup teems with positive values and themes

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 1:04 a.m. MDT

In this film image released by Disney, chimpanzees Isha and Oscar, foreground, are shown during the filming of the documentary In this film image released by Disney, chimpanzees Isha and Oscar, foreground, are shown during the filming of the documentary "Chimpanzee." (Disney)

Autumn is a slow time for Hollywood in terms of new movies hitting theaters. However, an eclectic lineup of DVD releases stands poised to significantly ameliorate that annual reality.

To that end, we offer snapshots of eight new-to-DVD motion pictures we believe are capable of captivating your imagination without offending your sensibilities.

ADULT DRAMAS

'A Separation'

  • DVD release date: Aug. 21
  • Synopsis: “A Separation,” winner of the 2012 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, is the first Iranian movie to ever win an Academy Award. Superb acting enables the film to nimbly navigate emotional powder kegs like caring for an elderly parent whose mind is rapidly deteriorating. In Farsi with English subtitles.
  • Common Sense Media recommendation: Age 16
  • Ok.com’s Worth Your Time: 100 percent
  • MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material
Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant, center, with his bird, Polly) and some of his band of misfits. (Sony Pictures Animation) Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant, center, with his bird, Polly) and some of his band of misfits. (Sony Pictures Animation)

'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

  • DVD release date: Sept. 18
  • Synopsis: A cadre of British retirees moves to India expecting to live out the golden years in palatial accommodations, but instead encounters a very different reality. “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” intertwines comedy with earnest examinations of aging, friendship and love. Even at 77 years old, actress Judi Dench still steals scenes with aplomb.
  • Common Sense Media recommendation: Age 14
  • Ok.com’s Worth Your Time: 93 percent
  • MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language

DOCUMENTARIES

'Chimpanzee'

  • DVD release date: Aug. 21
  • Synopsis: “Chimpanzee” — the newest offering from Disneynature — keeps tabs on a troop of chimps as they romp through the jungles of the Ivory Coast. By anthropomorphizing animals, the film’s themes reinforce the importance of family. Tim Allen nails the narration.
  • Common Sense Media recommendation: Age 6
  • Ok.com’s Worth Your Time: 71 percent
  • MPAA rating: G
Judi Dench as Evelyn and Celia Imrie as Madge in Judi Dench as Evelyn and Celia Imrie as Madge in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." (Twentieth Century Fox)

'Ballplayer: Pelotero'

  • DVD release date: Sept. 4
  • Synopsis: “Ballplayer: Pelotero” pulls back the curtain on Major League Baseball’s modus operandi in the Dominican Republic — an exploitative system in which elite baseball talents who grew up in abject poverty can potentially command million-dollar signing bonuses upon turning 16 years old. A central figure in the film is Miguel Sano, the shortstop prodigy whose market value plummets when unsubstantiated rumors surface that he’s actually older than his listed age of 16.
  • Common Sense Media recommendation: N/A
  • Ok.com’s Worth Your Time: N/A
  • MPAA rating: Unrated

BRITISH ANIMATION

Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) in Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) in "Arthur Christmas." (Sony)

'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'

  • DVD release date: Aug. 28
  • Synopsis: The folks at Aardman Animations — creators of comedies like “Wallace & Grommit” and “Chicken Run” — spin this merry tale about plucky Pirate Captain. The cap’n (voiced by Hugh Grant) alternates his allegiance between a loyal crew and the extremely wealthy (and very overbearing) Queen Victoria. Ample comic relief stems from a cheeky monkey and the dodo bird that masquerades as a pirate’s parrot.
  • Common Sense Media recommendation: Age 6
  • Ok.com’s Worth Your Time: 88 percent
  • MPAA rating: PG for mild action, rude humor and some language

'Arthur Christmas'

  • DVD release date: Oct. 9
  • Synopsis: “Arthur Christmas” also emanates from the quirky comedic geniuses at Aardman Animations. But unlike the stop-motion Claymation of “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” and “Wallace & Grommit,” this cheery tale about Santa’s North Pole operation is digitally animated. Fun family themes run throughout “Arthur Christmas,” which had its theatrical release in November 2011.
  • Common Sense Media recommendation: Age 5
  • Ok.com’s Worth Your Time: 90 percent
  • MPAA rating: PG for some mild rude humor

BIG BLOCKBUSTERS

'The Hunger Games'

  • DVD release date: Aug. 18
  • Synopsis: After grossing $407 million at the domestic box office, “Hunger Games” zipped into stores with all the momentum of a fast-flying arrow from Katniss Everdeen’s bow. Primary protagonist Katniss sacrifices her own safety for the benefit of her younger sister. Studio executives deemed “Hunger Games” worthy of a very rare Saturday DVD release (all other films on this list are slated for Tuesday DVD debuts). While it carries some powerful themes, this one is not for young kids.
  • Common Sense Media recommendation: Age 13
  • Ok.com’s Worth Your Time: 93 percent
  • MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense thematic violent material and disturbing images — all involving teens

'The Avengers'

  • DVD release date: Sept. 25
  • Synopsis: “The Avengers” netted $617 million domestically with an ensemble cast starring the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner. Not-so-spoiler alert: teamwork ultimately trumps alien invasion.
  • Common Sense Media recommendation: Age 13
  • Ok.com’s Worth Your Time: 98 percent
  • MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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