A fine performance from Brad Pitt highlights this look at movies that arrived on DVD this week.
"Moneyball" (Columbia, 2011, PG-13, $30.99). As Billy Beane — real-life general manager of the Oakland A's — Pitt gives a nicely modulated portrayal of someone who loves the game of baseball, and who, against all odds, sets his cap toward success, despite diminishing returns, a slashed budget and mockery from his peers.
The story kicks in after Billy hires a young Yale economics grad (Jonah Hill, also excellent) with a theory about using statistical formulas for picking players. Hey, Billy doesn't have the money to entice the best players so he goes for it. Naturally, everyone thinks he's crazy — but there are surprises ahead.
This is behind-the-scenes baseball and it's not a rousing tale of triumph. But it is surprisingly engrossing, sometimes funny and the story works very well as a metaphor for many modern industries in our current upside-down economy.
Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, featurettes, blooper (also on Blu-ray with more featurettes, $35.99)
"Higher Ground" (Sony Classics/Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack, 2011; R for language, sex; two discs, $45.99). Vera Farmiga stars in (and directed) this exploration of a woman who searches from childhood through adulthood for religious truth. The film is questioning and sometimes harsh, and tonally it's all over the place. But it's not really anti-religion. It's also visually engaging, amusing in places and has some excellent performances, led by Farmiga herself.
Extras: widescreen, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes
"A Mile in His Shoes" (Vivendi, 2011, PG, $14.93). During the 1940s — when little is known about autism — farmboy Mickey Tussler, who has Asperger's Sydrome, is recruited to pitch for a minor-league baseball team. And, since this is a Christian made-for-TV movie, you can expect miracles to happen. Low-budget but a sincere and mostly enjoyable effort.
Extras: widescreen, featurette, trailer
"Killer Elite" (Universal/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, 2011; R for violence, language, sex, nudity; two discs, $34.98). A good cast (Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen) and solid action set-pieces add up to only intermittent entertainment in this globe-trotting, bone-crushing, bloody thriller about assassins Statham and De Niro taking on evil Owen. Purports to be true but don't bet the farm on it.
Extras: widescreen, deleted/extended scenes (also on single-disc DVD, $29.98)
"The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption" (Universal/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, 2012, PG-13, two discs, $34.98). Fans of low-rent, straight-to-DVD sequels should be in hog heaven with this one. As with "Part 2," Dwayne Johnson isn't around, but unlike that first sequel, "Part 3" has some B-movie marquee cred with Billy Zane and Ron Perlman onboard. Typical mix of special effects and mixed-martial arts.
Extras: widescreen, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers (also on single-disc DVD, $29.98)
On tap at Sundance
Sundance 2012 at the Utah High School Screening Series:
"The Atomic States of America"
"Queen of Versailles"
"We're Not Broke"
"The Other Dream Team"
"The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia"
"ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare"
"5 Broken Cameras"