Looking for a film about the human condition that will both move you and carry you away? Look no further than the Chinese movie that leads these newly released DVDs.
“A Simple Life” (Well Go, 2012, not rated, $24.98, in Cantonese with English subtitles). This deceptively simple film is a wonderfully engaging drama (with some comedy) about a housekeeper (Deanie Ip) who has worked for a Hong Kong family for 60 years, helping raise the young man (action star Andy Lau) who is the only remaining family member (everyone else has moved to San Francisco). She still serves him meals and cleans his apartment — but when she has a stroke the tables are turned and he begins caring for her.
This one has a lot to say about love and compassion and the ties that bind, and about how acts of kindness for others can take us out of our self-absorbed world and bring out the best in us. (It’s also instructive about life in Hong Kong and Western influences.) (Also in Blu-ray, $29.98)
“Chicken With Plums” (Sony Classics, 2012, PG-13, $30.99, in French with English subtitles, audio commentary, featurette). This one is darker and laced with occasional vulgar comedy, a live-action film (with some animation) from the makers of the animated “Persepolis,” focusing on a man who gives up on life after his beloved violin is tragically broken. So he goes to bed to die and fantasizes about his past, has an encounter with Death and sees the future of his children.
“Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare” (Lionsgate, 2012, PG-13, $27.98, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). Documentary examines the U.S. health care system and finds it wanting and provides compelling arguments for change.
“Man From Shaolin” (Lionsgate, 2012, PG-13, $26.98, deleted scenes, featurette). Martial arts expert Li Zhang co-directed and stars in the title role of this English-language action picture as a Shaolin fighting monk in Manhattan so he can care for an orphaned young girl. He opens a kung fu school and finds himself in conflict with a brutal fight promoter.
“Holy Motors” (Vivendi, 2012, not rated, $19.97, in French with English subtitles). Strange, surreal blend of vignettes from different genres (some of them on an R-rated level) is at times quite distracting but often just odd as a man (Dennis Lavant) is driven around Paris in a limo, altering himself with makeup and costumes to perform certain “assignments.” Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue also show up. (Also on Blu-ray, $39.95)
“The Master” (Anchor Bay/Blu-ray, 2012; R for sex, nudity, language, violence; $39.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, featurettes, 1946 documentary by John Huston: “Let There Be Light,” trailers). Multiple Oscar-nominee boasts fearless performances by Joaquin Phoenix as a damaged World War II veteran, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the charismatic cult leader that takes him in, and Amy Adams as Hoffman’s low-key but controlling wife. But as much as it is occasionally mesmerizing it is more often off-putting in its approach. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“The Loneliest Planet” (Sundance/IFC, 2012, not rated, $24.98, featurette, photo gallery, trailer). Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg are a couple backpacking in the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, led by a guide, when their peaceful adventure takes a dangerous, dark and revealing turn. Artful, without much dialogue, but slow going, even for the patient viewer.
“Company of Men” (Sony/Blu-ray, 2013; R for violence, language, nudity; $30.99, deleted scene, featurettes). True story of American soldiers lost behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge, discovering a super bomb in development. (Also on DVD, $22.99)Comment on this story
“Freaky Deaky” (eOne, 2012; R for language, sex, drugs; $19.98, featurette). Variety of lowlifes from the novel by Elmore Leonard come together for this dark comedy/crime flick set in the 1970s about a former bomb-squad cop (Billy Burke), his run-in with a wealthy eccentric (Crispin Glover) and all the weirdos who want something from him.
“Kiss the Aybss” (Monarch, 2013, not rated, $24.95, audio commentary). Bizarre monster movie has a young woman killed by an intruder and her husband and estranged father conspire to bring her back from the dead. Bad idea.