Fanciful family movies lead the way on this week’s DVD and Blu-ray releases, with “Rise of the Guardians” and a new film from Cirque du Soleil.
“Rise of the Guardians” (Dreamworks/Blu-ray, 2012, PG, two discs, $44.99; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; audio commentary, featurettes, trailers; DVD-Rom applications; two hopping plastic eggs). Although it won’t displace any Pixar animated features from your shelves, this multiple-holiday effort is an entertaining yarn based on the “Guardians of Childhood” books by William Joyce.
Santa Claus (called “North” here), the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny (“Bunnymund”) and the Sandman recruit Jack Frost to help defeat Pitch, a villain bent on stealing the innocence of children. Overly frenetic, as many modern cartoons tend to be, but still enjoyable for kids and not too annoying for parents. (Also on 3D combo, $54.99, and Blu-ray combo without toy eggs, $39.99)
“Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away” (Paramount/Blu-ray, 2012, PG, two discs, $39.99; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; featurettes). This performance-art film collects abstract sequences from seven different Cirque du Soleil stage shows, putting on display the company’s unique blend of athletic ballet and gymnastics, hung on a paper-thin story of a couple experiencing a series of eye-popping adventures. Can’t come close to the thrills of a live show, but fans will enjoy it. (Also on 3D combo, $54.99, and DVD, $29.99)
“Smashed” (Sony Classics/Blu-ray, 2012; R for language, sex, drugs; $36.99, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivers a knockout performance in this update of “Leaving Las Vegas” or “The Days of Wine and Roses” or “Lost Weekend,” depending on your generation, as a closet alcoholic who decides to kick the habit but gets no help from her equally addicted husband (Aaron Paul) and alcoholic-in-denial mother (Mary Kay Place). However, a strong sponsor (Octavia Spencer) is determined to see her through it. (Also on DVD, $30.99)
“The Flat” (Sundance Selects, 2012, not rated, $24.98; in English, and in Hebrew and German with English subtitles; trailer). We often hear about people whose genealogy reveals touching stories of their lineage, but this riveting documentary suggests we should be careful what we wish for as an Israeli filmmaker travels to Tel Aviv to clean out the apartment of his late German-born Jewish grandmother and discovers she and his grandfather may have been Nazi collaborators.
“In Search of Memory” (Icarus, 2010, not rated, $24.98). Fascinating look at Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel, whose lab studies of memory are at the center of this documentary, though it’s really more about Kandel’s life (based on his memoir of the same title). Viennese by birth, Kandel fled the Nazi regime and came to America with his family in the 1930s, settling in Brooklyn. He was 79 when the film was made; he’s 83 now.
“Shaman Healer Sage” (True Mind, 2013, not rated, $19.98, bonus documentary: “Energetic Interventions”). Documentary about psychologist and medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo, who left conventional medicine to study with shamans in South America.
“Duke” (Gaiam, 2012, not rated, $14.93). Hallmark channel movie boasts a solid performance by Steven Weber as a homeless veteran whose faithful pooch is old and sick, so he leaves it on the doorstep of a veterinary clinic and considers reaching out to the family he abandoned upon returning from Iraq with an injury and PTSD.
“The First Time” (Sony, 2012, PG-13, $30.99). Although it managed to squeak by without an R rating, this is yet another wrong-headed sex comedy aimed at teens in which the boy, a senior, and the girl, a junior, are from different high schools, meet at a Friday night party and talk a lot about giving up their virginity before doing so.
“In Their Skin” (IFC, 2012, not rated, $24.98, trailer). While grieving over the loss of their young daughter, Joshua Close and Selma Blair take their son to a remote vacation home where they encounter psychotic neighbors. Home-invasion thriller that is very similar to “Funny Games.”