A big-budget fantasy that further blurs the line between live-action and computer animation leads these movies that are new this week to DVD and Blu-ray.
“Jack the Giant Slayer” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, two discs, $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; deleted scenes, bloopers, interactive game). The title character, played by Nicholas Hoult (who fared much better in “Warm Bodies”), has grown up hearing the legend of vicious giants living in the clouds. Eventually, the inadvertent beanstalk leads him and the king’s guard (led by Ewan McGregor) on a quest to save their princess when she’s captured by creatures.
Big-budget combination of “Jack the Giant Killer” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” is very much aimed at children, despite its surprising level of violence, with people and animated giants dying right and left, some in gruesome, obviously filmed-for-3D ways. There’s good potential but only so-so results as the tone wavers between terror and farce, never quite coming together for the ride. (Also in 3D combo, $44.95, and DVD, $28.98)
“The House I Live In” (Virgil, 2012, not rated, $14.99). Fascinating and scary documentary deconstructs the war on drugs, exposing the many flaws in the system that suggests incarceration is a deterrent. Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki talks to judges, jailers, law officers, convicts and many others, offering a wide variety of viewpoints, asking lots of questions and finding few if any satisfactory answers.
“The Girl” (Virgil, 2012, PG-13, $19.99, in English and Spanish with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). Abbie Cornish stars in this independent drama with a political agenda as a troubled young Texas woman who has lost her son to foster care and begins smuggling illegal immigrants for money. A disastrous first time out leaves her with a little girl separated from her mother, so she tries to get her home in Mexico. Less satisfying Southern take on ground similarly covered by the excellent 2008 film “Frozen River.”
“Touch” (Cinema Libre, 2011, not rated, $19.95, in English and Vietnamese with English subtitles, deleted scene, bloopers, trailer). Overlong, slow-moving story of an introverted Vietnamese-American manicurist (Porter Lynn) helping a shy auto mechanic (John Ruby) whose wife (Melinda Bennett) has grown distant because of his grease-stained hands. The film’s low-key charm seems at odds with the surprisingly raunchy content.
“The Life After Death Project” (Syfy/YellowHat, 2013, not rated, two discs, $24.95, featurettes, sequel: “The Life After Death project 2: Personal Encounters”). After airing on the Syfy cable channel this documentary and its sequel come to DVD, purporting to provide evidence of family members being contacted by loved ones who have passed on. Much of the focus is on the late Forrest J. Ackerman, science-fiction/horror enthusiast and founder of the fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Anecdotal stories are interesting if not always convincing.
“Summoned” (Lionsgate, 2013, PG-13, $26.98, audio commentary, photo gallery, trailer). Cuba Gooding Jr.’s face is prominent on the box but his is really just a glorified cameo in this OK horror yarn about a serial killer condemned to death by a jury of his peers. Five years later the jurors are being killed off. Is the killer’s ghost responsible?
“The Brass Teapot” (Magnolia, 2013; R for violence, sex, language, drugs; $26.98, deleted scenes/alternate opening, audio commentary, featurettes). This wacked-out, dark-comic allegory on greed has a college-educated couple (Juno Temple, Michael Angarano) broke and out of work when they stumble on a mysterious teapot that spits out cash whenever someone nearby suffers pain.
“American Idiots” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for sex, nudity, language, drugs; $26.98, featurette, trailers). Low-rent riff on “The Hangover” with a sleazeball foursome on a misguided trip to Las Vegas to stop a wedding.
“23:59” (Magnet, 2011, R for violence, $26.98, in English and in Mandarin with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). Allegedly true story of mysterious goings-on at a military training camp on a haunted island. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parents Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com