American Hustle (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, On Demand) was this year’s Oscar bridesmaid with ten nominations and no wins. No shame in that for it is an entertaining, energetic, and very clever take on the real-life Abscam sting operation put in motion by the FBI with the help of a Jersey con artist and his British partner. As the film promises right up front: “Some of this stuff actually happened.”
Cinephiled film critic James Rocchi elaborates: “American Hustle is vigorously fictional, mostly for dramatic effect, but by expanding and changing and inventing the lives and loves of the participants in ABSCA [it becomes] a hybrid as unstable as it is unique. The film unfolds in a world with the same personal-slash-political ethical compromises-slash-questions of a ’70s Sidney Lumet or Martin Scorsese film. But it fills that distinctive arena with the insecure egomaniacs, paranoiac philanderers and nervy neurotics you’d expect to find in a film by Woody Allen, Paul Mazursky or John Cassavetes, with the feedback between the two reaching a fever pitch as the undercover operation moves forward and more than a little out of control …”
Leading actors Christian Bale and Amy Adams (playing the con artist couple) and supporting performers Bradley Cooper (as the FBI agent) and Jennifer Lawrence (as Bale’s dizzy young wife) all earned Oscar nominations, as did director David O. Russell and screenwriters Russell and Eric Warren Singer, and the film was one of nine nominees for Best Picture.
Blu-ray and DVD with a featurette and 11 deleted and extended scenes. The Blu-ray also features a bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital copy of the film.
Frozen (Disney, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, On Demand) comes to home video with two Oscar wins, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Let it Go”), under its sash. Disney Animation isn’t about to this success go: this is their most successful animated feature in years and their best animated musical since The Lion King. And they did it by giving reworking the tragic fairy tale “The Snow Queen” into a dynamic story of Disney Princess sisters who find their strength not in a savior prince but within themselves, and more importantly in the strength of their bond. Plus there’s a goofy snowman sidekick, a reindeer with the personality of puppy, and a really cool ice palace. Kristin Bell and Idina Menzel voice sisters Anna and Elsa and Josh Gad voices the talking snowman Olaf.
“[T]he film is so refreshingly original and emotionally engaging it hearkens back to Disney classics such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid,” praises Cinephiled film critic Danny Miller. “With a clever, funny script by Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph) and excellent direction by Lee and Chris Buck (Tarzan), Frozen is the rare family film that will hold the interest of moviegoers of every age.”
Blu-ray and DVD editions feature the theatrical short “Get a Horse” and a music video. Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are the featurettes “The Making Of Frozen,” “D’frosted: Disney’s Journey From Hans Christian Anderson to Frozen” and “Breaking the Ice – The Real Making of Frozen,” four deleted scenes with director introduction, and a bonus digital copy.
Saving Mr. Banks (Disney, Blu-ray, DVD) “is not about the actual making of Mary Poppins — most of the film takes place several years before cameras rolled on that beloved classic,” explains Cinephiled film critic Danny Miller. “But it is a hugely entertaining if somewhat-fantasized glimpse into the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to the Oscar-winning movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.” Emma Thompson stars as the acerbic P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney (and looks remarkably like the real-life mogul), and Paul Giamatti, Kathy Baker, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Bradley Whitford, Ruth Wilson and Colin Farrell co-star. No review copy was made available but the press release announces a featurette, a tribute to composer Richard Sherman, and three deleted scenes as disc supplements.
The Who: Sensation – The Story of Tommy (Eagle Rock, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital) is the latest of the “Classic Albums” series of BBC documentaries to comes to stateside home video in an expanded edition. Like the best of these programs, it offers a snapshot of the band’s career while focusing on a significant turning point, in this case one of the most unique projects in the history in of rock and roll: the first rock opera. It tackles the album song by song, with new interviews with Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey along with various music journalists and historians, and fills in a portrait of a band in transition from a purveyor of hit singles to pioneers of a more sophisticated brand of music, yet were still the die-hard rockers determined to perform their work in front of a live audience. The disc also features complete 35-minute appearance by The Who on the German rock TV show Beat Club in 1969 (brief clips of it can be seen in The Kids Are Alright) as a supplement.
Here Comes the Devil (Magnet, Blu-ray, DVD), from veteran Mexican horror filmmaker Adrián Garcia Bogliano, is “not for the faint of heart,” writes Cinephiled film critic Jeff Michael Vice. “And it’s not for the easily offended, either. In the end, it may only appeal to die-hard horror fans, particularly those who already love or are familiar with Bogliano’s work.” Spanish with English subtitles, with commentary, featurettes, behind the scenes footage and an extended sequence.
The Patience Stone (Sony, DVD), based on the novel by Atiq Rahimi, explores the life of a young wife in Afghanistan who confesses her suffering and her aspirations to husband as he lies in a coma and then becomes empowered to act upon her desires. It was Afghanistan’s official entry to Best Foreign Language Film category of the 85th Academy Awards. In Persian/Farsi with English subtitles, with a featurette.
Mandella: Long Walk to Freedom (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, On Demand), based on the autobiography of Nelson Mandella, charts the life and transformation of the inspirational activist from his youth through his years in prison to becoming the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Idris Elba and Naomie Harris star and Justin Chadwick directs.
Kill Your Darlings (Sony, Blu-ray+DVD Combo) takes on the real-life 1944 murder amidst a group of college friends destined to become the leading lights of the Beat generation poets and authors: Allen Ginsberg (played by Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster). Danny Miller interviews director John Krokidas for Cinephiled here.
VOD / On Demand exclusives:
Veronica Mars (Warner, VOD HD, Digital HD) is one of the more prominent feature releases to date to debut in theaters and on VOD simultaneously. In fact, many theaters refused to book the film because of the VOD release (Warner finally “four-walled” a number of screens in AMC theaters to get it out there). But there’s something appropriate about seeing the theatrical sequel to a cult TV show on your home theater screen. You can buy or rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and other digital services. The disc release is set for May 6.
Debuting On Demand on Thursday, March 20, in advance of theatrical release, is Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. II (Magnolia, On Demand), and on Friday, March 21, same day as theaters, is Blood Ties, a thriller with Clive Owen and Mila Kunis.
Available on Digital HD a week before disc and Cable On Demand is Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount, Digital HD), and two weeks before disc is 47 Ronin (Universal, Digital HD) with Keanu Reeves and The Little Rascals Save the Day (Universal, Digital HD).
Arriving On Demand same day as disc is American Hustle, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Kill Your Darlings and Swerve. Available to view VOD and On Demand a few weeks after disc and digital is 12 Years a Slave (Fox).
Swerve (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD)
Reasonable Doubt (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)
Almost Sharkproof (Cinedigm, DVD, Digital)
Contracted (IFC, DVD)
The Wrath of Vajra (Well Go USA, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital)
Flu (CJ, DVD)
Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales (RLJ/Image)
Kingdom of Conquerors (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Cybergeddon (Arc, DVD)
Sparks (RLJ/Image, DVD)
Outpost 3: Rise of the Spetznaz (XLrator, Blu-ray, DVD)
20 Ft. Below: The Darkness Descending (Vertical, DVD, VOD)
Battle of the Undead (Screen Media, DVD)
Buck Wild (Millennium, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital)
Dangerous Obsession (Troma, DVD)
Necronos: Tower of Doom (Troma, DVD)
The Happy Sad (Ariztical, DVD)
Jeff Dunham: Achmed Saves America (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD)