PhilomeniaPhilomena (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, On Demand), which tells the true story of Philomena Lee, an elderly Irish woman searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption when she was an unwed teenager, stars Judi Dench in the title role and Steve Coogan, who also scripted the film, as Martin Sixsmith, the journalist who accompanied Philomena on her journey. Coogan made his fame as a comic actor and writer and Dench is, of course, the grand dame of British drama. Both play against expectations, Dench as a working-class woman and Coogan as a snobby journalist who softens in her company. But the film, directed by Stephen Frears, also exposes the terrible true crimes against innocent girls by the Irish Catholic Church in the 1950s and 1960s under the guise of moral education.

Philomena has quite a bit more on the ball than the average feel-good movie,” observed Glenn Kenny in his review of the film for Cinephiled in November. “But a feel-good movie is, as it happens, what it ends up being. Although to the movie’s credit, it’s entirely arguable that its positive vibrations aren’t a function of commercial considerations so much as overall fair-mindedness on the part of the moviemakers.”

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Judi Dench), and won the BAFRA for Coogan and Jeff Pope’s adapted screenplay.

Blu-ray and DVD editions both include commentary star / screenwriter / producer Steve Coogan and screenwriter Jeff Pope, interviews with actress Judi Dench and the real life Philomena Lee and a Q&A with Coogan, plus an UltraViolet digital copy.

invisiblewomanThe Invisible Woman (Sony, Blu-ray+DVD Combo, Digital, On Demand) is a refreshingly mature adult drama of love and passion and society in 1880s England from director / star Ralph Fiennes. He plays Charles Dickens and Felicity Jones is the young actress Nelly Ternan, who became his mistress in a long-term love affair played out in the margins between private and public life.

This isn’t melodramatic or flamboyant and it doesn’t lean on the scandal. It’s about the people and their lives and feelings, including the hurt and humiliation suffered by Dickens’ wife Catherine (Joanna Scanlan), a dowdy woman who bore him ten children but remains a bystander in his very public life. For his part, Fiennes shows Dickens as a lively social creature, thriving on public attention as both famous author and stage actor, but the story is really about Nelly, who was 18 years old when she first met Dickens but tells her story decades later. As a music teacher at a boy’s school, she’s emotionally protective and only reluctantly tells the story of her past, a turbulent life that left her emotionally knocked about and far more worldly than her husband (easily the weakest character in the film). It’s a handsome film, to be sure, but Fiennes is more interested in the complexity of characters and relationships, the social world of the time, and the maturity with which all of these characters deal with adult relationships. The maturity, of course, doesn’t prevent people from getting hurt. Tom Hollander is Dickens’ friend and fellow author Wilkie Collins and Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent as Nelly’s mother, a worldly woman who gives her consent to the relationship. Not because she thinks it will advance anyone’s career, but because she sees how happy her daughter is with Dickens.

The Blu-ray+DVD Combo release features commentary by and an interview with director / actor Ralph Fiennes and actress Felicity Jones (the interview is from the “Screen Actors Guild Foundation Conversations” series and runs 26 minutes). Also includes the “Toronto International Film Festival Press Conference” (21 minutes) and “On the Red Carpet at the Toronto Premiere” (16 minutes).

Danny Miller interviewed Fiennes and Jones for Cinephiled in December. You can read it here.

SecretLifeMitty“Directed by star Ben Stiller, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD) tries to turn the 1939 James Thurber New Yorker short into a film for our modern age, but instead gives us a large-format re-boot with more than a few smiles and absolutely no surprises,” writes Cinephiled film critic James Rocchi.

Stiller plays a photo editor for Life magazine who projects himself into the photos and the Christmas 2013 release co-stars Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Patton Oswalt and Sean Penn as a globe-trotting cover photographer. “Essentially, Walter Mitty boils down and builds up to the same message that’s been offered by the ancient Greek philosophers and screeched out loud at a million Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings: Don’t dream it, be it.”

Blu-ray and DVD with four short production featurettes and a gallery of reference photographs. The Blu-ray adds seven more featurettes plus deleted, extended, and alternate scenes and a bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD editions of the film.

Also new and notable:

RideAlongRide Along (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand), the surprise comedy hit of early 2014, gives top billing to Ice Cube but made a star of Kevin Hart, who got all the attention. With director commentary, featurettes and a gag reel.

Better Living Through Chemistry (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD), a comedy of sex and drugs and bad behavior, stars Sam Rockwell as an upright pharmacist coaxed into a wild ride by Olivia Wilde.

The latest adaptation of Great Expectations (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD) stars Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Granger as the young lovers and Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes in the showy adult roles of Miss Havisham and Magwitch.

Two indie dramas: Free Ride (Phase 4, DVD) stars Anna Paquin as a single mother who heads to Florida and gets caught up in the drug trade of the 1970s and Interior. Leather Bar. (Strand, DVD), co-directed by James Franco, imagines the lost footage of the gay club scene cut out of William Friedkin’s Cruising.

VOD / On Demand exclusives:kid-cannabis-poster01

The Tribeca Film Festival is giving viewers outside of New York a chance to see some of the features films the same day as festival-goers with Cable On Demand. On Tuesday, April 15, you can see The Bachelor Weekend, an indie comedy with Andrew Scott and Amy Huberman, the American drama Beneath the Harvest Sky with Emory Cohen and Callan McAuliffe, and the French drama Bright Days Ahead with Fanny Ardant and Patrick Chesnais. On Friday, April 18, Kid Cannabis, a drama about marijuana trafficking starring Jonathan Daniel Brown and Ron Perlman debuts. These may not be available on all systems.

Patrick, the remake of the cult Australian horror film with Charles Dance and Rachel Griffiths, debuts On Demand in advance of theaters. Available on Cable On Demand and VOD on Thursday, April 17, a month before it comes to theaters, is the Australian horror sequel Wolf Creek 2 (Image).

On Friday, April 18, two more arrive On Demand the same day they open in theaters: Patrice Leconte’s A Promise, a drama with Rebecca Hall and Alan Rickman, and Small Time (Anchor Bay), a comedy starring Christopher Meloni and Dean Norris.

Labor Day (Paramount, Digital HD), the drama from Jason Reitman starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, and The Legend of Hercules (Lionsgate, Digital HD), the Renny Harlin Hercules film of 2013, will both be available for digital purchase two weeks before disc.

16 Acres (First Run, VOD), a documentary about the struggle to rebuild ground zero, can be seen via video-on-demand a month before disc.

More releases:IntheName

Black Nativity (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Nut Job (Universal, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand)
In the Name of (Film Movement, DVD)
Wrong Cops (IFC, DVD)
7 Days in September (Cinedigm, DVD)
The Boys of Abu Ghraib (Vertical, DVD)
Zero Charisma (Cinedigm, DVD, VOD)
Copperhead (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Möbius (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, On Demand)
Not Safe for Work (Universal, DVD)
FreeRideTrap for Cinderella (IFC, DVD)
The Gabby Douglas Story (Sony, DVD)
Being Ginger (Garden Thieves, DVD, VOD)
Date and Switch (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Cowgirls ‘n Angels 2: Dakota’s Summer (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
The End of Time (First Run, DVD)
Picture of Light (First Run, DVD)
The Curse of the Gothic Symphony (First Run, DVD)
Death Do Us Part (Anchor Bay, DVD)
Confession of Murder (Well Go USA, Blu-ray, DVD)
Camp Dread (Image, DVD, Digital)
Confine (Screen Media, DVD)
95ers: Time Runners (Inception, DVD, VOD)

Calendar of upcoming releases on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, and VOD