NEW ON THE SHELF
“RUSH,” Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl. A hard-edged departure for normally straight-laced director Ron Howard, “Rush” relates the true life rivalry between James Hunt (Hemsworth, “Thor”) and Niki Lauda (Bruhl, “Inglourious Basterds”), drivers on the Formula One racing circuit, circa 1976, who competed fiercely. Ceaselessly antagonistic, to the detriment of all of their other relationships and to the benefit of their chosen career, Hunt and Lauda are two peas in a pod, far too similar to ever get along yet understood by no one better than one another. Both leads deliver exemplary high-wire performances, presenting their characters in all their imperfect, egotistical glory without pushing the viewer away. An inexplicable underperformer at the box office, “Rush” is one of Howard’s most polished and impressive efforts to date. Rated R. Running time: 2:03. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $34.99.
“BAD GRANDPA,” Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll. “About Schmidt” meets “Borat” in this typically outrageous offering from the “Jackass” crew, which outfits Knoxville with some all-too-convincing old man makeup and sets him loose on an unsuspecting public, with uncooperative grandson (impressive newcomer Nicoll) in tow. As anyone with any familiarity with these guys might expect, nary a moment passes that is not somehow obscene or scatological, but Knoxville and Nicoll manage to create somewhat likable characters in spite of their in-no-way-acceptable behavior, while the horrified reactions of the many innocent bystanders steal the show outright. Rated R. Running time: 1:31. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99.
“CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2,” animated with the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris. More inspired food-based mayhem, very loosely based on the popular children’s book, with newly employed inventor Flint (“Saturday Night Live” vet Hader) revisiting his old hometown at the behest of his new boss (fellow SNLer Will Forte), now overrun with such animal-food hybrids as mosquitoasts and watermelophants, just to name a couple of the many imaginative and hilariously realized creatures on display here. As before, the animation is outstanding, the humor fast and clever, and the voice talent top notch. One of the best family film franchises in recent memory outside of the Pixar realm. Rated PG. Running time: 1:35. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $40.99.
“LAST VEGAS,” Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro. Widely and accurately described as “The Hangover” for the AARP crowd, “Last Vegas” thankfully boasts a stellar cast that handily makes up for any deficiencies in the originality department, with Douglas and De Niro joined by Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline for a gently risque romp through Sin City, with the aging foursome reuniting for Douglas’ glitzy, possibly ill-advised wedding festivities. Old wounds are reopened, shenanigans are experienced, and it of course all works out in the end, though director Jon Turteltaub manages to throw a few unexpected curveballs into the otherwise comfortably predictable plot. Rated R. Running time: 1:45. Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $40.99.
NEW TO DVD
“DOWNTON ABBEY: SEASON FOUR,” Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith. If you’re still the only person in the break room not talking about the alternately proper and scandalous exploits of the Crawleys and their lively staff, now’s the time to remedy that, as season four is as compelling and strong as ever. Arguably the most successful program in the history of PBS, “Abbey” takes the soap opera format to transcendent lengths, brilliantly written and performed, but above all addictive. Running time: 8:45. Suggested retail price: $49.99; Blu-ray $54.99.
“TREME: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON,” the fourth and final season of HBO’s sprawling ode to life in New Orleans post-Katrina is, if anything, even less compromising than its previous seasons, finding all of the major characters faced with mentally crippling decisions and crossroads with no clear signposts. Another classic waiting to be discovered by a larger audience, “Treme” favorably recalls creator David Simon’s best-known work, “The Wire,” in that it’s universally acclaimed but not fully appreciated until it has left the air, not such a bad fate in a medium with such an overcrowded playing field. Not rated. Running time: 6:50. Suggested retail price: $39.99; Blu-ray $49.99.
NEW TO BLU RAY
“DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE,” John Barrymore, Brandon Hurst. One of the most versatile performers in the history of cinema, the great John Barrymore (“The Beloved Rogue”) essentially defines the roles of Jekyll and Hyde in this silent 1920 adaptation, portraying the insatiable curiosity and good will of the former as easily as the base recklessness of the latter. Not rated. Running time: 1:19. Suggested retail price: $34.99.
“A** BACKWARDS,” June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson. Proudly offensive and disarmingly kooky, “A** Backwards” is the brainchild of comedy team Raphael (“Zodiac”) and Wilson (“Happy Endings”), who take their offbeat chemistry to the big screen in this daft road trip by hapless, in no way self-aware best friends Kate and Chloe, on their way to a beauty pageant, hoping to make up for the disastrous results of a similar pageant they entered as children. Little or nothing goes as planned, forcing the duo to turn to exotic dancing and other such business opportunities to increase their cash flow, eventualities that might break the spirit of less hardy travelers but appear as mere speed bumps in the impossibly optimistic minds of our heroines. Comparisons to “Dumb and Dumber” and “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” are apt and inevitable, but Raphael and Wilson are fearless and charming enough to rise above any copycat accusations. Rated R. Running time: 1:25. Suggested retail price: $19.99.
“I USED TO BE DARKER,” Deragh Campbell, Hannah Gross. It’s increasingly rare that a genuinely original outlook finds its way into the film business, but with low-budget mini-masterpieces such as “Hamilton” and “Putty Hill,” director Matthew Porterfield has quietly established himself as a fresh voice, focusing on seemingly small situations that allow him to organically capture believable human behavior without it coming off as forced or precious. “Darker” mainly follows Taryn (newcomer Campbell), an adrift young woman looking for solace in the home of her aunt and uncle in Baltimore, musicians whose marriage is disintegrating, leaving them unable to provide the comfortable environment Taryn desperately seeks. The ripple effect created by a minor (in the grand scheme of things) tragedy is something Porterfield is clearly fascinated by, and this all-too-believable look at a crumbling family is all the more effective for not stooping to unearned dramatics. Not rated. Running time: 1:30. Suggested retail price: $27.99.
– Courtesy of Videoport