NEW ON THE SHELF
“GRAVITY,” Sandra Bullock, George Clooney. The picture to beat for any and all Oscars related to visual effects, the latest from director Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”) is a mind-blowing cinematic experience, transporting the viewer to deep space in as believable and terrifying a manner as humanly and technologically possible, stranding already troubled Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock, in far and away her finest performance) out in deep space and sending veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney, adding some much needed levity) on a far from certain rescue mission. Somehow managing to succeed as both an intimate drama and a revolutionary science fiction film, “Gravity” is a classic in the making, one they’ll be talking about for years to come, and a film no fan of cinema can afford to skip. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:31. Suggested retail price: $28.98; Blu-ray $35.99.
“NEBRASKA,” Bruce Dern, Will Forte. In a strong bid for comeback of the year, veteran character actor extraordinaire Dern (“Big Love”) takes his rare opportunity at a leading role and runs with it in this typically witty and observant dramedy from director Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”), which follows Dern as card-carrying grumpy old man and longtime boozer Woody, who becomes convinced that he’s won a million-dollars sweepstakes and means to trek from Montana to Nebraska to claim it, accompanied by his skeptical and concerned son (“Saturday Night Live” vet Forte, in a rare and wholly effective dramatic turn) and in no way supported by his caustic spouse (June Squibb of “About Schmidt,” in a late-career starmaking turn). As longtime fans of Dern and Payne, this is a no-brainer recommendation from your friends at Videoport, so be prepared to be pointed in its general direction. Rated R. Running time: 1:54. Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $39.99.
“THOR: THE DARK WORLD,” Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman. In an era when comic book adaptations are a dime a dozen, the “Thor” franchise stands out from the pack as one of the most agreeable and entertaining, and this sequel – which finds Hemsworth’s hammer-wielding hero encountering just as much conflict in his love life as in his combat-heavy day-to-day travails. Amusing without being corny and exciting without being excessively violent, “Thor” requires little to no familiarity with its source material to derive enjoyment from its well-rendered adventures. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:52. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $32.99.
NEW TO DVD
“ADVENTURE TIME: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON,” animated. With the voices of Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio. Pendelton Ward’s universally beloved animated saga continues, with Cartoon Network seemingly (and hopefully) abandoning their former tendency to release a few select episodes on a set rather than entire season. Thrill to the hilarious, surreal, even touching adventures of young Finn and his talking dog Jake in the entirely unpredictable Land of Ooo, replete with commentaries and making-of featurettes. Not rated. Running time: 4:46. Suggested retail price: $26.95; Blu-ray $32.07.
NEW TO BLU-RAY
“THE SHADOW,” Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller. A box-office disappointment upon its initial release back in 1994, this campy and visually impressive attempt to resurrect the largely forgotten hero of the old-time radio era from director Russell Mulcahy (“Highlander”) and screenwriter David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”) is an energetically ridiculous, compulsively watchable romp that has aged far better than it had any right to, with Baldwin vamping it up in a manner we’re far more used to now than we would have been then. Meanwhile, Ian McKellen and Tim Curry ham it up with their usual aplomb in their memorable supporting roles, an ancient dagger comes to life and attacks people, and Baldwin locks horns with the last known descendant of Genghis Khan. What’s not to like? Special features include new interviews with cast and crew. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:48. Suggested retail price: $29.93.
“TESS,” Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth. Criterion dusts off this multiple-Oscar-winning 1979 adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, brought to the screen with customary class and style by director Roman Polanski and introducing the world to the lovely and talented Kinski in the process. Special features include several making-of featurettes and a 1979 interview with Polanski. Rated PG. Running time: 2:51. Suggested retail price: $39.95.
“BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR,” Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos. With one of the longest running times this side of a “Lord of the Rings” sequel, director Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue is the Warmest Color” seems a daunting prospect at first glance, but this richly detailed and exuberantly acted tale of a young student’s sexual awakening upon meeting an older woman during a spontaneous visit to a gay bar gained most of its considerable press – not to mention its NC-17 rating – thanks to a graphic, pivotal, eight-minute-long sex scene between the leads that leaves virtually nothing to the imagination. Melodrama is inevitable in a near-three-hour account of a budding young relationship, but Seydoux (“Midnight in Paris”) and Exarchopoulos (“Pieces of Me”) both bare and give their all, leaving the viewer emotionally spent by the final reel. An occasionally flawed but undeniably epic romance. Rated NC-17. Running time: 2:59. Suggested retail price: $19.95; Blu-ray $24.95.
“MUSCLE SHOALS,” documentary. It’s been a good year for documentaries about famous music studios, from Dave Grohl’s excellent “Sound City” to this loving and exhaustive retrospective of the Alabama hit factory founded and overseen by Rick Hall, a fascinating subject who has clearly seen several incarnations of the music industry in the course of his 81 years. With anecdotes to spare and an engaging confidence, Hall is great company and director Greg Camalier wisely keeps his camera trained on him for a generous portion of his film’s running time, but Camalier also wrangles enlightening interviews from the likes of Bono, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, all of whom have nothing but praise for Hall and his towering achievements. Rated PG. Running time: 1:51.
Suggested retail price: $26.98; Blu-ray $29.98.
– Courtesy of Videoport