NEW ON THE SHELF
“AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY,” Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts. Writer Tracy Letts (“Killer Joe”), who adapted his own Pulitzer-winning play for the film, is likely to knock some viewers for a loop, particularly those reassured by the presence of Streep and Roberts in the cast. But this is no “Mamma Mia!” or “Pretty Woman.” “August” is, plain and simple, the devastating, occasionally violent, yet somehow frequently hilarious implosion of an unhappy family full of largely terrible people, with Streep’s pill-popping, cancerous Violet by far the most caustic and destructive of the lot. Altercation after altercation ensues as the family reunites following the passing of patriarch Beverly (Sam Shepard, a man who knows a thing or two about plays concerning unhappy families), but they are peppered with so many choice one-liners and tense exchanges that one may be surprised at just how entertaining it is. One of Hollywood’s darkest offerings in quite some time, with fantastic performances across the board. Special features include a commentary with director John Wells (“The Company Men”) and cinematographer Adriano Goldman (“Sin Nombre”). Rated R. Running time: 2:01. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $34.99.
“GRUDGE MATCH,” Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro. It’s alternately a kick and a bit sad to watch an aged “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” lace up the boxing gloves one more time for the title event, a good-natured and occasionally affecting opportunity for Sly and Bobby to revisit their former glory days in the squared circle. Reliable scene-stealers Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart (“Ride Along”) show up to inject some much-needed levity whenever things threaten to get too maudlin, but overall this “Match” lands the majority of its punches, particularly for the many fans of its two indestructible leads. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:53. Suggested retail price: $28.99; Blu-ray $35.99.
“PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES,” Andrew Jacobs, Richard Cabral. Writer-director Christopher Landon (son of Michael) attempts to breathe some new life into an increasingly tired genre with this fourth entry in the ever-profitable found-footage horror series. This time around, high school seniors Jesse (Jacobs) and Arturo (Cabral) finds themselves dealing directly with unknown forces after taking it upon themselves to investigate the apartment of an elderly neighbor who died under mysterious circumstances, a decision that somehow lends Jesse superpowers that increase his strengths and give him the ability to float and fly. But at what cost, other than the IQ level of the audience? Kidding aside, this “Activity” has its heart in the right place, throwing in some comic book elements to shake up the formula a bit, and the cast of unknowns gives their all, but ultimately we may find ourselves at the “enough is enough” stage in this franchise. Rated R. Running time: 1:24. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99.
“THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG,” Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen. The arduous journey of Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) and his noble (if understandably a bit reluctant) quest to reclaim his homeland from the dragon “Smaug” (niftily voiced by Freeman’s “Sherlock” partner, Benedict Cumberbatch) soldiers on in this typically overlong but thrilling midway point in Peter Jackson’s ongoing Tolkien adaptation. The legions of LOTR fans will be well in their comfort zone, and what few outsiders exist will know to stay away in advance. Rated PG-13. Running time: 2:41. Suggested retail price: $28.99; Blu-ray $35.99.
NEW TO DVD
“JUSTIN BIEBER’S BELIEVE,” documentary. Assuming there are people left out there who don’t want to administer a sound thrashing to wunderkind-turned-enfant terrible Justin Bieber (or at any rate request he be deported back to Canada), here is “Believe,” an exhaustive look at all things Bieber, from behind-the-scenes footage of studio time, to dancer auditions for the tour, to the tour itself. It’s all surrounded by screaming, infatuated tweens, who provide some of the film’s most memorable moments (you won’t soon forget the young lady who can’t stop shrieking upon receipt of Bieber concert tickets). Rated PG. Running time: 1:33. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $34.99.
“SNAKE & MONGOOSE,” Jesse Williams, Richard Blake. Making up for a low budget with enthusiasm and heart, this good-natured look at car racing’s colorful past – in particular the notorious rivalry between Don “The Snake” Prudhomme (Lewis, “The Cabin in the Woods”) and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen (Blake, “Dragonball: Evolution”) – effectively intersperses actual racing footage to sell the action. A fine supporting cast of familiar faces (including Tim Blake Nelson, John Heard, and the rarely seen but always welcome Fred Dryer) adds greatly to the fun. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:42. Suggested retail price: $19.98; Blu-ray $24.99.
NEW TO BLU-RAY
“SABRINA,” Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn. Essentially laying out the blueprint for every quality romantic comedy thereafter, director Billy Wilder’s 1954 classic about a newly sophisticated young woman (Hepburn) torn between the affection of two very different brothers (workaholic but committed Bogart and fun-loving but irresponsible William Holden) remains a delight from beginning to end. It’s a timely reminder that not all rom-coms can be dismissed as mindless fluff; if done right, you have a classic on your hands every bit as effective and timeless as your more esteemed genres. “Sabrina” proves that from the opening reels on. Not rated. Running time: 1:53. Suggested retail price: $19.99.
“I AM DIVINE,” documentary. Not rated. From the beginning, it’s been Videoport’s mission to bring attention to the weird, the outrageous, the off-off-Hollywood cinematic delights that too often exist under the radar of the average moviegoer, and the amount of traffic our Incredibly Strange section has received over the years is testament to that mission. One of the Incredibly Strange figureheads has always been one Glenn Milstead, better known as Divine, the late, great actor and cross-dresser from Baltimore. He teamed up with boundary-less filmmaker John Waters to make movies designed to slap people out of their suburban stupors with such willfully offensive yet hilarious films as “Mondo Trasho,” “Multiple Maniacs,” and the infamous “Pink Flamingos,” wherein Divine commits an act so disgusting ’70s-era audiences could barely contain their shock. This informative, funny and quite moving doc adopts the standard “talking head” format, gathering Waters and other members of Divine’s family and social circle to commemorate their colleague and friend, but the interviewees are of course lively and entertaining enough to overcome any lack of originality in the format department. It’s a lovely valentine to a dynamic performer and icon of bizarro cinema, not to mention a perfect companion film to throw on after checking out any of the gloriously foul output Waters and Divine were good enough to foist on the world. Running time: 1:26. Suggested retail price: $24.95.
“ZERO CHARISMA,” Sam Eidson, Garrett Graham. The idea of the hip nerd is a relatively new phenomenon propagated by the Internet and such popular shows as “The Big Bang Theory,” but few programs or films understand the true nerd better than this acclaimed independent dramedy from directors Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews. It finds Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast Scott’s (a brilliant Eidson, of “Natural Selection”) pitiable world rocked when an attractive, well-adjusted newcomer who dares to call himself a nerd (Graham) infiltrates his D&D group, taking away the only part of Scott’s world he has any control over and can take any solace from. Usually presented as a goofy or humorous character, Hollywood’s usual nerd prototype doesn’t look or act very much like Scott, and the meanness and dishonesty that can accompany such a lifestyle is looked at with an unblinking eye, but while his character is not exactly sympathetic, Eidson’s full commitment to the role and the filmmakers clear understanding of their milieu results in a satisfying and insightful – if a bit downbeat – comedy/character study. Not rated. Running time: 1:28. Suggested retail price: $26.99.
– Courtesy of Videoport