NEW ON THE SHELF

“THE ARTIST,” Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, this loving homage to the black-and-white silent films of yesteryear has Oscar bait written all over it, but the timeless tale of love between a fading star (Dujardin, “99 francs”) and an up-and-comer (Bejo, ‘A Knight’s Tale”) is well-nigh irresistible, especially as played by the two excellent leads. Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius (the “OSS” series) brings a breathtaking style to the table, handily transporting the viewer to the era with nary an anachronism to be found. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:40.

Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $35.99.

 

“MIRROR MIRROR,” Lily Collins, Julia Roberts. Visually extravagant update of “Snow White” treads well-worn territory with style, benefitting greatly from director Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s (“The Fall”) ever-stylish approach and Roberts’ amusingly arch portrayal of the Wicked Queen. Special features include an interactive storybook. Rated PG.

Suggested retail price: $29.98; Blu-ray $39.99.

 

“A THOUSAND WORDS,” Eddie Murphy, Allison Janney. Family-friendly comedy finds motormouth literary agent Murphy forced to communicate by other means when a magical Bodhi tree appears in his backyard, containing one thousand leaves. Every time he speaks a word, a leaf falls off, and once the leaves are gone, so is Murphy, according to guru Cliff Curtis, who saddles him with this tree after Murphy’s unethical behavior causes their business deal to go sour. While it seems strange to render mute such a notoriously verbal comic, Murphy rises to the challenge with an impressive variety of pantomime and physical bits of business, and the results fall somewhere between “Groundhog Day” and “Liar Liar.” Things get a bit sappy near the end, but there are plenty of laughs to be had along the way. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:31.

Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99.

 

“21 JUMP STREET,” Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum. A strong contender for the best big-adaptation of a beloved ’80s TV show (despite the fact that the tone in no way captures the brooding cool of the original), “Street” finds an unlikely but wholly successful comic team in Hill (“Moneyball”) and an unexpectedly droll Tatum (“The Vow”), bumbling rookie cops assigned to take down a drug ring in the local high school due to their younger appearances. Given that they both originally attended this particular high school, it’s a little difficult to believe that none of the staff recognizes them, but such nit-picking seems a waste of time when the jokes and performances are this good. Able comedic support comes from the likes of Ice Cube and Nick “Ron Swanson” Offerman as the boys’ roundly unimpressed superiors. Special features include a gag reel and a commentary from cast and crew. Rated R. Running time: 1:49.

Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $35.99.

 

“WRATH OF THE TITANS,” Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson. Action-packed CGI-fest pummels the viewer with so many over-the-top special effects that at some point all you can really do is give in and enjoy the ridiculous ride, with plucky warrior Perseus (Worthington, “Avatar”) taking on the Titans in an attempt to rescue kidnapped dad Zeus (Neeson, who else?). Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:39.

Suggested retail price: $28.98; Blu-ray $35.99.

 

NEW TO DVD

“BREAKAWAY,” Vinay Virmani, Rob Lowe. A Toronto-based Indian hockey enthusiast (Virmani, who also co-scripted) joins forces with a former pro player turned Zamboni driver (Lowe) to put together an all-Indian hockey team after facing racial discrimination and unsupportive family members when he tries to join the NHL. Newcomer Virmani makes for a very likable protagonist, and Lowe turns in some nice work as the initially wary Coach. Clean-cut and genuinely uplifting. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:35.

Suggested retail price: $24.98.

 

“BULLHEAD,” Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval. Oscar-nominated Flemish import exists in the rarely dramatized “hormone mafia underworld,” with powerhouse Schoenaerts delivering a singularly sympathetic performance as Jacky, a cattle farmer who gets in over his head in said underworld, not entirely helping matters by injecting animal-growth hormone intended for his animals into himself. A dark, needfully depressing and expertly acted drama. Rated R. Running time: 2:04.

Suggested retail price: $27.97; Blu-ray $29.97.

 

“DAMAGES: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON,” Glenn Close, Rose Byrne. Fearless and fearsome litigator Patty Hewes (Close) and her prot? Ellen (Byrne, “Insidious”) reteam once again with the usual tumultuous and highly entertaining results, this time taking on a powerful and assuredly corrupt private defense contracting company, led by staunch conservative John Goodman in a memorable guest performance. For viewers who like their TV tense and morally complex, “Damages” is still just about as good as it gets. Not rated, contains language, violence, and sexual content. Running time: 8:22.

Suggested retail price: $45.99.

 

NEW TO BLU-RAY

“THE SAMURAI TRILOGY,” Toshiro Mifune, Hiroshi Inagaki. Widely acclaimed and beloved series from director Hiroshi Inagaki (“The Rickshaw Man”) contains the following films: “Musashi Miyamoto” (1954), “Duel at Ichijoji Temple” (1955), and “Duel at Ganryu Island” (1956). Epic scale entertainment that served as introduction to Japanese cinema to many thrilled American audiences of the time, and this typically excellent Criterion release serves to ensure that modern audiences are equally compelled. Special features include interviews with film historian William Scott Wilson. Not rated, contains violence. Running time: 5:00.

Suggested retail price: $69.95.

 

VIDEOPORT PICKS

“ORANGES AND SUNSHINE,” Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving. It’s flat-out impossible to imagine a viewer who wouldn’t be moved by this true-life tale, based on the autobiography of Margaret Humphreys (Watson, amazing as always), a social worker who gradually uncovers an unthinkable scandal involving children being illegally deported from Britain in the 1940’s and 50’s. Wrenched away from families deemed “unfit”, children were informed that their parents were dead and whisked away to Australia, where they were forced into labor camps and routinely abused and raped. After hearing these stories from one client after another, Humphreys brings this terrible and long-hidden reality to the public eye, and while it is her rise to notoriety that the film mostly focuses on, it’s the former lost children who’ll stay with you. A film that’s as difficult to watch as it is essential, director Jim Loach (“Shameless”) presents his material in as sensitive manner as possible without shying away from the unsettling facts. Rated R for some strong language. Running time: 1:45.

Suggested retail price: $29.95; Blu-ray $34.95.

 

“SOUND OF NOISE,” Bengt Nilsson, Sanna Persson. The phrase “Swedish musical comedy” should be enough to entice any self-respecting Videoport customer to the foreign section, but let us elaborate anyway: A tone-deaf cop named Amadeus (Nilsson) who can’t stand any form of music thanks to his more successful violinist younger brother puts this hatred to good use when he’s assigned to take down a group of percussionists committing acts of music-based terrorism around the city. Far from being quirky for quirky’s sake, “Sound of Noise” stages musical tomfoolery and police procedural with utmost care and style, and if you’ve ever seen anything like it, we’ll be very surprised. Rated R for language and some brief nudity. Running time: 1:42.

Suggested retail price: $26.98.

 

— Courtesy of Videoport