“AMERICAN HUSTLE,” Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner. After many years of critical appreciation that never quite translated to box office success, writer-director David O. Russell is currently an unstoppable force in Hollywood thanks to a recent string of hits, from “The Fighter” to “Silver Linings Playbook” and now “American Hustle.” A sprawling, Scorsesian ode to late ’70s grime/excess that gathers members of the ever-expanding Russell stable for an exceedingly well-realized caper picture. Following rundown businessman/up-and-coming con artist Irving (an excellently slimy Bale), his mysterious and gorgeous partner in crime Sydney (Adams, reveling in an all-too-rare chance to play the bad girl), and the federal agent (Cooper) who busts them, thereby roping them into a plot to set up a less-than-scrupulous mayor (Renner). Gleefully over the top as the decade in which it takes place, “Hustle” packs enough entertainment into its running time for several films. Rated R. Running time: 2:18. Suggested retail price: $30.99; Blu-ray $40.99. 

“FROZEN,” animated. With the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel. A reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” wherein sisters Elsa (Menzel) and Anna (Bell) become estranged due to magically ice-based circumstances. What with one thing leading to another, the once temperate land of Arendelle becomes trapped in winter, and it’s up to Anna, strapping (and understandably unemployed) ice dealer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and clumsy sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad, “The Book of Mormon”) to set things right. Catchy tunes and dazzling animation abound in this wintry musical extravaganza that has deservedly taken theaters and the airwaves (courtesy of the hit song “Let it Go”) by storm. Special features include music videos and a Mickey Mouse short. Rated G. Running time: 1:42. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99. 

“SAVING MR. BANKS,” Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks. Fact-based tale of what transpires when headstrong, charismatic Walt Disney (well channeled by Hanks) attempts to convince notoriously prickly author P.L. Travers (Thompson, peerless in the “notoriously prickly” category) to let him adapt and otherwise Disney-fy her popular children’s book “Mary Poppins” for the big screen, no small task in light of Travers’ considerable aversion to sentimentality and musicals. It would appear the classic family film we know and love today might have been shockingly different had Travers been granted free rein to adapt as she liked, and the reasoning behind her outlook is fully and enlighteningly revealed in this funny yet occasionally troubling film. Rated PG-13. Running time: 2:05. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $36.99. 


“REASONABLE DOUBT,” Dominic Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson. Convoluted but compelling thriller offers few heroes to root for, with Cooper’s hotshot attorney pinning a hit-and-run on bereaved father Jackson, who may be innocent of this particular crime but increasingly appears to have plenty more to answer for. Rated R. Running time: 1:31. Suggested retail price: $19.99; Blu-ray $24.99. 


“THE WRATH OF VAJRA,” Yu Xing, Steve Yoo. An odd hybrid between fantasy and action that ultimately provides more questions than answers, “Vajra” pits Japan against China in this WWII-era genre mash-up, with the former evidently forming a group for the purposes of worshipping Satan and kidnapping Chinese children then training them to become warriors. One of those kids (Xing) eventually escapes, gets real good at fighting while still fostering a Buddhist outlook, and comes back for revenge. Mostly an excuse to showcase some cool martial arts moves, a goal it fulfills quite well, but the plot is unlikely to sit well with all audiences. Not rated. Running time: 1:51. Suggested retail price: $24.99; Blu-ray $29.99. 


“MYSTERIOUS SKIN,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet. Widely considered to be divisive director Gregg Araki’s (“The Doom Generation”) finest work, this 2004 film is a skillful adaptation of Scott Heim’s controversial (and previously thought to be well nigh unadaptable) novel “Skin.” It takes a difficult but ultimately sensitive look at the very different ways their childhood molestation has affected Neil (Gordon-Levitt in an early, breakout performance), now a prostitute, and Brian (Corbet), who has effectively blocked all memories of the trauma and believes he may have been abducted by aliens during that period of time. Out of necessity, Araki doesn’t shy away from problematic material, rendering the film an experience that won’t be for all tastes, but for those who can handle some troubling scenes, “Mysterious Skin” is ultimately a very rewarding watch. Special features include deleted scenes and a photo gallery. Not rated. Running time: 1:39. Suggested retail price: $29.99. 


“CONTRACTED,” Najarra Townsend, Matt Mercer. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that they were released in such close proximity timewise, but it’s difficult not to compare this effectively unsettling indie horror with the recent “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” in that a woman who normally swings one way sexually decides to experiment with the other team, with unexpectedly intense results. In this case, “Contracted” concerns a lesbian getting friendly with an unfamiliar man following a fight with her girlfriend, an uncharacteristic hookup that leads to what at first appears to be a run-of-the-mill sexually transmitted disease. Then her hair starts falling out, followed closely by her fingernails and teeth. As the affected lover, Townsend (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”) sells the confusion and panic all too well, and viewers are likely to be as riveted as they are horrified by the ordeal, a compelling mystery masquerading as gross-out horror. Not rated. Running time: 1:24. Suggested retail price: $24.99. 

“KILL YOUR DARLINGS,” Daniel Radcliffe, Ben Foster. The Beat Generation is forever the subject of all manner of dramatizations and study, with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, among others, continuing to inspire artists with their willingness to bend the rules of literature to enlightening and shocking ends. What these films tend to get wrong is the youthful excitement that must have accompanied these writers’ then-revolutionary endeavors, and it’s here that “Darlings” particularly succeeds, with Radcliffe putting Harry Potter far behind him as Ginsberg, embarking uncertainly on a prestigious college career at Columbia University, where he makes the acquaintance of Burroughs (Foster, “Lone Survivor”), Kerouac (Jack Huston, “American Hustle”), and one Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan, “Chronicle”), a troubled student in the midst of a complicated relationship with the much older David (Michael C. Hall of “Dexter”). Solid supporting turns from the likes of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen and even comic David Cross round out this exuberant, gorgeously shot dramatization from writer-director John Krokidas (“Black Box”). Rated R. Running time: 1:44. Suggested retail price: $35.99; Blu-ray $35.99.

– Courtesy of Videoport

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