“THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY,” Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig. Loosely based on the 1939 short story by James Thurber, Stiller’s whimsical and beautifully shot update re-imagines milquetoast everyman “Mitty” as an assets manager for Life magazine, entrusted with a supposedly life-affirming photograph by a renowned, reclusive journalist (Sean Penn) and embarking on a globe-spanning journey to find said journalist once the picture inevitably turns up missing, re-evaluating his life and utter lack of backbone along the way. Those looking for a “Tropic Thunder” or “Zoolander” may be surprised to find a thoughtful character study with more chuckles than belly laughs, but Stiller is right in his comfort zone as the put-upon, wishy-washy Walter, and Wiig is utterly disarming as his would-be love interest. Rated PG. Running time: 1:54. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99.

“THE NUT JOB,” animated, with the voices of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser. Admirably avoiding sentiment and even the slightest attempt at deeper meaning, “The Nut Job” is a freewheeling slapstick farce about squirrels, both unpleasant (Arnett) and unintelligent (Fraser), and their unorthodox plan to secure food for the winter via knocking off a nut store, an establishment that happens to be a front for criminal activity. Channeling the gleeful anarchy of vintage “Looney Tunes,” “The Nut Job” didn’t get a lot of love during its initial release, but its desire to deliver nothing more than a silly cartoon is refreshing, and the assembled voice talent (which also includes Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph and Jeff Dunham) are clearly enjoying themselves. Rated PG. Running time: 1:26. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $34.99.

“RIDE ALONG,” Ice Cube, Kevin Hart. One of the biggest names in stand-up comedy right now, genial ball of energy Hart gets another chance at big-screen stardom (an opportunity that, to say the least, did not pan out with 2004’s “Soul Plane”) with “Ride Along.” It’s a rambunctious mismatched-buddy comedy that pairs Hart with professional grouch Cube as a seasoned cop who agrees to let rookie Hart job-shadow him, intentionally putting him in harm’s way upon learning that Hart intends to marry his sister. Action and comedy come together in a comfortably familiar way here, with director Tim Story (“Taxi”) bringing little to the table that hasn’t been seen before, but the leads carry the film with aplomb. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:40. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $34.99.


“THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE: SEASON TWO,” Rachael Stirling, Julie Graham. Season two finds the venerable codebreakers banding together to bail out an old colleague, currently facing execution for the murder of her former lover, putting their well-honed wartime skills to good use in another all-too-brief series of taut thrillers. Not rated. Running time: 6:00. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $34.99. 


“FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC,” Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn. Appropriately lurid remake of the V.C. Andrews horror favorite is a seedy tale of childhood trauma and incest that throws a Lifetime movie in a blender with an ’80s slasher. Certainly an improvement over the 1987 theatrical version, with Kiernan Shipka of “Mad Men” ably taking over for Kristy Swanson, and Burstyn matching Louise Fletcher terrifying glare for terrifying glare. Not rated. Running time: 1:30. Suggested retail price: $14.99. 


“BREAKING THE WAVES,” Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard. Early 1996 effort from Lars von Trier (“Nymphomaniac”) finds the controversial director gleefully pushing viewers’ buttons from the get-go, with a beautifully photographed, deeply angering tale of a complicated relationship, one almost buoyed by trauma and abuse, with newly paralyzed Jan (Skarsgard, “Good Will Hunting”) encouraging his dedicated wife (Watson, in a brilliant debut performance) to seek out sex with other partners and then describe the experience to him later to recapture some form of intimacy, an arrangement that goes about as poorly as one could possibly imagine. A challenging, amazingly performed work, given the customary deluxe treatment courtesy of Criterion, with special features that include selected-scene commentary from von Trier. Rated R. Running time: 2:39. Suggested retail price: $39.99. 

“MALLRATS,” Jason Lee, Jeremy London. Writer-director Kevin Smith’s highly anticipated follow-up to his generation-defining 1994 sleeper hit “Clerks” is just a straight-up foul-mouthed, gross-out comedy, with little more on its mind than making you laugh at ridiculous, oft scatological situations. Back in 1995, this was something of a letdown for fans and critics still riding high off the unexpected, grungy delirium of “Clerks,” but since then audiences have lightened up considerably and enjoyed the crass antics on display and Lee’s star-making, engagingly foul performance. Rated R. Running time: 1:34. Suggested retail price: $19.98. 


“BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY,” Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde. There are a select few actors and actresses out there who’s very inclusion in the cast promises a good time regardless of genre or general critical reception. One of those actors is Sam Rockwell, a man willing to go the extra mile to ensure audiences are entertained, never afraid to look like a scumbag or a buffoon. Many would argue that he portrays both in “Chemistry,” the darkly funny tale of an ordinarily easygoing pharmacist who begins taking his own product and cheating on his wife after falling for a gorgeous, pill-popping client (Wilde, “Drinking Buddies”). This type of situation can’t help but careen ridiculously out of control fast, and writers/co-directors Geoff Moore and David Posamentier deliver the entire ill-advised, humiliating tale with good humor and some inventive visuals. Had Doris Day and Rock Hudson developed a passion for drugs and infidelity, their escapades might have looked a lot like “Better Living Through Chemistry,” and we’re hard-pressed to imagine a more enticing endorsement than that. Rated R. Running time: 1:31. Suggested retail price: $19.98; Blu-ray $26.98.

“PHILOMENA,” Judi Dench, Steve Coogan. A fact-based, hard-hitting drama and a lighthearted buddy movie all in one, director Stephen Frears’ (“High Fidelity”) “Philomena” proved to be one of the year’s most delightful sleeper hits. It’s all thanks in huge part to the warm, often hilarious interplay and surprising chemistry between the ever-excellent Dench and the underrated (at least stateside) Coogan, probably best known to the casual viewer from his supporting work in such films as “Tropic Thunder” and “Our Idiot Brother,” but a legendary comic performer in the UK for his Alan Partridge character, amongst others.

Here, Coogan portrays Martin, a former journalist working through a rough patch in his professional and personal life, urged to tackle a special interest story to get back on his feet. Enter Philomena (Dench), an unfailingly upbeat Irish woman who has never met her son, as she was banished to a convent shortly after giving birth due to the premarital sex that led to his conception. The details are unavoidably heartbreaking, but “Philomena” contains a surprising number of laughs as the idiosyncrasies of the leads create unneeded friction throughout the journey, and everything culminates believably and satisfyingly in the final reels. It’s just a great movie, pure and simple, a chance to reinforce how wonderful Judi Dench is, and an opportunity for American audiences to finally realize Coogan’s brilliance as well. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:38. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $34.99.

– Courtesy of Videoport

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