“Hercules,” Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane. In the role he was clearly born to play, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson delivers an appropriately devastating amount of single-eyebrow-cocking mayhem in this unapologetically over-the-top, relentlessly wisecracking actioner from ever-dependable popcorn-movie-machine Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour”), which apart from the usual destruction happens to boast one of the better supporting casts of the year, including John Hurt (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), Rufus Sewell (“Dark City”), and Joseph Fiennes (“Shakespeare in Love”). Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:42. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $54.99.

“Maleficent,” Angelina Jolie, Sharlton Copley. Surprise box office smash from Disney ideally casts Jolie as the titular queen, so memorably villainous in 1959’s classic “Sleeping Beauty” but quite sympathetic here, and no less engaging and fascinating for the flip-flop, finding her facing off against King Henry (Kenneth Cranham, “Layer Cake”) in the epic battle between fairies and men, an ongoing confrontation made even more difficult due to the romantic sparks flying between Maleficent and Henry’s son, Prince Stefan (Copley, “District 9”). All does not go smoothly, leading the vengeful queen to put a curse on Stefan’s infant daughter, a decision she unexpectedly comes to regret when the child (Elle Fanning) ends up becoming her friend. Stunning visuals and memorable performances throughout. Rated PG. Running time: 1:37. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $36.99.

“Planes: Fire and Rescue,” animated, with the voices of Dane Cook, Julie Bowen. A marked improvement over last year’s “Planes,” this action-packed sequel finds cocky raceplane Dusty (Cook) forced to abandon his career of choice thanks to a failing gearbox, leading him to seek a future in firefighting, alongside veteran fire truck Mayday (Hal Holbrook), handy forklift Maru (Curtis Armstrong), and lovesick Super Scooper L’il Dipper (Bowen). Special features include the animated short “Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular”. Rated PG. Running time: 1:24. Suggested retail price: $29.99; Blu-ray $39.99.


“The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season,” Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer. Opinions seem to vary wildly regarding the quality of Aaron Sorkin’s (“The West Wing”) latest endeavor, wherein a prickly news anchor (Daniels) and his new colleagues (Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr. and Margaret Judson, to name a few) work to bring the news to the masses despite personal and professional setbacks galore, but the writer’s trademark rat-a-tat dialogue remains indisputably brilliant, and season two finds the short-lived series finding its footing nicely. Special features include commentaries from cast and crew. Not rated. Running time: 9:00. Suggested retail price: $59.99; Blu-ray $79.98.


“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Extended Edition,” Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch. Director Peter Jackson continues his ever-lucrative practice of waiting a few months and then releasing a longer, more expensive version of the last movie he made. Those eager to partake have likely preordered long ago, but among the trove of special features included are 25 minutes of never-before-seen footage and several making-of featurettes. Rated PG-13. Running time: 2:41. Suggested retail price: $35.99.

“The Sopranos: The Complete Series,” James Gandolfini, Edie Falco. Considered by many to be the finest television show in the history of the medium, HBO’s game-changer concerning a Jersey-based mob boss (the late, great Gandolfini) and his struggles to maintain control on the job and at home finally gets a long-awaited remastered hi-def release, in a mammoth deluxe box set replete with special features including deleted scenes, a two-part interview with creator David Chase, and a roundtable discussion with cast and crew. Not rated. Suggested retail price: $279.98.


“A Most Wanted Man,” Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams. Based on the 2008 novel by John le Carre, director Anton Corbijn’s (“The American”) skillful adaptation is a complex but never impenetrable political thriller, with the late Hoffman his usual mesmerizing self as Gunther, the leader of a small crew of anti-terror agents taking an extreme interest in Issa (Grigriy Dobrygin, “How I Ended This Summer”), a Chechnya refugee who has arrived in Hamburg, Germany, on business vague enough to raise a few red flags amongst local and national authorities. Knottily compelling and excellently acted by the fine cast (which also includes Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright), “Man” is a mature thriller that hearkens back to the highbrow espionage pictures that used to be a dime a dozen in the 1970s, definitely a genre worthy of a dusting-off. Rated R. Running time: 2:01. Suggested retail price: $26.98; Blu-ray $29.99.

– Courtesy of Videoport