DVD Releases for the week of April 11, 2021

STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

Mel Brooks in “Spaceballs”

“SPACEBALLS”: Popular ever since its 1987 release, Mel Brooks’ often-hilarious parody of “Star Wars” — now getting a “Special Edition” Blu-ray release — cuts so close to familiar elements of that franchise, Brooks struck a deal with George Lucas to make sure there would be no charges of copyright infringement later. Bill Pullman plays the very Han Solo-ish Lone Starr, who’s joined by Chewbacca-like half-animal companion Barf (John Candy) in trying to protect Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) from scheming President Skroob (Books himself, who also plays wise adviser Yogurt … think “Yoda”) and his main deputy in villainy, Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis, channeling you-can-guess-which-enemy). One of the most amusing characters is Pizza the Hutt, voiced by Dom DeLuise.Though Brooks could have gotten away with cheesy special effects here, they’re actually quite good, likely because some of Lucas’ own technicians were involved in devising them. *** (PG: AS, P, V) (Also on 4K Ultra HD)

FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.

“WILLY’S WONDERLAND”: Nicolas Cage often has combined genres in his projects, and he does it again in this merging of action, horror and humor. He plays a drifter hired as a custodian at a rundown Nevada amusement center, which a teen (Emily Tosta, of the series reboot of “Party of Five”) is determined to destroy. The newcomer soon discovers why, as the site’s animatronic creations display lives of their own … with decidedly evil intentions. Beth Grant (“The Mindy Project”) and David Sheftell play the local law officials, who often seem to be at a loss over how to handle the supernatural situation. *** (Not rated: AS, P, GV) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“AMERICAN MASTERS — OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE”: Following its PBS telecast, this profile of the celebrated neurologist — whose work inspired the Penny Marshall-directed movie “Awakenings” (in which Robin Williams played a character strongly based on him) — features highlights of award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns’ extensive 2015 interviews with Sacks, recorded soon after the latter was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His comments are exceptionally candid and revealing, particularly when they deal with his feelings about the medical profession, which initially hesitated to accept his theories about the workings of the brain. Relatives, many of whom were present for the interviews when they were conducted in Sacks’ New York apartment, are among those who offer comments about his life and work. *** (Not rated: P)

“T11 INCOMPLETE”: A staple of independent films, the excellent actress Karen Sillas had a strong television presence in the police series “Under Suspicion” in the mid-1990s. She delivers another of her trademark, psychologically compelling performances in this writer-director Suzanne Guacci’s drama, casting her as a recovering-alcoholic home health aide whose generally bleak existence gets a sudden boost when she’s assigned a quadriplegic young patient (Kristen Renton). The bond between the women soon goes deep, developing into a romantic relationship that ultimately is jeopardized when their new mutual trust is broken. *** (Not rated: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray)

“THE PENTHOUSE”: Initially thrilled with their new waterside condo, a couple (played by David Schiffer, who also wrote the fim, and Vanessa Ore) soon comes to regret getting involved in others’ business in this melodrama. Witnessing an argument between two people from the posh new perch, the woman later approaches the bickering girlfriend (Krista Grotte Saxon) — whose subsequent disappearance suggests something sinister. That becomes even more the case when the argumentative boyfriend (action-movie veteran Michael Pare) threatens the witnesses. Nicholas Turturro also stars as a police detective who is drawn into the matter. ** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on On Demand)

“ISRAEL: A WALK IN THE WORD”: Host and biblical scholar Shirley Carpenter leads a 10-day journey through the title country in this release, which leans strongly on events in the Bible to chart the itinerary. The actual locations where those long-known occurrences happened are visited, and at each stop — amounting to more than 30 of them — Carpenter contextualizes a relevant passage, also pointing out the present-day relevance. (That aspect admittedly might seem a bit outdated, given all that has happened in the world lately, since the program was recorded a while ago.) *** (Not rated)

COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):

“The Little Things”


“NOMADLAND” (April 27)





Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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