DVD Releases (for week of Dec. 15)

STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

“Downton Abbey”

“DOWNTON ABBEY”: You could consider this movie version of the former PBS series redundant, since the show had a rather definitive ending … but if you’re a fan, you won’t care. You’ll simply be happy to get to spend some more time with the Crawley family and their associates. Virtually all of the original actors are back, including Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, who’s not at all pleased about the arrival of a distant cousin played by Imelda Staunton (and it’s great fun to watch the British acting veterans go at each other). That visit is triggered by the cousin being a servant to the queen (Geraldine James), who arrives at the manor with the king (Simon Jones) – setting up a new examination of the class system between the site’s regular wait staff and the royal escorts. The film certainly comes from solid sources, series creator Julian Fellowes and first-finale director Michael Engler. And if you’re looking for familiar faces, they’re here in abundance: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter and Joanne Froggatt are among the others reprising their roles. The bottom line is that this is more of the same, but that’s perfectly fine. DVD extras: four “making-of” documentaries; audio commentary by Engler; deleted scenes; cast interviews. *** (PG: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“AD ASTRA”: Though clearly epic in scope and visual splendor, director and co-writer James Gray’s sci-fi saga earned mixed reviews mainly for its smaller, interpersonal touches. Brad Pitt wears his uniform well as an astronaut who goes into orbit to search for his fellow-spaceman father (Tommy Lee Jones), the long-missing prime force behind a project that may be wreaking havoc on the solar system many years later. Dad’s former colleague (Donald Sutherland, who also played an interstellar traveler opposite Jones in “Space Cowboys”) goes along on the trek, with the duo encountering numerous adventures – some involving life that isn’t human – along the way. Special credit goes to cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (“Spectre”) for the distinctive look of the film, a harrowing spacewalk sequence being an excellent example. Experienced men-in-space paramour (see: “Armageddon”) Liv Tyler plays Pitt’s wife in a cast that also includes Ruth Negga, Natasha Lyonne and Kimberly Elise. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“RAMBO: LAST BLOOD”: Never count out the former soldier who, along with Rocky Balboa, gave Sylvester Stallone an enduring calling card in the movie business. As has been the case on so many of his projects, the actor also had a hand in writing the story – the fifth, and presumably last, in the series — about John Rambo’s quest to retrieve a close friend’s granddaughter (played by Yvette Monreal), kidnapped by Mexican cartel members while seeking her biological father. Rambo suffers his own pain at the hands of the villains, making him even more determined to locate the missing young woman … however many bodies he needs to stack up along the way. (Be forewarned, the climax is a carnage fest, though the “Rambo” faithful should expect that.) Paz Vega and Adriana Barraza also appear, but the main attraction here is Stallone back in fighting form, quite literally. *** (R: AS, P, GV) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“ABOMINABLE”: As the title may suggest, there’s a rather large snowman in this animated adventure, though he’s far from fearsome. The Yeti in question only wants to get back to his family, and he gets help from a Chinese teenager (voiced by Chloe Bennet, of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) and her friends (Albert Tsai, of “Fresh Off the Boat,” and Tenzing Norgay Trainor), who set out on a massive trek with him toward that end – but out to thwart them are a millionaire (Eddie Izzard) and a zoologist (Sarah Paulson) who have their own intentions for the creature. Veteran actress Tsai Chin, who’s been featured in a couple of James Bond movies, also is in the voice cast. DVD extras: 12 “making-of” documentaries; audio commentary by writer-director Jill Culton and other crew members; deleted scenes; “Marooned” short subject. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“FULLER HOUSE: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON”: To answer one of the likeliest questions about this next-to-last round of the Netflix sequel series to “Full House,” yes, Lori Loughlin (alias the show’s Becky) still is part of the cast here … her recent, much-reported troubles not having developed until after these episodes were filmed and originally shown. Appropriately for this time of year, the stories begin with a Christmas tale, as D.J.’s (Candice Cameron Bure) trek to take her youngest sons to see Santa has unexpected results. Other plots in the 13 episodes involve D.J.’s dating life, Stephanie’s (Jodie Sweetin) pregnancy and Danny’s (Bob Saget) struggle with retirement. Andrea Barber also is back as Kimmy Gibbler. John Stamos and Dave Coulier also reprise their roles from the original show. *** (Not rated: AS)

“UNIVERSAL HORROR COLLECTION VOLUME 3”: The series of Blu-ray releases that opens the Universal Pictures vaults to compile scary relics gets another edition by assembling four more chillers, featuring some of the genre’s most legendary stars. “Tower of London” casts Boris Karloff as the fictional henchman of the future King Richard III (Basil Rathbone), with Vincent Price also appearing; “The Black Cat” also features Karloff and Rathbone — and Alan Ladd and Broderick Crawford — in an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story; “Man-Made Monster” presents Lon Chaney Jr. as an electrically charged accident survivor; and “Horror Island” lacks iconic actors of the category, but offers a mysterious phantom who provides treasure-hunt guidance. Extra features include audio commentaries by film historians, theatrical trailers and photo galleries. *** (Not rated: AS, V)

COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):


“JUDY” (Dec. 24)


“CROWN VIC” (Jan. 7)




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.

jbobbin has 2357 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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