DVD Releases (for week of Feb. 2)

STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

“UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT: THE COMPLETE SERIES”: One of the shows that have helped put streaming services on the map, particularly where award consideration concerned, this widely acclaimed Netflix series might not have made the mark it did had it gone to NBC as originally planned. Ellie Kemper (“The Office”) has the title role of a Midwesterner who is rescued from a cult after 15 years, then moves to New York to start her life anew. New members of her social circle include her landlady (Carol Kane), her roommate (Tituss Burgess) and the socialite (Jane Krakowski) who hires her as a nanny. Executive producer Tina Fey had a couple of acting roles in the show during its four-season run; other guest stars included Martin Short, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Andy Cohen and recent “Richard Jewell” star Paul Walter Hauser. *** (Not rated: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray)

“DOCTOR SLEEP”: Have you ever wondered what happened to Danny, the youngster from Stephen King’s “The Shining”? This sequel from director-screenwriter Mike Flanagan, who had a big streaming success with “The Haunting of Hill House,” answers the question … and at considerable length, with a “Director’s Cut” on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD adding another half-hour on top of that. Played as an adult by Ewan McGregor and now called “Dan,” the central character is trying to suppress his psychic powers, but a youth with similar abilities (Kyleigh Curran) needs his help in evading a sinister cult called The True Knot. Dan’s father Jack, played by Jack Nicholson in the movie version of “The Shining,” also figures into the events here; additional cast members include Rebecca Ferguson, Zahn McClarnon (“Westworld”), Bruce Greenwood (“The Resident”) and Jacob Tremblay (“Room”). *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“LAST CHRISTMAS”: The performer who fares best in this romantic comedy is George Michael. Seriously. As the title might indicate, the late singer’s music is pivotal to the film, and his tunes manage to emerge untainted from what otherwise is a pretty sensational misfire … trying to stand alongside the sorts of British films that writer-director Richard Curtis does so well, such as “Love Actually” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) plays an aspiring actress who’s pretty much a wreck, alienating her friends in the course of working at a year-round Christmas shop. Luckily for her, a dashing fellow takes an interest in her; he’s played by Henry Golding of “Crazy Rich Asians” fame, and he inspires her to become a better and more purposeful person, even reconnecting with her emigrant family – including her mother, played by Emma Thompson, who also co-wrote the script. Of course, she was in “Love Actually,” but her efforts to channel filmmaker Curtis are too obvious. That also doesn’t help the director here, Paul Feig of “Bridesmaids” fame. Endearing and enduring holiday movies are tough to make, and this is more evidence of it. ** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“THE GOOD LIAR”: This twisty-turny tale makes an obviously fine match of esteemed acting veterans Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen, the latter playing a well-practiced con artist whose new mark is the recent, very wealthy widow portrayed by Mirren. Initially, she appears to fall for all of his typically successful tricks … but let’s be real, we’re talking about someone who has played several monarchs (and won awards for doing so), so her character isn’t likely to be duped that easily. Inspired by a Nicholas Searle novel, the drama was directed by Bill Condon (“Chicago”) and also features “Downton Abbey’s” Jim Carter and Russell Tovey (“Quantico”) – but the main attraction clearly is the showdown of wits and performing skills between Mirren and McKellen. DVD extras: deleted scenes. *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“MASTERPIECE: SANDITON”: While it’s in the midst of its broadcast run on PBS, this adaptation of the final Jane Austen story – which she didn’t finish, though Emmy-winning Austen-adaptation veteran Andrew Davies completed it for this version — makes its home-video debut, allowing early purchasers to see the rest of the series before it’s televised. The saga converts a drab fishing village into an appealing health resort, with Kris Marshall (“Love Actually”) as the chief force behind the transformation. As various others get involved as developers or guests, a number of plots unfold, one involving an influential patron (Anne Reid) who wants to find a romantic partner for her nephew (Jack Fox) … but he has his own opportunistic ideas. Rose Williams, Theo James and Kate Ashfield also star. *** (Not rated: AS) (Also on Blu-ray)

“PLAYING WTH FIRE”: Made by Nickelodeon’s movie division, this family-friendly comedy lets John Cena follow in the footsteps of such other brawny stars as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson in matching muscles to mirth. He portrays a promotion-craving firefighter who, along with his colleagues, rescues several youngsters (Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, Finley Rose Slater) from a blaze and ends up having to play babysitter for them since their parents are away. It doesn’t take long for the youngsters to turn the firehouse upside-down, yet their new and supposedly temporary guardians bond with them, much to the surprise of all concerned. Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Judy Greer and Dennis Haysbert also appear, but the picture primarily is a showcase for the amusingly game Cena. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):

“ROMA” (Feb. 11)

“THE GREAT WAR” (Feb. 11)


“SNATCHERS” (Feb. 18)

“21 BRIDGES” (Feb. 18)



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 2289 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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