DVD Releases (for week of Jan. 5)

STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

“JOKER”: Can you be troubled and entertained by a movie at the same time? Other films have prompted that question, but this one may be the ultimate example. If you’re disturbed by its promise of a violent scenario of urban decay, it’s for good reason: Director and co-writer Todd Phillips doesn’t shirk from that for a minute, but the picture also wants to explain how Batman’s maniacally laughing enemy became who he is, giving Joaquin Phoenix the means for a mesmerizing performance. While the part brought Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar for “The Dark Knight,” Phoenix makes it his own with a physicality that won’t be forgotten soon. He also stirs some empathy early on, but ultimately, he’s the Joker that many know and fear. Someone who should fear him – but his ego won’t let him – is The Joker’s idol, a talk-show host played by Robert De Niro in a neat reverse twist on his role in “The King of Comedy.” The overall production is expectedly grim and handsome, but for any and every other element of the controversial film, it has to have the right actor in the title role to work …and Phoenix very obviously is that actor. DVD extras: four “making-of” documentaries. *** (R: AS, P, GV) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“BIG LITTLE LIES: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON”: The first HBO drama developed from Liane Moriarty’s novel by television wunderkind David E. Kelley was such a success, a sequel became inevitable … provided the schedules of the major players lined up again, which HBO executives allowed was something of a miracle. This time, the stakes are upped with the cast addition of Meryl Streep, playing the mother of Celeste’s (Nicole Kidman) late husband – and she wants answers about what happened to her son. She soon discovers she doesn’t have a friend in Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), and the exchanges among the three Oscar-winning actresses provide many of the major pleasures of this follow-up. Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz, Adam Scott, James Tupper, Jeffrey Nordling and Iain Armitage (“Young Sheldon”) are among other returnees from Season 1, with Martin Donovan and Denis O’Hare also among newcomers for this round. A possible third season hasn’t been ruled out. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)

“CROWN VIC”: An impressive cast fuels this Alec Baldwin-co-produced melodrama about two police officers and a particularly tense and eventful night they spend on patrol in Los Angeles. A veteran cop (Thomas Jane) is assigned to show a rookie (Luke Kleintank) the ropes, but they both get a lot more than they bargained for … thanks to the combination of a cop killer, a rogue officer and a missing girl. Writer-director Joel Souza’s acting ensemble also includes Bridget Moynahan (who, of course, also deals with police stories regularly on “Blue Bloods”), David Krumholtz, Emma Ishta (“Stitchers”), Scottie Thompson and Josh Hopkins (”Whiskey Cavalier”). *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“THE LIGHTHOUSE”: Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are virtually the entire show in this hugely psychological drama, basically a two-character piece about just what the title suggests … a late 19th-century New England lighthouse and the two people who oversee it. A big storm is coming, and each man fears for his own safety against the elements – and also against the other man, since strange visions they begin having suggest that the situation may be taking a mental toll on them. The film was co-written and directed by Robert Eggers (“The Witch”). DVD extras: “making-of” documentary; audio commentary by Eggers; deleted scenes. *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“THE BEACH HOUSE”: Now included as part of a “Hallmark Channel Valentine’s Day 4-Movie Collection,” this affecting “Hallmark Hall of Fame’’ drama – based on the book by Mary Alice Monroe, and directed by Roger Spottiswoode (“Tomorrow Never Dies”) — casts Andie MacDowell (also an executive producer of the film) as a woman who doesn’t want a secret she’s been keeping known to her daughter (Minka Kelly, “Friday Night Lights”), who has returned to her Southern home after losing her Chicago job. Chad Michael Murray (“One Tree Hill”) plays an ex-flame the returnee reunites with, and Makenzie Vega (“The Good Wife”) also stars as a pregnant friend of the women. *** (Not rated: AS)

”NOVA: WHY BRIDGES COLLAPSE”: The science behind a terrifying phenomenon is explored in this episode of the PBS series, televised last October. The 2018 disaster at the Morandi Bridge in Italy — which resulted in 43 fatalities – is used as a basis to examine how such structures can be improved via the latest developments in engineering, hopefully preventing such tragedies from occurring in the future. Construction experts and elected officials offer related comments. *** (Not rated)

COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):

“GEMINI MAN” (Jan. 14)




“COUNTDOWN” (Jan. 21)


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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