DVD Releases (for week of March 4)

STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

Chris Hemsworth in "Thor: Ragnarok"Chris Hemsworth in “Thor: Ragnarok”

“THOR: RAGNAROK”: The earlier screen adventures of the Norse god were extremely serious, so the lighter tone of this entry in the Marvel canon came as a very pleasant surprise. Chris Hemsworth still does the requisite muscle-flexing as Thor, who tries to prevent the Ragnarok – or apocalypse – that will destroy his home planet Asgard. Complications are posed by his sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and even the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), whom Thor must battle under the orders of the wily Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Though there’s more humor than before in this installment, the movie doesn’t skimp on spectacle. Anthony Hopkins also returns as Odin, and Benedict Cumberbatch (as Doctor Strange) and Marvel staple Stan Lee have cameos. *** (PG-13: V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“LADY BIRD”: Very deservedly nominated for five Oscars, including two for writer and director Greta Gerwig, this coming-of-age story boasts stunning work by Saoirse Ronan as a high-school senior grappling with her self-identity while also trying to satisfy her demanding mother (the also-superb Laurie Metcalf) … pretty much an impossible task. Currently, both actresses also are up for Academy Awards for the film, which is a contender for best picture. Actor-playwright Tracy Letts and Timothee Chalamet (who’s up for his own Oscar for “Call Me by Your Name”) also appear, but this movie truly and clearly belongs to the women. DVD extras: “making-of” documentary; audio commentary by Gerwig and cinematographer Sam Levy. **** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“WONDER WHEEL”: Critics weren’t particularly kind to Woody Allen’s drama about several Coney Island dwellers in the 1950s, but Kate Winslet still earned high marks (and a Hollywood Film Awards honor) as the unfulfilled wife of an amusement-park carousel operator (Jim Belushi). She finds renewed purpose in her life – or at least a very basic reason for continuing to live it – when she gets involved with a younger man (Justin Timberlake), a lifeguard with big aspirations for himself. Her relationship with him gets complicated when her husband’s daughter (Juno Temple) shows up and develops her own designs on him. The atmospheric tale’s cast also includes two veterans of “The Sopranos,” Tony Sirico and Steve Schirripa. *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS”: He may not have invented the holiday, exactly, but Charles Dickens certainly is strongly associated with it. Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) plays the author in this fine dramatization of his creation of “A Christmas Carol,” fueled in part by his strained relationship with his father (Jonathan Pryce), who became the model for – all together now! – Ebenezer Scrooge, arguably literature’s most legendary miser. Scrooge himself is represented by Christopher Plummer, who appears to Dickens as an actual person. The notable cast also includes veteran talents Simon Callow (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”), Miriam Margolyes, Ian McNeice and Bill Paterson. *** (PG: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“PLANET EARTH: BLUE PLANET II”: If you’re looking for sharp cinematography of the globe’s greatest oceans, this BBC America-televised documentary is your stop. Covering every continent and filmed over four years, the tour of waterways – which makes use of the latest camera technology – also considers the creatures serviced by the environment beneath the waves, as detailed by series presenter Sir David Attenborough. Not surprisingly, and not unlike its predecessor, the program has been a major hit in its telecasts around the world. **** (Not rated) (Also on Blu-ray)

“CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON”: Fans of Larry David’s HBO comedy series had a long wait for new episodes – six years, to be exact — but he made it worth their while with this season, showing David to maintain his traditional style as the show’s version of him gets a new project under way. His related enthusiasm is far from curbed, getting him into trouble with everyone from his therapist to his mailman. Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, J. B. Smoove and Cheryl Hines remain supporting players, and other notables on board for this round include spouses Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen as well as Elizabeth Banks, Ed Begley Jr., Bryan Cranston, Lauren Graham, Jimmy Kimmel, Nick Offerman, Elizabeth Perkins, Damon Wayans Jr., Steven Weber and Casey Wilson. The show will be back for a 10th season, though not surprisingly, no expected premiere date has been placed on that. *** (Not rated: AS, P)

COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):

Timothee Chalamet in "Call Me by Your Name"
Timothee Chalamet in “Call Me by Your Name”

“CALL ME BY YOUR NAME” (March 13): An Oscar nominee for best picture and actor (Timothee Chalamet), this drama — with an Academy Award-winning screenplay by James Ivory — examines a life-changing relationship. (R: AS, N, P)

“THE HANDMAID’S TALE: SEASON ONE” (March 13): The acclaimed Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel stars Elisabeth Moss as an oppressed member of a future society. (Not rated: AS, N, P, V)

“I, TONYA” (March 13): Margot Robbie plays disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, and Oscar winner Allison Janney portrays her mother. (R: AS, N, P, V)

“JUSTICE LEAGUE” (March 13): In the absence of Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman and Wonder Woman (Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot) lead other superheroes in battling evil and protecting Earth. (PG-13: V)

“THE SHAPE OF WATER” (March 13): Oscar’s latest winner for best picrure, director Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy-drama casts Sally Hawkins as a government lab worker intrigued by a captured, amphibious creature (Doug Jones). (R: AS, N, P, V)

“PITCH PERFECT 3” (March 20): The singing Bellas reunite to take part in an international competition during a USO tour; Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson return. (PG-13: AS, P)

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 1794 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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