DVD Releases (for week of Sept. 22)

STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

Samuel L. Jackson in “Shaft”

“SHAFT”: To invoke the classic Isaac Hayes theme song, can you dig it? After the versions of the detective story made by directors Gordon Parks and John Singleton, this latest take merges several generations of Shafts as the franchise approaches the 50-year mark. Original star Richard Roundtree and his successor, Samuel L. Jackson, both are back – but the real focus here is on their characters’ grandson and son, played by Jessie T. Usher (“Survivor’s Remorse”). He’s an FBI employee, and even though he frowns upon his relatives’ method of fighting violence with more violence, he has to rely on them to probe a friend’s death. While entertaining enough, the Tim Story-directed picture (co-written by Kenya Barris, of “black-ish” fame) can’t decide whether it wants to be part of the genre or a parody of it, giving the film a continually shifting tone; however, the presence of Regina Hall as the youngest Shaft’s mother is a bonus. DVD extra: “making-of” documentary. *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“YESTERDAY”: Say that George, John, Paul and Ringo never united, and say that an entire catalog of some of the best-known songs of all time never existed. That’s the premise of this enjoyable fantasy based on the conceit of a world without the Beatles. Driven by two top talents, director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis, the tale subjects the world to a 12-second blackout in which all memory of the Fab Four is wiped out … almost. Only one struggling musician, played nicely by Himesh Patel, remembers the Beatles and their tunes – and decides to claim the songs as his own. That results in the character ultimately having an ethical crisis as the public marvels at his creative genius, which of course is really the genius of others. It also yields some moments of inspired humor, as when Ed Sheeran suggests that a certain song would be better with the title “Hey Dude.” This pleasant diversion also is helped by good acting turns by Lily James and “Saturday Night Live’s” Kate McKinnon as the hero’s manager and agent, plus a funny cameo by James Corden. DVD extras: seven “making-of” documentaries; audio commentary by Boyle and Curtis; deleted scenes; outtakes; alternate opening and ending. *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Not rated: AS, N, P, V)

“CHILD’S PLAY”: Yes, Chucky is back! The homicidal doll gets a rebirth in this acceptable update of the horror tale that launched a franchise. Aubrey Plaza’s typical edge is welcome as she inherits the role of a woman whose young son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) becomes the delighted owner of a “Buddi” doll enhanced with artificial intelligence – and, for the purposes of this version, the voice of “Star Wars” icon Mark Hamill. Mayhem soon ensues, and unless Andy can manage to convince anyone that Chucky is the culprit, tragedy could be the result for all concerned. Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”) co-stars as the detective next door who, expectedly, gets a lot more than he bargained for; Tim Matheson also appears as the tech tycoon behind the doll’s creation. DVD extras: four “making-of” documentaries; photo gallery. *** (R: AS, P, V)

“PAVAROTTI”: Ron Howard clearly is a fan of music’s greats, having done his acclaimed “Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years” documentary about the Beatles several years ago … and more recently turning his attention to an opera legend by directing this fine profile. Of course, a wealth of performance footage is included as the story of Luciano Pavarotti’s life and career is recounted, but the result also incorporates previously unseen footage. It also features comments by such friends and associates as Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo – who teamed with Pavarotti on the celebrated Three Tenors initiative – as well as Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, Spike Lee, Bono and Stevie Wonder. DVD extras: three “making-of” documentaries. *** (PG-13: P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“HOLOCAUST”: One of the most acclaimed of all television miniseries gets a relaunch on home video, thanks to its debut on Blu-ray. A winner of four Emmy Awards – encompassing the performances of Meryl Streep, Michael Moriarty and Blanche Baker – writer Gerald Green’s (“The Last Angry Man”) emotionally powerful 1978 drama follows two German families in the years before and during World War II. Moriarty plays a lawyer who joins the Nazi Party to support his wife and children, rising through the ranks quickly and ultimately being placed in charge of literal life-or-death decisions. Streep and Baker portray members of a clan that chafes under Nazi rule, making huge sacrifices to maintain their existence as best they can, given the circumstances. James Woods, Fritz Weaver, Rosemary Harris, David Warner, Ian Holm, Joseph Bottoms, Tovah Feldshuh and Sam Wanamaker also are members of the outstanding cast. **** (Not rated: AS, V)

“BILLIONS: SEASON FOUR”: The twists and turns just keep coming in the most recent round of the smartly written, superbly acted Showtime drama series about a complex crossroads between the worlds of finance and the law. As the deposed Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) fights to regain his standing in New York’s legal community, venture capitalist Bobby “Axe” Axelrod tries to stay steps ahead of ex-employee turned equally vengeful rival Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) … with Chuck’s wife and Axe’s confidante Wendy (Maggie Siff) caught between all the parties while facing a professional crisis of her own. Though former cast regular Malin Akerman appears only briefly, Nina Arianda makes a big impression as a business force who becomes the new woman in Axe’s life, and Kevin Pollak also joins the show as Taylor’s father; guest star John Malkovich returns from the previous season. David Costabile, Toby Leonard Moore, Condola Rashad, Jeffrey DeMunn and Clancy Brown also continue their roles. *** (Not rated: AS, N, P, V)

COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):



“CHERNOBYL” (Oct. 1)





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 2281 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Pin It on Pinterest