DVD Releases – week of April 5 2020


STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):


“LITTLE WOMEN”: Louisa May Alcott’s classic is one of the most-filmed stories of all time, so is another version of it really necessary? Maybe not, but if you love solid and enjoyable moviemaking, you’ll be glad it exists anyway. Tackling the tale was a passion project for actress turned director-screenwriter Greta Gerwig, and her love for it shows in every department, including in the costume design that won an Oscar … and certainly in the casting, as she enlists her “Lady Bird” star Saoirse Ronan to play Jo, arguably the pivotal sister among the March siblings of 1800s New England. Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlan play the other sisters — and while each has her own story to varying degrees, it’s when they’re together that the drama logically draws the most emotional power. Laura Dern also contributes to that as their mother, and there’s a clearly notable turn by Meryl Streep as a rich relative. By definition, this is a tale primarily built for its female characters, but Timothee Chalamet (also working for Gerwig again after “Lady Bird”), Bob Odenkirk and a particularly affecting Chris Cooper are among those playing men in the ladies’ world. DVD extras: six “making-of” documentaries.*** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)



“CATS”: Uh-oh. Herewith, the home-video debut of the movie that recently prompted the question, should certain shows just stay on the stage? At a safe distance in a live-performance theater, this musical is utterly captivating as limber performers embody felines without camera close-ups forcing the actors to resemble authentic cats. Yes, there’s a certain kick initially in seeing such familiar talents as Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson, James Corden and Ian McKellen looking like cats …. but before long, the gimmick starts to wear thin, even souped up by modern movie technology under director Tom Hooper. The story, such as it is, involves the felines trying to earn the chance to ascend to cat heaven and be reborn (you know, cats having nine lives and all that). Elba’s sinister character Macavity wants to remove all of his rivals for that opportunity — among them, a former beauty whose aging leads to the standout song “Memory,” rendered with the expected power by Hudson. With its Andrew Lloyd Webber and T.S. Eliot background and its impressive cast, it’s easy to see where this seemed like a good idea for a film, but “Cats” may well kill your curiosity in this case. DVD extras: 10 “making-of” documentaries. ** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“DOLITTLE”: It probably looked good on paper … Robert Downey Jr. as the screen’s latest take on Dr. Dolittle, the quirky medic famously known for talking to animals – and them talking back to him. Downey’s long-practiced brand of irony brings something new to the part, but not necessarily what it needs. Instead of exuding warmth, this Dr. Dolittle seems to want the animals to get out of his way, much less talk to him. Mourning the death of his wife, Dolittle has a patron in Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley), who needs his professional help when she’s felled by a mysterious illness. He then sets sail to find a cure, but others aren’t keen on his succeeding for various reasons; they include his hostile ex-father-in-law, played by Antonio Banderas. The “animal” voice cast is pretty stellar, marked by Oscar winners Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Marion Cotillard and Octavia Spencer, plus Ralph Fiennes and John Cena for good and varied measure. In the end, though, this “Dolittle” is quite the mish-mash … even as directed and co-written by another Academy Award winner, Stephen Gaghan of “Traffic” and “Syriana” fame. DVD extras: six “making-of” documentaries. ** (PG: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD and On Demand)

“MADAM SECRETARY: THE FINAL SEASON”: With Morgan Freeman as one of its executive producers, the CBS political drama ended its six-year run recently, with former Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (played by Tea Leoni) ascending to the US. presidency. Early in her administration, information about her past threatens to interfere with legislation she’s trying to get passed. Hacking, the economy and military involvement overseas are among other issues she faces in this concluding set of episodes. Tim Daly and Zeljko Ivanek, just about the only other regular cast members who lasted the entirety of the show, also star. Among guests in the final stories are Wentworth Miller (“Prison Break”), Stephen Colbert and members of the U.S. women’s soccer team. A “Complete Series” set also is available. *** (Not rated: AS, P)

“THE NIGHT CLERK”: Seen recently on “Mr. Robot,” playwright and actor Michael Cristofer wrote and directed this melodrama, casting Tye Sheridan (“Ready Player One”) in the title role of an evening worker who becomes a murder suspect. The situation affects a guest he gets to know well (played by Ana De Armas, of “Knives Out” and the new James Bond movie “No Time to Die”), and unless he finds the real killer, she may become the next victim. Helen Hunt — who’s done her own share of directing lately — is only an actress for hire here, and John Leguizamo and Johnathon Schaech also co-star. *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on On Demand)

“ESCAPE FROM PRETORIA”: Daniel Radcliffe is far away from “Harry Potter” territory in this fact-inspired drama, casting him as one of several political prisoners who plot to make a break from imprisonment in apartheid-era South Africa. They were accused of distributing literature on behalf of organizations banned by the government there. Tim Jenkin, played in the film by Radcliffe, wrote the book on which the movie is based — and also has a brief role as, somewhat ironically, another prisoner. Daniel Webber and Ian Hart also star. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)


FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.


COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):


“CRIMINAL MINDS: THE FINAL SEASON” (April 14)

“JUST MERCY” (April 14)

“UNDERWATER” (April 14)

“THE GENTLEMEN” (April 21)

“LOOKING FOR ALASKA” (April 21)

“30 ROCK: THE COMPLETE SERIES” (April 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 2287 posts and counting.See all posts by jbobbin

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