DVD Releases – week of May 17 2020

STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

“THE WAY BACK”: It might be argued that in this drama, Ben Affleck isn’t giving a performance so much as tapping heavily into his own life experience. The Oscar-winning actor-writer-director has been candid about struggles he has faced, one of them being drinking — and that’s the albatross of his character here, a construction worker who’s on a direct path to rock bottom. His possible salvation comes with an offer for him to become the coach of the basketball team at his former high school, where he was a star athlete himself. If this sounds predictable … well, it largely is, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be affecting. Affleck is very much that here, and it also also helps that he reunites with a director he’s worked with successfully before: Gavin O’Connor, who steered him through the underrated thriller “The Accountant.” The cast also features younger performers who supply a good deal of appeal as the ballplayers, most of whom really need their new coach’s guidance, but there’s no question that the film is primarily a solid vehicle for Affleck. Michaela Watkins, Janina Gavankar and veteran actor Glynn Turman also appear. DVD extra: “making-of” documentary. *** (R: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray)

“SONIC THE HEDGEHOG”: Jim Carrey’s naturally animated persona lends itself to live-action versions of projects that originated in cartoonish form, and it proves valuable again in this entertaining take on a long-popular video-game series. Wanted in another world for his amazing powers, Sonic (still animated here, and voiced by Ben Schwartz) comes to Earth to hide out from pursuers, then jeopardizes his secluded and peaceful life in Montana by unwittingly setting off a power outage that alerts the sinister Dr. Robotnik (Carrey) to his presence. Sonic then finds allies in a small-town sheriff and the lawman’s wife (James Marsden, Tika Sumpter) as he flees toward San Francisco. Adam Pally (“Indebted”) and Neal McDonough also are featured. *** (PG: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD and On Demand)

“ONWARD”: With its run cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, this Disney-Pixar teaming made its way to streaming platforms only two weeks after its release, and it now adds other home-video platforms. The computer-animated tale puts two elf siblings (who have the voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) on a mission to bring their deceased father back, using a magical staff that he left behind — but the instrument is only partially successful, restoring just half of the deceased party’s body. In trying to complete their quest, the brothers embark on a quest to find something that can finish the spell, but colorful characters and dangerous creatures threaten to stand in their way. Still, as might be expected, they learn many valuable lessons about themselves and each other. The voice cast also includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Kyle Bornheimer, Lena Waithe, Tracey Ullman and Wilmer Valderrama. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD and On Demand)

“DOWNHILL”: If you had to name the genre that is the specialty of Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, it would be comedy. Often, though, they try to infuse something more into their humor – and it’s there in longtime creative partners Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s remake of the Swedish film “Force Majeure,” with Mother Nature taking its toll on a couple’s relationship. They’re vacationing in the Alps with their sons when an avalanche strikes … and rather than stay behind to protect his family, Ferrell’s character turns tail and runs. His wife (Louis-Dreyfus) is not very happy with him in the aftermath, especially the more he tries to deny that he fled to save his own hide, and the discord between them plays out in a number of ways. “Saturday Night Live” alums both, the two stars certainly are agreeable performers, and their teaming is something of an event … but this is not a comfortable movie, and that may be its point. The duo surely is skilled enough to pull it off, but you’re not likely to say you had a particularly good time with them here; Miranda Otto co-stars, and “Succession’s” Jesse Armstrong co-wrote the script with directors Rash and Faxon. *** (R: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“EMMA.”: The Jane Austen novel about a self-propelled matchmaker has had a number of screen workouts both classic and contemporary, and this latest version goes back to the “classic” realm with Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role. During the 19th century, the wealthy Emma makes others’ love lives her business, manipulating those while ignoring her own emotional needs … until she becomes enchanted by the brother (Johnny Flynn) of her sister-in-law, who doesn’t seem to have much interest in reciprocating. Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Bill Nighy, Callum Turner and Rupert Graves also star in the lavish production, another film released early to streaming platforms because their theatrical runs were shortened by theaters closing due to the coronavirus pandemic. *** (PG: AS, N) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“BRAHMS: THE BOY II”: As anyone familiar with the “Child’s Play” series knows, dolls with minds of their own rarely mean anything good … a notion reaffirmed by this by-the-numbers sequel of sorts, in which Brahms is the doll in question. It poses problems for the family that has just moved to the site where the original “The Boy” was set (and where the doll was located), with the young son (Christopher Convery) being especially vulnerable after a home invasion where he and his parents (Katie Holmes, in her first prominent role in a couple of years, and Owain Yeoman) previously lived. Eventually, the evil spirit residing within the doll works its wiles on the youngster, and any devotee of the genre is well aware of how problematic that can be. Holmes’ presence is pretty much the only distinctive element here. ** (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):





“THE HUNT” (June 9)


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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