Several recent theatrical releases have found their way to DVD and Blu-ray this week, chiefly the well-reviewed sci-fi thriller "Arrival."
(Paramount, 2016, PG-13, featurettes). After 12 extraterrestrial spaceships land in various locations around the world, an American linguist (Amy Adams) is called upon by an Army colonel (Forest Whitaker) to join a physicist (Jeremy Renner) and other experts as they attempt to decipher the visitors' language, which is unique and very difficult to crack. Can she figure it out before paranoid earthlings take aggressive action?
This familiar sci-fi tale owes a lot to classic films from the past ("The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "V," etc.) and embraces their clichés (maybe they don't really come in peace). But what makes this one stand out is the thoughtful script, the artful direction and excellent performances from an A-list cast. (It has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, according to oscar.go.com.)
(TriStar, 2016; R for violence, language, sex, drugs; deleted scenes, featurettes). Army specialist Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn), a 19-year-old Texan, tries to save his sergeant (Vin Diesel) during a firefight in Iraq. When it's caught on video, Billy and his team are sent on a victory tour of sorts. But Billy doesn't feel like a hero. This so-so melodrama is never as engaging as it wants to be, although Kristen Stewart is good in support. Steve Martin and Chris Tucker also show up.
(Shout!, 2017, not rated/probable PG, deleted/extended scenes, featurettes, music video). In her film debut, country singer Madeline Merlo is an aspiring singer who finds up-and-down romance with an auto mechanic (Munro Chambers). Meanwhile, his brother ships out to the Middle East, leaving behind a wife (Jana Kramer) and a young son. Surprisingly, this is a traditional movie musical, striving for a countrified version of "La La Land." (For the next month or two, this one is available exclusively at Walmart.)
(Universal, 2016, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes, music video, trailer). This religious drama, supposedly "inspired by true stories," has a pair of Mexican sisters illegally entering America, unaware that their benefactors plan to sell them as prostitutes. The hapless truck driver who delivers them uncovers the scheme and tries to make it right, discovering God along the way. Despite the potentially offensive subject matter, the film is restrained with an eye toward its faith-based audience.
(Lionsgate, 2016, not rated/probable PG-13 for violence). If you saw 1992's "Candyman" or the recent "Bye Bye Man," you know the plot of this Syfy cable channel flick — when you utter (or in this case, sing) the title character's name, he shows up and kills people. A 12-year-old girl is blamed after the game is played at a slumber party and another girl dies. She returns to town six years later and more supernatural killings occur, but this time she fights back.
(Lionsgate, 2016; R for sex, language, violence; audio commentary, featurettes). A high school jock realizes the American dream after marrying a beauty queen and taking over his father's successful business. But in the late 1960s, his life spirals out of control after his teenage daughter is involved in an anti-war bombing that results in a death. Ewan McGregor makes his directing debut and co-stars with Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning in this adaptation of Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
(Universal, 2016; R for language, sex, nudity, violence; deleted scenes, featurettes). This is the true story of Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza (Miles Teller), a Rhode Island boxer who won a pair of world title fights, then had his spine severed in a near-fatal car accident. But a year later, he was back in the ring with help from trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart). Katey Sagal and Christine Evangelista co-star.
(Well Go, 2017, not rated/probable R for violence, featurettes). Here's an interesting pedigree: This is an English-language Canadian-produced martial-arts flick about a Chinese cop (Brian Ho) who is deep undercover in a ruthless gang. He's ready to get out so he can mend his marriage but feels some responsibility when the gang plots to kidnap the seemingly innocent daughter of a rival gang leader.
(Universal, 2016, R for sex and language, deleted scenes, bloopers). A 17-year-old high school senior (Hailee Steinfeld) who feels like an outcast tells her favorite teacher (Woody Harrelson) she's considering suicide, then, in flashbacks, we see the story of her problems with her mother, brother and other kids in school. Although the trailers for this film build it up as a teen comedy, it's actually a drama.
(IFC, 2015, R for sex and language, featurette, trailer). In the 1970s, a 15-year-old boy (Daniel Huttlestone) living in a London suburb who is a big fan of The Clash, unexpectedly meets the band's lead singer, Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and finds himself drawn into the city's burgeoning punk-rock scene.
(Broadgreen/Miramax, 2016; R for sex, language, nudity; deleted scenes, alternate opening and ending, featurettes, bloopers). Billy Bob Thornton returns as alcoholic thief Willie Soke for another sleazy holiday comedy, this time re-teaming with sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox) to rob a Chicago charity. Christina Hendricks, Kathy Bates and Octavia Spencer co-star.