DVD reviews: 'Captain Phillips,' 'Blue Jasmine' and 'Machete Kills'
“Captain Phillips” (2013, PG-13, 134 min., $30.99) Based on an incident that unfolded in 2009 off the coast of Somalia, “Captain Phillips” is a well-done thriller strengthened by noteworthy performances from veteran actor Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi. Directed by Paul Greengrass, it's picked up multiple Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. While the performances highlight “Captain Phillips,” it's the intense and intelligent storytelling that will hook viewers. The feature follows Phillips (Hanks), the captain of a large cargo ship that's set to go around the Horn of Africa. Due to the threat of Somali pirates, the nervous captain orders extra security precautions during the voyage. Eventually, though, the ship is boarded by a small group of pirates — guided by a hardened leader named Muse (Abdi) — and they take over. When the crew fights back, the pirates exit the ship on a rescue boat, and they take Phillips hostage. It leads to a heightened showdown between the U.S. Navy and a few pirates looking for their payday. A three-part making-of featurette is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD, along with commentary from Greengrass. 3 Stars.
“Blue Jasmine” (2013, PG-13, 98 min., $30.99) Woody Allen is usually good for one movie a year, and the filmmaker needed something good to bounce back from 2012's lackluster “To Rome With Love.” Holding a remarkable performance from Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine” is that movie. The Australian actress already landed a Golden Globe for her part, and she's a frontrunner for an Oscar. She gets support here from a solid supporting cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay. Blanchett portrays a woman who's been dealt a tough break, as she was married to a swindling adulterer. Hal (Baldwin) is a slick businessman who stole money from several people in order to provide a lavish lifestyle for Jasmine. When he went to jail for his crimes, the government took everything. Jasmine, still dealing with a nervous breakdown, is forced to go live with her sister (Hawkins) in a small apartment, while picking up a menial job. This is a superb dramedy that Allen has penned, and it gives the viewer detailed insight into a woman who's failing miserably at picking up the pieces. Extras a re limited, but there are some good interviews with cast members. 3 Stars.
“Machete Kills” (2013, R, 107 min., $29.98) What started out as a faux trailer prior to the 2007 “Grindhouse” double bill has now grown into two movies with another on the way. “Machete Kills” followed “Machete,” which came out in 2010, providing a B-movie feel in a film about an ex-federale (Danny Trejo) who seeks vengeance on a former boss. This time out, that ex-federale — named Machete — is asked by the United States to stop a crazy man (Demian Bichir) who has a rocket pointed at D.C. The adventure takes Machete to Acapulco, before heading back across the border. On the way, he faces a gang of murderous hookers, a hit man and plenty of other tough customers. His toughest test comes against a weapons magnate (Mel Gibson), who wants to destroy the world. While “Machete” was fun in parts, “Machete Kills” is more of the same stuff, and that includes plenty of violence, purposely poor dialogue and nudity. Director Robert Rodriguez does his best to amp up the camp, but this one falls flat in an overt attempt to put Machete in as many impossible situations as possible. A making-of featurette is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD, along with deleted scenes. 1.5 Stars.
“In a World …” (2013, R, 93 min., $30.99) Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars in this under-the-radar indie that won over plenty of critics during its festival run. Bell plays Carol, a vocal coach who finds herself in direct competition with her father (Fred Melamed) after landing a break in the world of movie-trailer voiceovers. He's the undisputed king of the business.
“American Masters: Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love” (2013, NR, 85 min., $24.99) PBS does a masterful job of capturing the life of former Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conductor Marvin Hamlisch in a documentary that first ran on TV. The movie also explores the composer's work with film, as he picked up Oscars for music from “The Sting” and “The Way We Were.”
“Charlie Countryman” (2013, R, 108 min., $24.99) Shia LaBeouf assumes the lead role in this thriller from Fredrik Bond about a man who jumps on a plane to Bucharest after receiving a vision from his late mother. In the process, he falls hard for a young woman (Evan Rachel Wood) on the plane. The relationship leads him down a dark and dangerous world.
“Blue Caprice” (2013, R, 94 min., $24.98) Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond deliver knockout performances in a riveting drama that covers the Beltway sniper attacks from 2002. While other movies on the shootings focused on the subject as a whole, director Alexandre Moors takes a close look at the relationship between Lee Malvo and Allen Muhammad.
“Best Man Down” (2013, PG-13, 90 min., $26.98) Justin Long, Tyler Labine and Jess Weixler star in a comedy about a couple that's forced to cancel their honeymoon when the best man dies at their destination wedding in Phoenix. Scott (Long) and Kristin (Weixler) head home to plan the funeral of their friend, which turns out to be an experience full of surprises.
“How to Make Money from Selling Drugs” (2012, NR, 96 min., $26.95) By title alone, this documentary from Matthew Cooke should garner any number of views. The fascinating film packs in plenty of interviews, including with those dealing, and the folks trying to shut them down. A number of celebrities, including Susan Sarandon and Rick Ross, also have their say.
“Freezer” (2014, R, 82 min., $24.98) Dylan McDermott and Peter Facinelli star in director Mikael Solomon's film about a New York City mechanic who's the victim of mistaken identity. Knocked out at his own birthday, the man finds himself locked in a freezer. The Russian mob stands on the other side of the door, and time is running out in this twisty thriller.
“Bad Milo!” (2013, R, 84 min., $26.98) Ken Marino and Pittsburgh native Gillian Jacobs star in lead roles in this dark comedy that revolves around stress. Duncan's a worrier, and it leads him to severe gastrointestinal problems. Looking for relief, the man turns to a hypnotherapist who helps him realize that his pain is the result of a tiny demon with a deadly appetite.
“The Prey” (2011, R, 105 min., $24.98) An import from France, this thriller from filmmaker Eric Valette follows a criminal who must break out of jail. Franck's (Albert Dupontel) former cellmate promises to look after his family, but when he finds out the bunkmate is a serial killer, and his family could be his next victims, he must bust out to save the ones he loves.
“Instructions Not Included” (2013, PG-13, 122 min., $19.98) A confirmed bachelor named Valentin (Andres Vazquez) has his life take a sudden turn when a former girlfriend drops off a baby girl on his doorstep. Valentin hits the road to L.A. to find the woman, but, in the process, decides to raise the baby. He also becomes one of Hollywood's top stuntmen.
“Gasland, Part II” (2013, NR, 125 min., $29.95) Josh Fox follows up his Oscar-nominated documentary from 2010 with this sequel that again takes a look at the dangers of drilling for natural gas. It's a film that has local interest, as Pennsylvania is a hotbed for natural gas. The documentary provides details the process of fracking, method of extracting natural gas.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“Pride and Prejudice: Keepsake Edition” (Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, 1995, NR, 232 min., $29.99)
TV ON DVD
“The Returned” (three discs, eight parts, $29.95)
“Comedy Bang! Bang!: Season 1” (two discs, 10 episodes, $29.98)