DVD reviews: 'All is Lost,' 'Ender's Game' and 'The Armstrong Lie'
“All is Lost” (2013, PG-13, 106 min., $26.98) Robert Redford turned in one of the bravest performances of 2013. At 77, Redford took to the seas for a thrilling tale of survival from the talented J.C. Chandor, who wrote and directed “All is Lost.” It's arguably Redford's greatest performance in a career that's included films like “The Sting,” “Jeremiah Johnson,” “All the President's Men” and “The Natural” to name a few. It's a true oversight that he wasn't nominated for an Academy Award. Redford plays a lone sailor whose boat collides with a large shipping container, ripping a hole in the hull. The sailor works to patch the hole, but he's lost a lot of his equipment in the cabin. Just as he begins to get his bearings, a large storm rolls in, posing an even greater threat to his survival. The teaming of Chandor and Redford gives viewers an edge-of-your-seat thriller that stands as one of the best films of 2013. A hefty collection of special features — exploring every aspect of the film — are available inside standard DVD and Blu-ray packages. 4 Stars.
“Ender's Game” (2013, PG-13, 114 min., $29.95) Adapted from the hugely popular science-fiction novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card, “Ender's Game” is a solid picture that offers a compelling futuristic storyline. Nice performances from Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and an underused Hailee Steinfeld also help in a feature that stays loyal to the book. “Ender's Game” was built to be the first in a franchise, but due to average returns, the future is uncertain. Possibly many viewers expected another lousy kiddie film, but “Ender's Game” is a smart picture that stands as a pleasant surprise. Ender Wiggins (Butterfield) is the protagonist here, and he's predicted to become the next great fleet commander. Earth is at odds with an alien race called the Formics, and the military is training the best children to lead the way. Ender is quickly moved up by a high-ranking colonel (Ford), and he's put through rigorous training before he's ready to stem the alien attack. A full set of extras can be found on standard DVD and Blu-ray. The best of the bunch is an eight-part featurette that explores every step in the making of “Ender's Game.” Commentary and deleted scenes are also available. 3 Stars.
“The Armstrong Lie” (2013, R, 122 min., $30.99) Another telling of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong's story seems like such a bore, but this one features an interesting framed narrative. Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney was ready to put together a documentary on Armstrong's comeback to the Tour de France after a four-year retirement, but the project hit the skids when the cyclist finally admitted he'd been using performance enhancers all these years. The documentarian was taken aback, feeling hoodwinked himself, so he changed gears on his documentary. Most of his feelings are here in “The Armstrong Lie,” as well as a comprehensive telling of Armstrong's career from hero to goat. Weaving together several honest interviews with Armstrong, his detractors and supporters, with clips of the cyclist berating media types and former teammates while living a lie on the way to the top of his sport, the intriguing documentary answers plenty of questions. Extras are OK, and they're included on standard DVD and Blu-ray. Gibney commentary is available, along with a few deleted scenes and a Q&A with the director and some of the personalities from the documentary. 3 Stars.
“The Counselor” (2013, R, 117 min., $29.98) Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz star in Ridley Scott's film about a dirty lawyer who finds himself in trouble after getting mixed up in a dangerous drug deal.
“Diana” (2013, PG-13, 113 min., $24.98) Director Oliver Hirschbiegel's movie takes a detailed look at the late Princess Diana's (Naomi Watts) secret affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) over the last two years of her life.
“Wadjda” (2012, PG, 98 min., $40.99) Females riding bicycles is something that's frowned upon in Saudi Arabian society, but that doesn't stop a young girl from trying in this charming flick from Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker.
“Mike Tyson: Undisputed Proof” (2013, NR, 90 min., $14.98) Former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson teams with filmmaker Spike Lee for this one-man stage show shot live in New York City. Tyson recounts the highs and lows of his controversial life.
“Cutie and the Boxer” (2013, R, 82 min., $24.98) An Academy Award nominee for best documentary, director Zachary Heinzerling's picture follows a unique and lasting relationship — set in New York City — between two very interesting artists.
“The Best Man Holiday” (2013, R, 123 min., $29.98) A solid ensemble cast, including Terrence Howard, Nia Long, Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut, stars in this romantic comedy — a sequel to 1999's “The Best Man” — about a group of college friends getting together after a long time apart.
“On the Job” (2013, NR, 121 min., $24.98) A thriller from the Philippines, this one follows the investigation of a murder not easily solved. That is because inmates are being temporarily released from jail to do contract killings for the rich and powerful.
“Austenland” (2013, PG-13, 97 min., $30.99) Based on the novel of the same name from Shannon Hale, director Jerusha Hess' picture has a Jane Austen fan (Keri Russell) heading to a theme park inspired by her favorite author to find her ideal man.
“How I Live Now” (2013, R, 101 min., $26.98) Saoirse Ronan stars in director Kevin Macdonald's pic about an American teen spending time with relatives in the English countryside. When war breaks out in Europe, she's thrust into a fight for survival.
“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” (2013, NR, 88 min., $29.95) A winner at Sundance for best documentary in 2013, this powerful film tells the story of a Russian female band that staged a protest against President Vladimir Putin and the church.
“Grace Unplugged” (2013, PG, 100 min., $19.98) A teen struggling with life runs away to pursue her musical dreams. As her father prays for her, she must decide if she wants to stick it out or return to her family. AJ Michalka and James Denton star.
“Haunter” (2013, NR, 97 min., $24.98) Vincenzo Natali directs this supernatural tale about a young girl (Abigail Breslin) who comes to the realization that she's a ghost. She goes about helping others survive the same fate handed her and her family.
“Life of a King” (2013, PG-13, 100 min., $19.99) Cuba Gooding Jr. and Dennis Haysbert star in a film about a former con who gets kids off the street to play chess. Through the game, the kids learn life lessons and realize they can have bright futures.
“22 Bullets” (2010, NR, 117 min., $29.95) Action star Jean Reno stands out in a thriller about a retired mafia figure who's retired from a life of crime to spend time with his family. That is until he's shot in an underground parking garage and left for dead.
“Reaching for the Moon” (2013, NR, 118 min., $24.95) Director Bruno Baretto's film focuses on the story of poet Elizabeth Bishop, who begins a relationship with a female architect. The movie is based on the novel “Rare and Commonplace Flowers.”
“Masquerade” (2012, NR, 131 min., $19.98) Set in the royal palace of Korea's Joseon Dynasty, this film follows the body double of a tyrannical king. When the ruler falls ill, Ha-seon (Byung-hun Lee) is forced to pull off history's greatest masquerade.
“Jewtopia” (2012, NR, 90 min., $26.95) Based on the popular play of the same name, the romantic comedy follows a young man who pretends to be Jewish to impress a beautiful woman. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Ivan Sergei star in leading roles.
“The Summit” (2012, R, 95 min., $24.98) Set in the summer of 2008, “The Summit” tracks 22 mountain climbers trying to reach the top of K2, the second highest mountain in the world. A short time later, 11 had died, leaving many to question the sport.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“The Jungle Book” (Phil Harris and Louis Prima, 1967, G, 78 min., $38.99)
TV ON DVD
“The Americans: The Complete First Season” (three discs, 13 episodes, $49.98)
“Farscape: The Complete Season Two” (six discs, 22 episodes, $39.95)
“Dallas: The Complete Second Season” (four discs, 15 episodes, $39.98)
“Swamp People: Season 4” (six discs, 22 episodes, $24.98)
“Regular Show: Mordecai and Margaret Pack” (one disc, 16 episodes, $19.82)
“Yukon Men: Season 1” (two discs, nine episodes, $29.93)
“Off the Hook: Extreme Catches” (one disc, 10 episodes, $29.93)
“League of Super Evil: Season 1, Volumes 1 and 2” (two discs each, 13 episodes each, $19.95)