DVD reviews: 'The Normal Heart,' 'Blended' and 'Belle'
“The Normal Heart” (2014, NR, 132 min., $19.97) Along with the documentary “How to Survive a Plague” and the award-winning “Dallas Buyers Club,” HBO's “The Normal Heart” is another important film recently made about the chaotic early days of the AIDS epidemic. The drama, directed by Ryan Murphy, is based on Larry Kramer's 1985 play of the same name. Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) is an openly gay writer living in New York in 1981. Weeks discovers that a number of gay men are dying from a strange disease. As friends start succumbing, Weeks tries to do something about it, working with a passionate doctor (Julia Roberts) and a group of gay men looking to raise funds for research and treatment, as well as publicizing the situation. The film is an emotional ride and doesn't hold back in its honest portrait of the early days of AIDS. It also holds top-notch performances from Carnegie Mellon grad Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Ruffalo and Roberts. It's no wonder it was nominated for 16 Emmys. Blu-ray and standard DVD packages only carry a behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with members of the cast and crew. 3 Stars.
“Blended” (2014, PG-13, 117 min., $29.98) Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore work well together. “Blended” is the third romantic comedy the two have teamed up on, and, sadly, it's not their best effort. While the script avoids a lot of the sophomoric humor viewers have come to expect from Sandler comedies, “Blended” is still plenty predictable. A low-key performance from Sandler and a charming showing from Barrymore give it some nice moments, but there's really nothing new here. “Blended” follows two single parents — Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) — who are looking for love. Their blind date goes horribly wrong, but they are pushed back together when they end up on the same trip to Africa. The vacation gives the single parents a chance to get to know each other better, and their kids. Soon enough, there's a spark. Directed by Frank Coraci, who also worked on “The Wedding Singer,” the film also stars Kevin Nealon and Terry Crews. There are a ton of special features available in Blu-ray packages, including several making-of featurettes and deleted scenes. Standard DVDs don't offer nearly as much. 2 Stars.
“Belle” (2014, PG, 104 min., $27.99) Although it's based around a famous painting and an important time in the history of Britain, “Belle,” directed by British filmmaker Amma Asante, is a work of fiction that tells a remarkable story. The period piece takes the viewer back in time with all of the proper settings and costumes of the late 1700s, while providing genuine storytelling that's highlighted by noteworthy performances from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Reid and Sarah Gadon. It's the story of Belle (Mbatha-Raw), a mixed-race child of a British Navy officer who is left in the hands of her uncle, Lord Mansfield (Wilkinson), an important British judge. Belle grows up at a posh estate, but she's barred from several things because of her mixed-race status. As she grows into womanhood, she begins to become aware of the tragedies dealt to blacks in Britain through slavery, and she's helped to her conclusions by a young lawyer hopeful (Reid) who wants to see the barbaric slave trade put to rest in Britain. Extras for Blu-ray and standard DVD packages include a few featurettes, including a making-of featurette and another that looks at the painting at the center of the film. 3 Stars.
“The Love Punch” (2013, PG-13, 94 min., $20.99) Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Spall star in a romantic caper about a divorced couple set on getting their pensions back after they're stolen by a crooked businessman. Set in France, the movie sees the couple reuniting and finding love again, as they go after their lost funds.
“Trust Me” (2013, R, 90 min., $22.99) Talented character actor Clark Gregg wrote, directed and stars in “Trust Me,” a dark comedy about a former child actor turned agent who has to do everything in his power to land his new client a part in a huge movie franchise. Felicity Huffman, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney and William H. Macy also star.
“The Stream” (2013, PG, 82 min., $14.93) Set in 1981, this coming-of-age comedy has a group of “Star Wars”-loving friends navigating their way down a nearby stream to the town's mall to purchase a new bat before their parents realize they are gone. The picture stars Mario Lopez, Rainn Wilson, Christopher Gorham and Kelly Rutherford.
“Revelation Trail” (2013, R, 108 min., $19.98) Just when you thought the zombie craze had finally died off, director John P. Gibson went and combined the walking dead with the western genre. “Revelation Trail” has a man named Preacher (Daniel Van Thomas) trying to save the American Frontier from the undead.
“Sanctuary: Quite a Conundrum” (2012, NR, 82 min., $14.98) Thomas L. Phillips wrote and directed “Sanctuary,” a horror film about a suburban pool party that begins with a neighbor's suicide and goes south from there. What was supposed to be a fun time turns into a nightmare for all involved in Phillips' directorial debut.
TV on DVD
“The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season” (five discs, 16 episodes, $69.98)
“Portlandia: Season Four” (two discs, 10 episodes, $19.98)
“Sons of Anarchy: Season Six” (five discs, 13 episodes, $59.98)
“Deadbeat: Season One” (one disc, 10 episodes, $19.98)
“Elementary: The Second Season” (six discs, 24 episodes, $64.99)
“Criminal Minds: The Ninth Season” (six discs, 24 episodes, $64.99)
“Haven: The Complete Fourth Season” (four discs, 13 episodes, $39.98)
“Now and Again: The DVD Collection” (five discs, 22 episodes, $42.99)
“The Good Wife: The Fifth Season” (six discs, 22 episodes, $64.99)
“NCIS: The Eleventh Season” (six discs, 24 episodes, $64.99)
“NCIS: Los Angeles: The Fifth Season” (six discs, 24 episodes, $64.99)
“75 Years of WWII” (two discs, 330 min., $14.98)