'Secret Life of Pets,' 'Jason Bourne' on Blu-ray, DVD this week
Posted December 9, 2016
“The Secret Life of Pets,” No. 3 on the year’s box-office list, is on Blu-ray and DVD this week, as is another big hit, “Jason Bourne.”
“The Secret Life of Pets” (Universal, 2016, PG, three mini-movies, featurettes, trailers). The “Despicable Me” folks are behind this animated comedy about how our pets act when we’re not around. Terrier Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is happy with his owner (Ellie Kemper) until she brings home a large, overbearing mutt (Eric Stonestreet). When they are lost in Manhattan, the dogs encounter a decidedly unstable bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart). The usual unnecessary vulgarisms show up, but mostly this is an inventive, amusing farce. Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey and Albert Brooks also provide voices.
“Jason Bourne” (Universal, 2016, PG-13, featurettes). For the fifth film in the franchise, Matt Damon is back as Robert Ludlum’s amnesiac spy who’s trying to live under the radar but is, of course, pulled back into action by the CIA. It’s tempting to say this is just more of the same as Bourne navigates familiar territory and doesn’t know who to trust, but Damon definitely owns this role and it’s nice to have him back. Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander and Julia Stiles co-star. (A new Blu-ray set, “The Bourne Ultimate Collection” includes all five movies.)
“The Great Gilly Hopkins” (Lionsgate, 2016, PG, featurette). Sophie Nélisse delivers a heartfelt performance as a troubled teen bounced between foster homes as she aches for attention from her absent, self-absorbed mother (Julia Stiles). An angry troublemaker, the girl is softened by the extraordinary patience of her latest foster mother (Kathy Bates) and a schoolteacher (Octavia Spencer). It's nothing new, but the terrific cast and warm, quirky characters make it worth your while. Glenn Close co-stars.
“The Hollars” (Sony Classics, 2016, PG-13, audio commentary, featurettes). John Krasinski (who also directed) is a failed cartoonist with a pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) who returns home when his mother (Margo Martindale) is diagnosed with a brain tumor. It's a contrived soap opera that cannot rise above artifice with plot twists and characters that never seem the least bit real. The appealing cast helps, with Martindale as a notable standout.
“I Am Bolt” (Universal, 2016, PG, featurette). Coming on the heels of his remarkable performance at the Rio Olympics, this biographical documentary of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (thought to be the world’s fastest runner) is a puff piece to be sure, but there’s no question that it will appeal to its target audience, namely Bolt’s huge fan base.
“Call of Heroes” (Well Go, 2016, not rated/PG-13, in Cantonese with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). Action fans will appreciate this reworking of the classic Western “Rio Bravo,” a return to non-CGI, old-school martial arts (choreographed by Sammo Hung) as a village in 1914 China braces itself for an invasion following the arrest of the bloodthirsty son of a powerful general.
“In Order of Disappearance” (Magnet, 2016, R for violence and language, in Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles, featurettes, trailer). A Norwegian snowplow driver learns his son is dead, ostensibly of a drug overdose. But when the distraught dad learns that his son has actually been murdered and the police have dropped the case, he heads out, “Death Wish”-style, to exact revenge. This exciting, dark-comic thriller owes something to the Coen brothers and “Fargo” in particular.
“If There’s a Hell Below” (Dark Sky, 2016, not rated/probable R for language, alternate ending, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). An ambitious young journalist (Conner Marx) at a small, independent newspaper meets with someone who claims to be a whistleblower (Carol Roscoe) in a remote rural area of the Northwest. But is she what she claims to be or is she merely paranoid? This deliberately paced film with a level of ambiguity quietly ratchets up tension.
“Don’t Think Twice” (Universal, 2016, R for language and drugs, deleted scenes, featurettes). Stand-up comic Mike Birbiglia wrote, directed and stars in this backstage showbiz comedy-drama about a six-member improv comedy team in New York hoping for a chance at the big time. But jealousies divide them when one member (Keegan-Michael Key) earns a spot on a “Saturday Night Live”-type TV show. Ben Stiller and Lena Dunham have guest cameos.
“Knucklehead” (RLJ, 2016, not rated/probable R for language). Gbenga Akinnagbe (HBO’s “The Wire”) is convincing as a mentally handicapped young man determined to become “mentally excellent” through a dicey drug cocktail so he can live a normal life with his girlfriend (who may or may not be real). But his life in the Brooklyn projects works against him. In an atypical role, Alfre Woodard plays his abusive mother.
“Kicks” (Universal, 2016; R for violence, drugs, language, sex; featurette, photo gallery). Brandon (well-played by Jahking Guillory), a struggling, introverted 15-year-old in the Bay Area ’hood, saves up to buy a pair of sneakers to boost his self-esteem, but they are quickly stolen by a local thug. So Brandon and his buddies set out to retrieve them. But as he gets in way over his head, how far will he go?
“Author: The JT LeRoy Story” (Sony, 2016; R for language, sex, drugs). This is a documentary about JT LeRoy, a writer celebrated as a literary sensation for stories about his abusive childhood and life on the streets, but eventually revealed as a fictional creation of author Laura Albert, who had even conducted phone interviews as LeRoy.
“Eliminators” (Universal, 2016, R for violence and language, featurettes). After his London home is mistakenly invaded, a former federal agent (Scott Adkins) in witness protection is outed by the publicity, sending an army of European assassins after him.
“Dead Rising: Endgame” (Sony, 2016, not rated/probable R for violence and language, featurettes). This zombie-horror sequel (to “Dead Rising: Watchtower”) stars Jesse Metcalfe, Keegan Connor Tracy and Dennis Haysbert returning as the truth behind the zombie quarantine is revealed.
“The Unspoken” (Anchor Bay, 2016, not rated/probable R for violence). A widowed mother moves into a remote house with her young son and hires a local teenage girl to babysit. Spooky stuff starts happening after it’s revealed that a family of four disappeared from the home 17 years earlier.
“Never Open the Door” (Maltauro, 2016; not rated/probable R for violence, nudity, language, b/w, featurettes, photo gallery, trailer). This is a short, black-and-white horror feature (64 minutes) about six unpleasant friends dining in a remote cabin in the woods. When a bloodied stranger shows up, he apparently passes on some sort of demonic possession. As hinted at by the “Twilight Zone”-ish opening credits, there’s a twist ending.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.