'The Force Awakens' is on Blu-ray and DVD this week
Posted April 10
Last year’s biggest blockbuster has arrived this week on Blu-ray and DVD.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Lucasfilm/Disney, 2015, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes). We all know the drill by now, right? This new Star Wars film is basically a rehash — if not a note-by-note replica — of the original 1977 “Star Wars” (if “original” is the word, considering all the earlier sci-fi pictures to which that film owes a few debts).
But who cares? It’s the journey, as they say, and filmmaker J.J. Abrams has given us all the humor and heart and compelling new characters we could ask for as the movie keeps us wildly entertained for two-and-a-quarter hours.
Going in, I didn’t realize how much screen time Harrison Ford would get, but it turns out that he gets a lot. In fact, it’s fair to say his turn as an aging Han Solo is basically the film’s anchor. But that’s not to disparage Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and all the rest — including BB-8. Everyone is top flight, and all have plenty of business to keep them — and us — busy.
As for the bonus features, the featurettes are interesting, covering the making of the movie, including the famous first-time “table read,” along with a look at the special effects, John Williams and his thrilling score, and most everything else you could ask for.
And for four minutes, you can watch six deleted scenes (a seventh is available on the digital download), which is what most fans are after. None is anything special, but none seems intrusive either, and all would have been fine in the film. (There are probably more that will be revealed when they try to sell us a new “Special Edition” Blu-ray around Christmas.)
“The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music” (Lionsgate, 2016, not rated, featurettes, trailers). This is a dramatization of the von Trapps before and after the events of “The Sound of Music.” The focus here is on the eldest daughter, Agathe von Trapp (portrayed as Liesl in the 1965 film), who pursued a musical career in the United States. It is advertised as a more accurate portrayal of the true story than Rodgers and Hammerstein’s. Stars include Eliza Bennett, Matthew Macfadyen and Rosemary Harris.
“Twinkle Toes Lights Up New York” (Cinedigm, 2016, not rated, five mini-movies). Fourteen-year-old Twinkle Toes is given an opportunity to leave the suburbs and join a Broadway show in this animated feature (71 minutes). For the uninitiated, Twinkle Toes is the name given to the cartoon girl that has been the face of the Skechers footwear brand. This film had a brief limited theatrical run and is a sequel to the straight-to-video “Twinkle Toes: The Movie” (2012).
“Mutual Friends” (MVD, 2014, not rated, deleted scenes, featurettes). This is a low-budget ensemble romantic comedy-drama about a newly engaged woman who throws a birthday party for her fiance but later regrets letting his friends invite some of the guests — specifically the fiance’s ex. It portrays overly familiar romantic entanglements of New Yorkers and is cast with young up-and-comers, including Caitlin FitzGerald, Michael Chernus, Cheyenne Jackson and Peter Scanavino.
“Mojave” (Lionsgate, 2016, R for language and violence, deleted scenes, featurette, trailers). An angst-filled celebrity filmmaker (Garrett Hedlund) heads out to the desert to wallow in self-pity or drink himself to death. After crashing his jeep, he comes across a rifle-wielding, well-spoken drifter (Oscar Isaac), and both reveal themselves to be psychopaths as a series of cat-and-mouse games begins in the desert and continues into Los Angeles. It aspires to Alfred Hitchcock but can’t even muster up Brian De Palma. Isaac, however, continues to fascinate; he’s quickly becoming the Al Pacino of his generation. Co-stars include Walton Goggins and unbilled Mark Wahlberg.
“Identicals” (Sony, 2016; R for language, violence, drugs, sex; featurettes). Sci-fi thriller about a company called Brand New-U that helps customers “upgrade” their lives by replacing them with other people’s lives, but at a cost, of course. The film emphasizes style over substance and owes more than a little to everything from “Seconds” to “Self/less.”
“Confession of a Child of the Century” (Cohen, 2012, not rated, featurette, trailer). This English-language French film is set in 1830 and is about a man who is betrayed by his mistress. This leads to a duel in which he is shot but not killed. Soon, he heads for the countryside, where he falls for a widow who is a decade older. This acting turn by Pete Doherty, better known as the frontman of the band the Libertines, suggests he should stick to music. Charlotte Gainsbourg co-stars.
“Riot” (Universal, 2016, not rated). A cop (Matthew Reese) with a personal vendetta orchestrates a bank robbery so he will be thrown into prison with a Russian kingpin (Chuck Liddell) who’s running a crime syndicate from his lavishly equipped cell. Dolph Lundgren co-stars.
“Dixieland” (IFC, 2015, not rated, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). An ex-con (Chris Zylka) tries to go straight, despite drug-dealing pals, and falls for the girl next door (Riley Keough), who is dancing in a club to support her cancer-stricken mother. Naturally, crime seems like the solution to their problems. It isn’t. Steve Earle and Faith Hill are among the co-stars.
“Stealing Cars” (Sony, 2015, R for language and drugs). Another unpleasant movie about unpleasant people, this one has a young hood (Emory Cohen) stealing a car and landing in a youth facility where he interacts with inmates and staff, all of whom are equally punishing. Co-stars include Mike Epps, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy.
“Veteran” (CJ, 2016, not rated, in Korean with English subtitles or dubbed English). This action-packed Korean thriller (laced with comedy) follows an honest cop who strays from the straight line after his superiors let an entitled, psychotic rich kid use money and power to slide on a murder charge.
“Payback” (Lionsgate, 2016; R for violence, sex, language; in Mandarin with English subtitles or English dubbed, trailers). A Chinese thriller nearly devoid of action, this revenge yarn follows a cabbie who wants revenge for the deaths of his wife and daughter. He reluctantly joins forces with the son of a mob boss who’s trying to go straight after becoming the fall guy for his brother’s crimes.
“The Great Hypnotist” (Well Go, 2016, not rated, in Mandarin with English subtitles). A celebrated hypnotherapist takes on a patient that has stumped his colleagues, a young woman claiming to have psychic powers. But after a series of ethereal visions, she turns the tables on him. This offbeat Hong Kong supernatural thriller owes something to “The Sixth Sense” but is ultimately yet another example of style over substance.
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.