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Meryl Streep's latest acting triumph is on Blu-ray and DVD this week

Posted December 19, 2016

Theo Taplitz, left, and Michael Barbieri star in "Little Me," now on DVD. (Deseret Photo)

Meryl Streep’s most recent acting triumph is the film “Florence Foster Jenkins,” now on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Florence Foster Jenkins” (Paramount, 2016, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes). The title character was a real person, a complicated New York socialite and heiress who founded the opera-supporting Verdi Club during World War II, and who fancied herself a singer but whose talent was less than inspiring. Her husband (Hugh Grant), a former actor, uses money and influence to get others to encourage her “talent,” including a young pianist (Simon Helberg), who is at first shocked, then gradually comes to understand and care for Florence.

To play her role, Streep — who is actually quite a good singer — had to learn to perform poorly, no mean feat. And she manages to give us a character that is at once hysterically inept and at the same time a sad figure whose life has turned out very different than she intended. The balancing of all this, in a comedy-drama that necessarily shifts its tone from time to time, is perfectly modulated by writer Nicholas Martin and director Stephen Frears. Also excellent are Grant (where’s he been?) and Helberg (of the TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”).

“Southside With You” (Lionsgate, 2016, PG-13, audio commentary, artwork/animation). This gentle, sweet-natured romantic drama depicts Barak Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date in 1989. It's an offbeat actor’s piece, to be sure, given how well we know the characters, but Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter are up to the task.

“Little Men” (Magnolia, 2016, PG, featurettes, trailer). A 13-year-old boy’s grandfather dies and he moves with his family to a two-story Brooklyn home they’ve inherited. There, he befriends a boy whose mother rents the downstairs for a dress shop. But tension builds between the adults when it’s discovered that the rent being charged is well below market value. This is a quiet drama of childhood friendship interrupted by intrusions from the adult world. Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle and Alfred Molina co-star.

“Suicide Squad” (DC/Warner, 2016, PG-13/unrated, two versions of the film, featurettes, bloopers). An intelligence officer (Viola Davis) assembles Task Force X, made up of dangerous imprisoned criminals, to be used as disposable assets in high-risk missions. Although vilified by critics, this one is among the year’s top 10 box-office hits. The stars include Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Adam Beach and Scott Eastwood (son of Clint). This is DC Comics follow-up to “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

“Ben-Hur” (Paramount/MGM, 2016, PG-13, deleted/extended scenes, featurettes, music videos). During the time of Christ, Jewish nobleman Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and his adopted Roman brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) are best pals until Ben-Hur is betrayed and made a slave. After a sheik (Morgan Freeman) trains him to be a chariot racer, an opportunity for revenge arises (along with a great deal of CGI). This is a terrible reinvention of the tale familiar from the beloved 1959 Oscar-winner and is one of the year’s biggest box-office flops.

“Equity” (Sony Classics, 2016, R for language, featurettes). An investment broker (Anna Gunn) rises to the top of her profession in a male-centric, very competitive Wall Street firm. But when she strives to take a controversial tech company public, she finds herself in a tenuous position as everyone around her has a greedy or power-hungry agenda. This film has strong performances and tense direction (from Meera Menon).

“Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story” (Cinedigm, 2016, not rated/probable PG-13, featurette). This straight-to-video Western stars Trace Adkins as a former stagecoach robber now living the retired life with a pregnant wife. But his past comes calling in the form of a wild-eyed marshal (Kim Coates) who was maimed by Adkins during one of his robberies. Judd Nelson co-stars.

“Brother Nature” (Paramount, 2016, R for sex and drugs). “Saturday Night Live” vets Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan and Kenan Thompson star in this outdoors farce about a straight-arrow politician who meets his eccentric future in-laws at their lake house. As is often the case when “SNL” cast members head to the big screen, this feels like a mediocre skit stretched out to feature length.

“End of a Gun” (Lionsgate, 2016; R for violence, language, sex). Steven Seagal’s latest has him playing an ex-DEA agent who rescues a damsel in distress, agrees to help her steal drug money and then finds himself pursued by bad guys. Seagal is especially sleepy in this one.

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 hicks@deseretnews.com.

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