DVD Reviews: ‘Maleficent,’ ‘A Most Wanted Man’ and ‘The Sopranos: The Complete Series’
“Maleficent” (2014, PG, 97 min., $29.99) One of the most-anticipated films of the year was “Maleficent,” a re-imagining of Disney’s 1959 classic “Sleeping Beauty.” In this dark version, viewers get another take on the evil fairy from filmmaker Robert Stromberg. The movie follows Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) from her youth, as she was once a beautiful fairy responsible for protecting the magical realm in which she lives. When she meets a human named Stefan (Sharlto Copley), she falls in love. Unfortunately, Stefan has a goal to become a king, and crosses Maleficent is his way to the throne. When Stefan has his first daughter, Maleficent re-emerges to curse that daughter (Elle Fanning), but the fairy’s heart can only stay dark for so long, as she takes a liking to the princess. A stunning Jolie performance and dazzling special effects lift “Maleficent” to greater heights, and make up for a story that doesn’t take many chances. Blu-ray packages are loaded with specular features, including a series of making-of featurettes that explore the film’s production. Standard DVD sets are relatively light on special features. 2.5 stars
“A Most Wanted Man” (2014, R, 122 min., $26.98) Anton Corbijn is mostly known for directing music videos, but he’s become quite a filmmaker with titles such as “Control,” “The American” and now, the spy thriller “A Most Wanted Man.” Adapted from John Le Carre’s 2008 novel of the same name, this is a tense, well-paced picture that’s exciting to the final turn. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe deserve notice for performances that strengthen this intelligent thriller. Hoffman is Gunther, a German intelligence agent responsible for slowing terrorists in their tracks. When a possible threat arrives in Hamburg, Gunther is faced with the task of finding out if the man is a problem or an innocent looking for refuge. As Gunther’s investigation unfolds, he deals with increased pressures from international agencies and a limited number of sources. Against the clock, Gunther and his agents set about solving the mystery before it’s too late. Standard DVD and Blu-ray packages carry a couple of good featurettes. A making-of featurette gives viewers plenty of insight, while another featurette follows Le Carre on set. 3 stars
“The Sopranos: The Complete Series on Blu-ray” (28 discs, 86 episodes, $279.98) Considered by many as the best TV drama of all time, “The Sopranos” has found its way to Blu-ray. The HBO series ran from 1999 through 2007, and garnered plenty of praise in its portrayal of a New Jersey mobster dealing with problems stemming from his criminal organization and his family. While the criminal enterprise was an interesting backdrop for the character of Tony Soprano, it was his relationship with his wife, kids and other relatives that made David Chase’s series so addicting. Performances from James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, Dominic Chianese and Michael Imperioli along with solid writing made it one of TV’s best dramas. This new Blu-ray release from HBO includes all 86 episodes on 28 discs, and the HD is definitely worth it. The box set houses terrific special features and a free digital HD copy of each episode. There are over five hours of bonus content — interviews with cast and crew, making-of documentaries and commentary. 4 stars
“The One I Love” (2014, R, 91 min., $24.98) Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass carry the lead roles in one of the most-talked about indies of the year. Director Charlie McDowell’s romantic dramedy follows a husband and wife struggling with issues in their marriage. They try to turn it around with a weekend getaway, but the trip brings an unexpected discovery.
“Hercules” (2014, PG-13, 98 min., $29.99) The latest actor to play Hercules is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the beefy lead man has his work cut out for him in director Brett Ratner’s action picture that has the Greek demigod leading his warrior clan against a warlord with a powerful army. Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes and Rufus Sewell also star.
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” (2014, PG, 83 min., $29.99) Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, Dane Cook and Julie Bowen lend their voices to this sequel to the 2013 animated hit. The film has Dusty — the lead plane in the first film — taking on a whole new career path when his damaged engine takes him out of the racing game. Dusty moves on to join a fire-and-rescue unit.
“Land Ho!” (2014, R, 95 min., $40.99) Independent filmmakers Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens wrote and directed this charming adventure comedy about two former brothers-in-law who embark on a quirky road trip through Iceland. The gentlemen are attempting to get their groove back with this adventurous trek. Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson star.
“The Dog” (2013, NR, 100 min., $24.99) Fans of the 1975 classic “Dog Day Afternoon” will find plenty to like about this wildly interesting documentary from Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren. The picture takes a look at the life of John Wojtowicz, the man who attempted to rob a Brooklyn bank in 1972. The act was the inspiration for “Dog Day Afternoon.”
“Frontera” (2014, PG-13, 103 min., $26.98) An honest husband and father named Miguel (Michael Pena) is wrongfully accused of killing the wife (Amy Madigan) of a former sheriff (Ed Harris) after crossing the border illegally. When his pregnant wife (Eva Longoria) sets out to help Miguel, she unfortunately lands in the corrupt hands of Mexican smugglers.
“Step Up All In” (2014, PG-13, 112 min., $29.95) The latest in the “Step Up” dance movie franchise comes from filmmaker Trish Sie. With Ryan Guzman, Misha Gabriel and Briana Evigan, it unfolds in Las Vegas, where competitors from the previous pics battle for victory in a competition that could propel each dancer to super stardom.
“The Taking of Deborah Logan” (2014, R, 90 min., $19.99) Michelle Ang, Jill Larson and Ryan Cutrona star in director Adam Robitel’s thriller about a medical student working with a woman stricken with Alzheimer’s for her thesis. As the student dives into her project, she realizes the woman she’s monitoring is sick with something worse than Alzheimer’s.
“Tru Love” (2013, NR, 94 min., $24.95) Shauna MacDonald and Kate Johnston wrote and directed this romantic drama about a woman named Tru who’s never been able to settle down. When she falls for an older woman named Alice, though, Tru is smitten. There’s concern that the younger Tru will move on, but this time, love might be in the equation.
“The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story” (2014, NR, 90 min., $14.98) A TV movie that originally aired on Lifetime, Jason Lapeyre’s pic takes a look behind the scenes at the popular Saturday-morning sitcom that grew to great popularity in the ’90s.
“Beneath” (2013, NR, 89 min., $24.98) Not a good movie for those who might be claustrophobic, director Ben Ketai’s “Beneath” follows a veteran coal miner and his daughter, along with a mining crew, that get trapped 600-feet below the earth after a collapse. Even worse than being trapped, the miners soon realize they might not be alone in their situation.
“The Christmas Gift” (1986, NR, 120 min., $14.99)
New on Blu-Ray
“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” (1964, NR, 47 min., $17.99)
TV on DVD
“Reno 911! The Complete Series” (14 discs, 88 episodes, $45.98)
“The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season” (three discs, nine episodes, $59.99)
“Impractical Jokers: The Complete Second Season” (three discs, 26 episodes, $24.98)
“Hot in Cleveland: Season Five” (three discs, 24 episodes, $29.98)
“Cartoon Network Holiday Collection DVD” (one disc, six episodes, $14.98)
“Little House on the Prairie: A Merry Ingalls Christmas” (one disc, two episodes, $9.98)
“Perry Mason Movie Collection: Double Features” (one disc each, two movies each, $16.99 each)