By AMY LONGSDORF
21st Century Media
At the beginning of the terrific “Veronica Mars” (2013, Warner, PG-13, $29), the former teen detective (Kristen Bell) has kicked her sleuthing habit. She’s changed coasts and re-invented herself as a New York City attorney.
But all it takes to get her back to Neptune, California, and the crime-solving game is a murder involving her ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring).
The first major studio movie funded via Kickstarter, “Veronica Mars” is predictably a feast for fans of the TV show. But even “Mars” newbies are likely to find this noir-inspired thriller smart and twisty enough to keep them riveted. Extras: deleted scenes and featurettes.
Also New This Week
The Art of the Steal (2014, Anchor Bay, R, $25) First the good news: Kurt Russell delivers a funny, vibrant performance as a retired art thief who agrees to get back in the game at the behest of his no-good half-brother (Matt Dillon). But here’s the bad news: the heists are confusing. Outside of the initial robbery, which is nail-bitingly suspenseful, the long cons don’t make much sense even after they’re explained. That said, the chemistry between Russell and his gang, particularly a very funny Jay Baruchel, keeps the film bouncing along. “Art of Steal” is no work of art but it gets the job done. Extras: featurettes and commentary by writer/director Jonathan Sobol.
The Selfish Giant (2014, IFC, unrated, $25) In the tradition of films by Ken Loach (“Kes”) and Belgium’s Dardenne Brothers (“The Kid With A Bike”) comes Clio Barnard’s devastating look at the friendship between two 13-year-old pals (Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas) in working-class Britain. The buddies are so desperate for cash that they routinely skip school in order to steal power cables which they sell off to the local scrap dealer (Sean Gilder). Devoid of mawkishness, the rich, emotionally resonant film gets every detail about the boys’ hardscrabble lives just right. “The Selfish Giant” packs quite an emotional wallop. Extras: featurettes.
Mr. Jones (2014, Anchor Bay, PG-13, $25) Karl Mueller’s incomprehensible horror movie might not be the world’s worst found-footage thriller but it comes close. Jon Foster plays a documentary filmmaker who, while living off-the-grid in the middle of nowhere, stumbles upon the home of a reclusive artist named Mr. Jones. Thinking he can make a buck at Mr. Jones’ expense, Foster and his girlfriend (Sarah Jones) begin exploring the hermit’s house. At this point, “Mr. Jones” becomes nonsensical as Foster seems to lose his ability to distinguish between illusion and reality. “Mr. Jones” is a real nightmare but not in the way Mueller intended. Extras: none.
Hot Guys With Guns (2013, Wolfe, unrated, $25) If a mixture of “The Thin Man” and “Queer As Folk” sounds intriguing to you, check out this lively romp about an actor (Marc Anthony Samuel) who turns private detective to help his ex-boyfriend (Brian McArdle) solve the mystery of “sex party bandits” preying on closeted Hollywood types. The banter between the ex-lovers is fun without being cutesy and the mystery is surprisingly well-constructed. Despite its unfortunate title, “Hot Guys” will keep you entertained. Extras: none.
Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (2014, Sony, unrated, $23) Mental illness is the subject of this involving anthology film which collects five shorts directed by a handful of actresses, including Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern and Ashley Judd. Brittany Snow appears in three of the segments as Lucy, a law student struggling with schizophrenia. The best vignette is Dern’s intense drama about a teenager (“Modern Family’s” Sarah Hyland) growing weary of caring for her bipolar mom (Melissa Leo). Extras: none.
The Big Red One (1980, Warner, R, $20) Samuel Fuller’s gripping, autobiographical World War II movie follows a handful of GIs as they battle their way from North Africa through Sicily, Omaha Beach, Belgium and, finally, to the death camps of Poland. A never-better Lee Marvin plays the hard-bitten sergeant whose squadron includes a quartet of veteran soldiers (Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, Bobby DiCicco, Kelly Ward). The new-to-Blu-ray film is far too episodic and the characters don’t deepen as the movie goes along but Fuller makes up for those flaws with a handful of images so haunting they’re impossible to shake for days afterwards. Extras: commentaries, featurettes and the 52-minute longer “Reconstruction” version.
Used Cars (1980, Twilight Time, R, $30) What a kick to see this screwball comedy about feuding car-lot owners on Blu-ray in a transfer that catches every bumper-bashing moment with remarkable clarity. Kurt Russell stars as a crooked car salesman who is determined to beat the competition (Jack Warden) even if he has to lie and cheat to do it. There’s lots of funny business along the way, with the whole movie building to an outrageous final sequence involving Russell leading 250 beaters through the desert. Director Robert Zemeckis (“Flight,” “Forest Gump”) went on to make better movies but none quite so wonderfully unhinged. Extras: outtakes and commentaries by Zemeckis and Russell.
Rodgers and Hammerstein: Blu-ray Collection (1945-1965, Fox, unrated, $199) In the mood for some enchanted evenings? Visit this stunning Blu-ray box set which collects six of the best musicals of all time from the springy “State Fair” (1945) featuring Rodgers and Hammerstein’s only film score to “The Sound of Music” (1965), the still soaring saga of Maria Von Trapp (Julie Andrews). In between, there’s “Carousel” (1956), the surprisingly dark tale about the redemption of a carnival barker (Gordon McRae), and “The King and I” (1956), which is sexier than you remember it thanks to the explosive chemistry between Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. Also on tap : “Oklahoma!” (1955) and “South Pacific” (1958). Extras: featurettes and sing-along version of “King and I.”
Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954, Criterion, unrated, $25) Don Siegel’s (“Dirty Harry”) hard-hitting prison expose is, at its heart, a message movie but what a message movie it is! Shot at Folsom State Prison with as many as 700 inmates as extras, “Riot” unleashes the saga of a handful of lifers (Neville Brand, Leo Gordon) who stage a uprising in hopes of convincing the warden to upgrade their living conditions. A terrific portrait of men pushed to their limits, the energetic, unsentimental “Riot” – now on Blu-ray – deserves credit for busting prison movies out of their tight genre box. Extras: commentary and featurettes.
Poirot: Series 12 (2009, Acorn, unrated, $40) On this two-disc set, there’s four feature-length mysteries to ensnare the renowned Belgian detective (David Suchet), including the snowy “Murder on the Orient Express” which finds Poirot searching for a killer among a gaggle of train travelers. This batch of episodes boasts a particularly strong bunch of guest-starring actors for Suchet to bounce off of. There’s “Downton Abbey’s” Hugh Bonneville, Barbara Hershey, Jessica Chastain, David Morrissey, Eileen Atkins and Zoe Wanamaker. Can’t beat that line-up. Extras: featurette.
Mondays at Racine (2014, Warner Archive, unrated, $20) Originally shown on HBO, this Oscar-nominated doc looks at two Long Island sisters who, haunted by their mother’s struggle with cancer, provide complimentary, once-a-month beauty treatments to women undergoing chemotherapy. Inspiring and occasionally harrowing, the movie centers on 39-year-old Cambria and 58-year-old Linda, two Racine clients battling breast cancer. “Mondays at Racine” might only be 40 minutes long but it’s an unforgettable portrait of compassion and perseverance. Extras: none.
Separate But Equal (1991, Paramount, unrated, $17) There are three superb reasons to watch this TV movie about the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case which helped strike down segregation. Those reasons are Sidney Poitier as NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer Thurgood Marshall; Burt Lancaster (in his final performance) as opposing counsel John W. Davis; and Richard Kiley as Earl Warren, the Supreme Court justice who wrote the decision that became the first major victory in the battle for civil rights. Extras: a vintage special hosted by Edward R. Murrow.
Adventure Time: The Suitor (2014, Warner Bros., unrated, $20) The latest collection from Cartoon Network’s hit series features 16 episodes highlighting some of the show’s best-loved characters. The whole gang is here from Finn and his magic pooch Jake to Princess Bubblegum and Peppermint Butler. The kid-friendly series, which is about to start its sixth season, is smart, funny and wonderfully weird. Extras: featurette.