STORY WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For 21st Century Media
With the buoyant “Jersey Boys” (2014, Warner, PG-13, $30), director Clint Eastwood finds a way to stay true to the hit Broadway show while also digging deeper into the personal lives of Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and the Four Seasons (Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza).
Before they became chart toppers, the Garden State crooners had run-ins with the police and the mob. Even after they found success, they ran up debts, squabbled over women and suffered personal losses. What kept the guys together was the music. And there’s plenty of it from “Sherry” to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” At its best, “Jersey Boys” is a powerhouse. Extras: featurettes.
Also New This Week
Tammy: (2014, Warner, R, $30) Co-written by Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone (who also directed), this comedy about a fast food worker (McCarthy) who hits the road with her boozy grandma (Susan Sarandon) resembles a mash-up of “Thelma & Louise” and “Nebraska.” It’s not nearly as good as either of those films but it is funnier and more peculiar, spending as much time with minimum-wage workers as wealthy lesbian entrepreneurs (Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh). It might be a hot mess of a movie that swerves from broad comedy to dark-ish drama but “Tammy” allows McCarthy to play a bad-ass – and that’s always a good thing. Extras: gag reel, deleted scenes and featurettes.
Hercules: (2014, Paramount, PG-13, $30) It’s time for a toga party as Dwayne Johnson steps into the sandals of the titular demi-god. In this re-telling of the tale, Hercules is a mercenary who only consents to fight for Thrace after the King (John Hurt) agrees to pay him his weight in gold. Director Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour”) is never going to be mistaken for Martin Scorsese but he keeps the action moving along at a good clip, injects the right amount of humor into the proceedings, and elicits robust turns from Johnson and his sidekicks (Ian McShane, Rufus Sewel). Extras: commentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes.
How To Train Your Dragon 2: (2014, DreamWorks, PG, $30) One of the few sequels as good, if not better, than the original film, the latest DreamWorks ‘toon really soars, and it’s not just because of the cool aerial contests between high-flying dragons. The plot centers on Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless as they do battle with the bad guys (Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington). But the interplay between the characters is the main attraction. Special kudos to Cate Blanchett as the maternal Valka, a dragon-sanctuary keeper who drips wit and wisdom. Extras: featurettes, deleted scenes and commentaries.
Los Angeles Plays Itself: (2003, Cinema Guild, unrated, $30) Rights issues tied up this remarkable documentary for more than a decade but now it’s finally available on DVD and Blu-ray and, boy, was it worth the wait. Running a breezy three hours, director Thom Andersen looks at the tangled relationship between the movies and their hometown. Determined to get at the truth of Los Angeles, Andersen shares hundreds of films clips, with special attention paid to flicks like “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential,” which use the city’s checkered history as a springboard to tales of greed and chicanery. It’s riveting from start to finish. Extras: short film.
Bound By Flesh: (2014, IFC, unrated, $25) The lives of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton are probed in Leslie Zemeckis’ fascinating and occasionally harrowing documentary that doubles as a look at what passed for entertainment at the beginning of the 20th century. Sold at birth by their mother, the twins were ruthlessly exploited by nearly everyone they knew. And yet in film clips and audio recordings, the pair seem filled with life as they recount their days in carnival side shows, on the vaudeville circuit and in Hollywood. “Bound” is the rare documentary capable of piercing your heart. Extras: featurettes and deleted footage.
Tru Love: (2014, Wolfe, unrated, $25) A simple plot description of this Canadian romance makes it sound slushy but it is, in fact, a beautifully modulated look at three women in crisis. Kate Trotter stars as a recent widow who finds herself falling in love with Tru (Shauna MacDonald), a freewheeling lesbian pal of her daughter’s (Christine Horne). Written and directed by MacDonald and Kate Johnson, “Tru Love” is the kind of quietly rewarding drama that reveals unexpected layers in all of its characters. Extras: deleted scenes and short film.
Drive Hard: (2014, Image, unrated, $30) For his latest excursion into B-movie territory, John Cusack spends the entire film in aviator shades and a pulled-down-low baseball cap. It’s as if he’s trying to hide from his fans. No can do, John. Cusack needs to take at least some of the blame for this Aussie-set thriller about a career criminal (Cusack) who kidnaps a former race car driver (Thomas Jane) and forces him to take part in a heist. The action scenes are slapdash and the interchanges between Cusack and Jane are annoyingly cutesy. After 10 minutes, “Drive Hard” is running on fumes. Extras: none.
The Vanishing: (1993, Twilight Time, R, $30) A remake of the acclaimed Dutch film “Spoorloos,” this thriller about the eerie disappearance of a young woman (Sandra Bullock) was massacred by critics when it first came out, primarily because it messes with the original’s nihilistic ending. In the last two decades, though, no less an authority than Stanley Kubrick championed the chiller. Now on Blu-ray, the film deserves a second look, particularly for Jeff Bridges’ unnerving portrayal of a serial killer who becomes a master at manipulating his prey, particularly Bullock’s boyfriend (Keifer Sutherland), a journalist obsessed with knowing what happened to the woman he loved. Extras: none.
Claudelle Inglish: (1961, Warner Archive, unrated, $20) Adapted for a novel by Erskine Caldwell (“Tobacco Road”), this trashy but highly entertaining potboiler looks at a good girl (Diane McBain) gone very bad. After being dumped by her beloved boyfriend (Chad Everett), Claudelle decides to cut a swath through the local population, sharing her charms with every buck in the country. It’s soapy, sleazy and surprisingly well-acted not only by McBain but by Constance Ford and Arthur Kennedy as her dirt-poor sharecropper parents. Extras: none.
The Magnificent Dope: (1942, Fox Cinema Archives, unrated, $20) Never before available on VHS or DVD, this surprisingly springy romantic comedy stars Henry Fonda as a small-town fisherman who teaches a pair of city slickers (Don Ameche, Lynn Bari) about the joys of pressure-free living. There’s a lot of “Mr. Deeds Goes To Town” in the likeable saga, which gives the wonderfully relaxed Fonda the opportunity to prove that his comic triumph in “The Lady Eve” was no fluke. Extras: none.
Nightbreed — The Director’s Cut: (1990, Shout Factory, R, $30) The original 1990 cut, which was re-edited against the wishes of filmmaker Clive Barker, never made much sense. Now newly restored with an additional 40 minutes of footage, the director’s cut is far more coherent. But the saga of a troubled young man (Craig Sheffer) hiding out with a tribe of otherworldly monsters is still something of a mixed bag, with an orgy-of-violence ending that goes on too long. Still, on the plus side, the new scenes enhance the strangely touching love story between Sheffer and his gal pal (Anne Bobby). Extras: making-of doc, Barker intro and commentary.
Sgt. Bilko/ The Phil Silvers Show — The Complete Series: (1955-1959, Shout Factory, unrated, $129) After restoring the reputation of funnyman Ernie Kovacs, the folks at Shout Factory are reviving one of the most underrated sitcoms in TV history. Alternately called “Sgt. Bilko” and “The Phil Silvers Show,” the series was the much-imitated saga of a crafty officer (Silvers) who spends most of his military career trying to swindle his fellow soldiers. But he’s a lovable guy, the type of con man who you are happy to see beat the odds time and time again. Extras: commentaries and featurettes.
The Female Gaze: (2014, Film Movement, unrated, $80) Bursting with vibrant films from countries as far flung as Germany, France, Algeria and Peru, this seven-disc set is a terrific celebration of women directors. The stories are diverse, ranging from a coming-of-age road movie (“Arcadia” starring John Hawkes) to the saga of an Algerian woman’s experiences as an immigrant in France (“Inch’Allah Dimanche”) to the tale of a young schoolteacher starting her first job in the city (“The Forest For The Trees.”) Extras: seven short films.