Menage a trois
Woody Allen plays with a ménage a trois in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” the filmmaker’s most enjoyable romance movie in years. A big reason is his knack for casting the perfect women.
Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall play best friends — one free-spirited and happily single (Johansson), the other conservative, repressed and betrothed — vacationing in Spain.
Both become smitten with a passionate Spanish painter portrayed with whatever the Spanish word for chutzpah is by Javier Bardem.
Penelope Cruz deservedly is up for a supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of the painter’s volatile ex-wife. Sharply written by Allen, the film uses Barcelona’s beauty to complement the storytelling. Also on Blu-ray.
Crime and punishment
A conflicted family of cops drives “Pride and Glory,” a tale of corruption and murder buoyed by its ensemble: Edward Norton as a haunted good detective, Noah Emmerich (in the film’s most memorable portrayal) as his police-inspector brother, Jon Voigt as their department-commander dad and Colin Farrell as their cop brother-in-law.
The intensity ramps up when Norton’s character is ordered by his father to investigate the shooting deaths of four department members and begins to suspect his squirrelly brother-in-law may have been involved. Nothing new, but well-acted and intense.
Extras: Makng-of doc and digital copy on Blu-ray and two-DVD set.
Director Guy Ritchie pumps up “RocknRolla” with a high-energy, cat’s cradle-like plot and a slick ensemble, just like he did with “Snatch,” and it still works.
The film’s jammed with boorish mob bosses, chatty addicts and crooks, cold killers and quick hits of violence.
Tom Wilkinson steals the show as an abrasive, old-time London gang leader connected to chunks of London real estate.
His trying to broker a land deal with a bigtime Russian mobster kicks off a series of double-crosses involving a likable small-time hood (Gerard Butler), one of his best pals (Idris Elba), a conniving accountant (Thandie Newton) and millions in cash.
Tasty but thin, Ritchie’s caper film speeds along, dishing quirky personalities and jargon that’s mostly understandable for once.
Extras: Ritchie commentary on two-disc set and Blu-ray.
Samuel L. Jackson plays a tightly wound, bigoted L.A. cop with several screws loose and a yen for tormenting the biracial couple (Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington) who move in next door in “Lakeview Terrace.”
The story’s suspenseful, creepy and frightening. Also in Blu-ray.
Extras: Commentary; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes shorts.
I loved “The Beiderbecke Affair,” a tongue-in-cheek 1984 British miniseries about genial middle-age teachers (James Bolam, Barbara Flynn) in a relationship packed with banter, quibbling and making up. The story centers around the divorced woman’s reluctantly accompanying the never-married man on his search for a missing set of Bix Beiderbecke records ordered from a mysterious platinum blonde.
The plot’s an amusing ambles, but it’s the characters who matter, even the minor ones: under-the-table marketer Big Al; the vicar storing Big Al’s goods; an uptight young detective and an ever-present guy with a dog.
The snazzy soundtrack’s based on music by ’20s jazz cornetist Beiderbecke.
Extra: Beiderbecke bio.
Also on DVD
“American East”: Arab owner (Sayed Badreya) of popular L.A. Middle Eastern café opens new restaurant with Jewish partner (Tony Shaloub), causing problems with local Arab and Jewish communities.
“Closing the Ring”: Dying World War II bomber pilot gives gold ring to Irishman with hope it goes to bomber’s girlfriend in U.S.; with Shirley MacLaine, Mischa Barton.
“College”: Three college freshman pledge a fraternity, get humiliated, get even; Drake Bell comedy.
“Fireproof”: Heroic firefighter (Kirk Cameron) tries to rescue his troubled marriage.
“The Gene Generation”: In a futuristic city, an assassin (Bai Ling) targets hackers stealing technology that reconfigures human DNA.
“Gospel According to Al Green: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD”: 1984 doc.
“A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich”: A 1976 drama about a family dealing with a teen’s drug addition in an L.A. ghetto; with Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson.
“Holly”: Card shark (Ron Livingston) tries to rescue 12-year-old Vietnamese prostitute in Cambodia.
“Hulk Vs”: Animated green giant battles Thor on one disc, Wolverine on the other.
“Imaginary Witness”: Hollywood and the Holocaust”: Doc about the film industry’s handling of the Holocaust.
“The Lucky Ones”: Three wounded soldiers (Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins, Michael Pena) on leave from Iraq take a revealing cross-country road trip.
“Mary Poppins: The 45th Anniversary Edition”: Absolutely Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
“Mercury Man”: Firefighter stabbed with ancient amulet develops superpowers.
“Open Season 2”: Woodland critters try to rescue dachshund kidnapped by house-pets in computer-animated sequel; also on Blu-ray.
“The Rocker”: Booted from an ‘80s metal band about to hit it big, an obnoxious, irresponsible loser (Rainn Wilson of “The Office”) gets a second chance at fame by playing drums in his teenage nephew’s band; a little Rainn goes a long way; with Emma Stone and Christina Applegate; also on Blu-ray.
“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”: Doc looks at the director’s life, career, rape charge.
“The Secret of the Magic Gourd”: Young outcast goes fishing, catches gourd, is granted three wishes that backfire; live action and CGI; “HSM’s” Corbin Bleu voices the gourd.
“Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus”: A 1986 documentary about the jazz great.
“The Stewardesses (3-D) 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition”: The swinging stewardesses again fly the friendly skies and friendlier lands; restored, in 3-D uncut and in 2-D.
“Superhero Movie” on Blu-ray: Spoof of comic book genre with Drake Bell, Tracy Morgan, Pamela Anderson.
“2010: Science or Superstition”: Experts mull the Mayan calendar’s predicting the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012, in this documentary.
“Zodiac Director’s Cut” on Blu-ray: Hunt for the Bay Area serial killer moves slowly for 2 hours, 42 minutes, but has its moments; with Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.
TV on DVD
“Blossom: Seasons 1 and 2”
“Captains and the Kings” (1976 miniseries about immigrant’s rises to power in late 1800s)
“Cheers: Final Season”
“The Invaders: The Second Season”
“The Love Boat: Second Season, Vol. 1”
“Meerkat Manor – Season 4: The Next Generation”
“Russell Peters: Red, White and Brown”
“Sam Kinison: Breaking the Rules”
“Sam Kinison: Family Entertainment Hours”