- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two stories about daring women and their quests for success and survival amidst a male-dominated culture highlight recent Blu-ray releases.

Joy (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $39.99, 124 minutes) — Director David O. Russell’s (“American Hustle” and “The Fighter”) loosely-based biographical drama arrives on Blu-ray starring Jennifer Lawrence as entrepreneur Joy Mangeta, a divorced, Long Island mother of two living in a chaotic household with her ex-husband, grandmother, children and divorced parents.

Miss Mangeta fought through the clan turmoil and, using her creative prowess and business skills, dominated QVC and the Home Shopping Network in the early 1990s. She sold a wide array of her inventions including the Miracle Mop and the Huggable Hangers.

Mr. Russell’s scattered storytelling approach about her eventual success relies on a fantastic veteran ensemble cast including Robert De Niro as Joy’s father Rudy, Bradley Cooper as a QVC executive, Édgar Ramírez as Joy’s ex-husband, Diane Ladd as her grandmother Mimi, Virginia Madsen as her mother Terri and Isabella Rossellini as Rudy’s girlfriend.

The group’s blend of the serious and comedic in near every scene greatly supported Miss Lawrence’s spunky, Academy Award-nominated performance.

For me, the film will be best remembered for one of its most caustic lines. As papa Rudy gets into another argument with his former wife, he unloads with “You’re like a gas leak. We don’t see you, we don’t smell you, but you are killing us all silently.”

The screen-filling digital transfer (1.85:1 aspect ratio) cleanly highlights the stylistic choices of Mr. Russell’s and cinematographer Linus Sandgren’s use of 35mm film stock to deliver some classic 1970s grainy visuals and muted colors, highlighted during a hilarious wedding reception, some snowy scenes and during the early years of Miss Mangeta’s life.

Best of the slim extras is a New York Times’ “Times Talks” series (originally appearing on YouTube) that has columnist Maureen Dowd interviewing Miss Lawrence and Mr. Russell for just over an hour.

Ms. Dowd often looks uncomfortable while reading questions off of notes, but Miss Lawrence saves the day with her quirky wit and charm (she even argues with her mom who is in the audience at one point). In the interview, they dissect the movie and the characters as well as delve into the interviewees’ careers and lives.

Jane Got A Gun (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment, Rated R, $34.99, 98 minutes) — Multi-dimensional actress Natalie Portman starred in an old school western that got shot down at the box office but now looks for a home theater crowd to appreciate its satisfying, gritty story.

Set in the New Mexico territory in 1871, the story shows that life gets rough quickly for our frontier heroine Jane Hammond and her young daughter after husband Bill returns home riddled with bullet holes and gravely injured due to another encounter with the vicious Bishop Boys gang.

It will take her steadfast courage and help from former fiancee Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) to stand up to the grizzled thugs and its leader John Bishop (played with a Snidely Whiplash grace by Ewan McGregor).

Viewers who can get through the somber, slow-burning and flashback-loaded plot, filled with males spitting or characters caught in pensive stares, will appreciate Jane’s final confrontation with the gang.

As far as the digital transfer, no surprise here — the outdoor, southwest locations around the homestead are panoramic as Jane, or the gang, rides horses in front of the scenic and dusty backdrops.

Often, the locations feel baked in the sun and visual choices are overwhelmed by earth tones, but colorful moments also exist, witnessed in a flashback of a hot-air balloon taking off in a field of wheat that is especially stunning.

Potentially hurting its success on Blu-ray is the complete absence of extras, offering zero reasons for fans to add the disc to their collection.

Considering Miss Portman was a producer on the film and Mr. Edgerton a co-writer, I would have expected as least an optional commentary track with the pair and director Gavin O’Connor.

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