A faith film with an unexpected hero, an adaptation of a young adult novel and a reinvention of “Cinderella” lead new movies on DVD this week.
“Where Hope Grows” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2015, PG-13, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). This faith film begins with clichés and ends in bathos, and the script could have used another run-through. In fact, nothing in particular would distinguish it from others of the genre were it not for a central character guaranteed to tug at your heart.
In his first acting role, David DeSanctis, an actor with Down syndrome, plays “Produce,” a grocery-store employee working in the fruits-and-vegetables department. Though his is a pivotal character, he’s not the lead, and yet DeSanctis’ warm, ingratiating performance alone makes the movie worth seeing.
The central story focuses on washed-up baseball player Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha), a self-pitying alcoholic that has effectively alienated his teenage daughter (McKaley Miller) and everyone else that knows him. But after meeting Produce — who carries a Bible and encourages Calvin to attend church — the former ballplayer gradually begins to turn things around. Brooke Burns (host of the TV game show “The Chase”) co-stars.
“Camilla Dickinson” (Cinedigm/Random/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2015, not rated, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). This light, uneven adaptation of the coming-of-age youth novel is by Madeleine L’Engle (who would later write “A Wrinkle in Time”). The titular character is a sheltered 15-year-old girl (Adelaide Clemens) in 1948 Manhattan whose parents (Samantha Mathis, Cary Elwes) are aloof and self-absorbed. After taking up with a rebellious boy, Camilla begins to appreciate the outside world and learns to deal with her family’s drama. Co-stars include Margaret Colin, Robert Picardo and Camryn Manheim.
“After the Ball” (Monarch/DVD, 2015, not rated, featurette). Portia Doubleday stars in this silly comedy as Kate Kassell, a fashion designer who reluctantly takes a job at a faltering design house owned by her estranged father (Chris Noth), knowing that her nasty stepmother (Lauren Holly) and stepsisters will make life difficult. When Kate is fired, her godmother (Mimi Kuzyk) helps her plot revenge by getting rehired in the guise of a man. “Cinderella” meets “The Devil Wears Prada” by way of Shakespeare.
“Citizenfour” (AnchorBay/Blu-ray/DVD, 2015, R for language, deleted scenes, featurettes). This Oscar-winning documentary by Laura Poitras is based largely on interviews she conducted with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong. It plays out like a paranoia thriller leading up to Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s illegal spying on Americans and the subsequent fallout. Effectively chilling without flourish, and Poitras’ disciplined direction makes it all the more compelling.
“Iris” (Magnolia/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2015, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurette). The influence of 93-year-old Iris Apfel on the worlds of art and fashion are revealed in this inspiring film by renowned documentarian Albert Maysles. Apfel’s quick wit is in evidence and she shows no signs of slowing down in her enthusiasm for the New York scene. (Maysles, who passed away earlier this year at age 88, is best known for the documentaries “Grey Gardens” and “Gimme Shelter.”)
“Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem” (DC/Warner/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2015, not rated, 10 “DC Nation Shorts,” 2009 episode of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” trailers). This new straight-to-video animated feature (80 minutes) is set on Halloween night as Gotham City is plagued by a crime spree involving Scarecrow, Clayface, Silver Banshee and Solomon Grundy, and orchestrated by the Joker. So it’s Batman to the rescue, with help from Green Arrow, Cyborg, Nightwing and Red Robin.
“The Last Dragon: 30th Anniversary Edition” (aka “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon”; TriStar/Blu-ray, 1985, PG-13, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). Taimak stars here as a karate student searching Harlem for a mysterious “master,” but he’s sidetracked when the actions of a pair of sadistic villains get in the way. Rock singer Vanity co-stars. Fans of this campy martial arts musical, produced by Motown guru Berry Gordy, will be happy to see this restoration and Blu-ray upgrade. (William H. Macy, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Chazz Palminteri have small parts.)
“Easy Money”/“Men at Work” (Shout!/Blu-ray, 1983/1990; R for language, nudity, sex/PG-13). “Easy Money” is an amusing, albeit R-rated, vehicle for Rodney Dangerfield (his first starring role) as a W.C. Fields type that must give up his bad habits to gain an inheritance, with Joe Pesci, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Candy Azzara, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey Jones and Tom Ewell. “Men at Work” (PG-13) is a pretty weak dumb-and-dumber farce written and directed by Emilio Estevez, in which he and real-life brother Charlie Sheen play garbage collectors who find a dead body, with Keith David and Leslie Hope.
“Skin Trade” (Magnet/Blu-ray/ DVD/Digital/on Demand, 2015; R for violence, sex, nudity, drugs, violence; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featuretes). Dolph Lundgren (who also co-wrote the script) is paired with Thai martial-arts whirlwind Tony Jaa as mismatched law officers battling human-trafficking villains (led by Ron Perlman) in Bangkok while eluding a corrupt FBI agent (Michael Jai White).