This week we begin in England:
Not rated, 135 minutes.
Available Tuesday on DVD.
This excellent fact-based British crime drama stars British Academy Television Award winner Emily Watson as Janet Leach, an “appropriate adult” — a volunteer who accompanies a suspect as a sort of civilian advocate.
In her first assignment, she quietly sits next to Fred West (Dominic West) as he admits to a murder, then recants, only to admit it again. He eventually gains trust in Janet and begins spilling out all his heinous crimes, some of which he may have committed with his cold-blooded wife, Rose (Monica Dolan).
Janet hears his confessions but works under confidentiality, all while trying to persuade Fred to reveal all. Before long, her unwanted notoriety and Fred’s litany of grievous crimes take a tool on Janet psychologically. Deftly directed by Julian Jarrold.
Where Do We Go Now? (***) In a small, unnamed village, supposedly in Lebanon, Muslims and Christians have long lived together in harmony. But problems arise with the men, who mistake specific actions for slights, only to take unnecessary grievance. The women of the village unite to keep the peace, but not exactly in the sexual way of Euripides’ The Trojan Women. They use guile and cleverness, and that is what distinguishes this unpretentious film from writer-director Nadine Labaki.
Rated PG-13, 100 minutes. The DVD offers an 18-minute “making of” featurette, a 12-minute piece on the music, and the 39-minute “An Evening With Director Nadine Labaki, Composer Khaled Mouzanar and Producer Dominique Toussaint.”
Touchback (**1/2) Farmer Scott Murphy (Brian Presley) learns his crops will fail and that his house will be repossessed, humiliating him and his wife, Macy (Melanie Lynskey), and two children. So, he attempts suicide. Magical movie gods then whisk him back 20 years, when he was the star of his high school football team.
The film’s teen part leads up to Murphy’s devastating injury on the final play of his big championship game — something that changes the course of his life for the worse, or so it seems. Gradually, fate steps in and gives Murphy insight into what is important in life. Touching, if overly hokey at times.
Not rated, 121 minutes. The DVD, in all formats, includes a six-minute “making of” featurette.
Suddenly Single (**1/2) Samantha (Garcelle Beauvais) and Sylvester (Isaiah Washington) have been married for 17 years and are about to move into a new house when he announces he is leaving her for another woman. Devastated, she rebounds and discovers life as a single woman. Written and directed by David Talbert.
Not rated, 98 minutes. The DVD contains a “behind-the-scenes” featurette.
Bad Karma (***) Ray Liotta uses his trademark glare as Molloy, a drug-addicted small-time crook in Australia. After botching a job that sends his partner Yates (Dominic Purcell) to jail, Molloy sobers up and becomes a model citizen. But three years later, a paroled Yates returns to threaten Molloy’s now idyllic life with his new girlfriend by dragging him into a murder and robbery.
Director Suri Krishnamma develops and maintains effectively menacing atmospherics. Rated R, 87 minutes.
Stealing Las Vegas (**) When a sleazy casino owner (Eric Roberts) pilfers $20 million from his employees’ pension fund, a diverse group of employees unites to return it in this caper-thriller, a kind of cut-rate Ocean’s Eleven. Marginally diverting entertainment.
Not rated, 87 minutes. The disc offers commentary and 19 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes.
The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series Scholastic Media releases several versions of this popular kids’ series. The eight-disc collection offers all 52 episodes of the program starring Ms. Frizzle (voiced by Lily Tomlin) as she takes kids through a variety of lessons examining such diverse topics as the cosmos, flight, the oceans, the human body and more.
Not rated, approximately 22 hours. The collection also comes in three packs and in four separate single packages.
Finally, more TV series arrive in anticipation of the new fall season:
Spartacus: Vengeance — The Complete Second Season This original Starz series features Liam McIntyre as Spartacus, while Lucy Lawless, Peter Mensah, Manu Bennett and others appear in a season of 10 episodes on three discs. This season, the rebellion continues while the Roman republic begins to fight back. Spartacus must gather his forces and persuade them to stay together.
Not rated, 440 minutes. The collection includes commentaries and around an hour total of seven featurettes on the direction, bloopers, the making of the series, the legend of Spartacus, the effects and more.
Person of Interest: The Complete First Season Jim Caviezel stars as John Reese in this CBS crime drama created by Jonathan Nolan (Inception) that sports elements of the movie Minority Report and its source material, Philip K. Dick’s short story.
Reese begins the series as a former trained soldier turned street person. Mysterious stranger Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) rescues Reese. Together, they assist people who are about to die or suffer a disaster, all of which Finch knows because he has invented a machine geared to forecast such situations.
The series of 23 episodes, on four discs, DVD or Blu-ray, is filled with white-knuckle suspense and involving plots. Taraji P. Henson plays the police detective always one step behind Reese until she joins him.
Not rated, more than 16 hours. The collection also holds the original unaired pilot with producer commentary, a 15-minute featurette titled “Living in an Age of Surveillance,” and a three-minute gag reel.
Private Practice: The Complete Fifth Season This Grey’s Anatomy spinoff stars Kate Walsh as surgeon Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery. Joining her in the season’s 22 episodes, set at Oceanside Wellness, are Tim Daly, Benjamin Bratt, KaDee Strickland, Taye Diggs and others. The season sees Addison heading toward motherhood, saving a friend who suffers a heart attack, Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) again attending AA meetings, Cooper (Paul Adelstein) reviving an old friendship and many other romantic entanglements and medical dramas.
Rated TV-14-DLSV, more than 15 hours on five discs. The collection also holds a 13-minute featurette on “The Practice of Parenthood,” 10 deleted scenes and four minutes of bloopers.
Castle: The Complete Fourth Season In this hit comedy-crime hybrid of 23 episodes on five discs, Nathan Fillion returns as Richard Castle, a successful crime novelist who spends his spare time riding around Manhattan with homicide detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). This season sees the sexual tension build between the duo when Beckett returns to work. She also seems to be on the trail of the man who killed her mother, while Castle becomes a hostage in a bank robbery, and every week offers mystery in the form of a fresh corpse.
Rated TV-14-DLV, more than 16 hours. The collection includes commentaries, a four-part, hourlong featurette on Fillion’s foray into radio: “Fillion and Friends: Castle Goes Radio.” Plus: an 18-minute segment on stunts, 10 minutes with director Chuck Bowman and his producer son Rob, four minutes of deleted scenes and five minutes of bloopers.
Tuesday to DVD: Elles, For
Greater Glory, The Hole.