This week on home video, the most notable choices may be a highly talked-about television series, but we begin with a couple of action films that opened earlier this year. Liam Neeson’s latest thriller kicks things off, followed by a Jack Ryan reboot starring Chris Pine. Then we’ve got a Certified Fresh British comedy, an Oscar-nominated documentary, and a few smaller films. The big news is that HBO’s hit mystery series, True Detective, finally hits shelves this week, but there are also a couple of other notable choices on the small screen, including Neil deGrasse Tyson’s science series. Read on for details:
Liam Neeson takes his very particular set of skills aboard a transatlantic flight as US Air Marshal Bill Marks, who begins receiving mysterious text messages from an on-board terrorist who promises a passenger will die every 20 minutes if he isn’t paid $150 million; as Marks narrows down his suspects, a larger conspiracy reveals itself. Co-starring Julianne Moore, Anson Mount, and Scoot McNairy, Non-Stop fell just short of Fresh at 59% on the Tomatometer, with critics mostly intrigued by the film’s premise but somewhat dissatisfied with its execution and its improbable climax. The Blu-ray release includes the film on DVD and digital download, as well as a couple of short behind-the-scenes featurettes. This is pretty solid weekend rental if you weren’t willing to pay full price for a theater ticket.
Chris Pine steps into the shoes formerly worn by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck to portray Tom Clancy’s titular everyman operative in what essentially amounts to an origin story/reboot of the franchise. Upon recovering from a debilitating battle injury, US Marine Jack Ryan is recruited by the CIA to work as an undercover agent on Wall Street, surveying for potential crimes in the financial sector. When a Russian businessman’s accounts spark Ryan’s suspicion, he unwittingly becomes embroiled in an international terrorist plot. The first of the series not based on a Clancy novel, Shadow Recruit earned a mixed response from critics, who mostly found it a merely adequate action thriller that hit plenty of familiar notes and fell short of its predecessors (yes, even The Sum of All Fears). The Blu-ray combo pack includes a commentary track from director and co-star Kenneth Branagh, as well as a handful of deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and four featurettes ranging from 5 to 21 minutes long.
Stateside audiences are probably unfamiliar with Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan), but folks across the pond know him from any number of media appearances and his BBC sitcom. In Alan Partridge, Coogan reprises his role as the egocentric radio dj and television presenter, whose radio station — under new corporate management — is taken hostage by a recently fired DJ; Alan finds himself at the center of the controversy when he is asked to play negotiator with his former colleague. Certified Fresh at 86%, Alan Partridge is a clever comedy that relies more on dry wit than laugh-out-loud moments, and while fans of the character will get the most out of it, it makes the most of Steve Coogan’s talents and should serve as a fun introduction for the uninitiated. Special features include a making-of doc, a commentary track with Coogan and writers Neil and Rob Gibbons, a slew of deleted scenes, and a blooper reel.
Nominated earlier this year for Best Foreign Language Film, The Missing Picture — like last year’s similarly themed The Act of Killing — interprets an historical atrocity through the lens of art; whereas The Act of Killing utilized the medium of genre filmmaking, The Missing Picture tells parts of its story through clay dioramas and figurines. Cambodian director Rithy Panh intertwines these miniature scenes with stunning archival footage to retell the story of his family’s experiences during the genocidal reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Unique in its vision and presentation, The Missing Picture touched and captivated critics, who awarded it a Certified Fresh 99% on the Tomatometer. While a Blu-ray is already available in the UK, only a DVD will be coming out this week in the US, and it doesn’t look as though it carries any extras. Still, the film alone is worth a watch.
A huge hit for HBO this year, True Detective featured Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as a pair of former Louisiana police officers involved in a decades-old investigation. The show, produced as an anthology series made to focus on a different story each season, was characterized by occult themes, cryptic symbolism, and deep character development, all of which it accomplished in just eight episodes, enrapturing a rabid fanbase in the process. This first season notched a Certified Fresh 84% on the Tomatometer, thanks to powerful performances by its leads, creator Nic Pizzolatto’s writing, and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s strong directorial vision, and it’s available this week on DVD and Blu-ray. Special features on the latter include commentary tracks for two of the episodes, a 15-minute making-of doc, short behind-the-scenes featurettes for each episode, interviews with the cast and crew, and a pair of deleted scenes.