New to DVD and On Demand Releases for December 17 - 23

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17 December 2017
By Jay Bobbin Zap2it
(Ratings for each film begin with a "star'' rating -- one star meaning "poor,'' four meaning "excellent'' -- followed by the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and then by a family-viewing guide, the key for which appears below.)

Releasing this Week:
Dunkirk"Dunkirk":  Destined for Oscar nominations if many critics' predictions are accurate, writer-director Christopher Nolan's take on the title World War II military operation recounts the story of Allied soldiers cornered by German troops during the early phase of World War II. England, under the direction of its then-new Prime Minister Winston Churchill, launched a rescue mission. The cast is largely and effectively under the radar as far as stardom goes ... with such exceptions as Tom Hardy (who was a Batman villain for Nolan earlier), Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy (also a Nolan-movie regular), "Bridge of Spies'' Oscar winner Mark Rylance and singer Harry Styles. Also critical to the film's considerable impact is cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema ("Spectre''). DVD extras: "making-of'' documentaries. **** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Victoria and Abdul"Victoria and Abdul":  Judi Dench devotees know she can do no wrong professionally, and she affirms it again as both she and director Stephen Frears deal with a story of another British queen ... in this case, Victoria (played by Dench), who befriends and mentors a young man from India (Ali Fazal). The interest she takes in him draws suspicion and worry from others around her, to the point that they threaten to leave her if the newcomer isn't ordered to leave first. The late Tim Pigott-Smith had one of his last roles in a sterling supporting cast that also includes Eddie Izzard, Simon Callow and Michael Gambon, but the film clearly and justly belongs to Dench. *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Mother!"Mother!'':  Director Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan'') polarized audiences with his genre-bending melodrama headed by two Oscar winners, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as a couple who receive unexpected visitors (Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris). When that pair's bizarre sons (played by real-life brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson) also show up, things shift from mildly humorous to nasty, especially for Lawrence's character. The film's effect is something of a fever dream, likely to keep viewers challenged as to exactly what is happening right up to the end -- for better or worse, depending on one's own take on it. *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Stronger"Stronger":  Several projects have dramatized the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and this is a particularly effective one, thanks largely to Jake Gyllenhaal's committed performance as a survivor determined to battle back in multiple ways. Jeff Bauman lost both of his legs in the tragedy, but helped identify one of the perpetrators and was determined to overcome the physical hardship cast upon him. Based on the autobiography co-written by Bauman, the film also features Tatiana Maslany ("Orphan Black''), Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown. DVD extra: "making-of'' documentary. *** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Also Releasing this Week:

Salvation:  Season One"Salvation:  Season One":  : The fate of Earth is in question in this drama series, which CBS aired last summer ... and which will get a second season next year, despite the doom that our planet appears to face in it. The show adopts the "Deep Impact'' and "Armageddon'' premise of an asteroid destined to collide with terra firma in a matter of months. Various people -- including a tech billionaire (Santiago Cabrera) and an MIT student (Charlie Rowe) -- try to devise methods of saving the human race. Jennifer Finnigan ("Tyrant'') also stars as a Pentagon official alarmed by the situation, with Ian Anthony Dale ("Hawaii Five-0'') and Jacqueline Byers prominent in the cast as well. Tovah Feldshuh ("The Walking Dead'') appears as the U.S. president. *** (Not rated: AS, P)
Leatherface"Leatherface":  How did the trademark villain of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'' become who he was? This prequel to the horror classic answers the question, with Lili Taylor ("American Crime'') playing the encouraging mother of the young man (Sam Strike) who grew up to become one of the icons of the screen genre. Stephen Dorff also stars as a lawman who boosts the young man's taste for terror by having him institutionalized, but the Leatherface-to-be escapes with others from the facility during a riot, taking a novice nurse (Vanessa Grasse) hostage. As if anyone would expect otherwise, rest assured that there is brutality and gore to spare here. DVD extras: "making-of'' documentary; deleted scenes. ** (R: AS, N, P, GV) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Upcoming Releases:

"Flatliners" (Dec. 26): Medical students experiment with life after death in this remake of the thriller; Ellen Page and the original version`s Kiefer Sutherland star. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
"The Mountain Between Us" (Dec. 26): Stranded by a plane crash in a snowy climate, two diverse people (Kate Winslet, Idris Elba) must work together to survive. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
"American Made" (Jan. 2): Tom Cruise stars in the fact-based story of a pilot whose questionable, cartel-related activities were sanctioned by the CIA. (R: AS, N, P)
"Lucky" (Jan. 2): The late Harry Dean Stanton's next-to-last movie casts him as an aged atheist distressed when his independence is threatened. (Not rated: AS, P)
"Ten Days in the Valley" (Jan. 2): The ABC drama series stars Kyra Sedgwick as a television producer searching for her missing daughter. (Not rated: AS, P, V)

"American Made" (Jan. 2): Tom Cruise stars in the fact-based story of a pilot whose questionable, cartel-related activities were sanctioned by the CIA. (R: AS, N, P)
"It" (Jan. 9): Extremely potent at the box office, Stephen King's chiller pits several Maine youngsters against the sinister clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). (R: AS, P, V)

Oldies But Goodies:

"Black Swan" (2010): Natalie Portman won an Oscar for the Darren Aronofsky-directed melodrama of a ballerina's psychological breakdown. *** (Also on Blu-ray) "Saving Private Ryan" (1998): The drama of a World War II unit assigned to find a missing soldier earned Steven Spielberg a best-director Oscar; Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore and Matt Damon star. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Shakespeare in Love" (1998): Judi Dench's portrayal of Queen Elizabeth is Oscar-winning work in the tale of a muse-inspired Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes). *** (Also on Blu-ray)

TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending December 3, 2017, Courtesy of 

1)  "The Hitman's Bodyguard"
2)  "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets"
3)  "
Girls Trip"
4)  "
5)  "
The Dark Tower"
6)  "
War for the Planet of the Apes"

7)  "Wind River"
8)  "Spider-Man: Homecoming"
9)  "
Cars 3"
10)  "
Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature"

FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence

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