New on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming this week, a blockbuster that's really far better than you think, comedy and neurology, political paranoia and pirate fun ...
Reviled as one of the bigger bombs of the summer before it even opened -- with scorn and derision rising up to the tune of "How can a movie based on a board game be good?" -- Peter Berg's 'Battleship' was, for me, one of the highlights of the summer. (Based on sheer rock-'em, sock-'em enjoyment, it's more fun than either 'The Avengers' or 'The Dark Knight Rises,' at least to my tastes.)
The home versions have plenty of extra material -- the Blu-ray is jammed with alternate endings, making-of material, video tours of real Navy ships and more -- but it's Berg's direction of an epic widescreen conflict between a rag-tag bunch of alien invaders and a group of salty sailors (including Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch and, yes, Rhianna) that makes this worth seeing, and judging for yourself. Not to be blunt, but if Michael Bay's 'Transformers' can make all the money, 'Battleship' deserved to do at least all that and more, and hopefully finally actually seeing it will turn pre-emptive haters into post-film appreciators.
One of last year's must-see shows finally comes home in convenient, easy-to-marathon form; those of you still getting over your 'Breaking Bad' or 'The Wire' addictions will find this show, based on an Israeli program, bet-you-can't-just-watch-one addictive. Damian Lewis ('Band of Brothers, 'Life') stars as a heroic U.S. Marine released from years of captivity in Iraq; Claire Danes stars a driven-but-fragile intelligence operative who's been warned that our enemies have 'turned' a U.S. soldier into a traitor .. and who can't help but think that Lewis' poster-boy public image may hide darker secrets. Compulsively watchable and superbly acted, 'Homeland' arrives on DVD and Blu-ray jusssssst in time to get you ready for Season 2; don't say I didn't warn you.
From many of the humans behind the beloved 'Wallace and Gromit' films, 'The Pirates!" has great stop-motion animation, with delightfully squishy, stretchy and clay-made characters -- but it's the silly, slap-stick-y community of the pirates -- and their changed fortunes as they discover Charles Darwin going about his scientific work -- that make it a winner. Hugh Grant is great as the good-natured, slightly scatter-brained Pirate Captain, while Martin Freeman ('The Office,' 'The Hobbit') also does great work as his #2. The action and adventures are kid-friendly, and while some of the dryer gags or the more technical making-of material may not make it with your kids, the monkeys, seafaring and swordfighting will.
Based on stand-up Mike Birbiglia's one-man NPR piece and off-Broadway show, "Sleepwalk With Me" stars Birbiglia as Matt, a striving stand-up juggling bad gigs and a complicated relationship with Lauren Ambrose, both of which get harder and harder to hang onto as his mild sleepwalking problem turns into a life-threatening (but still hilarious) concern. Birbiglia's an astonishingly appealing lead (he also co-directed) and his funny and frank journey towards enlightenment (or, at the least, away from jumping through windows while asleep) is perfectly plotted, paced and pitched, making for a film as honest and heartfelt as it is hilariously funny.