DVD releases this week

An Oscar winner and films that produced multiple award nominations top this week’s DVD releases.

”American Hustle”

A con man (Christian Bale) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent.

Director David O. Russell has taken the emotional rawness central to his “Silver Linings Playbook” and added layers of seduction and corruption, painted against the excessiveness that was the late ‘70s, to create a production that’s even more Oscar-worthy than “Playbook.”

Jennifer Lawrence turns in a performance as a passive-aggressive real-world answer to the Mad Hatter. She is electrifying, whether she’s manipulating her husband or performing a cleaning scene to “Live and Let Die.” Russell strips Amy Adams down to an emotional raw nerve to play a stripper turned con artist.

Grade: A


Anna (Kristen Bell) must find a way to thaw her sister’s cold heart in this year’s Oscar winner for Best Animated Film.

The production, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” has the successful Disney combination of a solid story, strong animation, breakout characters and memorable music. That’s the blend that has worked for decades and continues to work here.

The movie has the strongest soundtrack since the 1996 release of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Grade: A-minus

”Saving Mr. Banks”

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) fights to get the rights from the author of the Mary Poppins books so he can make them into a movie.

The overall strength comes from Hanks and Emma Thompson, who once again transform themselves to portray the spirit of their characters with such honesty and courage that the movie is never in danger of being a dry tale of Hollywood politics.

Thompson brilliantly faces every challenge, from a quiet – but extremely touching – moment when the author first sees the film to her unlikely connection with the man (Paul Giamatti) assigned to be her driver. Thompson finds that razor-sharp edge of being cantankerous while leaving enough room for her humanity to slip out as needed.

Grade: B-plus

Also new:

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”: Film based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. Idris Elba stars.

“The Horror at 37,000 Feet”: William Shatner, Buddy Ebsen and Chuck Connors star in made-for-TV thriller.

“The Slumber Party Massacre”: The 1982 horror film is now on Blu-ray.

“Discovery Channel’s Survivorman 10 Days”: Les Stroud attempts to survive 10 days in the dangerous wilderness.

“Reasonable Doubt”: A lawyer throws a case only to find the man he helps free has some dark secrets.

Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

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