This week on DVD/Blu-ray: An animated film strictly for grown ups; one of the biggest indie hits of the year; the long-delayed latest from the Duplass brothers; a comedy about the birth of the vibrator; and a dark thriller headlined by Ethan Hawke and a fiesty Kristin Scott Thomas.
#1. “Chico & Rita”
If you’re of the mindset that cartoons are for kids, then prepare for a shock. Nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award this year (it lost out to “Rango”), “Chico & Rita” tells the very adult story of a young piano player in Cuba circa 1948, who falls for Rita, a beautiful and sultry singer. Spanning six decades from their first encounter to their heartfelt reunion, “Chica & Rita” charts the couple’s tumultuous relationship from the streets of Havana to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.
“You’ve never seen anything like ‘Chico & Rita,'” wrote Eric Kohn in his glowing review, “simply because that jubilant palette and likeminded jazz soundtrack embraces its predictability with such vitality. The lush animated environment sustains each standard twist, resulting in the rare case of a movie that yearns for a time when a swooning period piece felt fresh. Looks can be deceiving; in the case of ‘Chico & Rita,’ they’re a first-rate coup.”
Extras: Included is the full-length Latin Grammy-winning soundtrack; an excerpt from the bestselling graphic novel; a making-of featurette; audio commentary with the film’s directors; and the U.S. trailer.
#2. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
It’s little wonder the British retiree dramedy “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is one of the biggest indie successes of the summer season. The film follows the template similar to the one that made “Mamma Mia!” a massive hit: Transplant a top tier crop of actors over the age of 50 to an exotic locale and let them loose (minus the Abba tunes). Based on Deborah Moggach’s book “These Foolish Things,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” brings together some of Britain’s finest thespians (Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton and Tom Wilkinson) for a life-affirming lark about a group of old Brits who venture off to India to take up residence at the Marigold Hotel, an establishment set up to host retirees and run by a young man in over his head (a hammy Dev Patel). With a cast this large, the plot at times feels more suited for a BBC miniseries, but thanks to reliable director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” “The Debt”) — who’s proven himself adept at handling big ensembles — “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a charming diversion that wears it’s crowd-pleasing ambitions on its sleeve.
Extras: The featurettes “Behind the Story: Lights, Colors and Smiles,” “Casting Legends,” “Welcome to the Real Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Trekking to India,” and “Tuk Tuk Travels.” You’ll also find the U.S. trailer.
#3. “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon”
It’s been a long time coming, but Mark and Jay Duplass’ comedy “The Do-Deca Pentathlon” finally lands on DVD and Blu-ray today, four years after being completed. Shot after their last low-budget effort “Baghead” in 2008, and put to rest while the duo worked on “Cyrus” and “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” for Fox Searchlight, “The Do-Deca Pentathlon” world premiered to solid notices at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, proving that the film wasn’t shelved because it’s no good — it was just bad timing. The microbudget comedy centers on a pair of warring brothers (Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis) engaged in their own private 25-event Olympics. “‘Do-Deca’ focuses on the difficulty of leaving youth behind to face more advanced challenges,” Kohn wrote in his review out of SXSW. “The movie illustrates two certainties: Nobody stops growing up and the Duplass brothers still have the skills to prove it.”
Extras: Two featurettes — “Meet the Real Brothers” and “Rock, Paper, Scissors with the Real Brothers.”
Who knew the story of the birth of the vibrator could make for wholesome family entertainment? Granted it’s rated R, but the period romp “Hysteria” is more concerned with telling a good-natured tale about the plight of the working woman in Victorian-era England. That it also happens to feature what likely amounts to the most female orgasms ever commited to celluloid is beyond the point — “Hysteria” has more in common with anything from the James Ivory oeuvre than “Betty Blue.” Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce play doctors in London treating cases of hysteria in women. To treat their patients’ conditions, Dancy’s character enlists the help of his best friend (played by Rupert Everett) to come up with an electrical device to calm their nerves. Maggie Gyllenhaal steals the picture as the feisty daughter to Pryce, a proud and loud feminist with a mission to change society — though first she has to work on her father.
Extras: A commentary with Director Tanya Wexler; featurettes (“An Evening with Tanya Wexler, Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce”, “Hysteria: Behind the Scenes”, “Passion & Power: The Technology of Orgasm”); and deleted scenes.
#5. “The Woman in the Fifth”
In “The Woman in the Fifth,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s first film since 2004’s “My Summer of Love,” Ethan Hawke gives one of his strongest performances in recent memory as Tom Ricks, a divorced American writer who hides out in a hotel room in gloomy Paris to pen his latest work. In the City of Lights, Ricks meets Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) a gorgeous widow with her own fair share of demons. Together the two embark on a series of sexually charged trysts, but their party soon comes to a halt when it’s believed Margit is at the center of a gruesome murder mystery. The less we say about this thriller the better — just don’t expect the twists to fully reveal themselves to you. This is more a game of the mind, than a typical whodunnit.
Extras: A making-of featurette.