When Martin Scorsese changed the way we looked at mobsters with GoodFellas and Casino, he was also setting the stage for movies about American business.
Scorsese’s own The Wolf of Wall Street, which hits digital on Tuesday and DVD and Blu-ray on March 25, finds the director applying his narrative and tonal techniques to the tale of an unscrupulous moneymaker played by Leonardo DiCaprio. And this Tuesday brings American Hustle, writer-director David O. Russell’s tale of crime, cons and the pursuit of fortune.
The performances are terrific but the movie is no more than good, too stretched out and rambling in places. That, along with its focus on trust and betrayal, made it seem like Russell’s reworking of Casino. I even tried to work out a binding theory in which Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper were the mates to Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in Casino — and maybe that Amy Adams was accordingly Sharon Stone. (De Niro, by the way, has worked with both directors and makes an appearance in American Hustle.)
Anyway, American Hustle (Sony, $30.99 DVD/digital combo, $40.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo), based on a real case, offers the adventures of con artists (Bale and Adams) roped into working for a federal agent (Cooper) trying to bring down corrupt politicians. The attempts are intermittently comedic and terrifying, and the actors — also including Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner — are at full throttle. But there were times when I wanted to throttle Russell for letting scenes go on too long.
Extras include a making-of piece and more than 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes.
Also arriving on Tuesday is Saving Mr. Banks (Disney, $29.99 DVD, $36.99 Blu-ray/digital combo), the dramatic tale of the making of the musical Mary Poppins and of the protracted attempts to get Poppins creator P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to agree to the project.
In real life as well as in the film, Travers was a tough nut on everything from casting to set decoration, and Thompson plays the writer’s steeliness to marvelous effect. It is especially fun to watch her in discussion with Tom Hanks as an avuncular but equally iron-willed Walt Disney. The cast also includes Colin Farrell (as Travers’ father, seen in flashbacks), Bradley Whitford as a Disney executive and Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak as the songwriting Sherman brothers.
Although it was often promoted as a comedic battle, Saving Mr. Banks is quite dramatic, especially as it delves into why Travers is so protective of her work. But it works very well.
Extras include a tour of the Disney studios, three deleted scenes and the cast singing Let’s Go Fly a Kite to Richard Sherman on the last day of filming. (Richard’s brother Robert died in 2012.)
Also on Tuesday: Frozen (Disney, $29.99 DVD, $44.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo), the blockbuster that won Academy Awards for best animated feature and best song (Let It Go). The tale of magic and female bonding has taken in close to $400 million in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo, and passed the billion-dollar mark globally; reviews were for the most part positive, with an 89 percent rating on Box Office Mojo.
It has not only resonated with audiences, especially girls and women, but become a cultural flashpoint in unexpected ways. John Travolta added to the conversation when, at the Academy Awards, he butchered Idina Menzel’s name when introducing her performance of Let It Go. And some people — I won’t call them conservatives because that disrespects real conservatives — have gone so far as to claim the movie is some kind of satanic, pro-gay propaganda. But don’t let that keep your daughters from singing along with the soundtrack.
Extras on DVD include music videos of Let It Go (in English and Spanish) and the animated short Get a Horse. The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes and a making-of piece.
Flashpoint fans can complete their DVD collection on Tuesday with the release of Flashpoint: The Final Season (CBS/Paramount, $42.99). The set also includes a “final salute” to the series, and comments from the cast and crew about the show ending.
Down video road: Ripper Street: Season Two comes to DVD and Blu-ray on April 15. The same day brings Anger Management: Volume Three on DVD. The documentary I Am Divine will be on digital on April 1 and DVD a week later.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.