This week's DVD releases range from a true crime story to a bloody sequel.
"Captain Phillips," Grade B+: Based on actual events in 2009 off the coast of Somalia, the film tells the story of a handful of pirates who take over a freighter being helmed by Capt. Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) in an attempt to earn millions in ransom dollars.
The right casting starts with Tom Hanks, who adds another Oscar-caliber performance to his already stellar résumé. This is the latest performance that has Hanks playing an average man forced into extraordinary circumstances. His work is powerful, whether it's in the role of protector or helpless victim. Hanks keeps the role grounded and that's why it is so easy to relate to the performance.
"Blue Jasmine," Grade B: Woody Allen's latest film — the sobering tale of a fall from grandeur — travels such a similar path to Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" that a better name for the film would have been "A Trolley Car Named Jasmine." Jasmine's ride is not nearly as dramatic as Blanche DuBois' emotional deconstruction in "Streetcar," but her journey is made tolerable by an Oscar-worthy performance by Cate Blanchett.
Cate Blanchett carries most of the acting load, but she's not alone. As is the case with many Allen movies, the director tends to get superb performances out of supporting players.
"Instructions Not Included," Grade B+: The film works because it starts with a simple story. Valentín's (Eugenio Derbez) carefree playboy life comes to an end when his ex-girlfriend Julie (Jessica Lindsey) drops off the baby daughter he didn't know he had and heads back to the United States. The only recourse Valentín has is to travel from Acapulco, Mexico, to Los Angeles to find the missing mom.
Through a series of light comedy events, Valentín ends up staying in the United States, where he has a newfound job as a stuntman. Things seem perfect until Julie returns.
Derbez, who also directed the film, gives the movie a strong core through his expressive face.
"Machete Kills," Grade C+: Danny Trejo reprises his role as the ex-Federale agent who is recruited by the president to take on an impossible mission. It looked like director Robert Rodriguez had crashed into the absurdity ceiling with his 2010 tongue-in-cheek action film "Machete," a festival of blood, bullets and babes.
It's only fitting that since that movie now appears to be the first of a trilogy, it was simply setting a standard for the outrageousness to come. Preposterousness, thy name is Rodriguez.
Also new on DVD Tuesday:
"All Is Lost": A lone sailor (Robert Redford) battles the dangers of the sea.
"In a World...": Father and daughter battle in the cutthroat world of movie-trailer voiceovers.
"NYPD Blue: Season Five": ABC crime series starring Dennis Franz, Jimmy Smits.
"Space Voyages": Smithsonian Channel's look at challenges of modern space exploration.
"The Starving Games": Parody of "The Hunger Games."
"The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Trucks Versus Wild": Includes 10 episodes.
"Old Goats": Taylor Guterson's look a three men who don't feel their ages.
"White House Revealed": Martin Sheen narrates this behind-the-scenes look at the famous address.
"Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy": Look at the horrifying history of Freddy Krueger.
"Knight of the Dead": Knights must escort sacred artifact through zombie-infested valley.
"Iesodo": New Testament-themed animated children's series.
"Black Water Vampire": Filmmakers look for the true story of the Black Water murders.
"Concrete Blondes": Three bombshell friends face dangerous criminals.
"Best Man Down": One man's death is another man's enlightening journey.
"Raise the Titanic": Special agent looks to recover critical material from the Titanic.
"The Returned": Residents of an alpine village are shocked when the dead come back to life.
"Counting Cars: Season 2 — Volume 2": Cable series about Danny "The Count" Koker.
"My Little Pony: Classic Movie Collection": Contains four films.
"Bullet in the Face: The Complete Series": Eddie Izzard, Eric Roberts star in the crime comedy.
"Comedy Bang! Bang!": Offbeat talk show hosted by Scott Aukerman.
"Crossing Lines: Season One": Special crime unit investigates serialized crimes that cross over borders.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.