A dark comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg tops the new DVD releases for Oct. 15.
• “The Art of Self Defense”: It looks like a sports movie but has political tones. Those are good choices for what genre the film belongs in, but once you wade through all the elements, the dark heart of “The Art of Self Defense” makes the film one of the blackest comedies in recent years.
All this revolves around Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), a man who is such a wimp it appears he’s able to stand up without having a backbone. The meekness of the character is so dominating that it’s almost a blessing when he’s attacked on the street by a roving motorcycle gang. It at least wakes him up to the need for change.
He turns to a local karate school after being convinced by a sensei (Alessandro Nivola) who has the charisma and mind-twisting skills to equal any cult leader. Casey’s unusual relationship with his teacher sets up a bizarre contrast between the unquestioned rules of martial arts and the lack of rules in the real world. Only Anna (Imogen Poots), a much maligned brown belt, offers flickers of reality.
There are times when some ideas and themes spiral into such a dark absurdity that they never make any sense. Most of the film is built around a situation that is too on the nose to be brushed off as an acceptable coincidence. If you can’t dismiss this as a privilege of the writer, the rest of the movie will never gain enough composure for you to enjoy it.
“The Art of Self Defense” is both a smart and annoying sports film. It embraces and dismisses big ideas without hesitation. And the comedy is so dark it may be blinding to some. At least there is no way to dismiss the film as just another formulaic attempt at entertainment. If nothing else, it is one of the most unique films of the year.
Also on DVD
• “Stuber”: Mild-mannered driver (Kumail Nanjiani) goes for the ride of his life when he picks up a passenger who is a cop (Dave Bautista).
• “The Lingering”: Years after his mom’s death, a young man is forced to face the presence that once tortured him as a child.
• “At War”: French union workers battle their corporate bosses to save their jobs.
• “Crawl”: Young woman must battle alligators after her father’s house is flooded during a hurricane.
• “The Haunting of Hill House”: Includes all 10 episodes from the first season of the TV series, including three extended director’s cut episodes with never-before-seen content.
• “Midsomer Murders”: Holiday collectible includes the stand-alone feature-length holiday mystery, “The Christmas Haunting.”
• “Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond”: An eclectic collection of stories from 12 noted directors.
• “Hellboy”: The film from director Guillermo del Toro is being rereleased to mark the 15th anniversary.
• “Can You Keep a Secret?”: A shared secret becomes a big problems between a worker and her boss. Alexandra Daddario stars.
• “Night Hunter”: Henry Cavill stars in this story of the efforts by a man to find a connection between a series of kidnappings and attacks on the police.
• “Bill Plympton Feature Film Library”: Animated works being released include “The Tune,” “I Married a Strange Person!,” “Mutant Aliens,” “Hair High,” “Idiots and Angels” and “Cheatin’.”
• “Princess Emmy”: Animated tale of a girl (voiced by Ruby Barnhill) who has a secret gift.
• “Liam Gallagher: As It Was”: A look at one of rock music’s most electrifying frontmen from career highs to bitter legal battles.
• “Star Trek: Picard Movie & TV Collection”: Includes episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and four feature length films.
• “Ulysses & Mona”: Young artist decides to track down a contemporary artist who left his career behind four years ago.
On digital HD
• “A Cinderella Story: A Christmas Wish”: Laura Marano stars in this modern version of the classic fairy tale. It will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on Oct. 29.
• “Batman Beyond: The Complete Series Limited Edition”: Includes all the episodes from the animated series that debuted in 1999. Will be available on Blu-ray Oct. 29.