Friday, February 28, 2020
Feb. 28, 2020

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New on DVD: Films capture depths of humanity


Imagination dominates the top DVD picks for Feb. 18, from the Land of Make Believe to a young boy’s manic imaginary friend Adolf Hitler.

• “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”: In these trying times even small acts of empathy can feel radical, but this story featuring a certain beloved TV host feels revolutionary.

Inspired by a 1998 Esquire profile by Tom Junod, the film follows jaded journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), who is sent to interview Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks, giving a soothing performance) while his deadbeat dad (Chris Cooper) attempts to come back into his life. As Lloyd struggles to accept Fred’s vibe as genuine, Fred’s seeming ability to see through to the soul prompts a journey of forgiveness.

Director Marielle Heller beautifully captures each character’s humanity, from the prickly to the patient, the pleading to the peaceful. The narrative beats and visual style encourage the viewer to slow down and express gratitude for life, no matter how messy, much like real-life Rogers. And while it’s not quite as much of a tear-jerker as the 2018 documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” it’s sure to tug at the heartstrings.

“Jojo Rabbit”: Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth who fawns over der Fuhrer to such an extent that Hitler (Taika Waititi) is his imaginary friend. After discovering his idealistic mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish teenage girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home, the 10-year-old grapples with his blind fanaticism and innate humanity.

Waititi, who also wrote and directed the film (based on “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens), took home the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay at this year’s ceremony. (He’s the first person of Maori descent to win an Oscar.)

The visual style and snappy dialogue screams “Wes Anderson meets the Nazis,” though the “satirical” story aspects tend to fall flat. It’s tough to pull off that zaniness while also trying to be simultaneously emotionally moving and biting. The tonal shifts are jarring, with more schtick than social commentary. Still, it’s ambitious, with plenty of moments both tragic and touching.

Also new on DVD

• “Midway”: Six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the infamous World War II battle between Japanese and American forces begins.

• “21 Bridges”: A New York detective (Chadwick Boseman) searches the city for a pair of cop killers while all of Manhattan’s bridges are closed.

• “Frankie”: A famous French movie star with terminal cancer (Isabelle Huppert) gets her extended family together in Portugal in an attempt to wrap up her affairs.

• “Disturbing the Peace”: An ex-Texas Ranger (Guy Pearce) faces a biker gang.

• “The Twilight Zone”: The first season of the CBS All Access series based on Rod Serling’s 1959 original series stars Jordan Peele as the narrator of the eerie sci-fi vignettes.

Digital HD

• “Charlie’s Angels”: Three women working for a private detective agency team up to stop a sinister entrepreneur from abusing a new energy source. Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska star.