'Goosebumps' goes all meta with R.L. Stine's juvenile horror series

Goosebumps

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $38.99/$45.99

Available on VOD on Tuesday

A pleasant surprise all around, the big-screen adaptation of R.L. Stine's juvenile horror series does a lot more with the franchise than it has to, using the books as the basis for a complex piece of meta-fiction, about a trio of teens who meet Stine and find out that the monsters in his novels are real. Jack Black plays the author in a typically shaggy comic performance, but the real stars of the show are creatures like the Living Dummy and the Graveyard Ghouls, which people who grew up with "Goosebumps" will know well. The film is boisterous and lightly scary — just like its source always has been. The DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a blooper reel, and a handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Chi-Raq

Lionsgate, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.99

Though it's definitely not for everybody, it's Spike Lee's best and most relevant movie in years: an honest, unsparing look at the cause and effect of gun violence in inner-city Chicago. What viewers may have trouble with isn't the content but the form. Based on Aristophanes' ancient Greek comedy "Lysistrata," Lee and Kevin Willmott's screenplay presents a wildly satirical story about a sex strike, led by a fed-up young woman (played by the marvelous Teyonah Parris) who wants her city's gang-bangers to make peace and stop spraying their neighborhoods with bullets. The film's dialogue is mostly in rhyme — occasionally rapped — and the plot's mostly an excuse for one frenetic set piece or angry lecture after another. It's undeniably shrill, but it's also feverish and inspired and unlike any other movie from 2015.

The Assassin

Well Go USA, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien is primarily known for slow, elusive art films, and while he doesn't exactly change his approach for this period martial arts epic, he does apply his dreamy style to some of the most visually beautiful fight sequences ever filmed. Set in 8th century China, the movie follows a young woman named Yie Ninniang (played by Shu Qi) as she tries to prove her loyalty to her master by killing her true love. More a moody drama than a thriller, it may disappoint genre fans and confuse longtime followers of the director who generally avoid movies where people hit and stab one another. But on its own merits, it's a remarkable fusion of visceral fantasy and brainy cinema. The DVD and Blu-ray add a featurette.

Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Season 6

PBS, $49.99; Blu-ray, $59.99

One of the most popular dramas of the 2010s came to an end in its native Britain late last year and is wrapping up in the U.S. on PBS. American audiences who want to get a jump on the finale can go ahead and pick up the Season 6 DVD or Blu-ray, which contains all nine episodes plus a few brief featurettes. The last episodes effectively wrap up the story of the Crawleys and their servants, showing how England in the early 20th century transitioned from a culture and economy dominated by country lords into something more egalitarian. The final season also has all the soapy subplots and sudden plot twists that have won over millions of viewers worldwide.

And…

A Brilliant Young Mind

Sony, $25.99

Available on VOD on Tuesday

Burnt

Anchor Bay $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.99

Available on VOD on Tuesday

Comin' at Ya! — 3D

MVD, $19.95; Blu-ray, $24.95

Meet the Patels

Alchemy, $19.99

The New Girlfriend

Cohen, $24.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

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A version of this article appeared in print on January 26, 2016, in the Arts + Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Home theater - Title Synopsis" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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