'Straight Outta Compton' a heady biopic about gangsta rap legends N.W.A

Straight Outta Compton

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD on Tuesday

Who would've guessed at the start of last year that a biopic about gangsta rap legends N.W.A — starring producer Ice Cube's son as Ice Cube — would not only become one of 2015's biggest hits but also a legitimate awards-season contender? Give credit where it's due: Director F. Gary Gray and screenwriters Andrea Berloff and Jonathan Herman have wrangled a sprawling story about creativity, controversy and contracts into something that effectively conjures up the heady early days of West Coast hip-hop. Rather than focusing on one storyline, the film tries to cover everything, and the result is a vibrant collection of vignettes, equally engaged with music-making, celebrity decadence, institutional racism and a culture in transition. This is a vital, essential pop document, made with love, craft and understanding. The DVD and Blu-ray add deleted scenes, plus interviews with the surviving members of N.W.A. 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $34.99

Available on VOD on Tuesday

First-time feature writer-director Marielle Heller handles a tricky task in her adaptation of cartoonist Phoebe Gloeckner's semi-autobiographical graphic novel about sexual and chemical experimentation in 1970s San Francisco. Heller nods to the story's comic book origins with a few animated interludes, but for the most part her best special effect is young British actress Bel Powley, who lights up the screen as a precocious high-schooler. The film suffers some from imposing a plot arc onto material that might've worked better as a series of anecdotes about a libertine youth. But Powell brings a combination of carnality and wide-eyed innocence to a character who treats sex, drugs and art as pass cards into the secret club of adults. The DVD and Blu-ray include deleted scenes and featurettes.

Let There Be Light: John Huston's Wartime Documentaries

Olive, $24.95; Blu-ray, $29.95

Director Huston had barely begun his career in Hollywood when he joined the Army and started making documentaries, intended to keep the home front informed on how their taxes were being spent during World War II. At the time, Huston's work was censored by the government for being too raw, but when the movies were finally restored and released decades later, critics hailed them for their unusual frankness about the courage of soldiers and the ramifications of violence. Olive's Blu-ray set collects four of those docs — including the title film, about shell-shocked veterans talking through their problems in therapy. These are terrific films, which laid the groundwork for the hard-bitten skepticism of later Huston classics like "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and "The Asphalt Jungle."

Inside Llewyn Davis

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Even cinephiles who've already bought Joel and Ethan Coen's moody musical drama on Blu-ray may want to upgrade to the new special edition, which represents the brothers' first time getting the Criterion Collection treatment — and hopefully not the last. The special features alone are worth the price, highlighted by a full folk-rock concert, a commentary by veteran New York rock critic Robert Christgau, multiple documentaries about the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, and an interview between the Coens and Guillermo del Toro. And then there's the actual film: a funny, haunting character study about a cranky musician, magnificently played by Oscar Isaac in what now looks like the first major role of a brilliant career.

And…

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

FilmRise, $24.95; Blu-ray, $29.95

Everest

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98/$49.98

Available on VOD on Tuesday

The Intern

Warner Bros. Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD on Tuesday

Jem and the Holograms

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available now on VOD

12 Monkeys: Season One

Universal, $44.98; Blu-ray, $49.98

Woodlawn

Universal, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Available on VOD on Tuesday

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A version of this article appeared in print on January 19, 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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