Home entertainment: 'Maps to the Stars' is a showbiz psychodrama

Home entertainment: 'Maps to the Stars' is a showbiz psychodrama
John Cusack in "Maps to the Stars." (Caitlin Cronenberg / eOne Films)

Maps to the Stars

Universal, $19.98; Blu-ray, $26.98


Before Julianne Moore steamrolled through awards season with her Oscar-winning "Still Alice" performance, a lot of industry pundits expected her to be a contender for her turn as a mentally unstable actress in this showbiz psychodrama. Director David Cronenberg and writer Bruce Wagner explore the dark side of sunny California with the film, following a self-help guru (John Cusack) and his interactions with a motley group of troubled relatives, rich burnouts and their various young, hungry assistants (including characters played by Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska). The subject matter of "Maps to the Stars" is unusual for the cult Canadian filmmaker — who'd never shot a movie in the U.S. before — but he gives it an evocative, dried-out quality, which Moore and company fit disturbingly well.

Goodbye to Language

Kino Lorber, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Broadly speaking, Jean-Luc Godard's latest essay-film isn't that different from much of the French New Wave master's work over the last several decades. It's an abstract piece, taking a slim narrative about a bickering couple and scattering it through a series of poetic, highbrow conversations about the meaning of words and symbols. What sets this movie apart from similar Godards though is that it's shot in 3-D and takes a radical approach to the format that at times sends completely different pictures into the viewers' right and left eyes. (The Blu-ray contains a 3-D and 2-D version, along with a Godard interview; the DVD is strictly 2-D.) More than just a gimmick, the extra dimension in "Goodbye to Language" serves the film's larger themes, stacking image against image while the narration and dialogue pit idea against idea.

Sullivan's Travels

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Writer-director Preston Sturges is responsible for some of the smartest and funniest films of the 1940s, but none is a better introduction to his cockeyed worldview than this 1941 work. In a sweetly satirical commentary on his own line of work, Sturges tells the story of a sullen filmmaker named John L. Sullivan (played by Joel McCrea) who plans to quit churning out comedies and instead direct something that speaks to the hard lives of working men. But while researching the project — with the help of a poor actress played by Veronica Lake — Sullivan gets in real trouble and discovers he knows less about real life than he thought. Criterion's new Blu-ray updates a fine earlier DVD edition, adding a new video essay to vintage interviews, a feature-length PBS documentary and a commentary track featuring Sturges fans Noah Baumbach, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean.

The Babadook

MPI/IFC Midnight, $14.93; Scream! Factory Blu-ray, $29.93

While this year's clever, terrifying "It Follows" is on its way to becoming a surprise hit, the time is right to revisit last year's breakout horror picture. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, the film stars Essie Davis as a stressed-out widow whose issues with her hyperactive 6-year-old son intensify when they're haunted by a shadowy creature from one of his children's books. What makes the movie so effective is that Kent roots the scares — which come early and often — in real feelings of loss and parental anxiety. The status of "The Babadook" as a new classic is confirmed by its home video release, which is being divided into a basic IFC Midnight DVD and Blu-ray (with a few featurettes) and a special edition Blu-ray from the Scream! Factory imprint, the latter of which includes deleted scenes and an earlier Kent short film.

And …

Batman vs. Robin

Warner Bros., $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.98

Big Eyes


Starz/Anchor Bay, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

God Help the Girl

Anchor Bay, $22.98

I Am Steve McQueen

Shout! Factory, $14.98; Blu-ray, $29.93

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken

Millennium, $19.99; Blu-ray, $24.99

The Man With the Iron Fists 2: The Sting of the Scorpion

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

The Missing: Season One

Starz/Anchor Bay, $44.98; Blu-ray, $54.99

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD Tuesday