Oh, the splendor of an unlikely hero

American Splendor

Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis

HBO, $28

This unique look at the life and times of the most unlikely comic book hero, the curmudgeonly Cleveland file clerk Harvey Pekar, has been a critics’ darling this award season. The film, a clever blend of reel-life actors and the real-life people, has been named best film by the National Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics. Assn. And directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini are in contention for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.


The digital edition features an amusing featurette, “Road to Splendor,” which follows the iconoclastic Pekar, his wife, Joyce Brabner, and adopted daughter Danielle Batone as they travel to film festivals and premieres of the film. It also has an Easter egg focusing on Pekar’s jelly-bean fanatic friend Toby Radloff and commentary from the directors, Giamatti, Pekar, Brabner and Batone.


Lost in Translation

Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson


Universal, $27

Writer-director Sofia Coppola’s quirky comedy about a lonely young wife and a stressed-out movie star who meet at a Tokyo hotel is an Academy Award nominee for best picture and won Golden Globe awards for best comedy or musical, best actor for Murray and best screenplay for the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola.

Though Sofia Coppola doesn’t do a commentary track, the disc does have its own quiet charm. There’s a 30-minute “Lost on Location” featurette that is a cut above the average DVD documentary. Coppola comes across as a low-key, centered filmmaker who is obviously smitten with her wild and crazy leading man, as are most of the women in the crew. There are also a few short deleted scenes, the extended version of “Matthew’s Best Hit TV Show,” the surreal chat show Murray’s character appears on in the movie, and a sweet conversation between Coppola and Murray.


Secondhand Lions

Michael Caine, Robert Duvall and Haley Joel Osment

New Line, $29

Watching veteran Oscar-winners Caine and Duvall play eccentric Texas brothers is a real joy. Child star Osment more than holds his own as their 14-year-old nephew. But this family comedy ultimately misses the mark -- perhaps it’s the seemingly endless flashbacks chronicling the brothers’ early lives that slow up the proceedings and make the film seem disjointed and choppy.


The two-disc DVD edition is filled with well-produced extras, including two intelligent documentaries on the difficult route the screenplay had in making it to the screen and the production itself. The discs also include an interview with Osment, visual effects comparisons, deleted and alternate scenes and breezy commentary with writer-director Tim McCanlies, who previously penned the joyous animated film “The Iron Giant.”


Under the Tuscan Sun

Diane Lane, Sandra Oh

Touchstone, $30

Despite an enchanting performance by Lane -- as an embittered divorcee who finds a new lease on life when she buys a rundown villa in Tuscany -- and some of the most glorious scenery put on film in recent memory, this comedy-drama is more commercial and calculating than entertaining. It was written and directed by Audrey Wells based on Frances Mayes’ book.

The by-the-book digital edition includes a typical “making of” featurette and three deleted scenes that are so short you’ll miss them if you blink. On the plus side, Wells offers intelligent, perceptive commentary.

-- Susan King