A ‘Lucky’ charmer
The protagonist of British director Mike Leigh’s latest slice-of-life is a constantly chattering, endlessly upbeat woman (played by Sally Hawkins) who seems at first to be mentally ill, until Leigh shows how her chipper attitude stacks up against other, more legitimately crazy folk. As with most Leigh films, “Happy-Go-Lucky” is alternately funny and a little scary, and it plays out in ways the audience might not expect. The DVD comes with a Leigh commentary and two featurettes that explore his unique improvisation-to-script method.
Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $35.99
After revolutionizing animation with the feature-length “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Walt Disney Studios tackled this dark, moralistic fable about a puppet who learns there’s more to being “a real boy” than just playing all day. Disney softened the story’s hard edges with comic relief and sentimental songs such as “When You Wish Upon a Star,” but the movie retains a hard punch that few modern children’s films would dare -- outside of maybe “Coraline.” “Pinocchio” is now available on Blu-ray, a format that reveals the movie’s painterly layers spectacularly. The disc also includes an appreciative hourlong look back, interactive games and a wonky picture-in-picture commentary track featuring Leonard Maltin and others.
Universal, $29.98, Blu-ray, $39.98
Star Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black both used a portion of their Oscar speeches to emphasize the significance of slain gay politician Harvey Milk, and in particular the way he agitated for openness. Director Gus Van Sant also followed “Milk’s” lead, leaving aside the artsy affectations of “Gerry” and “Elephant” and delivering a conventional, crowd-pleasing movie about a man who fought to drag homosexuality into the mainstream. “Milk” acknowledges the man’s personal flaws, but it’s primarily a deeply moving explication of how one brave, outspoken soul can inspire millions. The DVD and Blu-ray include a few deleted scenes and three thoughtful featurettes.
Sony, $28.96; Blu-ray, $39.95
Director Jonathan Demme returns to his low-budget roots in “Rachel Getting Married,” making a sprawling, vibrant film about a junkie who can’t find the happy balance between being a part of her family and staying out of their way. Anne Hathaway gives a justly Oscar-nominated performance as the self-absorbed addict, and she’s supported by a rich, multiethnic cast of musicians, actors and comedians. The DVD and Blu-ray feature two commentary tracks (though neither with Demme), 20 minutes of deleted scenes and more than an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.98
“The State’s” David Wain directs a troupe of his top-flight comedian cohorts in a raunchy story about cynical losers (played by Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott) assigned to mentor a pair of adolescent misfits. The results are entertainingly disastrous, then surprisingly sweet; this movie is an all-around winner. The DVD and Blu-ray editions throw in an unrated cut, a fumbly Wain commentary and a short package of hilarious outtakes.
Synecdoche, New York
Sony, $28.96; Blu-ray, $39.95
A regional theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) stages an autobiographical drama that encompasses thousands of actors working inside a city-sized airplane hangar for decades on end in writer-director Charlie Kaufman’s weird, wonderful film. Kaufman freely mixes absurdity and pathos into something messy and even unpalatable at times. But the scope of “Synecdoche’s” imagination -- and the deeply personal pain it explores -- make it arguably 2008’s most visionary film. The DVD and Blu-ray add featurettes that (among other things) tackle the complications the cast and crew had in externalizing the labyrinthine corridors of Kaufman’s mind.