Brad Pitt stars in ‘Ad Astra,’ a smart, visually stunning sci-fi film
New on Blu-ray
“Ad Astra” (20th Century Fox DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $37.99; 4K, $45.99; also available on VOD)
Director James Gray makes his own kind of cerebral, reflective and visually splendid science-fiction film with this outer-space adventure that mixes deep sentiment with visceral thrills. Brad Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut in a near-future United States that has been plagued by dangerous power spikes, initiated from somewhere around Neptune — perhaps by McBride’s long-missing explorer father (played by Tommy Lee Jones). As the hero ventures farther into the solar system, he encounters dangerous remnants of past missions, some of which were meant to answer the biggest questions about whether life exists on distant worlds. The action sequences are masterfully staged, but this is more about the character’s personal journey as he ponders his family legacy and his purpose.
[Special features: A Gray commentary track, deleted scenes and featurettes]
“Wisting” (available Dec. 18 on Sundance Now)
Fans of Nordic noir should enjoy this Norwegian procedural based on a series of novels by Jørn Lier Horst. Sven Nordin plays the title character, a veteran homicide detective who — for this genre, at least — is relatively stable and socially well-adjusted. Carrie-Anne Moss plays an American FBI agent who arrives in Wisting’s jurisdiction on the trail of a serial killer who’s long eluded her. Drawn from two of Horst’s books, the 10-episode first season sets gripping and gory mysteries in a beautifully icy locale.
TV set of the week
“Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture” (Universal DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98; also available on VOD)
Though it was released theatrically — and became a surprisingly massive hit worldwide — the movie is essentially an extended episode of the TV series, catching fans up on the lives of the upper-crust Crawley family and their servants, a little over a year after the show’s final episode. The film is set in 1927 and follows the hubbub that ensues when King George V and Queen Mary visit the Crawley estate, pushing everyone to think about what they’ve been through together and what they want to do next. As always, it’s lovely to look at, and balanced properly between a realistic look back at times gone by and a sentimental soap opera.
[Special features: A commentary track, deleted scenes and featurettes]
From the archives
“The Remains of the Day” (Sony Blu-ray, $24.99)
The filmmaking team of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala were responsible for some of cinema’s all-time greatest literary adaptations. Their best is this one, a 1993 adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel about a butler who witnesses the decline of a great British house in the years leading up to World War II. Anthony Hopkins plays the butler, so dedicated to service that he misses a lot of important stuff going on around him — like the aristocracy’s appeasement of the Nazis and the romantic attention of his staff’s housekeeper (played by Emma Thompson). The movie works just fine as a period melodrama, but it’s even better as an illustration and analysis of a historic political blunder.
[Special features: A Merchant/Ivory/Thompson commentary track, deleted scenes and featurettes]
Three more to see
“Abominable” (Universal DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98; 4K, $44.98; 3D, $39.98; also available on VOD); “Feast of the Seven Fishes” (Shout! Factory DVD, $16.97; Blu-ray, $22.97; also available on VOD); “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (Kino Lorber DVD, $29.95; Blu-ray/3D, $34.95; also available on VOD)
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