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Movies

A semi-happy ending for ‘Once Upon a Time in America’

‘Once Upon a Time in America’
Noodles (Robert De Niro) in a Chinatown opium den in New York’s Lower East Side, circa 1933 in “Once Upon a Time in America,” directed by Sergio Leone.
(Angelo Novi)

Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director’s Cut

Warner Bros., $14.97; Blu-ray, $34.99

The long, tortured history of Sergio Leone’s 1984 masterpiece reaches a semi-happy end with the release of a new 251-minute, restored version on DVD and Blu-ray (with a Richard Schickel commentary track and a documentary). Leone’s ambitious adaptation of Harry Grey’s novel “The Hoods” stars Robert De Niro and James Woods as longtime friends who experience shifting fortunes in their criminal enterprises between the 1920s and the ‘60s. After the long version of the movie with its artfully jumbled chronology won raves at Cannes, the American distributors hacked it down and streamlined it, though in the decades since, still-incomplete longer versions have come out on home video. The new version — reconstructed with the help of Martin Scorsese — is the closest yet to Leone’s vision and is one of the cinematic events of the year.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

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Paramount, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

It’s hard to argue against a movie that’s made a billion dollars worldwide without sounding like a spoilsport, but with Michael Bay’s latest giant robot brawl, the question isn’t whether it was worth seeing in summer 2014 but whether anyone will care 10 years from now. Set five years after “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” the new film introduces a new hero — a small-town single dad and tinkerer, played by Mark Wahlberg — but is otherwise indistinguishable from the earlier “Transformers” pictures. The quick-cut editing is near-incomprehensible, the jokes and dialogue are corny, and although Bay brings a sense of awe to the sight of massive robots wreaking havoc, the trick becomes less impressive by the second hour. “Age of Extinction” is fleetingly diverting, but it lacks heart and inventiveness — and is ultimately unmemorable. The DVD and Blu-ray set are generous with extras, piling on three hours of featurettes.

Chef

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Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD Tuesday

After spending a decade-plus making big-budget studio pictures, Jon Favreau returns to his indie roots, making his warmest, funniest, most personal picture since “Swingers.” In addition to writing and directing, Favreau stars as a popular L.A. chef who quits his job and travels across the country in a food truck, making Cuban sandwiches with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and son. Favreau is a little too alarmist about Internet trolls and critics, and it takes too long for the movie’s plot to kick in, but otherwise this is a charming and well-acted film, with strong supporting turns by John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson, among others. (Audiences agree: “Chef” is one of the most successful indie films of 2014.) The “Chef” DVD and Blu-ray adds deleted scenes and a commentary track with Favreau and his culinary consultant, Roy Choi.

Third Person

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

Writer-director Paul Haggis ventures back to the “everything’s connected” melodrama of his Oscar-winning “Crash,” telling three stories about couples in crisis, bound by a single, unexpected thread. The surprise ending of “Third Person” is ridiculous, and although Haggis has a top-shelf cast at his disposal (including Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Mila Kunis, James Franco and Olivia Wilde), the film’s unrelenting grimness and seriousness squeeze the life out of it. Nearly every character has a dark secret — each darker than the last — as though bleakness alone could make “Third Person” important. The “Third Person” DVD and Blu-ray comes with a Haggis commentary track, plus an interview and a featurette.

And…

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Are You Here

Millennium, $28.99; Blu-ray, $29.99

Cold in July

MPI, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Space Station 76

Sony, $26.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

24: Live Another Day

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20th Century Fox, $49.98; Blu-ray, $59.99


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