This week's new DVD releases feature faith, hope, and a squirrel in dire need of charity.
"Black Nativity" (grade, A-): Based on the Langston Hughes play, Black Nativity updates the story with a Baltimore teen traveling to spend the holidays with his estranged relatives in New York. Kasi Lemmons' film rises above standard holiday fare because of strong writing, acting, and music. Because Lemmons quickly shows the film's central figure has a good heart and is only facing bad decisions, the transformation that eventually comes feels real and grounded.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (grade, B-): A timid magazine worker goes on a true-life adventure. Ben Stiller stars as Mitty, a man who has lived most of his life dreaming of adventure. Despite the beautifully shot film's endearing qualities, it loses its way when Mitty goes from dreamer to doer.
"The Nut Job" (grade, C): Winter's coming and the park squirrels are dangerously low on food. This film is fun strictly for kids. They will go nuts for the tale - but adults may just go nuts waiting for the rather redundant comic humor to end.
"The Invisible Woman" (grade, B): Charles Dickens was living a life of great expectations as the perfect father, it seems, while also keeping a mistress, Ellen Ternan. Directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes as the writer, the film, more cerebral than sexual, shows the emotional turmoil he faced
Also new on DVD:
Philomena: Woman (Judi Dench) looks for her son.
Better Living Through Chemistry: A pharmacist's drug- and alcohol-fueled affair.
Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files: The English village mystery in a contemporary TV spin.
Ride Along: A high school security guard (Kevin Hart) goes on patrol with his potential brother-in-law, an Atlanta detective (Ice Cube).
Boys of Abu Ghraib: An American soldier forms a bond with a prisoner he's guarding.
The Practice: The Final Season: Legal drama that paved the way for Boston Legal.
Camp Dread: A director wants to resurrect the summer-camp horror genre.
Making of a Lady: Educated but penniless Emily Fox Seton (Lydia Wilson) struggles with love.
Saint Seiya: Sanctuary: Five mystical warriors.
Flowers in the Attic: Mother hides four siblings.
The Gabby Douglas Story: Recounts how the gymnast overcame obstacles to win Olympic gold.