Paul Dano, left, and Joseph Gordon Levitt in "Looper." (Alan Markfield, TriStar…)
Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99
Available on VOD beginning Dec. 31
Writer-director Rian Johnson (of "Brick" and "The Brothers Bloom") subverts expectations with his sci-fi actioner, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an assassin named Joe, who kills and disposes of people sent back through time. When Joe's older self (Bruce Willis) arrives from the future, it threatens the younger Joe's living, prompting a standoff on a remote farm owned by a single mother (Emily Blunt). The world of "Looper" is retro and grubby — central to the movie's "everything recurs" theme — and Johnson fills the fringes with delightful little character turns, like a classic Hollywood genre picture. The result is one of the most imaginative and entertaining movies of 2012 and one that thoughtfully contemplates whether it's possible for a wicked man to change his fate. The DVD and Blu-ray come with a Johnson/Gordon-Levitt/Blunt commentary track, plus deleted scenes and featurettes.
Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99
Available on VOD beginning Monday
The idea behind this literary drama is a good one: Dennis Quaid plays a writer who reads from his latest book, which is all about another author (played by Bradley Cooper) who stole the memoirs of a third author (Jeremy Irons) and passed them off as his own novel. But in weaving together the stories of these men, the writer-director team of Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal end up with a broadly movie-ish version of what it means to be a writer, weighted down with slow-paced, soporific back stories. "The Words" is handsome-looking but heavy and dull. The DVD and Blu-ray add featurettes.
Best of 2012: Movies | TV | Pop music | Jazz
John Dies at the End
Available on VOD beginning Thursday
Cult filmmaker Don Coscarelli (the man behind "Phantasm," "The Beastmaster" and "Bubba Ho-Tep") tackles David Wong's gonzo novel about an aimless young man also named David Wong (played by Chase Williamson), who tells a journalist (Paul Giamatti) all about his friend John (Rob Mayes), who dies and then communicates from beyond to warn David about a powerful drug called "soy sauce." At once philosophical and willfully weird, it combines monsters and violence with wide-eyed musings about what it means to be alive in a world that's getting wilder by the day. In other words: Coscarelli has another future cult favorite on his hands.
The Well-Digger's Daughter
Kino, $29.95; Blu-ray, $34.95
Veteran French actor Daniel Auteuil makes his directorial debut with his own adaptation of novelist-filmmaker Marcel Pagnol's work, in which Auteuil also stars as an irascible peasant who frets over his daughter Patricia (played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and her scandalous, potentially ruinous love affair. Auteuil honors Pagnol's admiration for salt-of-the-earth types, but even more he shares the author's infatuation with the French countryside, which Auteuil films with an emphasis on how its color and placidity compensate for the occasional cruelty of its residents. This is an old-fashioned melodrama: classy and compelling.
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