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Watch 2013

New releases: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt shine in heartfelt 'Sessions'

Also reviewed: 'Hello I Must Be Going,' 'Hotel Transylvania,' 'Seven Psychopaths.'

January 26, 2013|By Noel Murray
  • Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in "The Sessions."
Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in "The Sessions." (Fox Searchlight Pictures )

The Sessions

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 29

Before he died, polio-stricken poet Mark O'Brien wrote an article about his experiences having sex for the first time, with a therapist. Writer-director Ben Lewin adapted the article into a simple, heartfelt movie with John Hawkes as O'Brien and Helen Hunt as the sexual surrogate. The movie is primarily an actors' showcase — in fact, Hunt was just nominated for an Academy Award for her role — and isn't about visual flourishes or storytelling surprises. But Lewin captures what was so powerful about O'Brien's article: how it explores sex in both practical and spiritual terms, considering how it feels to be alive, in a body, with all its damnable weaknesses and potential pleasures.

Hello I Must Be Going

Oscilloscope, $29.99

Under-ued character actress Melanie Lynskey gets a rare and welcome showcase as the star of this low-key indie drama playing Amy, a newly divorced middle-aged woman who moves back in with her parents and has a fling with a teenage neighbor (played by Christopher Abbott). The premise is exceedingly slight, but screenwriter Sarah Koskoff and director Todd Louiso avoid tipping the movie too far into melodrama, instead focusing on the small moments of ridiculousness (such as the lovers having a tryst in a boy's bedroom festooned with sports memorabilia) and the growing awareness that neither party is well served by this affair. On the whole, this is a sensitive portrayal of lives in limbo, highlighted by Lynskey's nuanced performance. The DVD adds interviews with Lynskey, Koskoff and Louiso.

Oscar Watch 2013

Hotel Transylvania

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $40.99/$55.99

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 29

Well meaning but misbegotten, this computer-animated comedy is about what happens when a goofy human (Andy Samberg) stumbles into a refuge for monsters, run by Dracula (Adam Sandler). The movie went through multiple screenwriters and directors on its way to completion, and while veteran animator Genndy Tartakovsky comes up with clever visual gags, the movie is also peppered with one too many gross-out jokes and weighed down by a saccharine plot involving Dracula's efforts to shield his daughter from the outside world. Like way too many kids movies, "Hotel Transylvania" is more about adult concerns and humor than about unfettered fun. The DVD and Blu-ray add a commentary track, featurettes and a short cartoon rendered in Tartakovsky's more familiar cel-animated "Powerpuff Girls" style.

Seven Psychopaths

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 29

For writer-director Martin McDonagh's follow-up to his cult favorite "In Bruges," Colin Farrell plays Martin, an alcoholic screenwriter who has a good title for a movie but no plot. Enter Farrell's actor buddy Billy (played by Sam Rockwell), who shares juicy stories he heard from deeply spiritual dognapper Hans (Christopher Walken). When the three men anger a temperamental mob boss (Woody Harrelson), they flee to the desert, where they continue to collaborate on ideas for the story. To say much more about what happens would rob it of some of its kick; suffice to say that McDonagh weaves between fiction and meta-fiction, always with funny, flavorful dialogue and a deep, philosophical concern with what motivates characters to pick up a gun. The DVD and Blu-ray include a few brief promotional pieces.

And …

The Awakening

Universal, $19.98; Blu-ray, $26.98

Available on VOD Jan. 29

Citadel

New Group, $26.95; Blu-ray, $29.95

Available on VOD Jan. 29

Downton Abbey: Season Three

PBS, $49.99; Blu-ray, $54.99

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