NEW ON DVD: ‘Before I Fall’: ‘Groundhog Day’ for a new generation

COURTESY PHOTO

Just like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” high-school mean girl Samantha (Zoey Deutch) is forced to relive the same day over and over again in “Before I Fall” (2017, Universal, PG-13, $28).

But unlike Murray, Samantha must continually revisit the day she dies, an exercise which forces her to become a better person. What keeps “Before I Fall” from becoming predictable is all of the mysteries which Samantha must solve as she struggles to, essentially, discover the meaning of life.

In the end, the earnest celebration of both family life and the importance of staying true to yourself gives this teen drama plenty of punch. Extras: none.

Also New To DVD

The Great Wall (2017, Universal, PG-13, $30): As overstuffed CGI spectacles go, this monster movie is surprisingly fun stuff. Matt Damon, sporting a ponytail and scraggly beard, stars as a westerner who winds up helping an army of Chinese warriors battle back hordes of giant, orc-like creatures. Director Zhang Yimou is such a strong visual stylist that he manages to make special-effects-heavy battle scenes seem fresh and exciting. He can’t quite ignite the bromance between Damon and a travelling companion (Pedro Pascal) but “The Great Wall” has an old-fashioned sincerity about it which helps it stand out from the crowd. Extras: featurettes and deleted scenes.

Advertisement

I Am Heath Ledger (2017, Virgil, unrated, $20): In this intimate documentary, originally broadcast on SpikeTV, the late Aussie actor is remembered not only as a talented performer but also as a photographer, director of music videos and, most memorably, a good friend. Scores of Ledger’s buddies from Down Under, including Naomi Watts, describe how generous he was, allowing them to crash at his Los Angeles home for months at a time. Even though the doc doesn’t spend much time chronicling the demons Ledger was reportedly wrestling with after his split from Michelle Williams, “I Am” gives you a glimpse into the actor’s life which you’ve never seen before. Extras: additional footage.

Oklahoma! (2017, Shout Factory, unrated, $30): Hugh Jackman might be trying too hard to make Curly irresistible both to audiences and Laurey (Josefina Gabrielle) but this London production from 1999 — back on Blu-ray — does right by the music. And what gorgeous music it is! Those classic Rodgers & Hammerstein songs (“People Will Say We’re In Love,” “Surrey With the Fringe On Top”) are still goose-bump-inducing delights. And, as Jud Fry, Schuler Hensley delivers what might be the definitive portrait of a man turned bitter by jealousy and hate. Even at three hours, there’s never a dull moment. Extras: featurette.

Ghost World (2001, Criterion, R, $30): Newly graduated from high-school, Enid (Thora Birch) is at a crossroads when she finds herself drifting away from her bestie (Scarlett Johansson) and towards Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a self-proclaimed dork whom she initially mocks for his romantic illusions. Director Terry Zwigoff does a remarkable job capturing the sadness of strip-mall suburbia where “fake ‘50s diners,” as Enid calls them, pass for the real thing. The brilliance of Zwigoff’s vision is that he also points out the limits of Enid’s own sarcasm, suggesting that, at some point, she will need to decide what kind of adult she wants to be. Extras: featurettes, deleted scenes and commentary by Zwigoff.

Demon Seed (1977, Warner Archive, R, $20): Based on the Dean Koontz best-seller, this riveting techno-thriller pits a psychiatrist named Susan (Julie Christie) against Proteus (voiced by Robert Vaughn), a super-computer that holds her hostage in her smart home. Yes, it’s a bizarre premise but it’s made surprisingly believable by filmmaker Donald Cammell who layers the film with plenty of suspense. “Demon Seed” wouldn’t work without Christie who is a marvel at communicating Susan’s terror at Proteus’s twisted agenda. Extras: none.

How To Steal A Million (1966, Twilight Time, unrated, $30): Director William Wyler, who helmed such enduring dramas as “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “The Letter,” takes a souffle of a heist comedy and tries to make a three-course meal out of it with very mixed results. Audrey Hepburn is delightful as the daughter of a wily art forger (Hugh Griffith) who believes her father is headed for prison after he loans a replica of a Cellini statute to a Paris museum. Her solution? Hire a cat burglar (Peter O’Toole) to steal it back before it is discovered to be a fake. The robbery is great fun but it takes forever to get there. Still, even when the strain is showing, there’s plenty of distractions including the sly satire of the art world and the sweet-natured romance between the beautifully matched stars. Extras: commentaries and featurettes.

Dark Angel (2016, PBS, unrated, $30): “Downton Abbey’s” Joanne Froggat, in a real change of pace role, toplines this down-and-dirty mini-series about serial killer Mary Ann Cotton who might have poisoned as many as three of her four husbands and 11 of her 13 children. “Dark Angel” not only features a crafty performance from Froggat but also boasts a dank atmosphere of dread which powerfully evokes the tough times Cotton found herself living in. Extras: featurette.

Decoy - The Complete Series (1957, Film Detective, unrated, $20): Talk about groundbreaking! This shot-lived series, which debuted in 1957, was the first to feature a policewoman in a lead role and the first to shoot on location in New York City. Beverly Garland stars as detective Casey Jones who cracks down on crime all over the city. Each episode is narrated by Garland in “Dragnet” style, and a surprising array of controversial topics are tackled. Extras: none.

The Outsiders - Season Two (2017, Sony, unrated, $39): Still mourning the cancellation of “Justified”? Check out this WGN series, which is the next best thing. “The Outsiders” chronicles the struggle for power in the rugged hills of Appalachia between the outlaw Farrell clan and the townsfolk. An uneasy truce had been established but when Big Coal arrives, tempers begin heating up again. Philadelphia’s David Morse stars alongside Ryan Hurst, Joe Anderson and Kyle Gallner of West Chester. Extras: deleted scenes.