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5 true stories that were major movies in 2015 are now on video

Posted: February 21, 2016 5:19 a.m.
Updated: February 21, 2016 5:19 a.m.
Chris Hicks/

Helen Mirren plays gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, and Bryan Cranston is Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in "Trumbo," the story of blacklisted Hollywood writers of the 1940s and ’50s. The film is now on Blu-ray and DVD.

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Five movies of true stories have been released this week on Blu-ray and DVD.

“The 33” (Warner, 2015, PG-13, in English or in Spanish-dubbed, featurettes, trailer). Filmed in English and with an international cast, this is the true story of the 33 miners who were trapped 200 stories underground after the collapse of a Chilean copper-and-gold mine in 2010.

The focus is equally on concerned families and rescue efforts, as well as the miners’ predicament — exacerbated by the discovery that the radio doesn’t work, the medical kit is empty, the ventilation shafts are ill-equipped and the food supply is minimal.

The film is a bit uneven but nonetheless compelling, with fine performances from Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, James Brolin and Gabriel Byrne, among others.

“Trumbo” (Universal, 2015, R for language, featurettes). This fascinating true story tells of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), a family man and intellectual who finds himself blacklisted as a communist sympathizer in 1947, and, when he refuses to implicate others, goes to prison for a time. When he gets out, he writes under pseudonyms and earns two Oscars he can’t collect.

It’s a bit disconcerting to see familiar movie stars played by actors who don’t really resemble them — David James Elliott (TV’s “JAG”) as John Wayne, Michael Stuhlbarg (“A Serious Man”) as Edward G. Robinson and Dean O’Gorman (“The Hobbit”) as Kirk Douglas.

But the film is witty, smart, tragic and human, even as it satirizes old Hollywood. The film has excellent performances by all, including Diane Lane as Trumbo’s wife, Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper, Louis C.K. as another blacklisted writer, Elle Fanning as Trumbo’s daughter and John Goodman, hilarious as a low-budget film producer.

“Labyrinth of Lies” (Sony Classics, 2015, R for a sex scene, in German with English subtitles, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). This true story is a riveting, frightening exploration of how easily lessons of recent history can be shunned to assuage collective guilt.

In the late 1950s, as Germany is rebuilding after World War II, a young idealistic prosecutor becomes obsessed as he relentlessly pursues Nazi criminals, bringing to light uncomfortable truths that eventually strike too close to home. (The R rating is for a brief but completely unnecessary sex scene in the middle of the film.)

“Black Mass” (Warner, 2015; R for violence, language, drugs; featurettes). Another true story, this one is set in 1970s South Boston where vicious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger was committing heinous crimes, including murder, but was protected by the FBI because he was also informing on the Italian mob. Johnny Depp is all in playing Bulger as a genuinely scary guy whose violent temper could flare without notice. Co-stars include Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Corey Stoll and Julianne Nicholson.

“Steve Jobs” (Universal, 2015, R for language, audio commentaries, featurettes). This second biographical film about the brilliant but unpleasant Jobs (after the 2013 “Jobs,” which starred Ashton Kutcher) is structured in three acts by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men,” “Moneyball”) and director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “127 Hours”), with an excellent central performance by Michael Fassbender, matched by support from Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels.

“Hatched” (Cinedigm, 2016, not rated, featurettes). This first in a planned trilogy of animated features from a Chinese animation studio boasts voice characterizations by Jeff Foxworthy and Sean Astin, as Charlie Horse and Cluck Norris, respectively, whose barnyard companions include Angelina Poultrie, Tiny SchwarzHENegger and Meryl Cheep.

“Wiener Dog Internationals” (Lionsgate, 2016, G, short cartoon episodes of “Minuscule”). Much of the cast of “Wiener Dog Nationals” (2013) is back for this sequel about the kids entering their champion dachshund Shelly in an international race, going up against conniving Ms. Merryweather (Morgan Fairchild), who has cloned the pooch several times over to undermine Shelly’s chances.

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