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DVD picks

Jackie Robinson steps up to the plate

Warner Bros. via Reuters

Major League Baseball’s powers that be would like nothing better than if you round out your viewing lineup for this week’s All-Star Game with filler like their old-timer softball challenge. You could do that . . . or you could catch the Jackie Robinson biopic “42” (2013), and be reminded of what an athlete facing adversity really looks like. We’re not talking about scenes that play like something out of a Hallmark TV movie — Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) mistakenly anticipating some racist affront, for instance, from a well-wisher approaching him on the street. We’re thinking of those moments that the saccharine bits render all the more jarring, the stupefying social ugliness predicted by Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the visionary Brooklyn Dodgers exec and Robinson booster. Witness a rival team’s manager (Alan Tudyk, “Suburgatory”) verbally beaning Robinson with the N word, again and again. (And again.) Filmmaker Brian Helgeland won an Oscar for writing “L.A. Confidential” and directed “A Knight’s Tale,” so he’s got tools, to put it in baseball-speak. Still, we can’t quite decide whether his “42” jumbling of the idealized and the raw is awkward or calculated. One sign of strategic smarts, certainly, is Ford’s casting. At last, after all those swings and misses, a movie that takes his curmudgeonly persona of the last decade or so and makes it a genuine asset. Extras: In featurettes, Helgeland and Boseman discuss dramatizing a subject who internalized much of his struggle, while Ford talks makeover secrets for portraying Rickey. (Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99)

HORROR

EVIL DEAD (2013)

Sony-TriStar Pictures

Jane Levy in "Evil Dead."

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The thinking behind remaking Sam Raimi’s cult horror fave is to see what all those funky, low-budget chills play like when they’re reworked with a sleek, contemporary look and tone. The problem is that new director Fede Alvarez’s take, while proficient, can drain away that old, kooky distinctiveness. You’ve got to get through an overlong stretch of demonic possessions played straight for the stuff that’s more freewheelingly, twistedly grisly. You know, there’s garden-variety self-mutilation — and then there’s bisecting your tongue with a box cutter.
Extras: production and effects featurettes; Blu-ray commentary with
Alvarez, lead victim Jane Levy, and cast. (Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99)

ANIMATION

REGULAR SHOW: THE COMPLETE FIRST & SECOND SEASONS (2010-11) Cartoon Network attempts to lend a tiny bit of order to the deliriously random exploits of blue jay-and-raccoon pals Mordecai and Rigby, following up a few grab-bag releases with this more comprehensive set. Catch series creator J. G. Quintel and company settling into their amusingly shameless formula: slacker shenanigans that somehow inevitably take a turn toward the paranormal. Includes the episode “Free Cake,” spotlighting the gang’s gravelly-voiced Yeti/handyman, Skips — proof that cast member Mark Hamill doesn’t necessarily need “Star Wars: Episode VII” to reassert his relevance, thanks very much. Extras: commentary; Quintel student short (yeahuh!) and various other series-pitch rarities. (Warner, $36.94; Blu-ray, $39.98)

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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