New releases: 'The Wolverine' puts Hugh Jackman's intensity to use

The Wolverine

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99/$49.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 17

Wolverine's tedious origin story having been gotten out of the way in 2009, last summer's sequel gives the fast-healing, claw-wielding mutant more interesting things to do. Based on one of the most popular Wolverine comics arcs — after the surly X-Man's adventures in Japan, where he falls in love and finds a new ally — "The Wolverine" makes good use of its star Hugh Jackman's intensity and agility, putting him in what is essentially a martial arts epic, with ninjas and supervillains. Like most superhero movies, "The Wolverine" is more bloated and blustery than it needs to be, but director James Mangold brings some richer emotional textures, making the film more than merely "cool." The DVD and Blu-ray — also available in an extended, more violent edition — add a Mangold commentary, an alternate ending and featurettes

PHOTOS: Behind the scenes of movies and TV

Drinking Buddies

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Mumblecore pioneer Joe Swanberg has spent the last decade pumping out low-key, improvised relationship dramas at a prolific clip, with little in the way of quality control. This isn't that different in what it means to do or how it means to do it, but Swanberg has gotten better over the years at making his movies look more polished; here he has an outstanding cast of professional actors, with Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde playing friends who run a Chicago microbrewery, and Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston portraying their romantic partners. "Drinking Buddies'" exploration of a circle of friends frustrated by their varying levels of maturity is about as rote as indie film gets, but the cast is funny and believable and easy to spend time with. The DVD and Blu-ray tack on a Swanberg commentary track.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series

Shout! Factory, $249.95

One of TV writer-producer Norman Lear's strangest projects, the deadpan soap-opera spoof "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" combined the somnambulant pace of daytime drama with outrageous plot twists, running in syndication every weeknight between January 1976 and May 1977. With two hours a week to fill, individual episodes move slowly, spending more time on amusingly aimless conversations than on plot. The stoner rhythms and low-rent production design establish a tone of suburban surrealism, exemplified by the foggy performance of star Louise Lasser. Shout! Factory's ambitious "Mary Hartman" set contains all 325 episodes on 38 DVDs, along with featurettes and 10 bonus episodes of Lear's brilliant spinoff "Fernwood 2 Night," a talk-show parody.


Criterion Blu-ray, $39.95

Robert Altman's "Nashville" is widely considered his best film (or at least in the top three), because it's his most ambitious, moving 24 major characters through tiny, human-scaled interactions that add up to a grand statement on America, circa 1975. Screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury researched Music City on assignment from Altman, coming back with anecdotes about the culture and the politics, and country music's star system. Altman re-created those stories on film with the help of a superstar cast that provided a lot of its own dialogue and music. The result is a nearly three-hour state-of-the-union address, commenting on celebrity, community and our constantly shifting ideals. Criterion's excellent DVD/Blu-ray set transfers Altman's commentary track from an earlier DVD edition, adding behind-the-scenes material and a new documentary about the making of the film.


The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $40.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

The Smurfs 2

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

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday


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