Picks of the week
‘Million Dollar Arm’
(PG, 124 minutes, Disney): Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) plays a Los Angeles sports agent who has recently started his own firm but faces imminent shuttering if he doesn’t snag a major client. While channel surfing one night, he hits upon his golden ticket: Search India for a cricket bowler with enough speed, accuracy and power to become a major league baseball pitcher. In a movie culture increasingly dominated by niche audiences, there’s a special place of honor reserved for that rare film that can appeal to just about everyone. This easygoing and unpretentiously entertaining baseball drama is just that kind of film, one that tells a terrific story by way of an appealing cast, handsome production values and a warm, unaffected tone. Contains mild profanity and some suggestive content. Extras: a making-of-featurette. On Blu-ray: alternate ending, deleted scenes, outtakes, “Their Story” featurette and a look at the musical score by Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman.
‘Edge of Tomorrow’
(PG-13, 113 minutes, Warner): Summer blockbusters have gotten too big, too loud, too dependent on slick computer effects and too dismissive of narrative and character arc. Then something like “Edge of Tomorrow” comes along. A crafty, clever, stylish science-fiction action adventure, this time-travel loop-de-loop didn’t have to be this good. Thanks to the efforts of a superb creative team and Tom Cruise – here deploying his own persona with stunning self-awareness and humor – what might have been a throwaway genre exercise instead turns out to be a surprisingly satisfying day-after-day-after-day at the movies. Brilliantly adapted by brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Christopher McQuarrie, the film pops with moments of welcome, unexpected levity. Contains intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material. Extras: “Weapons of the Future” and “Creatures Not of This World” featurettes. On Blu-ray: deleted scenes, featurettes “Operation Downfall – Adrenaline Cut” and “Storming the Beach,” and a making-of short with director Doug Liman.
‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’
(R, 116 minutes, Universal): Writer-director Seth MacFarlane plays a cowardly, lovelorn sheep farmer, with Charlize Theron as his romantic mentor and Liam Neeson his gunslinging nemesis. The comedy-parody is passably funny, assuming you have the stomach for jokes about diarrhea, sex, death and all manner of body parts (human and sheep). When stretched out to almost two hours by all the absurdist plotting, pop-culture asides and sometimes painfully awkward silences that MacFarlane (“Family Guy”) is known for, it’s not quite so zingy. Contains crude sexual and excretory humor, obscenity, violence, drug use and brief nudity. Extras: commentary, a gag reel and locations featurette. On Blu-ray: unrated version; commentary with MacFarlane, Theron and co-writers and executive producers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild; alternate ending; deleted/extended/alternate scenes; a behind-the-scenes short and a featurette about the familiar faces who pop into Old Stump, including a cameo by Christopher Lloyd (a k a Doc Brown).