by Mark Burger



In his final starring role, Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a first-rate performance in director Anton Corbijn’s timely, suspenseful adaptation of executive producer John le Carré’s best-seller.

The “wanted man” in question is Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a Chechen/Russian Muslim who suddenly appears in Hamburg, Germany. Is he refugee or terrorist? That’s the question posed to Günther Bachmann (Hoffman), a German intelligence operative seeking to redeem himself after past tragedies.

Bachmann’s investigation is not without its complications, and implications, in his encounters with idealistic civil-rights attorney Rachel McAdams, mysterious banker Willem Dafoe, and steely American operative Robin Wright. Andrew Bovell’s screenplay is intricate and finetuned in the best Le Carre tradition, the story totally reflective of the post-9/11 landscape “” and all the more compelling as a result.The DVD retails for $26.98; the Blu-ray for $29.99. Rated R.

7 ASSASSINS (LionsGate): Eric Tsang (who also stars) and Hung Yan Yan codirected this R-rated historical adventure in which royal guards are charged with retrieving stolen gold in ancient China, only to discover that the thieves are funding a proposed coup of the monarchy with said gold. The DVD retails for $26.98.

BOYHOOD (Paramount): Richard Linklater’s masterful, award-winning drama filmed over a 12-year period, dramatizing the coming-of-age of gifted newcomer Ellar Coltrane. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play the divorced parents while Linklater’s real-life Lorelei makes her mark in her screen debut as big sister. This is one of 2014’s best films, and a true oneof-a-kind. The DVD retails for $29.99; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $41.99. Rated R.

CHEF (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): In writer/producer/director Jon Favreau’s cheerful, loosely fact-based comedy, he plays a burned-out gourmet chef who tries to reignite the spark in his life by building a food truck specializing in Cubano sandwiches. It’s loose and likable, with a star-studded cast: Sofía Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannanvale, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr., while young Emjay Anthony stands out as Favreau’s son. The DVD retails for $29.98; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated R.

COMPOUND FRACTURE (Level 33 Entertainment): Latter-day big-screen boogeymen Tyler Mane, Muse Watson and Derek Mears star in editor/cinematographer/producer/director Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein’s award-winning chiller about a disillusioned, dysfunctional family forced to (literally) confront ghosts from the past. A genre-friendly cast includes Leslie Easterbrook, Daniel Roebuck and Todd Farmer. Mane and real-life wife Renae Geerlings (who plays his onscreen wife) also wrote and produced. Uneven but fairly encouraging, at least it tries to be something different.

COVERT OPERATION (LionsGate): Writer/director Mathieu Weschler’s R-rated action blow-out (originally titled The Borderland) stars French martial-arts champ Sedina Balde as a mercenary caught up in dangerous doings on the Chinese/North Korean border. The DVD retails for $26.98.

DECLINE OF AN EMPIRE (LionsGate): First-time writer/producer/director Michael Redwood’s well-intentioned by stodgy Biblical epic is set in 4 th- century AD, dramatizing the life of Katherine of Alexandria (the film’s original title), played by inexpressive newcomer Nicole Keniheart. Choppy and poorly constructed, as if pared down from mini-series length. A wasted cast includes Edward Fox, Joss Ackland, Steven Berkoff, Jack Goddard (as Constantine), Samantha Beckinsale (Kate’s half-sister) and, sadly, Peter O’Toole in his final role. Rated R. *

FINDERS KEEPERS (LionsGate): In the not-so-grand tradition of Child’s Play (1988) and last year’s Annabelle, a demonic doll causes problems and peril for divorced mother Jaime Pressly and daughter Kylie Rogers in this lackluster SyFy shocker co-starring Patrick Muldoon, Marina Sirtis and Saw’s Tobin Bell. Young Kylie Rogers is a standout. Rated R. *

GOD’S POCKET (IFC Films): Actor John Slattery makes his feature debut as director, producer and co-screenwriter of this atmospheric, all-star adaptation of Pete Dexter’s 1983 novel, in which the death of young miscreant Caleb Landry Jones rocks the titular blue-collar burg. Fine performances carry the day, including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (also a producer), Richard Jenkins, John Turturro, Slattery’s “Mad Men” co-star Christina Hendricks, Eddie Marsan and Joyce Van Patten. The DVD retails for $24.98; the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated R.

LEGENDARY (LionsGate): Originally filmed in 3-D, this silly but well-paced creature feature pits scientist Scott Adkins and his team against big-game hunter Dolph Lundgren to capture a primeval monster known as “Shocate.” Rated PG-13.

LIFE OF CRIME (LionsGate): Screenwriter/director Daniel Schechter’s R-rated adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1978 novel The Switch depicts a botched kidnapping and boasts a high-profile cast: Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, Will Forte and John Hawkes. The DVD retails for $19.98; the Blu-ray for $24.99.

MY MAN IS A LOSER (LionsGate): Writer/executive producer Mike Young’s R-rated romantic comedy/directorial debut features John Stamos as a bachelor whose advice to buddies Michael Rapaport and Bryan Callen how to reignite their marriages backfires. The DVD retails for $26.98.

RECLAIM (LionsGate): Ryan Phillippe and Rachelle Lefevre play an American couple who adopt a Haitian orphan (newcomer Briana Roy) in Puerto Rico, only to learn they’ve been victimized by human traffickers led by John Cusack and Jacki Weaver. Reclaim is a wide-eyed, underwhelming thriller that exploits potentially provocative material and lapses into a substandard shoot-and-chase melodrama. Rated R.

SANATORIUM (LionsGate): Yet another ho-hum found-footage shocker, this one courtesy writer/producer/director Brant Sersen, sees the crew of the “Ghost Trackers” reality series investigate an abandoned asylum on New Year’s Eve, 56 years to the day after a patient went on a killing spree. Guess what happens next? Rated R.

SECTOR 4: EXTRACTION (Lions- Gate): Director/executive producer/story writer Olivier Gruner plays a mercenary who returns to Afghanistan to rescue captured compatriots in this action fiasco featuring Gruner’s son Nash and Eric Roberts, who (literally) phones it in. No surprises. Rated R.

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (Lions- Gate): Executive producer Cicely Tyson re-creates her Tony Award-winning role as a lonely widow who wants to see her childhood home one last time in this adaptation of Horton Foote’s play, co-starring Vanessa Williams (also a Broadway holdover), Blair Underwood, Keke Palmer and Clancy Brown. The DVD retails for $14.98.

VENUS IN FUR (Sundance Selects/ MPI Media Group): Roman Polanski’s award-winning, highly theatrical adaptation of David Ives’ Tony-winning play (originally titled La Vénus à la fourrure) starring Emmanuelle Seigner (Mrs. Polanski) as an actress whose rehearsal for avant-garde stage director Mathieu Amalric (looking all the world like Polanski) becomes a battle of wits that begins light-heartedly but then, per Polanski, veers into darker territory. It’s not for all tastes, but Polanski proponents have a head start. Alexandre Desplat’s score is a standout, and the two leads are terrific. In French with English subtitles.

WARRIOR PRINCESS (LionsGate): Writer/producer/director Shuudertsetseg Baatarsuren’s fact-based, R-rated action spectacle dramatizes the life of Mongolia’s Queen Ahno and her sacrifices to unite the land during a bloody civil war. The DVD retails for $26.98.

“WWE FITNESS SERIES” (WWE/ LionsGate): For fans who want to get into shape like their favorite wrestlers, these instructional DVDs are hosted by pro superstars: WWE Power Series: Triple H and WWE Fit Series: Stephanie McMahon. Each DVD retails for $14.98. !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.