By Amy Longsdorf - For The Guide

Home Theater: ‘The Sandlot’ and ‘Sky’ are just a few of the new shows available on streaming devices and DVDs

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    Great characters make for great shows. If you need proof, cue up this week’s picks, which revolve around drug dealers, bike messengers, code breakers and disgraced athletes.

    “Ithaca”: Meg Ryan makes her directorial debut with this adaption of William Saroyan’s 1943 novel “The Human Comedy,” previously the basis for a movie starring Mickey Rooney. This time around, newcomer Alex Neustaedter plays Homer Macauley, a 14-year-old who takes a job as a bicycle messenger to help provide for his widowed mother (Ryan) and siblings. Over the course of the film, whether bonding with a telegraph operator (Sam Shepard) or delivering messages of death to the parents of servicemen, Homer learns important life lessons. Tom Hanks cameos and John Mellencamp provides the vibrant score. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.

    “Sunset Song”: The latest film from writer/director Terence Davies (“The Deep Blue Sea”) is a near-perfect adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel about the coming-of-age of a Scottish lass named Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn). Both graceful and gut-wrenching, “Sunset Song” follows Chris as she attempts to survive her beast of a father (Peter Mullan) and then, following his death, work the family farm on her own. Davies, a poet of love and war, makes every sequence sing. On DVD, On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.

    “Narcos: Season 2”: The addictive Netflix series is back and, in contrast to the first season which spanned a decade in the life of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Brazilian actor Wagner Moura), the latest batch of episodes are set over the course of a month as Escobar escapes from prison and is hunted down by the DEA and rival gangsters. According to Entertainment Weekly, “ each tightly packed episode moves quickly without sacrificing richness, chronicling the queasy alliances and gross tactics employed to snare Escobar.”

    “Tale Of Tales”: Three sagas involving magic, the macabre and the whims of monarchs (Salma Hayek, Toby Jones, Vincent Cassel) converge wonderfully in this visual marvel from Italian helmer Matteo Garrone. All three stories, which are based on 16th century folk tales, involve fantastical elements like sea monsters, ogres and sorcerers as well as characters obsessed with sex, marriage, fertility and giant fleas. “Tale of Tales” is the rare cinematic spectacle aimed entirely at adults. On Blu-ray, Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.

    “One Mississippi: Season 1”: Billed as a “semi-autobiographical dark comedy,” this series follows comedian and “Inside Amy Schumer” writer Tig Notaro as she returns to her childhood home to deal with the unexpected death of her mother. Struggling with her own health problems and relationship woes with her girlfriend (Casey Wilson), Tig decides to reconnect with her roots in hopes of setting things right. The Observer called it “a beautiful punch to the gut.” On Amazon Prime.

    “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon”: Fresh off her Oscar nomination for “The Sterile Cuckoo,” Liza Minnelli starred in Otto Preminger’s flawed but entertaining celebration of alternative families. Minnelli plays a victim of an acid attack who moves in with two men considered misfits by society: a gay paraplegic (Robert Moore) and an epileptic loner (Ken Howard.) Some of the film has dated badly but other sequences retain their power. In the end, you’ll be moved by the warmth of this trio’s unique bond. On Blu-ray.

    “O.J.: Made In America”: It runs 10 hours but this doc about Simpson is gripping from start to finish; and a terrific compliment to “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” Ryan Murphy’s series starring John Travolta, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sarah Paulson that arrives this week on Blu-ray. Hulu is streaming the entire documentary, which showcases a event that, two decades after its unforgettable climax, continues to fascinate and polarize. On Hulu.

    “Hardcore”: Something of a riff on John Ford’s “The Searchers,” this somber thriller from “Taxi Driver” scripter Paul Schrader pivots on a deeply religious Midwesterner (George C. Scott) who goes on a quest through the underbelly of LA to save his pre-teen daughter from a life on the streets. Scott poses as a porn producer while developing a moving friendship with a call girl (Season Hubley.) Despite a too-conventional ending, “Hardcore” takes risks by exploring themes of religion, sexuality and repression. On Blu-ray.

    “The Imitation Game”: Refreshingly old-fashioned, this stirring World War II-era thriller centers on the team of Brits (Matthew Goode, Keira Knightley) tasked with cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code. At the center of the action is Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a closeted gay mathematician as arrogant as he is brilliant. “The Imitation Game” does a terrific job rescuing Turing from obscurity and restoring his reputation as a world-saving hero. On Netflix.

    “Iron Giant: Signature Edition”: New to Blu-ray, this animated gem set in the mid-1950s is the tale of an unlikely friendship between a rebellious boy named Hogarth (Eli Marienthal) and a giant, metal-eating robot (Vin Diesel) from outer space. Thanks to the taut direction by Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”), the film, which was edited to include two additional scenes, deftly dodges clichés and winds up being as much about the merits of pacifism as a stereotypical coming-of-age saga. On Blu-ray.
    Updates on streaming services, Blu-ray

    By Amy Longsdorf

    For The Guide

    Reach the arts and entertainment department at

    Reach the arts and entertainment department at