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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Home Movies/Out on Digital: July 3

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Ernest & Celestine

Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2014 Oscars, Ernest & Celestine is drawn in spare lines, pale colors and luminous shadows. It’s a children’s story about the enmity between mice and bears, and how one daring child mouse steps across the barrier. The message is clear enough and told with humor. Although it’s a Franco-Belgian production, Ernest & Celestine features an international cast of voices, Forest Whitaker, Lauren Bacall and Paul Giamatti among them.

The Jungle

Blair Witch comes to the rainforest in the latest faux-found footage film. With the wiggle-jiggle and chatter of a home video, The Jungle follows an Australian zoologist searching for the Java leopard in remote Indonesia. He finds terror instead, circling around legends of a “forest demon,” after early warnings of anxiety from the nervous locals. Important backstory: the zoologist is working against time as the jungle is to be cut down by agri-business interests.

■ “Perry Mason Movie Collection Double Feature 3”: The Case of the Sinister Spirit / The Case of the Murdered Madam

Raymond Burr’s long-running 1960s TV series set the bar for courtroom drama, but it wasn’t the final word from Perry Mason. In the ’80s, Burr starred in several made-for-TV Perry Mason movies, issued now two-by-two on DVD. The Case of the Sinister Spirit is exemplary. An Alfred Hitchcock pastiche whose plot contrivances are a set-up for Burr, a gray and distinguished eminence sifting for the truth amidst false leads and misleading clues.

■ “The Universe Season 7”

Cynics might say Stonehenge doesn’t look like much, but it was a Stone Age engineering feat. How did people without machinery erect 50-ton stones in a circle that conforms to the movements of the sun and moon? Stonehenge is one of the ancient mysteries investigated on this History Channel series (out on Blu-ray). Using computer imaging, astrophysicists have devised new theories about this prehistoric observatory, yet the big question remains: How did they build it?

■ “Rawhide: The Eighth and Final Season”

Clint Eastwood gave himself a cameo in Jersey Boys, a glimpse on a black-and-white TV of his TV show “Rawhide.” By the last season (1965-1966), Eastwood’s Rowdy Yates had become the lead character and his star was rising, albeit he had to travel to Italy to become the personification of a new kind of anti-hero. With striking cinematography, terse acting and economical screenwriting, “Rawhide” addressed eternal issues of justice, violence and prejudice by showing, not telling.