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Shaun the Sheep, Ricki and the Flash on Blu-ray, DVD this week
Mary Steenburgen poses with puppet pals in "Jim Henson's Turkey Hollow," a TV special that is now on DVD. - photo by Chris Hicks
The Shaun the Sheep animated feature and TV series both come to video this week, along with Jim Hensons Turkey Hollow and Ricki and the Flash.

Shaun the Sheep Movie (Lionsgate, 2015, PG, featurettes, poster gallery). From the British Aardman Animation studio (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run), this farcical fun film has the mischievous sheep of the Shaun the Sheep TV series recruiting other animals to help rescue the farmer after he contracts amnesia in the big city.

This action comedy in the stop-motion style is virtually a silent film, in that it has no dialogue, although there is music and ambient sound, along with grunts and groans and the bleating of sheep, etc. The filmmakers obviously understand comic timing very well as the story is moved along by sight gags of the first order.

Shaun the Sheep: Season 1 (Lionsgate, 2007, two discs, 40 episodes, featurettes, sing-along). This, of course, is the series that led to the feature above, itself a spinoff of the Wallace and Gromit 1995 short A Close Shave. It's funny but more directly aimed at children ages 4-7 (though adults may enjoy watching the show with their kids). (Season two is also available.)

Jim Hensons Turkey Hollow (Lionsgate, 2015). This live-action Thanksgiving fantasy with Muppets well, puppets made by the Muppet folks is based on a story and characters conceived by the late Jim Henson many years ago. But the Muppet-like critters are minor supporting characters as a divorced dad takes his two kids to the Northwest backwoods to visit their eccentric hippie aunt (played by Mary Steenburgen), where the kids find a monster mystery. It's a whimsical family fare narrated by Ludacris. (It premiered on the Lifetime channel last weekend.)

Ricki and the Flash (TriStar, 2015, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes, photo gallery). Once again Meryl Streep remarkably reinvents herself, this time as an aging rock 'n' roll performer who abandoned her family years earlier and now returns home to try to win over her estranged children. It's worth a look, with excellent performances, but the film goes for artificial resolutions and a pat ending that are a bit difficult to accept, much less embrace. Mamie Gummer, Streeps real-life daughter, co-stars as one of those children, with Kevin Kline as the ex-husband and Audra McDonald as his second wife. Rick Springfield plays Streeps bandmate/boyfriend. Directed by Jonathan Demme.

The Brain With David Eagleman (PBS, 2015, two discs, six episodes). The discussion runs deep but neuroscientist David Eagleman is an affable host with the ability to explain things in ways laymen can easily understand, and he does so in this documentary series with such topics as how the brain navigates conscious and unconscious decisions, where the brains development seems to be headed, and how our personality, memories and sense of self emerge.

Jamestowns Dark Winter (PBS, 2015). This hourlong documentary follows archaeologists as they excavate an early American colony and discover the remains of a young woman dating back to 1609. Forensic anthropology reveals her to be an early settler who came from England to Jamestown and formed an uneasy alliance with local Powhatans.

Soul of an Elephant (PBS, 2015). It took two years to film this hourlong documentary that reveals the probable stories of two bull elephants that led long lives as they migrated for water with their families, encountered lions and hyenas, etc.

American Ultra (Lionsgate, 2015; R for violence, language, drugs, sex; audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers). This violent action comedy mixes vulgar druggie farce with spy adventures as stoner Jesse Eisenberg discovers that he has latent killing skills that are reactivated when the CIA deems him a liability and targets him for extermination. Kristen Stewart co-stars, with Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo and Bill Pullman.

The Stanford Prison Experiment (IFC, 2015, R for language, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). This is a dramatization of an experiment developed by a Stanford University psychology professor (Billy Crudup) to test his theories about how personality traits affect abusive behavior. He hires 24 male students to act out the roles of convicts and their guards in a prison for seven to 14 days, but a few days in discovers that the students have gotten into their roles more completely than he anticipated.

Applesauce (DarkSky, 2015, not rated but with R-level content). This very dark horror comedy challenges the notion that confession is good for the soul as a New York high school teacher reveals to his wife and another couple a horrible thing he once did, which leads to his receiving various body parts in random ways. It's written and directed by star Onur Tukel but is bereft of characters to care about.

The Last House (Wild Eye, 2015, not rated but with R-level content). Satanist mental patients kidnap call girls and torture them in a Hollywood mansion until the boyfriend of one victim comes looking for her. Jason Mewes co-stars.
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