Some of the early films from 2013 are making their Blu-Ray debut this week. Unfortunately they are the films that had a short turnaround time because they’re intended to make more money, and we have to wait a few more weeks on the smart independent and foreign films that many of us missed during their limited runs in early 2013. Fortunately some good television offerings and a Criterion film should keep everyone entertained.
Here are the top 5 new releases this week:
Top 5 New Releases
5) Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013)
Until Iron Man 3 came along, Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful was the highest grossing film of 2013 with an impressive $234 million haul in its March-April theatrical run. The film had a small number of fans in the critical community (our own Duncan Houst was not one of them) and it seemed to be the only wide release being talked about at the beginning of the year, so it might be worth catching up with in order to be part of the conversation.
4) “The Newsroom: The Complete First Season” (2012)
Never doubt the potential of an HBO original series, especially when it has a seasoned television veteran like Aaron Sorkin at the helm. Sorkin has taken a lot of criticism for his portrayal of female characters, but that hasn’t prevented a bounty of fans from hailing this HBO show. Personally, my DVD and instant queue has been piling up with more television shows than ever before, but this might be another one worth adding to the pile.
3) “House of Cards: The Complete First Season” (2013)
If you haven’t already streamed this Netflix original series, I highly recommend checking it out now that it’s on DVD and Blu-Ray (unless you’re at all optimistic about our political system and don’t want your hopes to be dashed). Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are fantastic and the camera work is exquisite for a television show. David Fincher directs the first episode and kicks things into a fast-paced spiral that doesn’t quite conclude by the season’s last shot, leaving plenty to anticipate in the second season.
2) Enter the Dragon (1973)
Bruce Lee films are something of a blind spot for me (marathon?) and I am not proud to admit that I have never seen one of his most acclaimed films, Enter the Dragon. Perhaps this is the ideal time for me to fix that problem now that a 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray has been released complete with a new audio commentary track from writer Michael Alin and producer Paul M. Heller and two new documentaries.
1) Wild Strawberries (1957)
Ingmar Bergman’s magnificent road movie about an aging professor in an existential dilemma comes to Blu-Ray today courtesy of the Criterion Collection. The film has one of the most interesting dream sequences of all-time and themes that will resonate with everyone, regardless of stage in life. The Blu-Ray includes audio commentary from historian Peter Cowie, a 90-minute documentary, and an introduction from Bergman himself.
Other New Releases
One of the other early 2013 releases that made a much smaller impact than Oz: The Great and Powerful is Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, which became available today. What baffles me most about the release is the fact that it is coming to Blu-Ray as an “Unrated Cut.” I had no idea the original release was rated “R,” but that might explain why it only had middling box office success. I would think a fairytale update like this would seek to attract families, but apparently not.
Snitch, one of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s many films of 2013, gets a Blu-Ray release today. As does the National Geographic Channel’s adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Lincoln. That television special is narrated by Tom Hanks and was the last production that Tony Scott worked on before his death last year.
Streaming Pick of the Week
1974 was a hell of a year for Francis Ford Coppola. That year brought the release of the highly anticipated sequel The Godfather: Part II, which swept the Oscars, and also the release of the much smaller, but equally ambitious film The Conversation, which subsequently earned him second nominations for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Both films are masterworks and might be the two best of his entire career. The Conversation is widely praised for its detailed analysis into U.S. surveillance culture, which may never be more relevant than right now with the recent NSA scandal. However, I found the more resonant theme to be the way our biases affect what we hear. The fact that a single line of dialogue changes the main characters’ perspective entirely speaks to the power of cinema and the way our own pre-judgments affect everything that we see or hear. Gene Hackman delivers a masterful understated performance and Robert Duvall has a delightful minor role. See this film now if you never have.
What new movies are you going to buy, rent, or stream this week?