Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy Bl-ray – It’s tough to find an example of more exuberant, imagination-expanding filmmaking than this stunning 1985-1991 time travel adventure.
Michael J. Fox is in career-defining form as Marty McFly, the hapless high schooler who finds himself hooking up his dad with his mom in the 1950s, aiding his future kids in 2015 and rescuing his mentor, inventor Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in the Wild West. The Blu-ray gives the series the treatment it deserves, with countless extras including a two-hour retrospective documentary that explores the series’ influence, as well as previously unreleased interviews with the cast and crew.
Alien Anthology Blu-ray – The 1979-1997 – let’s pretend those Alien vs. Predator movies don’t exist – contains some of the freakiest cinema ever produced into one impressive boxed set. The four films in the series proper came out in a well-regarded 2003 DVD set, but this high-definiton edition renders that obsolete. Not only do the movies shine with remastered brilliance, the set bursts with comprehensive extras, brimming with 60 hours of extra features, including two versions of each film.
The Girl Who Played With Fire – The stylish, tech-savvy thriller trilogy, based on the Stieg Larssson novels, gains momentum in the middle entry, which finds femme fatale Lisabeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) at the center of a conspiracy in which she’s framed for a murder and must go on the run. The Blu-ray is light on extras, inexplicably lacking a digital copy.
Nice Guy Johnny – Writer/director/actor Edward Burns, best known for The Brothers McMullen, keeps cranking out insightful relationship dramas, this time stepping back into a supporting role. He plays a wise-cracking, womanizing bartender who tries to corrupt the title character, his naïve nephew (Matt Bush), who is on the verge of giving up his dreams as a sportscaster to take a mundane job and enter an unhappy marriage with his fiancée. Burns sets him up with Brooke (Kerry Bishe), an intriguing tennis instructor, who makes Johnny wonder whether or not he should continue to be so nice and responsible. There aren’t many extras on the disc.
Sex and the City: The Complete Collection – The 1998-2004 series, featuring Sarah Jessica Parker as a sex columnist and author who shares her sexcapades and those of her three best galpals, drew legions of followers and helped raise HBO to its position of TV series domination. This set includes all six seasons and both movies, and includes a bonus disc with 90 minutes of interviews with the writers and executive producer. The one drawback is the price — $160 on Amazon — which makes little sense because you can easily find each season and movie alone for $15 or less.
Sex and the City 2 – I haven’t seen every movie that’s been released so far this year, but if anything came out that was worse than this pitiful, agonizingly overlong torture device, I want no part of it. The poorly written, misshapen drama sullies the legacy of the TV series by shipping the ladies off on a head-scratching journey to Abu Dhabi. The Blu-ray is well-stacked with behind-the-scenes featurettes and obliviously content commentary from director Michale Patrick King, as well as a digital copy and DVD version of the epic failure.
Thirtysomething: The Complete Final Season – I used to watch sneak peaks ot this show when I was in elementary school after my parents had put me to bed, marveling at how old the characters seemed. Now I’m stunned at how young the cast looks, and am stunned at how well the plots hold up nearly 20 years after the final episodes aired. The Philadelphia-set nighttime soap opera took a frank look at sex, relationships and family ties in the yuppie set. The box includes few extras.
You Don’t Know Jack – Al Pacino tones down his usual shout-happy act in a muted, internalized performance as Jack Kevorkian, the controversial euthanasia advocate. More complex than the hagiography you might expect, the film takes a hard look at what might have gone on inside of the man as he took on the media and legal system to pull off a series of sometimes-sketchy assisted suicides. Extras include an interview with Kevorkian.
Winter’s Bone – Jennifer Lawrence emerges as a dark horse contender for a best actress Oscar nomination in this backwoods-set potboiler, about a teenage girl who searches for her deadbeat dad, risking her neck while caring for her younger siblings and unraveling a mystery that’s torn her neighborhood apart. Deleted scenes, an alternate opening and a making-of featurette fill out the Blu-ray, which lacks a digital copy.
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