FruitvaleStationThere are some exceptionally worthy films coming out in an absurdly overburdened release week. None of these won Golden Globe awards, mind you, which is one reason I’m profiling this selection of films. Though many of these landed on Top Ten lists and critics’ awards, they received neither box office gold nor industry glory. You won’t want to let some of these get by you.

Fruitvale Station (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray+DVD Combo, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand) embraces simplicity to remind us of the human being behind the news story. 22-year-old Oscar Grant was killed in an unprovoked shooting by BART officers as a station stop on early New Year’s Day 2009. Ryan Coogler’s film accomplishes what so many films fail to do: put us in touch with the life that was ended that night. Michael B. Jordan plays Grant, a single father and drug dealer trying to get his life together, as neither saint nor a criminal, and most importantly not simply a victim. He’s a person with a life, a family, friends, people who love him and people he loves, and the very ordinariness of his day leading up to his death, with mistakes and decisions both good and bad, and the laid-back, observational filmmaking draws us into his existence in a way that may allow you forget about history and invest in his future, one that will never be. It won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance last year and is nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards: Best First Feature, Best Male Lead for Jordan, and Best Supporting Female for Melonie Diaz, who plays his girlfriend and the mother of his son.

The Blu-ray and DVD include the featurette “Fruitvale Station: The Story of Oscar Grant” (more about the production of the film than on the true story that inspired it) and a Q&A with the filmmakers and cast from a screening of the film held in Oakland. Also Digital HD and On Demand

enoughSaidEnough Said (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital), starring Julia-Louise Dreyfus as a masseuse and divorced 40-something mom finding romance again, is a lovely little film with the final screen performance by James Gandolfini. She meets him at a party and, though he’s not her type, as she says, he may be her match. She’s attracted to his warmth and gentleness and sense of humor, all things that Gandolfini rarely had a chance to show in his roles. Dreyfus is equally good as a smart, witty woman who is “tired of being funny” and the script’s twist – she discovers that her new client and best friend (Catherine Keener), a woman who can’t stop complaining about her ex-husband, is in fact Gandolfini’s ex-wife – is right out of classic Hollywood plotting. The screwball situation becomes a springboard for an often bracingly honest portrait of love the second time around. Nicole Holofcener writes and directs. Dreyfus was nominated for a Golden Globe and Gandolfini and Holofcener’s screenplay are nominated for Independent Spirit Awards.

The Blu-ray and DVD editions have a couple of short promotional featurettes and the Blu-ray has the exclusive “Second Takes” and a bonus Ultraviolet Digital HD copy.

ShortTerm12Short Term 12 (Cinedigm, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital) is a tender and touching drama set in a facility for at risk, abandoned, or otherwise homeless kids that can’t get placement with foster families. What could be a portrait of instability and institutional failings, however, becomes quite a moving story of the commitment of two counselors (Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr.) who came through the foster system themselves and take their jobs very seriously. They understand that they may be the only stable and caring adult presence in the lives of these kids, the closest they have to real family, and director / writer Destin Daniel Cretton (who worked in a group home for two years) shows their commitment and the emotional storm of the kids without a lot of commentary. Kaitlyn Dever is superb as an angry, confrontational new addition to the facility and Keith Stanfield is heartbreaking as the nervous 17-year-old about to “age out” of the facility and face the world on his own without any place to go. What makes this so remarkable is how Cretton and his cast maintain an honesty about the difficulties they face and the sense of impermanence of this facility while providing a story of perseverance and healing.

Larson deserves an Academy Award nomination but will likely have to settle for her Independent Spirit Award nomination. The film also took home some impressive awards on the film festival circuit (including the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW and a couple of major wins at Locarno, including one for Larson) and is up for three Independent Spirit Awards in all.

SpectacularNowThe Blu-ray and DVD both feature Destin Creton’s original award-winning short film “Short Term 12” from 2008, footage from a cast and crew screening, deleted scenes, and a couple of featurettes. The Blu-ray features a bonus DVD copy.

Also arriving with indie cred, youth interest and actress Brie Larson (in a supporting role here) is The Spectacular Now (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital), a romantic drama of high school kids with nothing in common (Miles Teller is a party kid with an alcohol problem, Shailene Woodley is the smart, quiet nice girl next door who finds him passed out on her lawn) directed by James Ponsoldt. Features director commentary, the four-part documentary “Then to Now: Making The Spectacular Now” and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray features a bonus Ultraviolet Digital HD copy.

Listen to Cinephiled’s James Rocchi’s interview with director James Ponsoldt on The Lunch Podcast.

20ftStardomThe cover of 20 Feet From Stardom (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital) advertised the appearances of Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder and Bette Midler, ironic since the documentary is really about the back-up singers who performed with them and many others, always outside of the spotlight. Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Claudia Lennear and Judith Hill are the featured singers here, charting a profession that reaches back to the early sixties when the first African-American girl groups emerged as back-up on R&B and rock and roll records. Stories are the foundation of most great documentaries and this has some stories, notably the ordeal of Darlene Love, who quit after her career was appropriated by Phil Spector and returned at the age of forty to become a star in her own right, and Merry Clayton, the woman who provided the piercing voice that cuts through the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” to cry out the warning “Ra-a-ape! Murder! It’s just shot a way! It’s just a shot away!!” The only weakness of this documentary is that it promises a portrait of singers who aspire to the spotlight themselves and others content to remain in the background, and ends up focusing only on those trying to make the leap to solo act. A minor quibble is such an energizing documentary. And, of course, it’s worth it just for the music and the stories behind the songs.

The Blu-ray and DVD feature the short film “The Buddy System,” a Q&A with featured singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer and director Morgan Neville, and deleted scenes.

RewindThisAlso on the non-fiction rack is Our Nixon (Docurama, DVD), a visual record of the Nixon presidency presented entirely through archival footage, including Super 8 home movies shot by Nixon aides H.R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and Dwight Chapin. With an optional “Who’s Who” subtitle track and the featurettes “Travels with Nixon” and “Nixon and Friends.”

For a blast of home video nostalgia there is Rewind This! (FilmBuff, DVD, Digital, VOD), a look at the cultural impact of videotape, a tribute to the low-fidelity glory of VHS tape, and a celebration of the brief period when video stores became the center of home video culture. Features interviews with VHS collectors, video store managers, home video producers, directors Atom Egoyan, Frank Henenlotter and Mamoru Oshii (among others), and my Cinephiled colleague James Rocchi. You can glimpse my old video store, Scarecrow Video (profiled at Cinphiled here), in some of the montages, and go inside for a better look in the supplements. There’s almost two hours of bonus footage along with filmmaker commentary

Also new and notable: Rush

Rush (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD), Ron Howard’s racing drama centered around the 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl);

Riddick (Universal, Blu-ray+DVD Combo, DVD), the third film in David Twohy’s sci-fi action series starring Vin Diesel as a resourceful survivor on a planet of predators;

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD), which chronicles decades of American social politics through the life of a White House butler (Forest Whitaker) and an all-star cast (including Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and Robin Williams);

Carrie (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD), an updating of Stephen King’s breakthrough novel with Carrie Moretz and Julianne Moore;

LeeDanielsButlerParadise: Hope (Strand, DVD), the final feature in Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradise” trilogy, brings a sense of hope to what has been a very dark journey to human desperation and loneliness;

Blue Caprice (IFC, DVD), a dramatization of the Beltway Snipers of 2002 starring Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond;

A.C.O.D. (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD, Cable On Demand), a comedy starring Adam Scott, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch and Jessica Alba;

You’re Next (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, Cable On Demand), a home invasion horror with a black-humored tone and an American indie cast (including AJ Bowen, Sharni Vinson and Joe Swanberg);

ParadiseHopeCafé de Flore (Adopt Films, DVD), a romantic drama directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyer’s Club) and starring Vanessa Paradis;

Terraferma (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD), an Italian film about a Sicilian fishing family that inadvertently gets involved with illegal immigrants after rescuing a drowning woman and her son.

VOD / On Demand exclusives:

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (Lionsgate, Digital HD) and the acclaimed documentary The Crash Reel (Phase 4, Digital) are both available three weeks before disc.

More releases:

Riddick125I’m In Love with a Church Girl (Cinedigm, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand)
A Single Shot (Well Go, Blu-ray, DVD)
Big Sur (Arc, DVD)
Run (Millennium, Blu-ray 3D+2D, DVD)
Plus One (IFC, DVD)
Where Am I (MPI, DVD)
Be My Valentine (Cinedigm, DVD)
Underdogs (Freestyle, DVD)
The Deadly Game (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
YourNextKiss the Water (Virgil, DVD)
Four (Wolfe, DVD)
Out Loud (Ariztical, DVD)
Fresh Meat (Cinedigm, DVD)
Voodoo Possession (Image, DVD, VOD)
Gasland Part II (Docurama, DVD)
How to Make Money Selling Drugs (Cinedigm, DVD)
Greedy Lying Bastards (Disinformation, DVD)
The Contradictions of Fair Hope (Shelter Island, DVD)
Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars (Disinformation, DVD)

Calendar of upcoming releases on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, and VOD