MadMaxFuryRoadMad Max: Fury Road (Warner, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, Digital HD, VOD) wasn’t the biggest hit film of the summer (that honor belongs to Jurassic World) but it is easily the most visceral and the most intelligent action film of year.

Directed by George Miller (who made the first three Mad Max movies, including the most famous of them, The Road Warrior), this installment falls somewhere in the middle of the timeline and stars Tom Hardy as Max, the character originally played by Mel Gibson and reimagined as a haunted loner here. Decades in the making, there’s nothing else like this out there. Fury Road sweeps you up in its stunning stunt work and action set pieces and the sheer momentum of its drive while sneaking in observations on power and patriarchy and control and even sneaking in an unexpected hero: Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. A warrior big rig driver with a prosthetic arm, she flees the despot Immortan Joe with the “property” he most values, his concubines (sex slaves by any other name). Furiosa vows to bring the women (who looks like runway models in desert chic rags) to “the green place,” the promised land of freedom of her youth, while every vehicle in running order takes off in hot pursuit through the badlands of the ruined world. Max, literally dragged into the chase, ends up joining the escape team out of opportunity, reluctantly at first, and then inspired by the passion and hope that drives Furiosa.

The first half of the film is a seemingly non-stop chase, though Miller is so adept at conducting the rise and fall of the action that you forget it often stops to cool the engines before revving back up. The second half is a race, with Max and Furiosa taking the fight back to Citadel to offer an alternative to Joe’s warrior religion, designed to keep his soldiers not merely loyal but eager for glory in battle, and a bloodline that has slid to the decidedly deformed and subhuman end of the spectrum.

The film is best experienced on the big screen, where its size and scale can be appreciated. Which makes it a great test disc to show off a muscular home theater system. For the rest of us, see it on as big a screen as possible and clear out the distractions. You want to give yourself the opportunity to be pulled into the momentum of this film and drawn into the vividly imagined tribal world with its rituals and totems and scavenged cars mixed and matched into weaponized vehicles.

And in a late-breaking story, it just won the annual Grand Prix by FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics.

This is a film to own. Streaming simply won’t give you the video clarity and audio muscle of Blu-ray and there’s over 90 minutes of featurettes that come with the disc. The half-hour “Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road” shows you what has already been said in reviews and articles: the greatest special effects in the film are old-school physical stunts and the CGI is there to add flourish and enhance the landscapes of the location shoot (which are impressive on their own). “Fury on Four Wheels” (23 minutes) takes us through the cars and their weapons and obsessive detail, “The Tools of the Wasteland” (14 minutes) on the art and design of the props and accoutrements, and we explore the characters in “The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa” and “The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome,” plus there’s three deleted scenes and a “Crash & Smash” montage of raw test and production footage before CGI enhancement.

The Blu-ray also includes bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD copies of the film.

GoodKillGood Kill (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) tackles writer / director Andrew Niccol’s favorite theme: the intersection of technology and humanity. His problem is that his art is rarely as interesting as his ideas. The Truman Show works because Peter Weir is very good with the human equation, and Gattaca, to date, is Niccol’s most successful film, in part thanks to its star, Ethan Hawke.

Good Kill is his most human film since and Hawke is back, equally committed to his role as a veteran Air Force fighter pilot downsized to drone jockey working out of a remote base in the Nevada desert. After a day of launching missiles and tallying the body count in Afghanistan, he climbs into his car, takes the freeway home, and settles in with his wife and kids in a cookie-cutter Las Vegas suburb. It’s commuter combat and the boundaries between battlefield mentality and civilian life blur.

This isn’t science fiction—it claims to be “based on actual events”—but it feels like it, with its sealed, space capsule-like remote cockpits and disconnection from the field of battle, watching the consequences of their actions on a security camera-like monitor. Just a few miles away is the gleaming Las Vegas cityscape photographed like some futuristic fantasia: “Tomorrowland” as the ultimate R&R distraction. When the CIA takes command of Hawke’s crew, the disembodied voice (Peter Coyote, of course) over the speakerphone becomes a black-ops Big Brother coldly ordering strikes like mob hits. Niccol’s disapproval is clear but this isn’t about combat creeping into the realm of war crimes as much as the toll it takes on the soldiers pushing the buttons on morally-questionable off-the-books operations. Good Kill is war movie as moral crucible, where death is a movie watched on a video screen. Like the drone warfare it presents, it’s a remote drama with characters playing out rhetorical roles in a morality play.

Blu-ray and DVD with a featurette and an Ultraviolent Digital HD copy of the film (SD for the DVD version).

BessieBessie (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD) stars Queen Latifah as the queen of the blues Bessie Smith, one of the top recording artists and most influential singers of the 1920s. The film itself, directed by Dee Rees (Pariah), has a conventional approach and the look of an HBO original movie, handsome but visually indistinct (it has less visual personality than such HBO period pieces as Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones, oddly enough). It hits the highlights and fudges some details, but Latifah is dynamic in the role and Mo’Nique, who plays her mentor Ma Rainey, is just as good. Both are bold, brassy women who live their lives without apology and the film doesn’t shy away from their pansexual tastes. The script is a little sketchy as it jumps through her life and supporting characters get short shrift but it makes clear her popularity and Latifah’s performance gives the music (which she performs herself) great power. Michael Kenneth Williams is her husband, Jack, whose combustible devotion is right out of a blues song, and Mike Epps is her bootlegger (if there’s one thing we learn about Bessie, it’s that she likes her men, her women, and her moonshine).

Blu-ray and DVD with the making-of featurette “Bessie: A Creative Journey,” which reveals the long road to getting this films made. Horton Foote wrote a draft of the adaptation years ago and there audition footage of Queen Latifah from 1992, when it almost got produced. More than two decades later she got it made and took the lead, and the years gives her portrayal of Smith the authenticity of experience.

Also new and notable:GemmaBovery

Gemma Bovery (Music Box, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD), based on the graphic novel by Poesy Simmonds, reworks the classic Flaubert tragedy as a self-aware romantic comedy in the French countryside with Gemma Arterton as the title character and Fabrice Luchini as a Flaubert expert who imagines the new arrivals in his little town as characters from the novel in real life. In English and French with subtitles, with featurettes on Blu-ray and DVD.

I’ll See You in my Dreams (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD) stars Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott as seniors in love the second time around. The well-reviewed film co-stars Martin Starr, June Squibb, Mary Kay Place, and Rhea Perlman and found an audience for its story of folks in the AARP demographic.

Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (Icarus, DVD) explores the life and art of the artist who designed the aliens of Alien and created nightmare imagery for movies, album covers, sculptures, and other works of art.

TV on disc:ScorpionS1

Scorpion: Season One (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD)
Black Jesus: Season One (Warner, DVD)
Madam Secretary: Season 1 (Paramount, DVD)
Texas Rising (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Hitler on Trial (BBC, DVD)
Cracked: The Darkness Within (BBC, DVD)
Castle: The Complete Seventh Season (ABC, DVD)
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Sixth Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)ChicagoFireS3
The Originals: The Complete Second Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Chicago Fire: Season Three (Universal, DVD)
Chicago Fire: Season Two (Universal, DVD)
New Girl: The Complete Fourth Season (Fox, DVD)
The League: Season Six (Fox, DVD)
Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Season One (Disney, Blu-ray, DVD)
Curious George: The Complete Eighth Season (Universal, DVD)

New releases:IllSeeYou

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD)
Good Kill (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
The D Train (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
I’ll See You in my Dreams (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
Gemma Bovery (Music Box, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Boulevard (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
7 Minutes (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD)Boulevard
Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me (Virgil, DVD, VOD)
I Am Dale Earnhardt (Paramount, DVD)
The Decent One (Kino Lorber, DVD)
The Lesson (Film Movement, DVD)
The Chambermaid (Film Movement, DVD)
Bessie (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD)
Broken Horses (Sony, DVD, Digital HD)
Army of Frankensteins (Scream Factory, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, VOD)DarkStarGiger
The Harvest (Scream Factory, Blu-ray, DVD)
Backcountry (Scream Factory, Blu-ray, DVD)
Felt (Amplify, DVD)
Wolf Warrior (Well Go, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)
Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (Icarus, DVD)
Francesco (Film Movement, Blu-ray, DVD)
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. 1 (Shout! Factory, DVD)
Sexual Assault at a Hotel (Impulse, DVD)
Redeemer (Dark Sky, Blu-ray, DVD)harvest
Extinction (Sony, DVD, Digital HD)
The Surface (eOne, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
The Curse of Downer’s Grove (Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Lawless Kingdom (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Lords of London (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Panic 5 Bravo (Lionsgate, DVD)
Lost After Dark (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD)

VOD / Streaming exclusives:

The Age of Adaline (VOD) Friday, September 4, before disc
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (VOD) Friday, September 4, same day as select theaters
Addicted to Fresno (VOD)
Bloodsucking Bastards (VOD) Friday, September 4, same day as select theaters
Day and Night (VOD)

Available for digital purchase in advance of disc:

Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal, Digital HD)
Spy (Fox, Digital HD) Friday, September 4
Poltergeist (2015) (Fox, Digital HD) Friday, September 4

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