SelmaSelma (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD), directed by Ava Duvernay (who also rewrote Paul Webb’s screenplay without credit), takes on the 1965 march led by Dr. Martin Luther King through Alabama as a benchmark moment in the fight for voting rights and, more generally, civil rights for black citizens in the American south. It’s the kind of film that can get lost in hagiography and simplification. Duvernay sidesteps both with a nuanced, complicated portrait of King (played here by British actor David Oyelowo, star of Duvernay’s previous film Middle of Nowhere) as a man aware of his power as an orator and as a leader, as well as a savvy campaigner with a keen understanding of the workings of the corporate media and local and national politics and powers. Selma was carefully chosen for this event because of, not despite, the potential for violence, one of the ironies revealed in the film: to get the news media to pay attention to injustice, King and his partners in protest had to give them conflict.

That comes at a cost and much of Selma is about the cost and the stakes of movement. Oyelowo plays King with grace and dignity, but he’s always aware of what people are putting on the line, including his wife (Carmen Ejogo), who is harassed by the FBI with evidence of King’s adultery. One of the film’s great triumphs is the maturity and seriousness with which it confronts the way this couple tries to work through it.

There are conflicts within in the movement and with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), who was the greatest ally the movement ever had in the White House but was also a politician worried about how to spend his political capital for the greatest good. The film has been criticized for its portrayal of Johnson’s resistance to King’s insistence on moving ahead quickly with voting rights, a conflict partly engineered in the film for dramatic purpose, but I think the critics protest too much. Those scenes illustrate how even supporters of the cause cannot fully understand the reality of living under such repressive laws or the urgency for change. This isn’t a film about Johnson or even, at heart, about King. It is about a culture, a movement, a moment in history, a great injustice that should never be forgotten, and the lives affected by that injustice. Duvernay’s greatest accomplishment is in humanizing history and reminding us of why it matters.

The superb supporting cast of committed performers includes Wendell Pierce, Tessa Thompson, producer Oprah Winfrey, Common, Tim Roth as Alabama governor George Wallace, and Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover. Note that none of King’s speeches are included here. For reasons beyond my understanding, the King family would not allow Duvernay to use King’s speeches, but the film still manages to give us a sense of the power and passion of his words.

Selma received two Oscar nominations: for Best Picture and Best Original Song “Glory” by Common and John Legend, which it won. Many Oscar watchers thought that controversy over the LBJ portrait resulted so few nominations.

On Blu-ray, DVD, and cable and digital VOD. The Blu-ray edition features the supplements: commentary by filmmaker Ava Duvernay and star David Oyelowo, the featurettes “The Road to Selma” and “Recreating Selma,” deleted and extended scenes, and the music video for the Oscar-winning song, plus bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD copies of the film.

Paramount Home Media Distribution is sending DVD copies of the film to every high school in the U.S., both public and private, for their libraries, and they are making companion study guides available for teachers free of charge. Educators can request a copy of the guide at

MrTurnerMr. Turner (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD) – “When I look in a mirror, I see a gargoyle.” J.M.W. Turner, as created in the Mike Leigh’s film Mr. Turner and incarnated by Timothy Spall, is not what we imagine for a grand British artist. Burly, rough-hewn, with speech punctuated by grunts and snorts, he’s a man from working class stock who has acquired the necessary social decorum to interact in professional society but reverts to an almost primitive state back home. He’s abandoned his wife and daughters with little more than an allowance and turns to his maid for sexual release, but he also adores his father (Paul Jesson), is fascinated by natural science, has an almost spiritual connection to the landscapes he paints, and finds solace living in anonymity in a rented room overlooking the sea in a port town.

This is only Leigh’s third film based on historical events and set in the past—everything else in his career has been contemporary—but like his other films it is built with his cast’s commitment to research and investment in their characters. The screenplay, which follows 25 years of Turner’s life, doesn’t follow any familiar storytelling structure. It’s episodic and Leigh never worries about identifying time or place as it moves through his life. You have to work to follow the narrative but Leigh’s interest isn’t on what he did when. It’s all about how and why he paints. Not that the answers are readily forthcoming; Turner is a fascinating conundrum right to the end. Leigh is more concerned with his nature, the details of his labor (and there is a true work ethic and complete commitment to his painting), the social culture around him, even the business of painting in 19th century England. It’s an immersion into his life and it is rich.

The imagery evokes his canvases, not just the compositions and framing but the color and the light, which cinematographer Dick Pope seems to paint on the screen. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and, in my opinion, should have won for Pope’s amazing work. Timothy Spall won the Best Actor award at Cannes but received no Oscar nomination.

Blu-ray and DVD with commentary by director Mike Leigh, the half-hour featurette “Many Colors of Mr. Turner,” and a deleted scene. The Blu-ray also features the exclusive 16-minute featurette “The Cinematic Palette: The Cinematography of Mr. Turner,” which looks at the shooting, the art direction, and the digital cinematography and post-production coloring.

Also available as Digital HD purchase and on cable and digital VOD.

MissJulie Miss Julie (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD), Liv Ullman’s screen adaptation of the August Strindberg play, calls back to the classic 1951 Swedish screen adaptation by Alf Sjöberg, who was a mentor to Ingmar Bergman, the director who guided Ullman to some of her greatest performances. Ullman directed Bergman’s screenplay in Faithless and now pays tribute to both her and Bergman’s roots.

Jessica Chastain stars as Miss Julie, daughter of a wealthy baron, in this version, which has been relocated to Ireland, and Colin Farrell is her father’s valet, John, who she teases and toys with to his evident discomfort. John is in a vague relationship with the cook, Kathleen (Samantha Morton)—they sleep together but any further commitment is undefined—but apparently in love with the beautiful, imperious Julie, an impossible love given their class status. But that’s just the first act. These are the only three characters in the play, though we hear the peasants reveling outside in the midsummer solstice festival, and the relationships shift throughout, sometimes quite powerfully. This is very much a work of theater, complete with intense two-hander dialogue that winds into emotional breakdowns and complicated monologues. Farrell is harried and nervous and wrought up, Chastain fiery and arrogant, and then roles upend as Chastain’s Julie loses all grounding and becomes an emotional hurricane, all her confidence lost in the consequences of her reckless games. Kathleen stands by, aghast at all this crossing of class boundaries.

It’s a master class in acting. Chastain is excellent through every turn of her journey but particularly astounding as Julie loses her composure completely and her manners and decorum are lost in a surge of panic and betrayal and unleashed emotions she can’t contain, and Farrell reveals layers under the professional surface of John, the loyal servant with dreams beyond his reach. It’s also, for all of its intimacy, austere and formal and carefully choreographed as if the characters are playing out preordained roles. It is claustrophobic by design, which becomes oppressive and at times airless. It’s fascinating to watch, though not necessarily enjoyable, a fierce battle of wills and aspirations and realizations playing out in this bubble isolated from the rest of the world. The pleasures are in the performances and they are superb.

Features two interview featurettes, one with Liv Ullman and Jessica Chastain and the other with Chastain alone, both running about ten minute, plus an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

MadMaxScreamMad Max: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory, Blu-ray) – George Miller’s grungy 1979 revenge flick was an international smash when American International Pictures – the kings of the drive-in movies who spawned Roger Corman, teen horror, and biker films – acquired the film and replaced those Aussie accents with good ol’ American talk. It never really hit in the US and it’s hard to fathom why: Mad Max is classic B movie exploitation. An impossibly young, baby-faced Mel Gibson plays both rebel and reliable family man as a cool cop in black leather and a souped up V8 whose specialty is playing chicken with revved up road pirates. It’s “a few years from now” in a world on the verge of social breakdown and the street becomes the battleground between cop and criminal. When Max’s wife (Joanne Samuel) and child are murdered by a horde of sleazy bikers he turns rogue and transforms his car into a vehicle of vengeance. Think of Death Wish by way of Death Race 2000.

In the wake of its sequel, the colorful comic book come mythic post-apocalyptic epic The Road Warrior, it looks a little cheap and raw, and the bombastic score suggests a humorless seriousness that Miller’s often witty direction belies. He bounces between macho cliché and outrageous exaggeration, never quite abandoning one for the other, spicing with car chases and screeching wrecks staged with confidence and kinetic flash. It’s a tough little piece, just a little grimy, full of ambiance (love the crumbling sign over “Hall of Justice”) and attitude and occasionally sparked by an inspired flourish. Mad Max is no The Road Warrior but it is an eminently road worthy picture and it spawned a legacy that continues to this day. It can’t be a coincidence that this Blu-ray release debuts weeks before the new Mad Max: Fury Road opens.

It was previously available on Blu-ray both separately and in a three-disc set with the entire trilogy. This edition features new interviews with stars Mel Gibson and Joanne Samuel and director of photography David Eggby plus the extras for the earlier release: commentary by Eggby, production designer Jon Dowding, and special effects artists Chris Murray and Tim Ridge, the vintage featurettes “Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon” (25 minutes) and “Mel Gibson: The Birth of a Superstar” (16 minutes), still galleries, and trailers and TV spots. Like the previous releases, it includes the original Australian soundtrack (both in 5.1 remix and mono) and the American dub soundtrack.

There’s also a lot of notable TV on disc this week, including the AMC series Halt and Catch Fire: The Complete First Season (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD), about the early days of the home computer explosion, and Showtime’s Masters of Sex: Season Two (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD), with Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as pioneering sex researchers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson. I’ll cover these in a subsequent column.

Also new and notable: 50shadesstraight

Fifty Shades of Grey (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD), the erotic romance with an innocent young woman introduced to the world of bondage and sado-masochistic play by a handsome billionaire with very singular tastes, arrives on Friday, May 8 on Blu-ray, DVD, Cable On Demand and digital VOD. And this one is unrated.

WinterSleepWinter Sleep (Adopt, Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD), Turkey’s entry for the Foreign Language category of the recent Academy Awards, won the Palm d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, it’s a three-plus hour drama set in a small, isolated hotel in the mountains of central Turkey, where small, seemingly insignificant actions set off a cascade of dramatic consequences. It’s in Turkish with English subtitles.

Lost River (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD), the directorial debut of actor Ryan Gosling, stars Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith, and Eva Mendes.

Love, Rosie (Paramount, DVD) is a romantic comedy with Lily Collins and Sam Caflin and Black or White (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) a family drama with Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer.

Digital / VOD / Streaming exclusives:IamBig

Coming to Cable on Demand in advance of disc release is Michael Mann’s cyber-thriller Blackhat with Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis and the New Zealand vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows with Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.

On Friday, May 8, three films become available the same day they debut in theaters: the Kristen Wiig comedy Welcome to Me, the romantic drama 5 Flights Up with Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton, and the family-friendly documentary I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.

Mortdecai (Lionsgate, Digital HD) is available for digital purchase weeks before disc release.

Classics and Cult:Goodfellas25

GoodFellas: 25th Anniversary (Warner, Blu-ray, Digital HD)
Pitch Perfect: Sing-Along Edition (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Secret Invasion (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
The McKenzie Break
(Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Frank Sinatra 5-Film Collection
(Warner, Blu-ray)
Anchors Aweigh (Warner, Blu-ray)
On the Town (Warner, Blu-ray)FrankSinatra5small
Robin and the 7 Hoods (Warner, Blu-ray)
Clint Eastwood: The Universal Pictures 7-Movie Collection (Universal, Blu-ray)
1941 (Universal, Blu-ray)
Always (Universal, Blu-ray)
Duel (Universal, Blu-ray)
Munich (Universal, Blu-ray)
The Sugarland Express (Universal, Blu-ray)
Mahogany: The Couture Edition (Paramount, DVD)
The Train (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, DVD)

TV on disc:HaltCatch1small

Halt and Catch Fire: The Complete First Season (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD)
Masters of Sex: Season Two (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD)
Mr. Selfridge: Season 3
(PBS, Blu-ray, DVD)
White Collar: The Complete Sixth Season
(Fox, DVD)
White Collar: The Con-plete Series
(Fox, DVD)
Parenthood: Season Six (Universal, DVD)
Parenthood: The Complete Series (Universal, DVD)MastersSexS2small
Dancing on the Edge (PBS, Blu-ray, DVD)
Jamaica Inn (Acorn, DVD)
Law & Order: The Eighteenth Year / 2007-2008 Season
(Universal, DVD)
Law & Order: The Nineteenth Year / 2008-2009 Season (Universal, DVD)
Law & Order: The Twentieth Year / 2009-2010 Season (Universal, DVD)
Father Brown: Season Two (BBC, DVD)
Dalziel & Pascoe: Season 11
The Bridge: Season 2 (Denmark) (MHz, DVD)
Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales – Surf’s Up Scooby-Doo! (Warner, DVD)

More releases:LostRiver

Black Sea (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Last Five Years
(Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD)
Amira & Sam
(Drafthouse, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Frontier
(Virgil, DVD, Digital)
A Few Best Men
(Universal, DVD)
God’s Slave (Film Movement, DVD)
The Nun
(Film Movement, DVD)MurderCat
My Mistress
(Film Movement/Omnibus, DVD)
(Kino Lorber, DVD)
Futuro Beach
(Strand, DVD)
Concerning Violence
(Kino Lorber, DVD)
Against the Son
(Anchor Bay, DVD)
Murder of a Cat
(Anchor Bay, DVD)
Spare Parts
(Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Lost Rivers
(Icarus, DVD, VOD)
The Pyramid
(Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)

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