InterstellarInterstellar (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD) – Christopher Nolan used his clout as the director of the hugely successful Dark Knight trilogy and cerebral caper film Inception to get this big-budget science fiction epic made on a scale that otherwise would be out of reach. It’s set in a near future where overpopulation and global climate change has been catastrophic for the food supply and the culture has become hostile to science, as if it’s the cause of the problems rather than the only hope to solve them. Matthew McConaughey is a widower father and former astronaut turned Midwest farmer who is essentially drafted into a covert project to send a ship across the galaxy to find a planet suitable for human habitation. That means abandoning his children, one of whom grows up into a physics genius (played by Jessica Chastain) who holds onto her grudge for decades. This is a film where complex concepts of quantum physics and powerful human emotions are inextricably intertwined and ghost the haunts the farmhouse has both a scientific explanation and a sense of supernatural power.

The family drama at the center is contrived and often unconvincing but Nolan’s visualization of amazing alien worlds, black holes, quantum physics, and the echoes of time and relativity in regards to travel through deep space and gravity distortions is engaging and thrilling. He imagines what a water planet near a black hole might be like and it’s like nothing you’ve ever imagined. The design of the robot helpers is something else. Neil deGrasse Tyson gave the film top marks for its science, which is pretty impressive. Yes, love conquers physics and the smartest people in the world do stupid, thoughtless things to give the plot its complications, but there simply aren’t many science fiction films that dare to be this brainy and visionary. Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, and Topher Grace co-star.


Christopher Nolan shot Interstellar on film rather than digital cameras with a mix of CinemaScope widescreen (about 2.4:1) and IMAX full frame (the 1.78:1 of widescreen TV) aspect ratios. The Blu-ray preserves the shifting ratios and presents a strong, warm image. Paramount goes all out on the disc to make it something special and Nolan, a creator with a great track record for documenting his productions every step of the way, participates in the supplements, which are limited to the Blu-ray release, all collected on a separate Blu-ray disc. The 50-minute “The Science of Interstellar,” an expanded version of a program originally shown in TV, is the centerpiece of the bonus disc, which includes fourteen “Inside Interstellar” featurettes. The shorter pieces, which take on various aspects of the film, the story, production and special effects details (like the use of miniatures, which has become a rarity in the CGI age), range from under two minutes to just over twelve minutes. The Blu-ray set also includes bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD copies of the film.

It’s also on digital VOD and Cable On Demand, but those formats won’t look as good as Blu-ray and do not include the Blu-ray supplements, if that’s something that’s important you.

WildWild (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD), directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (The Dallas Buyer’s Club) and adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir by novelist Nick Hornby (who also scripted An Education), is more than a vehicle for its star / producer Reese Witherspoon. It’s an odyssey on a human scale: a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1700 mile journey undertaken without any preparation or training. For Sheryl, pulling herself out of depression and a self-destructive detour into drugs, it’s an American walkabout cleansing by way of a dare, though the only person she has to prove anything to is herself.

Vallée favors the texture of her experience over her story and DP Yves Bélanger keep us rooted in the beauty and the isolation of the landscape. Hornby’s adaptation is remarkably empathetic to her ordeal, moreso on the trail than in the flashbacks of her spiral into self-destruction (where Laura Dern gives a sublime performance as her mother), and it keeps her voice front and center. And while there is a conventional backbone to the story, it keeps us rooted in the experience of a single woman taking on a challenge that some veteran hikers fail to complete, never forgetting the vulnerability of doing it alone. When a couple of teenage boys rib her about the “princess” treatment she gets from a park ranger (who clearly just wants to get into her tent), she doesn’t school them or remind the audience of some of the more threatening moments she’s endured. She just gets back on the trail and focuses on what matters: moving on.

On Blu-ray and DVD with commentary by director Jean-Marc Vallée with producers Bruna Papandrea and David Greenbaum, seven promotional featurettes, and a message from author Cheryl Strayed. The Blu-ray also includes three additional featurettes, an interactive map of the Pacific Crest Trail, and deleted scenes with optional director commentary, plus an Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the film.


Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD) – Before he created Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, Mike Judge worked in the tech industry of the San Francisco area. He brings that experience to HBO’s new tech comedy set in the San Francisco Bay culture of start-ups. This is set in an “incubator,” which in this case is the suburban home of a successful start-up entrepreneur (T.J. Miller) who sold out and now gets high and “mentors” young computer techs who live rent free in return for 10% of any apps they develop.

Thomas Middleditch takes the lead in this ensemble as a technically brilliant but socially inept and cripplingly insecure programmer who creates a music app with limited appeal but a powerful compression algorithm worth millions. Instead of selling to the rapacious CEO (Matt Ross) of a Google-like corporation, he takes seed money from an ecccentric rival (Christopher Evan Welch) to develop it with his roommates and learns firsthand just how little he knows about the business, politics, and culture of start-ups. The atmosphere of their little start-up isn’t much different from a house of college computer science roommates and series pits the gang of misfits and eccentrics against a tech Goliath. The humor is built on familiar portraits of computer-savvy geeks, guys who write code, dream of a breakthrough program that will make them the next Steve Jobs, and have no contact with the opposite sex, and the show lampoons all aspects of the culture, from the struggling techs and underlings to the success stories driven by ego as much as by profit potential to the overwhelmingly male make-up of this insular society. Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, and Amanda Crew co-star. The second season begins on HBO in April.

Eight episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with three featurettes and an Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the season.

VeepS3VEEP: The Complete Third Season (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD) opens with Vice President of the United States Selina Meyer (Julia Louise-Dreyfus) eying the oval office while awaiting the official announcement from POTUS (still unseen in the show) that he will not seek another term. Even before she announces her candidacy, her staff starts jockeying for power and position on the campaign team, and spend as much time bickering among themselves as managing her itinerary and writing statements that sound impressive and offer no substantial information about her position. Or any position, for that matter.

The series was created by British satirist Armando Iannucci (In The Loop), who finds humor not in political issues but in process: the dysfunction of bureaucracy, the mistakes made by functionaries, the focus on public relations over government action, and the personalities and competing interests that trip over one another trying to get anything accomplished. These characters aren’t passionate about anything but their own career advancement and care more about image than substance. The show has witty scripts and intelligent writing, a strong supporting cast with great chemistry, and a portrait of politics as a cutthroat competition of opportunists ready to sell out a colleague for personal gain, and the season ends with Selina getting into the White House as the first female President when the sitting President resigns just as the primaries get underway, which she’s already losing. It’s utterly cynical and very funny. Louise-Dreyfus won the Emmy Award for three years in a row in the role. The fourth season begins on HBO in April.

The fourth season begins in April. Ten episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by the cast and crew on select episodes and deleted scenes, plus an Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the season.

Also new and notable: ImitationGame

The Imitation Game (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD) was overshadowed in Oscar season by The Theory of Everything, the other film about a British genius who faced adversity while doing revolutionary work that changed the world. This is the one with Benedict Cumberbatch as real life code-breaker Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazi enigma code and gave the Allies an advantage in World War II. His true story is devastating but the film takes so much dramatic license it gives a skewed perspective on the man and the science, and the portrayal of Turing as a social misfit with a manner that suggests Asperger’s syndrome is interesting but apparently more invention than interpretation. Keira Knightley co-stars with Matthew Goode and Mark Strong.

HarlockHarlock: Space Pirate (Ketchup, DVD, Digital HD, VOD) revives the legendary hero of Leiji Matsumoto’s manga series and the subsequent anime series of the 1970s as a big-budget CGI feature that reaches for photo-realism and delivers vivid worlds with incredible detail and texture and strangely stiff human characters that fall in the cracks of the uncanny valley. It’s directed by Shinji Aramaki, the designer and director of Appleseed. With original Japanese and English dub soundtracks, optional English subtitles.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (Warner, Blu-ray+DVD Combo) is an IMAX documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman. Comes with seven featurettes and a bonus Ultraviolet Digital HD copy.

These recommended releases will get more attention in a later feature:
The House of Mystery (La Maison du Mystère) (Flicker Alley, DVD)
Day of Anger (Arrow / MVD, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Alice’s Restaurant (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)

Digital / VOD / Streaming exclusives:PlayCool

Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan star in the rom-com Playing It Cool, available on Cable On Demand before it goes to theaters.

The beloved French children’s book gets a new screen incarnation in Belle and Sebastian, directed by Nicolas Vanier. Now available on cable and digital VOD. Also new this week is the romantic drama Hard Drive, directed by directed by William D. MacGillivray.

Arriving on cable VOD on Friday, same days as theaters, are the action film Last Knights with Morgan Freeman and Clive Owen and the thriller Cut Bank with John Malkovich and Liam Hemsworth.

Masters of Sex: Season Two (Sony, Digital HD), the Showtime original series about Masters and Johnson, is available for digital purchase in advance of disc.

Available later this week for digital purchase is Big Eyes (Anchor Bay, Digital) on Friday, April 3 and Taken 3 (Fox, Digital HD) on Thursday, April 2.

Classics and Cult:GravityLuxe

Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition (Warner, Blu-ray)
Cries and Whispers
(Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)
Hoop Dreams (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)
David and Lisa (Scorpion / Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
The House of Mystery (La Maison du Mystère)
(Flicker Alley, DVD)
Day of Anger (Arrow / MVD, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Alice’s Restaurant (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)CriesWhispers
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Stranger at my Door (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Beat Generation (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Behind Enemy Lines (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Night Game (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Quiet Gun (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Shanghai Story (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
How to Beat the High Cost of Living (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Without a Clue (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Dirty Dozen Double Feature: Deadly Mission + Fatal Mission (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Dario Argento Collection: The Cat O’Nine Tails, Deep Red, Inferno (Blue Underground, Blu-ray)
The Lucio Fulci Collection: City of the Living Dead, The House by the Cemetery, The New York Ripper (Blue Underground, Blu-ray)

TV on disc:MissMarpleS2

Miss Marple: Volume Two (BBC, Blu-ray, DVD)
Lovejoy: Series 5 (Acorn, DVD)
Case Histories: Complete Collection (Acorn, DVD)
Mortal Kombat: Conquest – The Complete Series (Warner, DVD)
Language Matters with Bob Holman (PBS, DVD)
Frontline: Putin’s Way
Nova: Building Wonders (PBS, DVD)
Nature: Owl Power (PBS, DVD)

More releases:Rewrite

The Rewrite (Image, Blu-ray, DVD)
Wild Card
(Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)
Outcast (eOne, Blu-ray, DVD)
3 Nights in the Desert (Monterey, DVD, Digital, VOD)
Ships (Ferahfeza)
(IndiePix, DVD, Digital)
Salvation Army (Strand, DVD)
The Circle
(Wolfe, DVD)IslandLemur
Housekeeping (Lionsgate, DVD)
WWJD (What Would Jesus Do): The Journey Continues (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD)
Fallen Jewel
(Ariztical, DVD)

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