With 2013 nearing an end, you may have had your fill of the blockbuster offerings on DVD, Blu-ray and online services. Maybe it’s a good time for some palate-cleansing via less known titles released in the past year.
That’s not to say the big names lack gems. You could easily enjoy the final season of Breaking Bad or the first season of the American version of House of Cards. But the following suggestions, even when mentioned often, may not have been on your viewing radar. And they deserve to be.
So, in alphabetical order:
Amour (Sony, $30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray). There was much deserved acclaim for this story of a couple dealing with the effects of aging and illness. Winner of the Oscar for best foreign-language film.
The Bletchley Circle: Cracking a Killer’s Code (PBS, $24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray). This mystery drama set in ’50s England is not only about a crime. It’s about the place of women in post-World War II society, particularly women who had played important roles during the war and were put back in old places afterward. I ranked it among the best new shows of 2013. A second season is due in 2014.
Graham Parker & the Rumour: This Is Live (Shout!Factory, $21.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo). The singer and band behind Passion Is No Ordinary Word, Local Girls and Discovering Japan reunite for this set of performances, part of which appeared in director Judd Apatow’s This Is 40.
Hava Nagila: The Movie (Cinedigm, $29.95 DVD. Funny and thoughtful chronicle of the song we all know — and the history behind it.
John Ford: The Columbia Films Collection (Sony, $49.99). Ford, one of the great American directors, is showcased with five films, including the American DVD debuts of The Whole Town’s Talking, Two Rode Together and Gideon’s Day, and the return to DVD of The Long Gray Line and The Last Hurrah. Available through the shop on www.tcm.com.
Let’s Get Lost (Cinedigm, $24.95 DVD). Bruce Weber’s documentary about singer-trumpeter Chet Baker was an intriguing look at a life filled with both talent and error. Baker talked to Weber, but the filmmaker went beyond that to interview loved ones and others from Baker’s life for a black-and-white film that was also a colorful chronicle. Also available with three other films in Bruce Weber: The Film Collection ($59.95).
Much Ado About Nothing (Lionsgate, $19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray). Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel’s The Avengers) gathered some actor friends for a few days and made this black-and-white, modern-dress version of Shakespeare’s play. Pay special attention to the excellent work by Amy Acker.
Mud (Lionsgate, $19.98 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray). Matthew McConaughey’s recent hot acting streak included this film in which he plays a mysterious man on a mission in Mississippi.
Not Fade Away (Paramount, $19.98 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray), Sopranos mastermind David Chase made his feature-film directing debut with this piece about friends forming a rock band in the ’60s. Former local resident John Magaro is especially good as a character based on Chase. Somewhat fragmented storytelling is balanced by a fine soundtrack and compelling characters. James Gandolfini co-stars.
Orphan Black: Season One (BBC $29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray). Tatiana Maslany dazzled critics as she played multiple characters — all clones of one — in this thriller. In Hitfix’s poll of TV critics (including me), it ranked fifth among new shows. A second season is coming in April.
Stories We Tell (Lionsgate, $19.98 DVD). Director Sarah Polley took a closer look at her complicated family, especially her mother, who died when Polley was 11. The examination led to some major surprises, including one that ends the movie — and suggests that there’s still more to the story Polley tells. It’s on the motion picture academy’s short list of potential Oscar nominees for documentary.
Down video road: Newhart: The Complete Second Season comes to DVD on Feb. 11. Thanks for Sharing, the comedy starring Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 7, and on digital and video on demand on Jan. 3.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.