Hot Tips and Top Picks: DVDs, Blu-rays and Digital Debuts for January 31

New Releases:

Drive” (Sony), the sleek pulp crime cool-meets-art-house​ style thriller starring Ryan Gosling as a taciturn getaway driver, was an Oscar favorite when it debuted in the fall. Why it was left in the dust is something of a mystery, even with the critical backlash against its neon noir stylings and romanticized gangster movie tropes (see Glenn Kenny’s review on MSN). And almost everyone agrees that Albert Brooks was criminally overlooked by the Academy for his superb creation of a genially ruthless L.A. mobster. Director Nicolas Winding Refn embraces the genre with all his love of underworld tragedy and Gosling gives his unnamed hero an enigmatic chivalry. On Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and OnDemand. Videodrone’s review is here.

In Time” (Fox) is a science fiction thriller where life energy has become a commodity and Justin Timberlake becomes a kind of “time bandit” and the future of class warfare. But according to MSN film critic Kat Murphy, the film from writer/director Andrew Niccol is “short on substance and style.” Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy co-star. MSN has an exclusive deleted scene here. “The Thing” (2011) (Universal), a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 modern classic, combines horror and science fiction in a lukewarm attempt to create chills from an alien invasion thriller. Both on Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and OnDemand.

Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black are bird watchers in the comedy “The Big Year” (Fox), which MSN film critic Glenn Kenny recommends, and Richard Gere and Topher Grace star in the spy thriller “The Double” (Image).

The Mill and the Cross” (Kino Lorber), a thoughtful and visually inventive drama about the story behind Peiter Bruegel’s legendary painting “The Way to Calvary,” is Videodrone’s indie pick of the week (Blu-ray and DVD), while MSN film critic James Rocchi recommends the upbeat music documentary “Thunder Soul” (Lionsgate).

Also new this week: the haunted house story “Dream House” (Universal) with Daniel Craig and Naomi Watts, the drama “Janie Jones” (Tribeca/New Video) with Abigail Breslin and Alessandro Nivola, the crime thriller “Texas Killing Fields” (Anchor Bay) with Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jessica Chastain, the documentaries “The Other F Word” (Oscilloscope) and “Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles” (eOne), and Takeshi Kitano’s mob-war action film “Outrage: Way of the Yakuza” (Magnolia) from Japan.

Browse the complete New Release Rack here

TV on DVD:

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level” (Paramount) is essentially a Blu-ray sampler, a single-disc featuring three episodes of the show remastered from the original 35mm film elements for Blu-ray, including enhanced special effects from the original elements. Features the double-length pilot, plus “Sins of the Father” (Season Three, Worf visit the Klingon high command) and “The Inner Light”  (Season Five, Picard lives a lifetime in an instant). Blu-ray only, no supplements. Videodrone’s review is here.

The Comic Strip Presents: The Complete Collection” (eOne) presents the entire run of the anarchic British comedy series of the eighties, starring many of the defining comic talents of the era (including Robbie Coltrane, Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Rik Mayall, Jennifer Saunders, and Alexei Sayle). 39 episodes on nine discs, plus the feature film “The Supergrass” (1988) and bonus featurettes.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series One” (Acorn) remasters the popular British mystery series starring David Suchet for Blu-ray and DVD and presents them in original U.K. Broadcast order, while “Poldark: The Complete Collection” (Acorn) simply boxes up the two previously release DVD sets.

Flip through the TV on DVD Channel Guide here

Cool, Classic and Cult:

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Blu-ray 3D Combo” (Universal) delivers the Blu-ray 3D debut of the film along with all the supplements you could want from a Michael Bay extravaganza, including a nearly two-hour documentary on the making of the film, plus bonus 2D Blu-ray and DVD copies of the film. Videodrone’s review is here.

To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary” (Universal) presents the beloved Oscar-winning drama, based on Harper Lee’s novel and starring Gregory Peck, in a newly-remastered edition for its Blu-ray debut. It features all the supplements of the earlier DVD special edition plus a bonus DVD and digital copy. Also available on DVD. Videodrone’s review is here.

Australia After Dark” (Intervision) and “The ABCs of Love and Sex, Australia Style” (Intervision) are exploitation films from the wild days of Australian seventies filmmaking, and “Monsignor” (Shout! Factory) is a 1982 melodrama starring Christopher Reeve as a priest who breaks the commandments while serving the Pope.

All of the Cool, Classic and Cult here

Blu-ray Debuts:

Fernando di Leo Crime Collection” (Raro) presents the Blu-ray debut of four Italian gangster movie classics from the seventies from the director that Quentin Tarantino called “the master” of the genre, and offers a sharper image and a more accurate preservation of the original film. Videodrone’s review is here.

You can tell it’s Oscar season when the studios pull past winners out of the vault for new home video editions. Debuting on Blu-ray this week are Oscar winners “Shakespeare in Love” (Lionsgate), “The English Patient” (Lionsgate), “The Piano” (Lionsgate), “Cold Mountain” (Lionsgate), and “Adaptation” (Image), and Oscar nominees “Frida” (Lionsgate) and “Malcolm X” (Warner). Meanwhile, the five-disc “Best Picture Academy Award Winners” (Lionsgate) includes the new “Shakespeare” and “English Patient” discs along with the previously released “Chicago,” “Crash,” and “No Country for Old Men.

Peruse all the new Blu-rays here

New on Netflix Instant:

The Oscar-nominated documentary “Hell and Back Again” (Docurama) has just been made available. More on Videodrone here.

Older titles debuting on the service include “Conspiracy Theory” (1997) with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, the warm, low-key drama “Breaking Away” (1979) with Dennis Christopher and Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Robert Aldrich’s satirical “The Longest Yard” (1974) with Burt Reynolds as a pro football bad boy behind bars, plus the more demanding 2006 drama “Babel” (2006) with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett and Martin Scorsese’s controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988).

Shuffle through more Instant offerings here

Available from Redbox this week:

Day and date with video stores: “Drive,” “The Double,” and “Texas Killing Fields” (see above).

Also arriving in Redbox kiosks this week:

Contagion” (Warner), Steven Soderbergh uses his camera lens as a kind of microscope to study the effects of a fictional pandemic. It’s an eerie medical thriller with a very different atmosphere than the usual disaster film.

Shark Night” (Universal) sends seven comely college kids to Louisiana lake that is filled with sharks. What more do you need to know?

Redbox DVD flashback this week is “Ghost Rider,” the comic-book movie flop with Nicolas Cage as a motorcycle stunt driver turned into “the Devil’s bounty hunter,” a demon rider with a flaming skull for a head. Can’t recommend this one, but with the sequel set for 2012 release, there is that impulse to catch up…

For calendar of upcoming releases, click here

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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