This week on DVD/Blu-ray: One of the most controversial films to play at Sundance, well, ever; a documentary 25 years in the making; Tim Burton's animated love letter to the horror films of yore; the first season of a new hit HBO show starring a loony and wonderful Laura Dern; and an endearing indie that will make you want to pick up a kid's xylophone and form a band.
In "Great World of Sound" director Craig Zobel's acclaimed and controversial drama "Compliance," Dreama Walker stars as Becky, a young fast food employee who is accused of stealing from a customer after a man, under the guise of a police officer, calls the restaurant demanding to speak to her manager Sandra (Ann Dowd). What follows is a horrific true account of how the mystery caller managed to convince the young woman's supervisor (as well as others asked to help out) to commit a number of physically invasive acts, including sexual assault. "It's a movie that must be seen, processed and discussed, perhaps the first of its kind to transform the audience into a focus group," wrote Eric Kohn in his review out of Sundance, where the film world premiered last year to a divisive response.
Extras: Interviews with the cast and Zobel, as well as the film's theatrical trailer.
Filmed for more than five years in 25 countries and on 70mm, the documentary "Samsara," from the team that brought you "Baraka," can most simply be described as an experience. There are no words, just a driving score; no characters, just startlingly honest portraits; no sets, just a global stage. The title, a Sanskrit word that translates as “the ever-turning wheel of life,” is the center point around which a 99-minute series of moving images revolves, each one remote, unusual and absolutely beautiful in some way.
Extras: Included is a Behind the Scenes section with several featurettes that delve into various aspects of the film. All in all, the contents clock in at a robust 49 minutes. An internet teaser and the theatrical trailer can also be found on the disc.
Tim Burton's most recent foray into stop-motion animation, following 2005's dark wonder "The Corpse Bride," finds the filmmaker molding the live-action short that launched his career into a charming, beautiful, black-and-white feature-length film sure to appeal to kids, and adults with fond memories of horror films of yore. The film centers on a boy who brings his dead dog Sparky back to life. The stellar voice cast includes Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau and Winona Ryder.
Extras: Several making-of featurettes and the music video "Pet Sematary" by Plain White T's. Best of all is Burton's original short that inspired the feature.
#4. "Enlightened: The Complete First Season"
Laura Dern gives her most impassioned performance to date (and that's saying a lot) in HBO's new series "Enlightened," written by "School of Rock" scribe Mike White. The show centers on Amy (Dern), a self-destructuve health and beauty executive who returns to work three months after a very public meltdown. Rejuvenated after a stint at a treatment center in Hawaii, Amy begins to pick up the pieces of her old life and work on herself, all while dealing with an overbearing mother (Diane Ladd) and a slacker ex-husband (Luke Wilson).
Extras: Every episode on the two-disc set includes a short "Inside the Episode" promo featuring White. Also included are a number of audio commentaries spread out over the first season.
"The Dry Land" star Ryan O'Nan makes his directoral debut with this winning indie comedy (which he also penned) about a recently dumped sad sack (O'Nan), who embarks on an imromptu road trip with his eccentric new bandmate (Michael Weston). Bringing new meaning to the term "lo-fi," the two forge a unique sound by using children's instruments to back their sweet vocals.
Extras: New interviews with O'Nan and Weston; an outtakes reel; two short films by O'Nan and Weston; the original theatrical trailer; and a live performance and Q&A (hosted by this writer!) at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, NY.