This week on DVD/Blu-ray: The film musical that revolutionized the genre; an affecting and melodious all-star ensemble drama; France’s answer to “The Big Chill;” Rashida Jones’ screenwriting debut; and a classic love story starring Barbara Streisand.
#1. “Cabaret: 40th Anniversary Edition”
With Tom Hooper touting his live sung approach on “Les Miserables” as a game changer for the genre, now’s a better time than ever to revisit “Cabaret,” Bob Fosse’s Academy Award-winning sensation that truly revolutionized the film musical by dealing with taboo themes like homosexuality, abortion and promiscuous sex in a frank and thoughtful manner. Remastered for the first time in over 20 years, “Cabaret” arrives today on Blu-ray for the first time, courtesy of Warner Bros., in its original aspect ratio of 16 x 9.
Adapted from the Tony-winning stage production, “Cabaret” stars Liza Minelli in her career defining (and Oscar-winning) performance as Sally Bowles, an American nightclub entertainer in the pre-war Berlin of 1931, who takes to her new, and possibly bisexual British neighbor (Michael York), as Germany descends into chaos. Broadway star Joel Grey beat “The Godfather”‘s Al Pacino to snag the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his deranged and inspired performance as the Kit Kat Club’s master of ceremonies.
Extras: Commentary by film historian Stephen Tropiano; a new revealing featurette about the making of the film and its subsequent influence, titled “Cabaret: The Musical That Changed Musicals;” a 17-minute behind-the-scenes doc; a 6-minute featurette on recreating the era; an in-depth assortment of reminisces as told by cast and crew who worked on the film; the theatrical trailer; and best of all, a 40 page booklet featuring photos, talent files and production info.
“Parks & Recreation” star Rashida Jones makes a winning screenwriting debut with this romantic dramedy in which she plays the titular Celeste, a gal who married her high school sweetheart Jesse (Andy Samberg). The two are best friends, laughing at the same jokes and finishing each other’s sentences. The only problem: they’re actually in the middle of a divorce. Their friends (Ari Graynor, Elijah Wood, and Will McCormack) meanwhile are understandably concerned that all their jocular goodwill is an unhealthy way of coping with the breakup. Charmingly authentic, the film (directed by Lee Toland Krieger of “The Vicious Kind”) delves into the equally sad and funny complexities that come at the end of a relationship.
Extras: Audio commentary by Jones and Samberg; audio commentary by Krieger, Jones and McCormack; a 13-minute making of featurette; 14-minutes of red carpet footage; a crop of deleted scenes; the theatrical trailer; and additional trailers.
#3. “Little White Lies”
It took a while to make its way to the States following its premiere in Toronto back in 2010, but Guillaume Canet’s “Little White Lies,” a sprawling follow-up to his arthouse crossover hit “Tell No One,” finally makes its way onto DVD and Blu-ray after doing blockbuster-style business in his native France (it came close to grossing as much as “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”). Calling to mind “The Big Chill,” “Little White Lies” stars Canet’s partner Marion Cotillard and a stellar ensemble cast that includes Francois Cluzet, Gilles Lellouche and Jean Dujardin in a story about a group of friends who decide to continue their tradition of an annual beach vacation despite a recent tragedy involving one of their own. The drama marks a 180-degree turn from his breathless thriller “Tell No One,” which itself bore few similarities to his darkly comic debut “Whatever You Say.”
Extras: A 26-minute making of featurette; a 6-minute gag reel; a whopping 14 deleted scenes, with optinal commentary by Canet; extra footage showing cast and crew members having fun on set; and raw footage from the shooting of the surf sequence seen in the film.
#4. “A Late Quartet”
An actor’s showcase by design, “A Late Quartet” revolves around a revered New York City quartet coming apart at the seams. Christopher Walken dials it down to play Peter, the longtime head of the quartet, who discovers he’s suffering from Parkinson’s disease and decides to leave the group. His announcement sets off a cascade of events that threaten to destroy their 25-year bond. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener co-star as husband and wife violinists, while Imogen Poots plays their daughter who gets close to her teacher.
Extras: A making of featurette.
#5. “A Star Is Born”
Fresh off the news that Barbara Streisand is set to return to this year’s Academy Awards for the first time in nearly forty years to perform at the ceremony, comes the Blu-ray release of the romance that last brought her to the Oscars, the remake of “A Star Is Born” (she performed the song “Evergreen” from the film in 1977). Like the 1937 and 1954 films that preceeded it, this version of “A Star Is Born” tells the same story of a ingenue (Streisand) who meets an established male star (Kris Kristofferson), only to see her career hit the stratosphere while his takes a nosedive.
Extras: Commentary by Streisand (!); deleted scenes; wardrobe tests; and assorted trailers for the film.