This week on DVD/Blu-ray: An NC-17 thriller-comedy hybrid that earns its rating and then some; the financial thriller that reminded us of how good Richard Gere is when paired with the right material; a breakout hit at Sundance from comedian-turned-filmmaker Mike Birbiglia; the latest divisive effort from Spike Lee; and a thriller that will keep you from visiting a doctor for a good long while.
#1. "Killer Joe" (December 21)
Matthew McConaughey might be receiving some of the best notices of his career (and plenty of awards buzz) for his wry and flesh baring performance in "Magic Mike," but for his most bracing turn this year look no further than "Killer Joe," William Friedkin's NC-17 shocker, adapted by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner Tracy Letts from his own play of the same name. In the seedy thriller, McConaughey plays the titular Joe, a menacing hitman who sidelines as a detective by day. When a troubled teen (Emile Hirsch) and his sad sack of father (Thomas Haden Church) come knocking on Joe's door, asking him to kill a member of their own family, the two find themselves embroiled in one ol' hot Southern mess. Gina Gerson and Juno Temple co-star.
Extras: A super informative audio commentary by Friedkin; the making-of featurette "Southern Fried Hospitality: From Stage to the Screen"; a SXSW Q&A with the cast; a SXSW into by Friedkin; and the grisly red band theatrical trailer.
#2. "Arbitrage" (December 21)
Richard Gere received some of best accolades of his career (deservedly so) at this year's Sundance Film Festival for the legal/financial thriller "Arbitrage," directed with bracing confidence by first-time feature filmmaker Nicholas Jarecki. In it, Gere plays New York hedge-fund magnate Robert Miller, who at the outset of the film appears to have it all: a great job and a loving family. As Jarecki's debut unfolds, however, so does Miller's life as his affair with a French art-dealer (Laetitia Casta) takes a dire turn, and his shady business dealings threaten the bond he shares with his brilliant daughter and heir-apparent Brooke (Brit Marling, making good on the promise she showed in "Sound of My Voice" and "Another Earth").
Extras: Audio commentary with Jarecki; the featurette "Who Is Robert Miller?"; a making-of featurette "A Glimpse Into Arbitrage"; a handful of deleted scenes with optional commentary by Jarecki; and the film's theatrical trailer.
#3. "Sleepwalk With Me" (December 18)
A breakout hit at Sundance, where it nabbed the Best of Next audience award, "Sleepwalk With Me," written, directed and starring comic Mike Birbiglia, is the semi-autobiographical story of a struggling comedian at a crossroads and the growing prominence of his sleeping subconcious. As his family unites for his sister's wedding, Mike's anxieties take on the form of vivid dreams. The growing intensity of Mike's sleeping life carries destructive real-life implications for his relationship with his longterm girlfriend, played by Lauren Ambrose of "Six Feet Under" fame. Supporting Birbiglia and Ambrose are Carol Kane ("Taxi"), James Rebhorn ("Meet the Parents"), Cristin Milioti ("30 Rock"), and a slew of prominent comics.
Extras: An audio commentary with Birbiglia and producer Ira Glass; a 13-minute making-of featurette; a four-minute outtakes reel; an entertaining Q&A with Birbiglia and Glass at the Writers Guild Foundation hosted by Joss Whedon (!); five additional behind-the-scenes featurettes; and the film's theatrical trailer.