This week on Blu-ray and DVD: The latest from bad-boy auteur Lars von Trier; the Oscar-winner for Best Adapted Screenplay; “My Week With Marilyn,” starring Oscar nominees Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh; Jason Reitman’s second go-around with Diablo Cody; and a documentary made for “Once” fans.
#1. Critic’s Pick: “Melancholia” (Blu-ray and DVD)
Think what you will of Lars von Trier, but there’s no denying that his latest, “Melancholia,” is a deeply felt and ambitiously mounted work.
Kirsten Dunst deservedly won Best Actress at Cannes for her portrayal of Justine (a von Trier alter ego if there ever was one), a depressive who, on the eve of her doomed wedding, notices a star burning bright in the sky. That star turns out to be Melancholia, a planet on a crash course with Earth.
“The greatest possible expression of Von Trier’s recent ‘no more happy endings’ edict, ‘Melancholia’ is supremely operatic, enlivened by its cosmic sensibility and yet amazingly rendered on an intimate scale,” wrote Eric Kohn in his review out of Cannes. “Beyond its opening and closing minutes, the movie’s appeal mainly comes from its fine-tuned performances, each of which adds to the developing sense of dread.”
Extras: Fans of the film’s opening prologue will appreciate featurettes offering a look at the film’s dazzling visuals. Additionally, the film’s visual effects supervisor and astrophysicist (!), Michael J. Linden, discusses the science behind the film while Lars von Trier, Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and psychologist Irene Oestrich share their thoughts on the film’s themes. The film’s ominous trailers can also be found.
#2. “The Descendants” (Blu-ray and DVD)
Alexander Payne (along with co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) took home Best Adapted Screenplay honors at the Oscars for what is arguably his most accomplished film to date — and that’s saying a lot. The same goes for Payne’s star, George Clooney.
In a career-defining turn, Clooney plays a father to two, who is confronted with the news that his wife is in a coma following a boating accident. Not soon after, he learns that his wife had been seeing another man. Neither he nor his kids take kindly to the news.
“As both screenwriter and director, Payne possesses an ability lost on many filmmakers: Patience,” wrote Kohn in his review.
Extras: The disc includes a nice selection of deleted scenes, seven featurettes on the making of the film, three music videos and a converation between George Clooney and Alexander Payne. The Blu-ray also offers a DVD and a digital copy.
#3. “My Week With Marilyn” (Blu-ray and DVD)
Michelle Williams has always been one to take a risk, but her latest coup is no doubt her ballsiest one yet — embodying the icon of all icons, the one and only Marilyn Monroe. Williams conquers the challenge to deliver one of the best performances of the year in this crowd-pleasing biopic from TV veteran Simon Curtis. Both Williams and her “Marilyn” co-star, Kenneth Branagh, who plays Laurence Olivier, were nominated for Oscars.
Go HERE for our recent post-Oscars chat with Branagh.
Extras: The two extras here are an informative commentary from director Curtis about the making of the film and a 20-minute featurette about Marilyn Monroe, her relationship with Olivier, Williams’ casting and other elements. The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD copy.
#4. “Young Adult” (Blu-ray and DVD)
“Young Adult” finds Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody reteamed for the first time since their Oscar-winning hit, “Juno.” Don’t be fooled. Fans expecting a feel-good tale laced with wit and a whole lotta heart will be sorely dissapointed. The two have whipped up an altogether acerbic little film this time around — one that boasts Charlize Theron’s best performance since “Monster.”
In “Young Adult,” Theron plays a hot and supremely bitter teen author who travels back to her hometown to win back her high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). The problem? He’s happily married.
“With self destruction as destiny, Reitman has made the equivalent of a Roland Emmerich disaster movie writ small, an apocalyptic scenario internalized by a single person,” wrote Kohn in his review. “He intends the movie, as he has stated in interviews, to place viewers in a state of incredible uneasiness by inhabiting Mavis’ screwy perspective in all its unflattering glory.”
Extras: An audio commentary from Reitman and the crew shares some more detail on the film’s themes and facts about the film’s shoot. The featurettes offer a Q&A between Reitman and Janet Maslin at the Jacob Burns Film Center, thoughts from Diablo Cody on a scene in the film and a more general 17-minute making-of. Deleted scenes and an Ultraviolet Digital Copy are also included.
#5. “The Swell Season” (DVD)
Fans of “Once” will no doubt be curious to check out “The Swell Season,” a documentary that offers a candid behind-the-scenes look at the real-life couple behind the film’s Oscar-winning music.
Peter Knegt caught the film’s world premiere at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival: “Picking up directly after the success of “Once” propelled stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova—lovers onscreen and off—into an Oscar-fueled spotlight, ‘Swell Season’ is the result of three years of footage by New York filmmakers Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins and Carlo Mirabella-Davis. The trio followed Hansard and Irglova on tour, capturing gorgeous black-and-white documentation of the effect extensive touring and fast fame had on their relationship, both professionally and romantically.”
The director shares a scene from the film with Indiewire HERE.
Extras: A whopping 45 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, including additional musical performances.