The “double dip” — when a movie is reissued on DVD or Blu-ray, without much in the way of new bonus features — is the bane of the home media owner’s existence. Three of this week’s five new releases of note qualify for that label, and while none may warrant a replacement purchase, all take over for earlier editions (some of them hard to find) at a reasonable price, and, in many cases, with sparkling new transfers to boot. Meanwhile, we’ve got a must-see documentary on Netflix, and a home video debut for this writer’s best film of 2014.
Anita : In October of 1991, a law school professor and former colleague of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sat down in front of an all-white male Senate judiciary committee — a “political lion’s den,” as it’s called here — and testified that, on multiple occasions, she had been the subject of unwanted sexual advances and harassment by Mr. Thomas. It was a big story that brought sexual harassment in the workplace into the national conversation — but it didn’t ultimately keep Thomas off the court. Instead, it made Thomas the focus of a media circus. Director Freida Lee Mock gives Hill the opportunity to tell her full story, both how it happened and what happened after; the film is clearly sympathetic to her, and good for that. Seen from this distance, it’s a compelling portrait of a not-too-distant victim-blaming (“Are you a scorned woman?” she was asked) and political sleight-of-hand (Thomas masterfully reframed it as a story of his own racial victimization), and an inspiring story of turning infamy into leadership.
Selma : Ava DuVernay’s snapshot of the Civil Rights Movement circa 1965 became the subject of so many other conversations — about historical accuracy, about protagonists, about Oscars — that it’s easy to forget that it is, first and foremost, brilliant, powerful filmmaking. Working from a page-one rewrite of a script that couldn’t use any of King’s actual speeches, DuVernay crafts a vivid, evocative look at a place and a moment, using all of her considerable powers to place you at those marches, in those strategy sessions, and (most powerfully) on that bridge. There’s not a weak link in its ensemble cast, and David Oyelowo’s turn as Dr. King only grows deeper and richer with multiple viewings. When the manufactured “controversy” fades, Selma remains what it was to begin with: a gloriously inspiring and masterfully constructed motion picture. (Includes two commentaries, featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, “Glory” music video, discussion guide, and more.)
Goodfellas (25th Anniversary Edition): Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster masterpiece has been a bit of a warhorse for Blu-ray: this is its third time on the format, after a 2007 release (early in the format’s life) and a 20th anniversary edition in 2010. Home media enthusiasts will be thrilled to hear that the new disc sports a fresh 4K remaster supervised by Mr. Scorsese, which means that weird line through De Niro’s close-ups in the scene in Janice’s apartment (which has haunted earlier releases) is finally gone. Oh, and the movie’s still amazing too, a fast-paced and endlessly entertaining roller-coaster ride through the seductive world of organized crime, and the lower depths that it leads to. It’s the kind of perfect movie, where nearly every scene has become iconic (“It’s the Copacabana scene!” “It’s the ‘How am I funny’ scene!” “It’s the scene where Spider gets shot!” “It’s Sunday, May 11, 1980!”, etc.), a cinematic mixtape with nary a dead spot. (Includes all of the features from the 20th anniversary disc — two commentaries, featurettes, a gangster movie documentary, cartoons — along with a new, 30-minute featurette.)
Mad Max (Collector’s Edition): Hey, lookie there, just in time for the much-ballyhooed release of Mad Max: Fury Road, we’ve got an all-new Blu-ray release of the grubby, low-budget Ozploitation movie that started it all. In light of the giant franchise it became, it’s a little shocking to see what a rough-and-tumble effort this is — and how young star Mel Gibson was. Director George Miller hadn’t quite figured out the recipe for these pictures just yet (the domestic terror stuff doesn’t land with the same impact as the visceral chaos of the chase scenes — which he quickly rectified for The Road Warrior), but it’s a brash action flick filled with nasty jolts and muscular set pieces. (Includes all of the features from MGM’s 2010 Blu-ray — audio commentary, featurettes, trailers, photo galleries — plus a new 26-minute compilation of interviews.)
Mahogany (The Couture Edition): Stars Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams re-teamed with Motown impresario/film producer Berry Gordy (who fired director Tony Richardson during the production and took over himself) three years after the success of Lady Sings the Blues for this soapy tale of a meek designer’s rise to the top of the fashion industry. The result is the sort of glorious mess than demands your attention; it’s broader than the broadest melodrama, but the social commentary is candid and earnest and the performances are fascinating, particularly Anthony Perkins’ (whose own private life adds a fascinating subtext to his scenes). And it gets really interesting when it puts its three stars together in the third act, particularly in a scene of psychosexual struggle between Perkins and Williams that feels like another movie altogether (and a great, bonkers one at that). Not a great movie, but the kind of risky, ambitious stew that’s all too rare these days. (Includes photo gallery.)