Chris Hicks: Oscar nominees lead new Blu-ray releases

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2013 7:20 p.m. MST

“Argo” and “Anna Karenina,” both nominated for multiple Oscars, lead these movies that have arrived on home video this week.

“Argo” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2012; R for language; two discs, $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; audio commentary, featurettes). Ben Affleck’s third directing effort, after the very well received “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” demonstrates that he is a consistent filmmaker with a great eye for story and casting. And it’s another Oscar misstep that Affleck was ignored while his film is up for best picture.

As with “The Town,” Affleck takes the lead role here, but unlike his first two films he leaves his comfort zone of Boston for a story of international intrigue. It’s also true, however implausible it may sound. Affleck plays a CIA “exfiltration” specialist who comes up with an unlikely scheme to rescue six Americans in 1970 Iran after the revolution by having them pose as crew members of a phony sci-fi film.

Despite a lot of unnecessary foul language, which accounts for the R rating, this is a tense, gripping and often very funny look at covert government operations and the self-absorbed idiocy of Hollywood. The documentary featurettes about the real-life story are also illuminating. (Also on DVD, $28.98)

“Anna Karenina” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013; R for sex, violence; two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). Oft-filmed Leo Tolstoy story of passion and adultery in 19th century Russia benefits from excellent performances by Keira Knightley, Jude Law and the rest of the cast. But screenwriter Tom Stoppard and especially director Joe Wright take a flamboyant, theatrical approach that ultimately distances the audience from the characters. (Also on DVD, $29.98)

“Fun Size” (Paramount/Nickelodeon/Blu-ray, 2012, PG-13, $39.99, Blu-ray and digital versions, deleted scenes, featurettes, music video, bloopers). Surprisingly tasteless, sexual teen comedy has a girl attending a Halloween party to be with a boy she likes, losing her little brother in a haunted house along the way. (Also on DVD, $29.99)

“How to Survive a Plague” (Sundance/IFC, 2012, not rated, $24.98, audio deleted scenes, commentary, trailer). Oscar nominee for best documentary explores the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and how two activist groups bucked the system to help identify medications and treatments. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)

“Best in Show” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2000, PG-13, $19.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, trailer). Director Christopher Guest co-wrote this mock documentary with Eugene Levy and both are also among the ensemble cast, spoofing eccentric dog-show participants. Despite the writing credits, a lot of this is improvised by an expert cast, and while it never reaches the heights of “Waiting for Guffman,” it’s pretty funny.

“The Coalition” (Magnolia, 2013; R for language, sex; $26.98, alternate ending, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers). “Inspired by actual events,” this is a hell-hath-no-fury melodrama about entitled players getting their comeuppance by women scorned. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)

“Family Movie Favorites” (Cookie Jar/Mill Creek, 1981-1999, three discs, $9.98, 12 movies). Mix of made-for-TV and straight-to-video kids films you’ve never heard of, ranging from an adaptation of “The Secret Garden” to “Clown White” to the two-part “Revenge of the Land,” with such stars as Beau Bridges, Jennifer Dale and Michael Ironside.

“Deadfall” (Magnolia, 2012; R for violence, language, sex; $26.98, featurettes, trailer). A-list cast (Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson) is undone by convoluted script about sibling thieves escaping a casino heist during a blizzard and inadvertently joining a strange Thanksgiving dinner. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)

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