January 2014 Home Video Picks

A look forward at the month's most interesting home video titles, from banner local releases and Criterion Collection special editions to international exclusives.

Blue Jasmine (dir. Woody Allen, 2013)

I don’t mean to brag, but I am fairly certain that I own at least half of Woody Allen’s (even some of the shit ones) directorial discography on DVD. Many of the great earlier ones (including masterpieces like Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and Zelig) are not even available for purchase on their own in Australia. Blue Jasmine sits comfortably in the top tier of Woody Allen films and is certainly a film appearing on many end-of-year lists. Unfortunately, Woody Allen notoriously never puts any effort into special features on any of his DVD and Blu-Ray releases so those willing to purchase this great film should expect no extra content. Released in Australia January 22, 2014 – DVD and Blu-Ray.

Room 237 (dir. Rodney Ascher, 2012)

Never mind that Room 237 has been available on DVD throughout the rest of the world and on international streaming services for well close to a year, this fantastic and insightful documentary about the bizarre conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining has finally reached Australian shores. The film originally aired in Australia to an ecstatic audience at The Melbourne International Film Festival way back in August 2012 and unfortunately never received a proper cinematic run here. For the law-abiding patient among us, the wait is finally over. Room 237 is the kind of film cinephiles go nuts for. The film takes subtextual examination of film to the next level and focuses on a bunch of film nerds as they dissect practically every nuance of The Shining in search of clues, hidden meanings and to solve the moon landing conspiracy. If you love The Shining, Room 237 is simply essential viewing. Released in Australia January 23, 2014 – DVD.

Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2013)

If you haven’t already purchased that wonderful Criterion Collection DVD or Blu-Ray of Noah Baumbach’s masterful Frances Ha, then have no fear as a (slightly) cheaper option is now being released in Australia. Frances Ha is easily one of the most highly regarded films of 2013 and simply a delight to watch. Frances (played by Greta Gerwig in a career defining role) is suffering from a quarter life crises as she struggles to balance work, money, friends, and love as the looming presence of adulthood lurks over her shoulder. Frances Ha is perfect for purchase as you can simply watch it over and over again; it is as comforting as a warm bowl of soup on a rainy winter afternoon. For those interested in special features, it is recommended that you purchase the Criterion Collection edition of this film, as it is highly unlikely that the Australian version through Transmission will have as extensive features. Released in Australia January 8, 2014 – DVD and Blu-Ray.

The Act of Killing (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, 2013)

If I had a dollar for every end-of-year list The Act of Killing topped in 2013 I would have enough money to buy every person reading this a copy of the DVD. This groundbreaking documentary is unlike anything you have ever seen. Director Joshua Oppenheimer invites a handful of the Indonesian Death Squad killers responsible for some of the mass-killings of communists in the 1960’s (where approximately 1 million were killed) to re-enact their vicious killings in any way they choose. The result is a confronting study of Indonesia’s remaining corrupt politics, a shocking study of the effects of violence in cinema and a jaw-dropping exploration of post-traumatic stress. As difficult as it may be to watch, The Act of Killing is without question one of the most unforgettable films of the year and probably the greatest documentary released in the last 15 years. Australian distributer Madman have taken rigorous care in their release of The Act of Killing and packed the release full of special features. The Act of Killing DVD contains both extended and theatrical cuts of the film, directors commentary with Joshua Oppenheimer and Werner Herzog, a Q&A master class with Joshua Oppenheimer and (most excitingly) a reflection on The Act of Killing by legendary documentarians Werner Herzog and Errol Morris. I have tried to sell it to you to the best of my ability, just go out and buy it! Released in Australia January 15, 2014 – DVD.

La Dolce Vita (dir. Federico Fellini, 1960)

As suspicious as I was when I first saw this, it appears (at the time of writing) that Australia will be the English speaking country in the world selling Federico Fellini’s 1960 Palme D’Or winning classic La Dolce Vita on Blu-ray. The film – which has been available on DVD throughout the world since, like, the beginning of time – has undergone countless rights issues and a rigorous reconstruction prior to this release. Furthermore, the Australian release is packed with special features including several short documentaries (including Magic of Fellini which contains interviews with Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Donald Sutherland), interviews and a collection of trailers from other Fellini classics. Australian distributer Umbrella Entertainment are also releasing a whole handful of other classics available on Blu-Ray in Australia in January including The 400 Blows, 8½ and The Bicycle Thief. Released in Australia January 1, 2014 – Blu-Ray.

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