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'Argo' heads week's new releases

Also reviewed: 'Anna Karenina,' 'Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome,' 'Undefeated'

February 16, 2013|By Noel Murray
  • Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in "Argo."
Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in "Argo." (Warner Bros. )

Argo

Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Ben Affleck completes his evolution from movie star to action director with the hit, multi-award-winning and remarkably entertaining thriller based on actual events. Affleck plays Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who came up with a daring plan to extract a group of American Embassy staffers hiding in Iran during the 1979-81 hostage crisis: He pretended to be a location scout for a Canadian science-fiction epic. Though this is a true story, Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio fudge facts to make it more exciting, but given that "Argo" is partly about the allure of movie fakery, the changes aren't too egregious. Besides, it's hard to argue with the results: a frequently funny, genuinely pulse-pounding historical drama with a strong point of view about the similarities between Hollywood and global politics. The DVD and Blu-ray add a commentary track and featurettes that fill in more of the real-life details.

Anna Karenina

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Director Joe Wright's adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's work reunites him with his "Pride & Prejudice" and "Atonement" star Keira Knightley for a highly theatrical approach to a classic. Wright begins the tale of the adulterous Anna and her long-suffering husband, Alexi (played by Jude Law), on a stage, and throughout he lets the props look like props, while the actors dance around one another as though they're in a musical. In the process, Wright drains some of the emotion out of screenwriter Tom Stoppard's excellent adaptation, making the story feel more abstract. But while Wright's style gets in the way at times, he succeeds in pushing beyond the usually dry approach to literary adaptation, making something exciting and beautiful. Wright contributes a commentary track to the DVD and Blu-ray, which also contain deleted scenes and extensive behind-the-scenes material.

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Set between the events of the TV shows "Caprica" and "Battlestar Galactica," this movie tells the story of hotshot young pilot Bill Adama (played by Luke Pasqualino) as he joins the fight against the robotic Cylons that have rebelled against their makers. Originally intended as a pilot for a series — and then repurposed into a Web serial — "Blood & Chrome" is almost wall-to-wall sci-fi action, designed to be enjoyed by "BSG" newcomers, with only a few nods here and there to the franchise's larger mythology. More than anything, it's a showcase for the special effects team, who created almost every nonhuman element via computer, relying on green screen for even the most basic sets. The DVD and Blu-ray come with deleted scenes and a featurette about this radical new approach to effects.

Undefeated

Starz/Anchor Bay, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.99

Football season is over, but good football stories are always in season, and football stories don't get much better than last year's Oscar-winning documentary, which follows a Memphis inner-city high school team as it tries to overcome a lack of resources and low expectations to put together a winning season. "Undefeated" is as much about a place and its people as it is about sports. The game footage is beautifully shot, but the scenes of the coach and these kids, working together on improving attitudes, are where the real victories occur. The DVD and Blu-ray include a brief featurette and a commentary track by directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin.

And…

Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season

HBO, $59.99; Blu-ray, $79.98

On the Waterfront

Criterion, $39.95; Blu-ray, $49.95

Sinister

Summit, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Sushi Girl

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

Cohen, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.98

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