Home Movies: ‘Hail Caesar!,’ ‘Anomalisa,’ and more

Three of the best-reviewed films of the last few months are now available on home video.

Three of the best-reviewed films of the last few months debuted on disc this week, and they couldn’t be three more different movies. Predictably, only the one about the cartoon talking animals was a big hit in theaters.

“Hail Caesar!” has an exclamation point in its title for a reason. This high-energy, affectionate spoof of old Hollywood finds Joel and Ethan Coen in palate-cleansing slaphappy mode after the brilliant misanthropy of “Inside Llewyn Davis.” George Clooney stars as a thick-headed movie star who gets abducted by a mysterious band of leftist radicals, sending studio detective Josh Brolin on a wild goose chase through 1950s Tinseltown. Stars like Channing Tatum (in a Gene Kelly-esque dance number) and Scarlett Johansson (as an Esther Williams-esque aquatic actress) gamely chip in. Alden Ehrenreich (aka your new Han Solo) and Ralph Fiennes collaborate to make “Would that it were so simple” the most hilarious line of dialogue of the year. Perhaps not top-shelf Coen Brothers, but good enough to brighten an evening. ($29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $4.99 online rental, $14.99 online purchase)

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“Anomalisa” has moments of hilarity as well, but it has more moments of soul-baring intimacy and awkward reality. It reaches into the depths of one middle-aged, ordinary, white guy’s loneliness and pulls out something you rarely see in movies–especially puppet movies. That’s right, the latest mind-bender from the bent mind of Charlie Kaufman was made with a sophisticated stop-motion technique that’s visually unique. The minimalist story follows a British customer-service specialist (voiced by David Thewlis) who meets a woman (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) while staying in a Cincinnati hotel on a business trip. From that mundane setup, Kaufman (and co-director Duke Johnson) craft a work of art that speaks to what it is to be human, and that also features the most touching a capella rendition of a Cyndi Lauper song you’ll ever hear. ($29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $4.99-$5.99 online rental, $12.99-$14.99 online purchase)

“Zootopia” didn’t look very promising from its trailers, other than a scene in which DMV employees were portrayed as literal sloths. But upon its release, this animated feature about a naive bunny and a cynical fox who have to team up to solve a crime was hailed as one of the Walt Disney company’s best non-Pixar releases in years. Entertaining to both kids and grownups, it also functions as a clever allegory about the ways civilization can obscure, but never truly bury, our ‘animal’ natures. ($29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $4.99 online rental, $14.99 online purchase)

 

Other notable releases this week:

 

“Journey to Space”: This 45-minute documentary on the Space Shuttle, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the International Space Station was probably even more visually stunning on IMAX screens, but it looks pretty good on Blu-ray, and Patrick Stewart is the perfect choice to narrate. ($19.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 4K Ultra-HD 3D Blu-ray)

“Le Amiche”: A woman returning to her hometown of Turin interrupts the suicide attempt of another woman, and becomes involved in the lives of her and her three friends. Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1955 film captures the fashions of postwar Italy and inaugurates an exploration of ennui that would continue in his masterpieces “L’Avventura” and “L”Eclisse.” This Criterion Collection edition includes a pair of supplemental interviews with film scholars. ($29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, $5.99 online rental, $19.99 online purchase)

“The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T”: No one who saw this surreal, Dr. Seuss-scripted live-action fantasia as a child could ever forget it. Now the 1953 cult classic about a young boy trapped in a nightmare world ruled by his dictatorial piano teacher Dr. Terwilliker is available on high-definition disc to torment a whole new generation. ($14.98 Blu-ray)

“A War”: This Oscar-nominated drama from the director of “A Hijacking” examines the impossible decisions made in the heat of battle by a Danish commander in Afghanistan, and the consequences of those decisions. ($26.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray)

“The Best Intentions”: Years after he announced his retirement from filmmaking, the great Ingmar Bergman emerged to write the screenplay to the story of his parents’ epic romance in early 20th-century Sweden. Bille August directs, his wife Pernilla August and Max von Sydow star, and best of all, the Blu-ray release include Bergman’s 1984 short film “Karin’s Face,” never before released in the U.S. ($29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $5.99 online rental, $19.99 online purchase)

 

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