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With only a few more Academy Award nominees winners headed on to Blu-ray and DVD in the coming weeks, including Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook, it's a slow month for home entertainment releases. However, there are a few diamonds hidden in the rough this week, including the final season of Starz's program, Boss and a wildly dominant performance from Bill Murray opposite the wistful Laura Linney in Hyde Park on Hudson. Read on to learn about some of this week’s best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.
Hyde Park on Hudson
Lush in props and other details of the age, Hyde Park on Hudson begins, startlingly, with a courtship between Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and Daisy Suckley (Laura Linney). Some time later, World War II is on the verge of breaking out, and a visit between the President and his wife and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Samuel West and Olivia Coleman) is in order. At first, things are awkward between the two parties, who come from different cultural backgrounds and perspectives, but the charming narrative finds that there is common ground.
If you are able to invest in the extremely slow pace of Hyde Park on Hudson you’ll find it to be a dreamy adventure with moments of comedy. Linney’s Daisy plays narrator throughout the film, which can occasionally be distracting, although it’s also nice that the character gets a voice in the narrative. While great actors are playing great people in this film, some of the best moments are quick conversations between the servants and other employees in the household, which gives the film some Upstairs, Downstairs charm. While Hyde Park on Hudson follows an important meeting between powerful individuals, it’s often better in its subtler moments.
Order Hyde Park on Hudson via Amazon.
Best Special Feature: “A Look Inside Hyde Park on Hudson” is actually a snappy feature that takes a look at Murray’s performance as Roosevelt and the unique contraptions and props the actor had to use to become the character. There was no room to note this before, but of all the performances in Hyde Park on Hudson, Murray’s is a masterful rendition, from perfecting and accent to learning to move with the cadence of a handicap. The movie as a whole is slow, but it’s worth checking out for his performance, alone.
Other Special Features: Deleted Scenes
“First Days” Storytelling with director Roger Michell
Feature commentary with Roger Michell and Producer Kevin Loader
Citing low ratings as the main cause, Starz unfortunately cancelled Boss in November, after two seasons on air. The program never really offered an accessible premise, following Kelsey Grammar as Mayor Tom Kane, a smart, capable, and wholly powerful man navigating the dangerous waters of politics in Chicago--all while dealing with the onslaught of dementia.
The dementia is only a side premise in Boss, but in Season 2 it becomes more perilous for Kane, as he begins taking drugs more strongly with side effects and those closest to him begin to suspect something is wrong. The rest of the complicated narrative focuses on political navigating between Kane’s former assistant, Kitty (Kathleen Robertson), a shrewd woman with her hopes pinned on earning political power, State’s Attorney Jeff Doyle (John Hoogenakker), and Ben Zajac (Jeff Hephner), as well as too many external problems to ever focus the series properly.
At it’s best, Boss is shocking and revelatory, fast-paced and more than a little troubling. It’s characters are often vividly drawn and frequently reprehensible, and despite this, or perhaps because of it, it’s easy to see why Boss didn’t garner a satisfactory audience. There is no hero in the Windy City, and without a hero, Boss is nothing but a cesspool of corruption and heartbreak that will stagnate as many audiences as it manages to bring in.
Boss is available at a sale price on Amazon.
Best Special Feature: There are plenty of audio commentaries on the disc and if those are your thing, you are probably sure to enjoy them more than the one featurette “The King and his Court.” I’m not always a fan of audio commentaries, so I preferred the featurette, which takes a look at the character of Tom Kane and the moves the writers had to make after Kane decimated his inner circle at the end of Season 1. New characters are also introduced. The cast and crew often associate the series with Shakespeare and while I think that’s more of a lofty goal than an actuality, it’s pretty interesting to hear how the comparisons work out.
Other Special Features: Trailers
Episode Guide (on paper and tucked into the set)
Other April 9th Titles
There are some great looking 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD sets this week. From the elegant cinematography found in Papua 3D to the depths of the ocean explored in Planet Ocean narrated by Josh Duhamel, there are plenty of lush landscapes to look forward to. Plus, it helps that Criterion has a release that’s quite pretty to look at in Naked Lunch. You can check out more of this week’s releases, below.
Merlin: The Complete Fifth Season
Gabriel Iglesias: Aloha Fluffy DVD
Sexy Evil Genius DVD
Naked Lunch: Criterion Collection Blu-ray
Family Ties:The Sixth Season DVD