This week: Ben Affleck directs and stars in the current Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture, "Argo," which tells the incredible true story of how the CIA helped get six Americans out of Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis by having them pose as Canadian filmmakers.
Box Office: $124 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% Fresh
Storyline: "Argo" tells the declassified true story that unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. After militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take 52 Americans hostage, no one notices that six escape and hide out at the home of the Canadian ambassador. The CIA assigns "exfiltration" specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to execute a plan to get the six safely out of the country — a plan that involves them posing as Canadian filmmakers scouting locations in Tehran for the sci-fi adventure "Argo." Affleck also directs this film starring John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina and Clea DuVall.
Extras! The best bonus on the DVD and Blu-ray is "Rescued from Tehran: We Were There," featuring recollections of President Jimmy Carter, Tony Mendez and the actual house guests. Also included are several making-of and behind-the-scenes featurettes about how Affleck re-created the world of the 1979 hostage crisis with the help of Mendez, a commentary track with Affleck and writer Chris Terrio and a picture-in-picture track with stories from survivors.
We Say: "Argo" has won many Best Picture awards already and deserves to win the Oscar as well, especially since the Academy inexcusably snubbed Affleck for Best Director. You'll be on the edge of your seat hoping that this ragtag group of fake filmmakers slip through many levels of Iranian security and escape the hell of Tehran. It's an extraordinary interpretation of actual events thanks to perfect casting and flawless direction by Affleck; the addition of fascinating historical supplements on the disc only cements its must-own status.
Box Office: $48 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 62% Fresh
Storyline: True-crime writer Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke) made his reputation with a best-selling account of a notorious murder. Ten years later and desperate to recapture the success of his hit novel, Ellison moves his family into a home where the previous occupants were brutally executed and a child disappeared. Ellison hopes to find inspiration at the crime scenes, but what he discovers is a stockpile of shocking home movies that unlock the door to a nightmarish mystery.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain two commentary tracks, the "True Crimes Authors" featurette, "Living in a House of Death" featurette and deleted scenes.
We Say: The horror genre has been in a rut for a few years thanks to endless remakes, rehashes and uninspired sequels, but every once in a while a story like this comes along (complete with a decent lead actor like Hawke) to shock and awe. "Sinister" might borrow elements from movies like "The Ring" and "Insidious," but the creepy atmospherics build (and build) a feeling of total dread until you're screaming at Hawke to get his family the hell out of that house. It's easily one of the best horror films of the past five years — one that would be rather scary to pass up if you're a fan of the genre.
Box Office: $13 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 63% Fresh
Storyline: This latest interpretation of Leo Tolstoy's epic love story stars Keira Knightley as the titular high-ranking wife of one of Russia's most esteemed men (Jude Law) in the late 19th century. After Anna meets the cavalry officer Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), she gets swept up in a passionate affair that will stun a nation and affect the lives of everyone around her.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain featurettes on adapting Tolstoy's novel, "Keira as Anna on Set with Director Joe Wright," "Dressing Anna," a time-lapse photography look at the movie, a commentary track and deleted scenes.
We Say: "Anna Karenina" is as slick-looking as a high-end commercial and is nominated for four Oscars (Score, Cinematography, Production Design and Costume Design). It's all very pretty to look at — especially if you have a weakness for turn-of-the-century period pieces — but this is a textbook case of style over substance. Don't expect to become too emotionally vested in the characters that get swept up in this spectacle.
'Top Gun' Blu-ray 3D
Box Office: $179 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 54% Rotten
Storyline: Tom Cruise's star power hit the stratosphere with this 1986 blockbuster directed by the late Tony Scott featuring the "Risky Business" kid as Maverick, a cocky Navy fighter pilot with a need for speed and desire to come out as "Top Gun" in an elite fighter pilot school. Kelly McGillis stars as the consultant who gives Maverick "that loving feeling" while Meg Ryan appears in one of her first roles and Val Kilmer tries to cool Maverick's jets as competing pilot Iceman.
Extras!: The regular Blu-ray in this combo pack contains all of the bonus features, including commentary tracks, a six-part documentary on the making of the film, multi-angle storyboards, "Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun," four music videos, a survival-training featurette and interviews with Cruise.
We Say: Besides the film's hilarious subtext that makes it the most unintentional homoerotic movie pretty much ever (watch Quentin Tarantino's detailed analysis of this in the movie "Sleep with Me"), the primary reason to ride into the danger zone again is this new 3-D conversion, which had a brief run in theaters. When the movie takes to the skies, the effect is impressive and adds depth to the midair action with only a few instances of ghosting. Back on the ground, whether or not it still takes your breath away — as the popular Berlin song from the film suggests — depends on how susceptible you are to shirtless beach volleyball games played to the tune of at least one Kenny Loggins song and PG-rated, silhouetted tongue-dancing between Cruise and McGillis.
Also New This Week:
"Monsters, Inc." Blu-ray 3D
"Terrorvision"/"The Video Dead" Blu-ray combo
"On the Waterfront" Blu-ray
"The Insider" Blu-ray
"The Nest" Blu-ray
"The Monster Squad" Blu-ray