11 top DVDs of the year

With 2013 nearing an end, you might have had your fill of the blockbuster offerings on DVD, Blu-ray and online services. Maybe it's a good time for some palate-cleansing via lesser-known titles released in the past year.

That's not to say the big names lack gems. You could easily enjoy the final season of Breaking Bad or the first season of the American version of House of Cards. But the following suggestions, even when mentioned often, might not have been on your viewing radar. They deserve to be.


Amour. There was much deserved acclaim for this story of a couple dealing with the effects of aging and illness. Winner of the Oscar for best foreign-language film. ($30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray.)

The Bletchley Circle: Cracking a Killer's Code. This mystery drama set in 1950s England is not only about a crime. It's about the place of women in post-World War II society, particularly those who had played important roles during the war and were put back in old places afterward. A second season is due in 2014. ($24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray.) Graham Parker and the Rumour: This Is Live. The singer and band behind Passion Is No Ordinary Word, Local Girls and Discovering Japan reunite for this set of performances, part of which appeared in director Judd Apatow's This Is 40. ($21.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo.)

Hava Nagila: The Movie. Funny and thoughtful chronicle of the song we all know — and the history behind it. ($29.95 DVD.) John Ford: The Columbia Films Collection. One of the great American directors, Ford is showcased with five films, including the American DVD debuts of The Whole Town's Talking, Two Rode Together and Gideon's Day and the return to DVD of The Long Gray Line and The Last Hurrah. Available through ($49.99.)

Let's Get Lost. Bruce Weber's documentary about singer-trumpeter Chet Baker is an intriguing look at a life filled with both talent and error. Baker talked to Weber, but the filmmaker went beyond that to interview loved ones and others from Baker's life for a black-and-white film that was also a colorful chronicle. ($24.95 DVD.) Also available with three other films in Bruce Weber: The Film Collection ($59.95). Much Ado About Nothing. Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel's The Avengers) gathered some actor friends for a few days and made this black-and-white, modern-dress version of Shakespeare's play. Pay special attention to the excellent work by Amy Acker. ($19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray.)

Mud. Matthew McConaughey's recent hot acting streak included this film, in which he plays a mysterious man on a mission in Mississippi. ($19.98 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray.) Not Fade Away. Sopranos mastermind David Chase made his feature-film directing debut with this piece about friends forming a rock band in the '60s. John Magaro is especially good as a character based on Chase. James Gandolfini co-stars. ($19.98 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray.)

Orphan Black: Season One. Tatiana Maslany dazzled critics as she played multiple characters — all clones — in this thriller. In Hitfix's poll of TV critics, it ranked fifth among new shows. ($29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray.)

Stories We Tell. Director Sarah Polley took a closer look at her family, especially her mother, who died when Polley was 11. The examination led to some major surprises, including one that ends the movie — and suggests that there's more to the story Polley tells. ($19.98 DVD.)


These DVDs were released this week:

Films: Insidious: Chapter 2; Una Noche (director Lucy Mulloy's debut took honors at several 2012 film festivals and is up for a 2014 Independent Spirit Award for best first feature; in Spanish, it was filmed in Cuba); More Than Honey (Swiss-German documentary on threats to bee colonies); The Berlin File (South Korea); Frontline: Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria.