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Scarecrow Suggests

Scarecrow Suggests DVDs & BLU-RAYs: February 2014

 

The Jungle Book, Walt Disney Company, 1966

Feb. 11
The Americans: Season One
Though they may seem like typical Americans, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings are actually a pair of KGB agents assigned to infiltrate middle class suburbia in mid-1980s Washington, DC. The spies have two kids and a friendly neighbor who works for the FBI, none of whom have a clue about the undercover couple’s true agenda. There is plenty of espionage and action but even more intriguing are the complicated emotional situations the Jennings couple find themselves in as they must juggle conflicting feelings, identities and their obligations to Mother Russia. This cold war spy drama is one of the best new TV shows of 2013, and after you watch it you will never call Keri Russell “Felicity” again. Spenser Hoyt

Feb. 11
The Counselor
Upon its release last fall, Ridley Scott’s film (and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy’s first original screenplay) was greeted mostly with derision. Some critics even called it one of the worst films ever made. Let’s get something out of the way right now: That’s stupid. The Counselor is of a piece with all of McCarthy’s work—a brutally violent, mordantly funny examination of various degrees of evil and avarice. A shady lawyer gets willingly involved with a drug cartel and then is surprised and terrified when things get out of hand, while the film around him giggles and shakes its head, asking “Just what exactly did you think was going to happen?” Matt Lynch

Feb. 11
The Jungle Book
One of the most consistently enjoyable of all the Disney classics, and certainly a high-water mark for late-era Disney animation comes to Blu-ray in February. Laden with voice talents like George Sanders, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima and a memorable score that includes “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You,” this jazzy, inspired Kipling adaptation was the last production Walt supervised before his death in 1966. Mark Steiner

Feb. 18
Darkman
Director Sam Raimi’s most underrated film and also his best superhero movie (yes, we know he directed Spider-Man 2) is a madhouse amalgam of horror, sci-fi and comic book inspirations. Liam Neeson turns it up to 11 as gentle scientist Peyton Westlake, who after being horribly disfigured in an explosion, becomes an insane burn victim in a trench coat who seeks revenge on those who “killed” him, and he uses his newly invented artificial skin to disguise himself. Despite its gruesome horror- movie overtones, Raimi’s trademark kinetic camerawork along with a jaunty score by Danny Elfman and a macabre sense of humor keep it from becoming as ponderous and dour as today’ s crop of superhero origin stories. Kevin Clarke

Feb. 25
Tess
With spring just around the corner, Criterion blesses us with Roman Polanski’s loveliest movie, and arguably one of the most beautifully photographed films ever. Shot in the fields of Brittany in the north of France, it rightly nabbed Oscars for cinematography, costumes and art direction, but Nastassja Kinski gives the performance of her career in the title role—and didn’t even get nominated. This was Polanski’s first film after he jumped bail in the U.S. Oh, to have been there in 1979 and seen Tess in its original 70MM splendor. For now, we’ll be fine settling for the brand new 4K restoration and the usual bounty of extras from Criterion. Mark Steiner

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