New on DVD and Blu-ray: Whiplash, Big Hero 6, and other Academy Award winners

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Whiplash - now available on DVD and Blu-ray

Whiplash - now available on DVD and Blu-ray

Now that the Oscars broadcast has come and gone, 'tis the season for many of the Academy Award contending films to rotate onto DVD, Blu-ray, and digital distribution.

Quite a few have already made their way to streaming services and video-on-demand in one form or another. But if you're one of us old-schoolers who prefer your film library on an actual shelf, here's a rundown of a few just-released Oscar winners on DVD and Blu-ray, with disc-exclusive bonus materials.

Whiplash

Veteran character actor J.K. Simmons won Best Supporting Actor for his turn in Whiplash, a wicked indie drama set in an elite East Coast jazz conservatory. Along with Boyhood, Richard Linklater's ambitious 12-year project, Whiplash won my vote for best film of 2014. 

Simmons plays Terence Fletcher, who comes from the insane drill sergeant school of musical instruction -- in which mental, emotional and even physical abuse are valid teaching tools. Fletcher's newest project is freshman Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a prodigy on the drum kit. Andrew has the chops to be a great jazz drummer, but does he have the steel to sacrifice everything for his art?

The teacher pits his students against one another within the school's prestigious ensemble band, creating a kind of deranged social Darwinism in the name of Art. The story of the prodigy and the mentor is familiar territory -- could be basketball, could be chess -- but writer/director Damien Chazelle is painting with colors a lot darker than we're used to.Whiplash offers up the complex themes of a character-driven drama, but with the suspense quotient of a superior thriller.

Bonus features on the DVD edition include a commentary track with writer/director Damien Chazelle and the estimable Mr. Simmons, plus a short feature on the film's screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Blu-ray package adds the "Timekeepers" feature, in which legendary drummers discuss their craft; a deleted scene with commentary; and the original short film version of Whiplash.

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6

Winner of this year's Oscar for Best Animated Feature, Disney's animated feature Big Hero 6 surprises and delights on about 17 different levels with its blend of humor, heart and splashy visuals. 

In the East-meets-West city of San Fransokyo, 14-year-old boy genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) teams with the inflatable robot Baymax (Scott Adsit) to pursue a masked supervillian commanding a kind of nanotech army. Rounding out the team are teenage tech nerds turned superheroes GoGo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fredzilla.

From Baymax's Chaplinesque physical comedy bits to the detailed cityscape architecture, the film is an ambitious mashup of traditional and computer animation. Kids will respond to all the jokes and kinetic onscreen action, and adults can ponder the modern storybook mythmaking around the theme of technology.

Extras on the DVD include a guide to the comic book characters and the theatrical short Feast. The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack adds more behind-the-scenes featurettes, plus deleted scenes and a guide to the movie's visual in-jokes.

 

Best picture of the year winner: Birdman

Best picture of the year winner: Birdman

Also New on DVD and Blu-ray:

Best Picture winner Birdman stars Michael Keaton as a down-on-his-luck actor attempting a career comeback. Bonus materials on DVD include a mini-doc on the production and a photo gallery. Blu-ray adds a Q&A with Keaton and director Alejandro Iñárritu.

Eddie Redmayne won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Bonus features include deleted scenes, a production featurette and director's commentary track.

Plus: Dumb and Dumber To, St. Vincent, The Interview, The Homesman, Life Itself, Horrible Bosses 2 and Game of Thrones: Season 4.

 


Still haven't seen Birdman? Here's a brief trailer for the Oscar winning film:

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