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The Season: Dynamic discs

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  December 11, 2013

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Movies, and books about them

One of the year’s most interesting box sets, the Bruce Lee Legacy Collection ($119.99) compiles the martial-arts legend’s four early Hong Kong films, along with two full-length documentaries, terrific photos, and extras putting this brief and remarkable career in context. Complete the set with Enter the Dragon ($49.95), released in a 40th-anniversary Blu-ray edition earlier this year, and also filled with special features like home video of Lee practicing his craft in his backyard.

Too familiar? Try Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman ($224.95). These 25 films, collected in typically gorgeous fashion by Criterion Collection, chronicle the massively popular adventures of Shintaro Katsu’s crime-fighting masseur, and come with a manual that doubles as a handsome coffee-table book. Other must-have Criterion releases from the year include: Noah Baumbach’s equally delightful and complex comedy Frances Ha ($39.95); Charlie Chaplin’s eternally elegant City Lights ($39.95); Robert Altman’s sprawling, stunning Nashville ($39.95); and my cinematic obsession of the year, John Cassavetes: Five Films ($124.95), a set of ruthlessly emotive and dizzyingly empathetic masterworks from the singular American director.

Every family does, or should, have a potential Wes Anderson devotee among it, and they ought to have a fine day of unwrapping ahead: Criterion, per usual, has come through with another pristine edition of an Anderson classic, with Fantastic Mr. Fox ; and film and television critic Matt Zoller Seitz celebrates his affection for the director with a new book, The Wes Anderson Collection ($40). Coffee-table ready, the book devotes a chapter to each of Anderson’s films, and is woven through with a wide-ranging interview with the director himself.

A couple other nifty film-book finds from the year: The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion ($40), written by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone, carries the imprimatur of Warner Bros., and so contains a wealth of test frames, storyboards, and shoot anecdotes that have yet to see the light of day. Equal parts art book and creative advice manual, Tell Me Something ($40) contains photographs and candid statements from 60 documentary filmmakers, from Martin Scorsese to Frederick Wiseman to Michael Moore.

When all else fails, hit the new-release shelves: for the parents, try Jeff Nichols’s modern-day Huck Finn, Mud ($19.98); the technophile brother should try Shane Carruth’s tricky, immensely detailed Upstream Color ($40); the romantic sister Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight ($30.99); and pretty much anyone should find some value in Sarah Polley’s complicated documentary excavation of her family history, Stories We Tell ($19.98).
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