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Movies

‘Knives Out’ is one sharp murder mystery — with a surprising political edge

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Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas in a scene from “Knives Out.”
(Lionsgate)

New on Blu-ray

“Knives Out” (Lionsgate DVD, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99; 4K, $42.99; also available on VOD)

Writer-director Rian Johnson and an all-star cast put a fun spin on an old-fashioned murder mystery in this cleverly plotted and witty whodunit. Daniel Craig plays the dapper detective Benoit Blanc, called in by an anonymous benefactor to investigate the suspicious suicide of a bestselling novelist. Ana de Armas plays the dead writer’s nurse, who knows more about the crime than she’s willing to share. There’s an infectious sense of joy in the performances of Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon and Chris Evans, playing members of a bickering clan who assume their inherited wealth makes them smarter than they are. The class-conscious commentary adds a bit of bite to a movie that remains delightfully surprising from the first frame to the last.

[Special features: Two commentary tracks, deleted scenes and extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes]

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VOD

“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” (available Feb. 26 on Netflix)

The docuseries takes a disturbingly graphic look at the 2013 case of an 8-year-old Los Angeles County boy who was tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend. The story provoked calls for sweeping change in the Department of Children and Family Services, where overburdened case workers and an overreliance on software-driven decisions seemed to allow some abused kids to fall through the cracks. The docuseries alternates between a macro and micro take on this tragedy, explaining how diligent reporting helped expose a scandal in local government while also arguing that threats to society’s most vulnerable are too often treated as low priority.

TV set of the week

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“Years and Years: The Limited Series” (HBO DVD, $24.99; also available on VOD)

Part dystopian science fiction and part contemporary domestic melodrama, this miniseries takes what’s going on in the world today and extrapolates, making unnerving predictions about what life might be like in Britain for the next decade. Emma Thompson plays a charismatic entrepreneur who becomes a populist politician, taking advantage of a global financial crisis, revolutionary technological advances and several violently destabilizing acts of war to consolidate power. This story, however, is mostly about one eclectic family, whose members endure all the turmoil around them, living their lives as best they can as the crises accelerate.

[Special features: None]

From the archives

“Hot Dog… The Movie! Unrated Producer’s Cut” (Synapse Blu-ray, $29.95)

During the heyday of the ’80s teen sex comedy, this high-spirited film became a modest hit. The update of the ’60s beach party movie follows a group of randy youngsters at a ski resort, where they compete on the slopes by day and get wasted and fool around at night. The new producer’s cut Blu-ray edition ups the raunch level. More important, it sports a 4K restoration that makes the picture look as bright and colorful as it did in 1984. This was one of the most popular and entertaining examples of a disreputable genre, and it’s nice to see it treated like the piece of cinema history it is.

[Special features: A commentary track and a lengthy featurette]

Three more to see

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“Color Out of Space” (Image DVD, $29.96; Blu-ray, $29.97; also available on VOD); “Frozen II” (Walt Disney DVD/Blu-ray, $24.96; also available on VOD); “Synonyms” (Kino Lorber DVD, $29.95; Blu-ray, $34.95; also available on VOD)


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