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New releases: 'The Knick,' 'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell'

New releases: 'The Knick,' 'Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell'
Clive Owen, right, in "The Knick" on Cinemax. (Mary Cybulski / Cinemax)

The Knick: The Complete First Season

HBO, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.98

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Steven Soderbergh may have retired from making movies, but his work on this 10-episode Cinemax series shows that he's still one of our smartest and most adventurous directors. Created by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler (who also wrote almost every script, with Steven Katz), the period drama stars Clive Owen as a New York surgeon advocating for the latest medical techniques while dealing with a drug addiction and the crude technology — and morality — of America circa 1900. Stylish and gory, "The Knick" is fascinating just as a look back at how hospitals worked 115 years ago, but it's also another of Soderbergh's mature character studies, about a well-meaning but not always likable hero. The DVD and Blu-ray set adds featurettes and commentary tracks (though none of the latter include Soderbergh, which is a shame, because he's a master of that form).

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

BBC, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Susanna Clarke's bestselling 2004 fantasy novel is ideally suited to the TV miniseries format, since its alternate-history tale of two rival 19th century British magicians is too sprawling and episodic for a feature film. Although the seven-hour BBC One version of the book lacks Clarke's complex world-building and charming Dickensian style, it features impressive digital effects and two outstanding leads in Eddie Marsan as the stubborn, dour idealist Norrell and Bertie Carvel as the headstrong young adventurer Strange. The performances matter most, since they capture the novel's core theme of progress versus traditionalism during an era of transition. The DVD and Blu-ray set comes with deleted scenes and featurettes.

Unfriended

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD Tuesday

The inevitable found-footage horror film about cyberbullying has arrived, and here's the real shocker: It's better than might've been expected. Director Levan Gabriadze and screenwriter Nelson Greaves have come up with a clever approach to a played-out sub-genre, structuring their movie as a real-time laptop screen-cast following a group of teens as they chat, share pics and appear to be haunted by a classmate who killed herself a year ago. "Unfriended" demands some multi-tasking skills from its audience — what with all the text-boxes and simultaneous video — but what makes it so effective is that Gabriadze and Greaves understand how horrifying and yet how common it is for the Internet to take a menacing turn.

Eclipse Series 43: Agnès Varda in California

Criterion, $44.95

Agnès Varda's early work played a major role in establishing the style and intent of the French New Wave as she blurred the lines between fiction and documentary by sliding easily from cinematic imagery to unflinching realism. Varda could find suitable subject matter anywhere — including the years when she followed her husband, Jacques Dèmy, to Los Angeles for his short, ill-fated stint in the Hollywood studio system. This Criterion "Eclipse Series" DVD set collects five shorts and features she shot during two sojourns to the West Coast and runs the gamut from essay-like musings (as in 1968's "Black Panthers," about a pro-Huey P. Newton protest, and 1980's "Mur Murs," about the L.A. phenomenon of wall-sized murals) to more esoteric films like 1969's "Lions Love (… and Lies)," a semi-improvised, semi-erotic slice-of-life featuring actors interacting with public figures. Though not as well known as Varda's seminal docs and dramas, these movies help form the bigger picture of her life and career.

And…

The French Lieutenant's Woman

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Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

The Front Page

Kino Classics Blu-ray, $29.95

Hot Pursuit

Warner Bros., $29.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

House of Bamboo

Twilight Time, $29.95

Welcome to New York

MPI, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

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