New on Blu-ray
“A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros. DVD, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99; 4K, $44.95; also available on VOD)
The venerable backstage showbiz melodrama “A Star Is Born” gets an unexpectedly sterling update, anchored by Lady Gaga. The Oscar-nominated pop diva brings an earthy presence and a booming voice to the role of Ally, an overlooked amateur singer who gets a career boost from a roots-rocker in decline. But the biggest revelation here is Bradley Cooper: astonishingly great as the substance-abusing singer-songwriter who discovers Ally, and equally amazing as the film’s co-writer and director. Cooper makes strong choices on both sides of the camera, favoring grit and spontaneity over schmaltz. Though the pair are coming off a Grammy win for best pop duo/group for the song “Shallow,” the Oscar heat around “A Star Is Born” cooled after the movie dominated the fall festival season; nevertheless, like the earlier takes on this story, this one's an era-defining classic.
Special features: Featurettes, music videos and outtakes.
“2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films” (available Tuesday)
It used to be that the Academy Awards’ shorts categories were the hardest for the average movie buff to judge. But over the past few years the live-action, animated and documentary short subjects have been made more widely available -- via packages that either screen at local art house cinemas or are streamable via various digital retailers. This year’s batch includes a mini-doc about a 1939 New York Nazi rally and one about the people who help facilitate end-of-life decisions, as well as live-action shorts about child-murder and racism and — on a much lighter note — a cartoon about talking animals in a psychotherapy group, and one about a kid dreaming of becoming an astronaut. Watch them all this week to be the savviest competitor in your Oscar pool.
TV set of the week
“Damages: The Complete Series” (Mill Creek DVD, $79.98; Blu-ray, $99.99)
The legal drama “Damages” was a minor sensation throughout its five-season run, winning Emmys and giving actors like Ted Danson, Martin Short, John Goodman and William Hurt a chance to show different sides of their well-known screen personas. The show hasn’t been discussed as much since it went off the air in 2012 because there’s always something newer and buzzier on TV. But thanks to Glenn Close and Rose Byrne’s feisty lead performances — and a complicated narrative structure — “Damages” was one of the more ambitious cable series of its era, and one that deserves to be talked about more as one of the rare antihero-driven crime stories primarily about women.
Special features: None.
From the archives
“Backbeat” (Shout Select Blu-ray, $22.97)
Stephen Dorff is currently making the most of one of his best roles in years as one of the leads in the third season of HBO’s “True Detective.” That makes this a good time to look back at one of Dorff’s breakthrough parts, playing the Beatles’ ill-fated original bassist Stu Sutcliffe in the rock ’n’ roll biopic “Backbeat.” Ian Hart plays John Lennon, while Sheryl Lee is the bohemian photographer Astrid Kirchherr, who lured Sutcliffe away from music and toward the visual arts. The movie’s at once a look back at a legendary band’s origins and a reminder that even rock gods were once just young men, trying to find themselves.
Special features: A commentary track, deleted scenes and featurettes.
Three more to see