New on Blu-ray
“Arrival” (Paramount DVD, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99; 4K, $48.99; also available on VOD)
The multi-Oscar-nominated “Arrival” is the best kind of brainy science fiction: entertaining enough to engage a general audience, and deep enough to give them something to talk about after the closing credits roll. Amy Adams (who deserved an Academy Award nod herself) plays linguist Louise Banks, who’s called in to help the government when alien spacecrafts land across the Earth, transmitting messages that humans can’t understand. Alongside a theoretical physicist played by Jeremy Renner, Louise races against time to come up with a way to communicate before these strange visitors leave … or do worse. Based on a Ted Chiang short story, “Arrival” is tense at times and awe-inspiring at others, but thanks to a couple of stunning plot twists it’s primarily thought-provoking, raising questions about how our values sustain us in times of crisis.
Special features: Over an hour of featurettes covering the making of the film and the science behind it.
“XX” (available Friday)
Here’s a fresh twist on the horror anthology format: four scary (and unusually lengthy) short films, each directed by a woman. The highest-profile behind-the-camera name on “XX” is novice filmmaker Annie Clark (a.k.a. the art-rock goddess St. Vincent), whose Melanie Lynskey-starring entry “The Birthday Party” is more of a colorful social satire than a thriller. The best of the bunch though is “Her Only Living Son,” helmed by Karyn Kusama, who follows up her excellent 2016 suspense picture “The Invitation” with a story about a mother protecting her devil-child. Kusama’s piece comes last, but puts a tight bow around an omnibus movie that uses the concerns of women as a source of terror and pathos.
TV set of the week
“Quarry: The Complete First Season” (HBO DVD, $24.98; Blu-ray, $34.98)
Set in Memphis in 1972, Cinemax’s “Quarry” stars Logan Marshall-Green as a cash-strapped Vietnam vet who reluctantly joins a shadowy organization of hired killers. Based on a Max Allan Collins character and co-created by “Rectify” writers Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller, “Quarry” is a vivid look at life in the south in the Nixon era, with a soundtrack filled with vintage rock, country, and soul. It’s stylish, yet not always action-packed. It’s more of an expressive character sketch, about a thorny loner who feels alienated from a country that didn’t support his war and doesn’t have much use for him now that he’s home.
Special features: Deleted scenes, commentary tracks, and featurettes
From the archives
“Steamboat Bill, Jr./College” (Kino Lorber Blu-ray, $29.95)
Buster Keaton was at the peak of his creative powers in 1927 and ’28 when he directed and starred in “College” and “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” two of the most visually inventive (and funniest) silent comedies ever made. The former has Keaton as a lovelorn bookworm who tries to become a jock to impress a woman. In the latter he plays the wimpy, foppish son of a riverboat captain, who has to learn to be brave to help his dad and the women he loves. “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” includes one of the comedian’s most famous stunts, where he walks through a storm and is nearly flattened by a collapsing house. But both films are packed with breathtaking gags, with Keaton risking serious injury for a laugh.
Special features: Scholarly commentary tracks, plus vintage Keaton footage and shorts
Three more to see
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (Sony DVD, $26.99; Blu-ray, $30.99; 4K, $45.99; also available on VOD); “Bleed for This” (Universal DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98; also available on VOD); “The Edge of Seventeen” (Universal DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98; also available on VOD)