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The year’s best DVDs and Blu-ray releases

Rebecca Hall and Ben Affleck in “The Town.”

Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible ­— Ghost Protocol.”

The year’s best DVDs and Blu-rays had first-run releases that were rightly celebrated in some cases, underappreciated in others. But then, isn’t an unlikely discovery one of the beauties of watching on disc? Either way, these are all Features to Watch, with extras that amply satisfy viewers’ (pardon my pun) hunger for behind-the-scenes detail.

Mission: Impossible ­— Ghost Protocol

What’s the next best thing to watching Tom Cruise’s superspy Ethan Hunt climb the world’s tallest skyscraper? Getting a behind-the-scenes look at Cruise performing the stunt for real, in artfully handled extras. A location supplement looks at the logistics, precautions, and sheer guts involved, with style worthy of a bona fide documentary feature. Through it all, veteran Pixar director and live-action first-timer Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”) remains an engagingly relaxed presence, using his iPhone to reveal secrets of an insane creative mission made possible.

Murray Close/Lionsgate

Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games.”

Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games.”

The Hunger Games

The riveting kid-lit adaptation doesn’t abridge production background, offering a two-hour documentary on the film’s creation. The filmmakers deliver some compelling views on the story’s junior-gladiatorial violence, including this from director Gary Ross: “If you shoot it like a slick Hollywood movie, with groovily choreographed [shots], you really lose the feeling of urgency and reality.” Referencing the desensitized elite who control the games, he adds, “I mean, you’re turning into the Capitol, you’re not examining the Capitol anymore.” Ross sits down for a conversation bringing into focus a genuineness-vs.-cynicism theme running all through his work, from “Big” to “Dave” to “Pleasantville.”

The Artist

Yes, this is an Academy Award winner for best picture, but still, you could sense critics’ free-pass attitude going in: “A throwback silent film? Wonderful!” Happily, European filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius delivered and then some, crafting a valentine to old Hollywood whose inherent charm is simply enhanced by its meticulously (re-)captured narrative style. Smart supplements are highlighted by rehearsal footage of Oscar winner Dujardin and costar Bérénice Bejo’s big dance number, a two-minute showstopper that demanded five months of training.

Shallow Grave

It’s vexing to see how often Danny Boyle’s wildly varied resume is boiled down to just “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” What about Boyle’s cool-as-acid-house breakout? Watching the thriller’s well-appointed Criterion reissue, the film plays like the anti-“Friends”: When three smug Edinburgh flatmates (Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, and newbie Ewan McGregor) stumble onto their dead new boarder’s suitcase full of cash, they’re all there for each other. But when it comes to the grisly coverup involved in keeping the money? Not so much. A collection of interviews with the three leads gives a sense of how important the film was to them, their careers, and the UK production scene.

Perfect Sense

As far as mournful, human-scale apocalyptic stories go, this one certainly doesn’t have the profile of, say, “Children of Men.” But it’s memorable, never mind its inexplicably fleeting theatrical release. The film stars Ewan McGregor as a chef and Eva Green (“Dark Shadows”) as an epidemiologist who fall in love just as Britain and the world are being gripped by an outbreak that’s causing everyone to lose sensory perception. Among the recurring, poetic voice-overs helping to set the scene: a lament about how vanished scents mean the end of certain memories they would have triggered. Clear-headed musings in a mad world.

Claire Folger/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

Rebecca Hall and Ben Affleck in “The Town.”

Rebecca Hall and Ben Affleck in “The Town.”

The Town

This aptly billed “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” of Ben Affleck’s Boston-based crime drama comes complete with his alternate cut — and would rank even higher had it been the disc that was offered from the get-go. The biggest change: the drastically altered outcome for Affleck’s conflicted Charlestown bank robber. As the actor-director writes in a note accompanying the release, “This is the version in which I allowed myself to end the movie the way, perhaps, it always wanted to end.” Among several tchotchkes included with the set is a fold-out city map pinpointing filming locations — definitely a help for retracing that electrifying North End chase.

The Adventures of Tintin

Theatrically, “Tintin” seemed to be all about Steven Spielberg-Peter Jackson team-up hype, and the prospect that they might make late Belgian cartoonist Hergé’s faux-hawked boy hero as iconic to Americans as he is to Europeans. By the time the performance-capture feature hit disc, the hyperbole had been dispensed with, making for a more satisfying experience, especially visually. As usual, Spielberg forgoes director’s commentary on the disc, but a 90-minute featurette assortment has lots to offer, particularly with its extensive footage of star Jamie Bell and castmates acting in those goofy, fashion-futuristic bodysuits. A bonus in the truest sense: Jackson’s appearance in an amusing test short costumed as Tintin’s boozy sidekick, Captain Haddock.

Rosemary’s Baby

Who needs another “Paranormal Activity” to give them their fright fix when this Criterion Blu-ray debut still conjures up such feelings of dread? Roman Polanski made his Hollywood debut with his genre-defining adaptation of novelist Ira Levin’s bestseller, while Mia Farrow similarly broke out as the Manhattan apartment-dweller increasingly fearful that she and her unborn child are targets of a satanic plot. A new retrospective with Polanski, Farrow, and larger-than-life production exec Robert Evans is terrifically dishy, with Polanski recalling friction with fellow cast member John Cassavetes — a different dread-filled scenario.

Being John Malkovich

Even before you dig into the assortment of new supplements on Criterion’s reissue, there’s plenty to revisit. Witness Malkovich, in that moment of existential crisis over realizing that Cameron Diaz crawled inside his head while he was canoodling with Catherine Keener. Seeking help, he turns to his friend, his rock — Charlie Sheen. In a riff session a little sharper than his iPhone pitchwork, Malkovich takes a look back at the film with humorist John Hodgman. They consider how writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze seemingly had a sense of coming developments such as privacy’s death at the hands of social networking. Think of the portal into Malkovich’s head as the ultimate lookyloo opportunity.

Gemma La Mana/Universal Pictures

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in “Wanderlust.”

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in “Wanderlust.”

Wanderlust

Hearing this one’s familiar, shrug-eliciting premise — Manhattanites Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston ditch it all to try commune living — you might well experience your own case of wanderlust, and start eyeing other Netflix highlights. But that would be discounting Rudd’s knack for beleaguered-good-guy comedy, whether or not it’s got a trendy bromantic hook. He does it again here with plenty of help from Aniston and some equally game castmates, serving up one of the most drily hilarious releases this year. The disc offers an alternate full cut of the movie with deleted jokes in every scene, an ambitious bit of fun that goes a whole lot further with the free-love humor. Right on, brother.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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