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Come back to ‘Cabaret,’ old chum

Warner Bros. Home Video via AP

“Cabaret.”

Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker in the 2012 film "Flight," directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Robert Zuckerman/Paramount Pictures

Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker in the 2012 film "Flight," directed by Robert Zemeckis.

We go to see “Les Misérables,” and it doesn’t register as anything unusual to be watching a movie musical not rooted in escapism. But as the hardcover-packaged Blu-ray debut of “Cabaret” (1972) reminds us, established genre conventions were very different when Bob Fosse’s audacious production hit theaters four decades ago. Liza Minnelli famously stars as Sally Bowles, a singer and good-time girl in perennial denial in pre-WWII Berlin. Her personal drama is intercut with the decadent scene at the Kit Kat Klub, where the emcee (Joel Grey) always has some ready, randy lyrical commentary about the increasingly disturbing political climate outside. The disc offers a well-done retrospective focusing on Fosse’s exploration of dark themes, and the film’s role in redefining the genre after the social tumult of the ’60s had rendered musicals’ sunny frivolity irrelevant. As one Fosse biographer puts it, the movie “is directing our gaze into all of those things that Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were so good at distracting us from.” (On that note, we do get a look at clips of some of Fosse’s own fancy footwork from his humble days at MGM.) Minnelli and Grey appear in new interviews, still seeming giddy about the Oscars they and Fosse took home for their work — in an awards season that included “The Godfather.” Tangentially related note for Minnelli fans: Barbra Streisand’s remake of Judy Garland’s “A Star Is Born” also gets a hardcover hi-def release this week. (Warner, $27.98)

Buena Vista Pictures

The 1953 animated musical Disney film "Peter Pan," directed by Clyde Geronimi and Wilfred Jackson.

DRAMA

FLIGHT (2012)

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Denzel Washington works his formidable screen presence yet again, this time in Robert Zemeckis’s polished study of a hard-living commercial airline pilot whose actions during a crash are a tangle of heroism and appalling irresponsibility. It’s deceptively dual-natured work: Washington’s finesse keeps his stardom from overwhelming the part, even as his star swagger is what sells the idea that his boozy, offputting character could also be this sky-stud. Extras: Featurettes give background on the writer’s personal investment in the story — but how about a bit more on what’s with Zemeckis (“Cast Away”) and crash-fallout movies? (Paramount, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99)

ANIMATION

PETER PAN (1953)

Thrill to a different sort of flight as Disney’s classic bows on Blu-ray — just in time to synergistically tie in with your school vacation pilgrimage down to Orlando for a gander at New Fantasyland. As ever, studio vault minders somehow had some never-before-seen sequences in their stash — including, in this case, storyboards for an alternate ending that gives Peter and Wendy a face-to-face goodbye. Deleted songs include “Never Smile at a Crocodile” — still pretty sage advice, whether you’re a kid or just used to be. (Disney, $44.99)

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