top picks

It’s go time. Or is it Showtime?

Jaap Buitendijk/Universal Pictures

In supplements on Ron Howard’s Formula 1 racing drama, “Rush” (2013), it feels as if he’s talking right to us when he uses a Larry Bird-Magic Johnson analogy to sum up the ’70s rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Bird fans, try not to be irked by the suggestion that the charismatic, high-living Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is the British answer to Magic in this equation, and dour, technically masterful Lauda (Daniel Brühl, “Good Bye Lenin!”) is the Austrian Larry Legend. This study in contrasting personalities and competitive codependence is absorbingly played by Hemsworth and Brühl, and Howard’s direction, both on and off the track, feels more energized than it has in years. (We’ll hope it carries over to his next project with Hemsworth, “In the Heart of the Sea,” chronicling events that inspired Melville’s “Moby-Dick.”) Extras: Worthwhile Blu-ray featurettes are split between the racers’ real-life saga and tantalizing behind-the-scenes glimpses of the inventively shot action. We spend a couple of minutes with Lauda, 64, who still bears the scars of the near-fatal 1976 crash powerfully chronicled in the film. One thing we don’t get is an explanation of why we’re so much more familiar with, say, Mario Andretti than either Hunt or Lauda. (Maybe try “1,” a new racing documentary.) Turns out Howard was initially unaware of their story. The expert to start was “Rush” screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” Howard’s “Frost/Nixon”), an acquaintance of Lauda’s. So much for this being Howard’s personal “Grand Theft Auto” flashback. (Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98)

Nick Briggs
“Downton Abbey: Season 4.”



PBS invited some grumbling last week when it confirmed a January 2015 premiere for the fifth season of “Downton,” despite audience pleas to eliminate the usual time lag between airings in Britain and the States. At least viewers have the option of powering through the current season on disc, and getting somewhat early answers to all those burning questions: Will Mary (Michelle Dockery) love again? Will the writers deliver a resolution for poor Anna (Joanna Froggatt) that makes her current ordeal more than just contemptible dramatic exploitation? And where’s Paul Giamatti already? Extras: Half-hour featurettes assortment. (PBS, $49.99; Blu-ray, $54.99)




Jack Nicholson and maverick director Bob Rafelson didn’t make critics forget “Five Easy Pieces” with their update of James M. Cain’s novel, originally filmed with John Garfield and Lana Turner. Still, there’s Jessica Lange in an early role as rootless Nicholson’s sultry obsession, and a script from Hollywood rookie David Mamet. And the remake has its fans, as Rafelson contends in a colorful press release trumpeting the Blu-ray. “A Russian priest told me . . . the movie and I deserved a modicum of retribution,” Rafelson writes. “ ‘Postman,’ after all, had delivered him to the Church.”
Scene-specific commentary by Rafelson, Nicholson, and Mamet. (Warner, $19.98; available now)

Titles are in stores Tuesday unless specified. Tom Russo can be reached at