Three Lesser Known Blu-ray Discs Worth Checking Out

The studios are kind enough to share some of their newest releases with me each week and some titles jump out at me, while I'm also on the lookout for trends and themes. This trio represents different genres and the movies hail from different continents, but is it fate that the three favorites in my pile will all be filed under "S" when I'm done with them?

The Sweeney (Entertainment One)

The Sweeney refers to the Sweeney Flying Squad, an elite anti-crime task force called upon to bring to justice London's worst perps. This edgy thriller is based on the British TV series of the same name, and it follows the group—led by Beowulf's Ray Winstone, aided by Captain America's Hayley Atwell and commanded by Homeland's Damian Lewis—on the trail of a slippery criminal mastermind. (People still rob banks? When will they learn….) The gritty violence and the crossing-the-line-to-do-a-dirty-job vibe here recalled for me 1987's The Untouchables, and that's a good thing.

This Blu-ray/DVD combo arrives armed with a stash of special features, notably multiple featurettes, animated storyboards for two sequences, plus an audio commentary by director Nick Love and his partners in crime.

Smashed (Sony Pictures Classics)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul star as Kate and Charlie, a young wife and husband who have more than share of fun, which involves a frequent abundance of alcohol. When it all becomes too much for Kate and she successfully goes clean and sober, she's forced to deal with all of the fractured relationships in her life, including a marriage that eventually comes into question.

Brought to life by an exceptional cast, particularly the revelatory Ms. Winstead, Smashed deftly explores the loss of control and the ensuing consequences with a humanity that makes it hard to look away, even when the going gets rough. Mary Elizabeth joins director James Ponsoldt for a solid audio commentary, and the disc also includes a "making of," an expectedly upbeat film festival Q&A session on the red carpet, and a collection of deleted scenes.

Shadow People (Anchor Bay)

Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome ("SUNDS," not the sexiest acronym, I grant you) is an honest-to-goodness phenomenon, wherein a "reverse placebo effect" is believed to kill the body from the sheer power of a false belief. Some survivors claim to have awakened to find themselves unable to move, and confronted by a mysterious, shadowy figure.

A small-town D.J. (Dallas Roberts) takes it upon himself to investigate these otherwise baffling fatalities, crossing paths with a Center for Disease Control agent (Clint's baby girl, Alison Eastwood) working on the same case, and neither one is prepared for what they will uncover. It's appropriately unsettling and cleverly executed, combining faux found footage with fact-based interviews centering upon a real-world outbreak. The sole extra sheds a bit of light on the story behind Shadow People, with further discussion of SUNDS.

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