LJ Best Books 2017

It's time again for LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry and literature, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles.   SEE WHO MADE THE LIST

Best Media 2015: DVDs

BestMedia2015slugLJ video reviewer/Fast Scans columnist Jeff T. Dick’s annual best-of list cites five titles in each of four categories. This year, documentaries are limited to feature films; the ineligible Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies merits honorable mention as a multipart series. Indie films reign over foreign pictures in their category; the most recent seasons of ongoing television series prove that stalwart shows are still king; and digitally restored classics rule.


Breaker Morant. color. 107+ min. Bruce Beresford, Criterion Collection. DVD ISBN 9781681430509. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781681430495. $39.95. Rated: PG.
Scapegoated for political purposes and given a novice barrister to defend them, three Australian soldiers are court-martialed by the British army for war crimes during the Boer War in this newly restored 1980 antiwar film. (Trailers, LJ 8/15)

Don’t Look Now. color. 110+ min. Nicolas Roeg, Criterion Collection. DVD ISBN 9781604659528. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604659511. $39.95. Rated: R.
This supernatural 1973 thriller about a couple (Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie) trying to get over their daughter’s death in wintertime Venice makes good on its tagline “nothing is what it seems.” Restored in hi-def. (LJ 3/15/15)

Judgment at Nuremberg. b/w. 186 + min. Stanley Kramer, Kino Lorber. DVD UPC 738329163129. $24.99.
A sobering account of meting out justice for four German judges on trial for their part in Nazi atrocities. Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, and Maximilian Schell lead an all-star cast in this newly remastered 1961 courtroom drama. (LJ 11/1/15)

A Room with a View. color. 117+ min. James Ivory, Criterion Collection. DVD ISBN 9781681430541. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781681430533. $39.95.
The famously genteel 1986 comedy of English manners about a traditional lass (Helena Bonham Carter) torn between her starchy fiancé (Daniel Day-Lewis) and a free-spirited lad (Julian Sands) gets a lovely 4K restoration. (Trailers, LJ 8/15)

Spartacus. color. 197+ min. Stanley Kubrick, Universal Studios. Blu-ray UPC 025192275678. $19.98. Rated: PG-13.
The digitally restored 55th anniversary edition finally does justice to this oft-released—the second time on Blu-ray—“thinking man’s” sword-and-sandals epic about a slave revolt against Rome led by an inspirational gladiator (Kirk Douglas).


Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. color. 105+ min. James Keach, Virgil Films. DVD UPC 829567107522. $19.99. Rated: PG.
Afflicted with Alzheimer’s, iconic country music artist Campbell goes on a sold-out final tour, proving that the musical part of his brain would be the last to go. His poignant song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” lays it out. (LJ 12/15)

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. color & b/w. 120+ min. Alex Gibney, FilmRise. DVD UPC 818522012346. $24.99; Blu-ray UPC 818522012353. $34.55.
This provocative exposé of the Church of Scientology alleges abusive treatment used by the successor of founder L. Ron Hubbard on former members whose interviews testify to their at long last seeing the light. (LJ 12/15)

The Green Prince. color. 101+ min. Nadav Schirman, Music Box Films. DVD UPC 741360538665. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 741360538672. $34.99. Rated: PG-13.
After being arrested for weapons smuggling, teenage Palestinian Mosab Hassan Yousef—the son of a Hamas leader—agrees to spy for Israel and forges an unlikely friendship with the Shin Bet agent who recruited him.

Last Days in Vietnam. color. 120 min. Rory Kennedy, PBS. DVD ISBN 9781627892759. $24.99; Blu-ray ISBN 9781627892766. $29.99.
The heroic efforts to save South Vietnamese lives during the fall of Saigon are recalled by participants—military and diplomatic personnel, journalists, et al.—in this wrenching account indelibly documented by archival footage. (LJ 3/1/15)

Life Itself. color & b/w. 120+ min. Steve James, Magnolia Pictures. DVD UPC 876964008075. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964008082. $29.98. Rated: R.
The storied career of film critic Roger Ebert (as well as his personal life) is covered along with the Pulitzer Prize winner’s facially disfiguring but not spirit- crushing fight with cancer, offering a beacon of reel inspiration. (LJ 2/15/15)


Ex Machina. color. 108+ min. Alex Garland, Lionsgate Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 031398221074. $19.98; Blu-ray UPC 031398221159. $24.99. Rated: R.
The designer (Oscar Isaac) of a human-like android (Alicia Vikander) chooses a smart computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) to test his creation’s artificial intelligence. But he’s not the only one doing some testing.

Leviathan. color. 141+ min. In Russian w/English subtitles. Andrey Zvyagintsev, Sony Pictures Classics. DVD UPC 043396455160. $30.99; Blu-ray UPC 043396455153. $34.99. Rated: R.
The corrupt mayor of a Russian coastal town makes an egregious land grab, much to the detriment of a lower-class citizen in this monumental tale of injustice in which the “little people” are at the mercy of the state.

A Most Violent Year. color. 125+ min. J.C. Chandor, Lionsgate Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 031398216520. $19.98; Blu-ray UPC 031398216575. $24.99. Rated: R.
An immigrant (Oscar Isaac) and his wife (Jessica Chastain) expand their home-heating-oil business during the brutal New York City winter of 1981 amid a crime-dominated urban subculture inhospitable to an honest entrepreneur.

Testament of Youth. color. 130+ min. James Kent, Sony Pictures Classics. DVD UPC 043396462755. $30.99; Blu-ray UPC 043396462748. $34.99. Rated: PG-13.
Lauded memoirist Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) recalls the rebellious but innocent time before World War I shook up her world—halting her Oxford studies and blooming romance—and upended the lives of fellow Brits.

Tracks. color. 100+ min. John Curran, Anchor Bay Entertainment. DVD-R UPC 889290115799. $19.98. Rated: PG-13.
Based on a true story covered by National Geographic, a solitary woman (Mia Wasikowska) treks across nearly 2000 miles of Australian outback with four camels and her dog on a therapeutic journey of self-discovery. (LJ 7/15)


Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season. 2 discs. 480+ min. James Strong & others. Entertainment One. DVD UPC 741952789895. $39.98.
With her husband on trial for murder in a secrets-shrouded seaside town, a determined police­woman (Olivia Colman) helps her beleaguered colleague (David Tennant) solve a tough case that eluded him in his previous posting.

Downton Abbey: Season 5. 3 discs. color. 255+ min. Catherine Morshead & others, PBS. DVD UPC 841887021715. $49.99; Blu-ray UPC 841887021722. $54.99.
Tradition continues to make way for change (as symbolized by Downton’s acquiring a wireless), but nothing is as earth-shaking for staff as the prospect of life without service—even as newly budding romances transcend class. (LJ 3/1/15)

House of Cards: The Complete Third Season. 4 discs. color. 692 min. Sony Pictures. DVD UPC 043396459854. $55.99; Blu-ray UPC 043396459847. $65.99.
President Underwood (Kevin Spacey) pursues a risky course with Congress, Russia, and other adversaries—sometimes including his own ambitious wife (Robin Wright)—in order to secure his sought-after legacy as a jobs creator.

Mad Men: The Final Season, Pt. 2. 3 discs. color. 352+ min. Matthew Weiner, Lionsgate Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 031398228486. $39.97; 2-disc Blu-ray UPC 031398228639. $39.98.
Closure comes to the ad execs of Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce when the firm is absorbed by a mega-agency. The life-goes-on ending wisely avoids tying up every loose end, particularly for soul-searching Don Draper (Jon Hamm).

Olive Kitteridge. 2 discs. color. 360 min. Lisa Cholodenko, HBO. DVD UPC 883929451289. $39.99; Blu-ray UPC 883929451302. $49.99.
Emmy winner Frances McDormand inhabits the complex title character—a woman whose crankiness and depression sorely test her husband (Richard Jenkins) and others in her orbit. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel.