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New Releases: A crackling visit with 'Frances Ha'

MoviesScience Fiction (Movie Genre)LiteratureFictionMan of Steel

Frances Ha

Criterion Blu-ray, $39.95

Available on VOD beginning Nov. 12

Director Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" — co-written by star Greta Gerwig — is another story about an aging post-graduate who can no longer afford to be "fun," "free-spirited" and "irresponsible." Gerwig stars as Frances, a semi-professional dancer whose roommate moves in with somebody else, forcing Frances to crash on a series of couches while waiting for her dreams to come true. The main character is a too-common type, and Baumbach's use of black-and-white recalls a vintage Woody Allen film, but the movie is so, so funny, full of Baumbach's usual crackling dialogue between people who on some level realize they're just playing artificial roles in each other's lives. Gerwig gives a career-best performance as a likable goofball who can't ever seem to get anywhere. Criterion's excellent DVD/Blu-ray combo pack includes an interview between Baumbach and Peter Bogdanovich and one between Gerwig and Sarah Polley.

PHOTOS: Fall movie sneaks 2013

Barbara

Kino Lorber, $29.95; Blu-ray, $34.95

From one of Germany's best working filmmakers, Christian Petzold, comes this tense period drama starring Nina Hoss as a doctor making plans to defect from East to West Germany, though held back by her concern for one of her young patients. Petzold re-creates the paranoia of life behind the Iron Curtain in 1980, as the heroine worries about who she can trust with her plans. But "Barbara" is also a movie about a woman making the kind of hard choices that nearly anyone should be able to recognize.

Blackfish

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Available on VOD beginning Nov. 12

One of the year's most controversial documentaries tells the story of Tilikum, a killer whale who killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010; that wasn't the first human death in which he was involved. Documentarian Gabriela Cowperthwaite comes at this material like an investigative reporter, calmly building a case against aquatic amusement parks that profess to improve the lives of their captive sea creatures. Some of the parks have pushed back against "Blackfish," claiming that Cowperthwaite is being too selective about her facts. Regardless of whether the film is wholly fair, it's a riveting story, raising pertinent questions about our relationships with wild animals. The DVD and Blu-ray add more interviews.

Man of Steel

Warner Brothers, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99/$44.95

Available on VOD beginning Nov. 12

The creative team behind the Superman reboot includes some of the people who helped make the recent Batman movies fresh and relevant, but producer-screenwriters David Goyer and Christopher Nolan may have led director Zack Snyder a bit too far into the dark here. "Man of Steel" excels at reclaiming the Superman saga as science fiction by conceiving alien landscapes that look like they originated on the cover of a '30s pulp magazine. But the plot, which has the Krypton-born superhero coming out of hiding right as Earth is threatened by evil refugees from his home world, emphasizes sacrifice and difficult choices to the point where it becomes a bummer, weighed down by destruction and death. Star Henry Cavill makes for a handsome Superman, though, and "Man of Steel" is philosophical in ways that'll make it a topic of good, geeky conversations for decades to come. The DVD and Blu-ray tack on featurettes galore.

And…

Ip Man: The Final Fight

Well Go USA, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Nosferatu

Kino Classics, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Turbo

DreamWorks, $29.98; Blu-ray, $38.99/$48.99

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