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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

by Ethan Alter March 11, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Come gather 'round people wherever you roam and watch Inside Llewyn Davis, the best film of 2013.

Inside Llewyn Davis
This year's Oscars shook out fairly well all things considered in terms of who got to take statues home. Still, most moviegoers (at least those amongst the critical community) would probably agree that the most egregious oversight was the absence of the Coen Brothers' masterful early '60s period piece that transports viewers back to the Greenwich Village folk scene. Though the film beautifully evokes that era of New York City history -- or at least our collective pop culture memory of it -- the Coens aren't interested in documentary-like realism, which is why the accusations that the Village glimpsed in Inside Llewyn Davis wasn't really like that is kind of a non-starter for me. The actual subject here is one that's universal, rather than being rooted in one specific time period: the feeling that the life you're living isn't the one you were meant to live. Over the course of a week, we watch as struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac, in a fantastic, sadly overlooked performance) learns the hard way that not everyone is cut out to be a success, but continues to plug away at the career he's chosen even as all possible exits are closed off to him and, in a final cosmic joke, his very presence is reduced to a mere footnote when a true star appears on the scene. It may sound depressing, but that's where the Coens' wry sense of humor kicks in, along with the gorgeous music from T. Bone Burnett. In the end, Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the most honest and perceptive movies ever made about the joys and frustrations of life as an artist, as well as the true Best Picture of 2013.
Extras: A lone making-of featurette, which feels paltry considering the love so many have for this film.
Click here to read our original review

The Book Thief
Another movie that fell by the wayside as awards seasons rolled merrily along was this adaptation of the YA bestseller, The Book Thief, which would seem to be catnip for the Oscars given that it covers a subject that's been well-rewarded in the past: the Holocaust. In this case, though, everyone collectively agreed that it was best to skip the movie and read the original book. Sophie Nélisse plays the central character, Liesel, who is orphaned by the winds of war and is sent to live with foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in the heart of Nazi Germany. Although all of the actors do their very best, the material never comes to life onscreen the same way it did on the page. But don't take the failure of The Book Thief as an Oscar contender to mean that the Academy is over the Holocaust. This year's winner for Best Documentary Short, The Lady in Number 6, profiled the then-oldest living concentration camp survivor.
Extras: Deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.
Click here to read our original review

Homefront
In a move that's 40 percent bonkers and 60 percent genius, the makers behind the Jason Statham action vehicle Homefront -- including director Gary Fleder and screenwriter Sylvester Stallone (yes… that Sylvester Stallone) -- tapped none other than James Franco to play the heavy that bedevils, and then gets beaten up by, the British ass-kicker. Franco isn't the only kooky casting choice that elevates this flick above most generic thriller fare; Kate Bosworth also turns up playing a meth-addled crazy woman (a role normally reserved for Taryn Manning), while Winona Ryder plays Franco's stripper girlfriend. Understandably abandoned by its theatrical distributor, who probably didn't see the point of advertising a movie that would find the bulk of its audience on DVD and cable, Homefront is the very definition of silly schlock, not to mention a throwback to vintage late '80s and early '90s straightforward action fare, where practical effects and fight scenes take precedence over elaborate computer F/X. I'm not saying that Homefront is some kind of misunderstood masterpiece, but everyone involved knows precisely what kind of movie they're making and that counts for something.
Extras: A short featurette and deleted scenes.
Click here to read our original review

Out of the Furnace
To see what a pretentious thriller looks like -- as opposed to comfort food like Homefront -- cast your eyes upon Out of the Furnace, the second film from writer/director Scott Cooper, which imagines itself to be nothing less than the second coming of The Deer Hunter. As in that film, we're set down in a working class setting, where a bunch of big-name actors (like Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana and Woody Harrelson) let their hair down and dirty up their clothes and fingernails to play small-town folks dealing with all manner of Heavy Shit. The "fun" begins when Bale is locked up following a drunk driving accident, during which time he loses his best girl (Saldana) and his soldier brother (Affleck) to the perils of PTSD. Meanwhile, his bro unwisely starts a career as a pit fighter, which brings him into contact with a backwoods criminal (Harrelson, delivering the best performance by far) with murder on his mind. Though the film admirably attempts to capture real-world grit, it mostly comes off as a tedious wallow in macho suffering. Pssst, Scott -- The Deer Hunter wasn't that great to begin with.
Extras: Four making-of featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

Also on DVD:
Speaking of silly action schlock, Jean Claude Van Damme plays a French Canadian drug smuggler who dresses up as a Mountie in Enemies Closer, which tells you all you need to know about the high idiocy (and entertainment value) in this ultra-cheap action picture. Takeshi Kitano serves up another slice of yakuza pulp fiction in Beyond Outrage, in which a bunch of criminal types die in sudden, bloody ways. Death is also the subject of the Best Foreign Film nominee The Broken Circle Breakdown, in which a pair of Belgian bluegrass singers wrestle with the loss of their young daughter to cancer. Finally, Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 swords-and-sandals classic Samson & Delilah arrives on Blu-ray and young Roo grabs the spotlight for once amongst the Hundred Acre Wood residents in the Easter-themed animated feature, Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo.

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