THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Inside Llewyn Davis”:The Coen Brothers have a knack for taking a film genre (and time period) and making it their own, from Hollywood satire (“Barton Fink”) to Depression-era social drama (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) to crime thriller (“Blood Simple”) to modern Western (“No Country for Old Men”) to 1960s melodrama (“A Serious Man”) and period Western (“True Grit”) — imbuing their films with offbeat sensibilities (way offbeat with the great “The Big Lebowski”), wit, pathos and existential angst. With “Inside Llewyn Davis” they’ve taken on a most-sacred subject, the rise of the 1960s folk-music scene in 1961 New York City, and created a scenario that succinctly captures a moment in time with a melancholy look at a struggling musician who fights his demons to make his way in the world. The film follows a week in the life of young folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as he navigates the bleak streets of Lower Manhattan, the living-room couches of friends, and the empty coffee houses of Greenwich Village in an effort to make it as a musician. The settings are right on, the acting superb (with fine turns by Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake and F. Murray Abraham), and the music — well, so accurately folksy it’ll make you reach for those old Dave Van Ronk (whose book, “The Mayor of MacDougal Street,” was one of the sources for the film, while the title was a nod to Van Ronk’s album “Inside Dave Van Ronk”), Dylan, Ian and Sylvia and Joan Baez albums. The times they were a-changin. Extras include a making-of documentary. From Sony.
“The Book Thief,”based on the international bestselling book by Markus Zusak, got a bum rap by most critics for 1) translating a young-adult novel to the big screen, 2) for bracketing the story with narration by Death, and, 3), for supposedly soft-peddling the horrors of World War II Germany. To be generous, the film adequately translates to the big screen the confused emotions of a spirited young girl who is sent to live with a foster family in a small German town where — with the help of the local bürgermeister’s wife — she learns to love and appreciate books — and — with her new parents — she hides a Jewish refugee in the basement, where she learns about the sanctity of life and the importance of ideas. On the other hand, the film is a bit sappy and sentimental and shy of any momentous revelations. Still, it’s the kind of film you might want to take your 13-year-old to see before they wander down the path to such young-adult junk as “Ender’s Game.” Great performances from Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and Sophie Nelisse as Liesel (the book thief). Meager extras include deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette. From Fox.
“Homefront”:If you don’t expect much from this good-guy-against-the-bad-guys action-thriller, then you won’t be disappointed. It’s old-fashioned American movie-making along the lines of “Bad Day at Black Rock” or “High Noon” in which a lone hero stands up against a bevy of criminals and crazies. Jason Statham plays an ex-DEA agent who breaks up a meth-peddling biker gang and then retires to a quiet Southern town with his 10-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, he discovers that the town is riddled with corruption, drugs and violence, and not only does he have to contend with a psychotic local drug lord (James Franco), he has to fend off the bikers when his witness-protection cover is blown. Statham plays his regular invincible hero while Franco creates a quirky villain (ala “Spring Breakers”) and it’s all pretty predictable as the face-off situations build up to the crescendo of the ending. Still, a fun outing. Directed by Gary Fleder (“Runaway Jury,” “Impostor,” “Kiss the Girls”) with a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone. Extras include a couple throw-away deleted scenes and an alternate ending, and a brief “teaser” featurette on the film. From Universal.
Also due this week: “Out of the Furnace,” from Fox, which was unavailable for review.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST:
“Hollow Triumph” (1948), starring Paul Henreid, Joan Bennett, Thomas Brown Henry, Eduard Franz and John Qualen, is a film noir about a med school dropout-turned-master criminal who puts together a major casino heist that goes wrong. On the lam, he comes across a psychologist who looks like him, and he kills the doctor, assuming his identity — with ironic consequences. HD restoration from the original 35mm film elements. From Film Chest Media Group … CAV Distributing has a trio of Ozploitation outings due this week, headed up by the
“Ozploitation Trailer Explosion” (2014): In the late 70s and early 80s, films like “My Brilliant Career” and “Breaker Morant” put Australia’s New Wave on the map. But at the same time, a depraved generation of young Aussie filmmakers was putting a very different kind of movie on screens. This is the ultimate collection of Ozploitation trailers, packed with ockers, knockers, pubes, tubes, comatose killers, outback chillers, high-octane disasters and kung fu masters. On the Intervision label. “Dead Kids” (1981) is an Ozploitation classic — and one of the most unique shockers of the 80s. It’s the grisly saga of bizarre experiments, butchered teens, New Zealand doubling for suburban Illinois, and a killer in a Tor Johnson mask. Features a hypnotic score by Tangerine Dream. Transferred in HD from the original negative. Stars Michael Murphy, Dan Shor, Fiona Lewis, Dey Young, Marc McClure, Scott Brady, Louise Fletcher. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo on the Severin Films label. “Thirst” (1979) is another Ozploitation classic — and a unique vampire movie: David Hemmings and Henry Silva star as executives of an international blood-drinking cartel known as The Brotherhood. But when they abduct a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory to reboot her depraved legacy, she must escape before the corporation can expand their human blood cow dairies and create a vampire master race. Transferred in HD from the original negative. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo on the Severin Films label.