Inside Llewyn Davis Blu-rayThe Coen Brothers picked an attractive setting for their latest theatrical endeavor. Greenwich Village in the sixties is a place bustling with life, art and plenty of movement--even during the cold, grey days of winter—making for a great place and time to introduce a character. The men’s latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, is a circular film with no apparent aims or story, yet it’s still infused with humor and enough human moments to keep fans invested through its 104-minute runtime.
Inside Llewyn Davis follows down-and-out musician Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) as he meanders through his life in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. He’s an alright musician with an alright breadth of talent, but despite his unattractiveness as a musician, he’s a man unwilling to compromise to make a career. He wants to sing folk songs that aren’t big sellers, but he doesn’t have enough stage presence or personality to get the record labels on board. While his music career is dwindling, his personal life is at a standstill, as well. Llewyn spends his days as a homeless couch crasher, relying on an older couple and his pregnant former girlfriend, Jean (Carey Mulligan), to offer him a place to sleep most nights.
Llewyn would probably call himself down and out on his luck, but Inside Llewyn Davis is really a tale of an aimless drifter—an unlikeable one to boot. You shouldn’t go into the story expecting it to have the certain flair or oddball sense of humor that populates many of the Coen brothers’ stories. This one is grim in look and grim in appearance, and even when it does display a sense of humor, it’s of the dark kind, illuminating even more unlikeable features about our main protagonist. There isn’t much story, to boot, but as far as character studies go, Inside Llewyn Davis is still a compelling watch. It helps that Isaac is supported by John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham, Adam Driver and Justin Timberlake.
You can order Inside Llewyn Davis over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: There’s only one special feature on this disc. It’s cleverly called "Inside Inside Llewyn Davis", and it’s really fascinating, mostly because the Coen Brothers are great on camera. That’s not something that can be said about a lot of directors, but the two are very candid and there’s a nice interplay between them. They have a brotherly dynamic that’s fun without getting silly.
The segment also features plenty of interviews with the other cast members and creators. Obviously, Oscar Isaac is heavily involved considering he’s in every single scene of the movie, but we also hear from everyone from John Goodman to the costume designer. Fun fact: the film was set in ‘60/’61 because no one wanted to have to include Bob Dylan, but you can’t possibly make a movie about folk music during the time of Bob Dylan and not address him.
The Book Thief Blu-rayIt’s not often that audiences are privy to a World War II film told from the perspective of an average German child living during a time of turmoil and hardship. Audiences never get a story narrated by the Angel of Death himself either. It’s these premises that make Brian Percival’s film The Book Thief a special story, an idea hampered somewhat by its lengthy runtime and its muddy audience aims.
The Book Thief is based on the Young Adult novel of the same name written by Marcus Zusak. Both tell the story of Liesl (Sophie Nélisse), a young German girl who is sent to live with the Hubermann family (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) after dealing with familial problems. Liesl wears the same clothes and hairstyles as the other school girls once she arrives in town, but it soon becomes apparent that she is not wholly the same. Liesl is illiterate, and her mission at the start of the movie is to become less so. In Nazi Germany, however, it’s easier to steal books most of the time than to come across them in an honorable way.
The Book Thief follows a child and thus has a childish perspective, hampering the film’s political intuitiveness and emotionality. When a Jewish refugee named Max (Ben Schnetzer) hides out in the Hubermann household, his conversations with Liesl hint at a world at war. In Liesl’s view, however, things are just spiffy and Germany is winning—which makes it hard to invest when war does eventually hit closer to home. Additionally, Liesl’s relationship with a bully, her relationship with a young neighbor named Rudy (Nico Liersch), her penchant for books and her secrets at home all offer too many different plotlines to properly invest in. If The Book Thief had dropped the coming-of-age stuff in favor of the war stuff, or dropped the war stuff in favor of a coming-of-age story, it may have been a bit more succinct. That’s hard to do with a book adaptation, though, and as it stands, the movie still offers a glimpse at an important moment in history led by a talented young cast.
You can order The Book Thieft over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: The film’s best special feature is a four-part making of clip entitled "A Hidden Truth: Bringing The Book Thief To Life". Together, they trace the picture from stories the author’s parents used to tell in his kitchen growing up to a producer who happened to see a blurb about the book in a copy of The Wall Street Journal someone left at Starbucks to a lead actress who didn’t want the part because she was hoping to make the Olympics as a gymnast. Of course, we know all of the necessary ingredients came together, but it’s still fun to watch the dominos fall into place.
Other Bonus Features:
Other March 11 ReleasesMore than a year ago, Paramount Home Media Distribution released the 1949 classic Samson and Delilah onto DVD for the first time. When it was released, it was revealed that the film had been scanned into 4K resolution and restored to "its original Technicolor vibrancy." Despite the high-tech Digital transfer, at the time no Blu-ray was announced, puzzling those anticipating the release. Luckily, Paramount is rectifying things this week with the first release of Samson and Delilah onto Blu-ray. The flick doesn’t come with much in the way of bonus features, but it will come with the original theatrical trailer for the biblical film.
If a classic flick isn’t really up your alley, there are plenty of other releases to look forward to this week, including the Director’s Cut of Iron Sky, a Finnish-German-Australian sci fi flick that has somehow found its way into audiences’ hearts. You can check out some more of this week’s releases, below. Unless otherwise noted, sets are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.
Iron Sky: The Director’s Cut Blu-ray
Out of the Furnace
Rogue: The Complete First Season DVD
End of the World DVD
100 Years of Wrigley Field DVD
Mademoiselle C Blu-ray
The Broken Circle Breakdown DVD
The Time Being DVD