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New on DVD & Blu-Ray: Fury, The Judge, Downton Abbey, and More

by | January 26, 2015 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got David Ayer’s WWII tank actioner, a courtroom drama starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, a visually impressive animated film, and the latest season of Downton Abbey. There are also a number of smaller releases out as well, though not many of them were well-received by critics. Read on for details:

Fury

76%

After directing 2012’s acclaimed cop drama End of Watch, David Ayer took a bit of a misstep in 2014 with Sabotage, a brutal but limp actioner that at least afforded him the opportunity to work with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thankfully, he also released Fury the same year, which helped to wash the taste of Sabotage away quickly. Brad Pitt stars as Don “Wardaddy” Collier, the commander of a five-man tank crew that takes on an inexperienced newbie (Logan Lerman) when the veteran gunner is killed in combat. The film follows the crew as they pilot their Sherman tank behind enemy lines during the final days of World War II. Certified Fresh at 78 percent, Fury earned points for its visceral, authentic-feeling portrayal of life on the front lines, its solid performances, and its thrilling tank battles, even if the film may be almost overwhelmingly grim for some. The Blu-ray comes with a handful of making-of featurettes, including interviews with real WWII veterans and a look at the tanks used in the film, as well as several deleted and extended scenes.

The Judge

49%

Back in the early 2000s, David Dobkin had a couple of comedy hits with Shanghai Knights and Wedding Crashers, but his directorial efforts since then have earned pretty dismal ratings. That might explain why he decided to go serious with The Judge, which, to its credit, starred two Hollywood heavyweights in Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. and could have made for a fairly intriguing character piece. RDJ stars as Hank Palmer, a successful Chicago attorney who returns to his hometown and his estranged family for his mother’s funeral. When he learns that his father (Duvall), the local judge, is the only suspect in a fatal hit-and-run, Hank agrees to defend him, and secrets slowly begin to unravel. Critics were split on The Judge, which they praised for its strong acting and beautiful cinematography but panned for its predictable, cliché-ridden plot, and gave the film a mediocre 47 percent on the Tomatometer. The supporting cast includes Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Melissa Leo, and more.

The Book of Life

83%

In the wake of mass layoffs at Dreamworks Animation, it’s good to know there are still other studios out there producing quality animated fare. One example is last year’s The Book of Life — which, incidentally, Dreamworks originally optioned then relinquished to Reel FX — a fantastical tale steeped in Mexican folklore that went Certified Fresh at 82 percent. The story centers on a wager made by Xibalba (voiced by Ron Perlman), the ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, and La Muerte (Kate del Castillo), ruler of the Land of the Remembered, on a love triangle between bullfighter Manolo (Diego Luna), local hero Joaquin (Channing Tatum), and a free-spirited girl named Maria (Zoe Saldana) that they both love. The briskly paced story follows Manolo from this world to the afterlife as Xibalba tries at every turn to thwart his efforts. Though some wished for slightly more substantial storytelling, most critics found the film vibrant and delightfully energetic, filled with unique character designs and stunning visuals. The Blu-ray comes with several behind-the-scenes looks at the creation of the film, a collection of the film’s musical moments, and a short featuring Chuy the pig.

Downton Abbey: Season Five

For viewers in the US, the fifth season (or series, as they say across the pond) of the hit period drama Downton Abbey began airing on January 4, which means we’ve only gotten four of the nine total episodes (including the Christmas special) so far. Luckily for us, though, the British production already aired the fifth series in its entirety late last year, so we’re getting the whole shebang on DVD and Blu-ray this week. For many fans, season four was a dark departure from what most had come to expect (and want) from the show, and by most accounts, season five has found somewhat proper footing again. With that in mind, if you just cannot wait for the remaining episodes to air on your local PBS channel, you can pick up the entire fifth season tomorrow. Special features include just a couple of behind-the-scenes looks, as well as a longer look at the historical backdrop of the season.

Also available this week:

  • Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (83 percent), a dark action comedy about a film crew who gets the opportunity to film a bloody battle to the death between two warring yakuza clans.

  • 1,000 Times Good Night (74 percent), starring Juliette Binoche and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau in a drama about a celebrated war photographer who puts her family at risk when she journeys to Kenya to photograph a refugee camp.

  • The Remaining (50 percent), starring Alexa Vega in a supernatural thriller about a newly married couple coping with the Rapture.

  • Before I Go to Sleep (36 percent), starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in a thriller about a woman with debilitating chronic amnesia who begins to question the mysterious circumstances of her life.

  • Open Windows (34 percent), starring Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey in a psychological thriller about a man who ends up embroiled in a conspiracy when he’s offered the opportunity to secretly watch his favorite actress via webcam.

  • Miss Meadows (22 percent), starring Katie Holmes in a satirical thriller about a mild-mannered schoolteacher who moonlights as a vigilante killer.

  • The Color of Time (6 percent), starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain and an ensemble cast working with 12 NYU student directors to profile the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams.

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