DVD reviews: 'Lincoln,' 'Killing Them Softly' and 'Veep'
“Lincoln” (2012, PG-13, 150 min., $29.99). For all of the accolades director Steven Spielberg's “Lincoln” has received, most of them have been heaped upon Daniel Day Lewis, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the 16th president of the United States. The British actor deserves the praise, but the greatness of the film goes much deeper. It emerges out of Tony Kushner's detailed screenplay and Spielberg's methodical direction and the vivid cinematography of Janusz Kaminski and the elegant score of John Williams. And don't forget a supporting cast that includes remarkable performances from Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, David Strathairn and so many others. Yes, “Lincoln” was very much a team effort, and that's why it is undoubtedly one of the best films of 2012. The picture covers a small, but incredibly intense moment in Lincoln's political career, and that's his attempt to permanently abolish slavery from the Constitution. Fans of the film would be wise to buy the four-disc combo pack. It includes Blu-ray, standard DVD and digital copies of the film, not to mention several phenomenal special features. A handful of featurettes explore the production of the film, including several interviews with members of the cast and crew about the authenticity of “Lincoln.” Two-disc Blu-ray and standard DVD sets are available, but don't have much in the way of extras. 4 Stars.
“Killing Them Softly” (2012, R, 98 min., $29.98). It's been a few years since director Andrew Dominik gained acclaim with 2007's “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” The filmmaker from New Zealand returned in 2012 with “Killing Them Softly,” a gritty neo-noir gangster feature based on a 1974 novel called “Cogan's Trade” by George V. Higgins. It follows a Boston enforcer (Brad Pitt) tasked with getting rid of three small-time hoods who robbed a card game. The robbery cripples the criminal economy in the area, tapping a lot of the shady characters at the game who are struggling to make ends meet in tough times. James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn and Richard Jenkins also star is “Killing Them Softly.” The cast works well in a tough flick that feels like a throwback in the gangster genre, but carries some stylish touches. It's the same spin Dominik added to the western genre for his previous picture. Unfortunately, special features aren't too great. A making-of featurette is available, but it doesn't go into too much depth. A collection of deleted scenes can also be found. Extras are the same on DVD and Blu-ray. 3 Stars.
“Veep: The Complete First Season” (2012, two discs, eight episodes, $39.98). HBO has struck gold with some of its sitcoms, and “Veep,” from Armando Ianucci, deserves a spot among them. The series feels very much like Ianucci's past work, including the BBC comedy series “The Thick of It” and the 2009 film “In the Loop.” All three titles are heavy on political humor, colorful language and lots of laughs. “Veep,” set in the office of the vice president of the United States, is heavy on political humor and adult language. It covers the comings and goings of second-in-command Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her lackadaisical staff. There are only eight episodes in the first season, but the series doesn't take an episode off. Offbeat politics, biting humor and goofball characters are a constant, along with a strong dose of snarkiness. The key to the show's success is the performance of Louis-Dreyfus, though. Extras are pretty good, and they include commentaries with members of the cast and crew, deleted scenes and a making-of featurette that includes interviews with cast and crew. 3.5 Stars.
“A Royal Affair” (2012, R, 137 min., $26.98). A Golden Globe nominee for best foreign language film, “A Royal Affair” is the story of a common man winning the heart of his Danish nation's queen, and kicking off a revolution. Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Arcel and Alicia Vikander stand in as the main players in the film.
“Parental Guidance” (2012, PG, 105 min., $29.98). Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei have lead roles in this family comedy from filmmaker Andy Fickman about grandparents who are called in to watch their over-coddled grandkids while their parents are away on vacation. In the process, they get to know each other better.
“Easy Money” (2010, R, 124 min., $24.98). Daniel Espinosa is the filmmaker behind this Swedish crime thriller based on a novel by Jean Lapidus. Starring Joel Kinnaman, the film follows a poor business student living a double life and being lured into a life of crime. The only way out is to broker a massive drug deal with gangsters.
“GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” (2012, NR, 76 min., $29.95). Longtime wrestling fans should get a flying leg kick out of this comprehensive documentary about the first all-female wrestling show on television. The show got off to a popular start, but it was gone before most folks were able to blink.
“The Comedy” (2012, NR, 90 min., $26.95). Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim — the brains behind “Tim and Eric Awesome Show” — are responsible for this disturbing comedy about an old hipster and his friends, as they go about their business in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn. James Murphy also stars in “The Comedy.”
“Alois Nebel” (2011, NR, 84 min., $29.99). The worlds of film noir and animation collide in filmmaker Tomas Lunak's film about a lonely train dispatcher on the Czechoslovakian border who gets the opportunity to tuck some of his World War II nightmares away when a wise stranger arrives at his working station.
“Day of the Falcon” (2011, R, 130 min., $27.97). Jean-Jacques Annaud returns to directing with an epic tale that unfolds in the Middle East. The action follows two rival kingdoms going back to war after oil is discovered between their territories. Antonio Banderas, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto and Tahar Rahim lead the cast.
“Tatsumi” (2011, NR, 98 min., $29.99). Fans of Manga can find a history lesson in this animated feature film from Eric Khoo that celebrates the life and work of comic pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi. The Japanese artist is largely seen as the man responsible for redefining Manga from children's tales to more of an adult-oriented genre.
“To the Arctic” (2012, G, 40 min., $28.98). Actress Meryl Streep lends her voice as a narrator to filmmaker Greg MacGillivray's short documentary about a family of polar bears trudging through the challenges it faces in the harsh wilderness that is home. The cinematography here is magnificent, and the polar bears aren't too bad either.
“The Frankenstein Theory” (2013, NR, 87 min., $27.97). From Andrew Weiner, who is making his debut as a director and screenwriter, comes a found-footage film about a group of researchers heading to the Arctic Circle to prove that Frankenstein, considered to be a fictional monster, is indeed a true monster that is still out there.
“Bangkok Revenge” (2011, NR, 82 min., $24.98). Filmmaker Jean-Marc Mineo cranks up the martial arts in this revenge-driven picture. A martial arts master takes in a young boy after witnessing the death of his parents. He is raised to become a lethal killing machine who feeds on revenge, and most can predict his next step.
“The Big Picture” (2010, NR, 115 min., $24.98). A lawyer with a remarkable life wants more in this French thriller from Eric Lartigau. The picture follows a successful family man who takes the identity of his adventurous neighbor after the photographer unexpectedly dies. The lawyer takes his best shot at a fresh start.
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