DVD reviews: 'A Most Violent Year,' 'The Immigrant' and 'Happy Valley'
“A Most Violent Year” (2014, R, 125 min., $19.98) J.C. Chandor is one of the best filmmakers working today, and he's backed that up again with this picture he wrote and directed. The movie, carrying notable lead performances from Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks and David Oyelowo, is a strong follow to his “Margin Call” (2011) and “All is Lost” (2013). This is a slow-burning gangster film about a hard-working businessman named Abel (Isaac), who's dealing with attacks on his business during a particularly violent year in New York City. Abel's an honest guy, but various problems — a bank loan falls through and an impending case against his company by the district attorney — has him on the brink of considering illegal means to save the successful company he's built. Although there are a couple of holes in the film, it's still a well-paced picture filled with interesting characters striving, by any means necessary, for the top. Some excellent special features are available on standard DVD and Blu-ray. The best extras available are a couple of featurettes that explore the origins of the film and the making of it. Commentary and deleted scenes are also available. 3.5 stars
“The Immigrant” (2013, R, 120 min., $29.98) Hit-or-miss director James Gray serves up one of his best movies with this film that capitalizes on sterling performances from Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner and a truly authentic setting that gives the feature the feel of 1920s New York. The melancholic storyline tells the tale of an immigrant named Ewa (Cotillard) who arrives from Poland at Ellis Island with hopes of a better life. Things start off bad for Ewa, as she is separated from her sister, who's suffering from tuberculosis. Under threat of being deported, Ewa immediately latches onto Bruno (Phoenix), a hot-tempered pimp who ends up putting her on the street. He promises her help in reuniting with her sister, and Ewa will do whatever it takes. Next to “Two Lovers,” this is Gray's best work. It has the makings of a personal story, and that, and the aforementioned components, make it a remarkable movie that delves deep into an immigrant tale that's truly haunting. Blu-ray and standard DVDs aren't packed with special features, but carry a couple of good ones. Gray commentary is available, as is a making-of featurette that explores the visual appeal of the picture. 3 stars
“Happy Valley” (2014, NR, 98 min., $29.95) Amir Bar-Lev, a talented documentarian responsible for 2010's “The Tillman Story” and 2007's “My Kid Could Paint That,” turned his camera toward State College for his latest project, creating a fascinating film on former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and the child-sex abuse scandal that rocked the school. Next to his previous films, this isn't his best, but it's a searing documentary. The director uses the scandal and trial as a backdrop, and takes aim at the football-first culture that's enveloped the school. In that regard, Bar-lev takes a deep look at how the scandal claimed the career of iconic Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, and how diehards reacted angrily to the legend's dismissal. As an outsider, Bar-Lev gives a fair portrayal of the scandal and its fallout, and that's important in covering a difficult situation with so many heated opinions. Using interviews and news clips, Bar-Lev explores the many sides of a severe case. “Happy Valley” will only be available on standard DVD. A limited set of special features includes a good interview with Bar-Lev on the making of the documentary. 3 stars
“The Voices” (2014, R, 103 min., $19.98) Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick star in director Marjane Satrapi's dark comedy about a likable guy who takes a shot at dating the girl he's been crushing on at work. After she stands him up, things get bad, as the man decides on following a path set down by his talking pets.
“Killers” (2014, NR, 137 min., $24.98) A movie that's drawn comparisons to the largely successful “The Raid” franchise, “Killers” follows a serial killer who awakens something dark in a failed journalist after posting some of his murders on the Internet. It motivates the journalist to embark on his own murderous spree, and begins a rivalry.
“Mad as Hell” (2014, NR, 82 min., $29.99) A timely documentary from filmmaker Andrew Napier, “Mad as Hell” charts the rise of political commentator Cenk Uygur, a passionate fellow who rose from Public Access TV to the studios of MSNBC. Along the way, Uygur's nontraditional brand of journalism rubbed plenty of people the wrong way.
“Home Sweet Hell” (2015, R, 98 min., $26.99) Katherine Heigl, Patrick Wilson and Jordana Brewster star in a dramedy about a housewife (Heigl) who makes things uncomfortable for her husband when she finds out he's cheating on her with a younger girl from the office.
“Bad Asses on the Bayou” (2015, R, 85 min., $22.98) The third in a series of action films — featuring Danny Trejo — that has geriatric tough guys fighting back against injustice, has Frank (Trejo) making a trip to Louisiana with his friend Bernie (Danny Glover) to attend a wedding. It's there where they run into trouble again.
“Yellowbird” (2014, PG, 90 min., $19.98) Seth Green, Dakota Fanning, Jim Rash, Danny Glover and Elliott Gould lend their voices to this animated family film about a lead bird named Darius, who's injured before migrating to Africa with his pack. Unable to make his flight, Darius depends on Yellowbird to lead, giving him all the info he'll need.
TV on DVD
• “Manhattan: Season One” (four discs, 13 episodes, $49.97)
• “Inside Amy Schumer: Seasons 1 and 2” (three discs, 20 episodes, $26.98)
• “Brady Bunch: The Complete Series” (20 discs, 117 episodes, $72.99)
• “Frasier: The Complete Series” (44 discs, 264 episodes, $129.99)
• “MacGyver: The Complete Series” (39 discs, 139 episodes, $89.99)
• “Matlock: The Complete Series” (52 discs, 195 episodes, $129.99)<