Jules Heath

Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) and her foster father (Geoffrey Rush) share a quiet moment in “The Book Thief.”

DVD releases this week

Published: Friday, Mar. 14, 2014 - 12:00 am

“The Book Thief” (PG-13, 131 minutes, in English and some German with subtitles, Fox) : “The Book Thief” has its moments of brilliance, thanks in large part to an adept cast, led by Geoffrey Rush and newcomer Sophie Nelisse. Based on a best-selling novel, the movie tries heartily to contain writer Markus Zusak’s myriad plot points, but the result is a rushed conclusion, which tempers the intended tear-jerking climax. There is plenty here to create both an emotional payoff and a healthy dose of suspense. But director Brian Percival’s film squanders the opportunities by squeezing a number of other subplots into the two-hour run time. Contains violence and depictions of death. Extras include deleted scenes. Also, on Blu-ray: “A Hidden Truth: Bringing the Book Thief to Life” featurette.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” (R, 104 minutes, Sony): As “Inside Llewyn Davis” opens, the title character, a folk singer in Greenwich Village, holds a Gaslight Cafe audience spellbound with a hushed, perfectly studied rendition of the traditional tune “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me.” The year is 1961, when the Village folk scene was on the verge of transforming into a tourist destination where dilettantes could gawk at commodified Beats and musicians could turn into “careerists.” The adamantly uncommercial Llewyn is having none of it, preferring the scuffed patina of unassailable – and impoverished – artistic purity. As embodied by the gifted actor and singer Oscar Isaac in a poignant, mesmerizing breakout performance, Llewyn emerges as an improbably sympathetic anti-hero. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the film is a tender, startlingly straight-faced departure from their established house style of cool, ironic distance. Contains profanity, including some sexual references.

“Out of the Furnace” (R, 116 minutes, Fox): The unforgiving back roads and rusted-out mill towns of Appalachia provide the bleak backdrop and emotional landscape of this well-acted, beautifully filmed yet depressing chronicle of revenge and thwarted dreams in post-industrial America. Anchored by compelling performances from Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, “Out of the Furnace” may have taken its title and setting from Thomas Bell’s 1941 novel about the immigrant community in Braddock, Pa., and the history of unionization. But director Scott Cooper, with co-writer Brad Inglesby, sets his story squarely in the recent past, when Bale’s character, Russell Baze, works in a steel mill on the brink of closing while his brother, Rodney (Affleck), prepares for yet another tour in Iraq. Cooper, who directed “Crazy Heart” a few years ago, once again evinces a gift for conveying atmosphere, carefully framing and composing his shots to lend “Out of the Furnace” an air of dignity. And he knows how to get the best from his actors. Contains strong violence, profanity and drug content.

Television series: “Siberia: Season One,” “Big History” (History Channel miniseries based on philanthropist Bill Gates and historian David Christian’s The Big History Project), “Rogue: First Season,” and “The Science of Measurement” (U.S. debut of BBC documentary series, Athena).



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