DVDs In Brief: January 19, 2011

DVDs In Brief: January 19, 2011

Based on a character from a few Elmore Leonard stories, the FX series Justified (Fox) faced the significant challenge of replicating Leonard’s voice beyond the pilot and making a viable show for the long haul. The ease with which creator Graham Yost and his writers have pulled off the feat is reflected in Timothy Olyphant’s confident performance as Raylan Givens, a U.S. Marshal from Kentucky who applies an Old West style to 21st-century law. Among a cast of great character actors, Walton Goggins (The Shield) stands out as Raylan’s longtime friend and greatest adversary…

John Curran’s drama Stone (Anchor Bay) has a lot to recommend it: Edward Norton and Robert De Niro going toe-to-toe as a felon seeking parole and the corrections officer standing in his way, respectively; a surprisingly good Milla Jovovich as a femme fatale; and a disturbing picture of a decades-long marriage held hostage. But Curran directs with a heavy hand, constant reinforcing themes that might have surfaced more organically.

One man, one coffin, 90 minutes. That’s the hook of Buried (Lionsgate), which stars Ryan Reynolds as a truck driver who becomes a hostage, stuck six feet underground in the Iraq desert. Director Rodrigo Cortés shows a lot of imagination in making Reynolds’ predicament cinematic, and lands on a strong metaphor about how grunts get manipulated and sacrificed in times of war… 

Sort of like an Australian Goodfellas with less sweep and more grubbiness, the terrific thriller Animal Kingdom (Sony) opens with a teenager (James Frecheville) hovering over his dead mother’s body. It continues with his adoption by his grandmother (Jacki Weaver), whose flat is lorded over by criminal thugs, only some of whom are related to the boy. It’s stylish and sharply plotted, making up in punch what it lacks in originality…

The book everyone was talking about became the film no one was talking about when heavyweight documentarians Alex Gibney, Eugene Jarecki, Morgan Spurlock, and several others adapted Steven J. Dubner and Steven Levitt’s best-selling page-turner Freakonomics into a singularly unsatisfying shrug of an omnibus documentary. Freakonomics (Magnolia) amplifies the book’s tendency toward self-congratulatory glibness, most obnoxiously during an abysmal segment on black and white baby names directed by the increasingly insufferable Spurlock.

Filed Under: DVD, Justified

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