'Out of the Furnace'
If you missed "Out of the Furnace" when it opened amid the Christmas crush, it is now on DVD and Blu-ray with the latter offering a handful of extras including director Scott Cooper talking about how Braddock inspired the movie -- and him.
He visited the community while stopping here in January 2010 to promote "Crazy Heart" and found economic decline but also courageous, strong and optimistic people. Braddock and nearby places such as North Braddock, Rankin, Clinton, Beaver County's Hookstown and the onetime West Virginia state penitentiary in Moundsville serve as backdrops in the film.
The gritty, grim drama examines the nature of violence in all its forms. On and off the battlefield, in makeshift boxing rings, in the woods where hunters stalk deer and in the silent shadows of rusted reminders of industrial glory long gone.
Christian Bale plays a second-generation mill worker who has a dying father, a beautiful girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) and a brother (Casey Affleck) who is being stop-lossed as the U.S. Army extends his tour of duty.
The linchpins of Mr. Bale's world collapse and he lands in prison after an accident and his brother turns to bare-fisted brawling to channel his smoldering anger and to earn money and repay a crime boss and meth addict (Woody Harrelson).
If you ever doubted the range of Mr. Bale, you need only watch this and then see him in "American Hustle," while Mr. Affleck has never been better. Even the small roles are expertly filled with the likes of Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard and Bingo O'Malley.
The lengthiest of the Blu-ray extras (9 minutes) examines the music, both the score by British-born composer Dickon Hinchliffe ("Winter's Bone") and use of Eddie Vedder's haunting "Release."
Other extras include Mr. Cooper talking about the picture and his process and cast such as Mr. Shepard delighting in the director's natural enthusiasm and energy. Stunt coordinator Ben Bray weighs in on the fights, and key cast recall actors or movies that shaped or inspired them.
Mr. Shepard looked to Steve McQueen and Lee Marvin, Ms. Saldana to "Blade Runner" and Mr. Dafoe was a monster movie fan who nevertheless recalls watching Ingmar Bergman's "The Magician." Mr. Bale's talent and sense of responsibility turned him into an early family breadwinner so he cannot answer the question in the same way.
The movie, rated R for strong violence, language and drug content, explores the ravages of war, brotherly bonds, homegrown justice, loyalty, joblessness and a disappearing way of life. Here's hoping "Out of the Furnace" finds the adult audience it deserves the second time around.
-- Barbara Vancheri, PG movie editor
'Inside Llewyn Davis'
Success and failure can be fickle, as we learn watching "Inside Llewyn Davis." Joel and Ethan Coen don't follow the traditional arc where we track hopefuls from obscurity to fame with a crisis or two along the way.
"Inside Llewyn Davis" takes some of its inspiration from musician Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002), but the Coens created a fictional story about a folk singer in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s before Bob Dylan's arrival.
This is where Llewyn Davis, portrayed by a bearded, curly haired Oscar Isaac, is introduced, singing a traditional folk song in a voice rich with sincerity, yearning and the sort of emotion missing from his interactions with other people. He connects through his songs, but when the microphone goes silent, so does that tether.
Llewyn Davis has thorny relationships with women and is homeless and broke, surfing from one friend's couch to another. Even his sister in Queens, Jean (Carey Mulligan), married to clean-cut singer Jim (Justin Timberlake), asks if he could return to the Merchant Marine.
Mr. Isaac, a Juilliard graduate who does his own singing and guitar playing, has a tender, soulful voice complementing his hangdog look. He calls this a concert film and when the focus is on New York and the music, it shines; when it takes to the road with oddballs -- almost silent driver Garrett Hedlund and dismissive jazz man John Goodman -- it bucks and slows.
It provides only a glimpse of Llewyn's life outside this worst week ever; you crave more of what came before and will come after.
Most of the music is haunting, heartbreaking and pure in presentation and placement, thanks to executive music producer T Bone Burnett.
Rated R for language including some sexual references.
The making-of documentary features the Coen brothers and stars, along with T-Bone Burnett, Marcus Mumford and Chris Thile.
'The Book Thief'
Author Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief" is a tale narrated by Death focused on a girl who learns to read with "The Gravedigger's Handbook," which she snatched from the snowy ground at her younger brother's funeral. They were headed to the home of foster parents in 1938 Germany and only Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) makes it, taken in by a kindhearted new Papa (Geoffrey Rush) and a no-nonsense, critical Mama (Emily Watson).
Liesel eventually is joined by another addition to the household but one who must remain a secret, lest the safety and lives of the family are jeopardized. He is a young Jewish refugee, Max (Ben Schnetzer), and when he is hidden away in the frigid, windowless basement, he relies on Liesel to describe the weather outside and to bring life inside.
Illiterate when she first arrived, Liesel is besotted by words and books -- willing to risk all to pluck one from the edge of the public burning in the town square or to "borrow" leather-bound novels from a private library.
Death (the voice of British actor Roger Allam) will come calling again before the story is finished. Young Nelisse makes Liesel a spirited, perceptive girl and she holds her own against Mr. Rush and Ms. Watson. The story, though, cries out for missing details from the massive book.
PG-13 for some violence and intense depiction of thematic material.
Extras include deleted scenes, and the Blu-ray adds a featurette.
ALSO THIS WEEK
* "Homefront": Jason Statham plays Phil Broker, a former DEA agent who has moved to the creepy, sleepy town of Rayville, La., in this punch-drunk story that wobbles between family film and over-the-top action movie.
* "Beyond Outrage": Crackdown on organized crime ignites underworld power struggle.
* "Enemies Closer": Tom Everett Scott plays a man who must battle for his life.
■ "Rogue": DirecTV series starring Thandie Newton.
■ "Transformers Armada: The Complete Series": Autobots fight to save the universe.
■ "Siberia": Fictional reality show set in Siberia.
■ "Armistice": A Marine is forced to fight for his life against grotesque inhuman opponents.
■ "Winnie the Pooh: Springtime With Roo": Rabbit decided it's "Spring Cleaning Day."
■ "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem": Turtles face real danger from villains all over the city.
■ "The Flintstone Kids: Rockin' in Bedrock": Includes 10 episodes of the animated series.
■ "Talks About Nothing": Features philosophical discussions with celebrities, scientists, writers and today's leading thinkers on the concept of nothing.
■ "Hazmat": When a prank goes horribly wrong, a group of friends must fight for their lives.
■ "Dirty Jobs Down Under": Mike Rowe looks for dirty jobs in Australia.
■ "Commitment": Singer decides to follow in his father's footsteps in the spy thriller.
■ "JFK: The Smoking Gun": Chronicle of the assassination of John F. Kennedy through forensic analysis.
■ "In Fear": Psychological horror about a young couple's fight to make it through the night.
■ "Eric Clapton -- The 1970s Review": Follows the icon's journey through the '70s.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers