This week’s new DVDs feature truth, justice and the British way.
“The Judge,” Grade B”: Director David Dobkin is lucky to have Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. starring in his new trial drama, “The Judge.” Their Oscar-caliber performances — including Downey’s first outstanding performance since his Oscar-nominated effort in “Chaplin” more than two decades ago — give this familiar family-centric tale of small town justice new life.
The screenplay by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque is carefully structured to bring father and son together. They put the characters on an emotional and judicial collision course that leaves both men battered and bruised. The pacing is just right so that any changes they experience feel carried by the forgiveness that often comes with the passing of time.
“Fury,” Grade A-: It takes amazing skill to make a war film like this that is so bravely honest in its depiction of the horrors and heroics of war. These are no gallant warriors meeting on the field of battle for a chivalrous conflict.
Director/writer David Ayer gives the actors plenty of room to not play soldiers, but also to show the people who exist inside those uniforms. A scene where the tank crew is given a few moments rest in a newly liberated town plays out with a haunting emotional tone that smoothly shifts from the excitement of young love to the bitter realities of war. There’s not as much fighting in the sequence, yet each moment is equally explosive.
The movie shows that war is brutal in the way it strips away the human spirit and leaves the participants reacting with a kind of prehistoric instinct for survival.
“Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Season 5,” Grade B+: Any discussion about the value of public television should include mention of this series. For those who don’t pay for cable, this series is the best offering they can see via antenna. It’s also one of the top 10 shows when you factor in cable.
This latest season — just rolling out on PBS — finds the Crawley family and members of their staff facing the usual collection of emotional trials. The big difference is they are played out against the Roaring Twenties.
Dame Maggie Smith and Joanne Froggatt top a superb cast that also includes, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery .
The DVD set comes with more than 40 minutes of additional video.
Also new on DVD Jan. 27:
• “Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring”: Gerard Depardieu stars in these two films about greed and survival.
• “The Book of Life”: Young man sets out on an epic quest.
• “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis”: Heroes face threat from Atlantians.
• “Art and Craft”: Examines the life of art forger Mark Landis .
• “Mas Negro Que La Noche”: Four women are trapped in a sinister mansion.
• “Born of War”: Revenge drives a young woman into battle.
• “Arthur: Fountain Abbey”: Adventure inspired by “Downton Abbey.”
• “Kingdom of Dreams and Madness”: Director Mami Sunada’s look at Studio Ghibli.
• “The Remaining”: Five friends try to survive a series of cataclysmic events.
• “Maison Close: Season One”: TV series that takes viewers into an exclusive 19th century bordello.
• “The Color of Time”: James Franco collaborates with 12 film grad students.
• “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?”: Film crew gets involved with a Japanese gang feud.
• “Regular Show: Mordecai Pack”: Includes 16 episodes of the Cartoon Network show spotlighting Mordecai.
• “Big Driver”: Novelist is determined to get revenge after a brutal crime.
• “My Little Pony: The Movie”: With Hydia wants to spoil a big festival.
• “Open Windows”: Date with a Hollywood actress takes a dark turn.
• “Henry V”: Kenneth Branagh stars in and directs this film based on the work by William Shakespeare.
• “Feed the Gods”: Brothers uncover a mystery about their foster mother.