• Director finds right tempo in ‘A Most Violent Year’
• ‘The Book of Negroes’ tells big, small history stories
• ‘Frasier’ was smart long before ‘Big Bang Theory’
This week’s new DVD releases range from historical to hysterical.
“A Most Violent Year,” Grade B: Immigrant fights to protect his family and his business during the early 1980s in New York. Jessica Chastain stars.
Chastain’s riveting Lady Macbeth-like performance as Anna Morales elevates “A Most Violent Year” from a standard mugs and thugs tale into a thought-provoking look at the struggle for power. That struggle gets even more complicated when the lines between good and evil are as faint as a contract killer’s conscience.
“A Most Violent Year” never feels rushed. Director J.C. Chandor sets a tempo that allows Oscar Isaac to play his character with control, while giving Chastain the time she needs to manipulate behind the throne.
“The Book of Negroes,” Grade B: The BET production looks at the journey of a woman — Aminata Diallo (Aunjanue Ellis ) — who found her freedom from slavery and was part of the efforts by the British to register in the book the former slaves who were loyal to them. The miniseries is based on the novel by Lawrence Hill that tracks Diallo’s story.
This is a wonderful story that looks at the atrocities of slavery much in the way “Roots” did almost 40 years ago. At the same time, it’s a moving and compelling tale of a woman who lived through this period and it became as much a part of her life as it is in American history.
“Frasier: The Complete Series,” Grade A: Long before “The Big Bang Theory,” this popular TV comedy was generating laughs through the same smart humor.
The jokes were delivered by one of the best ensemble casts to ever grace network TV with the likes of Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney .
This is one series that should be in all DVD libraries.
Also new on DVD April 7
• “Macgyver: The Complete Collection”: Richard Dean Anderson series about an adventurer who uses his wits to stay alive.
• “Matlock: The Complete Series”: Andy Griffith wins court cases in the series that ran for 178 episodes.
• “Manhattan: Season 1”: Cable series about the development of the atomic bomb.
• “Voices”: Ryan Reynolds plays a likable guy who gets help from his talking pets.
• “Singles”: Seattle 20-something searches for love. Matt Dillon stars.
• “Drop Dead Diva – Sixth Season”: This is the final season of the cable series about a woman who gets a second chance at life.
• “Flutter”: Young mother struggles to nurture her son in the face of incarceration.
• “Grantchester”: Crime drama series that aired on “Masterpiece Mystery.”
• “Killers”: Psychopathic Japanese executive triggers a journalist’s dark side.
• “Yellowbird”: Elder of a flock must share all his secrets. Seth green stars.
• “A Genius Leaves the Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay Z”: Chronicle of the hip-hop artist’s rise to fame.
• “Home Sweet Hell”: Katherine Heigl plays a woman who will stop at nothing to save her perfect suburban life.
• “King of the Hill: Season 9”: Among the 15 episodes is the one where Bobby is asked to join the track and field team.
• “Breathless”: The Richard Gere remake of the French film is now on Blu-ray.
• “Barney Miller: Season 7”: Includes 22 episodes of the comedy about the officers of the 12th Precinct.
• “The Simon Wiesenthal Collection”: Set includes such titles as “Genocide” and “It’s No Dream.”
• “Pelican Dreams”: A wayward California brown pelican is followed.
• “Mentir para Vivir”: The Univision series was nominated for best telenovela in 2014.
• “One Step Beyond”: Seventy of the 96 original episodes of the 1950s TV series are in this set.
• “Invaders from Mars”: The 1986 remake of the classic sci-fi movie is being re-released.