New this week on video
Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."
Updated: April 10, 2012 9:50AM
NEW THIS WEEK
INTO THE ABYSS
★ ★ ★ 1/2
Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material and some disturbing images
Stars: Jason Burkett, Michael Perry, Werner Herzog
Director Werner Herzog’s documentary on capital punishment (focusing on a senseless 2001 triple murder in a small Texas town) offers little in the way of debate or analysis or even basic information about the practice. As an unflinching look at the tragedy of lives wasted and lives stolen, though, and the collateral damage suffered by families of murder victims and professionals who participate in executions, it has profound emotional impact.
THE IRON LADY
★ ★ 1/2
Rated: PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity
Stars: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent
Though Streep’s Oscar-winning performance as the iron-willed (and occasionally iron-fisted) British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is richly detailed and compelling, the same can’t be said for this surprisingly superficial bio-drama. Director Phyllida Lloyd (who also directed Streep in “Mamma Mia”) short-shrifts Thatcher’s political career in favor of Margaret Thatcher: Human Being — placing the emphasis on her declining years and her marriage, only hinting at the personal price she paid for power. Extras include several mini-documentaries including “Denis Thatcher: The Man Behind the Woman.”
★ ★ ★ ★
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
A major factor in the legends of both star Nicholson and director Roman Polanski (and Hollywood player/screenwriter Robert Towne), “Chinatown” continues to hold up as an instant-classic re-envisioning of 1930s and ’40s hard-boiled detective movies. Everything about this film is first-rate, particularly the supporting cast of Huston and Dunaway as Los Angeles power brokers too powerful and corrupt (and depraved), ultimately, for private eye Nicholson to handle. Blu-ray extras include commentary by Towne and filmmaker David Fincher (“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and an appreciation of “Chinatown” by Hollywood elite.
★ ★ ★
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence
Stars: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan
Steven Spielberg’s epic World War I drama about the soul connection between a farm boy and a thoroughbred stallion-turned-plow horse-turned-wartime beast of burden, turns out to be a bit of an odd duck. That’s not to say it’s not beautifully crafted, grand in scope and deeply moving at its best — yet shifting the story from the horse’s point of view diffuses the emotional impact. Extras include several mini-documentaries.
THE DARKEST HOUR
Five young people in Moscow (Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby are featured) face the attack of invisible aliens seeking Earth’s water supply. Chris Gorak (“Right at Your Door”) directed the sci-fi thriller. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. Extras include deleted and extended scenes.
CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS
This digitally-remastered vintage entry from the long-running British sci-fi series features the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) confronting monsters materializing via the intergalactic peep show of a traveling entertainer. Extras include commentary and a making-of documentary.
A HOLLIS FRAMPTON ODYSSEY
This Criterion Collection release packages the productions of avant-garde filmmaker Hollis Frampton. In all, 24 films from 1966 to 1979 are featured, including “Surface Tension,” “Critical Mass” and his unfinished “Magellan” cycle — all digitally restored and remastered. Extras include a 1968 performance piece by Frampton, who died in 1984.
ICE AGE DEATH TRAP
This PBS documentary details the discovery of a treasure trove of Ice Age fossil remains exhumed after a bulldozer clearing ground at a Colorado ski resort turned up a tooth so large it had to be held with two hands.
This restored version of Elia Kazan’s classic 1951 film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play (starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh), now debuting on Blu-ray, contains three minutes of footage censored at the request of the Catholic Legion of Decency. Extras include five documentaries on the film, a commentary by costar Karl Malden, outtakes and Brando’s screen test.
Two special collections take the spotlight: “Frozen Planet,” a seven-part BBC documentary series on the polar regions; and “Ernie Kovacs: The ABC Specials,” featuring eight 1961 specials the pioneering TV comedian made during the year of his death.