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'Buried,' 'Animal Kingdom,' 'Justified,' 'Stone.'

January 16, 2011|By Noel Murray, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Ryan Reynolds' character is buried alive in the Iraq desert in "Buried."
Ryan Reynolds' character is buried alive in the Iraq desert in "Buried." (Lionsgate, Lionsgate )

Buried

Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $29.95

In the ingenious "Buried," Ryan Reynolds plays contract truck driver Paul Conroy, who wakes up in an Iraq desert in a sand-covered coffin, with only a cellphone and a lighter. For the next 90 minutes, Conroy makes calls to try to arrange his ransom — or his rescue. "Buried" could use a little more back story, but Reynolds holds the audience's attention well for an hour and a half, while director Rodrigo Cortés and screenwriter Chris Sparling overlay a preposterous premise with familiar modern complaints, making the movie as much about the limitations of technology (stupid, weak cellphones!) and public institutions (stupid, lying bureaucrats!) as it is about the war against terrorism. The DVD and Blu-ray add a featurette.

Animal Kingdom

Sony, $28.95; Blu-ray, $34.95

The grubby, low-rent Australian crime saga "Animal Kingdom" follows a newly orphaned teenager as he goes to live with his relatives, all of whom are professional thugs. First-time feature-director David Michôd tries too hard to be hip at times, and star James Frecheville lacks leading-man charisma, but "Animal Kingdom" is pleasurably twisty and introduces two great characters: the hero's grandmother (played by Jacki Weaver), a sweet-faced lady with a well-honed sense of self-preservation; and his Uncle Pope (played by Ben Mendelsohn), who tests the mettle of everyone in his circle. The DVD and Blu-ray include interviews with Weaver and Mendelsohn, plus a Michôd commentary.

Justified: The Complete First Season

Sony, $39.95; Blu-ray, $49.95

In the tradition of top-flight FX dramas "The Shield" and "Sons of Anarchy," "Justified" serves up a smarter sort of two-fisted action — the kind that weighs the moral cost of impulsive violence. "Justified," though, is a little lighter than its predecessors, in keeping with the Elmore Leonard stories that inspired the series. Timothy Olyphant stars as Raylan Givens, a man out of time: a wild-west-style lawman working as a U.S. marshall to bring in the drug kingpins, burglars and con men of the Kentucky hills. The show's 13-episode first season (available on DVD and Blu-ray with featurettes and commentary tracks) follows Givens' efforts to settle some old scores, but while the action can be intense, the rough stuff is balanced by witty dialogue and clever cases.

Stone

Anchor Bay, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Robert De Niro plays a retiring correctional officer and Edward Norton plays his last case in "Stone," an unusual chamber drama that generates a surprising amount of tension from two people sitting in an office. As the criminal and his assessor discuss parole, writer Angus MacLachlan and director John Curran explore the men's lives, raising challenging questions about whether the only real difference between a prisoner and a free man is that the prisoner got caught. The movie takes odd turns and can be overly sensationalistic, but De Niro and Norton have great chemistry, and it's fascinating to watch them dance around each other (without ever leaving their chairs). The DVD and Blu-ray add a featurette.

And...

"Down Terrace" (Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98); "Eichmann" (E1, $24.98); "Freakonomics: The Movie" (Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98); "Jack Goes Boating" (Overture/Anchor Bay, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99); "Lebanon" (Sony, $28.95; Blu-ray, $38.96); "Takers" (Sony, $28.95; Blu-ray, $34.95)

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