insideLlwenInside Llewyn Davis (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand), the latest by the Joel and Ethan Coen, was almost entirely overlooked at the Oscars this year. Perhaps that’s because, despite the astounding recreation of the Greenwich Village scene and an atmosphere and texture that you can almost feel through the screen, struggling folk singer Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is not a particularly likable guy. Which is not to say he’s a villain or even a bigger jerk than some of the folks around him, but while he’s not mean-spirited or malevolent (well, apart from that one time, and you’ll know it when you see it), he is insensitive and self-absorbed. Despite the beauty of his musical performances, he doesn’t connect with people. And he certainly doesn’t get what folk audiences see in the rest of the musicians struggling for an audience at the local folk clubs.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a road movie that circles back on itself in pretty much every way, a road to oblivion that Llewyn tramps in hope of finding his success, but is not a success story. Llewyn has been called “a loser” by some critics, but that’s not fair. His failure isn’t artistic, it’s commercial, and he endures the bad luck that afflicts so many of the hard-luck characters of the Coen Bros. universe without the comic bounce or dogged resilience that saves those few who persevere. That sly, sardonic Coen tone is more understated here, found in the little details of existence and the odd nuances of the offbeat characters (and John Goodman is truly one outsized, offbeat creation as a jazz musician with a heroin addiction) and the unusual situations that get amplified and echoed throughout the film. Just don’t expect the punchlines or big dramatic payoffs you get from other filmmakers. It’s not altogether satisfying necessarily, but neither does it let go when it’s over. The music, which T-Bone Burnett once again helped create for the Coens, is superb.

More from Cinephiled film critic James Rocchi: “another Coen Brothers film where the writing-directing pair take a narrow slice of American history and pop culture and inform that narrow breadth of time and space with dry comedy and an astonishing eye for detail.”

Blu-ray and DVD with the 42-minute “Inside Inside Llewyn Davis.” The Coens don’t do commentary tracks but they do talk about the film in this production, as do stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Star Sands, John Goodman and F. Murray Abraham, music producer T Bone Burnett, musical contributor Marcus Mumford, director of photography Bruno Delbonnel, and other members of the cast and crew.

BrokenCircleThe Broken Circle Breakdown (Tribeca, DVD, Digital, VOD), one of five nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this year (it lost to The Great Beauty), is devastating. And I mean that in all the best ways. The story of a passionate love rocked by tragedy, it is both joyous and anguished, celebratory and sad. It’s set in a subculture of bluegrass aficionados in Belgium (who knew?), where it is practically love at first sight for banjo player and singer Didier (Johan Heldenbergh, who also wrote the original play) and tattoo artist Elise (Veerle Baetens), who soon joins the band as the sole female voice in the male harmonies. When their child, a little girl showered with love, is diagnosed with a deadly illness, they face the crisis in very different, unharmonious ways.

Director Felix Van Groeningen breaks up the timeline, introducing the couple as the try to hold it together while their daughter undergoes hospital tests and procedures and then flashing back to their early romance to contrast with the contemporary story. The structure gets more fractured as it continues, amping up the anxiety and the urgency of their ordeal. But while the film doesn’t flinch from the heavy toll it takes on Didier and Elise and their relationship, this isn’t all about ordeal. Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens are compelling performers who invite you to invest in their lives and the band provides a community of support and love for them and their daughter. The music they make, all covers of classic bluegrass songs, overflows with joy, just as the romance that plays out in flashback. The triumph of Van Groeningen is wrapping the heartbreak and anger up in the love and the support and leaving us celebrating what was rather than mourning what’s lost.

It’s in Flemish with English subtitles but all the songs are sung in English, and the sole supplement is a short (under four minutes) interview with director Felix Van Groeningen, which is in English. The disc is, unfortunately, not well mastered, with an image that is adequate for the most part but loses the gray between color and shadow in video noise. It’s not a distraction for the most part but is disappointing on the disc of an Oscar-nominated film. Also note that the film runs 111 minutes yet the case inaccurately lists the running time at 70 minutes (41 minutes short of its actual length). That might make a difference to folks planning an evening viewing.

Danny Miller interviews director Felix Van Groeningen for Cinephiled here.

JunkJunk (Breaking Glass, VOD, On Demand), the second film by indie director Kevin Hamedani, leaves behind the Zombies of Mass Destruction for a world he knows personally: the independent film festival circuit. Hamedani and co-screenwriter Ramon Isao also take the leading roles, playing former collaborators and best friends who fell out making their last picture and now have to reconnect when the film is accepted at a film festival where they hope to pitch a new project for a famous producer (James Hong). It’s pretty in-jokey, which will limit the audience to film buffs and festival regulars, but Hamedani and Isao are surprisingly strong in the leads, with a great chemistry that suggests a long history just in the byplay of their scenes together. And they have a lot of fun satirizing the egos of anxious filmmakers and the party atmosphere of these kinds of second-tier regional festivals. Hamedani shoots this one is Seattle (home to a lot of film fests) and fills it with some great indie faces, including Seattle’s breakthrough director Lynn Shelton (who should definitely act more), actor Jake Johnson, and local performers Sean Nelson and Basil Harris (terrific together in Shelton’s My Effortless Brilliance) as an arrogant filmmaker and his toadying assistant. OK Go provides the theme song and even makes an appearance, which is pretty cool. The disc is set for release on March 25.

BookThiefThe Book Thief (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD) is adapted from the young adult novel by Markus Zusak and stars Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as a kindly couple who adopt an orphaned girl (Sophie Nélisse) in 1930s Germany. While she steals and shares books forbidden by the Nazis, her adoptive parents hide a Jewish boy under the stairs of their home. “The Book Thief manages to feel both fresh and classic,” writes Martha Brockenbrough for Cinephiled. “What’s more, it avoids being aggressively “heartwarming” — something you can get for free online through Upworthy or any number of adorable kitten videos.” On Blu-ray and DVD with deleted scenes. The Blu-ray includes the featurette “A Hidden Truth: Bringing The Book Thief to Life.”

OutofFurnaceOut of the Furnace (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, On Demand), directed by Scott Cooper, is a rustbelt drama of hard lives in a dying mill town starring Christian Bale as a troubled guy who comes out of prison to find his Iraq-vet brother (Casey Affleck) working as a bare-knuckle brawler in illegal fights for a dangerous crook (Woody Harrelson). Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoë Saldana and Sam Shepard co-star. Danny Miller interviews star Casey Affleck for Cinephiled.

Also new and notable:

Homefront (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, On Demand), starring Jason Statham and James Franco and featuring a script by Sylvester Stallone (who originally developed the project for himself), was reviewed by James Rocchi for Cinephiled when it was in theaters in November. Features deleted scenes, and the Blu-ray includes bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD editions of the film.

BeyondOutrageBLURAYBeyond Outrage (Magnet, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD), Takeshi Kitano’s sequel to his 2010 yakuza thriller, finds Kitano as a retired boss pulled back in when an anti-gang detective instigates an underworld war between the crime families. In Japanese with English subtitles, with the hour-long documentary “Outrage Further Beyond.”

The Swedish crime sequel Easy Money: Hard to Kill (New Video, Blu-ray, DVD) brings Joel Kinnaman back to the drug trade after he serves his prison term. Swedish with English subtitles.

Frank Langella stars in The Time Being (Cinedigm, DVD) as a reclusive millionaire who hires young artist Wes Bentley for a series of unsettling surveillance assignments. Sarah Paulson and Corey Stoll co-star. Features an interview with director Nenad Cicin-Sain.

VOD / On Demand exclusives:birder-s-guide-to-everything-0-125-0-185-crop

A Birder’s Guide to Everything, a comedy with Ben Kingsley and Kodi Smit-McPhee, and the horror film Perfect Sisters with Abigail Breslin and Mira Sorvino, debuts On Demand in advance of their respective theatrical releases.

At the end of the week, the drama The Face Of Love with Annette Bening and Ed Harris and the comedy Better Living Through Chemistry with Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell debut On Demand the same day they debut in theaters.

Available VOD same day as theaters is the horror film remake Patrick: Evil Awakens (Phase 4), starring Charles Dance and Rachel Griffiths.

More releases:InFear

Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo (Disney, Blu-ray, DVD)
Commitment (Well Go USA, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital)
In Fear (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital)
Pig (Horizon, DVD)
Enemies Closer (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD)
In the Name of the King 3: The Last Mission (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Outsider (Image, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital)
Dark House (Cinedigm, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Puncture Wounds (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD, On Demand)
All Things to All Men (Screen Media, DVD)
End of the World (Anchor Bay, DVD)
101st: A-Company (Inception, DVD, VOD)
Armistice (XLrator, DVD)
Cross to Bear (RLJ/One Village, DVD, VOD)
JFK: The Smoking Gun – 50 Years Later (Cinedigm, DVD)
Geography Club (Breaking Glass, DVD)
The Hungover Games (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD)
Abner the Invisible Dog (Inception, DVD)

Calendar of upcoming releases on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, and VOD