Check out the capsule reviews for the following March 11 releases:
“The Book Thief” (PG-13, 131 minutes, in English and some German with subtitles, Fox)
“The Book Thief” has its moments of brilliance, thanks in large part to an adept cast, led by Geoffrey Rush and newcomer Sophie Nelisse. But the movie about a girl adopted by a German couple during World War II also crystallizes the perils of book adaptations. Based on a bestselling novel, the movie tries heartily to contain writer Markus Zusak’s myriad plot points, but the result is a rushed conclusion, which tempers the intended tear-jerking climax. There is plenty here to create both an emotional payoff and a healthy dose of suspense. But director Brian Percival’s film squanders the opportunities by squeezing a number of other subplots into the two-hour run time. These threads have the space to breathe and evolve in a novel, but when it comes to the film, less would have been more. Contains violence and depictions of death. Extras include deleted scenes.
Also, on Blu-ray: “A Hidden Truth: Bringing the Book Thief to Life” featurette.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” (R, 104 minutes, Sony)
As “Inside Llewyn Davis” opens, the title character, a folk singer in Greenwich Village, holds a Gaslight Cafe audience spellbound with a hushed, perfectly studied rendition of the traditional tune “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me.” The year is 1961, when the Village folk scene was on the verge of transforming into a tourist destination where dilettantes could gawk at commodified Beats and musicians could turn into “careerists.” The adamantly uncommercial Llewyn is having none of it, preferring the scuffed patina of unassailable — and impoverished — artistic purity. As embodied by the gifted actor and singer Oscar Isaac in a poignant, mesmerizing breakout performance, Llewyn emerges as an improbably sympathetic anti-hero. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the film is a tender, startlingly straight-faced departure from their established house style of cool, ironic distance. Contains profanity, including some sexual references. . Extras include a making-of documentary, featuring the Coen brothers, Isaac, co-stars Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman, and musicians/composers T-Bone Burnett, Marcus Mumford and Chris Thile.
“Broken Circle Breakdown” (unrated, 111 minutes, in Flemish and English with subtitles, Tribeca Film/Cinedigm)
Bluegrass musicians Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) and Elise (Veerle Baetens) harmonize magnificently onstage and off in this Oscar foreign film nominee. They have the kind of ardent relationship that might make other couples jealous. But the Flemish drama doesn’t deal just with the fortunes of love at first sight; it examines in aching detail the limitations of a seemingly perfect relationship when tragedy strikes. Some moments of the movie might leave viewers feeling bereft or gut-punched, but the sublime sounds (along with the sweet and silly scenes of the pair falling in love) provide respites from the sorrow. You could call the movie a musical, though more in the small-scale sense of “Once” than “Les Miserables.” Contains strong language, nudity, sex and mature themes. Extras include an interview with director Felix van Groeningen.
“Out of the Furnace” (R, 116 minutes, Fox)
The unforgiving back roads and rusted-out mill towns of Appalachia provide the bleak backdrop and emotional landscape of this well-acted, beautifully filmed, yet depressing chronicle of revenge and thwarted dreams in post-industrial America. Anchored by compelling performances from Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, “Out of the Furnace” may have taken its title and setting from Thomas Bell’s 1941 novel about the immigrant community in Braddock, Pa., and the history of unionization, but director Scott Cooper, with co-writer Brad Inglesby, sets his story squarely in the recent past, when Bale’s character, Russell Baze, works in a steel mill on the brink of closing while his brother, Rodney (Affleck), prepares for yet another tour in Iraq. Cooper, who directed “Crazy Heart” a few years ago, once again evinces a gift for conveying atmosphere, carefully framing and composing his shots to lend “Out of the Furnace” an air of dignity. And he knows how to get the best from his actors. Contains strong violence, profanity and drug content. Blu-ray extras include four featurettes cover the film’s inspiration, its director, a fight scenes making-of and the music.
Also: “Homefront” (Jason Statham crime thriller, Universal); “Enemies Closer,” “The Outsider,” “Geography Club” (loosely based on Brent Hartinger’s coming-of-age novels), “Puncture Wounds,” “The Time Being,” “A Cross to Bear” (a Dove family-approved film, RLJ/One Village Entertainment), “Beyond Outrage” (Japan), “Mademoiselle C” (France, documentary on French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld), “Abner the Invisible Dog,” “The Armistice,” “George Washington” (2000, indie film festival favorite, The Criterion Collection), “JFK: The Smoking Gun” (Reelz channel documentary), “100 Years of Wrigley Field” (documentary, includes bonus footage of Ernie Banks statue dedication and number retirement ceremonies for Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux, Lionsgate), “Against the Wild” (a Dove family-approved film), “Commitment” (South Korea), “Eric Clapton: The 1970s Review” (documentary), “End of the World” (Syfy original movie) and “Noah’s Ark” (2007, Argentina, animated).
Television Series: “Siberia: Season One,” “Big History” (History Channel miniseries based on philanthropist Bill Gates and historian David Christian’s The Big History Project), “Rogue: First Season” (DirecTV series), “The Science of Measurement” (U.S. debut of BBC documentary series, Athena), “Bubble Guppies: Animals Everywhere!” (Nickelodeon), “The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock” (1986-88), “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem” (Nickelodeon), “Angelina Ballerina: Spring Fling,” “Talks About Nothing” (interviews with great thinkers filmed at New York City’s Rubin Museum, Athena), “Transformers Armada: The Complete Series” and “Drawing with Mark: Something Fishy/A Day at the Aquarium” and “Drawing with Mark: Good to Grow/Life on the Farm (educational, with draw-along booklet, Shelter Island).
Washington Post staff writer Kay Coyte contributed to this report.