'American Sniper' a simple, mesmerizing tale of war and its aftermath

'American Sniper' a simple, mesmerizing tale of war and its aftermath
"American Sniper" stars Bradley Cooper as sharpshooter Chris Kyle. (Warner Bros.)

American Sniper

Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $44.95


Available on VOD on May 19

Politics aside, it's incredible that a director as distinguished as Clint Eastwood — and, let's face it, as old — could make a movie in the 2010s that earns half a billion dollars at the global box office. Granted, Eastwood's film won't appeal to everybody. Screenwriter Jason Hall's adaptation of military sharpshooter Chris Kyle's memoir is ostensibly plotless, stringing together one scene after another of Kyle either in life-or-death combat or dealing with post-traumatic stress back home. This is a movie about sacrifice that laments the after-effects but doesn't really question the need; nor does it work its hero's journey into any kind of familiar narrative arc. But Bradley Cooper gives a measured, magnetic performance as Kyle, and Eastwood keeps his visual storytelling as simple as ever, serving the truth of each moment rather than trying to sensationalize. The "American Sniper" DVD and Blu-ray are simple too, tacking on a pair of slight featurettes.


Strand, $27.99; Blu-ray, $32.99

Céline Sciamma's French slice-of-life starts small, telling a very particular story about a teenager from the Paris projects who joins a girl gang. Then it gradually builds into a sociological study of crime among inner-city French youth. Sciamma shows a lot of the same sensitivity to how adolescents interact as in her earlier films "Water Lilies" and "Tomboy," but she brings more ambition to her storytelling, following her heroine (played by Karidja Touré) as loyalty to her friends changes her life plans. The final third is very different from where the movie begins, which is a rare thing for this kind of realistic drama. The DVD and Blu-ray add an interview with Touré.


Sony Pictures Classics, $30.99; Blu-ray, $34.99

Available on VOD on May 19

For the Oscar nominee and Cannes prize winner, writer-director director Andrey Zvyagintsev (best known for "The Return" and "Elena") converts the biblical Book of Job into a contemporary social satire. Aleksei Serebryakov stars as Kolya, an unemployed man who challenges his small town's corrupt bureaucracy and keeps ending up worse off every time he tries to do right. Perfectly pitched, darkly funny and strangely universal, it's a new classic of Russian cinema. The DVD and Blu-ray come suitably loaded, with deleted scenes, featurettes and a commentary track.


Lionsgate, $19.98; Blu-ray, $19.99

Art-film stalwart Michael Almereyda makes movies that are hard to pin down: This one-of-a-kind mix of avant-garde experimentation and literary adaptation is his second stab at Shakespeare. It re-teams the writer-director with his "Hamlet" star Ethan Hawke in a small role as a lecher whose deceptions help set the plot in motion. Ed Harris plays the title character, a drug-dealing biker-gang lord struggling to hold on to his empire. Almereyda's use of Shakespeare's language in a modern, pulp setting isn't as inspired as it is in "Hamlet," but his fans — and fans of daring American indies — should find a lot here that's worth their time. The Blu-ray has an Almereyda/Hawke commentary track and featurettes; the DVD adds only the latter.


Before I Disappear

MPI, $24.98

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Series

HBO, $199.99; Blu-ray, $239.99

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Paramount, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99


Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Orange Is the New Black: The Complete Second Season

Lionsgate, $39.98; Blu-ray, $39.97

The Rose

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95