New video: ‘Widows’ is a sophisticated, twisty thriller
New on Blu-ray
“Widows” (20th Century Fox DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.99; 4K, $39.99; also available on VOD)
The sophisticated heist thriller “Widows” plays like a full season of a top-shelf TV drama, compressed into two hours — which makes sense, since it’s based on a British TV series created by “Prime Suspect” writer Lynda La Plante. Directed by “12 Years a Slave” helmer Steve McQueen, and co-written with bestselling “Gone Girl” novelist Gillian Flynn, the film stars Viola Davis as a Chicago crime boss’s wife, who recruits other plucky mob molls to help her pull off a lucrative job after they all lose their husbands. The story also follows a political campaign between an entrenched Irish American power broker (Colin Farrell) and an upstart African American gangster (Brian Tyree Henry). In other words, “Widows” has two good, twisty plots, both rooted in the idea that people who’ve been underestimated their whole lives are in a unique position to usurp the old guard.
[Special features: A trio of featurettes]
“High Flying Bird” (available 2/8 on Netflix)
Director Steven Soderbergh’s latest exercise in iPhone filmmaking features a script by “Moonlight” writer Tarell Alvin McCraney and a lead performance by “Moonlight” supporting actor André Holland. Holland plays a tough, visionary sports agent, determined to invert the power structure by putting the players at the top of the financial pyramid instead of the owners. An all-star cast — including Kyle MacLachlan, Zachary Quinto and Zazie Beetz — bring some showbiz crackle to a low-budget yet thrillingly of-the-moment drama, about one possible future for the pro basketball industry.
TV set of the week
“The Americans: The Complete Series” (20th Century Fox DVD, $49.98)
From 2013 to 2018 — six seasons in all — FX aired the rich, frequently shocking saga of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a pair of KGB agents working undercover as married middle-class travel agents in Reagan-era Washington. By the end of the show’s run, this sprawling tale of nuclear anxiety and anti-Soviet hysteria had taken on a new resonance, as the Russians and the U.S. opened up a new, 21st century version of their old Cold War. And yet beyond its enduring sociopolitical significance, “The Americans” was great TV because of its characters and performances, led by Keri Russell as a dogged ideologue, Matthew Rhys as her more morally conflicted husband, and Noah Emmerich as a well-meaning FBI agent literally living next door to his enemy.
[Special features: Deleted scenes, featurettes and commentaries on selected episodes]
From the archives
“Shame” (Criterion DVD, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95)
Ingmar Bergman was nearing the end of his astonishing run of oblique 1960s arthouse classics when he made 1968’s “Shame,” a film that tells a relatively straightforward story relevant to its era. Bergman regulars Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow play a married couple who have differing views on how involved they should be with what’s happening in their war-torn country. “Shame” builds tension both from domestic spats and from the way the husband and wife react in life-or-death situations. The Swedish master always denied this movie was inspired by the Vietnam War, but it does feel especially pointed in the way it asks whether well-meaning people can stay neutral during times of violent tumult.
[Special features: New and vintage interviews]
Three more to see
“The Guilty” (Magnolia DVD, $26.97; also available on VOD); “The Long Dumb Road” (Universal DVD, $19.98; Blu-ray, $22.98; also available on VOD); “The Sisters Brothers” (20th Century Fox DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.99; also available on VOD)
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