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DVD reviews: A Most Violent Year and Winter Sleep

A Most Violent Year

The eyes have it in this simmering crime drama from writer/director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call). But what are these windows to the soul telling us?

Oscar Isaac’s deep brown orbs reveal everything and nothing about his character Abel Morales, an ambitious heating-oil entrepreneur in the crime-ridden New York of 1981. He’s working a waterfront land deal that will give his firm, Standard Heating Oil, the edge in a cutthroat industry. But thugs connected to rival concerns are attacking his drivers and salesmen and stealing his oil. This threatens his livelihood — and maybe also his life.

He seems like a decent man, the son of hardworking immigrants.

Doubt increases with the entrance of Abel’s wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), whose piercing green eyes are much easier to read.

The daughter of a local mob boss, there’s no doubt she’s familiar with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the ruthlessness of it if not the tragedy. If Abel doesn’t fight back, hard, she’ll see that action is taken.

Chandor and cinematographer Bradford Young bring an assured sense of menace to the film, carefully raising the stakes with visual cues and clues.

Extras include deleted scenes, director/producer commentary and making-of featurettes.

Winter Sleep

The title of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s epic Palme d’Or winner from Cannes 2014 refers to hibernation in both environmental and spiritual terms.

We gradually get to know about Turkish hotel owner Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) and how he treats the people around him, including his acerbic sister (Demet Akbag) and young wife (Melisa Sozen).

Aydin initially appears benevolent. But his true nature as a selfish and judgmental person seeps through the film’s 197-minute running time.

So does a slow-dawning realization that Aydin’s chest-thumping view of himself as an alpha male, and his hypocritical attitudes towards the poor, have deprived him of much love and affection.

Ceylan spins gold in thought and image, with this morality tale, inspired by Chekhov short stories, of a wealthy man who sins by omission.

Peter Howell

Top 10 sales

1. Gates of Heaven / Vernon, Florida (Criterion)

2. The Thin Blue Line (Criterion)

3. Altman (2014)

4. Interstellar

5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

6. Into the Woods (2014)

7. Maude: The Complete Series

8. Musicals 4-Movie Collection

9. The Prowler (1951)

10. David and Lisa (1962)

Bay Street Video


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