DVDs & Blu-rays: Into the Abyss, The Iron Lady and More Marlon Brando

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Into the Abyss

stars Jason Burkett and Michael Perry; Werner Herzog directs.

Directors, like actors, build a reputation over time and audiences come to know what to expect from them. Werner Herzog is one of those directors. With a career that spans Aguirre: Wrath of God to Grizzly Man, Herzog now contributes Into the Abyss to the DVD/Blu-ray universe. The 2011 documentary is set in Texas and centers on the case of Michael Perry and Jason Burkett. As young men, the two took a joyride in Conroe. Things escalated, and after killing three people, the pair was caught after a shootout with police.

Herzog offers no defense for Perry and Burkett. His focus is on the flawed system of capital punishment. For their crime, Perry was given the death penalty while Burkett was sentenced to 40 years. Interviews with the men's family members show them alternately defending them (Perry's wife says he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and with the wrong person) and taking responsibility for the men's actions (Burkett's father blames his own bad parenting for his son's criminal behavior).

In the end, Herzog clearly delivers a "two wrongs don't make a right" message against the death penalty. Perry and Burkett might not be the most sympathetic of characters, but it's the justice system's practice of state-sponsored death that Herzog shows is the real criminal.

The Iron Lady

stars Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent; Phyllida Lloyd directs.

Meryl Streep gives one of her most powerful performances yet in The Iron Lady, the story of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Streep took home an Oscar for her portrayal of the ambitious and tough-as-nails Thatcher. But director Lloyd also shows a softer side to the controversial figure; there's a loving and supportive relationship with her husband Denis, and her childhood as a grocer's daughter.

Streep is, well, Streep. Consummate as an actor, she makes no missteps in The Iron Lady.

Extras include several featurettes including Making The Iron Lady, Denis: The Man Behind the Woman and Battle in the House of Commons.

Streetcar Named Desire

stars Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden; Elia Kazan directs.

Art Attack spoke with Eva Marie Saint recently about her film On the Waterfront, and her co-star Marlon Brando, so when we saw two Brando releases set for this week, we made sure to take a look.

There's director Elia Kazan's original edition of Streetcar Named Desire, with Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. (We can thank the Legion of Decency for its censorship of certain scenes back in 1951.) There are three minutes of previously unseen footage, most of which deal with the animal attraction between Stanley (Brando) and Stella (Kim Hunter). Watch for the scene where Stella responds to Stanley's calling for her and walks down the stairs to him. It's the epitome of raw, sexual attraction.

Brando also appears in the box set release Great Classic Western Collection, ten American westerns on four discs. Brando and Karl Malden team up again for One-Eyed Jacks, the story of betrayal and revenge. Brando was also in the director's seat.

The set also includes several Randolph Scott films (Rage at Dawn, To the Last Man and Abilene Town), while Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan appear in Santa Fe Trail, among others.

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