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DVDs & Blu-rays: Memorial Day and Coriolanus

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Memorial Day

stars Jonathan Bennett and James Cromwell; Sam Fischer directs.

It's the day after Memorial Day, but we're still in the mood for heroes. Two films being released on DVD/Blu-ray today feature, if not out-and-out heroes, at least heroic warriors. First up is Memorial Day, the story of an American soldier in present-day Iraq whose wartime experiences are intertwined with those of his grandfather during WWII. Two men from different generations fighting two different wars find that courage is about more than pulling the trigger.

Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls) plays Kyle Vogel, while James Cromwell (Babe) plays his grandfather Bud. (Cromwell's real-life son, John Cromwell, plays young Bud in flashbacks.) On Memorial Day 1993, 13-year-old Kyle finds his WWII footlocker. It's filled with relics, including a German gun. When Bud refuses to discuss the items and the memories they evoke, Kyle asks him, "What am I supposed to remember?"

Lauded for its accurate portrayal of the inner lives of soldiers, on and off the battlefield, the film recently won the Best Narrative Feature Award at the 2012 GI Film Festival. Extras include audio commentary with director Sam Fischer, writer Marc Conklin and John Cromwell as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Coriolanus

stars Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler and Vanessa Redgrave; Fiennes directs.

Next is Coriolanus. Based on the Shakespeare tragedy, this modernized version (the language remains the same) stars three of our favorite actors, Ralph Fiennes, who also directs, Gerard Butler and Vanessa Redgrave. Fiennes is the title character, a courageous Roman general who, while brilliant on the battlefield, is less than adequate in the political arena. He shuns the limelight and refuses to play the hero for Rome's ungrateful citizens, who, he tells us, "like neither peace nor war." Maybe it's pride; maybe it's just a sense of morality.

His mother Volumnia (Redgrave in a role she completely inhabits) happily touts the number of his war wounds, while his wife (a lovely and fragile Jessica Chastain) waits anxiously for his safe return from battle.

Butler is his sworn enemy, Aufidius, and in many ways the only man who understands him. When Rome turns against him, for no other reason than that he seems to be a bit too self-important, Coriolanus rejects his people and joins Aufidius's army, marching against his countrymen.

The settings are grand, and the battle scenes grisly. Redgrave is delicious as Volumnia, playing the old lioness with a fire in her eyes that betrays her hunger for power, her willingness to sacrifice her son's life for a bit of secondhand honor.

Extras include commentary by Fiennes and a The Making of Coriolanus featurette.

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