- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A look at an American war hero and a modern day take on Shakespeare highlight Blu-ray home entertainment releases this week.

American Sniper (Warner Home Video, Rated R, $44.95) — Director Clint Eastwood’s multiple Academy Award-nominated film exploring the complexities of war and its effects on the soldiers who return home finally arrives in the Blu-ray format.

Specifically, Mr. Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall brought to light the impactful life of Iraq War veteran Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American history, with help from an outstanding performance by a transformed Bradley Cooper as Kyle and support from actress Sienna Miller as his wife Taya.

Although the heartbreaking narrative certainly carries the 134-minute movie, the combat scenes really explode on home theater screens through a potent combination of the crisp digital transfer and the 7.1 Dolby Atmos surround sound track option.

The firefight during a sandstorm offers one the best example of the onscreen digital magic. The transfer offers with eerie clarity Kyle and his team’s situation as weather deteriorates and hostiles attack supplemented by the nerve-wracking sounds of a confusing gun battle and escape.

Those not yet invested with the capacity to hear the film in Dolby Atmos, will still find a multi-surround speaker set-up as fulfilling.

Extras are a bit light considering the impact and success of the movie.

Best of a pair of 30-minute featurettes is the high-definition making of documentary “One Soldier’s Story: The Journey of ‘American Sniper.’ ” The information-packed effort explains the detailed development and shooting of the movie with help from interviews of cast and crew and most importantly the words from Chris Kyle’s widow Taya Kyle, Mr. Hall, Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Cooper.

The package would have been complete if Mr. Eastwood had offered an optional commentary track to a movie that I consider one of his finest efforts.

Cymbeline (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Rated R, $19.99) — A modern adaptation of the classic Shakespearean play “Cymbeline” got transformed into an American crime drama about a war between corrupt cops and a biker gang in an odd cinematic offering from director Michael Almereyda last year.

With its arrival to Blu-ray, it’s hard not to feel like we are watching an extended episode of “Sons of Anarchy,” except for the majority of the dialogue is performed exactly from the actual play and not modernized.

Ed Harris handles the role of Cymbeline who instead of a king of Britain is now a drug crime lord dealing with a plotting queen (Milla Jovovich), petulant daughter (Dakota Johnson) and an ambitious stepson (Anton Yelchin) looking to take his throne.

Presented in a 1:85:1 widescreen format, the action fills home theater screens, and the transfer most shines in any of the outdoor scenes or examining some of the modern costuming.

The primary extra is actually more fascinating at points than the movie.

Specifically, an optional commentary track features Mr. Almereyda, (known for his modern adaptation of “Hamlet”) getting some level of validation for his “Cymbeline” effort from Shakespeare expert Anthony Holden.

The professorial Mr. Holden provides a steady stream of fascinating literary and historical expertise to the proceedings with words on the original and updated work.

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