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Detective Nick Cafmeyer is a cop with trauma-filled baggage. As a child he watched helplessly as his brother was abducted, never to be seen again, and as an adult he uses that pent-up rage to fuel his efforts in capturing bad guys. His latest case strikes too close to home though when a child is kidnapped with circumstances that bear a high degree of similarity to his own brother’s abduction. Nick’s prime suspect is the same man suspected of the earlier crime ‐ a man who was released from custody for lack of evidence but who over the years has continued to visit Nick only to stare and taunt him in silence.
There are some exceedingly grim actions here, both on display and (thankfully) inferred, but the film maintains a stark beauty about it thanks to steady direction and gorgeously haunted visuals. We move effortlessly ‐ perhaps on wheels coated with the grime of the villain’s truly heinous crimes ‐ between rural, urban and suburban locales, and while each is distinct they share a sheen of terrifying potential. This is a perfect viewing for fans of similarly dark-themed films like The Prestige, Prisoners and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Like those films, it’s also a slow-burn that holds the attention through growing suspense and the promise of devastating reveals. And I do mean devastating.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]
A young British soldier named Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) heads into an unstable Belfast for a routine mission, but after a riot breaks out and one of his fellow soldiers is murdered the unit hurriedly retreats from the area. Unfortunately, they accidentally leave Gary behind. On the run in unfamiliar and unfriendly territory Gary is forced to survive a night surrounded by people who see him as an enemy.
Think The Naked Prey with accents and clothes, and you’ll have an idea what to expect here. It’s a simple setup followed by a suspenseful and exciting execution that keeps things moving at an often blistering pace. The film’s own ideology walks a fine line between British and Irish interests from the early ’70s, and while the political undertones are present they never overshadow the immediate action and drama. O’Connell provides a strong core through it all.
[DVD extras: None]
A cargo ship drifts lifelessly into New York’s harbor, and when the authorities board the vessel they find dead bodies and a weird stash of pulsating egg-like sacs. One bursts, and shortly after the contents splash across an unsuspecting officer his chest bubbles and explodes in a shower of guts. It becomes a race against time to discover the source of the eggs as well as who’s behind the shipment, but when the truth is found it may be too late for the human species.
Picking up where Alien left off, but not really, this Italian gorefest follows a path where greed and alien intentions intertwine and put humanity at risk. Director Luigi Cozzi (aka Lewis Coates) followed up his 1978 Star Wars riff, Star Crash, with this gory attempt at cashing in on Ridley Scott’s Alien. Genre fans will enjoy, and Goblin’s score adds an energetic atmosphere. Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray comes packed with special features, but the new 2K restoration is the real star here. You can never go wrong with gut busting in HD.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, documentary, q&a, interviews, featurette, digital graphic novel, booklet]
Ben Chase (Gary Oldman) is a defense attorney fighting for Martin Thiel’s (Kevin Bacon) freedom in a case involving a grisly murder, but shorty after a verdict exonerates Martin a second killing occurs. Expecting to be charged again, the wealthy young man hires Ben a second time expecting the same judgement-free defense services he received last time. Ben has other plans though.
Martin Campbell’s tight, darkly engaging thriller comes to Blu-ray from Olive Films, and while it’s sadly devoid of extra features the film itself is more than enough reason to buy it. Oldman and Bacon are both in electrifying form here ‐ if this was made in the past ten years there’s no doubt they would have played opposite roles ‐ and they muster some fantastically tense confrontations through to the end. Mark Kasdan’s script keeps things twisted and appropriately brutal with a tale than leaves no one safe from violence.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) has achieved his ultimate goal ‐ he’s become President of the United States. The issue now is holding on to that power and position. Challenges come from all directions as he goes head to head with the leaders of Congress, some highly inquisitive reporters and possibly an old ally (Michael Kelly) he no longer has time for.
The third season of Netflix’s twisted but probably all too real look at politics once again shows everyone ‐ cast and crew ‐ at the top of their game. The writing steps up from season two by finding more detail, intelligence and wit to engage viewers without needing to resort as frequently to the more base actions of murder, sex and physical violence. Spacey and Robin Wright (as the First Lady) continue to be TV’s most terrifying couple, but the season’s performance highlight is Kelly as a man whose skill-set has fallen out of favor with Underwood. He’s a fascinating and sharply-written character, and Kelly finds the cold humanity beneath the even colder exterior.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
A Scottish teen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) arrives in 1800’s America in search of the girl he loves, but after a close call on the frontier he hires a morally dubious cowboy (Michael Fassbender) to guide him to his goal. It may be both the best decision he’s ever made and the worst. Others are searching for the girl as well, and as the pair of increasingly friendly acquaintances near the end of their journey it becomes clear that not everyone’s been telling the truth.
Writer/director John Maclean’s feature film debut (after a career that involved being a member of The Beta Band and writing “Dry the Rain”) is a western that features eccentric characters, tensely-crafted gunfights, beautiful landscapes ‐ but it executes it all with a fresh, exciting attitude, an air of melancholy and an unexpected sense of humor. The journey is never rushed, and we’re given ample time to get to know both of our leads on a trip filled with banter, mistrust and sporadic action. The third act ups the adrenaline and delivers visceral thrills, dramatic weight and one hell of an unexpected laugh.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]
An assassin (Steven Seagal) crosses paths with a girl in lethal trouble, and he goes against his own rules when he decides to help her. Along with his sidekick, Chi, he takes the fight to the bad guys all the way to the top, which in this case is Vinnie Jones. This is a generic action film plot-wise, and Byron Mann manages a few fun action beats, but Seagal has become a non-starter. He barely takes part in any of the action exchanges, instead giving control over to an obvious stunt double. Worse, there’s not a single shot of Seagal from behind that’s actually Seagal. They make little effort to hide the fact too ‐ he walks towards the camera in glasses, cut to him walking away and the double isn’t even wearing glasses. It’s ludicrous.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, behind the scenes, interviews]
Mankind barely survived an alien assault, and now years after the war military outposts are set up around the globe to help defend humanity against what remains of the alien beings. Folks who prefer their sci-fi/horror thrillers to be delivered in the found footage format rejoice! This one is that. It’s technically footage shot by a documentary crew, but the effect is the same ‐ shaky cam, technical glitches, shots of unimportant things while the cool stuff happens off screen. To its credit we do get a handful of worthwhile moments involving the aliens, but they’re minor compared to the underwhelming remainder. It doesn’t help that the the characters are dull cutouts introduced through interview segments that work only to highlight how generic they are.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, deleted scenes]
A group of strangers awaken on a tropical island only to discover they’re being hunted by fairly inept men in camo garb. Billie (Natalie Burn) is among the prey, but what her captors don’t know is that she’s been taught martial arts by the great Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez and is about to kick their collective asses. I know that sounds like a movie you’d want to watch, but unfortunately it’s not actually all that entertaining or exciting. Burn shows some athletic talent, but the fight choreography lacks convincing execution and thrills. Not even a supporting cast that includes Robert Davi, Edward Furlong, Daryl Hannah, Jason London, Michael Pare, David Keith and the eternally talentless Vinnie Jones can help make this anything more than a minor slog.
[DVD extras: None]
A serial child killer (Vincent D’onofrio) is captured but trapped in a coma while the fate of his latest possible victim remains unknown. A therapist (Jennifer Lopez) specializing in childhood trauma agrees to an experimental process capable of sending her consciousness into his subconscious in the hopes of discovering the little’s girl’s whereabouts before it’s too late. Director Tarsem Singh gets a lifetime pass for the beautiful accomplishment that is The Fall, but this is a mixed bag that succeeds in its visuals and atmosphere while failing at the script level. The dialogue and actions, both in the real world and in the killer’s mind, are just silly. Thankfully though Tarsem’s eye for elaborate, compelling and gorgeous imagery is working in overdrive here resulting in a stunning and immaculately designed landscape.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, documentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Daniel (Keir Gilchrist, It Follows) stalked a girl online and is now serving time under internet-free house arrest, but when he finds a way to reconnect to the online world he’s witness to the girl’s suicide. Things get worse from there though when something unnatural begins stalking him in return. There are minor moments here that stand out out including a delightfully grisly final shot, but the scares just never materialize. It’s a good setup though, and the young cast (plus Peter Stormare) do good work with the increasingly dark proceedings.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes, interviews]
Ziggy Gruber is a deli owner whose Houston locale has become famous nationwide. This doc focuses on him, but it explores other well-known delicatessens along with the men behind them and the customers who love them. I love a good sandwich, but deli’s don’t really mesh well with vegetarians so I don’t frequent them often. That said, the doc offers some interesting insight into the origin and success of places like Carnegie and Katz’s delis.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
The Civil War is over, but peace is still a pipe dream in rural Texas. Two families, struggling to survive financial hardships, find themselves at odds with each other when they run into conflict over stolen property. This is a solid if unremarkable action/period piece, but it’s made watchable by a cast including James Badge Dale, Maika Monroe and Ethan Embry.
[DVD extras: None]
Rick Tyler (Dominic Purcell) is betrayed by his own government and sentenced to prison for war crimes, but three years later he’s handed over to the planet’s most popular game show, “Turkey Shoot,” where he’s forced to face off against an increasingly skilled group of champion assassins in a bid for his freedom and sweet jesus this is one cheap and ugly piece of crap movie. It’s a remake of the “classic” Aussie exploitation film, Turkey Shoot, but it doesn’t even try to match that movie’s ridiculousness. There isn’t even a werewolf in a top hat here! It uses the excuse that this is a game show to limit the action ‐ well, more like sloppily-edited movements than action ‐ to clips caught on CCTV cameras. They even give Purcell’s character a “hoodie” at one point solely so Purcell himself wouldn’t have to be a part of the scenes. Instead we’re stuck squinting at a body double who in no way resembles Purcell’s trademarked “Steve Carell on steroids” appearance taking part in snippets of some incredibly lackluster fights. A car chase is even hobbled together at one point with footage from various sources making it clear that at no time were any of these same people or vehicles in the same geographic location. There are more exterior shots in the trailer for Turkey Shoot than there are in the entirety of this reboot.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Joe Dirt (David Spade) is a little man with a bad haircut and a dream to find the parents who “lost” him when he was just a child. His quest has met with failure, but when a radio dj (Dennis Miller) brings him on the air to make fun of him before becoming fully engaged in Joe’s story the dream comes close to being a reality. But what if the family he wants isn’t the family he needs? Spade is no memorable thespian, but he’s capable of bringing the funny. Happily he does that here ‐ sporadically, but still ‐ and while the movie’s dumb it’s a harmless kind of idiocy. Don’t let the Happy Madison name fool you ‐ not only is this not a terribly unfunny movie but it also shows a little bit of heart along the way. Plus Brittany Daniel, Christopher Walken, Joe Don Baker and Brittany Daniel’s short shorts.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, outtakes, deleted scenes]
Charlie Wolfe (Simon Pegg) is hired to kill a man’s cheating wife (Alice Braga), but before he gets the chance he witnesses a married couple (Sullivan Stapleton, Teresa Palmer) doing it for him. Well, trying to do it anyway. This action/comedy from down under is loaded with plot twists and blood squibs, and while the laughs and character depth pale in comparison it remains an entertaining, fast-moving ride. It’s a good-looking film too ‐ and I’m not just referring to the cast ‐ as its sunny, beach side locales are incredibly inviting even after the bodies start hitting the ground.
Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries,deleted scene, making of, q&a, gallery
Jay Fennel (Josh Hartnett) is a marine archaeologist on the cusp of his greatest discovery, but when an accident leaves him in a coma he jumps back in time to India in the late 1700’s. Roland Joffe’s latest is a time-hopping romance with moments of action, drama and historical influences. It has its appeal, but neither the past nor the film’s present ‐ seemingly the near future for no real discernible reason ‐ feel all that authentic due most likely to budgetary issues. Hartnett is solid, even with his attempts at a Scottish accent, and it has some engaging India-set sequences.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]
A slowburn zombie apocalypse is working its way slowly across the nation, and humanity stays ahead of it by killing those who start to turn as soon as the infection is diagnosed. Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is no stranger to dealing those in need of being dealt with, but when his daughter (Abigail Breslin) falls prey to the virus he finds himself incapable of doing what he knows must be done. More drama than horror or action, this dimly-lit and slowly-paced tale is about a father’s love being more powerful than his common sense. Schwarzenegger gives a strongly understated performance, and while the film holds few surprises or truly memorable beats he’s reason enough to give it a watch.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scene, interviews]
Would it surprise you to learn that there are people paid by corporations to spin the truth to their advantage? It shouldn’t, but this doc (based on the best-selling book) reveals just how coordinated these spin-doctors actually are. We meet a pair of men currently fighting against the idea of global warming and humanity’s role in it who have been doing this for decades ‐ the same two fought against the idea that cigarettes were bad for your health. The doc highlights how news shows bring on scientists (including climatologists) but then pair them with an “expert” to debate the other side. This is the real issue that I wish the doc had explored ‐ media outlets who knowingly cast these people as equals to the actual scientists. Most viewers are simpletons who take the experts at face value even though they’re nothing more than smooth marketers. Still, add this to the category of documentaries that frustrates, infuriates and informs even if it doesn’t surprise.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, commentary]
Ned Kelly (Mick Jagger) wants nothing more than to live peacefully and be left alone, but his efforts are met only with confrontation and pressure from those around him. Things worsen when his mother runs into trouble of her own, and he finds his only option to be striking back against a corrupt and irritating system. Heath Ledger portrayed the legendary Australian in 2003, but Jagger’s turn (and the film itself) offers a grittier, more raw portrayal. What works for him doesn’t work as well for the film though as we’re left with something that feels smaller than a film about an Aussie Robin Hood probably should.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Jose Stern (writer/director Adam Goldberg) is a musician living the life in Los Angeles. Of course, it’s the life of a 40 year old man whose musical aspirations have left him struggling to book gigs at children’s birthday parties. His one comfort is his girlfriend, Dusty, but when she discovers something he’d rather she didn’t he finds himself couch surfing in search of reconciliation with both Dusty and his inner peace. It’s an honest, caustically funny look at how even adults can find themselves lost sometimes, and not for nothing, but Goldberg should teach classes on perfectly dry comic delivery. The ultimate weight of the film is moderate at best, but Goldberg and friends make the journey both entertaining and just wise enough.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, commentary]
A young woman (Camilla Luddington) begins having nightmares that soon reveal themselves as portents of a supernatural terror heading her way, and when she realizes her connection to a recent series of murders she finds an ally in a woman (Caity Lotz) who’s faced this threat before. The 2012 original is a slow burn that succeeds with a fresh variation on a haunted house tale and some really creepy moments, but this follow-up isn’t quite as successful. There is one scene involving a shadow on a wall that is fantastically staged and shot, but too many of the other scare attempts are generic or manufactured through music cues. It’s still worth a watch for genre fans though for the continued mythology, and Luddington and Lotz don’t hurt either.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]
War is no more as mankind has agreed upon a substitute action designed to minimize loss of life and property. Giant robots operated by pilots called jockeys enter a designated arena and fight for victory. This is how international disputes are now solved, and the bonus is people get some great televised entertainment and national heroes. Stuart Gordon’s sci-fi/action romp pre-dates Pacific Rim by over two decades, but it was still smart enough to know that the machines only need a single pilot. The action is achieved via miniatures and stop-motion, but it’s a fun time.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interviews, behind the scenes]
Terry Barkley (Linda Blair) is a rich girl on summer vacation before heading to NYC to attend Juilliard, but the hot California sun invites her to join the coolest activity around, and one sure to never go out of style, roller skating! Her desire for lessons leads her to Bobby James, the best skater on the planet, and soon love blossoms on sixteen wheels. There’s so much wonderful cheese on display here, and it might surprise people to learn it’s directed by Mark Lester ‐ the man behind Firestarter, Class of 1984 and Commando. There’s conflict here, but it’s lightweight meaning the film works best as a casually entertaining time capsule.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Jonathan (Christopher Reeve) is a magazine writer searching for his next big story, but with a deadline looming and no worthwhile prospects he pulls a human interest piece out of his ass and sees it published to great acclaim. It’s an interview he made up with a NYC pimp ‐ one that’s coincidentally timed to the impending prosecution of one of the city’s worst pimps, Fast Black (Morgan Freeman). Now Jonathan’s having to think fast to stay one step ahead of his employers, the assistant D.A. and Fast Black himself. This late ’80s thriller (of sorts) is a fantastic reminder of just how good of an actor Freeman used to be. He’s still fine, obviously, but the past decade has seen him taking more generic and less memorable roles. Reeves was never all that great, but this is easily one of his best performances. Kathy Baker and Mimi Rogers round out the recognizable faces.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Bryan Millers is an ex-CIA agent struggling to keep his life together, but he finds a new focus when his [blank] is taken by villains. A synopsis is pointless here ‐ it’s a low-rent spoof of Liam Neeson’s Taken films, features “cameos by Jenny McCarthy, Akon, Donnie Wahlberg, Ethan Suplee, Michael Blackson and Lukas Haas” and is called Tooken. Proceed accordingly.
[DVD extras: Behind the scenes, featurette, deleted scenes]
The people of Texarkana have known terror before. Sixty-eight years ago a masked killer stalked and murdered five people, wounded a few others and left a community scarred with terror. A dramatized documentary (of sorts) was released in 1976, and now 38 years later the killer has returned. Well, a killer anyway. Teenagers gather at a drive-in theater watching the town’s annual screening of the ’76 film, but when a young couple cuts out early for some hanky panky a bloody attack leaves Jami (Addison Timlin) traumatized and her boyfriend dead. The town is forced into a new nightmare as the killings continue along a similar path to the ones captured in the film nearly four decades prior. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) gives his film a fantastic visual appeal, but its stylish nature can’t mask the script’s many weaknesses. It’s a gory, slick and attractive thriller light on brains and scares, but it deserves points for somehow managing to be both a sequel and a remake at the same time. (Note: The Blu-ray edition is only available at Best Buy.)
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Los Angeles Police Department has a new training tool in their war on crime ‐ a virtually-created persona named Sid 6.7 (Russell Crowe) crafted from the personalities, skills and desires of hundreds of psychopaths ‐ designed to test officers’ abilities in online simulations, but when he escapes the confines of their server he leaves a trail of real world bodies in his path that only a cop named Parker (Denzel Washington) can stop. Director Brett Leonard’s second attempt at virtual terror (after 1992’s The Lawnmower Man) is heavy on the effects and action, but even with two top notch leads it never distinguishes itself as anything more than virtual entertainment. It’s fun but empty is what I’m saying.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) survived the Nazi onslaught of WWII, and sixty years after she was forced to flee her home she decides it’s time to recover her family’s possessions. Famous artworks were among the items stolen, and with the help of a lawyer (Ryan Reynolds) she charts a path that would eventually bring her all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Based on a true story, this drama finds value in its core story and cast (also including Daniel Bruhl, Tatiana Maslany, Jonathan Pryce), but it never really jumps off the screen to become something memorable.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentary, press conference]
5 Flights Up, Alex of Venice, Belle and Sebastian, The Big Chill (Criterion), Bitten: The Complete First Season, The Encore of Tony Duran, Fight of the Living Dead, For the Emperor, Human Capital, The Jinx: The Lifes and Deaths of Robert Durst, The Killers (Criterion), The Road Within, The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe, Underdog Kids, Wild Thing
Related Topics: Home Video