This week’s releases all feature death as a significant element in the stories’ plots, whether it’s caused by vigilante justice, psychotropic murder, zombie hunger or vampiric necessity.

Harry Brown on blu-rayHarry Brown (Blu-ray)
As a modest, law abiding citizen, Harry Brown (Sir Michael Caine) is a retired marine and a widower who lives alone. His only companion is his best friend Leonard. When Leonard is murdered by a gang of thugs, Harry reaches his breaking point. He is compelled to act; forced to dispense his own brand of justice. Set in modern day Britain, the film follows one man’s journey through a chaotic world where teenage violence runs rampant.

Caine’s performance is outstanding and chilling as he systematically works to clean up his neighbourhood because no one else will. The apathy that oozes around him is so thick, Harry’s reaction could only be as substantial. While vigilante justice is not a new concept, he brings a new facet to the recurring archetype.

Special features include: deleted scenes; interviews with cast and crew; and the trailer. (Entertainment One)

Leslie, My Name is Evil on DVDLeslie, My Name is Evil (DVD)
Perry (Gregory Smith), a sheltered chemical engineer, falls in love with Leslie (Kristen Hager), a former homecoming princess, when he becomes a jury member at her murder trial. Perry has always done what is expected of him: he was a straight-A student who got a good job at a chemical company and proposed to his virgin Christian girlfriend. Leslie took a different path after she was traumatized by President Kennedy’s assassination, her abortion and the divorce of her parents; she took LSD, joined a hippie death cult and helped murder someone in her own home. When Perry and Leslie lock eyes in the courtroom, Perry is forced to confront the darkest, deepest parts of himself.

The psychedelic imagery and unconventional story makes for an interesting, though not entirely engaging, view. However, conventional wouldn’t really be fitting of anything connected to Charles Manson so the eccentric style and script is quite appropriate. The accused’s courtroom antics alone are entertaining enough to venture a watch.

Special features include: commentary with director Reginald Harkema; a making-of featurette; and deleted scenes. (Entertainment One)

Survival of the Dead on blu-raySurvival of the Dead (Blu-ray)
Like its predecessors, godfather of the zombie genre George A. Romero’s film takes place in a desperate, nightmarish world where the dead walk the earth, relentlessly attacking the living. Survival of the Dead picks up where his last movie, Diary of the Dead left off. Plum Island is a small island off the coast of Delaware; a beautiful refuge whose isolation allows two powerful families to maintain a semblance of order in the wake of the zombie holocaust. But the two clans are sharply divided: the O’Flynns believe that the undead must be destroyed without exception, while the Muldoons insist that afflicted loved ones be kept “alive” until a cure is found. The result is an escalating showdown with echoes of a classic Western stand-off that erupts in brutality and violence.

After Land of the Dead, Romero decided to breathe new life into the zombie genre by returning to the beginning of the scourge. Each film continues to examine different facets of humanity and society, with this instalment delving into the nitty gritty of how people make decisions: compassion versus logic. Fans of the classic, slow zombie will not be able to resist sampling Romero’s new chapter in the zombie field, but many are beginning to question his sustainability amongst newer pictures featuring the undead (and infected). Nonetheless, he always contributes some interesting observations, appealing zombie movies and great bonus features for the home release.

Special features include: an introduction by Romero; commentary with Romero and crew; “Walking After Midnight” documentary; “Sarge” short film; “A Minute of your Time” shorts; “Time with George” interview; storyboard comparisons; “How to create your own zombie bite” video; Fangoria’s interview with Romero; and “HDNet: A Look at Survival of the Dead.” (Entertainment One)

The Vampire Diaries - Season One on blu-rayThe Vampire Diaries – The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) are vampire brothers who return to Mystic Falls, the town that was their home when they were still human. Elena (Nina Dobrey) is a teenager who lives in the same town, as well as a double for the beautiful vampire both brothers loved some 150 years earlier. As their lives become intertwined, the drama erupts from both the past and present making a complicated love even more difficult – and possibly fatal.

Jumping on the vampire bandwagon, The CW network adapted L.J. Smith’s teen book series of the same name for the small screen. While Wesley leaves a little to be desired as the tormented vampire, Somerhalder is entrancing as the rebellious blood drinker. Dobrey’s performance is a string of ups and downs, though she appeared to have found Elena’s groove in the show’s second half; which is surprising since she begins to take on the role of her doppelganger and complete opposite around the same time. The series’ story became significantly more interesting (and far-fetched) as it progressed, creating some undeniable interest in the upcoming second season.

Special features include: “Into Mystic Falls,” about bringing vampire lore and the high school experience from the page to screen; “When Vampires Don’t Suck!” the popularity of vampires and the fans who love them; “The Vampire Diaries: a New Breed of Vampires” about casting the series; unaired scenes; “The Vampire Diaries: Vampires 101,” the rules of the show’s vampires; creators/director commentary for the pilot episode; “The Vampire Diaries: A Darker Truth” webisodes; a gag reel; and downloadable audiobook of Smith’s The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening.

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