This week’s releases include: the intimate view of the demise of a relationship; the performance of a lifetime; the heartbreaking true story of a murder; and a trilogy about a strong young woman who takes matters into her own hands.

Blue Valentine on DVDBlue Valentine (DVD)
The film is the story of love found and love lost told in moments past and present. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple who spend a night away from their daughter in an attempt to save their failing marriage. Juxtaposed with playful scenes that trace their romantic courtship six years prior, the couple journey through the brutal heartbreak that comes with fading love and broken promises.

Special features include: commentary by director Derek Cianfrance and co-editor Jim Helton; deleted scenes; a making-of featurette; and “Frankie and the Unicorn” home movie. (Alliance Films)

The Concert on DVDThe Concert (DVD)
Thirty years ago, Andrei Simoniovich Filipov (Aleksey Guskov), the renowned conductor of the Bolshoi orchestra, was fired for hiring Jewish musicians. Now a mere cleaning man at the Bolshoi, he learns by accident that the Châtelet Theater in Paris has invited the Bolshoi orchestra to play there. He decides to gather together his former musicians and perform in Paris in place of the current Bolshoi orchestra. As a solo violin player to accompany his old Jewish or Gypsy musicians, he wants Anne-Marie Jacquet, a young virtuoso. If they all overcome the hardships ahead, this very special concert will be a triumph.

This is a wonderful film about one man making his dream a reality. For 30 years, these men and women have imagined returning to the stage, entertaining live audiences with their passion for music; Andrei seizes the opportunity to make their wishes come true. The drama alternates from explosive to subtle, creating a compelling story. The secondary plot becomes more dominant in the second half of the picture, but the climax never wavers. Guskov leads the ensemble cast well just as a conductor would lead his performers.

No special features. (Entertainment One)

I Am You on DVD I Am You (DVD)
Rachel Barber (Kate Bell) is a 15-year-old high school student and ballet dancer living with her parents (Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto) in Melbourne. Seemingly perfect — beautiful, intelligent, talented, well-adjusted, and poised for wonderful things — Rachel draws endless hostility from her neighbour and former babysitter, Caroline Reid (Ruth Bradley). Caroline lacks every advantage Rachel possesses; she’s an overweight, homely 20-year-old with terrible skin, chronic depression and a dysfunctional relationship with her parents (Sam Neill and Rebecca Gibney). Full of bitterness and self-loathing, Caroline drums up an evil plan to take Rachel’s life. When Rachel disappears, her parents immediately notify the police. The authorities are unfazed, misinterpreting Rachel as just another adolescent runaway, scarcely able to foresee the horrifying truth about the young woman’s fate. Based on a true story.

This film is very powerful. It opens with the rising desperation of two parents as they realize their little girl truly is missing. Then the parallel editing begins, revealing the unstable life of Rachel’s killer, Caroline. For a first-time filmmaker, Simone North has an incredible sense of narrative and delivery. The emotions experienced by all the characters comes across so strongly, it’s often easy to forget the script is based on a true story. The inclusion of what appears to be more than one ending is somewhat off-putting, but it is the only key decision in the film that is narrative. Pearce’s withdrawn but dedicated performance is excellent, while Neill’s impatience with his daughter’s sickness is palpable. Bradley is incredibly convincing as the mentally ill young woman who desperately requires help, but receives it too late.

Special features include: interview with writer/director North and cast; deleted scenes; and behind-the-scenes featurette. (Alliance Films)

Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo trilogy on Blu-rayStieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (Blu-ray)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Facing prison time for slander, discredited journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is hired by a reclusive industrialist for one last job; to solve a long unresolved family disappearance. Aided by the mysterious and troubled computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the two uncover a darker world of brutality, deception and ritualistic murder. Alone and not knowing who to trust, they must fight for their own survival and reveal the truth.

Special features include: interviews with Rapace and producer Soren Staermose; the Vanger family tree; “Did you know?”; photo gallery; and theatrical trailer.

The Girl who Played with Fire: Mikael Blomkvist is about to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society. On the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander.

Special features include: cast and crew interviews; “Nidermann vs Roberto: Behind the Fight Scene”; and theatrical trailer.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: Under police guard in hospital, Lisbeth Salander  is charged with murder and awaits the trial that has the country gripped. Cut off from all communication with the outside world, she must rely on journalist and former lover, Mikael Blomkvist to prove her innocence and expose the political cover up that threatens to destroy her freedom. In his way stands a mysterious group who will go to any lengths to keep the shocking truth of their actions a secret.

Special features include: interviews with Rapace and Nyqvist; and theatrical trailer. (Alliance Films)

The story of Lisbeth Salander, based on the series of books by Stieg Larsson, is very compelling. The first film provides a blunt introduction to her character as she is assaulted a number of times, but proves mentally stronger than her attackers in every instance. The second film reveals more about Lisbeth’s life as she comes closer to discovering her origins. In the final film, all of the injustices that came to light in the previous film are brought to the forefront and the depth of the conspiracy against Lisbeth is revealed.

One of the great elements of these films is the return of all actors for each instalment. Rapace is consistently astounding. Her ability to convey so much emotion through one meaningful smile is remarkable. And Nyqvist’s intensity never waivers as his character demands the truth at any cost, regardless of the risk.

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