This week’s releases include: the confused tale of a confused teenage girl; a mafia family being torn apart by mistrust; the remake of a Charles Bronson film about an assassin; a true tale of exorcism and faith; and a validated fear of being swallowed up by the nothingness.

Daydream Nation on DVDDaydream Nation (DVD)
Seventeen-year-old Caroline Wexler (Kat Dennings) is facing a teenager’s nightmare: her widowed father has moved them from the big city to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. When Caroline realizes she has nothing in common with the burnout losers in her new school, she pursues the one person who excites her interest – her handsome young teacher, Mr. Anderson (Josh Lucas). A bizarre love triangle ensues between Caroline, Mr. Anderson and a sweet, but troubled classmate (Reece Thompson).

Dennings isn’t your typical starlet, but she is most definitely a star. She delivers another brilliant portrayal of a complex teen who is witty but cynical. Caroline isn’t really the precocious young woman she acts like with Mr. Anderson, but instead the sarcastic, insecure girl she allows herself to be with Thurston. It is this discovery that fuels both the protagonist and the narrative. Thompson is the ideal mix of cute and sweet, but Thurston has some deep issues that prevent him from being prefect. Meanwhile, Lucas, other than being older, is the exact opposite – he’s an egotistical, unbalanced jerk who doesn’t make an effort to get to know Caroline beyond the fact that she makes him feel good about him. The entire cast is excellent in their respective roles.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette. (Entertainment One)

Down Terrace on DVDDown Terrace (DVD)
Father and son, Bill and Karl, have just been released from jail, but all is not well at Down Terrace. Patriarchs of a small crime family, their business is plagued with infighting: Karl has had more than he can take of his old man’s philosophizing and preaching; Bill thinks Karl’s dedication to the family is seriously compromised when he takes up with an estranged girlfriend who claims to be carrying his baby; they have to explain the profit drop to the bosses in London and figure out who’s the mole who turned them in. It’s time to clean house. Recrimination, betrayal, murder and a spot of redecorating are quick to follow. Always remember: you’re only as good as the people you know.

This film starts as the chronicle of a crime family tearing apart at the seams, but by the end the body count is closer to that of a moderate slasher flick. The family dynamics revealed within one week are nothing short of confounding. Bill sounds as if all the experimenting with drugs has finally fried his brain, while Karl is a confused bomb waiting to explode. And Bill’s wife — Karl’s mother — appears to be the only one with any sense, but her need to protect her family has manifested into heartless paranoia. The cast chosen to portray these characters do an excellent job individually; however their connections with each other are strained, which to some extent also fits the narrative. The story is divided into days of the week, which also demonstrates how quickly the characters spiral out of control.

Special features include: commentary by co-writer/director Ben Wheatley and co-writer Robin Hill; deleted and extended scenes; acting and camera tests; special effects featurette; a short film; and festival trailer. (Evokative Films)

The Mechanic on DVDThe Mechanic (DVD)
Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a ‘mechanic’ – an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets. It’s a job that requires professional perfection and total detachment, and Bishop is the best in the business. But after his mentor and close friend Harry (Donald Sutherland) is murdered, Bishop’s mission grows complicated because Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) wants his father’s killers dead and is determined to learn Bishop’s trade. Bishop has always acted alone but he can’t turn his back on Harry’s son. A methodical hit man takes an impulsive student deep into his world and a deadly partnership is born. But while in pursuit of their ultimate mark, deceptions threaten to surface and those hired to fix problems become problems themselves.

Going into this film, one expects an action flick. It’s not to say there aren’t action sequences in the movie – there are several well planned executions and hand-to-hand combat scenes. They’re just not very exciting. Statham has portrayed this type of intelligent, criminal-for-hire before (see The Transporter), so we already know he’s capable of appearing calm in tense situations. However, Bishop does not display any of Statham’s charisma. On the other hand, Foster is solid as the impulsive, but resolute, trainee.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “Tools of the Trade: Inside the Action” featurette; and the theatrical trailer. (Alliance Films)

The Rite on blu-rayThe Rite (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
Inspired by true events, this supernatural thriller follows a seminary student (Colin O’Donoghue) sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Only when sent to apprentice with legendary Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who has performed thousands of exorcisms, does his armour of skepticism begin to fall. Drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas’s skill, the young seminarian glimpses a phenomenon science can’t explain or control – and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.

Last year there was a plague of exorcism films that possessed theatre screens – all based on or inspired by true events. The Rite was one that introduced some skepticism into the narrative, even if only briefly. The more intriguing element of the film is, to some extent, that it takes the camera behind the curtain. What is revealed isn’t mind shattering, but it is an aspect of the Vatican not widely seen or known. Moreover, the alignment of Michael’s character with the “doubters” in the audience is a significant draw to his character and an inviting door into the story. Additionally, Hopkins seizes the opportunity to revive some of the disturbing characteristics of his infamous Hannibal Lector, which is a delight for his fans.

Special features include: “The Rite: Soldier of God”, interviews with the cast and Father Gary Thomas, the Vatican-ordained exorcist whose life story inspired the film; a more chilling alternate ending; and a digital copy of the film. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Vanishing on 7th Street on blu-rayVanishing on 7th Street (Blu-ray)
It started with a power outage. Now, where people once stood, are piles of empty clothes. Each passing day contains fewer daylight hours and only those who cling to some other form of light can escape the encroaching darkness. A small group of survivors gather in an old bar powered by a gas generator. Luke (Hayden Christensen) is a slick TV anchor; Paul (John Leguizamo) is a lonely projectionist working in a multiplex theatre; Rosemary (Thandie Newton) is a distraught mother whose baby is missing; and James (Jacob Latimore) is a shotgun-toting kid waiting for his mother to return. With their light sources slowly dying, they have to find alternatives and a way out of the city. Overcome with paranoia and fear, the group struggles to understand the events that have brought them together.

The opening act is the most intense part of the film. As characters wander, confused and nearly helpless in the ever-lasting darkness, we experience the same bewilderment. However, the ensemble parts of the film are plagued by bad dialogue and a lack of common sense in most situations. Unfortunately, many of the scenes of the darkness closing in are kind of cheesy; on the other hand, the ominous shadowy profile that fills entire walls is menacing. Director Brad Anderson’s previous films include Session 9 and The Machinist. Here, he continues his exploration of disjointed emotional states, but the key difference this time is the presence of a tangible monster in the film.

Special features include: Fangoria interviews with Anderson and actor Jacob Latimore. (Entertainment One)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s