This week’s releases include: a bloody thriller; a hit man partnership; a new twist on a long-running franchise; a crime drama; a look at a life falling apart; a French fantasy; the rise of a young action star; a John Woo double feature; a movie about making a movie; a local murder mystery; a record of a hair artist; and a one-man show.

A Horrible Way to Die on blu-rayA Horrible Way to Die (Blu-ray)
Notorious serial killer Garrick Turrell (AJ Bowen) has just escaped police custody and resumed his killing spree. His former girlfriend and recovering alcoholic Sarah (Amy Seimetz) has recently moved to a small Midwestern town and is trying to put her life back together. She regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, where she meets fellow addict Kevin (Joe Swanberg). Kevin is romantically interested in Sarah, but she remains withdrawn; her past continues to haunt her and may soon catch up with her, as Garrick is leaving a trail of bodies in his hunt to find her.

Special features include: commentary by director/editor Adam Wingard and writer/producer Simon Barrett; behind-the-scenes featurette; and theatrical trailer. (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment)

Assassination Games on blu-rayAssassination Games (DVD)
Brazil (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a contract killer, willing to take any job if the price is right. Flint (Scott Adkins) left the assassin game when a ruthless drug dealer’s brutal attack left his wife in a coma. When a contract is put out on the coldblooded drug dealer, both Brazil and Flint want him dead – one for the money, the other for revenge. With crooked Interpol agents and vicious members of the criminal underworld hot on their trail, these two assassins reluctantly join forces to quickly take out their target before they themselves are terminated.

Special features include: deleted scenes. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Children of the Corn: Genesis on DVDChildren of the Corn: Genesis (DVD)
This is the next chapter in the ever-popular horror series based on Stephen King’s classic 1984 story. When a young couple becomes stranded in a remote desert compound, they seek refuge in the home of an odd Manson-like figure named Preacher and his wife. Preacher reluctantly allows them to stay with strict orders to be gone by morning. When the couple hears faint screams coming from a dilapidated outdoor shed, they venture out to investigate against Preacher’s orders. What they find is a bizarre cult worshiping a supernatural entity that will leave them both fighting for their lives.

Since the first film in 1984, there has been nine re-imaginings of Stephen King’s horrific tale of murderous children. However, most have adhered to the same basic elements of the story: a group of kids, all around the same age, have a mysterious bond that includes killing adults. This movie strays completely from the foundation and does little to explain its new angle. It’s easy to make odd occurrences in a strange house with a peculiar couple in the middle of nowhere appear creepy; but there’s an art to composing an explanation that matches the atmosphere — that is this picture’s downfall.

Special features include: a conversation with director Joel Soisson. (Alliance Films)

Dressed to Kill on blu-rayDressed to Kill (Blu-ray)
Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) is a sexually-repressed housewife who seeks treatment from Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine). While secretly leaving a hotel after a one-night affair, Kate is mysteriously murdered by a tall blonde woman wearing sunglasses. The only witness is a high-priced call girl, Liz (Nancy Allen), who becomes the killer’s next target. With the help of Kate’s grown son, Peter (Keith Gordon), Liz discovers that the murderer is connected to Dr. Elliott, and the pair comes face-to-face with a shocking surprise.

Special features include: a making-of full-length documentary, including interviews with director Brian De Palma, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz; “Slashing Dressed to Kill” featurette; “Dressed to Kill: An Appreciation by Keith Gordon” featurette; “Comparison of the Unrated, R-rated, and Network Versions” featurette; and animated photo gallery. (Fox Home Entertainment)

Everything Must Go on blu-rayEverything Must Go (Blu-ray)
Nick (Will Ferrell) is a career salesman who loses his wife and his job in the worst day of his life. Faced with his life imploding, Nick puts it all on the line – or, rather, on the lawn – as he moves himself and all his possessions to his front yard. Based on the short story of the same name by Raymond Carver.

Special features include: commentary by director Dan Rush and Michael Peña; “In character with Will Ferrell” featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette; and deleted scenes. (Maple Pictures)

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec on DVDThe Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Blu-ray)
An adventure set in the early part of the 20th century and focused on a popular novelist and her dealings with would-be suitors, the cops, monsters and other distractions.

Watching this movie, I was reminded of what it was like to watch early crossover Disney films, such as Bedknobs and Broomsticks or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that combined live-action and animated characters. It’s a whimsical experience filled with adventure and humour; a mix of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and a Night at the Museum. Unfortunately, it will likely remain inaccessible to much of its target audience until they are able to swiftly read subtitles. Nevertheless, it’s a fun movie for a rainy afternoon.

Special features are French only. (Entertainment One)

Hanna on blu-rayHanna (Blu-ray & DVD combo pack)
Raised by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA agent, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna’s (Saoirse Ronan) upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one. Sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe, eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Cate Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence.

Ronan’s mastery of the character’s physicality is amazing, particularly in the scenes of one-on-one combat with Bana. This believability is crucial to the rest of the film’s ability to work and it’s thoroughly established early on in the narrative. It feels like Run Lola Run with a breakneck pace and aggressive electronic soundtrack provided by The Chemical Brothers. Hanna spends a lot of time running from people trying to kill her and to various locations as she attempts to rendezvous with her father. The action gets a little clumsy once the characters converge at the House of Grimm, but it remains interesting from beginning to end.

Special feature include: commentary by director Joe Wright; alternate ending; deleted scenes; and “Anatomy of a Scene: The Escape from Camp G.” (Alliance Films)

The Killer/Hard Boiled on DVDThe Killer/Hard Boiled double feature (DVD)
The Killer: This is the story of an assassin, Jeffrey Chow (Chow Yun-Fat), a.k.a. Mickey Mouse, who takes one last job so he can retire and care for his girlfriend Jenny (Sally Yeh). When his employers betray him, he reluctantly joins forces with Inspector Lee (Danny Lee), a.k.a. Dumbo, the cop who is pursuing him. Together, the new friends face the final confrontation of the gangsters out to kill them.

Hard Boiled: Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat) is a cop hell-bent on bringing down the gun smugglers responsible for his partner’s death. He teams up with an undercover cop (Tony Leung) whose secret identity as a Triad hit man hangs by a thread. The film raises gunfights to an art form, with some of the most celebrated action sequences ever, including a close-quarters teahouse shootout and a monumental firefight through the halls of a packed hospital.

These films are director John Woo’s first pictures that really made a splash on the other side of the world from Hong Kong and began to establish his reputation in North America. They both also star Chow Yun-Fat, whose career felt similar effects after these movies made waves across the ocean. Woo wrote and directed The Killer, which is actually the earlier and more accomplished film of the two. It tells a story of operatic or Shakespearian proportions, fuelled by Woo’s signature style of slow motion action sequences and pauses without cause. Hard Boiled is your typical rogue cop flick that employs the same style. It also includes possibly the longest, closing shootout in a film: a 50 minute gunfight in a hospital. It feels a little longer than is necessary, particularly on account of this scene, and the dialogue is often ridiculous (and written by Barry Wong, not Woo). It’s not as a good of an outing as its predecessor, but it’s still a good action movie.

There are no special features. (Alliance Films)

Road to Nowhere on DVDRoad to Nowhere (DVD)
There’s a murky tenuous balance between reality and fiction; particularly when it involves a beautiful young woman, murder, a powerful politico, a missing fortune and suicide. A passionate filmmaker creating a film based upon a true crime casts an unknown mysterious young woman bearing a disturbing resemblance to the femme fatale in the story. Unsuspectingly, he finds himself drawn into a complex web of haunting intrigue, obsessed with the woman, the crime, her possibly notorious past and the disturbing complexity between art and truth.

Movies should not be a chore to watch.  Even a good mystery that is thought-provoking eventually has a payoff. But Road to Nowhere feels like a lot of work to get through with no reward at the roll of the credits. On the surface, it’s a film about filmmaking that follows one director’s journey while recreating a true story on screen. It pays homage to great auteurs by including scenes from masterpieces such as The Seventh Seal; except since the film is a tribute to its director, Monte Hellman, it feels a tad egotistical too. On the other hand, the story a convoluted murder mystery with no clear facts or players that has no satisfactory conclusion. Moreover, those interviewed in the bonus features also sound confused over the film’s events. The acting from everyone casted is good as they appear to have based their performances on the moment rather than the whole, which explains some of the inconsistency. Additionally, the incredibly long takes in which nothing happens make the two hour picture, which is already too long, feel much longer.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette; and Q&A from the Nashville Film Festival. (Entertainment One)

Small Town Murder Songs on DVDSmall Town Murder Songs (DVD)
A modern gothic tale of crime and redemption about Walter (Peter Stormare), an aging police officer from a small Ontario Mennonite town who hides a violent past until a local murder upsets the calm of his newly reformed life. When a young, unidentified woman is found dead by the lake – the victim of a brutal and violent crime – Walter and his partner Jim (Aaron Poole) are called to the scene of the town’s first murder investigation in decades. A senior OPP officer is called in to lead the investigation, relegating Walter and Jim to menial field work. Yet despite this, Walter comes up hard against the mistrust of his community, who will not let him put a violent incident in his past behind him. Convinced that Rita (Jill Hennessey), his ex-lover, may be lying to the OPP to protect her new boyfriend, Walter’s newly reformed life begins to unravel. As Walter tries to find the evidence to make an arrest before Rita is implicated, he struggles to maintain some measure of professional detachment, and the new life and new girlfriend (Martha Plimpton) he has worked so hard to preserve.

Special features include: commentary by Ed Gass-Donnelly and Peter Stormare; deleted scenes; and theatrical trailer. (Alliance Films)

Vidal Sassoon - The Movie on DVDVidal Sassoon – The Movie (DVD)
Vidal Sassoon is more than just a hairdresser – he’s a rock star, an artist, a craftsman who “changed the world with a pair of scissors.” With the geometric, Bauhaus-inspired hairdos he pioneered in the 1960s and his “wash and wear” philosophy that liberated generations of women from the tyranny of the salon, Sassoon revolutionized the art of hairstyling and left an indelible mark on popular culture. This documentary traces the life of a self-made man whose passion and perseverance took him from a Jewish orphanage in London to the absolute pinnacle of his craft.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

Wrecked on DVDWrecked (DVD)
A man (Adrien Brody) wakes up trapped in a crashed car in a deep ravine, surrounded by two dead passengers, a pile of cash and a gun. He has no recollection of who he is or how he got there. All he knows is that he must fight for his life, his sanity and his identity in the middle of a treacherous wilderness nightmare.

Special features not available. (Alliance Films)

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