News Column

Plenty of Creeps Available Now on DVD

May 31, 2013

Amy Longsdorf

By Amy Longsdorf

In stores

DARK SKIES (2013, Anchor Bay, PG-13, $30) -- Even though Scott Stewart's sci-fi thriller doesn't break any new ground, it does manage to deliver plenty of eerie images guaranteed to creep you out. The most disturbing sequence involves hundreds of birds smashing into the windows of the suburban home owned by Daniel (Josh Hamilton) and Lacy Barrett (Keri Russell). The mass bird suicide turns out to be a sign that the Barretts have a problem with aliens. Stewart works hard to make you care about the Barretts, who are struggling financially when strange things begin happening to them. The slack pacing hurts the film but, in the end, Stewart delivers just enough jolts to keep you watching. Extras: commentaries and deleted scenes.

LORE (2012, Music Box, unrated, $30) -- The story of a teenager's moral awakening, this stunning film is both gorgeously photographed and relentlessly sad. Lore (remarkable Saskia Rosendahl) is the 14- year-old daughter of Nazis who, following the end of World War II, is abandoned by her parents and forced to embark on a journey through the Black Forest with her four younger siblings. Blending together elements of a thriller and a survivalist saga, Aussie helmer Cate Shortland ("Somersault") depicts how a sheltered young woman comes to the realization that evil exists in the world. "Lore" is an emotional powerhouse. Extras: featurettes and deleted scenes.

PRIEST OF EVIL (2010, Shout Factory, unrated, $20) -- In this stylish thriller from Finland, "True Blood's" Peter Franzen delivers a compelling turn as a tormented homicide detective whose personal demons help him understand the murdererous prey he's chasing. In the early going, the film feels overstuffed with red herrings but, in the end, it comes down to a fascinating cat and mouse game between Franzen and a vigilante killer (Sampo Sarkola) with a nasty habit of pushing strangers in front of subway trains. Extras: none.

DORFMAN IN LOVE (2013, Virgil, PG-13, $25) -- Since Bradley Lewis' featherweight indie pivots on a genuinely likeable character - - a wallflower accountant named Deb (Sara Rue) -- you stick with it, hoping that it gets better as it goes along. It doesn't really rise above the level of a decent sitcom but it has its moments. Dowdy Deb is in a rut until she opts to spend a week in Downtown L.A. cat- sitting for her crush (Johann Urb). The best part of the movie involves Deb developing a spine thanks to hanging out with a cute neighbor (Haaz Sleiman) and two hipster models (Hayley Marie Norman and Sophie Monk). Extras: none.

TOMORROW YOU'RE GONE (2013, Image, unrated, $28) -- The latest from director David Jacobson ("Down in the Valley") is a Chicago- set noir that starts out promisingly and then quickly devolves into an exercise in illogic. A scuzzy-looking Stephen Dorff stars as a recently released ex-con who is talked into murdering a stranger by one of his old prison buddies (Willem Dafoe). Thanks to the woozy cinematography, Jacobson leads you to believe that Dafoe and gal pal Michelle Monaghan might be figments of Dorff's imagination. But thanks to the flat storytelling, you ultimately won't care who's who and what's what. Extras: none.

STRUCK BY LIGHTNING (2012, New Video, unrated, $27) -- "Glee's" Chris Colfer wrote this surprisingly smug teen film about a high school senior named Carson Phillips (Colfer) who, after being killed in the movie's first scene, narrates flashbacks about how he and his best friend (Rebel Wilson) blackmailed a handful of popular kids into writing for the school's literary journal. The film's saving grace is a triangle involving Carson's mother (a terrific Allison Janney), her ex (Dermot Mulroney) and his new girlfriend (Christina Hendricks). If not for this trio of actors, "Struck" would be practically unwatchable. Extras: bloopers, featurettes and deleted scenes.

IF I WERE YOU (2013, Kino, unrated, $30) -- Through a weird set of circumstances, middle-aged marketing exec Madelyn (Marcia Gay Harden) winds up being a BFF to aspiring actress Lucy (Leonor Watling), who happens to be Madelyn's husband's mistress. Lucy doesn't know who Madelyn is but Madelyn knows the score and somehow gets dragged into Lucy's complicated life. While it suffers from being about 30 minutes too long, "If I Were You" features a terrific performance by Harden who never forgets to anchor the laughs in reality. Extras: featurette.

OPEN ROAD (2013, Universal, unrated, $20) -- Brazilian filmmaker Marcio Garcia is behind this semi-road movie about a young woman (Camilla Belle) who leaves Rio behind to travel around the U.S., sleeping out of her car and working odd jobs to survive. Her only friend is Chuck (Andy Garcia), a fellow drifter. After Belle's car breaks down, she takes up with a good-hearted policeman (Colin Egglesfield) and the once-intriguing movie turns into a conventional romantic drama, at least until its bizarre twist ending. "Open Road" wants to be a journey of self-discovery but it stalls at soap opera. Extras: featurette.

ROLLING THUNDER (1977, Shout Factory, R, $20) -- One of Quentin Tarantino's favorite films arrives on Blu-ray, and, boy, is it ripe for rediscovery. William Devane delivers a haunting turn as a returning POW who, following the murder of his wife and son by home invaders, teams up with a fellow Vietnam vet (Tommy Lee Jones) to track down the hoodlums. At its heart, "Rolling Thunder" is exploitation fare but it boasts a sharp screenplay co-written by Paul Schrader ("Taxi Driver") and is filled with memorable moments like the one in which Devane tells a gal pal (Linda Haynes) that, "My eyes are open and I'm looking at you but I'm dead." It's as chilling as it sounds. Extras: featurette.

THE HENRY FONDA FILM COLLECTION (1939-1968, Fox, unrated, $50) -- What a bonanza! This terrific 10 movie set collects some of the best features that Fonda made for 20th Century Fox. On tap are three of his key collaborations with John Ford ("Drums Along The Mohawk," "The Grapes of Wrath," "My Darling Clementine") as well as a trio of classic westerns ("Jesse James," "The Return of Frank James," "The Ox-Box Incident") and a pair of World War II epics ("Immortal Sergeant," "The Longest Day.") The set is rounded out by Otto Preminger's sudsy romance "Daisy Kenyon" with Joan Crawford, and the gripping police thriller "The Boston Strangler" which pits a patient investigator (Fonda) against Strangler Albert DeSalvo (Tony Curtis). Extras: featurettes on "Wrath" and "Clementine."

DOCTOR WHO: SERIES SEVEN -- PART TWO (2013, BBC, unrated, $25) -- During the final eight episodes of the seventh season, there's lots of action as the Doctor (Matt Smith) tries to figure out the enigma that is his mysterious companion Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman). Together, the pair battle monsters on distant alien planets, find themselves trapped in a Russian submarine with a deadly passenger, chase down terrifying ghosts and face off against the Crimson Horror in Victorian Yorkshire. Extras: featurettes.

BEETLEJUICE: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1989-1991, Shout Factory, unrated, $99) -- Available on DVD for the first time is the animated hit based on the Tim Burton movie of the same name. The 12-disc set collects all 94 episodes of the show which pairs otherworldly con artist Beetlejuice (Stephen Ouimette) with mortal best pal Lydia Deetz (Alyson Court), a young goth girl attending a private school in a sleepy Connecticut town. After they become buddies, the duo spend most of their time hanging out in the Neitherworld, an alternate universe filled with kooky characters and madcap monsters. Extras: none.

DR. KILDARE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (1961, Warner Archive, unrated, $60) -- One of TV's groundbreaking medical shows gets its first official DVD release with this 33-episode, nine-disc set. Richard Chamberlain stars in the title role as a gifted intern who's learning the ropes at Blair General Hospital. Whether comforting an actress with a fatal illness, assisting a surgeon researching an incurable disease or fighting to save a boy after a hit-and-run accident, Kildare is a dream doctor. Now, if he only made house calls. Extras: none.

MEL BROOKS: MAKE A NOISE (2013, PBS, unrated, $20) -- Recently broadcast on PBS as part of the "American Masters" series, this 90 minute doc is a crash course in all things Mel. Of course, there's footage from most of Brooks' movies as well as revealing chats with Carl Reiner, Cloris Leachman, Nathan Lane, Joan Rivers and Tracey Ullman. Brooks himself sits down for an interview and opens up about the death of his wife, Anne Bancroft, his affection for former boss Sid Caesar, and why "Spaceballs" is the most financially successful film on his resume. Extras: deleted footage.

-- Amy Longsdorf

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