The New Release Rack: 'The Possession' is an exorcism tale with a Judaic twist
Plus 'Taken 2,' 'Won't Back Down,' 'Farewell, My Queen,' Oscar nominated documentary '5 Broken Cameras,' and more
"The Possession" (Lionsgate) puts a Jewish twist on the familiar horror trope of the satanic possession. In this case, the daughter of divorced parents Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgewick unleashes a dybbuk, a damned soul stuck on earth, that tries to take possession of the girl.
"To director Ole Bornedal's not insubstantial credit, the shock imagery is imaginatively and thoroughly delineated even if it is not much of anything new," affirms MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. "I jumped out of my seat a bit and, despite the PG-13 rating, didn't feel the thrills were overly watered down. Nor did I find my intelligence overly insulted, despite the fact (here's that familiarity again) that many of the characters went around doing all the stuff you're not supposed to do in demonic possession situations. Oh well. Nothing earthshaking, but a pretty scary night out…"
Blu-ray and DVD, with two commentary tracks (one by director Bornedal, the other by writers Juliet Snowden and Stiles White) and a featurette. The Blu-ray also features a digital copy of the film for portable media players and an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also On Demand and available at Redbox.
"Taken 2" (Fox) finds retired CIA agent Liam Neeson facing the blowback from his actions in the first "Taken" as his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace) are targeted on a vacation in Istanbul. In this twist, the parents are taken and Grace has to help with the rescuing. Rade Sherbedgia co-stars and Olivier Megaton directs. Blu-ray and DVD, with an alternate ending and featurette. The Blu-ray features an additional unrated cut of the film, plus deleted and extended scenes and other supplements. Also On Demand. Reviews here.
"Won't Back Down" (Fox) stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as concerned parents who take on the failing school system and the bureaucracy that hampers them at every turn. Rosie Perez and Holly Hunter co-star. Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by director Daniel Barnz, deleted scenes with optional commentary, featurettes, and an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming. Also On Demand. Reviews here.
"Branded" (Lionsgate), a dystopian sci-fi thriller about corporate mind control and spiritual mumbo-jumbo, stars Ed Stoppard, Leelee Sobieski, Jeffrey Tambor, and Max von Sydow. It opened in theaters without advance critics screenings and disappeared almost as fast when audiences found out it was a confused mess. Now it hits Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary (to make sense of it all?). Also available at Redbox. Reviews here.
"Allegiance" (XLrator), a stateside military thriller about a National Guard unit days before their deployment to Iraq, stars Seth Gabel, Aidan Quinn, and Shad "Bow Wow" Moss. Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack, with commentary and a featurette. Reviews here.
"Farewell, My Queen" (Cohen) looks at the last days of the monarchy in Versailles, defiantly oblivious to the French Revolution raging outside the gates, from the perspective of Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux), the loyal, loving official librarian and reader to Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger). Director Benoît Jacquot adapts the novel by Chantal Thomas and Virginie Ledoyen and Xavier Beauvois co-star. It is "tense, absorbing, pleasurably original," according to New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis. "Mr. Jacquot has always been a sensitive director of actresses, his sympathies evident in his caressing, sometimes ogling camerawork and the time and space he gives women and their stories." Blu-ray and DVD, French with English subtitles, with interviews with director Benoît Jacquot and the cast. Also On Demand. More reviews here.
"17 Girls" (Strand) relocates the true story of a group of high school girls in Massachusetts who made a pact to all get pregnant together to a small port town on the Brittany coast of France. DVD, in French with English subtitles. Reviews here.
"5 Broken Cameras" (Kino Lorber), a Palestinian and Israeli co-production co-directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, is a first-hand account of non-violent resistance in a West Bank village threatened by Israeli settlements, filmed almost entirely by Palestinian farmer and cameraman Burnat. The title refers to the violent destruction of Burnat's video cameras over the five years of shooting. "Burnat and Davidi aim less for journalistic balance than a deeply personal explication of resistance—mortifying, invigorating, possibly futile, and probably the only dignified response under the circumstances," writes Village Voice film critic Mark Holcomb. It won an award at Sundance and is currently one of five Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary. DVD, with interview and a bonus short film by Guy Davidi. More reviews here.
"The Other Dream Team" (Lionsgate) spotlights the underdog Lithuanian basketball team at the 1992 Olympics, which put together a squad in the chaos of the fall of the Soviet Union and newfound independence to face the American Dream Team of NBA superstars. DVD, with commentary and a Q&A with writer/director Marius A. Markevicius and writer/producer Jon Weinbach. Reviews here.
"Detropia" (Docurama) profiles the rise and fall of the great industrial city, which is now on the verge of bankruptcy as its population flees and industry collapses. DVD, with over 90 minutes of bonus footage. Also On Demand. Reviews here.
"I Am Bruce Lee" (Shout Factory) features film clips and rare interview footage with Bruce Lee, as well as new interviews with athletes, actors, martial artists and others, to tell the story of the martial arts legend. Blu-ray and DVD, with featurettes and additional archival footage, including Bruce Lee's Hollywood audition. Reviews here.
Also new this week: "China Heavyweight" (Zeitgeist) profiles a state boxing coach who recruits young fighters from the provinces for Chinese Olympic team; "Three Stars" (First Run), a documentary for food lovers, spotlights ten world class chefs and their gourmet restaurants; and "The Age of Czeslaw Milosz" (Facets), a documentary on the Nobel Prize-winning poet in commemoration of his 100th birthday. All on DVD.