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Suspense thrillers are no strangers to kidnappings, but Prisoners takes many of the elements of a suspense thriller and heightens them, creating a disturbing and graphic film that knows just where to draw the line, even when its characters don’t. Director Denis Villeneuve’s first big English release is likely to cause cringing and a pounding heart, but I doubt you’ll regret delving into it.
Prisoners hinges on the emotional complexities inherent when parents’ worst nightmares come to fruition. Two young girls are playing together in a relatively safe neighborhood on a holiday when they disappear. It doesn’t take long for the girls’ parents, played by Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard, to discover they are missing, but by then the girls are long gone, and a twisted puzzle of a story stands in the way of the children’s safe return.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the detective in the drama, and his performance is filled with intensity and plenty of affected nervous ticks. It’s incredible to watch him play a puzzle-solving character, an attribute similar to his character in Zodiac. Although Gyllenhaal’s character is equally intense this time around, there are enough differences with Gyllenhaal’s character that fans will feel this is a different movie.
As if the audiences eyes are focused on Gyllenhaal, anyway. Davis uses her large, sad eyes to great effect even with her small part, capably representing what tragedy can do to a person. However, it’s really Jackman’s Keller Dover who will keep audiences riveted to their seats. Dover is a man who refuses to give up, despite the red tape that a kidnapping case presents. He’s willing to cross lines and take chances, even when his family and his sanity are falling apart. If you are into suspense thrillers at all, this isn’t one to miss.
You can order Prisoners over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: The extras are a little lackluster with the Blu-ray disc, consisting of two behind-the-scenes featurettes. The lengthier one of these is "Powerful Performances," a segment that looks at the cast dynamics with filming and the depth and emotion the actors were able to bring to the table during shooting. Honestly, if you opt to purchase this film, you shouldn’t do it because you like to peruse the extras afterwards.
Other Special Features:
"Prisoners - Every Moment Matters"
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Blu-ray
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is the second film based on a set of popular novels written by children’s author Rick Riordan. The first movie is a coming of age story about Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), a young man who learns he is the son of a mortal woman and an Olympian god. The new movie in the franchise features a lot of the same characters and follows Percy coming into his own as a leader and quick thinker among his crew.
I wouldn’t exactly call Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters an epic adventure tale, but it is a fun one, following Percy, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) on a quest to find the Golden Fleece and save Camp Half-Blood from utter destruction. Many of the same names have returned for the film following The Lightning Thief, including Jake Abel, but the film does replace Pierce Brosnan with Anthony Head as Chiron, and introduces a few new names in the Olympus realm. Notably among these is Leven Ramblin as Clarisse, the hard-headed and hard-hearted young daughter of Ares who capably portrays tough while managing to differentiate herself from Annabeth. Nathan Fillion also takes a role as Hermes, a smooth-talking and efficient God who gives the film some much-needed comic relief during his brief but awesome tenure onscreen.
The film as a whole offers a nice enough story and some great performances, but its nothing like Riordan’s novels, which hinge on comedy and weirdness. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters offers both, but something is lost in translation when the novels are portrayed onscreen. Still, the kid-friendly flick offers enough eye-popping action for kids to be entertained for a couple of hours.
You can order Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: "Deconstructing a Demigod" takes a look at each of the characters in the Sea of Monsters movie and features interviews from most of the main cast members. The whole point of the segment is that it is tougher than it looks to do action sequences. That might not be the most earth-shattering idea viewers have ever encountered, but the motion comic is weird and the other extras are lackluster. The "Deconstructing a Demigod" featurette is at least watchable.
Other Special Features:
Tyson Motion Comics
"Deconstructing a Demigod"
"Back to Camp Half-Blood"
"It’s All in the Eye"
Justified: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray
Justified has slowly matured over its first four seasons, creating a world in which the bad guys are often as amusing as the good guys. There are plenty of reasons for fans to invest in the characters living their lives on both sides of the law, and in Season 4 a cold case mystery keep the story fresh and interesting, and ties our characters together in unique ways.
Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has a lot on his plate during Season 4. To start, he’s pulling double duty at work between usual shift at the Marshall’s office and working as a bounty hunter on the side. With a baby on the way, he’s hording as much cash as possible and trying to avoid trouble. However, a series of Harlan County events puts him on the trail of a decades-old mystery that might have ramifications for some Kentucky citizens still alive today.
None of this explains why you should invest in the Blu-ray, however. I’d argue it’s because Givens and co. are almost better during a second watch. While audiences will know how things are going to pan out if they caught the season during its initial TV airing, the writers foreshadow many of the events that are to come throughout the season that may seem innocuous during the first time through. At one point in Season 4, Sheriff Shelby asks Givens how long it’s been since he’s shot a man. Givens responds that it’s been a while, and an episode later, he’s given the opportunity to pull out a gun for the first time in ages. Anyone with half an eye on the series can tell that it is carefully crafted, but I was even more impressed by a second perusal of the material.
You can order Justified: The Complete Fourth Season over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: There’s so much to like about Justified, but there’s not always much to like about the bonus features available with TV sets. That’s not the case with The Complete Fourth Season set. All of the featurettes are interesting, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment wisely opted to focus on some fan-favorite characters with a couple of the bonus features. Both Constable Bob and Boyd Crowder get extras devoted to their characters, and while Constable Bob’s is a little more entertaining, Boyd’s looks into the wild evolution of the character over four seasons. Walton Goggins is a well-spoken dude, and it is interesting to see the character from the perspectives of showrunner Graham Yost and actor Timothy Olyphant.
Other Special Features:
"Deadly Serious: Constable Bob"
"The Veterans’ Experience"
"Anatomy of An Episode"
"Script To Screen: The Finale"
Kick-Ass 2 Blu-ray
Kick-Ass 2 picks up shortly after the events of its predecessor, and while the graphic nature of the film remains intact, it lacks some of the comedy and the over-the-top nature of Kick-Ass. Some of this has to do with the fact that Kick-Ass 2 is not an origin story like the original film in the franchise. The plot needed to be wilder and wackier, and in order to achieve this, writer and director Jeff Wadlow creates a sort of Justice League group for Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to join and sends Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) back to high school.
While Hit-Girl’s introduction to the wiles of teenaged women plays off with plenty of comedy and a suitably PG-13 level of revenge, the rest of the film is filled with demented violence and an unfathomable villain named The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The first film gets away with the violence due to its cheeky, clever script, but this time around, the movie revels in the violence. It often feels more gratuitous than satisfying. Still, it’s worth a watch for Hit-Girl’s subplot, and if you were a fan of the film, Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s set is a really nice one, filled with a slew of extras for fans of the flick.
You can order Kick-Ass 2 over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: There are a lot of interesting extras with the disc. My favorite extra is the extended scenes, which features a moment with wannabe celebrities and other short sequences that didn’t make it into the final film. There are some other segments that offer alternate takes or sequences that didn’t quite make it into the movie and they all come with optional commentary from Wadlow, which is a nice addition. If you did love Kick-Ass 2, most of the bonus features are worth a watch.
Other Special Features:
Alternate Opening (with commentary option)
"Big Daddy Returns: The Unshot Scene"
"The Making of Kick-Ass 2"
"Hit Girl Attacks: Creating the Van Sequence"
Feature Commentary with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz and Jeff Wadlow
Other December 17 Releases
The forecast for this week’s releases is pretty good. A lot of the major studios have timed releases just before the Christmas holiday, making for the perfect last minute stocking stuffers and gifts. We’ve given you reviews of some of the weeks best, but if you are into re-releases, music-oriented DVDs, or a few more seasons of TV, you’ll want to invest a little time and check out a more complete list, below.
Unless otherwise noted, this week’s releases are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.
The Lone Ranger
One Direction: This Is Us
Psych: The Musical
Shameless: The Complete Third Season
The Sound of Music Live! DVD
Family Guy: Volume 12 DVD
Burn Notice: Season 7 DVD
Burn Notice: The Complete Series DVD
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Blu-ray
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Blu-ray
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Blu-ray
Rocky Mountains 3D Blu-ray 3D
Ghost Team One
Beyonce: Life is but a Dream
Force of Execution