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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Silent house... deadly house...

Silent House
One of the few American horror movies in recent years to actually unnerve me, Silent House -- a remake of a Uruguayan film -- stars Elizabeth Olsen as a mentally unstable young woman vacationing at a decrepit lakeside retreat with her father and uncle. Everything seems normal, until she hears a strange bump in one of the upstairs rooms and goes to investigate... a decision that plunges her into a prolonged state of terror and transforms her home into a three-story trap where fresh horror lurks around every corner. Directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau make effective use of the real time gimmick, but the main attractions here are Olsen -- who delivers an impressively sustained performance that brings to mind Catherine Deneuve's memorable turn in the Roman Polanski classic Repulsion (a film Silent House obviously aspires to be, though it naturally falls short) -- and the house itself, a vividly realized location that morphs from comforting to frightening in the blink of an eye. Silent House rarely sets a foot wrong until the last ten minutes, at which point the directors throw in a plot twist that's crass at best, stupid and offensive at worst. Nevertheless, if you're looking to freak yourself out in the comfort of your own home, the first 70 minutes of Silent House delivers.
Extras: Just a commentary track with the directors.
Click here to read our original review

The Deep Blue Sea
Re-treading ground he already covered more memorably in his excellent adaptation of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, Terence Davies's first narrative feature in a decade stars Rachel Weisz as a married woman in post-World War II London who puts her status and personal happiness at risk by leaving her much-older husband (Simon Russell Beale) and taking a chance on a dashing younger man, played by Tom Hiddleston. Naturally, things don't work out exactly as she hoped. Visually, The Deep Blue Sea is ravishing, filled with some beautiful tableaus and lingering long takes. But the drama at the center of it feels somewhat inert, possibly because Weisz proves a colder presence than Gillian Anderson's more charismatic Lily Bart. Although sad, her downfall doesn't pack the tragic punch that made Mirth so devastating.
Extras: A commentary track, additional interviews with Davies and his cast and two featurettes.

Footnote
It sounds like the beginning of an old Borscht Belt joke: "Two Talmudic scholars walk into an awards ceremony..." But Joseph Cedar's Oscar-nominated Israeli film isn't interested in easy punchlines, even though it possesses a good sense of humor. The scholars in question are father and son, one of whom (the younger) is an honored and respected academic while the other (the elder) is merely tolerated, a situation that has resulted in bad blood on both sides. Their relationship is put under further strain when a mix-up results in the father winning an award that was actually intended for his kid. This complication could have played out in a broadly comic way, but Cedar keeps the humor and the emotions grounded and brings the story to an unpredictable, but satisfying end.
Extras: A behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview with the director.

Also on DVD:
While you wait for Whit Stillman's latest film Damsels in Distress to hit DVD in September, catch up on his (small) filmography with new Blu-ray editions of his breakthrough feature Metropolitan and my personal favorite, The Last Days of Disco. Brake stars Stephen Dorff as a Secret Service agent who wakes up to discover that he's trapped inside a glass case inside a trunk. What he's doing there -- and how he intends to get out -- drives the rest of this preposterous but enjoyable 24-esque thriller. The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi recounts the life and times Tokyo sushi guru, Jiro Ono. Finally, watch Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer try to out-crazy each other in John Frankenheimer's legendarily bad 1996 version The Island of Dr. Moreau, newly out in Blu-ray. Ice bucket for your head not included.

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