New on DVD and Blu-ray: Liam Neeson, Superheroes and Malkovich
New on DVD, Blu-Ray and On-Demand: 'The Grey' has Chilly Thrills, plus Strange Adventures in 'Chronicle' and 'Being John Malkovich.' Not only does this week's round up of DVDs and Blu-rays include Liam Neeson in the epic, awesome 'The Grey,' but there are other strange adventures this week, whether it's low-fi superheroics in 'Chronicle,' the odd brilliance of 'Being John Malkovich' or a career-highlight performance from Woody Harrelson on the streets of L.A. in 'Rampart.'
Even as spring is so clearly with us, briefly throwing on 'The Grey' -- a more grim and gritty outing reuniting 'The A-Team' star Liam Neeson and director Joe Carnahan -- on DVD or Blu-ray is a nice way to turn any home into a frozen, forsaken patch of bare scrub in the shivering subzero cold while hungry wolves pace just outside the dim fire's light as a dwindling number of survivors huddle around the low and flickering flames. And the previous is only kind of kidding -- and the end result is a movie much, weirdly, better than the Liam-vs.-wolves snarl-off promised in the trailer. The film's look and sound are nicely brought home, and there's extras like commentary by Carnahan and deleted scenes, but the movie itself -- as raw and surprising as a blast of winter weather -- is the real pleasure here.
The basic pitch of 'Chronicle' -- which you could call 'The Blair Superman Project' -- is such genius you're amazed no one thought of it first. (And i'm sure someone did, but hey.) Three friends in Seattle bond on their way to a party, run into a meteorite, get superpowers like flight and telekinesis, and then have to figure out what to do when one of the trio decides to fast-forward on the whole 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' thing and get to the good part. And the whole thing is shot like video-camera entries, or cell-phone bits and bobs ... and the million-dollar budget buys more epic oddness than most big-screen 'superhero' movies do with ten times the budget. The Blu-ray is loaded, and in this case, the Blu-ray, including a director's cut, is worth it.
Made by director Oren Moverman -- whose prior collaboration with Woody Harrelson, 'The Messenger,' earned the actor an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor -- 'Rampart' is rough and tough stuff that feels raw but never exploitative. Harrelson is a cop in the '90s, in L.A.'s most challenged-and-challenging precinct, and the script (from Moverman and 'L.A. Confidential' author James Ellroy) has big ideas and small moments between its actors. But Harrelson's performance alone is worth it, a special and smart piece of work -- plus there's more than a few knockout scenes from a cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Ice Cube, Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty and a few more familiar faces doing surprisingly good work.
From 1999, Spike Jonze's film of Charlie Kaufman's script still feels like spooky science-fiction, as office drone John Cusack finds a door that leads to the inside of the brain of actor John Malkovich … and said door becomes, strangely but naturally, the balancing point in his choice between Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener in a love triangle that goes fourth-dimensional. The Blu-ray is by the preservation and appreciation titans of The Criterion Collection, and the extras -- including all-new interviews and conversations with the film's makers and stars -- confirm 'Malkovich''s role as a special film in American cinema that's also a lot of weird fun.