New this week on DVD, Blu-ray and On-Demand: Smuggling, smart scares, gritty action and more are coming right to your home this week. And find out which movie we think is the best action film in years (hint: it might not be what you think).
Starring Mark Wahlberg as an ex-smuggler who tried -- and succeeded -- to get out who's then pulled back for one last job when the local crimelord (Giovanni Ribisi, coated in tattoos and facial hair with a voice that sounds like he's got a mouth full of gumbo) threatens his screw-up brother-in-law with death after losing a shipment, 'Contraband' isn't high-grade stuff, but it works. Wahlberg's good as a man who wants a better life but, inside, misses the jolts his old life as a bad man used to give him -- and who gets a chance to live that life again as a matter of saving his brother-in-law and protecting his wife Kate Beckinsale. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who acted in the original European film 'Contraband' remakes, it's a great-looking gritty bit of globetrotting as Wahlberg goes from Louisiana to Panama trying to outwit his ship's captain, Ribisi, the Feds and a few other bad eggs in the mix. The film's as entertaining as it is thanks to Wahlberg, who walks a line between Zen atonement towards self-improvement and street-level badassery in his part; the DVD and Blu-ray include commentary from Kormákur, deleted scenes and a number of special features about the making of the film.
Dark Sky Films
Written and directed by Ti West ('House of the Devil'), who's been making indie horror films that are as actually 'indie' as they are 'horror,' 'The Inkeepers' won me over -- to put the lead up front, it's a scary-funny mix of 'The Shining' and 'Clerks.' At The Yankee Pedlar Inn, desk staffers Clara (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) have to work the last weekend the legendary (and legendarily haunted) hotel is open. The scares are real, and they build slow -- fans of, say, 'Saw' will not likely be satisfied -- but as Claire and Luke try to slack off, do the minimum effort for minimum wage and maybe videotape a ghost, the comedy and characters are what come through. With cameos by 'Girls' creator and star Lena Dunham as the world's most annoying coffee counter clerk and Kelly McGillis as a faded TV starlet with an interest in the supernatural, for example, 'The Inkeepers' builds a big and strange world for itself when most modern horror films are content to splash blood all over to hide how disposable the characters. Screwy and spooky and made with the skill, showmanship and timing of an old-fashioned magic trick, 'The Inkeepers' will send shivers up your spine and make you laugh while it does so.
One of the best action films in years, 'Sleepless Night' has already been snapped up by Warner Bros. for a big-budget English-language remake -- but the original is available on-demand now, and perfect for movie lovers who aren't afraid of subtitles in the pursuit for thrills and character working together to create a hurtling, edge-of-your-seat thriller with an iron-strong grip. Starring Tomer Sisley as a bad cop who boosts 13 kilos of cocaine -- who then has to get it back to the people he stole it from when they kidnap his 13-year-old son -- the entire film unfolds pretty much over one night in one place, a huge nightclub on the outskirts of Paris where anything goes and, as Sisley tears the place up trying to get his son back alive, anything will. Amazingly written, and shot by the same cinematographer who lenses for Clint Eastwood, 'Sleepless Night' is a one-place, one-night action film that comes close to 'Die Hard''s level of amazing entertainment, a crime thriller with music, chaos and frantic genius that never stoops and truly delivers.
Next week: Hard-hitting action with Steven Soderbergh's 'Haywire' and more ...