New Releases: ‘Prisoners’ a pulp drama with a stellar cast



Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 17

Part mystery-thriller, part brooding meditation on how evil spreads, Denis Villeneuve’s film is a gorgeously shot, masterfully acted piece of pulp that takes itself a smidge too seriously. Hugh Jackman stars as a Pennsylvania carpenter and survivalist named Keller who finds himself unprepared when his daughter is abducted. Paul Dano plays the creep who Keller suspects of the crime, while Jake Gyllenhaal is the overqualified local cop who simultaneously tries to find the girls and to prove that Keller has overstepped his bounds in his quest for revenge. “Prisoners’” twisty, fairly ridiculous plot is the stuff of airplane reading, but Villeneuve frames it like a portentous procedural, akin to “Zodiac” and “Mystic River.” This choice is justified somewhat by Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography — bringing a wintry Pennsylvania community to life — and by Gyllenhaal’s winning performance as an exasperated force for justice. The DVD and Blu-ray come with a pair of negligible featurettes.

VIDEO: ‘Prisoners’ cast and crew discuss film

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

IFC Films, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

The impressionistic, romantic crime drama openly evokes the cinema of the mid-1970s, when filmmakers like Terrence Malick, Arthur Penn and Bernardo Bertolucci were imbuing genre pictures with a weird poetry. Casey Affleck stars as affable criminal Bob Muldoon, who protects his girlfriend Ruth (Rooney Mara) by taking responsibility for a murder she committed during a shootout with the police. Writer-director David Lowery (a respected indie film editor, helming his second feature) tracks Bob as he escapes prison and winds his way back to a woman who’s been trying to forget her former life. The minimal plot is mainly an excuse for Lowery to play with the textures of old movies, which he does beautifully. The DVD and Blu-ray tack on a behind-the-scenes featurette.


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Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $40.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 17

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9” was a scrappy low-budget sci-fi/action picture with a political message. Blomkamp ventures into similar territory with the larger-scaled “Elysium,” which stars Matt Damon as a working class grump living on a crowded, crumbling Earth. The richest citizens — including a devious politician played by Jodie Foster — live on a space station hovering just above the planet, always in sight of the poor, and always tantalizing them. There’s a lot of action in “Elysium,” shot in the same gritty docu-style that Blomkamp used in “District 9,” but the plot this time is more convoluted, with more scene-setting than actual narrative. It’s all remarkably well-realized visually, but not that well-written. The DVD and Blu-ray add a slew of “how’d they do that?” featurettes.

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We Are What We Are

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 17

Based on Jorge Michel Grau’s gruesome 2010 Mexican horror film, Jim Mickle’s version follows an insular family with a dark secret, which may be publicly revealed when one of the parents dies. Mickle changes some key details from Grau’s original, beyond just setting it in the rural U.S. instead of south of the border. The characters are different, the plot is different and the overall theme is very different, taking on cult fanaticism instead of class conflict. But the malice that binds the family remains the same and is every bit as disturbing as it is in the source material. This is one grim little movie, which meets the essential horror standard of being memorable, not by-the-book.

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The Family

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 17

Justified: The Complete Fourth Season

Sony, $55.99; Blu-ray, $65.99

Kick-Ass 2

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 17

The Lone Ranger

Disney/Buena Vista, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 17