Extraterrestrials deliver true chills in ‘Dark Skies’
This week we begin with some spookiness:
Writer-director Scott Stewart pays homage to Hitchcock and Kubrick with several small touches that distinguish this horror-alien thriller. Using virtually no special effects until the last act, Stewart pieces together a chilling story touched with suspense, nuance, suggestion and innovative camera work to deliver a few well-earned chills.
A couple (Josh Hamilton and an increasingly impressive Keri Russell) have two young sons. To complicate the parents’ already fragile home life, their younger son seems to be having dreams somehow translated into reality, frightening events that manifest themselves by odd occurrences around their house.
After several diversions involving psychologists, friends, skeptical police, and a suspicion of child abuse, the couple learn they are being visited by invisible aliens who enter the body before taking it away. An eccentric expert on the phenomenon (J.K. Simmons) helps them in their seemingly impossible mission to save their child, if not the world.
The DVD includes commentary from Stewart and nine alternate and deleted scenes.
Tomorrow You’re Gone -- Charlie (DVD sweetheart Stephen Dorff), a recently released convict, is obligated to another ex-con (Willem Dafoe) for his help when they served time together in prison.
Once out, Charlie must put a hit on someone to settle the score. About the time that the murder goes awry, Charlie becomes involved, rather incongruously, with free-spirited Florence (Michelle Monaghan). She inexplicably clings to Charlie no matter how he treats her.
From there, director David Jacobson doesn’t exactly clarify all of Charlie's actions, or, for that matter, where Charlie’s palpable angst is coming from. The result is a drama filled with shadowy characters doing nefarious acts but without much clarification. Not rated, 92 minutes.
Last Kind Words -- Writer-director Kevin Barker creates and then maintains decently spooky atmospherics for the majority of this horror-thriller. But since logic always takes a beating in this genre, this often stylish film succumbs to the apparent inconsistencies and basic irrationalities of its story.
Seventeen-year-old Eli (Spencer Daniels) moves with his fractured family to a rural Kentucky farm. There, while meandering in a forest, he meets the mysterious Amanda (Alexia Fast). Before long, he encounters bodies hanging from trees, including Amanda’s, and begins hearing stories from the landlord (Brad Dourif) of long-forgotten lynching victims.
What is real, and what is not? Beats me. Not rated, 87 minutes.
Sommore: Chandelier Status The saucy comedian delivers her stand-up act to a receptive crowd in this filmed Miami performance. With no brakes, she dishes on arrogant celebrities, her surgeries and, of course, her sex life. Please sir. Can I have Sommore? Not rated, 76 minutes.
Bink & Gollie … And More Stories About Friendship This new animated release from Scholastic Storybook Treasures prepares kids for summer vacation time.
Based on the book written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile, Bink and Gollie are reluctant best friends who discover how to strengthen their friendship. Other tales include A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip C. Stead, The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, and Michael Foreman’s Cat and Canary.
Not rated, 36 minutes. The DVD includes a sing-along and interviews with illustrators Tony Fucile and Erin Stead and authors Philip Stead and Jacqueline Woodson.
And, from this week’s TV arrivals:
Red Widow: The Complete First Season In our week’s top TV-Series-to-DVD, here’s the breakout ABC series loosely based on the Dutch series Penoza.
Radha Mitchell stars as Marta Walraven, a married San Francisco mother of three and the daughter of a Russian mobster (Rade Serbedzija). After a misguided heist by a family member, her husband is murdered in retaliation. Marta finds herself co-operating with a vicious mob rival (Goran Visnjic) to smuggle in drugs to support her family. It’s Walter White on the Bay.
Clifton Collins Jr. plays the Javert-like FBI agent hounding her. With Jakob Salvati, Lee Tergesen and Wil Traval.
Rated TV-PG-DLSV, 344 minutes. The collection of eight episodes on two discs includes the 14-minute “making of” featurette, “Red Widow: The Journey,” eight deleted scenes and a four-minute blooper reel.
Dance Academy: Season One, Volumes 1 and 2 The debut season of this popular new Australian series seen on TeenNick arrives in two packages.
It’s the start of a new year at Sydney’s premier dance school when Tara arrives to meet new friends Kat and Sammy and to develop a crush on Ethan. Volume two picks up after the holidays, and Tara has been awarded a full first-year scholarship at the school filled with teen drama and romance.
The show is not rated. Each volume runs about 325 minutes and contains 13 episodes on two discs.
Top Gear 19, Doctor Who: The Visitation (Special Edition), Doctor Who: The Snowmen and Doctor Who: Series Seven, Part Two BBC Home Entertainment releases four titles from two of the broadcaster’s longest running series.
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May abuse a variety of automobiles in Top Gear 19, a three-disc set of excitement. They drive an Aston Martin, a Viper, a Lexus, a Shelby Mustang and many other vehicles to torture the roads in and around Las Vegas, Los Angeles and even London.
Also included is Top Gear’s African special, in which they seek to find the source of the Nile while using three unexceptional station wagons.
In the two-disc Doctor Who: The Visitation (1982-84), Doctor Who turns up in 1666 England, site of the deadly Great Plague. The good Doctor (Peter Davison) arrives only to discover that aliens, the Terileptils, are plotting to take over the planet during the crisis. With Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse.
The set also includes a 45-minute “making of” featurette, a 27-minute segment on the world of Doctor Who, and a 32-minute reminiscence with Davison, Fielding and Mark Strickson.
Matt Smith plays the doctor in Doctor Who: The Snowmen (2012), co-starring Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara. The Christmas special sees the duo saving the holidays from Doctor Simeon (Richard E. Grant) in 1892. The single disc also includes a “behind-the-scenes” featurette and two prequel episodes: “Vastra Investigates” and “Children in Need Special: The Great Detective.”
In Doctor Who: Series Seven, Part Two (2012-2013), the Doctor (Matt Smith) searches, for the third time, for Clara. Before facing terrifying monsters in outer space, they find themselves trapped in a Russian submarine as well as in other unexpected locations.
Not rated, 360 minutes. The two-disc set also holds two prequels: “The Bells of St. John: A Prequel” and “Clarence and the Whispermen.”
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Dead Mine, My Dog Tulip, The Newton Boys, Reuben Reuben, Speechless.