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DVD reviews: 'Misery' returns to hammer into your dreams with an effective white-knuckler

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Preston Barta

Misery

4 stars out of 5

Rated R, 108 minutes.

Available Tuesday on Blu-ray through shoutfactory.com and Movie Trading Co.

What would you do if an admirer kidnapped you and wouldn't let you go? You'd be surprised with the methods you'd take to escape.

The 1990 psychological thriller Misery provides insight into that reality and mentally prepares one to be more careful out there, or be paranoid.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Stephen King, Misery finds renowned author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) held against his will when super-fan Annie Wilkes (a knock-out Kathy Bates) learns the protagonist in Sheldon's latest installment in a popular book series is killed off. Instead of writing an angry letter and screaming bloody murder, Wilkes says it's hammer time and unleashes hell on Sheldon's life.

With most of the film's action set in one room and involving only two people, director Rob Reiner approaches the story in a fashion that could function as a stage play. Fortunately, Reiner's style of presentation works tremendously well in establishing a claustrophobic atmosphere that oozes with a constant sense of unease. The physical pain and mental torment Sheldon suffers is a dreadful journey that is both harrowing and compelling to watch.

Scream Factory — a genre film distribution company — finally gives Misery the invigorating release it deserves on home disc. Though most viewers' desire to watch horror movies isn't as lively with Halloween in the rearview, this collector's edition makes for a perfect stocking stuffer or a nice departure from hanging holiday decor.

Extras: The Scream Factory Collector's Edition includes a 4K restoration of the original film, new and old interviews with filmmakers, audio commentaries, several fun behind-the-scene featurettes and trailers.

*

Animal Factory (3.5 stars) Animal Factory is the real deal. The 2000 release is a no-holds-barred prison movie that doesn't take an overly Hollywood approach to its story of a troubled youth (Edward Furlong) who is sentenced to 10 years for a drug-dealing conviction. Life behind bars is no picnic. There's a reason why you should be scared to be in that setting, and Animal Factory doesn't spare any details.

Artfully directed by Steve Buscemi and anchored by a standout cast (Willem Dafoe, Danny Trejo and a surprisingly moving Mickey Rourke), the underrated gem was dug up by United Kingdom film distributor Arrow Video and has been polished with exciting special features and frame-worthy cover art.

Not rated, 94 minutes.

Extras: The Arrow Films release comes complete with a quality upgrade, trailers, interviews and audio commentaries with the filmmakers and talent.

*

Like Twilight Time, Warner Archive resurfaces forgotten films for a new age. This month's editions restore adventures in love and war drama.

Summer of '42 (4 stars) Set against the backdrop of World War II, the 1971 film centers on a trio of teenage pals (Gary Grimes, Jerry Houser and Oliver Conant) who awkwardly attempt to woo the local ladies on Nantucket Island. Two buddies chase after women their own age, while the other (Grimes) slowly befriends an older woman (Jennifer O'Neill) who's waiting patiently for her husband to return home from the war. But when tragedy strikes, their lives are forever changed. Elevated by powerful performances and dialogue, Summer of '42 is a heartwarming coming-of-age tale that wears its near five-decade age remarkably well.

Rated PG, 104 minutes.

Battle Cry (4 stars) This sprawling 1995 war drama focuses on the personal lives of the young men trained to enter combat. From boot campy to active duty in the Pacific (a part of WWII that's not explored enough), the plot underlines the trials and tribulations of several Marines, their love lives and the transition to the war scene. Compared to most films of its genre, Battle Cry concerns itself more on character development and camaraderie than epic scenes of battle. It's a memorable entry worth adding to your collection.

Not rated, 148 minutes.

Extras: The Warner Archive Collection releases (available now on WBshop.com) only include trailers.

*

Woodshock (2 stars) A24 is a distribution studio that always has my attention. A24 has created some of today's most innovative films, including this year's The Florida Project and Lady Bird. But Woodshock, starring Kirsten Dunst, is a film that lacks a pulse and the proper story growth to keep one invested. The hazy visual look and lush colorization are as hypnotic as its story about a woman who falls into paranoia after taking a deadly drug. Sadly, the rest is a failed experiment.

Rated R, 100 minutes.

Extras: The Lionsgate Home Entertainment release includes only a making-of featurette. It could have greatly benefited from an audio commentary -- because if there's anything more interesting than the movie itself, it's how sibling filmmakers Kate and Laura Mulleavy talk about it.

*

The Defiant Ones (3.5 stars) This four-part miniseries may be surface-level documentary filmmaking, but it still manages to assemble an intoxicating look at the music industry and corporate power. Uniquely framed through the partnership between record moguls Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, The Defiant Ones brings together a knowledgeable and talented group of artists (Eminem, Ice Cube and Snoop Dog, to name a few) to peel back the layers of fame and study how art can shape the world for the better.

Not rated, about 261 minutes.

*

Also available this week 

Acts of Vengeance, Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life (a weak retour of Stars Hollow), I Do ... Until I Don't (a soft recommendation), Logan Lucky (a super-funny heist movie), Lost in Paris, M.F.A., Rememory, Tulip Fever and Super Dark Times (aesthetically pleasing, but thematically dull).

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.