Clive Barker’s ‘Lord of Illusions’ Is One of the Week’s Best New Blu-ray Releases

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LORD OF ILLUSIONS discs

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week
LORD OF ILLUSIONS blu

Lord of Illusions

Members of a cult rebel against their leader when he takes a young girl hostage, but thirteen years later the man they left for dead threatens to return from the underworld. Members still loyal to him begin slaughtering the innocent in preparation for his return, and a NYC detective (Scott Bakula) with a history of taking cases that lean towards the supernatural might be all that stands in the way of the murder of the world.

Clive Barker’s third and final feature as director brings together all of his trademarks ‐ nightmarish visions, a disdain for religion, a terrible sense of fashion ‐ and mashes them into a tale that combines noir elements with the supernatural. He delivers some wonderfully creepy and icky visuals involving the cult members and like the story it’s based on it makes me look forward to the return of Harry D’Amour in Barker’s upcoming novel. As much as I love Barker’s fiction though he’s not always the best person to bring them to cinematic life ‐ because his appetite for cheese is never satiated. Some of the digital effects are dated too, although the practical work is all still stellar.

Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical and director’s cuts, commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, interview, photo gallery

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Nothing else really…

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At the Devil’s Door

A supernatural entity makes life a living hell for a series of women who cross paths in a house with a mysterious past. Writer/director Nicholas McCarthy continues to show a strong talent at crafting atmosphere, but whereas The Pact’s narrative holds the attention this one struggles a bit as it moves between characters. The cast ends up being the main reason to stick with it as the women turn in affecting performances that radiate fear. Naya Rivera in particular stands out with a turn that shows far more range than she showed on (the first season of) Glee.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, deleted scenes, trailer]

Cam2Cam

A young woman arrives in Bangkok in search for her missing sister, but she finds herself caught up in an online game with a killer. Director Joel Soisson‘s film opens strong(ish) with a fairly solid game of cat and mouse, but Allie’s arrival signals a downhill slide (albeit an attractive one) from which the film never recovers. It’s not a casting fault though as the blame rests almost fully with the script by Marie Gautier and Davy Sihali. The film is divided into two thematic halves, in a sense, between the technical dangers and the real world ones facing unwary travelers to both realms. Unfortunately for the film neither of those halves are presented with anything resembling an awareness of how they actually work.

[DVD extras: Commentary]

The Device

A pair of adult sisters reunite after a long time apart and head to a remote family cabin to reminisce, but their trip down memory lane is interrupted by the discovery of a strange object in the woods. Odd events and memories begin to haunt them as they grow closer to realizing what the object is and what it means for their past and future. Ignore the artwork on the back of the DVD case ‐ this is a low-key affair built more on exposition and character than effects and set-pieces. It doesn’t wholly succeed, but patient viewers will find enough satisfaction.

[DVD extras: Commentaries]

The Devil’s Hand

New Bethlehem is a small village populated by a religious sect removed from modern day society, but their faith is tested ‐ or confirmed ‐ when a prophecy involving teenage girls and Satan leads to a series of brutal murders in their community. Rufus Sewell, Colm Meaney and Jennifer Carpenter add to the film’s watchability, but the even the less recognizable faces do solid work here. Cast aside though the film engages with a plot that sets up a supernatural framework before shifting into a slasher of sorts with a Scream-like killer in a hood. It’s a smart mix that delivers thrills and a fun finale.

[DVD extras: Trailer]

Don’t Look In the Basement

A young nurse takes a job at a rundown asylum after the hospital’s head doctor is murdered by a patient, but the madness and mayhem don’t stop there. This is a low-budget tale from the ’70s that I recall watching on TV as a kid, but what was unsettling then is somewhat chintzy and cheap now. It’s fun enough as a piece of nostalgic schlock, but it really doesn’t work as a movie.

[DVD extras: None]

Extant: The First Season

Molly Woods (Halle Berry) returns from a 13-month solo space mission to discover that she’s inexplicably pregnant. The news baffles her, and as she tries to work out what happened while she was gone she struggles to fit back in with the world and family she left behind. The first season of this CBS series builds off that initial mystery to include corporate shenanigans, metaphysical mysteries and moral quandaries involving artificial intelligence, and there are some interesting elements at play here. But are they enough to warrant sticking with the show? Not for me.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]

Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

Grumpy Cat (voiced by Aubrey Plaza) is the last cat anyone would ever want as evidenced by her long shelf life at a local pet store, but when a little girl adopts her and discovers they can communicate a whole new world of misery opens up around them. On the one hand this is pretty much a Garfield movie without Bill Murray. So there’s that.

[DVD extras: Featurette]

Magic In the Moonlight

A stage magician (Colin Firth) who moonlights as a debunker of anyone claiming to have supernatural or psychic abilities meets and falls in love with a young woman (Emma Stone) who fits the bill. Woody Allen’s latest fancies itself a far wittier tale than it is, and it’s populated with characters who never feel emotionally valid. I’m not really an Allen fan, so you already know if this is your cup of tea but it isn’t mine.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

The Maze Runner

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) awakes as doors above his head open to reveal a forested area enclosed within giant, stone walls and a group of young men welcoming him to their fold. He has no memory of what brought him here, but he’s determined to find his way back out again. The cold open and initial introduction to the world are spot-on and immediately grab the attention, but almost everything that follows is dumbed down for a YA aesthetic. It sets things up for a sequel, which is expected, but the film does a poor job of functioning as its own movie.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, making of, featurettes, gag reel]

The Skeleton Twins

Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) are siblings who’ve been apart for almost a decade, but the pair reconnect when simultaneous thoughts of suicide signal they’re at their lowest points. Good thing they know how to make each other laugh. This is an occasionally raw, frequently heartfelt drama with a handful of laughs so don’t go in expecting a comedy. It’s actually a bit too much of a downer at times, but both Hader and Wiig give strong, atypical performances making this a film worth watching for fans of the actors.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, outtakes, deleted scenes, making of, featurette, commentaries]

Stonehearst Asylum

Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) is a freshly minted doctor when he comes knocking at a renowned asylum, but he quickly discovers something is amiss within its walls. It’s pretty clear early on just what the problem is ‐ and not just because the story is based on a centuries old tale by Edgar Allan Poe ‐ but Brad Anderson’s film holds the attention anyway thanks to its fine gothic look and an appealing cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine and Brendan Gleeson. The film’s strongest in its third act as the action and secrets come to a head, and it’s worth a watch for fans of old-school terrors.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The reptilian vigilantes get another origin story in this big budget redo starring Megan Fox’s hind quarters as the object of at least one of the turtle’s affection. The quartet and their rat master are CGI creations as are the entirety of the action scenes making this a highly animated adventure, but that’s not a plus. The action bores, the comedy falls flat and nothing here matters. Beware the child who finds it mesmerizing.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, music video]

This Is Where I Leave You

A quartet of adult siblings come home for their father’s funeral and spend a weekend reigniting their familial love and feuds. First and foremost, the cast here is spectacular ‐ Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn and Corey Stoll all do great work here ‐ but the script can’t live up to their talents. Too many of the issues are cliches, too many of the interactions are generic, and the emotional weight rarely reaches the level of mildly affecting. Still, that cast.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Outtakes, deleted scenes]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series
Peter Pan Live!
Tootsie (Criterion)
Werewolf Woman

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