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DVDs In Brief: April 25, 2012


DVD round-up

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Contraband (Universal), an Americanization of a 2008 Icelandic thriller, succeeds in large part because its aspirations are so modest. The no-nonsense action thriller casts Mark Wahlberg as a legendary former smuggler who’s forced to run one last heist to pay off a debt to a scumbag drug dealer, played by incorrigible ham Giovanni Ribisi. Twists and betrayals ensue, but the film is largely defined by a refreshing bare-bones simplicity and an assured performance by Wahlberg as a good, working-class man trying to finagle his way out of one hell of a bind… 

When director Ti West and his crew stayed in the Yankee Pedlar Inn in Torrington, Connecticut during the shooting of West’s great retro-’80s horror film The House Of The Devil, they were so freaked out by the spooky history and goings-on at the hotel, West decided to make a movie about it. The result is The Innkeepers (Magnolia), a ghost story that continues HOTD’s slow-burn style, but finds a lot of comedy, too, in following two bored wage slaves (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) just trying to make it through a dying hotel’s final weekend… 

A black lesbian coming-of-age story: By description, Dee Rees’ debut feature Pariah (Universal) sounds so much like a Sundance movie that it approaches parody, and the film itself—earnest, character-driven, fundamentally conventional—doesn’t exactly obliterate that impression. But Rees’ vibrant, colorful images and Adepero Oduye’s exceptional turn as a Brooklyn teen who’s ostracized for her sexual identity give the film a little character… 

Writer/director/star Jiang Wen (Devils On The Doorstep) reportedly worked through 30 drafts of the script for Let The Bullets Fly (Well Go USA), his sumptuous period comedy about a bandit who becomes mayor of a Sichuan town in the 1920s. The extra fiddling didn’t result in a more coherent story, but the period trappings, the mix of humor and action, and the considerable star power of Chow Yun-Fat led to film to break Chinese domestic box-office records… 

Could the circumstances that inspired Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s classic The Sorrows Of Young Werther serve as fodder for a frolicsome costume romance? According to Young Goethe In Love (Music Box), the answer is “absolutely,” but the superficial relationship it establishes between life and literature recalls an even less weighty Shakespeare In Love.