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New on DVD – August 31, 2010 – Harry Brown and Red Riding Trilogy

From Michael Caine doing his best Charles Bronson impression in Harry Brown to the chilling crime epic the Red Riding trilogy, here’s a look at what’s coming to DVD and Blu-ray queues near you this week.
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Michael Caine plays the title character in this urban revenge drama set in a rundown South London neighborhood. Harry is a widowed ex-Royal Marine who spends his days hanging out at the pub playing chess with his best friend, who is then murdered by some local hooligans. Not too impressed with the cops’ handling of the investigation, Harry takes matters into his own hands. We thought the film a poorly paced and generic story that “eventually reveals itself to be a deeply conservative single-note exercise in self-righteous justice.”

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This linked trilogy of films only received a limited release earlier in the year, owing to its sprawling length, which could perhaps work better in a home-viewing environment. Based on David Peace’s grim novels about a series of child murders in a depressed North England city, each film is set in a different year (1974, 1980, 1983) with different characters but the same chilling undercurrents roiling underneath. We thought that some parts worked better than the whole thing but that the whole thing was a “bad dream that you don’t want to end.”

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The irrepressible, oversize Great Dane of Sunday-comics fame gets his own feature film and some CGI that allows him to talk with the voice of Owen Wilson. There’s some plotting involving his family’s relocation from Kansas to California, but mostly this is a family film in which a big dog runs around causing chaos when not interacting with other dogs voiced by the likes of Kiefer Sutherland and Steve Coogan. Our writer thought that it was just “yet another cutesy, cloying endeavor where humans are dullards, creatures are cool, and the latter speak in voices often cribbed from current popular culture crazes,” but that, for all this, it was much less painful than the average.

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For Spider-Man director Sam Raimi’s early cult classic, he goes with a tried-and-true formula — a group of young kids go to a remote cabin and listen to a recording of readings from a book of satanic witchery, causing all kinds of hell spawn to come forth — but takes a risk by turning it all into a gory comedy. Our critic has a pretty succinct reason for why the film is such a classic: “Because it’s so much damn fun.” Now available on limited-edition Blu-ray

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