This week: Director Danny Boyle crafts a stylish modern-day film noir with a bizarre love triangle in "Trance," starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel.
Also new this week is the British crime drama "Welcome to the Punch," which also stars McAvoy as well as Mark Strong, and the Blu-ray debuts of "The 300 Spartans" (1962) and Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" (1997).
Box Office: $2.3 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 68% Fresh
Storyline: Director Danny Boyle's British psychological thriller stars James McAvoy as Simon Newton, a fine art auctioneer mixed up with a gang led by Franck (Vincent Cassel) When a heist goes wrong and a revered painting goes missing, hypnotist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) is hired to help Simon remember where the painting is. The stakes get higher when the boundaries between reality and hypnotic suggestion begin to blur.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, a Danny Boyle retrospective, "Danny's Film Noir," a few behind-the-scenes featurettes including one on hypnotherapy and the short film "Eugene" by Spencer Susser.
We Say: Boyle's "Trance" is a modern film noir that plays out like a high-class version of "Wild Things" where you're never quite sure who is playing whom. Dawson turns in a fearless performance as a woman who uses her talent for hypnotism to mold men's behavior, McAvoy keeps you guessing about Simon's true nature and Cassel plays sleazy like no other. It's mesmerizing to fall into Boyle's slick-looking world punctuated by a cutting-edge electronic soundtrack and try to piece together what every character's agenda is before all is revealed in the exciting climax.
'Welcome to the Punch'
Box Office: $7,034
Rotten Tomatoes: 50% Rotten
Storyline: Ridley Scott executive-produced this police drama by writer-director Eran Creevy about a master criminal named Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), who escaped London three years ago during a daring robbery that left detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) physically and emotionally scarred. When a failed heist puts Sternwood's son in the hospital and lures Sternwood out of hiding, Max gets a second chance to get the crook that got away. But as Max pursues his arch-nemesis, he uncovers evidence of a vast conspiracy that puts him in more danger than his personal vendetta.
Extras!: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a making-of featurette as well as cast and crew interviews.
We Say: No one told us it was going to be James McAvoy week on home video! Unlike McAvoy's complex "Trance" character that has many layers, here he plays Captain Ahab as a cop with the singular purpose of hunting down his whale (Strong), only to be forced to work together when a worse monster emerges. "Welcome to the Punch" is a decent if unremarkable action thriller about police corruption and gun smuggling but it doesn't hold up for repeat viewings since the revelation of who's behind the conspiracy is the only surprise up the film's sleeve.
'The 300 Spartans' Blu-ray
Box Office: $77 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Storyline: This 1962 movie directed by Rudolph Maté, like the more recent "300," is based on the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. when Greek soldier Leonidas (Richard Egan) led 300 Spartan soldiers against an overwhelming Persian army led by King Xerxes (David Farrar).
Extras!: This Blu-ray debut includes the original theatrical trailer and TV spots.
We Say: Comic artist Frank Miller reportedly saw this movie as a boy and said "It changed the course of my creative life." Miller, of course, created the graphic novel "300," which was adapted into the recent Zack Snyder movie of the same name. "The 300 Spartans" goes for realism as opposed to the stylized action of Snyder's film but still features superb cinematography and a memorable score. If you're bummed that "300: Rise of an Empire" has been delayed until next year, you may want to pick up this Blu-ray and explore the original movie that inspired Miller in the first place.
'The Ice Storm' Criterion Collection Blu-ray
Box Office: $8 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 83% Fresh
Storyline: Director Ang Lee adapts Rick Moody's acclaimed novel of upper middle-class malaise to chilling effect in this 1997 drama starring Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood and Katie Holmes. It's Thanksgiving 1973 and we follow a bunch of lost souls in suburban Connecticut who casually swap partners at key parties and have pointless affairs while President Nixon is in the middle of his "I'm not a crook" phase, putting a frost over the country.
Extras!: This Criterion Collection Blu-ray debut has a commentary track with Lee and producer-writer James Schamus, a documentary featuring interviews with the cast, an interview with Moody, deleted scenes, footage from a 2007 event honoring Lee and Schamus at New York's Museum of the Moving Image, visual essays and an essay by film critic Bill Krohn.
We Say: There isn't a weak performance in Lee's acclaimed portrait of a confusing, dark time in American history. This Blu-ray debut is long overdue, and since it's coming to you from the Criterion Collection you know that means it's going to have the best picture and sound possible as well as more in-depth extras than your average Blu-ray release.