Deliver us From Evil (NR, 2009, Entertainment One)
You’ll never misconstrue “Deliver us From Evil” as a low-key character study, but for a little while — and in spite of one character’s killing and the overt suggestion of trouble ahead — “character study” is the best classification there is. “Evil” begins as the story of two brothers — one successful (Lasse Rimmer as Johannes), one a troubled disaster (Jens Andersen as Lars), but both considerably imperfect and both with strong ties in a rural town that is knit entirely too tight for its own good. If that sounds dull, fear not: Even during the introductory phase, “Evil” marinates everything in a level of bubbling angst that matches the desaturated, high-contrast visual presentation and stands ready to blow with the right catalyst. Sure enough, when that early killing comes back to roost, the whole place explodes. A not-so-quiet character study engulfs into a chaotic, cathartic revenge story, and everything we’ve learned about Lars, Johannes and their loved ones and neighbors roars to life in a fiery, bloody, ugly and strangely life-affirming tale of assumptions and misunderstandings gone crazily, terribly, wonderfully awry. Lene Nystrøm, Mogens Pedersen and Bojan Navojec also star. In Danish with English subtitles.
Extra: Three behind-the-scenes features.
The Cape: The Complete Series (NR, 2011, Universal)
A lot of really good shows start off as slightly confused shows, and while there’s no way to know if “The Cape” was destined for excellence, the possibility certainly was there. “The Cape” gets its name from the titular lead character (David Lyons) whose police career (to say nothing of his life as a husband and father) get upended when he’s mistaken for Chess (James Frain), a masked supervillain whose alter ego happens to be the most powerful man in Palm City. A group of carnies and magicians (led by Keith David as Max Malini) help him capitalize on his new identity by giving him powers, a mysterious technofile (Summer Glau) gives him access to the city’s underground, and just like that, The Cape is taking on a rogue’s gallery of villains while aiming for the top of the ladder and a return to his former life. That’s a lot to make sense of with only nine episodes in which to make sense of it, and perhaps sensing the grasp of premature cancellation, “The Cape” feels rushed in some spots and a bit confused in others. But even at its messiest, there’s fun to be had in the lines the show draws between comedy and drama as well as between fantasy and reality. The rivalry between Chess and The Cape grows in fits and starts and occasionally runs in circles, but it goes places, and it’s a bummer that the impatient nature of network television never gave us a chance to see where the whole thing was headed.
Contents: Nine episodes, no extras.
Arthur (PG-13, 2011, Warner Bros.)
We had some fun and had some laughs, but it’s time to drive Russell Brand’s leading-man status out to the forest preserve and leave it there. Without even seeing it, many will dismiss “Arthur” — the story of a reckless, drunk playboy (Brand) who must marry a girl (Jennifer Garner) he doesn’t love to keep his inheritance — as another needless remake of a movie that holds up just fine. But while they’re absolutely right, “Arthur” at least doesn’t set out to completely alienate anyone with fond memories of Dudley Moore’s most famous character. The new “Arthur” doesn’t mess with the old “Arthur’s” storyline, and it generally stays on point rather than make the awful mistake of indulging its star’s (for lack of a better word) talents. It even flirts with total likability, thanks to a loving nanny (Helen Mirren) who steals a few scenes and a more authentic love interest (Greta Gerwig) who practically steals the whole movie. Predictability runs wild, but it’s predictability of the comforting sort — the kind expected of a remake concerned more with respecting the original instead of trampling on its memory. Even Brand gets in on the act with his most restrained performance yet. Unfortunately, even a measured Brand is a grating Brand when our eyes and ears are stuck with him for a movie’s complete duration. Inoffensive though “Arthur” is, it’s never truly great or even consistently pleasant, which it so easily could have been with a more endearing comic touch in the lead role.
Extra: Deleted scenes.
Wake Wood (NR, 2009, Dark Sky Films)
Like many movie parents who lose a child, Patrick (Aidan Gillen) and Louise (Eva Birthistle) have decided a change of scenery is in order after their daughter (Ella Connolly as Alice) is killed in a dog attack. Additionally, like most heavily rural areas that grieving movie characters move to, Wake Wood has some strange inhabitants and rituals — in particular, a ritual that would allow Patrick and Louise to resurrect Alice for three days and achieve some closure. As you doubtlessly need not be told by now, this ritual, like all movie rituals in wooded movie villages, is bound to go awry. And that’s the problem, among others, with “Wake Wood:” The premise has potential, but you’ve seen this movie already. Worse still, you’ve probably seen it done better. “Wood” has little clue what to do between its key plot turns, and it seems ill-equipped to explore the unbelievable angst that must accompany such a bittersweet opportunity. So it fills an awful lot of time with empty mumbling that’s supposed to pass as grieving and endless cycles of foreboding that nobody, given how predictable the plot is, needs to hear.
Extra: Deleted scenes.
Worth a Mention
— “Best of Sesame Street Spoofs! Volumes 1 and 2” (NR, Sesame Street/Warner Bros.): “Sesame Street has always been good about throwing a few winks parents’ way while kids obliviously get their education, and this collection of parodies stands as proof. The first volume covers the earlier days, with “Casablanca,” “Dragnet” and “Twin Peaks” among the targets of parody. The second volume focuses on more recent spoofs, including send-ups of “24,” “30 Rock” and “Mad Men.” Extras on the two-hour set include an unaired “Jon and Kate Count to 8” spoof, the Internet-famous “Smell Like a Monster” Old Spice spoof, and three clips from the Guy Smiley-hosted “Beat the Time” game show.
— “Transformers: The Japanese Collection: Headmasters” (NR, 1987, Shout Factory): For the second straight time, Shout Factory comes to the rescue just as another abysmal “Transformers” movie threatens to tear childhood memories asunder. This time, though, the heroic act goes beyond mere nostalgia by importing a series most fans probably haven’t even seen. Though it picks up where the original American “Transformers” cartoon left off, “Headmasters” had never made it to America in any polished, official capacity. So this set — featuring the original Japanese audio and a proper set of English subtitles instead of some poor homemade dub — is beyond overdue. Includes all 35 episodes, plus art galleries.
— “Trailers From Hell! Volume Two” (NR, Shout Factory): If you’re unfamiliar with trailersfromhell.com, don’t let the name fool you: It’s a celebration, rather than a condemnation, of the two-minute trailer and its ability to make any film look amazing. Each trailer collected on the site comes accompanied by commentary from actors, writers, directors and more, turning a promo into an illuminating and sometimes exciting Cliff’s Notes edition of a film. The DVD rounds up 20 new trailers not available on the site, and includes a bonus — a full-length, anamorphic widescreen cut of Roger Corman’s “Little Shop of Horrors” — that’s as welcome as it is ironic. If you’ve ever wanted to own a DVD where a film is dessert and the trailers are the main course, no one can stop you anymore.