RT on DVD & Blu-ray: Contraband and The Innkeepers

Plus, an overlooked indie and a cult classic.

This is, quite possibly, one of the thinnest weeks for DVD releases that we've ever seen. If TV miniseries are your thing, you may want to check out the 2011 British retelling of the story of the Titanic or the 1979 television version of John le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. There are also a couple of poorly rated horror flicks (11-11-11 and The Wicker Tree) and a couple of new Criterions (Mario Monicelli's The Organizer and a collection of Hollis Frampton films). But this week, our attention will be limited to the new Mark Wahlberg actioner, Ti West's haunted house story, a powerful coming-of-age drama that flew under the radar, and a Japanese cult classic on Blu-Ray. See below for the full list!

Contraband

51%

Movies released during the early part of the calendar year are typically meant to bridge the gap between awards season and the summer blockbuster frenzy, but every once in a while, we'll get one that's either a surprise critical favorite (Source Code) or unexpected crowd pleaser (Taken). Contraband, which opened in January, certainly had its sights set on the latter, and it almost worked. Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, a former smuggler trying to live an honest life with his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and kids. When his brother-in-law botches a drug delivery, he must pull a crew together for one last job to get him and his family out of the game forever. If the "one last job" part of that summary sounds altogether familiar, you?re on the same page as many of the critics, who said while Contraband was more entertaining than the average January action flick, its lack of originality and unnecessarily convoluted plot kept it from being memorable. At 51%, it might make for a decent throwaway popcorn movie, but not much more.

The Innkeepers

79%

Ti West enjoyed a modest career boost when his '80s horror homage The House of the Devil met with widespread critical approval, and though he has yet to amass a huge cult following, his love for the genre's classic sensibilities remains decidedly intact in The Innkeepers, Certified Fresh at 77%. Filmed in the actual Yankee Pedlar Inn in Connecticut where the story takes place, the movie stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy as Claire and Luke, the hotel's final two caretakers before its scheduled closing. Believing the inn to be haunted, the pair set out to record proof of supernatural activity and end up finding more than they bargained for. While The Innkeepers doesn't introduce any new haunted house twists, critics felt that West's affection for his characters and deft blend of humor and tension helped to elevate it above standard horror fare. Like The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers is somewhat of a slow burn, and it may not be the scariest movie you've ever seen, but word is there are other reasons to watch it.

Pariah

94%

For a short while around the time George Lucas's Red Tails hit theaters, media outlets were abuzz with commentary on the black film community, and a small indie drama was frequently cited as a quality example of black filmmaking that deserved more exposure. Helmed by first-time writer-director Dee Rees, Pariah is simultaneously a coming-of-age and coming-out story of 17-year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye, in a stunning debut), a Brooklyn girl learning to embrace her sexuality and navigate her troubled home life with grace and optimism. Characterized by uncommon authenticity and powerful performances, Pariah succeeds in transcending race and gender barriers to make some universal points about relationships and their effects on the people in them. Certified Fresh at 96% on the Tomatometer, Pariah marks Rees as a new talent to watch, and if you enjoy a good, if sometimes painfully honest, slice-of-life story, you may want to see this.

Shogun Assassin - 5-Disc Collector's Edition Blu-Ray

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If you've been with us for a while, you know that we like to profile a few cult items here and there. A couple of weeks ago, we featured a box set of Dark Shadows; this week, we'd like to present the 5-film Collector's Edition of Shogun Assassin, originally known in Japan as the Lone Wolf and Cub series and based on the famous 1970s Japanese graphic novels of the same name. If you've ever listened to Wu-Tang rapper GZA's classic album Liquid Swords, you've heard several audio samples from the film, and if you recall the final segment from Kill Bill Vol. 2, Shogun Assassin is what Beatrix Kiddo and her daughter are watching together in bed; in other words, the movie's got some famous fans. For those unfamiliar, Shogun Assassin is actually a recutting of the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films, which follow a disgraced samurai and his infant son as they wander the Japanese countryside and fight off would-be assassins. Unrelenting in its violence, the film was prime grindhouse fodder when it was released in 1980 and holds a strong following to this day. This new Blu-ray set contains not only the restored film, but also the subsequent four sequels, as well as a ton of extras like an interview with superfan Samuel L. Jackson, new commentary tracks, and more.

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