Facing fears is a common theme among this week’s new releases.
• “The Possession,” Grade B: The film is proof a movie can be scary without having to resort to an onslaught of blood, guts and profanity that would earn it an R rating. Director Ole Bornedal gets the maximum chills from gloomy weather, a foreboding soundtrack, lighting trickery, decent special effects and acting performances that sell each startle. And it still comes in with a PG-13 rating.
It’s shocking that the film was produced by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, who helped ramp up horror film violence with “Evil Dead.” The restraint they showed should open up “Possession” to a larger audience.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues to show his versatility. He’s gone from the outlandish superhero Comedian in “Watchmen” to the suave nightclub owner in “Magic City” to this believable father. His performance helps make the film work.
• “Men of a Certain Age: The Complete Second Season.” Grade B-plus: The cable series looks at three average guys who wonder if their lives have been well spent. The focus is on males around the age of 50 but should reach viewers of all ages because of a first-rate cast and very smart writing.
It works because of the honest dialogue between these men. They don’t suddenly know the meaning of life, but struggle just to get through another day. Those struggles are both funny and serious.
Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher turn in first-rate performances.
• “Won’t Back Down,” Grade C: This feels like a Lifetime film that lacks clarity. It bounces through hot-button issues with such randomness that the central message ends up muddied. Buried under all of the distracting elements is a gem of an idea. But the numerous tangled plots leave this story of class struggle incomplete.
At the heart is the story of two mothers (Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal) who decide to transform their children’s failing inner-city Pittsburgh school. They start the long bureaucratic process of taking over the school so they can run it, despite resistance from the faculty, administration, parents and the local teachers union.
Those actions would be enough for any film. But the script by Brin Hill and director Daniel Barnz piles on the emotional fodder with storylines about dyslexia, learning disorders, marital problems and poverty. In an effort to serve them all, none gets complete attention.
Also new on DVD this week:
“Thomas & Friends: Muddy Matters”: Thomas and his friends go on a messy adventure.
“Perry Mason: Season Eight, Volume Two”: Raymond Burr continues his legal winning ways.
“I Am Bruce Lee”: Documentary on the life of the legendary martial artist.
“Jackie Chan: Crime Story / The Protector”: DVD includes two Jackie Chan films.
“Littlest Pet Shop: Little Pets, Big Adventures”: First DVD collection from the animated TV show.
“The Chicago 8”: Gary Cole headlines a stellar cast.
“Story of Math Collection”: Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy offers a different look at the world of numbers.
“Being Human: Season Four”: BBC series about supernatural roommates.
“Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season”: British series starring Colin Morgan.
“Taken 2”: Liam Neeson stars in this sequel to the 2008 release “Taken.”
“Waking the Dead: The Complete Season Seven”: Trevor Eve stars.
“Bill Moyers: Becoming American”: The story of Chinese Americans.
“The Amazing World Of Gumball: The Mystery”: This is the second DVD from the animated TV series.
“Stone of Destiny”: A college student reignites Scottish national pride with a raid on the heart of England.
“Dance Moms Season 2: Volume 1” and “Dance Moms Season 2: Volume 2”: DVD sets based on the reality show set in a dance studio.