This week on DVD/Blu-ray: Michael Fassbender's NC-17-rated reunion with Steve McQueen; an apocalyptic thriller that's as grim as they come; a horror oldie that deserves cult status; a drama that finally puts veteran character actor Dennis Farina center stage; and a moody French drama sure to push a few buttons.
#1. Critic's Pick: "Shame"
Michael Fassbender received the best notices of his career (and some raised eyebrows) for his soul- and flesh-baring turn in the NC-17-rated drama "Shame," directed by his "Hunger" helmer Steve McQueen, and penned by Abi Morgan ("The Iron Lady"). Although robbed of an Oscar nomination for his searing portrayal of a troubled sex addict, Fassbender did snag a Golden Globe nod, and won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival, where the film made its world premiere.
In "Shame," Fassbender plays Brandon Sullivan, a well-off New Yorker who leads a solitary life that permits him indulge his addition to sex. When his wayward sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) arrives on his doorstep with nowhere else to go, Brandon finds himself struggling to keep his noctural activities under wraps.
"While 'Hunger' contained an extensive monologue explaining the character's behavior, 'Shame' leaves much of Brandon open for interpretation," wrote Eric Kohn in his review. "As a result, Fassbender's revealing and compelling performance doesn't just dominate 'Shame;' he defines it."
Extras: Included are a handful of well-produced featurettes that profile Fassbender and McQueen, as well as one that explains how the plot came to be. The Blu-ray release also includes a bonus DVD.
#2. "The Divide"
New Yorkers who braced for last year's Hurricane Irene will no doubt relate to "The Divide," a violent post-apocalyptic thriller about nine strangers — all tenants of a New York high-rise apartment building — who escape a nuclear attack by hiding out in the bunker-like basement. As supplies dwindle and tension mounts, things get ugly (like we didn't see that coming).
"Even when 'The Divide' faceplants with its performances and dialogue, it maintains a stark outlook that elevates the material from its shortcomings," wrote Kohn in his review. "Xavier Gens' dystopian narrative begins with absolute mayhem and never slows down; the end of the world marks the beginning of a far scarier one."
Extras: Director Xavier Gens and actors Michael Biehn, Michael Eklund and Milo Ventimiglia take part in an informative audio commentary. Also included is the film's trailer and a DVD copy on disc two.
#3. "The Asphyx: Remastered Edition"
Released in 1973, the same year "The Exorcist" changed the horror genre forever, the British period spookfest "The Asphyx" didn't stand a chance at making much of a cultural or financial impact. And it didn't, flopping at the box-office while impressing the few who sought it out. Now, thanks to Kino Lober's specialty horror label Redemption Films, there's no excuse to miss out on a horror gem that deserves cult status. Set in the 19th Century, "The Asphyx" centers on a philanthropist and amateur psychic reader who embark on a quest to gain immortality.
Extras: The film is presented in its 86-minute UK release cut, and in the reconstructed 98-minute US version. In terms of supplements, you'll find a photo gallery, the film's trailer, along with ones for "Virgin Witch" and "Killer's Moon."
In the gritty drama "The Last Rites of Joe May," veteran character actor Dennis Farina stars as the title character, an aging, short-money hustler clinging to the belief that he still has a future in the game. The film opens with May being released from the hospital with no one there to greet him. Returning to his neighborhood in Chicago's Patch District, May finds his car gone, his possessions pawned by his landlord and his apartment rented out to a single mother in an abusive relationship. With no one to turn to, May finds himself struggling to make one last shot at redemption before it's too late.
"Although the story is slight and filled with predictable ingredients (Joe even has an estranged son, as if he weren't pathetic enough), it does right by them," wrote Kohn in his review. "A final showdown between Joe and Jenny's male oppressor contains a masterful tension, made possible by Joe's evolution into a tragic hero with nothing to lose."
Go HERE for our interview with Farina.
Extras: Included are some outtakes, and an interview with director Joe Maggio.
The moody French drama "Domain" stars the iconic Béatrice Dalle as Nadia, an alcoholic mathematician who develops a bond with her gay 17-year-old nephew Pierre (Isaie Sultan). Their perversely close relationship attracts the attention of Pierre's mother, who's been estranged from her sister for years.
"Driven by Dalle's fierce, quasi-monstrous performance and Sultan's impressionable reactions to it, 'Domain' is mainly comprised of long walks, boozy dinners and weighty conversations," wrote Kohn in his review. "It rarely feels cold, but by assuming Pierre's perspective with a succession of moods in place of straightforward exposition, the narrative momentum borders on experimental."
Go HERE to read a First Person written by driector Patric Chiha for Indiewire.
Extras: This is a bare-bones release with just the film's theatrical trailer and a handful of trailers for other Strand Releasing titles.