By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire February 1, 2011 at 7:8AM
This week on DVD and Blu-ray an indie monster picture slays the competition, Kristen Stewart comes of age and a Kazuo Ishiguro gets the screen treatment.
This Week's Top Pick:
A One-Man "Monsters"
The Deal: Don't let the title fool you. Although Gareth Edwards' impressive feature directorial debut does feature a slew of creatures that go bump in the night, "Monsters" concerns itself more with two lonely characters brought together through epic circumstances.
The movie takes place six years after a NASA probe crash landed on Earth, bringing back hostile alien life forms. America remains safely removed from the danger, while Mexico becomes a breeding ground for the big, bad critters. The film follows a young photojournalist (Scott McNairy) and his budding romance with his boss's grown daughter (Whitney Able), who is ordered to escort across the Mexican border to safety.
Edwards, a special-effects wizard, developed the movie's FX, wrote the script and shot the film himself -- all with a minuscule indie budget.
"These ingredients turn “Monsters” into a highly personal filmmaking experiment," wrote indieWIRE's Eric Kohn in his review. "Like 'Before Sunrise' crossed with 'District 9,' the movie comments on personal relationships and uses its fantastical components merely as tools of metaphor. Genre, in this case, provides the bait; unsuspecting audiences may find themselves pleasantly surprised by the hidden subtext."
Extras: Audio commentary with Edwards, McNairy and Able; deleted and extended scenes; a behind-the-scenes featurette; a look at the special effects; an interview with Edwards; a taping of the New York Comic Con discussion with Edwards; and more. Available on DVD and Blu-ray (with Digital Copy).
Other Hot Picks:
The Powerful "Tillman Story"
The Deal: The powerful documentary from filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev ("My Kid Could Paint That") tells the story of Pat Tillman, a man who gave up a multimillion-dollar NFL career to join the military and fight in Afghanistan, only to be killed and have his death manipulated by the military into a propaganda tool.
Extras: Audio commentary from Bar-Lev and some trailers to Sony titles. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Sundance's "Welcome to the Rileys"
The Deal: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo head an impressive cast in Jake Scott's "Welcome to the Rileys," which had its premiere at last year's Sundance Film Festival. In the drama, Gandolfini plays a man stuck in an unhappy marriage who renews his love for his wife by befriending a young teenage runaway.
Extras: "Creating the Rileys," a behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Not Your Average Sci-Fi: "Never Let Me Go"
The Deal: Director Mark Romanek ("One Hour Photo") switches gears in his solemn adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's acclaimed novel "Never Let Me Go," starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley. An Orwellian tale that plays more like a period piece, "Never Let Me Go" concerns itself with three close friends who grow up together in a seemingly idyllic English boarding school and gradually come to terms with their sad fates.
Extras: The 30-minute documentary "The Secrets of Never Let Me Go," which includes interviews with all of the primary cast and crew; Three slideshows: "Mark Romanek's On-Set Photography," "Tommy's Art" and "Hailsham Campaign Graphics;" and the film's original theatrical trailer. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Tanya Hamilton's Debut, "Night Catches Us"
The Deal: Tanya Hamilton's feature directorial debut which premiered in Sundance, tells the story of Marcus (Anthony Mackie), an ex-Black Panter who returns to his working-class Philadelphia neighborhood in the summer of 1976, where the Panthers once reigned. Met with disdain from his former movement brothers, Marcus tries to rekindle his friendship with his best friend’s widow, Patricia (Kerry Washington), who reluctantly lets him back into her life.
Extras: Deleted and alternate scenes (including alternate opening and endings); "Confronting the Police," a behind-the-scenes featurette; interviews with members of the Black Panthers movement; and a photo gallery. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.