DVD Tuesday: ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘From Paris With Love’

by W. Andrew Powell

Leonardo diCaprio in Shutter Island

Leonardo diCaprio in Shutter Island

Coming out today on DVD and Blu-ray: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the crime-thriller, Shutter Island; John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers get into some trouble in From Paris With Love; plus the re-release of the far-out sci-fi series, Lexx, season one on DVD.

Shutter Island
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams, Jackie Earle Haley
Director: Martin Scorsese

Director Martin Scorsese obviously has a thing for crime stories. The Oscar winner has made a number of remarkable films over the course of his impressive career, but the best of his films all hover around the central theme of villains and their deeds.

Set in 1954, his latest thriller stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal who has been sent with his partner Chuck Aule, played by Mark Ruffalo, to investigate a disappearance at a heavily fortified insane asylum, Boston’s Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital.

Digging into the clues, Teddy feels like he’s onto something, and could break the case, but for whatever reason the hospital staff won’t give him access to the files he needs. More troubling, however, is a sudden hurricane that cuts the island off from the outside world, and gives a number of inmates the opportunity to escape their cells.

As the inmates wreak havoc on Shutter Island, Teddy finds more and more clues as he also starts questioning his sanity, and whether he hasn’t stumbled into a terrible experiment.

Based on the original best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River, there is little doubt that the source material is very strong. Scorsese and screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis, who also wrote Oliver Stone’s Alexander, make great use of that original story, transforming it powerfully for the screen – something many book adaptations fail to accomplish.

While the film is rich in mood with stunning cinematography by director of photography Robert Richardson, Shutter Island failed to inspire every critic.

As Claudia Puig wrote for USA Today, “Despite its flaws, Shutter Island is worth seeing for the palpably nightmarish and gothic world conceived by Scorsese.”

While Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com criticized the film. “Scorsese is pushing, I guess, for something that combines a ’40s horror-thriller with a contemporary psychological tragedy,” O’Hehir wrote. “What he ends up with is more like a Hardy Boys mystery directed by David Lynch.”

From Paris With Love
Starring: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Director: Pierre Morel

With a title reminiscent of a 1950s-era love story, From Paris With Love is the latest action movie from writer and producer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel, who previously created Taken. Besson is perhaps best known, however, for writing the Transporter films, which is more along the lines of what you can expect from this film.

Set in Paris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as James, a personal aide to the U.S. ambassador in France who basically has it all, including a beautiful girlfriend. Secretly though, James is a CIA operative who wants to become a real agent some day, and when an opportunity presents itself, he jumps at the chance.

Unfortunately for James, that opportunity includes his first partner, the wisecracking loose cannon Charlie, played by a scenery-chewing John Travolta.

Working together as they try to avert a terrorist attack, the duo embark on a city-wide shooting spree while they hunt for a crime ring that has its sights set on James. That gives the wanna-be agent at least one good reason for sticking next to Charlie throughout the course of a wild, trigger-happy forty-eight hours. They just have to find some way of working together as the green operative tries to prove himself next to his crazy partner.

Compared to Taken or The Transporter, From Paris With Love is frankly not getting inspiring reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “From Paris With Love is a ‘fun trash’ movie that’s more trash than fun.”

David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote much more positively about the film. “Morel will inevitably be compared to John Woo, whom he trounces,” Edelstein wrote. “[Morel] has fewer mannerisms and a keener eye; his fastest, most kinetic shots flow together like frames in a flipbook.”

Lexx Season 1
Starring: Brian Downey, Michael McManus, Eva Habermann

Take a robot head, a dead guy, a beautiful woman with lizard blood and add a total wimp and you’ve got the lineup for Lexx, one of Canada’s strangest, and most off the wall contributions to the sci-fi genre.

Brian Downey stars as Stanley H. Tweedle, a lowly guard who mistakenly causes mayhem that gets him pegged as a rebel leader, and captain of the ship known as Lexx, which happens to be a living creature.

Alongside Stanley is the love slave Zev, played by Eva Habermann in the first season, and the undead assassin Kai, played by Michael McManus. Plus a robot head known as 790.

This odd group of creatures narrowly escapes His Divine Shadow, the undisputed leader of the League of 20,000 Planets. Throughout the first season of four episodes, which originally aired in 1997, we’re introduced to the strange life onboard the Lexx, and the strange events across the Light Universe.

Guest stars in this season really helped make some of the episodes, which featured Tim Curry, Rutger Hauer, and Malcolm McDowell.

While the special effects have not held up that well after all these years, Lexx is still something decidedly different for sci-fi fans. Things also get decidedly better in season 2, so this is definitely a great intro for getting into the more impressive later seasons.

While the price is right for this light package, the only downside is that there are no features, which seems unfortunate for the re-release of one of Canada’s few unique sci-fi productions.

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