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The Guard (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Writer-director John Michael McDonagh, brother of the brilliant director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), makes a nice directorial debut with this Irish comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

Gleeson plays Sgt. Gerry Boyle, a brazenly honest, unapologetic Irish cop who joins forces with an FBI agent (Cheadle) to go after drug-smugglers. Gleeson is terrific, delivering his best work since that awesome In Bruges performance in 2008. Let's just say he works well with these McDonagh brothers.

Gleeson and Cheadle make a good team. The biggest laughs in this film consist of Cheadle's straight-faced reactions to some of the appalling things coming out of Gleeson's mouth. Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong do nicely as the bad guys, while Fionnula Flanagan has a couple of poignant and funny scenes as Gerry's dying mother.

I must give a big shout-out to our very own Calexico for the totally surprising, unpredictable, Western-tinged soundtrack. It almost felt like I was watching a spaghetti Western at times.

Like his brother, John Michael McDonagh has a way with words. I suspect The Guard is just the start to a promising directorial career. He's got a knack for strangely funny moments, like when Gleeson touched a corpse's toes and smelled the fingers for no apparent reason. I know that doesn't sound too funny, but I assure you it is.

SPECIAL FEATURES: An audio commentary with McDonagh, Gleeson and Cheadle is worth your time, as is a short film by McDonagh, deleted scenes, outtakes and making-of featurettes. Sony did a good job of putting this disc together.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I thought it was a great idea to remake Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. The original TV movie, starring Kim Darby as a woman terrorized by little furry demons living under her house, is one scary flick.

Knowing that Guillermo del Toro was producing gave me further hope that this would be a good flick—but they made a huge mistake right off the bat, changing the protagonist from a grown woman to a little girl.

What made the original so freaky was a grown woman trying to get her adult counterparts to believe her regarding the little blue monsters trying to kidnap her and drag her under the house. Having a little girl being the one terrorized just feels routine.

It doesn't help that Bailee Madison delivers an unimpressive performance as Sally, the haunted girl. She's a bit annoying, and that starts the film off in a bad place. The CGI monsters are actually kind of cool, and managed to spook me a couple of times.

Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes show up as Sally's dad and his girlfriend. Again, this would've been more interesting if it were Katie Holmes being haunted by the little goblins, and not some kid. Bad decisions make for a bad movie.

Del Toro was a big fan of the original, and it's sad to see one of his pet projects turn sour. It took a long time for this one to be released. I was hoping it was because they were putting some extra work into the effects. As it turns out, the film was probably delayed because it kind of sucks.

SPECIAL FEATURES: This one is light on the extras. There's only some making-of featurettes and a gallery. It's missing a del Toro commentary, which would make watching the film a little more interesting. Unlike The Guard Blu-ray discussed above, Sony did a piss-poor job of putting this one together.

Shark Night (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Since I'm a big Jaws fan, I'm always on the lookout for another good shark movie.

This isn't it.

Oh, sure, it has the makings of a fun flick: A bunch of college kids go to a lake mysteriously filled with killer sharks, and they are going to get eaten. But this isn't even bad enough to be fun; it's just a big bore, full of lousy special effects and bad acting.

When you are making something called Shark Night, wouldn't it make sense to shoot for an R rating? Some good gore could've made this something to have fun with (like the balls-out Piranha 3D). I was thinking there was perhaps going to be an "unrated" cut of this film with some extra gore thrown in, but no dice.

This showed in theaters in 3-D ... bad 3-D. It did nothing to enhance the experience. The studio probably figured that out, and there doesn't seem to be an actual 3-D Blu-ray release of the film in the works.

If you are looking for trash that will at least make you laugh, rent Roger Corman's Sharktopus. That one was horrible, but in an endearing sort of way.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A bunch of worthless featurettes.