Roman Polanski's nimble and winking political thriller finds its magic through simplicity. From the easy-to-follow storyline – a ghostwriter takes on an assignment fraught with danger – to the willfully incomplex politics seen through the eyes of the relatively uninformed writer (Ewan McGregor) and the pretty-boy puppet of a prime minister (Pierce Brosnan), Polanski navigates the genre waters with refreshing clarity. McGregor's wide-eyed protagonist is clever enough to make the audience feel comfortable with him as our stand-in, yet his gullibility and tepid drive to find the truth reminds us of our own armchair HuffPo bystander status without insulting it. ;(available now)
Special Features: featurettes, interviews;;
What would happen if regular people put on costumes and fought crime? Well, it might be fun at first until the beatings. Then it would get really dark, and then it'd be a horror show. Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) uses that formula remarkably well in this independently financed bloodfest in which an average kid (Aaron Johnson) fights back against bullies and the do-nothing public that enables them. Along the way, he meets a father-daughter superhero duo that are actually just serial killers in disguise, and the film holds nothing back in showing them as such. At times the horrific realism strangles whatever fun might be had, but that's also the point: Doing the right thing (or, in some cases, the vengeful thing) can have mortal consequences in the real world; that's why so few do it. Is it uplifting? No. But it is pretty ;kick-ass. (available now)
Special Features: commentary, making-of, featurettes;;
Speaking of morally compromised anti-heroes, here's a doozy from French director Jacques Audiard that was robbed of the Best Foreign Film Oscar last year. Here, newly incarcerated Malik finds himself thrust into the kill-or-be-killed world of a mob-run prison unit and, after a shaky, brutally messy start, seems to really take to it. Malik, a French Arab, is charismatic and eventually merits the protection of a behind-bars Corleone with the power to conduct globe-hopping drug business by dispatching people like Malik to handle things. There's a supernatural element to the proceedings that never gets off the ground, but as a self-contained Godfather mixed with City of God, it's a harrowing viewing experience. (available now)
Special Features: none; firstname.lastname@example.org
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