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Australian 'family' film leads short list of latest Blu-ray titles

Doug Nye
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

An award-winning Australian crime drama, "Animal Kingdom," is among the small number of films released on Blu-ray this week.

"Animal Kingdom" (Sony, 2010, $34.95) is the work of writer/director David Michod who had envisioned the project about an Australian underworld family more than 10 years ago. His patience and determination paid off. The film was nominated for a whopping 18 Australian Film Institute Awards and won the 2010 Sundance Award for World Cinema.

James Frecheville plays 17-year-old Josh Cody who lives with his mother until she dies of a heroin overdose. He is taken in by his grandmother (Jackie Weaver) and her sons, Josh's uncles. What Josh doesn't know at first is that this part of his family forms one of the most ruthless criminal gangs in the city.

Weaver is mesmerizing as one of the most cold-bloodied and calculating mother who has ever appeared on screen. She cares only about her boys and doesn't mind what kind of life style they have. As time passes, Cody begins to realize that his family doesn't walk the straight and narrow.

After two lawmen are murdered, Cody finds himself torn between loyalty to his family and a police squad seeking justice. Despite the theme of this film, it is not packed with as much violence as you might imagine. However, when violence does take place it does so in jolting fashion.

Others in the cast include Guy Pearce, Luke Ford and Ben Mendelsohn. Recommended.

Other Blu-ray releases:

"Shock Corrider" (Criterion, 1963, $39.95) Maverick director Samuel Fuller was noted for his hard-hitting war films, but he also put his stamp elsewhere as this thriller demonstrates. Peter Breck plays a newspaper journalist who goes undercover in an insane asylum to investigate a murder. Before it's over, Breck's character finds himself on the verge of going mad. Also in the cast are Constance Tower, Gene Evans and James Best.

"The Naked Kiss" (Criterion, 1964, $39.95) Here is another offbeat film from Samuel Fuller. Constance Towers plays a prostitute who moves into a small town in hopes of fitting in becoming accepted by the locals. She soon discovers that not everything is at as it seems in the community and many if the residents have their own secrets to hide.

"Buried" (Lionsgate, 2010, $29.95) American truck driver Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) awakens to find himself buried alive in a wooden coffin with a cigarette lighter and a cell phone in his possession. While he attempts to find a way out, Conroy remembers that before he woke up, his truck was attacked in Iran where he had been headquartered.

"Down Terrace" (Magnolia, 2010, $29.98) Bill and Karl (Robert and Robin Hill) have just been released from jail after serving time for a mysterious crime. One of the first things they want to do is discover who within their organization turned them into police. Meanwhile, they also discover that the "family" is in danger of going under.

"Justified: The Complete First Season" (Sony, 2010, $49.95) Timothy Olyphant plays U.S. Marshal Rayland Givens whose approach to law and order has more in common with the Old West than it does the 21st century. Givens does his crime fighting in his native home state of Kentucky. This includes the first 17 episodes.

"Lebanon" (Sony, 2010, $38.96) Writer/director Samuel Maoz based this film on his own experiences as a 20-year-old serving in the Israeli army during the 1982 Lebanon war. The film follows four 20-something boys as they drive a tank into a hostile town and experience their first taste of war.

"Takers" (Sony, 2010, $34.95) In this crime drama, detectives Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) and Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) investigate a brilliant heist by a group of bank robbers. It turns out the thieves are extremely well organized and have made stealing almost an art form. It's up to the cops to try to bring the bad guys to justice. Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen and Paul Walker are among the actors who play the crooks.

Also now available on Blu-ray:

After Dark Horrorfest Double Features, Four Volumes (Lionsgate, $19.99 each) Vol. 1, "The Gravedancers" (2005) and "Wicked Little Things" (2006); Vol. 2, "Borderland" (2007) and "Crazy Eights" (2007); Vol. 3, "The Broken" (2008) and "The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations" (2008); Vol. 4, "The Graves" (2009) and "Zombies of Mass Destruction" (2009)

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