A Good Priest, Outcast Heroes and a Mummy Adventure on Home Video

By JAMES DAWSON
Front Row Features Film Critic

The miraculously good “Calvary” is available Tuesday, Dec. 9 in a Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray and Digital HD).

The drama, released in the U.S. earlier this year, tells the story about a steadfastly moral Irish priest (Brendan Gleeson) who is threatened by a bitter molestation victim that he will be murdered in exactly one week, manages to be both a genuinely moving religious allegory and a sometimes darkly bitter black comedy.

Father James is informed while taking confession that he will be killed specifically because he is innocent of any wrongdoing, which will make the crime more horrific. He later tells his bishop that he has an idea who the would-be assassin is, but that he can’t be certain of the man’s identity.

There turn out to be plenty of likely candidates in his small seaside village, which seems to be populated exclusively by disbelievers, the openly disrespectful and the defiantly damned. The movie turns Britcom (or should that be sat-Eire?) convention on its head by making most of the cast’s townspeople arrogantly unlikable instead of charmingly eccentric, but fascinating nonetheless.

Butcher Jack Brennan (Chris O’Dowd) may be beating his shamelessly philandering wife, whose adulterous lover Simon Asamoah (Isaach de Bankolé) is contemptuously hostile toward Father James’ admonishments about adultery. Compassionless Dr. Frank Harte (Aidan Gillen) is viciously cynical about his patients and their loved ones. Wealthy newcomer Michael Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran) is an all-about-money drunk, police inspector Gerry Stanton (Gary Lydon) cavorts with a cartoonishly gangster-talking rent boy and loner Milo Herlihy (Killian Scott) is a partaker of “all possible forms of pornography” who can’t decide whether to kill himself or join the army.

The movie’s deadpan humor comes from watching the gruffly hopeful Father James grow increasingly exasperated with the flagrant carnality, brutality and stupidity of his flock, and wondering when he will reach his breaking point as the days count off. The film’s serious business includes a chilling visit to an imprisoned serial killer (Domhnall Gleeson, the son of the movie’s star), the administering of last rites to an accident victim and a couple of devastating criminal indignities that seem to be testing Father James’ faith, and possibly his sanity.

On top of everything else, he has to convince visiting daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly), the product of his marriage before he joined the priesthood, that her recent post-breakup suicide attempt was a bad idea. Their father-daughter chats are more conventionally sentimental than the rest of the film, but not every scene can be about somebody taking a leak on a Holbein the Younger oil painting.

Gleeson perfectly navigates Father James’ faith-based journey from saintly forbearance to indignant outrage over his Job-like trials to a Christ-like acceptance of his personal destiny. He also believably acknowledges the priesthood’s pedophilia-scandal sins without letting them turn him away from the church and its teachings. When he reassures a fellow priest that he likes him even though the man has no integrity, the line is simultaneously amusing, devastating and a neat summation of love-one-another forgiveness.

“Calvary” is the second pairing of Gleeson and writer-director John Michael McDonagh after their wittily clever 2011 buddy-cops send-up “The Guard.” “Calvary” has far more heart than that outrageous antihero farce, however.

The Blu-ray package has plenty of extras, including behind-the-scenes material, a featurette called “The Role of a Good Priest,” another one titled “A Matter of Faith” and a third called “A Father & His Daughter.”

The box office blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy” is available Tuesday in a special Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and On Demand. (It was released on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere last month.) Largely overhyped, the action-packed intergalactic fantasy is the movie non-fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” worried “The Avengers” would turn out to be when Joss Whedon was tapped to direct that 2012 Marvel super-team outing. While Whedon managed to rein in his fondness for ironic camp and deadpan snark to deliver a blockbuster that was fun without being irritatingly insincere, “Guardians” director/co-writer James Gunn seems to delight in making this silly space saga too tongue-in-cheek for its own good.

Peter Quill (played as a grownup who calls himself Star-Lord by the perpetually smirking Chris Pratt) is abducted from Earth as a boy on the day his mother dies of cancer, frontloading the otherwise goofy goings-on herein with a dose of misplaced mawkishness. Neither of those events took place in Star-Lord’s 1974 comic-book origin story. The movie’s producers apparently assumed that those changes—as well as other departures from 40 years’ worth of Guardians-related Marvel Comics continuity—wouldn’t matter to a ticket-buying public that is almost completely unfamiliar with the characters.

Fast forward to Quill attempting to procure a mysterious orb from the ruins of an alien planet. He’s so unconcerned about possible danger that he slips on headphones so he can listen to music from the Walkman he brought with him when he was snatched from our solar system 26 years earlier. He knows that his foster father and fellow “Ravager” Yondu (a deliciously devilish Michael Rooker) also wants the orb, but you know what they say about honor among thieves.

Others interested in obtaining the ridiculously powerful object include the purple uber-villain Thanos (glimpsed briefly during the end credits of “The Avengers”), his lethally ambitious underling Ronan the Accuser (a snarling Lee Pace), his partly cybernetic daughter Nebula (a gorgeously intense Karen Gillan) and his adopted green-skinned assassin daughter Gamora (the not nearly threatening enough Zoe Saldana).

Gamora’s daddy issues and a crisis of conscience lead her to join forces with Quill and fellow oddball outcasts determined to stop Team Thanos from triumphing. WWE star Dave Bautista is enjoyable as the massive and amusingly literal-minded Drax, who wants revenge for his murdered family. It’s the group’s two strangest-looking members (and that’s saying something) who are its most toy-sellingly charming, however. Feisty gun-toting smartass Rocket, a product of bio-engineering who came out looking like a talking raccoon, is voiced with exuberant relish by Bradley Cooper. His companion Groot is a humanoid tree whose response to nearly everything is the rumbling pronouncement “I am Groot,” words that Vin Diesel imaginatively makes meaningful with anything but a wooden delivery.

Unfortunately, the screenplay (by director Gunn and Nicole Perlman) turns Quill into the kind of perpetually quipping man-child who can be found littering too many would-be comedies in our end of the galaxy. His worst line? When facing death, he blankly remarks, “There’s a little pee comin’ out of me right now.” And a scene in which Quill compares himself to Kevin Bacon in “Footloose” simply to set up a later gag is so labored it’s groanworthy.

A recurring device that quickly wears out its welcome is Quill’s “Awesome Mix #1” old-school music cassette that supplies 1960s and ’70s soundtrack songs by artists ranging from David Bowie to Blue Swede. The tape gives the movie a reason for including a bunch of hoary and sometimes horrid hits (as opposed to far too many other oldies-jukeboxed recent films that make millennials wonder why so much of their grandparents’ record collection keeps shambling into the 21st century), but the in-joke doesn’t get less annoying with repetition.

There’s also an obligatory “Star Wars”-style space chase, English (with contemporary slang) is the language of every alien race and obvious plot questions (such as why Quill never used his ship to get back to Earth, or why he didn’t stay there if he did) go unanswered. Benicio Del Toro has a bizarre cameo as a shady figure known as The Collector, but appears onscreen only a little longer than his “Thor: The Dark World” end-credits scene lasted.

Marvel’s attempt to tweak its usual superhero formula by making a cosmic adventure that spends most of its running time winking at the audience has its moments, but it’s hard not to wish the movie had taken itself just a little more seriously.

Bonus features on the 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack and Blu-ray versions include never-before-seen deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, an exclusive look at the upcoming theatrical release of “Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” a gag reel, and audio commentary. The DVD edition contains the exclusive never-before-scene deleted scenes and the look at “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

The action adventure film “Day of the Mummy” unwraps on DVD Tuesday. Directed by Johnny Tabor (“Eaters”), the film stars Danny Glover (“Lethal Weapon”), William McNamara (“Copycat”) and Andrea Monier (“Black Water Vampire”). “Day of the Mummy” is available for a suggested retail price of $27.97.

Egypt, land of the Pharaohs, is a place steeped in history and legend; gods and spiritual guides; untold wealth and the bone-cracking, blood-spilling guardians of its riches.

Jack Wells (McNamara) arrives in Egypt in search of the famous diamond known as The Codex Stone. His journey leads him to the tomb of the cursed King Neferu (Brandon deSpain), cursed not by name but by nature. With his centuries-old slumber disturbed by timeless human greed, the King rises from the dead with a blood-lust that cannot be quenched and a raging fury that will shred flesh from bone, bringing terrible and tormented death to all who dare witness the “Day of the Mummy.”

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