Anyone who's seen "Pusher," the 1999 Danish drug-dealer drama by director Nicolas Winding Refn, knows "normal" is not in that filmmaker's vocabulary. Now comes " Valhalla Rising," an acid trip of a Viking tale, to reiterate that fact.
Mads Mikkelsen (who had a smaller role in "Pusher") stars as One Eye, an aptly named prisoner kept chained to a pole and brought out periodically to fight other gladiators to the death. When he kills his captors and escapes, he hooks up with a group of warriors headed to the Crusades — but his freedom proves as savage and as strange as his captivity. Refn captures harsh landscapes, brutal in their beauty, in this epic drama.
The film is in English (though One Eye is wordless) and is not rated. It was released Tuesday with a list price of $24.98.
The countryside isn't so harsh in " Alarm," but it isn't what you'd call welcoming. In this psychological mystery, a young city woman (Ruth Bradley) flees the urban violence of Dublin, Ireland, for a more serene life in the suburbs. But it seems all the suburbanites commute to the city to work every day, and she's as frightened as ever — and even more isolated. All that quiet can drive you crazy. "Alarm" is not rated and lists for $24.98.
The friendship and political partnership between U.S. President Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) in the 1990s is the subject of " The Special Relationship," a fine HBO production released Tuesday. Not rated, it lists for $26.98.
Also new on DVD:
* " The Sorcerer's Apprentice" : A veteran magician (Nicolas Cage) recruits a young man (Jay Baruchel) to help him defend the city.
Based loosely on the animated sequence from the 1940 animated classic "Fantasia," the film tells the story of Balthazar (Cage), an apprentice of Merlin, who is searching for a sorcerer with the skills of King Arthur's magician. That five screenwriters were involved is obvious because the film bounces from one idea to another.
* " Going the Distance" : A couple (Drew Barrymore, Justin Long) find trying to keep a long-distance relationship going is tough.
Nanette Burstein had only directed documentaries before helming this romantic comedy. Instead of taking us on a romantic journey with building chemistry between the leads, Burstein makes us passive observers.
* " Knight and Day" : A couple races across the globe trying to stay alive while they uncover the truth. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz star.
A sloppy script, uninspired direction and a bored-looking cast make "Knight and Day" a romantic comedy with little to love. It's a paint-by-numbers action/comedy. The only thing it has going for it is Cruise's large, loyal following.