STORY WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For Digital First Media
The comeback of Philadelphia’s M. Night Shyamalan continues with “Split” (2017, Universal, PG-13, $28), an outrageously entertaining thriller which, despite recycling some familiar horror movie tropes, manages to feel effortlessly fresh and exciting.
James McAvoy stars as Kevin, a schizophrenic with 23 personalities who kidnaps three teenagers and holds them prisoner in his underground lair. The high-schoolers are in a race against time to escape before Kevin’s beastly 24th personality emerges.
Shyamalan orchestrates the slow reveal of information like the Hitchcock fanatic he is. “Split” is proof that the filmmaker behind “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs” finally has his mojo back. Great use of Philly locations too. Extras: featurettes and deleted scenes.
Also New To DVD
Three (2016, WellGo, unrated, $30): The great Hong Kong director Johnnie To (“Drug War”) doesn’t disappoint with his latest blast opera, a slam-bang mixture of John Woo’s “Hard Boiled” and “Die Hard.” The setting is an overcrowded emergency room where three lost souls collide. There’s a neurosurgeon (Vicki Zhao) desperate to redeem her reputation, a police officer (Louis Koo) determined to right a wrong, and a criminal (Wallace Chung) slowly dying of a bullet wound to the head. Unlike many Hollywood action films, the plot unfolds fluidly rather than frantically. But To knows how to maintain suspense too. And the finale? Hang on tight for a shoot-em-up to end all shoot-em-ups. Extras: featurettes.
Worlds Apart (2016, Cinema Libre, unrated, $25): Set in Greece, this adventurous drama spins three interlocked love stories. In the first segment, a Greek college student (Niki Vakali) falls in love with a Syrian refugee (Tawfeek Barhom) while in the second chapter, a Greek businessman (director/screenwriter Christopher Papakaliatis) and a Swedish efficiency expert (Andera Osvar) discover that their one-night stand might be more than a lustful affair. In the final – and best – vignette, a German exile (J.K. Simmons) begins a flirtation with an unhappy Greek housewife (Maria Kavoyianni). While the message of love triumphing over hatred might be simplistic, “Worlds Apart” encompasses plenty of timely themes while humanizing all of its flawed characters. Extras: featurettes.
The Handmaid’s Tale (1990, Shout Factory, R, $30): In an era of Planned Parenthood defundings and the slow erosion of women’s rights, Volker Schlondorff’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s futuristic thriller is more resonant than ever before. When the movie begins, the ultra-right are in power and women are only allowed to be wives, servants or surrogate mothers. Thanks to years of non-stop pollution, most women are infertile. Those that can bear children, like Kate (Natasha Richardson), are forced to become breeders for elite men such as the Commander (Robert Duvall) and his wife (Faye Dunaway). Now on Blu-ray, just in time for the forthcoming Hulu mini-series, this movie will give you something to think about for days afterwards. Extras: none.
Woman Of The Year (1942, Criterion, unrated, $30): The first of nine movies starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, this honey of a romantic comedy still dazzles 75 years after it was first released. Hepburn has never looked better or sounded smarter than she does as a political columnist with ink in her veins while Tracy makes his nice-guy sports writer effortlessly charming. Of course, director George Stevens knows how to dish out the banter but it’s Hepburn and Tracy’s explosive chemistry that makes the movie so much fun. Extras: featurettes and the two docs about Stevens and Tracy.
The Mad Magician (1954, Twilight Time, unrated, $30): Available on 3D Blu-ray for the first time, this vintage thriller is a terrific blend of frenemies, fun and fright. Master of the Macabre Vincent Prince stars as a creator of magic tricks who no longer wants to hand over his most inspired creations to his fellow illusionists. Soon, he’s taking revenge on those closest to him, including his employer, his ex-wife (Eva Gabor) and a competing magician. “The Mad Magician” is so much fun that it would make a delicious double feature with Price’s “House of Wax.” Extras: commentaries, featurette and Three Stooges shorts.
Behind The Door (1919, Flicker Alley, unrated, $40): Back in 1919, this saga of love and vengeance was described by critics as “brutal,” “overwhelming” and “diabolical.” Nearly 100 years later, the newly-restored silent film still packs a wallop thanks to a handful of images which are both heartbreakingly lovely and astonishingly brutal. Hobart Bosworth and Jane Novak play a couple who won’t be separated even after he enlists in the Navy. But once his ship is destroyed by a German U-boat, the stage is set for revenge. Expect to be moved by the lovers’ plight and the lengths to which Bosworth will go to even the score. Extras: featurettes and export edition of the movie.
Smart Woman (1931, Warner Archive, unrated, $20): With “Stage Door” and “My Man Godfrey,” Gregory La Cava directed two of the finest laughfests of Hollywood’s Golden Age. This drawing room comedy doesn’t reach those heights but it still gets a lot of things right, particularly the banter between a rich socialite ( Mary Astor) and her pals after they agree to trick her philandering husband (Robert Ames) into believing she’s having an affair too. This pre-Production Code mischief brings out the best in the cast, particularly Astor and the easily-exasperated Edward Everett Horton. Extras: none
Donnie Darko (2001, Arrow, R, $50): If David Lynch had directed “Harvey,” the results might look a lot like this bizarre yarn that is arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a troubled teenager who is told by his imaginary friend — the six-foot rabbit Frank — that the world will end in 28 days. Donnie, who’s seemingly caught in a weird time loop, must navigate his attraction to a new girl (Jena Malone) at school, avoid death by a falling jet engine and repair the space-time continuum with help from a woman called Grandma Death. It doesn’t quite hang together but it’s one heckuva conversation-starter. Extras: extensive featurettes, commentaries and deleted scenes.
Hawaii Five-O – The Complete Series (1968-1980, Paramount, unrated, $180): For twelve seasons, Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) and his elite state police task force cracked down on international secret agents, petty criminals and mafia kingpins crime. The series, one of the first to be shot entirely on location in Hawaii, benefits from the easy chemistry between the cast members and the diversity of the lush locations. Extras: none.
Tangled: Before Ever After (2016, Disney, unrated, $20): Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi return to lend their voices to this prequel about everyone’s favorite barefoot princess and her efforts to defy danger and explore life beyond Corona’s walls. Expect a tale sparkling with fun, adventure and music from the great Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast.”) Extras: four shorts.