The critical success of the Leo Tolstoy biopic
The Last Station
awakened in some moviegoers a yen for all things Russian. Based on the Jay Parini novel, the 2009 pic offered a delicious, tragicomic look at Tolstoy's last months.
Another Russian man of letters, Anton Chekhov, serves as the inspiration for the acerbic social satire Anton Chekhov's The Duel, released this week by Music Box Films (www.musicboxfilms.com/; $29.95 DVD; $38.94 Blu-ray; not rated).
A breathtaking, richly textured drama from Georgian-born Israeli director Dover Kosashvili, the film is about two men who clash violently - to the point of fighting a duel - over a beautiful woman. Or so it seems.
Andrew Scott plays Laevsky, a dissolute bureaucrat who takes his married lover Nadya (fellow Irish thesp Fiona Glascott) to a seaside resort.
Nadya has abandoned her husband for her lover, but soon finds out Laevsky is already bored with her.
Laevsky's caddish behavior is challenged by a former pal, Von Koren (Rome's Tobias Menzies), a straitlaced, rather stuffy scientist and moralist. He calls Laevsky out for his treatment of Nadya - not because he has feelings for her, but for the sake of duty and honor.
Can anyone match William Friedkin's near-perfect 1973 shocker,
? Two entries make valiant attempts.
Spanish director Manuel Carballo's English-language pic, Exorcismus), due June 7 from IFC (www.ifcfilms.com/; $24.98; not rated), is about a teen (Sophie Vavasseur) whose sheltered life with her brother and loving parents is gradually dismantled as she is taken over by a demon. Disturbing stuff!
Mikael Håfström (Evil) turns in a doozy with the Anthony Hopkins-led thriller The Rite, from Warner (www.wbshop.com; $28.98 DVD; $35.99 Blu-ray; PG-13). This time, we get the story from the exorcist's point of view. Hopkins channels a touch of Hannibal Lecter as a Rome-based exorcist who encounters troubles of a demonic kind while training a young skeptic (Colin O'Donoghue). The pair end up fighting the demonic within themselves.
Canada dominates TV releases this month with three terrific shows.
The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Series Megaset A&E Entertainment's 22-disk boxed set includes all five seasons of the show that made Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, and Mark McKinney household names. (http://shop.AETV.com/; $99.95; not rated)
Flashpoint: Third Season High production values distinguish this thrilling drama from Paramount about the men and women of the Toronto police's Strategic Response Unit, a SWAT-like team that deals specifically with hostage situations. (www.paramount.com/dvd; $42.99; not rated)
Rookie Blue: The Complete First Season This diverting cop show follows the lives and loves of five rookie Toronto cops. The cast, which includes the sensational beauty Missy Peregrym, Charlotte Sullivan, and Travis Milne, suggests Toronto's entire police force could moonlight as runway models. (http://www.kochdistribution.com/; $44.98 DVD; $49.98 Blu-ray; not rated)
Biutiful Babel helmer Alejandro González Iñárritu outdoes himself with this extraordinary drama due Tuesday from Roadside Attractions. Javier Bardem plays a small-time crook who works for human traffickers - but who seeks redemption. (www.roadsideattractions.com/; $27.98 DVD; $39.99 Blu-ray; rated R)
The Illusionist (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Words can't quite describe the experience evoked by French director Sylvain Chomet's homage to Jacques Tati, an animated family adventure from Sony. (www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/; $38.96; rated PG)
The studios are rushing to release a slew of great classics on Blu-ray. Sergio Leone capped his spaghetti westerns with the 1968 epic
Once Upon a Time in the West
, due Tuesday from Paramount (
; PG-13). . . . Celebrate Stanley Kubrick's genius with
A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition
, due Tuesday from Warner (
; $34.99; rated R). Also look for Warner's nine-film boxed set,
Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection
($148.99; R). . . . Commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War with two monumental war films also from Warner. The 1993 epic
Gettysburg: Director's Cut
($34.99; rated PG) and its prequel, 2003's
Gods and Generals: Extended Director's Cut
($34.99; rated PG-13).