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New on DVD

Thor flexes his abs, Incendies unleashes unconventional horror

Thor

Thors hammer: Its power has no equal, as an implement of war or a tool to rebuild. Pity then, that it couldnt have given its owner, Thor, more personality. Its not strictly actor Chris Hemsworths fault: its tricky to keep a straight face when youre forced to flex your abs whilst delivering lines peppered with thee and thou. I blame an over-reliance on CG effects: watching people traverse that damnable rainbow bridge over and over made me pine for some old-fashioned studio shots.

Daddy Odin (Anthony Hopkins) casts Thor out of his realmvia the rainbow bridge, of coursefor being arrogant, reckless and too keen to get into a scuffle with Frost People. He lands on modern-day earth, practically into the lap of Natalie Portman, whos on the verge of a big time-continuum breakthrough, but really distracted by Thors retro hunkiness. While Thor is dealing with traffic for the first time, his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is trying to assume the throne and ensure Thor stays banished forever.

The standard disc features commentary with the always-engaging Kenneth Branagh who directed Thor, plus deleted scenes. But Marvel fans will be most interested in the Road to the Avengers extra, a Comic-Con appearance by all the actors slated to appear in next years The Avengers release, including Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., Hemsworth, Chris Evans and more.

Incendies

Canadas 2010 Academy Award contender is a horror movie. Not a conventional horror movie, mind you, but a mystery with such gruesome revelations that youll want to hit the pause button so you can catch your breath, and absorb whats just happened. It all starts with the reading of a will in Canada. Twins Jeanne and Simon Marwan (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette) are handed two envelopes: one for the father they know to be dead, and another for a brother they didnt know existed. Death is never the end of the story It always leaves tracks, says the executor of the will. So begins Jeannes odyssey to her mothers homeland (likely Lebanon), where the effects of a brutal and bloody religious war are still evident. We flash back to the mother, Nawal (Lubna Azabal), engaging in her own search, for the baby boy that was secreted away to an orphanage years before. With every vehicle that chugs up the jagged desert road, Nawal, a Christian, must decide whether to pretend to be Muslim and cover her head, or to show the cross she wears around her neck: choosing wrongly means death. Nawal sees things that alter her forever. She becomes a revolutionary. She goes to prison, where she becomes a legend because of her defiant singing; the prison brings in a torture expert to rid her of the habit.

Jeannes digging for the truth blends seamlessly with Nawals tale of woe, which seems to worsen with each frame. The resolution is over-the-top: certainly the Greeks couldnt have written a more perfect tragedy. Though every event has a politically motivated cause, director Denis Villeneuve keeps the historical context vague, focusing instead on the human drama unfolding. Desormeaux-Poulin is perfect as the daughter finally getting to know her mother, one devastating detail at a time. Sober, deliberate lensing and restrained score keep things grounded as the miseries pile up en route to closure and forgiveness.

Director commentary and trailer are joined by Remembering the Ashes, an extensive documentary from filmmaker Anais Barbeau-Lavalette featuring some of the harrowing stories from real refugees who worked as extras on the film.