April 15, 2012
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'Extremely Loud', 'Carnage' on DVD
By Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency


Thomas Horn in a scene from "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (Handout)

If you are more interested in people than machines, in ideas over actions, prepare to be amazed. Watch these two films: Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Roman Polanski's Carnage. I suspect few of you have seen either one yet. The numbers speak volumes.

Despite being Oscar-nominated as best picture, the box office for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was modest. It earned $47.8 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. It is a family drama built around the legacy of 9/11 in New York City. The screen is populated by a solid cast headlined by past Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, along with Max von Sydow, the Swedish legend nominated as best supporting actor for this film. At its heart is child actor Thomas Horn, who gives one of the most riveting first-time performances in Hollywood history.

Carnage, a searing comedy about bad manners among four New York parents, fared even worse in theatres. Despite a stellar cast of former Oscar winners Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet and Cristoph Waltz, plus former Oscar nominee John C. Reilly, Polanski's savagely brilliant film generated just $27.6 million worldwide. A paltry $2.5 million of that was in North America.

That is now harsh reality. Blockbusters make big money. Small, intimate films are shunted aside for home viewing. That time is now. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Carnage are both currently available as stand-alone DVDs, Blu-rays and digital downloads. The Blu-ray for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a two-disc combo pack combining DVD, Blu-ray and digital copy. Carnage is a single-disc package with Blu-ray only.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is mesmerizing. Horn plays a bright child with emotional difficulties. He tries to make sense of the 9/11 tragedy, and how that affected his family (Hanks and Bullock play his parents). Von Sydow is a mysterious neighbour who refuses to communicate verbally. With a unique perspective, Horn takes von Sydow on a journey through New York that turns into a healing quest.

Everyone associated with the film was dazzled by Horn, as was I during interviews for the theatrical release. He is the most singularly articulate and innately exciting young actor I have ever encountered. Hanks was similarly impressed."He's not an actor," Hanks says of Horn, who turns 15 this year. "But he's got the instincts of one and he knows what his task is. When it's his close-up, he actually sparks. He actually does these things that are kind of amazing."


One of the fascinating things we learn in the DVD and Blu-ray bonus materials is that Daldry and his long-time dialogue supervisor, William Conacher, believe that all kids can perform at adult levels, in the right circumstances. Daldry and Conacher proved that working with Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot.

"I think we believe that all children can act," Conacher says. "We believe everyone can act. It's just finding the right part and finding them the right physical actions and giving them the help."

Carnage is devastatingly funny, but only if you already think the 1966 classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a comedy.

Foster and Reilly play parents of a boy struck by a stick wielded by the son of Winslet and Waltz. The parents meet to discuss the incident. Their manners fall away and the conversation escalates into ... well .. verbal carnage.

Foster, in the insightful interviews found among the extras, says: "It does underline the fragility of those relationships and how fraught we are with all of the wounds that we drag along with us."

Winslet agrees, adding: "But more importantly, it's about the great, endless complexity that marriage truly is."

 




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