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Maple Pictures' January '08 Releases

King of California (January 24/08)

Given the almost interminable nature of King of California's opening half hour, it really is quite remarkable just how engaging and flat-out affecting the film finally becomes - as there's ultimately no denying the effectiveness of the two central performances and the relationship between their respective characters. The movie stars Michael Douglas as Charlie, an off-kilter figure who goes to live with his wise-beyond-her-years teenaged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood's Miranda) after his release from a mental hospital. Though she initially wants nothing to do with her kooky father, Miranda eventually finds herself sucked into Charlie's latest scheme (which involves a substantial cache of gold supposedly buried underneath a nearby Costco). Writer/director Mike Cahill has infused the majority of King of California with an overtly whimsical sensibility that's often downright distracting, as the filmmaker punctuates the proceedings with a number of irritatingly quirky elements (David Robbins' sporadically grating score is undoubtedly the most apt example of this). And yet, even during the movie's virtually unwatchable opening half hour, the inclusion of several admittedly heartfelt moments - ie Miranda confronts Charlie over his rose-colored-glasses worldview - ensures that the whole thing never quite becomes as tedious as one might've feared. There's consequently little doubt that the degree to which King of California improves as it progresses is nothing short of astounding, with the increasingly compelling relationship between Miranda and Charlie - coupled with a pair of stellar performances from Douglas and Wood - clearly playing a significant role in the film's ultimate success. The unexpectedly touching finale certainly ends the film on a high note, and it does seem entirely likely that King of California is one of those efforts that's destined to improve on subsequent viewings.

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Right At Your Door (January 31/08)

Right At Your Door casts Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack as Brad and Lexi, a happily married couple who find themselves caught up in a deadly terrorist attack after downtown Los Angeles is hit with a dirty bomb. Brad's initial efforts at finding Lexi - who had left for work earlier in the day - quickly prove fruitless and he finds himself forced to seal up his house with duct tape, which turns out to be fairly problematic after Lexi arrives at the house hours later suffering from the effects of the toxic explosion. Filmmaker Chris Gorak has infused Right At Your Door with a suspenseful, often electrifying vibe that belies its undoubtedly miniscule budget, with the movie's opening half hour certainly more effective than similarly-themed (and far costlier) Hollywood efforts. And while it initially seems as though the film is simply going to peak too soon - after that unexpectedly compelling first act, Right At Your Door essentially morphs into a low-key yet sporadically tense drama - there's little doubt that the stellar work by Cochrane and McCormack effectively holds the viewers interest through a few uneventful stretches. The dialogue-heavy midsection ensures that their relationship only becomes more intriguing and affecting as the movie progresses, and it's ultimately difficult not to root for the two to overcome a seemingly insurmountable situation. Of course, the premise inherently forces the viewer to consistently guess at how the whole thing's going to end - yet out of all the scenarios one could possibly envision, Gorak manages to conclude the movie on a note that's as shocking as it is memorable. Right At Your Door has surely earned a place for itself among such classic apocalyptic thrillers as The Day After and Miracle Mile, and it's consequently impossible not to expect big things from Gorak in the future (ie just imagine what he could accomplish with more money at his disposal).

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About the DVDs: Maple Pictures presents both films with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and though King of California comes up short in terms of supplemental materials (a making-of featurette and outtakes are included), Right At Your Door features a commentary track with Gorak, two featurettes, alternate endings, and bonus trailers.
© David Nusair