After a few relatively dry weeks of home video releases, we finally get a handful of more notable and/or interesting titles, sure to please everyone from the comic fanboy to the kung fu connoisseur to the ’80s action nut. As is typical of brand new releases that surface during this time of year, some of the biggest new titles are films that weren’t reviewed so highly. But the reissues and smaller releases is where you’ll find the gems this week, including a box set of Stallone films, a documentary about a fine art collection, and a childhood favorite of kids (more likely boys) who grew up in the 1980s. Read on to see the full list!
You’ll be happy to know the Blu-Ray of 2010’s Clash of the Titans includes an alternate ending in which Perseus confronts Zeus on Mount Olympus. Beyond the fact I’d like to see what Mount Olympus looks like (and if Maggie Smith still lounges around in it) this little twist seems rather emblematic of the fast-and-loose-playing Louis Letterrier’s remake of the 1980s stop-motion marvel offers up. While Harry Hamlin’s Perseus featured fewer screaming poses and stomach muscles than this one, (those two things connected?), this incarnation isn’t actually angling to disregard the last; it’s clearly trying to retell the story of Perseus (Sam Worthington) and his battle with the heavens for the love and freedom of his GF Andromeda (NAME). With its monster CG (literally) and its dust kicking battles, the remake does more to create moments of homage than to upstage the original, and that alone may help you forgive the conspicuous absence of one mechanical owl (*sniffle*). Extras include a featurette called “Sam Worthington – an Action Hero for the Ages: a dedicated actor morphs into a lean fighting machine for a mythic movie” and a feature called “Maximum Movie Mode,” in which Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and director Louis Leterrier add scene breakdowns, VFX breakdowns and comments on Stuntwork and filming locales. I hear they show you close-ups of the Kraken, Scorpiochs and Medusa. Be ready to watch myth… look like myth.
It’s 2025, and artificial organs are all the rage. Well, for the people who need transplants, anyway. A company known as The Union has been selling these organs on credit, and customers who are unable to pay up face the inevitable visit from The Union’s “repo men,” who do exactly what’s implied. So what happens when a repo man becomes one of the unlucky few who can’t make payments? Starring Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, and Liev Schreiber, Repo Men boasted a strong cast of seasoned actors and a promising premise. Unfortunately, critics weren’t so charmed by the rote screenplay, flat direction, and predictable ending, granting the film just a 22% on the Tomatometer. Still, for those who are curious, it might still be worth a rental.
Albert C. Barnes made a fortune in the development of an antiseptic drug, and he used this fortune to amass a world-class art collection comprised of over 2500 items and valued at over $25 billion. You read that right: $25 billion. The collection includes pieces by Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Goya, Gauguin, and Cezanne, just to name a few. The Art of the Steal chronicles what took place after Barnes’ death in 1951; Barnes had created a foundation (aptly named The Barnes Foundation) to curate his extensive collection, and a gallery was finally made open to the public in 1961. However, in 2002, the Foundation decided that the gallery should be moved from its residential environs to a more accessible location in Philadelphia, which was in direct opposition to what Barnes himself wished for in his will. The Art of the Steal, while not entirely unbiased, attempts to depict this controversy, and critics for the most part were impressed by the film’s ability to tell its side of the story. Currently it’s sitting pretty at a Certified Fresh 85% on the Tomatometer, and if documentaries and fine art are your thing, chances are you’ll enjoy this one quite a bit.
Those who are into martial arts and martial arts films are probably already quite familiar with the legendary Chinese folk here Wong Fei Hung, popularly portrayed by both Jet Li and Jackie Chan. But action star Donnie Yen (no slouch in the martial arts department himself) decided to take on the role of another master, lesser known to the world, beginning a flurry of interest in a new cultural icon. Yen plays the title character in 2008’s Ip Man (aka Yip Man), a 20th century master who is known to be the first to teach the style of Wing Chun openly and who counted Bruce Lee among his students. Ip Man is loosely based on the man’s life during the Second Sino-Japanese War of the 1930s and ’40s; during the Japanese invasion, soldiers take over Ip Man’s home, displacing him and his family and forcing him to work the coal mines. There is plenty of political intrigue taking place within the story, much of it dramatized, but the action sequences are spectacular and visceral. For fans of hard-hitting martial arts films and historical epics, as well as fans of Donnie Yen himself, this is a movie not to miss. Side note: Donnie Yen has already finished the sequel to this film, but because there has been a recent flood of interest in the character, leading to several film projects (including one that Wong Kar Wai wants to do), Yen has already stated he’ll no longer portray Ip Man for fear of oversaturating the market with the character.
DC has done an amazing job so far with their direct-to-video animated films, particularly those of the Batman franchise. These movies have acquired quite a following of their own, with fans hotly anticipating each new release, and this week, all will be treated to the next installment, Batman: Under the Red Hood. Based on two storylines (“Under the Hood” and “A Death in the Family”), Under the Red Hood focuses on the crime kingpin Red Hood as Batman (this time voiced by Star Trek‘s Bruce Greenwood) strives to discover his true identity and decipher what his true motivations are. As Batman delves deeper into the mystery, he must come face to face with his past. The supporting voice cast includes, among others, Jensen Ackles, John Di Maggio, Jason Isaacs, Gary Cole, and Kelly Hu, making this a bit of a star-studded affair, and if recent efforts from DC’s animation department are any indication, this should be a fairly solid film. It’s available on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
Biopics can be hit (Milk) or miss (Amelia), but one thing is true: in order for it to succeed, a biopic must have some resonating human element, something that offers the audience a new perspective or previously unknown dimension of a well-known character. In the case of Vincere, the notable figure in question is the fascist Italian leader Benito Mussolini, and the person who carries forth these new insights is Mussolini’s famed mistress, Ida Dalser. The film focuses mainly on Dalser throughout her relationship with the dictator, chronicling the years when the two lost touch during World War I. Though they felt the film focused more on emotion than historical accuracy, critics didn’t necessarily protest the fact, saying instead that Vincere was an absorbing look into the relationship. Giovanna Mezzogiorno, who plays Dalser in the film, also received high praise for her performance, and the film ended up with a Certified Fresh 93% on the Tomatometer. In other words, this movie is certainly worth your time, should you choose to veer away from the mainstream for your next rental.
Martial arts epics have been a tradition in Asia for decades, and those who grew up watching kung fu flicks by the Shaw Brothers Studios were already devouring everything coming out of Hong Kong. Jackie Chan and Jet Li had both already made their US debuts by 2000, but then came a martial arts film like nothing the world at large had seen before. Thanks to Ang Lee’s artful direction, top-notch acting, stunning action sequences, fantastic cinematography, and a sweeping, epic storyline about a rebellious young girl, the nomad she falls in love with, and the swordsman who tracks her down, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon not only captivated audiences to the tune of over $200 million, but it also impressed critics, who granted it Certified Fresh status with a 97% Tomatometer score. On top of that, the film was nominated for a whopping ten Academy Awards, taking home four of them, including one for Best Foreign Language Film. This week, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is available on Blu-Ray for the first time, and if you recall any of the landscape shots or adrenaline-fueled swordfights, you’ll remember why this would make a great choice to pick up in hi-def.
It’s still unclear if the recent live-action film G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra generated the same kind of rekindled interest in the original franchise that Michael Bay’s Transformers films have, but there are certainly fans who still care very much about the hit ’80s cartoon. Though many agree that, upon retrospect, the individual episodes of the children’s television show don’t really hold up upon repeat viewings (much like the original Transformers cartoon), the show itself is legendary among men of a certain age. Having said that, anyone who watched the show will clearly remember the week when G.I. Joe: The Movie was aired in five consecutive episodes, a direct result of the poor box office performances of both the Transformers and My Little Pony animated theatrical releases. The story line famously incorporates the Cobra-La organization (“Cobra-la-la-la-la-la!”) in a plot to hijack and use a weapon known as the Broadcast Energy Transmitter (BET). The Joe movie was also notable for the simple fact that it was the first time viewers were ever shown a Joe in danger of dying (a la several characters in Transformers: The Movie), when Duke is hit with a poison snake-arrow and falls into a coma. Does G.I. Joe: The Movie falter under scrutiny like the individual episodes tend to? That’s up to the viewer. But for anyone jonesing for a bit of nostalgia, the Special Edition is available this week on DVD and Blu-Ray, and it comes with a shockingly blunt and trivia-laden commentary by story consultant Buzz Dixon, eight of the end-of-episode PSAs, and a printable version of the movie’s script.
The Secret of the Grain. Sounds like an action-packed extravaganza, right? Well, some movies take their time and reward patient viewers, and this complex, emotionally engaging tale of an Immigrant family trying to make it in France is one of them. It’s a vibrant, fascinating portrait of a group of people that the audience really grows to know over the course of its two-and-a-half hours. The spiffy Criterion DVD package was personally approved by director Abdellatif Kechiche, and is loaded with interviews with the filmmaker and stars.
Back in 2006, Sylvester Stallone began reliving his success in the ’80s by tacking on a final installment of his iconic Rocky franchise, and two years later he did the same for Rambo. While he continues on with his homage to the decade in this year’s The Expendables, this week viewers will be treated to a complete box set of the Rambo films on Blu-Ray. The Rambo Complete Collector’s Set includes all four films, the first three of which are presented in their “Ultimate Editions” and the last of which is presented in its “Special Edition.” If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the franchise, Stallone’s John Rambo is a Vietnam War veteran who, upon returning to the US after his tour of duty, experiences severe PTSD and battles the local police force. In subsequent installments, Rambo would go on to help free POWs still held in Vietnam, rescue his friend and superior officer from Afghanistan, and save a group of aid workers in Myanmar. John Rambo has become an iconic cinematic hero, and this collection celebrates the legacy with tons of special features, both previously available and brand new, that come with the new box set. It’s available in Blu-Ray, and it’s must-have for any fans of 80s action and the Rambo franchise in particular.
Written by Ryan Fujitani, Tim Ryan, and Sara Vizcarrondo