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New on DVD & Blu-Ray: 300: Rise of an Empire, Enemy, and More

by | June 23, 2014 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got the stylized sequel to a historical action film, a doppleganger thriller, and a magic-filled misfire from Akiva Goldsman. Then, we’ve got a couple of acclaimed television series and a bunch of smaller films and TV shows. Read on for details:

300: Rise of an Empire

45%

Though Gerard Butler has moved on to protecting the White House and flirting with soccer moms, the 300 franchise continues with Rise of an Empire, based on the yet unreleased Frank Miller graphic novel Xerxes. Penned by 300 director Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, RoaE is a more broadly scoped narrative that chronicles the efforts of Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) to unite his forces against the Persian god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green). Though the film sported the same visual flourish of its predecessor and benefitted from Eva Green’s presence, most critics found it numbingly violent and less interesting. The Blu-ray comes with about 81 minutes of special features, including a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a comparison between the film’s events and their historical counterparts, and a look at ancient Greek naval strategy.

Enemy

71%

In a year full of doppelganger stories (The Double, Coherence, and Orphan Black, which just finished its second season), Enemy was one of the early successes, reuniting Prisoners star Jake Gyllenhaal with its director, Denis Villenueve. Gyllenhaal pulls double duty here as both Adam Bell, a morose college professor, and Anthony Claire, the actor Adam becomes dangerously obsessed with when he spots him in a movie and realizes they are physically identical. Critics were impressed enough by the performances, as well Villenueve’s directorial choices, to rate this thriller Certified Fresh at 74%. The film dips ever so slightly into the surreal, and as its one bonus feature — a making-of featurette — confirms, you may not have everything figured out by the end, but it further establishes Denis Villenueve as a forceful presence in the psychological thriller genre.

Winter’s Tale

13%

Longtime screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, I, Robot) made his directorial debut earlier this year with Winter’s Tale, an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Mark Helprin. At the center of this Tale is Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a turn-of-the-20th-century New York orphan who runs afoul of the powerful local gangster (Russell Crowe) who took him under his wing and, while on the run, falls in love with a terminally ill girl. There’s more to it than that, but a story that takes place in 1916 and 2014, with plenty of magic and mystical creatures, can’t be adequately summed up in a sentence. Besides, critics didn’t like the film very much; citing a nonsensical plot, bland characters, and a failure to capture its source material’s charms, they savaged the film with a 13% Tomatometer. If you decide to pick this one up, it’ll come with a couple of making-of bonuses and some deleted scenes.

Masters of Sex – Season One

Showtime’s acclaimed drama returns for its second season on July 13, and if you’ve got some spare time between now and then, you can pick up season one when it hits shelves tomorrow and binge away. The series stars Michael Sheen as the titular Dr. William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as his assistant extraordinaire Virginia Johnson, who together conducted the kind of research on sexuality back in the 1950s and 1960s that reassured all of us that we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed doing that one thing in bed. You know, that one thing. You can pick up the entire first season on Blu-ray this week, and it comes with the requisite audio commentary (pilot episode), a profile of both Sheen and Caplan playing their characters, a short doc exploring the discoveries Masters and Johnson brought to light, and an interview with Thomas Maier, who wrote the book from which the series was adapted.

Also available this week:

  • Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (98%), a Certified Fresh documentary on the octogenarian Broadway and television star.
  • What Richard Did (94%), a drama about an Irish teen whose life changes when he violently attacks another boy over a girl.
  • Rob the Mob (83%), starring Michael Pitt and Andy Garcia in a drama about a young petty criminal who becomes obsessed with an ongoing trial that could bring down John Gotti.
  • UK import The Wedding Video (71%), starring Robert Webb and Lucy Punch in a found-footage style mockumentary comedy about a best man recording the catastrophic events leading up to his buddy’s wedding.
  • Blood Ties (49%), starring Clive Owen and Billy Crudup in a period crime thriller about an ex-con who returns to his life of crime, and his younger police officer brother who must choose between family and duty.
  • Australian horror import Wolf Creek 2 (48%), in which serial killer Mick Taylor stalks another poor outback tourist.
  • Season one of FX’s Certified Fresh police drama The Bridge (90%), which follows a Mexican detective (Demian Bichir) and an American detective (Diane Kruger) who work together to track down a killer who has committed crimes on both sides of the border.
  • Season one of Lifetime’s Witches of East End (70%), a supernatural drama about a pair of young witches learning the tricks of the trade from their mother.
  • And finally, one selection from the Criterion Collection: Richard Lester’s 1964 comedy A Hard Day’s Night (99%) starring the Beatles in their first film, which opened at the height of Beatlemania.

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