News Column

New on Dvd

October 18, 2013


In stores

PACIFIC RIM (2013, Warner, PG-13, $30) -- If you like your sci- fi extravaganzas loud, lumbering and almost devoid of human emotion, then check out this disappointing mash-up of "Transformers" and "Godzilla." Writer/director Guillermo Del Toro might be responsible for the magical "Pan's Labyrinth" and the idiosyncratic "Hellboy," but this time around all he cares about are smackdowns between CGI monsters and robots. It doesn't help matters that the characters trying to save the world are a hopelessly uninteresting bunch of robot operators (Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi), military commanders (Idris Elba) and nerdy scientists (Charlie Day, Burn Gorman). "Pacific Rim" is a video game pretending to be a movie. Extras: featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes and Del Toro commentary.

THE HEAT (2013, Fox, R, $30) -- Under the direction of Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids"), Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock team up as law enforcement officers tasked with bringing down a drug kingpin. The case doesn't really matter as much as the chemistry between our heroines, and boy, do they riff off each other beautifully. Bullock is an uptight, socially awkward FBI agent who immediately clashes with McCarthy's blustery Boston cop. Here's hoping Bullock and McCarthy do more movies together, because they can make everything from opening a door to going undercover at a dance club laugh-out- loud funny. Extras: deleted scenes, featurettes and commentaries by McCarthy, Feig and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys.

DIRTY WARS (2013, IFC, R, $25) -- Shot over the course of three years, this gripping documentary follows Nation reporter Jeremy Scahill as he investigates covert wars in countries around the globe from Yemen to Somalia to Afghanistan. To its credit, the film occasionally plays like a thriller, with Scahill risking his life to travel to tiny, isolated villages to interview heavily guarded warlords and families of bombing victims. The middle part of the film detailing the targeted killing of terrorist Anwar Al Awlaki is less successful. But "Dirty Wars" proves, once and for all, that there is no such thing as a clean war. Extras: featurettes.

KEVIN HART: LET ME EXPLAIN (2013, Lionsgate, R, $22) -- When Hart finally takes the stage at Madison Square Garden for a sold-out show and begins talking about everything from why his marriage went sour to his penchant for lying, he's pretty funny. But first you have to make it through about 20 minutes of dismal documentary footage featuring Hart and his entourage in various cities around the globe. "Let Me Explain" would have been a fine HBO special. As a movie, it's a real letdown. Extras: featurettes and music videos.

MORNING (2013, Anchor Bay, R, $20) -- An open wound of a performance by Jeanne Tripplehorn is the best reason to check out this drama written and directed by Tripplehorn's husband, Leland Orser. The actress, best known for HBO's "Big Love," delivers a powerhouse turn as a mother grieving over the loss of her only child. Beautifully photgraphed by cinematographer Paula Huidobro, "Morning" follows Tripplehorn as she numbly leaves Orser, moves into a hotel and stumbles through a series of encounters with friends (Julie White), strangers (Kyle Chandler) and therapists (Laura Linney). It's quietly devastating. Extras: none.

DRUG WAR (2013, Well Go USA, R, $25) -- Going through "Breaking Bad" withdrawal? Check out this gangster picture from Hong Kong's Johnnie To about a high-level meth cooker (Louis Koo) forced to cooperate with a police detective (Son Honglei) or face prosecution. Set during 72 sleepless hours, the action leads up to a big sting operation in front of an elementary school. Unlike so many American action movies, "Drug War" isn't an orgy of CGI. Rather the chases and shootouts are scarily realistic. It's good to the last blast. Extras: none.

STUCK IN LOVE (2013, Millennium, R, $28) -- In this finely acted but too-pat indie, Greg Kinnear plays a successful novelist raising two teenagers (Lily Collins, Nat Wolff) alone after his wife (Jennifer Connelly) leaves him for a younger man (Arnold's 19-year- old son, Patrick Schwarzenegger). There are complications galore. Collins is a commitment-phobe, Wolff is dating a pill-popper and Kinnear is still so smitten with Connelly that he peers into her window every night. It might sound intriguing, but rather than digging deep into the family's dysfunction, "Stuck" stays right on the surface. Extras: featurette and commentary by director Josh Boone.

NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR (2013, Anchor Bay, R, $28) -- The first entry from the production company founded by Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash owes a big debt to "The Wicker Man," that creepy English chiller about villagers offering up a tourist for human sacrifice. This time around, the not-so-lucky strangers are the teenage daughters (Rebekah Brandes, Jennifer Stone) of a minister (James Tupper) and his wife (Anne Heche) who arrive in a sleepy Kansas town with hopes of a new life. Even when the plot meanders, "Nothing" stays fueled by some cool monster effects and director Anthony Leonard III's eye for chilling details. Extras: featurette and commentary by Leonard and Slash.

WESTERN UNION (1941, Fox, unrated, $25) -- Director Fritz Lang's vibrant oater practically bursts with color and action as it celebrates the laying of the first telegraph line across the West. Randolph Scott delivers one of his best turns as a former thief trying to escape his outlaw past, while Robert Young (TV's "Marcus Welby") is effective as a tenderfoot competing for the hand of the film's female lead (Virginia Gilmore). Thanks to Lang's way with actors and the drama's bristling humanity, "Western Union" comes off as one of most purely pleasurable westerns of the 1940s. Extras: none.

CHUCKY: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (1988-2013, Universal, R, $85) -- Wanna play all six "Chucky" movies in hi-def? Check out this limited edition Blu-ray set that begins with 1988's chilling "Child's Play" and ends with 2013's direct-to-DVD "Curse of Chucky." The best of the bunch are "Child's Play," which is darker than you might remember it, and the campy "Bride of Chucky," which features a wickedly funny performance by Jennifer Tilly as the ruthless redhead's dream doll. Extras: deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes and commentaries.

THE STRANGER (1946, Kino, unrated, $30) -- The only Orson Welles- directed movie to turn a profit during its original release, "The Stranger" has long been available only in dingy public domain copies, but Kino's remastered Blu-ray gives it a nifty spit and polish. Welles stars as a Nazi war criminal hiding out as the husband of a judge's daughter (Loretta Young) in a picturesque Connecticut town. Edward G. Robinson is the federal agent who tracks Welles down but can't prove his guilt, at least at first. Despite some flaws, "The Stranger" is a moody suspense that presents Welles at his most Hitchcockesque. Extras: commentary.

MAMA'S FAMILY: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1983-1990, TimeLife, unrated, $199) -- After "The Carol Burnett Show" sold over 4 million DVDs, TimeLife decided to give a proper release to all six seasons and 130 episodes of this wily spinoff series. Vicki Lawrence stars as Thelma Mae Harper, a cantankerous matriarch continually at odds with her flawed family members, including sister Fran (Rue McClanahan), son Vint (Ken Berry) and daughters Ellen (Betty White) and Eunice (Burnett). Some of the humor is surprisingly caustic, which only adds to the fun. Extras: "Family" sketches, interviews and a "Eunice" TV movie.

THE FALL: SERIES 1 (2012, Acorn, unrated, $40) -- For her first major TV series since "The X-Files," Gillian Anderson toplines an uneven police procedural as a brainy detective dispatched to Belfast to help solve a murder case. Almost immediately, she sees connections with other slayings and is eventually drawn into a cat- and-mouse game with a very precise serial killer (Jamie Dornan). The show is occasionally slow-burn intense and admirably low on shock value, but both Anderson and Dornan are so bland that scenes that should be electrifying barely make an impression. Extras: featurette.

ROBOT CHICKEN: SEASON 6 (2013, Warner, unrated, $30) -- If "Saturday Night Live" took place in 15 minutes instead of 90 and was performed by stop-motion action figures instead of actors, it would look a lot like this scattershot parody of all things pop culture. Among the funniest bits: a look at the creation of the Starbucks logo, a "Lord of the Rings" spoof, Rocky and Bullwinkle acting out the story of "Of Mice and Men" and a bit equating vegetarianism with watching "The Wire." Extras: featurettes, deleted scenes and commentaries on every episode.

-- Amy Longsdorf



Tuesday -- "Barbie & Her Sisters in A Pony Tale," "The Conjuring," "Dead in Tombstone," "The Internship," "The Way, Way Back."

Oct. 29 -- "Damages: The Complete Series," "Monsters University," "R.I.P.D."

Nov. 5 -- "Grown Ups 2," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Extended Edition," "Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga," "White House Down."

Nov. 12 -- "Blackfish," "Man of Steel," "Prince Avalanche," "Turbo."

-- Caitlin Callons

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