News Column

Robert Redford, Lena Dunham and 'Doctor Who' in packed video week

August 12, 2013

YellowBrix

Lots of titles of various interest arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday. Here are some highlights.

"Olympus Has Fallen" (Sony, $30.99 DVD, $40.99 Blu-ray / DVD / digital combo) is one of two recent movies about the White House under siege. Both had several plot similarities but the tones were different. The other film, "White House Down," was more deliberately comedic in the interplay between its two stars, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum. "Olympus," from "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua, is harder-edged and more bluntly violent, especially in how leading man Gerard Butler kills people in his way.

Butler is a former Secret Service agent who has to save the president (Aaron Eckhart) after terrorists take over the White House; Morgan Freeman plays the speaker of the House, who becomes acting president when top administration officials are held captive. It's intermittently entertaining, and far more often ridiculous; the same could be said of "White House Down," but I enjoyed that film more.

The DVD is without extras; the Blu-ray includes bloopers and five making-of segments.

With the announcement of actor Peter Capaldi as the 12th star of "Doctor Who," and the 50th anniversary of the series coming in November, talk has again grown about the various Doctors over the years. BBC Entertainment is offering two new views of the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, in two sets: "The Green Death Special Edition" ($34.98 DVD only) with considerable extras, and "Spearhead from Space" making its Blu-ray debut ($29.98).

"Spearhead" is the first adventure starring Pertwee, who was the Doctor from 1970 to 1974, as well as the first in color and the first shot in film. The Blu-ray restoration is often good, clear and colorful, although it cannot elevate the cheesier special effects _ and the audio still needs work. Extras in the set include a profile of Pertwee and other features.

The Emmy-nominated second season of "Girls" (HBO Entertainment, 10 episodes, $39.98 DVD, $49.99 Blu-ray / DVD / digital combo) continues the complications of romance and work in the lives of four New York women, and I had a much more mixed reaction than to the first season. Hannah (series creator Lena Dunham) once again made personal decisions that were both baffling and appalling as she moved ever closer to an emotional breakdown. But then, the season ended on an up note that felt as if we'd suddenly veered into "An Officer and a Gentleman." That said, the characters are among the most fascinating on TV, and there's a grim genuineness even in their worst moments.

DVD extras include the men of "Girls" discussing the show, a table read of one episode and seven audio commentaries. The Blu-ray adds deleted and extended scenes, bloopers, a making-of piece, two interviews with Dunham and more.

Robert Redford's years as an actor may be the reason he's such a good director of other actors. And that's the best reason I can come up with to watch "The Company You Keep" (Sony, $30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray), an otherwise muddled thriller whose attempts to be thoughtful about social issues get lost in some bizarre turns in the plot and the characters.

Redford, besides directing, plays Jim Grant, a lawyer and single father who in the '70s was a radical implicated in a crime; the FBI is still looking for him, forcing Grant on the run after an unscrupulous newspaper reporter (Shia LaBeouf) uncovers his past. The so-so script is counterbalanced by a major cast including Julie Christie, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick, Chris Cooper and Susan Sarandon. A scene in which Sarandon, playing another former radical, is interviewed by LaBeouf is a standout thanks to her subtle performance.

Extras include a behind-the-scenes piece.

The director Luc Besson drew fans and criticism in the '90s with his visual extremes in films like "The Fifth Element" and "La Femme Nikita." His flair is undiminished in "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec" (Shout! Factory, $14.97 DVD, $24.97 Blu-ray / DVD / digital combo), a 2010 film making its first screen appearance in the U.S. Adapted from a series of comic books, it involves a young reporter, 1912 Paris and a newly hatched pterodactyl, among other things, all colorful and frequently comical. You can choose between a dubbed-English audio track and a French one (with English subtitles also available).

The current release also includes a making-of piece and deleted scenes _ but, if you are really devoted to Besson's work, you may want to wait until later this year when a director's cut DVD and Blu-ray will be released.

"The Hot Flashes" (Vertical, $20.99) involves a good cause. I just wish it was served by a better movie. Brooke Shields, Wanda Sykes, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen and Camryn Manheim play Texans who band together to raise money for a mobile breast-cancer screening truck after its funding is lost. (The few extras with the movie are about cancer detection.) The women challenge a champion high school girls' basketball team to a series of fundraising games, and _ well, you can figure out where most of it goes from there. Note that this is R rated, though mostly mild in content.

Down video road: The movies in Tom Selleck's "Jesse Stone" series will be released in an eight-disc DVD "complete collection" on Sept. 3. Joss Whedon's version of "Much Ado About Nothing" will be available On Demand on Sept. 24, then on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download on Oct. 8. "The Hangover Part III" comes to Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on Oct. 8.

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Rich Heldenfels: rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com

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(c)2013 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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