News Column

New on Dvd

August 16, 2013

YellowBrix

In stores

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013, Sony, R, $30) -- With the exception of a surprising prologue, there's precious little about this implausible, gratuitously violent action thriller that feels original. What isn't pinched from "Die Hard" comes from "In the Line of Fire" and "Independence Day." Gerard Butler stars as a Secret Service agent who must free the president (Aaron Eckhart) from the grips of a North Korean terrorist (Rick Yune) who has decimated Washington and taken control of the White House. The usually reliable director Antoine Fuqua ("Shooter," "Training Day") overdoes everything -- the carnage, the gun battles, the CGI, the editing -- so, in the end, terror quickly gives way to tedium. Extras: bloopers and featurettes.

THE BIG WEDDING (2013, Lionsgate, R, $20) -- Alejandro Griffin (Ben Barnes) is getting married to the fresh-faced Missy (Amanda Seyfried) and members of his eccentric family, including his mom (Diane Keaton), dad (Robert De Niro) and dad's companion (Susan Sarandon), approve. But then the Griffins are forced to act like a more traditional clan, and things get very complicated very fast. As Alejandro's siblings, Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace struggle with underwritten roles, but the central triangle between Keaton, De Niro and Sarandon is handled with considerable wit and insight. The occasional crude moments aside, "The Big Wedding" is big fun. Extras: featurette.

WHAT MAISIE KNEW (2013, Millennium, R, $27) -- As the 6-year-old title character in this modern-day adaptation of the Henry James novel, Onata Aprile delivers one of the most remarkable performances of the year. You simply can't take your eyes off of her as she attempts to survive the brutal custody battle between her self- absorbed parents (Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan). "True Blood's" Alexander Skarsgard and Joanna Vanderham co-star in a film that's a delicate, brilliantly insightful wonder. Extras: deleted scenes and commentary by Scott McGehee and David Siegel.

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (2013, Sony, R, $30) -- There's a good movie to be made about '60s radicals on the run but this Robert Redford- directed thriller isn't it. The action begins when a New York housewife (Susan Sarandon) turns herself in, setting off a chain of events that forces a fellow fugitive (Redford) to hit the road in hopes of clearing his name. So far, so good. But rather than digging deep into issues of guilt and regret, Lem Dobbs' screenplay spends too much time tagging along with a reporter (Shia LaBeouf) shadowing Redford. "Company' is serious-minded and beautifully acted by its cast (including Julie Christie) but its random plot twists and lack of insight keep pulling it off track. Extras: featurette.

EMPEROR (2013, Lionsgate, PG-13, $20) -- While there are plenty of flashbacks to spice things up, this absorbing historical drama primarily focuses on 10 days at the end of World War II when Emperor Hirohito's (Takataro Kataoka) fate was being decided. Following the Japanese surrender, Asian expert Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) is assigned by Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) the task of finding out whether Hirohito ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor. Earnest and old-fashioned, this cinematic history lesson deserves a salute. Extras: deleted scenes, featurettes and commentary by director Peter Webber.

THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC (2010, Shout Factory, PG, $15) -- Set in Paris in 1912, Luc Besson's adaptation of Jacques Tardi's comic-book series includes appearances by a handful of freaky villains as well as a newly hatched 136 million- year-old pterodactyl. Tying the action together is the titular heroine (Louise Bourgoin), an adventurer who unearths mummies in hopes they can help her revive her invalid sister. Even though the story lurches from one incident to the next, the humor is fairly sophisticated and the flying dinosaur and talking mummies are eye- popping marvels. Extras: deleted scenes and featurette.

MAGIC MAGIC (2013, Sony, R, $27) -- Something of a companion to Sebastian Silva's "Crystal Fairy," which is now playing in theaters, this dank horror thriller chronicles the slow descent into madness of a woman named Alicia (Juno Temple). Already in a delicate state when she arrives in Chile, Alicia winds up stranded with a bunch of creeps (Michael Cera, Silva, Catalina Sandino Moreno) on a vacation retreat. Silva might avoid the pitfalls of a stereotypical cabin-in- the-woods shocker but he doesn't have enough tricks up his sleeve to sustain your attention. "Magic Magic" winds up being more annoying than scary. Extras: none.

SHANE (1953, Warner, unrated, $20) -- When retired gunfighter Shane (Alan Ladd) rides into town, he never expects to get pulled into the range war battle between a homesteader (Van Heflin) and a wealthy cattleman. But Shane can't stand a bully and soon he's strapping on his guns and offering up some frontier justice. New to the Blu-ray, the George Stevens-directed classic is among the best Westerns ever made thanks to the rich characterizations, the jaw- dropping Wyoming scenery and the expert way it captures life on the range. "Shane" barely shows its age. Extras: commentary by Stevens' son. Extras: commentary by George Stevens Jr.

SECONDS (1966, Criterion, R, $30) -- Like a feature-length version of a "Twilight Zone" episode, John Frankenheimer's terrifying horror film takes off from a macabre but relatable premise. Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is an unhappy bank manager who accepts from a shadowy organization the offer of a new identity and a fresh start. After plastic surgery, Hamilton is transformed into Rock Hudson. But life among the Southern California "reborns" isn't all it's cracked up to be, and soon Hamilton is begging for a third chance. "Seconds" is the rare scarefest that gives you something to think about. Extras: vintage and new featurettes.

ISHTAR: DIRECTOR'S CUT (1987, Sony, unrated, $20) -- One of the costliest flops in Hollywood history makes its Blu-ray debut and -- surprise, surprise -- it's pretty terrific. While it doesn't measure up to director Elaine May's "The Heartbreak Kid," it boasts goofy moments, tart political humor and a scene-stealing turn by Charles Grodin as a CIA agent. Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman star as third-rate songwriters who travel to Morocco for a nightclub gig only to find themselves ensnared by a seductive revolutionary (Isabelle Adjani). Through it all, the pals keep writing songs, one more awful than the last. Startlingly original and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, "Ishtar" is waiting to be rediscovered. Extras: none.

GIRLS: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (2013, HBO, unrated, $40) -- There's no sophomore slump for Lena Dunham's audacious look at a quartet of gal pals navigating life in the big city. Dunham's Hannah gets the best storylines, most of which involve former and current boyfriends (Adam Driver, Donald Glover, Patrick Wilson) as well as her ex-BFF Marnie (Allison Williams). Newly married Jessa (Jemima Kirke) doesn't have much to do but it's fun to watch Shosh (Zosia Mamet) match wits with her grumpy sometime-boyfriend (Alex Karpovsky). Smart, funny and achingly authentic, "Girls" still has the winning formula. Extras: featurettes, deleted scenes, commentaries and gag reel.

ENLIGHTENED: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (2013, HBO, unrated, $40) -- Cancelled in its prime, this magically compelling HBO series centers on Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern), a woman struggling to remake her life after losing her dream job. Determined to expose the toxic misdeeds of her company, she enlists the help of a co-worker (Mike White) and a crusading reporter (Dermot Mulroney.) Dern deserves an Emmy for making Amy abrasive and deeply flawed as well as heartbreakingly courageous. Extras: commentaries and featurettes.

ONCE UPON A TIME: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (2012, Universal, unrated, $45) -- Now that the Evil Queen's (Lana Parilla) spell has been broken, the residents of Storybooke are grappling with a flood of awakened memories. As they come to terms with their new realities, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) make a dangerous trip back to Fairy Tale Land, and new sheriff Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) deals with the murder charges against Little Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory). Extras: commentaries, featurettes, bloopers and deleted scenes.

FAMILY TIES: THE SEVENTH AND FINAL SEASON (1988, Paramount, unrated, $45) -- One of those rare sitcoms that remained funny right up to its finale, "Family Ties" took some chances during its last season, introducing drama by way of Steven's (Michael Gross) heart attack and open-heart surgery. Other developments include Mallory (Justine Bateman) getting her big break in the world of fashion and Alex (Michael J. Fox) finally leaving Columbus behind to pursue a career on Wall Street. Extras: none.

-- Amy Longsdorf

Sidebar:

Upcoming

Tuesday -- "Scary Movie V."

Aug. 27 -- "The Great Gatsby," "Pain & Gain."

Sept. 3 -- "Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie," "Stories We Tell."

Sept. 10 -- "Love Is All You Need," "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Sept. 17 -- "Bless Me, Ultima," "The Bling Ring."

-- Jaclyn Antonacci

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