By Harley Lond - 07/29/13 at 10:40 PM CT
THIS WEEK'S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation": You really have to be a "G.I. Joe" fan to appreciate this tangled mess of a movie. The sequel to 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" scored more than $122 million at the boxoffice, so -- having missed the original -- I settled down to what I hoped would be an evening of exciting fights, explosions and all-out war on the senses. Instead, I got a convoluted story line about the G.I. Joe unit being framed (and most of them killed) for stealing nuclear warheads from Pakistan, the evil Cobra capturing the president of the U.S. and sending in an impersonator, Cobra Commander getting rescued by Storm Shadow and ex-Joe Firefly, Snake Eyes and Jinx capturing Storm Shadow after a wild Ninja battle, a wacky James Bond-like orbiting space weapon called Project Zeus, and much much more. I was bored. Then I got lost in the plot -- course it didn't help that I fell asleep half-way through and had to fast backwards to figure things out. I guess you have to see this kind of toy-based film on the big screen and give yourself up to the violence and action -- even if it is a Star Wars/James Bond derivation with Darth Vader helmeted villains and the "Diamonds Are Forever"-like space weapons. G.I. Joe: Retaliation stars Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Jonathan Pryce, Arnold Vosloo. Extras include commentary by director Jon M. Chu and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura; featurettes on pre-production, previsualization, storyboards, stunts, costumes and more; "Two Ninjas" focuses on two G.I. Joe favorites, Snake Eyes and Jinx, and the filming of the Dojo sequence; "The Desert Attack" in-depth look at the filming of the pivotal action sequence; "Cobra Strikes" villain highlights; and more. From Paramount
There are several great films getting special treatment this week, headed up by The Criterion Collection edition of "The Devil's Backbone" (2001). Before his infatuation with big-budget and special-effects-laden productions, Guillermo del Toro made small, personal films; "The Devil's Backbone" is his most brilliant, emotionally-layered and stunning film yet. Set during the final week of the Spanish Civil War, "The Devil's Backbone" tells the tale of a 10-year-old boy who, after his freedom-fighting father is killed, is sent to a haunted rural orphanage full of terrible secrets, least among them the spirit of another dead child and the specter of an unexploded bomb buried in the building. Del Toro effectively combines a Gothic ghost story, murder mystery and historical melodrama in a stylish concoction that reminds us that the scariest monsters are often the human ones. In Spanish with English subtitles, in a new 2K digital film restoration, approved by del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition.
"The Bronte Sisters" (1979) is a rediscovered and remastered classic by Andre Techine. Nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1979 Cannes International Film Festival, "The Bronte Sisters" has been only rarely seen in the decades since, but its reputation as an atmospheric and passionate masterpiece has grown. An early success for the revered director Andre Techine ("Rendez-vous," "Scene of the Crime," "Wild Reeds"), the film stars three of France's most enduring actresses: Isabelle Adjani, Marie-France Pisier and Isabelle Huppert. Director Techine, who co-wrote the film with Pascal Donitzer (writer of Jacques Rivette's film of "Wuthering Heights"), achieves an authentic depiction of the bleak, lonely existence of the Victorian-era Bronte sisters Emily (Adjani), Charlotte (Pisier) and Anne (Huppert). The young women live in a Yorkshire village under the stern eye of their minister father (Patrick Magee) and a rigid aunt -- and also have to deal with their troubled, opium-addicted brother Branwell (Pascal Greggory). While all four siblings have artistic ambitions, their dreams are thwarted by romantic disappointments and tragic illness. But remarkably, against all odds (and using male pseudonyms), the sisters publish their first poetry and novels, including Emily's "Wuthering Heights," Charlotte's "Jane Eyre" and Anne's "Agnes Grey." Techine's sensitive biographical film poignantly contrasts the sisters' humdrum lives with the wildly romantic fantasies that they conjured in their extraordinary novels. With stunning cinematography by Bruno Nuytten and powerful music by Philippe Sarde, "The Bronte Sisters" is a richly rewarding film; it's both a step back into history and a startling look at the immediacy of artistic creation. On DVD and Blu-ray from Cohen Film Collection
Three more films from the influential Italian director Fernando Di Leo -- considered by some, like Quentin Tarantino, who was immensely influenced by the director, to be "without a doubt, the master of (the gangster movie) genre" -- come to home video in the U.S. in "Fernando Di Leo: The Italian Crime Collection: Vol. 2," headed up by his lost masterpiece, "Shoot First, Die Later," which makes it to DVD and Blu-ray for the first time, digitally remastered and restored from 35mm negatives. Di Leo was a master of Mafia mayhem with ultraviolence (for its time), wild car chases and lurid tales of pimps and petty gangsters, made cheap and quick. Di Leo began as a screenwriter on Spaghetti Westerns, then soft-core exploitation films, then -- supposedly inspired by the new realism of such American fare as "The French Connection" -- went on to make a series of Italian crime genre films that were marked by social criticism of Italy's economic and political landscape of corrupt cops, politicians and church officials. The three films here: "Shoot First Die Later" (1974), "Kidnap Syndicate" (1975) and "Naked Violence" (1969). In a classy three-disc boxed set with an illustrated booklet and documentaries on each disc. Read more about the films here. On DVD and Blu-ray from Raro Video USA.
Blu-ray debuts this week:
Paramount has released two Blu-rays from the fan-favorite series "Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 4" (1990-91) is distinguished as one of the most favored among fans. This six-disc set contains all 26 episodes with episode commentaries with writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga, director Rob Bowman,scenic artists/Star Trek consultants Mike and Denise Okuda and such bonus features as "Relativity: The Family Saga of The Next Generation," a multi-part documentary that examines both the show's explosion into a pop culture phenomenon after its third season and the Enterprise crew's interpersonal bonds and family relationships, as depicted in "Brothers" and "Reunion"; "In Conversation: The Art Department," a look at some of TNG's most-iconic designs, complemented by fresh interviews with the production team; a gag reel; and more; $129.99 ... "Star Trek: The Next Generation -- Redemption" (1991) is a two-part "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode re-edited as a feature-length presentation. Captain Picard and Lieutenant Worf fight to end a Klingon Civil War. Extras include commentary with writer-producer Ronald D. Moore and scenic artists/Star Trek consultants Mike and Denise Okuda; "Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War" special featurette that explores the Klingon mythology of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and features all-new interviews with writer/producer Moore, who, in addition to "Redemption," wrote some of the franchise's most memorable Klingon story lines, and some of the actors who played the most renowned Klingon characters including Dorn (Worf), Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) and Gwynyth Walsh (B'Etor). $24.99. Fox has three classic films making Blu-ray debuts this week: Bus Stop (1956), directed by Joshua Logan and starring Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O'Connell, Betty Field and Eileen Heckart; "Love Me Tender" (1956) starring Richard Egan, Debra Paget and Elvis Presley; and "Niagara 60th Anniversary" (1953), directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters and Max Showalter.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
"3 Businessmen" (1998) is a surrealistic fable from Alex Cox, the director of "Repo Man." Two businessmen, Benny and Frank, venture out into the streets of Liverpool, a city neither of them knows, in search of dinner. They wander for miles, unable to find a meal, unaware that the town they began their journey in has morphed: first into Rotterdam, then into Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Abandoned by a taxi in the desert, they encounter a third businessman -- Leroy -- are fed, and briefly discover the metaphysical explanation for their trek. Stars Miguel Sandoval, Robert Wisdom and Alex Cox. From Microcinema International ... "The Fog Collector's Edition" (1980) features a new transfer of the film supervised by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dean Cundey. Directed by John Carpenter and starring Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, John Houseman and Hal Holbrook. New extras include an exclusive interview with Jamie Lee Curtis discussing "The Fog" and covering her legendary early 80s "Scream Queen" career; commentary featuring Barbeau, Atkins and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace; a retrospective interview with director of photography Dean Cundey about his many legendary collaborations with John Carpenter; "Horror's Hallowed Grounds" locations featurette. On DVD and Blu-ray from Scream Factory/Shout! Factory ... "Filly Brown" (2012), starring Gina Rodriguez, Jenni Rivera, Lou Diamond Phillips, Edward James Olmos and Emilio Rivera, is the inspiring portrait of a young woman striving to find her voice -- without compromising herself or the fate of her family. Filly Brown is a young aspiring hip-hop artist from Los Angeles. With her mother in prison and her father struggling to provide for his daughters, Filly knows that a record contract just might be the answer to her family's financial problems. So when a record producer offers her a shot at stardom, she has to choose between selling out her dreams -- or saving her family. Latin Grammy nominee Jenni Rivera' final on-screen appearance before her untimely death. On DVD and Blu-ray from Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment ... In "Black Rock" (2012), starring Katie Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth, three childhood friends get together for a private camp out at an iconic setting from their childhood, an empty island off the coast of Maine, to renew their bond of sisterhood. The trio, however, quickly finds themselves in a fight for their lives when they meet three men who have come to the island for a hunting trip and a night of drinking spirals into a tragic accident. From Lionsgate.
Two delinquent teenage lovers from the suburbs of Los Angeles travel to a small southern town to falsely claim a dead friend's inheritance in "Rushlights" (2013), starring Josh Henderson, Haley Webb, Beau Bridges and Aidan Quinn. The pair wind up in a nightmare of greed and betrayal when confronted with the twisted and bizarre underworld of Tremo, Texas. On DVD and Blu-ray from Vertical Entertainment ... In "The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh" (2012), starring Vanessa Redgrave and Aaron Pool, antiques collector Leon (Poole) arrives at the house of his reclusive, estranged mother, Rosalind Leigh (Redgrave), after her mysterious death to take stock of his inheritance. Once there, he discover that she had been living in a shrine devoted to a mysterious cult. From Image Entertainment ... In "The Demented" (2013), starring Sarah Butler, Brittney Alger, Kayla Ewell, Richard Kohnke and Michael Welch, six college friends on a weekend getaway find themselves fighting for their lives after a terrorist attack turns the local residents into rage infused zombies. On DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Anchor Bay ... In "Blaze You Out" (2013), starring Veronica Diaz Carranza, Melissa Cordero, Jeremy Ray Valdez and Mark Adair-Rios, a strong-willed young woman -- an aspiring DJ -- ventures into the ruthless underworld of the town's heroin trade in order to save her younger sister's life. On DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate ... Two brothers team up to battle a creature "Under the Bed" (2012), starring Jonny Weston, Gattlin Griffith, Peter Holden, Musetta Vander and Kelcie Stranahan. Every child knows about the monster under the bed -- Neal Hausman's mistake was trying to fight it. Neal returns from a two-year exile following his tragic attempt to defeat the monster only to find his father ticking ever closer to a breakdown, a new stepmother who fears him, and his little brother being terrorized by the same monster. On DVD and Blu-ray from XLrator Media.
ON THE INDIE FRONT:
"War Flowers" (2012), starring Christina Ricci, Gabrielle Popa, Bren Foster, Jason Gedrick and Tom Berenger, is a Civil War drama about a Southern woman -- whose youngest child was lost to scarlet fever and whose husband is in the Confederate army -- who takes care of a badly wounded Yankee soldier left behind after a nearby battle. From Green Apple Entertainment ... In "A Night for Dying Tigers" (2010), starring Gil Bellows, Jennifer Beals, Kathleen Robertson and John Pyper-Ferguson, a young man's extended family gathers for his farewell dinner before he goes to prison for five years. As the reunion devolves, the truths behind the family's long history of conflict and tragedy are surprisingly revealed. From Monarch Home Entertainment ... In "Cloudburst" (2011), Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker star as an aging lesbian couple who escape from their nursing home in Maine and head up to Canada to get married; while on the road, they pick up a young hitchhiker (Ryan Doucette) with his own issues: He's returning to Nova Scotia to visit his dying mother. With equal parts humor and grace, the film explores the themes of life, death and love through the eyes of this oddball trio. From Wolfe Video
"Old Dog (Lao Gou/Khyi Rgan)" (2011 -- Tibet), directed by Pema Tseden, the leading artist of the burgeoning Tibetan cinema, and the first director to produce a Tibetan-language feature in mainland China, tells the story of a family on the Himalayan plains who discover that their dog is worth a fortune, but that selling it comes at a terrible price. First release by Icarus Film's dGenerate Films Home Video Collection.
FOR THE FAMILY:
There's a bus waiting for your kids somewhere this week. Scholastic Storybook Treasures has two The Magic School Bus DVDs roaring your way: "The Magic School Bus: Revving Up" (2013) is a three-disc set -- "Under Construction," "Getting Energized" and "Cracks a Yolk" -- each containing three new episodes running the gamut from computers and electricity to city critters and desert adaptation. Each DVD also contains a special bonus episode fort more than four-and-a-half hours of Frizz-tastic fun. $24.95; and "The Magic School Bus: In a Pickle" (2013), with four never-before-released episodes including the title episode about microbes, along with "Meets Molly Cule," "Makes a Stink" about smell and "Meets the Rot Squad" which covers decomposition. $12.95 ... Meanwhile, Entertainment One offers two new three-episode DVDs of the Dove Foundation-approved "The Wheels on the Bus" series for children ages 1-5. Each episode features all the classic "Wheels on the Bus" verses, plus some bouncy new ones, as well as Roger Daltry as the voice of Argon the Dragon. In "The Wheels on the Bus: All Around Town" (2013), Papaya and Mango learn about all different type of jobs, visit a jungle bird show and a mechanics garage, and learn the ultimate Fairie's Golden Rule: be nice to others and they will be nice to you. In "The Wheels on the Bus: Animal Adventure" (2013), Papaya, Mango and Argon introduce young viewers to reptiles, bugs, sharks, turtles, dolphins, elephants, zebras and more in four episodes ... "Power Rangers Seasons 4-7" (1996) is a deluxe 21-DVD box set with all 183 episodes, including a disc jam-packed with bonus features including rarely seen archival material, brand-new retrospective featurettes including interviews with members of the cast, creative team, and fans, and more. Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa have been defeated once again, but the Command Center is in ruins, and King Mondo is on his way to conquer Earth. Picking up right where "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and "Mighty Morphin Alien Ranger"s left off, "Power Rangers: Seasons 4–7" continues the saga of the heroic "teenagers with attitude" through four more seasons: "Power Rangers ZEO," "Power Rangers Turbo," "Power Rangers in Space" and "Power Rangers Lost Galaxy." $129.99 from Shout! Factory ... "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox" (2013) is the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Original Animated Movies. When time travel allows a past wrong to be righted for Flash and his family, the event's temporal ripples prove disastrous, creating a fractured, alternate reality where the Justice League never formed, and even Superman is nowhere to be found. Amidst a new world being ravaged by a fierce war between Wonder Woman's Amazons and Aquaman's Atlanteans, Flash must team with a grittier, more violent Batman and government agent Cyborg to restore the continuity of Flash's original timeline. On DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Warner ... "Meet the Small Potatoes" (2013) is a fun-filled adventure that follows Ruby, Nate, Chip and Olaf from the humble dirt of an Idaho farm to become a global singing sensation; an inspirational tale of friendship and creativity that proves even the smallest potato can make big dreams come true. Voiced by Malcolm McDowell and featuring songs by Tony-winning composer Jerry Bock ("Fiddler on the Roof"). From Universal.
FROM TV TO DVD:
"Banshee: The Complete First Season" (2013) is a four-disc set with 10 episodes of the Cinemax series that follows an ex-con who assumes the identity of the sheriff of a small town where he continues his criminal activities, even as he's hunted by the shadowy gangsters he betrayed years earlier. On DVD, $39.98; Blu-ray Disc, $49.99; from HBO ... "Kendra on Top: The Complete First Season" (2012) is a two-disc set with 14 uncensored episodes, $24.98 from MPI Media Group ... "Touched By an Angel Season Eight" (2001-02) is a six-disc set with 22 episodes, $59.99 from CBS/Paramount.
Check out other new July 30-August 5 DVD releases at OnVideo.