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New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of December 17-23

View Harley Lond's Profile

By Harley Lond - 12/16/13 at 06:59 PM CT


Director Gore Verbinski and actor Johnny Depp's deconstruction of the "legend" of "The Lone Ranger" came in for some heavy bashing by a majority of film critics who all seemed to jump on the bandwagon after initial reports circulated about problems with the film. Well, the film isn't all as bad as the critics -- many of whom seem to have it in for Verbinski and Depp -- would have you believe. In this two-and-a-half-hour opus, the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes, that of Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Depp), who recounts the Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp team up in one of the top action films of 2013, The Lone Ranger untold tale that transformed idealistic lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) into a legend of justice. The story line: Shortly after the Civil War, Reid rides with his Texas Ranger brother to apprehend notorious bandit Bruce Cavendish (a very, very nasty William Fichtner) and his gang. The Rangers are ambushed and the only survivor, Reid, is rescued by the renegade Comanche, Tonto (Depp), and brought back to life as the masked man. The pair pursue Cavendish and get involved in other adventures, including a Comanche uprising, fights with the U.S. cavalry, a blown-up silver mine, and an attempted takeover of the transcontinental railroad. The film abounds with equal amounts of odd-couple comedy, explosive special effects action and Western shoot-em ups. All the irreverence, cockiness and cheekiness that made "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" such a pleasant surprise are here, though with more wild shifts in tone. As many other critics have pointed out, the film is too long, with extraneous, almost silly comedic bits (overdoing the conceit of Reid as a bumbler and Tonto as a wild-eyed, crazy mystic) that could easily have been cut. Nevertheless, the film is exciting, darkly funny and full of ideas as it surveys mid-19th century Manifest Destiny, genocide, greed, and the myth of the Wild West. And when the William Tell Overture kicks in during the final sequence, it'll bring tears of joy to your face. The Lone Ranger is well-worth watching -- just stock up on the popcorn. Co-stars Helena Bonham Carter (as a madam with a shooting ivory leg), Tom Wilkinson (as a corrupt business tycoon) and Ruth Wilson (as the Lone Ranger's love interest). Extras include a blooper reel, a deleted scene and several insightful behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Warner.

"Elysium" is director Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to his innovative sci-fi morality tale "District 9" and, not surprisingly, he covers some of the same ground -- the exploitation of "outsiders" by the privileged elite. But instead of the outsiders being aliens, here they're the entire population of the Earth, who toil on an overpopulated, ruined planet in the year 2154 for Matt Damon getting physical in the top 2013 sci-fi film, Elysium the benefit of the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium. Crime, poverty and disease are the order of the day on Earth; above, on Elysium, it's all sweetness and light and state-of-the-art medical care that can cure any disease or bodily injury. When factory worker Max (Matt Damon) is exposed to a fatal dose of radiation, his only chance for survival is to illegally travel to Elysium for medical treatments, and to do so he has to reluctantly take on a dangerous mission -- one that pits him against Elysium's nasty, dictator-in-the-making Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces. "Elysium" outstrips "District 9" with its onslaught of spectacular special effects and brutal, bloody violence, but falls short in its story line -- a pretty traditional "us vs. them" scenario -- and its weak characterizations. Still, it's a pure fun outing that gets it's intelligent message about "illegal immigration" across with zest. Co-stars Sharlto Copley, William Fichtner, Michael Shanks, Alice Braga, Talisa Soto, Diego Luna and Carly Pope. Extras include several informative behind-the-scenes featurettes on casting, production and special effects. From Sony.

Though "Kick-Ass 2" falls short as a worthy sequel to the 2010 original film that pitted costumed high-school heroes against criminals and all-around bad guys, it still stands up as a fun thrill ride laced with outrageously gory violence and ironic humor. Self-made superhero Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and sweet-faced, foul-mouthed Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) try to return to life as "normal" teenagers, but soon find themselves back on the street fighting crime -- this time joined by a new wave of masked crusaders, led by the badass Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), and a new crime boss, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who has re-invented himself as The Mother F%#*^r and who has assembled an evil league of super-villains (including a gigantic Amazon called Mother Russia). The nice thing about the Kick Ass series -- it just doesn't take itself as seriously as the other movies derived from comic book characters. Rated R for much-too-filthy language and bloody body parts. Extras include an alternate opening (that, thankfully, ended up on the cutting-room floor) and a couple of inconsequential behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Universal. Co-stars Clark Duke, Lyndsy Fonseca, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, Lindy Booth and Yancy Butler.

"Prisoners" is a revenge thriller that has pretensions to be more than it is -- a pulp police procedural that borrows from "Silence of the Lambs" and "Taken" but without those films' attention to solid plotting and characterization. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) plays a survivalist-type working man in rural Pennsylvania whose daughter is kidnapped; when the local police, headed up by out-of-his-league Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) dismisses the only suspect, a weird young man (Paul Dano) driving a dilapidated RV near the scene of the abduction, for lack of evidence, Keller takes the law into his own hands -- with dire consequences (and a double twist of an ending). Co-stars Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Melissa Leo, Extras include two meager behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Warner.

Also due this week: "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," "One Direction: This is Us" and "The Family."


"Omnibus: Gene Kelly -- Dancing: A Man's Game": This episode of the Golden Age of Television's "Omnibus" cultural series was written, directed, presented, and performed by Gene Kelly. The concept of the hour-long show was to demonstrate that the rhythms, movements and coordination that great athletes used in their sports could be directly correlated to movement in dance. Using the movements of such sports greats as Omnibus: Gene Kelly -- Dancing: A Man's Game DVD Cover quarterback Johnny Unitas, baseball's Mickey mantle, boxing champ Sugar Ray Robinson, figure skater Richard Button, basketball star Bob Cousy and fencing's Allan Kwartler, among others, Kelly shows the connections between sports and dance, even choreographing a dance routine based on the sports heroes' movements. He also traces the history of modern American dance and sets out to prove that grace and beauty in dance is not just the property of women (remember, this was the 1950s) and that it also is "a man's game." Highlights include a stunning performance by famed dancer Edward Villella and a great tap-dance routine by Kelly and Robinson. This historic production aired just once on December 21, 1958, over the NBC Television Network. It remained publicly unavailable until now. "Omnibus" was a multiple Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series delivering sophistication, refinement, and sparkling intelligence to a national audience. Its eight groundbreaking seasons -- broadcast live and nationwide from 1952 to 1961 over 164 episodes -- of live, commercial-network broadcasts featured host Alastair Cooke and the most accomplished luminaries of the day. Extras include a stunning 24-page booklet. A must-have. $29.98 from Entertainment One.

Also due this week -- on Blu-ray -- are the first three films in the Indiana Jones saga ("Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"), available individually for the first time (they were part of the "Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures" Blu-ray set, which was released in September, 2012). $26.98 each from Paramount.


"Night Train to Lisbon" (2013), directed by Bille August and with a stellar cast heading up by Jeremy Irons and including Jack Huston, Melanie Laurent, Martina Gedeck, Tom Courtenay, August Diehl, Bruno Ganz, Christopher Lee and Charlotte Rampling, is a mystery romantic thriller about a middle-aged teacher (Irons) in Bern, Switzerland, whose Night Train to Lisbon DVD Cover staid and mundane world comes to a halt when he stops a young woman from jumping off a bridge and taking her life. The woman disappears, leaving behind a coat with a book and a train ticket to Lisbon, Portugal. As the teacher reads the book -- a philosophical ode to life, love and romance written by a young doctor just after the 1974-75 anti-Fascist revolution in that country -- he's drawn into the author's words. Intrigued by it all, he leaves his life behind to find out more about the man and his life, setting off on a journey that uncovers a tragic love triangle during a dark chapter in the country's history and eventually changes his life forever. It's melancholy, pensive, sad and a tad old-fashioned, but offers the viewer a thoughtful dissertation on romance, revolution, regrets and revelation. It's a love story about love and about the love of life. Enter this world only if you want to be slowly but surely entertained and enlightened. Based on the worldwide best-selling novel by Pascal Mercier. From Lionsgate ... Children of a Darker Dawn DVD Cover "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" (2013) stars Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster and Keith Carradine in the tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. On DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Films ... A newlywed couple's marriage is challenged by the husband's disapproving mother and the wife's own terrifying secret: a crippling sleep disorder that blurs nightmares and reality in "The Last Letter" (2013), starring Sharon Leal, Omari Hardwick, Lynn Whitfield, Gary Dourdan, Richard T. Jones and Tatyana Ali. From One Village Entertainment ... In "Children of a Darker Dawn" (2013), a doomsday virus has destroyed the world's adult population, leaving only the young to fight for life in a bleak wasteland. Gangs of teens and outlaw children roam the scarred landscape; into this scenario comes sisters Evie and Fran, who keep to themselves, moving from town to town ... until they meet up with a strange group of kids trying to rebuild civilization. Stars Catherine Wrigglesworth and Emily Forster. From Pop Twist/MVD Entertainment.

The enforcer and protege for an old-school boss who rules his criminal empire with both nobility and brutality is banished after a failed hit and joins forces with an ex-con restaurant owner to wreak vengeance on those who have wronged him in "Force of Execution" (2013), starring Steven Seagal, Ving Rhames, Bren Foster and Danny Trejo. On DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay ... Havana 57 DVD Cover "Shadow on the Mesa" (2013), starring Kevin Sorbo, Greg Evigan, Gail O'Grady, Meredith Baxter and Wes Brown, is a Hallmark Movie Channel original about one of the best bounty hunters in the West who mistakenly goes after his estranged father for the murder of his mother. From Sonar Entertainment/Cinedigm ... Havana in 1957 was the sin capital of the world. The Mafia and the corrupt Cuban government ran the nightclubs, the sex trade, drugs and gambling. When a young cop witnesses the murder of an innocent student by a fellow cop, he must decide -- with the help of a beautiful Tropicana dancer -- if he wants to play the corrupt game or go against the shady cops and the mob in "Havana 57" (2012), starring Juan Riedinger and Elisabetta Fantone. From Monarch Home Video ... An ambitious young journalist researches a mysterious outbreak of mass hysteria in a small village in "The Secret Village" (2013), starring Ali Faulkner, Richard Riehle, Jonathan Bennett and Stelio Savante. From Vertical Entertainment ... "Ghost Team One" (2013) is a comedy about two friends who are both trying to impress a girl who believes the spirit of a vengeful madam is haunting their home. They set out to make a documentary about a murder that took place in their house decades ago Line of Duty DVD Cover and, much to their surprise, soon capture some terrifying -- and uproarious -- supernatural activity that leads them to believe that the ghost is not only real ... she's also into them. Stars Carlos Santos, J.R. Villarreal, Tony Cavalero, Fernanda Romero and Meghan Falcone. On DVD and Blu-ray from Paramount ... In "Line of Duty" (2013), starring Will Rothhaar, Will Estes, Jesse Borrego, Vivica A. Fox and Sean Patrick Flanery, two undercover agents come face to face with their past when they must infiltrate and destroy a drug kingpin's operation. From Lionsgate ... In "Devil's Pass (aka The Dyatlov Pass Incident)" (2013), directed by Renny Harlin and starring Holly Goss, Matt Stokoe and Luke Albright, five young American filmmakers retrace the steps of a doomed group of experienced Russian hikers who mysteriously disappeared in a remote area of the Ural Mountains in 1959 -- and what they find is more shocking than anything they could have imagined. From IFC Films.


A bullied high school student is suddenly befriended by his chief tormentor and together they face challenges that will change their lives forever in "Contest" (2013), starring Kenton Duty, Danny Flaherty, Katherine McNamara, Mary Beth Peil and Kyle Dean Massey. The feature premiered on the Cartoon Network in October in conjunction with National Bullying Prevention Month in order to inspire an open discussion between kids, parents and educators about the issue of bullying. From ARC Entertainment.


"Greek Gods, Heroes and Monsters" (2013) is a three-disc set featuring eight History Channel specials that explore the fascinating characters from the classic and enduring myths of ancient Greece. Uses CGI and over seven hours of footage to tell the stories of Hercules, Zeus, Hades, Medusa, Odysseus and more. $19.98 from Lionsgate ... Greek Gods, Heroes and Monsters DVD Cover Before Linda Lovelace's ("Deep Throat") death in 2002, the sex superstar sat for a no-holds barred interview with pop-culture historian Legs McNeil for his book, "The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry." In "Linda Lovelace -- Loose Lips: Her Last Interview" (2013), Lovelace recounts the making of "Deep Throat," the most successful X-rated film in history, her turbulent relationship with manager-husband Chuck Traynor, her role (and exploitation by) the anti-porn movement that she helped launch with her bestselling book, "Ordeal," in 1980, and her subsequent return to pornography in 2001. With additional comments by Marilyn Chambers, FBI Agent Bill Kelly, Chuck Traynor. From MVD Visual.


Shameless: The Complete Third Season Blu-Ray Cover "Burn Notice: Season Seven" (2013) is a four-disc set with all 13 episodes from the final season, $49.98 from Fox ... "Burn Notice: The Complete Series" is a 29-disc set with all seven seasons, $149.98 from Fox ... "Family Guy, Volume 12" (2013) is a three-disc set with 22 uncensored episodes, $39.98 from Fox ... "Justified: The Complete Fourth Season" (2013) is a three-disc set with 13 episodes, on DVD and Blu-ray, from Sony ... "Shameless: The Complete Third Season" (2013) contains all 12 episodes of the series that stars William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher, the outspoken, alcoholic, single father of six clever and resourceful kids who live together on Chicago's South Side. On DVD and Blu-ray from Warner.

Check out other December 17-December 23 DVD releases and reviews at OnVideo.


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