I Want My DVD: Tuesday, August 14, 2012

by Ethan Alter August 14, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Now that the Olympics are over, check out the deadliest sporting event out (future) Earth.

The Hunger Games
If anyone doubted that the audience for Suzanne Collins' dystopian Hunger Games novels extends far beyond the typical YA crowd, the enormous grosses -- if you consider $400 million enormous and we certainly do -- racked up by the first chapter in Lionsgate's feature film franchise should silence all skeptics. Directed by Gary Ross, the movie version sticks closely (too closely, in our opinion) to the blockbuster book, faithfully translating every scene without always capturing the spirit behind the text. In that way, The Hunger Games is too much like some of the weaker installments of the Harry Potter series, where the filmmakers were so concerned about pleasing the fans by replicating the book so precisely, the movie never really stands on its own. It's well-produced, solid entertainment, but it lacks the haunting sense of tragedy that permeates the novel and its depiction of the future that Collins described on the page -- one area where you would expect the film to improve on the book -- never really comes to vivid life. On the other hand, Jennifer Lawrence is wholly convincing as Collins's young heroine, Katniss Everdeen, and her ferocious, focused performance is by far the best thing about the movie. With Lawrence at the helm, the next installment in the film series Catching Fire (due in theaters in November 2013) stands a decent chance of actually improving on what's a pretty mediocre book.
Extras: An eight-part making of documentary that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about The Hunger Games and weren't afraid to ask. And if you still want more behind-the-scenes info, there are four additional featurettes, a conversation between Ross and critic/interviewer Elvis Mitchell and the entire version of the futuristic propaganda film seen briefly in the film.
Click here to read our original review

The Raid: Redemption
A true example of cross-cultural filmmaking, the ass-kicking action picture The Raid: Redemption was helmed by Welsh director Gareth Evans, but was filmed entirely on location in Indonesia with a local cast of actors all showing off moves from the region's signature martial arts discipline, Pencak Silat. The plot itself is almost beside the point; a group of police officers storm a gangster-controlled high-rise tower in an attempt to capture a drug kingpin. But before they get to their target, they have to fight their way past his heavily-armed henchmen. The resulting carnage is a non-stop melee of bullets, kicks and lightning-fast punches. While a bit more breathing room might be nice (if only so the audience can have a better sense of who is still alive after every brutal action set-piece) the sheer intensity of The Raid makes it a blast to watch. The Expendables crew could learn a thing or two about dispensing justice from these guys.
Extras: A commentary track with Evans, six of the director's on-set video blogs, eight additional featurettes and a fan-made trailer for a fake anime version of The Raid.

Click here to read our original review

With the 2012 summer movie season rapidly approaching its conclusion, it's a perfect time to revisit the first contemporary warm-weather blockbuster, out now in a stunning new Blu-ray set. Despite a troubled production beset by technical difficulties (most famously an animatronic aquatic beast that constantly malfunctioned), then-novice director Steven Spielberg delivered a picture that scared and delighted audiences in equal measure. Three decades after its release, Jaws still holds up as a model for blockbuster filmmaking in the expert way it balances tense set-pieces (like the opening shark attach) with quietly compelling character-based moments (like Quint's extended monologue about his experience in World War II, beautifully delivered by Robert Shaw). If you've never seen Jaws before -- and even if you have -- it's a film that absolutely lives up to the hype.
Extras: Besides the dazzling high-def transfer, this two-disc set comes with an all-new documentary with recent cast and crew interviews, as well as the previously-released 2-hour making-of doc. There's also a featurette about the film's restoration, a vintage on-set featurette from the '70s, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a boatload of archival material including storyboards, photos and promotional materials.

The Smurfs and the Magic Flute
As bad as that live-action Smurfs movie was (and it was pretty bad, trust us), it looks like a masterpiece when placed alongside the little blue creatures' first full-length cartoon, originally released in Europe in 1976 before washing up on these shores in the early '80s. The Smurfs themselves are practically guest stars in the movie (which was directed by their creator, Peyo), which mostly concerns itself with a magical musical instrument that causes all listeners to dance non-stop until they collapse. When the flute is stolen, two boring heroes attempt to retrieve it, paying a visit to the Smurfs -- who created it in the first place -- to ask for their aid. The complete absence of Gargamel and Azrael are just some of the many vital Smurfy elements missing from this listless cartoon. Even if your kids are the biggest Smurf fans in existence, they're better off watching Neil Patrick Harris, Sofia Vergara and Tim Gunn debase themselves again than wasting one minute on The Smurfs and the Magic Flute.
Extras: A Smurf glossery, an image gallery and featurettes about the Smurfs as well as how this movie came to be.

Also on DVD:
A real-life Australian crime story is dramatized to chilling effect in the drama The Snowtown Murders, while the Oscar-nominated documentary Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory marks the final chapter in an American murder story that put three teenagers in prison (one of them on Death Row) in the '90s, until they were finally freed in 2010. If you liked Shaun of the Dead, you might also get a kick out of Juan of the Dead, a Cuba-set horror comedy about the walking dead, which takes place against the backdrop of the Cuban Revolution. Before Sam Raimi's Wizard of Oz prequel arrives in theaters next March, After the Wizard finds a modern-day version of Dorothy traveling over the rainbow to the merry old land of Oz, only to discover that things aren't so merry there anymore. Since Kevin Smith has essentially retired Jay and Silent Bob, DVDs like Jay and Silent Bob Get Old: Tea Bagging in the UK -- a video recording of 3 sold-out live tapings of the duo's popular podcast -- is your only way of seeing Smith and Jason Mewes doing their shtick going forward. The vintage '70s blaxploitation classic Shaft and the '90s Blaxploitation homage New Jack City both score high-def releases this week. Solid, man -- solid. With Moonrise Kingdom doing boffo business in theaters, take a look back at what's still Wes Anderson's highest-grossing movie to date, The Royal Tenenbaums, re-released in a handsome Criterion Blu-ray edition. Finally, Lionsgate seizes on the impending return of Sylvester Stallone's Expendables by releasing a three-movie high-def set of some of the star's past flicks. The Stallone: 3 Film Collector's Set includes Rambo: First Blood (awesome), Cop Land (okay) and Lock Up (really?). Personally, we would have preferred Cobra and Over the Top, but at least they spared us Oscar and D-Tox Eye See You, one of the dumbest titles (and movies) of Sly's career.

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