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New on DVD & Blu-Ray: Maleficent, Hercules, and A Most Wanted Man

by | November 4, 2014 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got a little something for everyone, whether you’re looking for some fantastical drama, a bit of sword-and-sandal action, a dash of spy intrigue, or just something to babysit the kids for an hour and a half. Plus, there’s a few smaller releases also worth mentioning, as well as a couple of notable series sets of fan favorite TV shows. Read on for details:

Maleficent

54%

Disney’s Maleficent had a few things going for it: a charismatic, larger-than-life A-lister in the lead role, an intriguing twist on a familiar tale, and a Disney-sized budget for some wild special effects. The only thing it could have used, apparently, was a bit more help in the writer’s room. Angelina Jolie stars as the titular sorceress from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, a fairy once betrayed by the man she loved whose actions are motivated by vengeance. Unfortunately, for every critic who felt it was a novel retelling of the story, there was another who didn’t think there was enough substance to justify the film, despite a winning performance from Jolie and a fair amount of visual spectacle. Maleficent ultimately split critics down the middle, earning a 49 percent Tomatometer score. Bonus features include a handful of short making-of docs and five deleted scenes.

Hercules

58%

As long as we’re talking about fantastical tales, we might as well mention Hercules, Brett Ratner’s (After the Sunset, Tower Heist) take on the tale of the legendary demi-god. Dwayne Johnson (The Tooth Fairy) dons the armor here, aided by a misfit gang of mercenaries and his nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), whose job it is to spread (embellished) word of Hercules’s exploits. When Hercules is hired to train the armies of Thrace to defend against the attack of an invading warlord, he finds himself in the middle of a complicated power struggle. Johnson is almost always fun to watch, and surrounded by the likes of Ian McShane, John Hurt, and Rufus Sewell, among others, he gave most critics what they were expecting, especially in a Brett Ratner film. At 59 percent on the Tomatomter, Hercules performed about as well as anyone could have predicted. Special features include featurettes on the characters, the weapons, and special effects, as well as some deleted and extended scenes, plus more.

Planes: Fire and Rescue

45%

In case you missed it, Disney’s direct-to-video studio, Disneytoon, made a Cars spinoff called Planes last year and released it in theaters, and though most grown-ups saw it for what it was — a fairly standard money grab intended to capitalize on the immense kid-popularity of the Pixar property — most kids saw it for what it also was, namely, “Ooh, talking planes!” No surprise, then, that we got a sequel this year, though it is somewhat surprising that it was actually better-received than the original (and only four percentage points below Maleficent on the Tomatometer). Dane Cook reprises his role as the voice of Dusty the ambitious cropduster-turned-racing plane, who inadvertently sets an airport on fire and subsequently decides to take on a new career as a firefighter. This isn’t top notch animated entertainment or particularly inventive storytelling, agree most critics, but it’s a pleasantly agreeable enough diversion for the kids, if you’re in the market for that. Extras include a handful of animated shorts, a look at some of the real vehicles that inspired the characters, and a few other items, all kid-friendly.

A Most Wanted Man

85%

Depending on what you think of the franchise, it’s almost a little disappointing that the final two screen appearances of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman — an extremely gifted, versatile Oscar-winner — will come in the form of a supporting role in a blockbuster YA series, even if it is The Hunger Games. Thankfully, he also recently starred in a smaller thriller that arguably made much better use of his talents. In the John le Carré adaptation A Most Wanted Man, Hoffman plays Gunther Bachmann, a German intelligence agent on the trail of a Chechen refugee he suspects is a terrorist with ties to Al Qaeda. Following up on a separate lead, Bachmann teams up with another German official and an American diplomat to infiltrate a local network and analyze the threat. A Most Wanted Man is Certified Fresh at 90 percent on the Tomatometer, with critics calling it a smart, thoughtfully told thriller that builds suspense as it moves along. There are only two bonus features: a standard making-of featurette, and a 9-minute interview with le Carré discussing his personal history in intelligence.

Also available this week:

  • The Dog (94 percent), a Certified Fresh documentary about John Wojtowicz, the man whose fascinating story inspired Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon.
  • The Discoverers (88 percent), starring Griffin Dunne in a road trip comedy about a professor en route to a conference with his kids who takes a detour when he learns his father has gone missing.
  • The One I Love (80 percent), starring Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss in a dramedy about a struggling married couple who retreat to a remote cabin to rekindle their love, only to discover the guest house holds a bizarre, mysterious secret.
  • Frontera (54 percent), starring Ed Harris and Michael Pena in a drama about a Mexican immigrant who is suspected of murdering an Arizona sheriff’s wife.
  • Premature (41 percent), a coming-of-age comedy about a high school senior who discovers he relives the same day over and over again… every time he has an orgasm.
  • Season two of HBO’s The Newsroom (69 percent), starring Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer, is available on DVD and Blu-ray, ahead of its season three premiere this weekend.
  • Universal is releasing a Complete Series set of the popular NBC show Quantum Leap, which stars Scott Bakula as a quantum physicist whose consciousness jumps through time, temporarily inhabiting the bodies of different people.
  • Fans of the BBC’s Sherlock might be interested in the Sherlock Limited Edition Gift Set, which includes all three seasons of the series to date on DVD/Blu-ray combo discs, new bonus features, collectible busts of both Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson, and a couple of art cards.

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