This week on DVD and Blu-ray brings Edge of Darkness with Mel Gibson, as well as Daybreakers with Ethan Hawke and Legion with Paul Bettany. Plus. we’ve got a dark German serial killer classic, some leg-sweeping fun, and plenty of ribald jokes from Mel Brooks.
Martin Campbell adapted this Mel Gibson vehicle based upon his own highly acclaimed BBC series. If critics didn’t find Edge of Darkness satisfying as a whole, they mostly praised Gibson’s intense performance after a long layoff from the big screen. Gibson stars as Thomas Craven, a Boston detective whose daughter is murdered; reeling with grief, Craven pieces together the details of her killing, and finds that a vast conspiracy is responsible. The DVD and Blu-ray feature interviews with the cast and crew and making-of featurettes.
It sat on the shelf for a year with little explanation, but this vampire redemption story/oil allegory still did pretty well for itself with the critics. Set in a world after humans have been largely exploited to death (sucked dry in bleeding facilities), Daybreakers shows a society of vampires living a civilized, luxurious existence as they manage their blood-lust. When they lose a grip on their daily platelet intake, they turn desperate and become bat-like beasts. With a reputation for good atmospherics and a long production history, it’s no surprise the Blu-ray boasts a pop-up feature that compares animatics to the final film. A commentary with production designer and both directors is included as well as an exhaustive feature length doc about the making of film.
How many British dramatic actors have to buff up to make a good Armageddon actioner? (Answer: more than one.) Legion finds the dashing Paul Bettany (that’s Mr. Jennifer Connelly) protecting a not-so-random truck stop waitress from the armies of the Apocalypse — as the Archangel Michael. We should be surprised to see him with automatic rifles, but religion is highly interpretive here. The film’s far less an engrossing story-arc than a collection strong of visual effects, and that’s what you’ll learn about in the extras. Featurettes “Creating the Apocalypse,” “Bringing Angels to Earth,” and “From Pixels to Picture” should inform the effects-fan, while the Blu-Ray movieIQ+sync lets you find cast and crew info as the film plays.
An early masterpiece of the sound era, Fritz Lang’s shadowy exploration of the criminal underworld in pre-Nazi Germany remains one of the most haunting classics of World cinema. In this procedural thriller, Peter Lorre stars as a serial child killer who finds himself on the run from the cops and organized crime figures. Lang’s grim view of the society around him is reflected in his pitch-black visual style, and many filmmakers in the years since – from David Fincher to Alex Proyas – owe M a debt. The Criterion Blu-ray includes oodles of historical goodies, including the English language version of the film, interviews, documentaries, and newspaper articles from the time of the movie’s release.
Are you the best around? Is anything ever gonna keep you down? Or are you a man who will fight for someone’s honor? Are you the hero that she’ll be dreaming of? Do you dream in getting in fights in the good ol’ USA, or do you pine for fisticuffs in distant, faraway lands? Whatever your mood, there’s a Karate Kid movie to suit your needs. With a reboot hitting theaters this Summer, there has never been a better time to revisit Ralph Macchio’s defining big-screen work, which remain stirring and enjoyable despite their cheesy 1980s trappings. The Karate Kid /The Karate Kid, Part II boxed set on Blu-ray also offers pop-up trivia while the movie plays, and features plenty of making-of documentaries and bonus materials.
An American remake of Akira Kurosawa’s towering masterpiece The Seven Samurai, John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven is no slouch itself — it’s a tense, action-packed Western that transports Kurosawa’s epic from feudal Japan to just south of the border. It also features a rich ensemble cast that includes Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, among others – needless to say, rarely has gunslinging in the name of social justice looked so cool. If the three sequels don’t quite match the original, they’re still pretty high-quality stuff, and The Magnificent Seven Collection brings the four films together.
Did you ever have a junior high English tutor tell you that those classic plays you had to read (The Odyssey, Oedipus Rex) were all about sex? Mel Brooks took that lesson and ran with it — really far. In spoofing antiquity, Brooks took history and transformed it into one big bawdy joke. Despite plenty of wit and some huge laughs, the execution was a little less consistent here than on classics like Blazing Saddles, so the world never came to know a History of the World Part II (which we can assume would have been mostly poop jokes). This Blu-ray release includes “Making History: Mel Brooks on Creating the World,” but the home version’s real highlight is a running “Real History” track that scrolls along with the film to (ahem) reveal the facts behind these funny, dirty lies.
Hard as it may be to believe, there was a time when Clint Eastwood was best known for the movies he made on European soil. Beginning with A Fistful of Dollars, his work with Italian director Sergio Leone helped redefine the Western. One early attempt to bring the spaghetti Western sensibility to our shores was Hang ‘Em High, the tale of an innocent rancher (Eastwood) who’s sentenced to death in a case of mistaken identity. When our hero escapes the gallows, he makes it his mission to take revenge on those who accused him.
Look, I know you probably don’t care about history, because that’s not where you want to be. However, if you want to get some kicks (preferably while hanging out with cool chicks), you may want to get your hands on the Blu-ray reissue of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, starring everyone’s favorite leather-clad “bruddas,” the Ramones. Roger Corman’s punk rock cult classic is a hearty introduction to the tuneful ruckus of Joey, Johnny, Marky, and Dee Dee, and its profoundly silly plot offers a chance to watch cult heroes like Mary Woronov, Clint Howard, and Paul Bartel in action. This Blu-ray reissue offers commentary tracks from Corman and director Allan Arkush, along with tons of interviews, documentaries, and behind-the-scenes stuff. Gabba gabba hey!