November 22, 2012

DVD Releases

New on the shelf: 'The Expendables 2' / 'Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl' / 'Ramrod'

NEW ON THE SHELF

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Sylvester Stallone, left, Jason Statham and Terry Crews in “The Expendables 2.”

Frank Masi photo

"THE EXPENDABLES 2," starring Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Stallone's lovingly over-the-top ode to the big-budget, CGI-free explosion fests that were his bread and butter back in the '80s soldiers on, and this time around Sly finally managed to convince fellow former action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme to join the fun as an evil plutonium miner (what else?). As ever, Stallone knows his audience well, and has no problem catering directly to them, delivering the shootouts, fireballs and fistfights with panache and bankrolling Hollywood's entire stuntman population in the process. Big, dumb, violent fun, and those who like this sort of thing will find this very much to their liking. Special features include deleted scenes, a gag reel and commentary from director Simon West. Rated R. Running time: 1:42

Suggested retail price: $29.95; Blu-ray $39.99

"KEN BURNS: THE DUST BOWL," documentary. The venerable documentarian turns his distinctive eye to the ravaging, seemingly endless dust storms that brutalized the American and Canadian prairie in the mid-'30s. With engaging interviews and startling images throughout, this is yet another brilliant and expertly presented overview of a defining historical event from the master of the form. Not rated; nothing objectionable. Running time: 4:00

Suggested retail price: $24.99; Blu-ray $29.99

"RAMROD," starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Good ol' rough-and-tumble Western from the golden age of 1947 lands level-headed foreman McCrea in the middle of a feud between a cattle baron and a sheep rancher, attempting to get both sides to come to a reasonable agreement. One guess how that turns out, especially with femme fatale Lake calling the shots. An enjoyably melodramatic oater recently unearthed from the vaults. Not rated; contains violence. Running time: 1:35

Suggested retail price: $24.95; Blu-ray $29.95

NEW TO DVD

"BRINGING UP BOBBY," starring Milla Jovovich and Spencer List. Famke Janssen ("X-Men") tries her hand at writing and directing with this family dramedy, with Jovovich convincingly portraying a Ukrainian immigrant trying to raise her delinquent son (suitably obnoxious newcomer List) in Oklahoma, relying on a series of scams and petty crimes to get by. When her son is nearly run over by a genial multi-millionaire (Bill Pullman), the lives of all in question are changed in unexpected ways. Not perfect by any means, but entertaining and earnest throughout, with Jovovich making the most of a chance to do something with her screen time unrelated to shooting at zombies. Rated PG-13. Running time: 1:35

Suggested retail price: $26.95

NEW TO BLU-RAY

"GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES," animated with the voices of Ayano Shiraishi and Tsutomu Tatsumi. A landmark achievement in animation, 1988's "Fireflies" is also one of the most difficult viewing experiences the viewer is likely to encounter, focusing as it does on a pair of young siblings attempting to survive in Japan during WWII amidst rampant bombings and unsympathetic adults. No Disney sentimentality here, although there is some beauty to be found in the quieter moments between unthinkable tragedies. Special features include a character gallery. Not rated; contains disturbing images and violence. Running time: 1:29

Suggested retail price: $29.98

"HEAVEN'S GATE," starring Kris Kristofferson and Isabelle Huppert. Credited with bankrupting a studio, ending its director's career and discouraging film revisionism in general for the next decade, Michael Cimino's anxiously awaited third movie (after his universally acclaimed 1978 Vietnam drama "The Deer Hunter") was such a critical and financial failure that its very title soon became a punchline synonymous with "box-office bomb." In the years since, opinions in general have softened considerably towards this beautifully shot and meticulously constructed anti-Western, and Criterion gives the flawed but fascinating film the second chance it deserves with a director-approved remastering and special features, including new interviews with cast and crew. Not rated; contains violence, language and strong sexual content. Running time: 3:36

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