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article imageReview: New on DVD for March 11 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 11, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an action throwback; a poor adaptation of a popular YA novel; a movie with an amazing built-in soundtrack; and a Cecil B. DeMille classic in high-definition.
Dallas Buyers Club (DVD)
Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) sees his free-wheeling life overturned when he’s diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. Determined to survive, Woodroof decides to take matters in his own hands by tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. After finding an unlikely ally in Rayon (Jared Leto), he establishes a hugely successful “buyers’ club” and unites a band of outcasts in a struggle for dignity and acceptance that inspires in ways no one could have imagined.
Both performances were more than deserving of the acting Oscars they received for the film. Recognizing a need that requires filling, Ron smuggles prescriptions over the border to sell to the desperate infected he despises at a profitable markup. It's a gradual process that sees his selfish desire for survival evolve into activism for everyone's right to alternative care. This is not only Ron's story, but also the tale of how AZT was shelved as a cancer medication but fast-tracked as a treatment for HIV in spite of the negative side effects. McConaughey is outstanding. His Southern charm remains key to his character, but there are a lot of added layers to Ron's personality. As good as McConaughey is, he is often outshined by Leto. Rayon is sassy, caring and one of the main reasons Ron's perception changes. Director Jean-Marc Vallée applies his aptitude for the dramatic and touching, leveraging the two powerhouse performances to tell a notable story.
Special features include: “A look inside Dallas Buyers Club.” (Remstar)
Homefront (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment and VVS Films
A widowed ex-DEA agent (Jason Statham) retires to a small town for the sake of his 10-year-old daughter, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic). The only problem is he picked the wrong town.
Originally written and pitched by Sylvester Stallone as the final chapter to the Rambo series, this film definitely contains his signature fondness for solving problems with his fists. However it works much better in this context, focusing on the efforts of a trained wild card rather than a recognized short fuse. Broker shares some of the same qualities as John Rambo and other '80s hero dads — namely no mercy for anyone messing with him or his family — but Statham gives the role his personal touch. In the end, it's the exceptional cast that raises the film above a mediocre shoot 'em up. Franco is a terrifying villain. He gets this look in his eye that conveys his character’s dangerous reputation in a single glance. Statham makes the switch from concerned father to certified human weapon in an instant. While it doesn’t add anything to the aforementioned action subgenre, Statham’s physicality and Stallone’s old school plot maintain the standard and audience interest.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and “Standoff.” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment and VVS Films)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Entertainment One and Lionsgate
Against all odds, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and fellow tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have returned home after surviving the Hunger Games. Winning means they must leave loved ones behind and embark on a Victory Tour through the districts. Along the way, Katniss senses a rebellion simmering — one that she and Peeta may have sparked. At the end of the tour, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) announces a deadly 75th Hunger Games that could change Panem forever.
The first film adaptation in this series was excellent as it effectively transferred the story from the page to the screen, making necessary adjustments to the narrative in order to avoid losing key elements. A different writing team that does not include source author Suzanne Collins fails to do the same in this picture. There are holes in the story that can only be filled by those who read the original material and significant events are omitted to be replaced by scenes that received less attention in the novel. Lawrence, Hutcherson, Harrelson and others resume their roles seamlessly and the new cast is perfectly selected, but the film is consistently flawed in spite of the extended run time. Sadly, this film also features one of the last characters Philip Seymour Hoffman will portray.
Special features include: commentary by filmmakers; deleted scenes; nine-part making-of documentary; and Divergent sneak peek. (Entertainment One and Lionsgate)
Inside Llewyn Davis (DVD)
Mongrel Media
The film follows a week in the life of a brilliant but troubled folk singer (Oscar Isaac) struggling to make it as a musician in 1960's New York.
Llewyn isn’t always the most likeable character. He’s jaded, often flying off the handle and unleashing his world-weary view on unsuspecting companions. Though considering most of these people continue to speak to Llewyn after these incidences, they must also see the decent man that lives behind those outbursts. The group of actors brought together to play small roles in Llewyn’s journey is noteworthy. Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake portray the singing couple Jean and Jim. She’s cynical and regularly sports a false smile; he’s cheerful enough for both of them. Garrett Hedlund is a virtually silent beatnik driving a permanently high jazz musician played by John Goodman to his next gig. Writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s films have been consistently commended for their musical selections. This soundtrack is integral to the narrative, which includes all the songs without interruption. But the music is equally enjoyable outside of the picture. Isaac is a wonderful performer and could not have been better casted in this movie.
Special features include: a making-of featurette. (Mongrel Media)
Last Days on Mars (DVD)
M.O. Pictures
On the last day of the first manned mission to Mars, a crew member believes he has made an astounding discovery — fossilized evidence of alien life. Unwilling to let the relief crew claim all the glory, he disobeys orders to pack up and goes out on an unauthorized expedition to collect further samples. As crew members start to vanish one by one, they begin to suspect that the life-form they have discovered is not yet dead.
The zombie, in its many forms, has invaded every inch of the Earth. With no more territory to invade, it seems filmmakers are looking to the skies for answers. The slow build up attempts to establish the group dynamics, though it does not play a major role in most of what transpires beyond one man’s selfish decision. The story progresses slowly as the processes of surveying an unfamiliar planet are illustrated, including long, uneventful excursions in a space vehicle and drawn out arguments about procedure and hierarchies. The easiest method of moving this type of narrative forward is to hunt the surviving characters from one location to the next — it's also the dullest. The infected (or possibly possessed) monsters chase their potential victims from one room or facility to another, temporarily hindered by a variety of doors. Though these disfigured, relentless creatures function with more intelligence than comparable monstrosities — when narratively convenient.
There are no special features. (M.O. Pictures)
Out of the Furnace (Blu-ray & DVD)
VVS Films
Russell (Christian Bale) and his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) live in the economically-depressed Rust Belt, and have always dreamed of escaping and finding better lives. But when a cruel twist of fate lands Russell in prison, his brother is lured into one of the most violent and ruthless crime rings in the Northeast — a mistake that will almost cost him everything. Once released, Russell must choose between his own freedom, or risk it all to seek justice for his brother.
Russell's and Rodney's stories are told mostly independent of each other with the exception of when they share a few words on screen. The problem is neither of the two stories is exceptionally compelling. Russell makes an irreparable mistake that forever changes his life, though emerges nearly identical to the man who entered prison for some unknown amount of time. Rodney is a young veteran angry with the world that keeps sending him to war and taking it out on himself, which makes him the more interesting if not the more cliché of the brothers. In the midst of all the banality being lauded by capable actors, Woody Harrelson stands slightly above the heap as a psychotic crime boss in the mountains of New Jersey.
Special features include: a making-of featurette; “Crafting the ‘Fight Scenes’”; and “Finding Inspiration.” (VVS Films)
Samson and Delilah (Blu-ray)
Paramount Home Media Distribution
Samson (Victor Mature) is the fabled strongman whose strength is dependent on the length of his hair. The film chronicles his incredible feats, including his battle with a lion, his single-handed assault on a thousand Philistine soldiers, his struggle with a giant, and finally the spectacular climax in which he pulls down the pagan temple. But it is Delilah’s (Hedy Lamarr) quest for revenge and ability to bring down even the mighty Samson that drive this powerful story.
It's not surprising that more than 70 years after its release, Cecil B. DeMille's classic tale is still a theatrical masterpiece. The detailed restoration makes the film as vibrant as the day it was shot. The story itself is timeless, and the performances are brilliant. This picture is an example of what grand productions used to be. The practical effects, including the real lion, give it a captivating quality CGI cannot achieve. Mature's Samson is flawless. He's charming and masculine, but also naive and eventually vulnerable. Though Delilah's behavior is atrocious, Lemarr does not portray her as inherently wicked; mischievous yes, but not wholly evil.
Special features include: theatrical trailer. (Paramount Home Media Distribution)
Vikings (DVD)
BBC Home Entertainment
Were the Vikings blood-drenched pillagers? Or savvy adventurers and entrepreneurs? Discover new insights as historian Neil Oliver digs for clues. You’ll travel to archaeological sites in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, where Norsemen launch expeditions and raids. Watch in amazement as the warriors settle Britain, Iceland and Greenland and transform themselves from illiterate pagans into Christian farmers, statesmen and kings — all in less than 200 years.
Not to be confused with History's television series of the same name, this is a factual exploration of real Norsemen by a historian. Rather than designate some of the budget to visual recreations, Oliver travels to the various countries that Vikings are known to have visited. While there, he goes to museums with artifacts such as in-tact ships to demonstrate their craftsmanship and speaks with anthropologists who are able to tell a person's story from their bones. He traces their journeys from quests to invade and conquer nearby lands to lucrative trade missions for silk in the East. Debunking some myths and confirming other beliefs, this is an in depth look at a popular but possibly misunderstood group.
There are no special features. (BBC Home Entertainment)
More about dallas buyers club, the hunger games catching fire, homefront, inside llewyn davis, last days on Mars
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