Video Verdict: New DVDs for Oct. 14

The release of the fourth Indiana Jones film is the big DVD news this week, but those who aren’t interested in the exploits of the aging adventure can tap into a couple independent efforts.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
2 1/2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

It’s easy to get excited when Harrison Ford dons a fedora and starts swinging a whip because Indiana Jones is one of his greatest characters. Alas, this fourth entry in the franchise is also the weakest.

Set 20 years after Indy’s last big-screen adventure, “Crystal Skull” finds the adventurous archeologist living at the height of the Red Scare. Even he has the FBI looking into his background, but this doesn’t much matter because he isn’t in the U.S. for long.

After a quick introduction, Indy and a young protégé named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) take off on a mission to locate a missing professor (John Hurt). This quest not only brings the adventurer together with his old love Marion (Karen Allen), it finds him battling a group of evil Russians led by Cate Blanchett.

The first few acts of “Crystal Skull” are well staged and entertaining but the movie gets increasingly silly as it wears on. Because Indy is such a well-loved character we’re able to put up with the goofiness, but director Steven Spielberg has done far better work.

The movie is available in single-disc and two-disc versions, and extra features vary.

Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan
3 1/2 stars
Rated R for sequences of bloody warfare
New Line Cinema
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

This excellent biopic about Genghis Khan’s transition from put-upon youth to leader of men received a nomination for best foreign language film at last year’s Academy Awards. It didn’t win the category, but it’s still worth watching.

Shown in Mongolian, with English subtitles, the movie starts with Genghis as a young man named Temudjin. He was supposed to inherit the role of khan of his tribe, but his father’s untimely death instead caused the tribe to abandon him.

The movie depicts how these events, and other hardships, strengthened Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) and prepared him to unite all the tribes of Mongolia. The film also details his relationship with his wife, Borte (Khulan Chuluun).

“Mongol” is heavily romanticized and fictionalized, with director Sergei Bodrov choosing to portray Temudjin as a brave and idealistic leader rather than the brutal warrior of legend. The movie also covers a vast time, forcing Bodrov to skip past important moments in Temudjin’s career. This is frustrating but it doesn’t change the fact that the picture is gorgeously shot and emotionally powerful.

The DVD has no significant extra features.

War, Inc.
2 stars
Rated R for violence, language and brief sexual material
First Look Studios
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

War is not an easy topic to satirize, which is one reason “Dr. Strangelove” is such a classic. Unfortunately, “War, Inc.” isn’t “Strangelove” no matter how badly it wants to be.

John Cusack stars as Brand Hauser, a highly trained hitman plying is trade in a not-so-distant future where America is controlled by big business. Corporate America has become so immersed in government, in fact, that a private business has been allowed to wage war on a Middle Eastern nation.

Hauser, as an agent of the company, is sent to the occupation zone to eliminate a foreign oil minister. His cover? Trade show producer.

Already questioning his profession, Hauser tries to plan his hit while babysitting a Central Asian pop star (Hilary Duff) and sparring with a beautiful journalist (Marisa Tomei). It’s enough to drive an assassin batty.

“War, Inc.” has moments, and its attack on corporate greed is welcome. But satires are supposed to be funny and there’s nary a laugh. What’s more, Joshua Seftel’s presentation is too over the top, even for a supposed comedy.

The DVD has no significant extra features.


“The Universe” — The Complete Season Two: Science buffs are sure to enjoy this five-disc collection dedicated to the place that we live. Of course, the Milky Way Galaxy is only a small part of what’s covered, as the show looks at the entire cosmos using computer visualizations of everything from exoplanets to cosmic collisions.

Ghost House Underground: It wouldn’t be October without a host of horror films making their ways into local video outlets. Ghost House Underground is an eight movie set featuring titles from around the world selected for inclusion by director Sam Raimi (“Army of Darkness,” “Spider-Man) and producer Rob Tapert (“The Evil Dead,” “The Grudge”). The titles are “The Last House in the Woods,” “No Man’s Land: The Rise of Reeker,” “Dark Floors,” “Room 205,” “Dance of the Dead,” “Trackman,” “Brotherhood of Blood” and “The Substitute.” The movies are available individually for $19.98 or in the set for $159.98.

A VeggieTales Movie — The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: The Veggie gang is back playing three characters who lack the confidence, drive and courage to fulfill their dreams. When a mysterious artifact whisks them back in time and into a pirate adventure, everything changes.

“Nash Bridges” — The First Season: Every season-one episode of this 1990s drama starring Don Johnson and Cheech Marin as San Francisco Bay area detectives.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” — The Eighth Season: More crime scenes and more investigations from everyone’s favorite forensic scientists. Particularly noteworthy this season? William Friedkin (“The Excorcist”) directed an episode.

“SpongeBob SquarePants — Who Bob What Pants”: Six episodes of the “SpongeBob” television series available on DVD for the first time.

“Fighter Pilot — Operation Red Flag”: Blu-ray release of the large-format film originally shown in IMAX theaters. Viewers find themselves in the cockpit of a high-tech fighter, as a young pilot goes through the Red Flag combat training exercise.

“Holiday Inn”: Universal offers a 3-disc treatment of the Irving Berlin holiday film featuring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as two guys competing for the same gal. This set includes the original, black-and-white film plus a colorized version.

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