This week’s major home video releases include an animated superhero adventure, a bleak science-fiction drama and a fantasy film based on Greek mythology.
Clash of the Titans
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and On Demand
Director Louis Leterrier’s remake of the 1981 fantasy hit “Clash of the Titans” is a lightweight-but-still-enjoyable special effects film. Like its predecessor, the movie focuses on the adventures of Perseus (Sam Worthington), half mortal son of the Greek god Zeus.
Leterrier’s reading takes departures from the original movie, but the plot is similar in that Perseus must embark on an epic adventure to prevent a sea monster called the Kraken from destroying the city of Argos. Along the way, he and his followers face a host of frightening creatures, including three witches that share a single eye, a group of giant scorpions and the monstrous Medusa, who can turn men to stone with her gaze.
Worthington, muscled and looking the part of a Greek god, does a fine job in the leading role, but the creatures are the real stars. Special effects have come a long way since 1981, and it shows if you compare this “Clash of the Titans” to the original. Although the original was good, campy fun, it is certainly dated by today’s standards.
Leterrier’s remake, on the other hand, looks great and fits nicely with modern fantasy tales. Sadly, it also shares the problems of too many contemporary blockbusters. The development of characters and relationships is secondary to the action sequences, and that makes “Clash of the Titans” less than it might have been.
Extra features on the DVD-only release are limited to deleted scenes. The Blu-ray release, which also includes a standard DVD and digital download, has deleted scenes, an alternate ending, more than 40 minutes of picture-in-picture commentary and numerous featurettes that are accessible in Maximum Movie Mode.
Home video releases include rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received an R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download
Considering the unchecked greed prevalent in many corporations, it’s easy to imagine the world that director Miguel Sapochnik and writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner created in “Repo Men.” The film, based on Garcia’s novel “Repossession Mambo,” is set in the not-so-distant future, and it focuses on two men who make their living by literally removing artificial organs from patients who can no longer pay for them.
Although the work is grisly, Remy (Jude Law) and his partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) take great pleasure in their duties. That is until Remy finds himself in need of an artificial heart. Suddenly, he understands the plight his company’s “customers” are dealing with. Trouble is, he has to continue repossessing organs or face falling behind on his own medical payments.
The idea behind “Repo Men” is clever and the story is relevant at a time when debates about corporate malfeasance and the U.S. medical system are prevalent. Unfortunately, the provocative ideas are often buried beneath drawn-out action sequences and cringe-inducing gore.
Law and Whitaker are likable in the lead roles, as are Alice Braga and Liev Schreiber in supporting turns, and the film does possess some entertainment value. Unfortunately, it plays a lot like several other science-fiction efforts, most notably “Logan’s Run” and “Brazil.” Since both of those movies are better than “Repo Men,” I suggest renting one of them instead.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, a feature on the film’s visual effects and an audio commentary with Sapochnik, Garcia and Lerner.
Batman: Under the Red Hood
Rated PG-13 for violent content and some drug references
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, On Demand and digital download
DC Comics has developed a valuable revenue stream by bringing its characters to life in direct-to-video animated movies, and the latest of these is worthy of a big screen treatment.
“Batman: Under the Red Hood” is based on two storylines in the Batman comic series – “A Death in the Family” and “Under the Hood” – and the execution is terrific. The movie starts as Jason Todd (the second Robin) is being brutally beaten by Batman’s arch enemy, the Joker. Batman has learned of Jason’s desperate situation and is racing to his rescue, but before he arrives, Joker locks Jason in a building filled with explosives, assuring the young sidekick’s death.
The film then moves viewers to the future where Batman, still grieving over his partner’s murder, finds himself at odds with a brutal vigilante named the Red Hood. As the Caped Crusader struggles to figure out who the new baddie is and what his motivations are, it becomes clear that Jason’s death is key to the mystery.
“Under the Red Hood” is the best-plotted direct-to-video film that DC has produced, and the animation (although not as impressive as that in most theatrical releases) is good enough to keep viewers invested. Typically, these comic book adaptations are targeted at fanboys and children, but I suggest “Red Hood” for anyone who has even a slight interest in superhero fables and animation.
Director Brandon Vietti keeps the 75-minute film moving at a rapid clip, and he has assembled an outstanding voice cast that includes Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Isaacs.
The movie is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a two-disc special edition DVD and a special edition Blu-ray. Extra features vary.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“The Secret of the Grain”: This award-winning family drama about French Arabic immigrants is being presented by the Criterion Collection. The 2007 movie was directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, and it is presented in French and Arabic with English subtitles.
Lionsgate action films on Blu-ray: Lionsgate is offering Blu-ray debuts of three action movies – “Rambo”: Extended Cut, “Johnny Handsome” and “Lock Up” – and it’s no coincidence that each features a star from the forthcoming big screen release “The Expendables.”
“Rambo” – The Complete Collection: Sylvester Stallone may be directing “The Expendables,” but most people remember him from the “Rocky” and “Rambo” franchises. This set packs all four “Rambo” movies into one, nice Blu-ray release.
“Life After People” – The Complete Season Two: This History Channel program explores what the world would be like if humans were to disappear, and this release includes all 10 episodes from season two.
“Sabrina the Teenage Witch” – The Final Season: This television series, starring Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina, ran for seven seasons, long enough that she wasn’t a teen-ager anymore. In these final episodes, the young witch starts a career and gets engaged.
“Operation – End Game”: Action comedy about two teams of government assassins that find themselves at odds when their boss is murdered. The ensemble cast includes Maggie Q (“Live Free or Die Hard”), Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover”), Ving Rhames (“Pulp Fiction”), Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”) and Beth Grant (“Crazy Heart”).
“The Art of the Steal”: Documentary about the incredible – and controversial – art collection amassed by wealthy drug developer Albert C. Barnes.
Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com