Movies Without Pity

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 20, 2012

by Ethan Alter November 20, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Get your jungle boogie on with an eight-film Tarantino retrospective.

Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection
That's right movie fans: it was 20 years ago that a video store clerk named Quentin Tarantino kick-started the indie film revolution with his crime picture Reservoir Dogs. And in the two decades since then, the writer/director has made some of the defining classics of the '90s and aughts, among them Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill saga. All seven of his features, from Dogs to Inglourious Basterds -- plus True Romance, a movie he wrote but didn't direct -- are brought together under the same roof for the first time in this eight-disc Blu-ray box set that should be on the Amazon Wish List of any self-respecting movie buff. (One notable omission: the short film Tarantino directed for the much-derided anthology, Four Rooms. It's also a shame that they didn't include the ER episode he helmed back in the show's first season.) Everyone has their own personal favorite Tarantino flick and personally the one I keep coming back to is his third feature, Jackie Brown, a sprawling adaptation of the Elmore Leonard book, Rum Punch. Although it's not the shock to the system that his first two films were and lacks the stylistic inventiveness of the Kill Bill pictures or Death Proof, Jackie Brown is in many ways his most mature and emotionally complex work, boasting career-best performances by Pam Grier and Robert Forester. (If I were to continue my ranking, the 2 through 7 slots would go as follows: Dogs, Pulp, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Basterds and Death Proof.) But no matter which specific Tarantino movie tops your list, this set highlights the sheer range of his skills and encapsulates a significant chunk of contemporary movie history in one handy box.
Extras: Most of the extras on the individual film discs, which range from featurettes, to cast and crew interviews, to extended scenes -- have been ported over from previous editions. A bonus disc includes two new substantive bonus features though; a 20-year retrospective documentary boasting fresh interviews with Tarantino's collaborators and a four-hour roundtable discussion with various film critics (including Elvis Mitchell, Stephanie Zacharek and Scott Foundas) discussing all seven of his films in detail, as well as his overall legacy.

The Expendables 2
The original Expendables was a fun idea -- hey, let's pack a ton of over-the-hill action stars into the same movie! -- executed with all the style and grace of an injured water buffalo belly flopping into its watering hole. The Expendables 2 also displays an embarrassing lack of style (not to mention basic logic), but at least it dishes out its 'roided-up mayhem with a smile, unlike its self-serious predecessor. Incoming director Simon West, who takes over behind-the-camera duties from franchise creator and star Sylvester Stallone, makes it clear in the first big set-piece that he's approaching the movie as a live-action cartoon and thus pushes the violence and the performances to comically exaggerated heights. The good news is that most of the stars seem in on the gag (especially Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme, who plays the leather-clad bad guy that the Expendables are out to take down) and those that aren't (looking at you Chuck Norris and Liam Hemsworth) wind up being funny anyway simply by playing it straight. Both Expendables features are basically overlong trailers dragged out to feature length, but at least this one is more dumb fun than just plain dumb.
Extras: An audio commentary from West, deleted scenes, a gag reel and four making-of featurettes.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see our picks for the most expendable actions stars working today

Well after Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power, but before Antonio Banderas, French star Alain Delon got the chance to don the black ensemble and wield the sharp sword of the pulp hero Zorro in this 1975 Italian/French co-production, newly available in its uncut form on Blu-ray. The plot is boilerplate origin story stuff; wealthy Don Diego grows fed up with the injustice he witnesses being committed against the poor by the Spanish army and decides to become the living embodiment of the legendary "desert fox." The fact that it takes the movie two hours to tell a story this slight is a strike against it, but on the other hand this Zorro does have some pretty great swordfights, a gorgeous love interest (Italian beauty Ottavia Piccolo, who, fun fact, provided the voice for Princess Leia in the dubbed versions of the original Star Wars movies) and a visual style that mimics (though doesn't perfectly replicate) Sergio Leone, complete with random zooms. And good luck trying to get Oliver Onions's theme song out of your head after the film ends. Here's to being free!
Extras: Two vintage trailers, a look at the restoration process and a still gallery.

Also on DVD:
Frequently cited as one of the best (and most heartbreaking) animated films ever made, Grave of the Fireflies arrives on Blu-ray to gut punch you just in time for Thanksgiving. Hey, at least it'll give you something to be thankful for... namely, not dying of starvation in post-World War II Japan. In other animated releases, the cult cartoon The Point turns up in a collector's edition. And last but not least, the legendary Michael Cimino disaster Heaven's Gate is re-released courtesy of Criterion on a disc that includes the director's full version of the film, new interviews with Cimino and star Kris Kristofferson and a booklet with an essay about the movie that argues in its favor. See for yourself whether you agree that it merits reconsideration or if it still deserves to function as the dictionary definition of "cinematic ego trip."

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