This week’s releases include: a re-imagining of Chinese history; an attack of the physically fit undead; an outstanding, award-winning boxing picture; a supernatural tale of life-after-death; and a genetically manufactured, intelligent killing machine.

Bodyguards & Assassins on DVDBodyguards & Assassins (DVD)
The story begins in 1905 in the City of Victoria (British colony of Hong Kong). Before Dr. Sun Yat-Sen could become the father of Modern China by instigating the revolution of 1911 that overturns the Qing Dynasty, his life was almost cut short after arriving in Hong Kong for a secret meeting to establish a united anti-Qing revolutionary front. In the distance of thirteen blocks, the one man who holds a nation’s fate in his hands must survive relentless attempts on his life with only five bodyguards – a group of ordinary men and women who possess extraordinary fighting skills. Against hundreds of assassins, these defenders must put their courage to the test to protect the hope of millions – even if it means fighting to the death.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes footage centring on set design, costume and make-up, character and action. (Entertainment One)

Devil's Playground on DVDDevil’s Playground (DVD)
As the world succumbs to a zombie apocalypse, Cole (Craig Fairbrass), a hardened mercenary, is chasing the one person who can provide a cure. In his way aren’t only humanities greatest danger – the flesh-eating, super athletic cannibals – but other people too. In the meantime, two star-crossed lovers (Danny Dyer and MyAnna Buring) are stuck in the middle of the madness as it takes over London in a matter of minutes. The group of ramshackle misfits must fight off the creatures, as well as each other, to escape the chaos that takes over the city.

This movie is a bit of a mix of Resident Evil and a George Romero zombie film – except that these monsters are created through science and revive like the undead.  The astonishing part is the experimental drug appears to give the infected acrobatic abilities. The story attempts to include numerous elements of this genre, such as the military, patient zero, pregnancy and mistrust, which tends to over-complicate the situation at times. The acting is relatively solid from everyone and the picture is short enough that it avoids over-thinking any of the many concepts it’s chosen to envelope in one narrative.

Special features include: commentary by Dyer, Fairbrass and director Mark McQueen; deleted scenes; and a behind-the-scenes featurette. (Entertainment One)

The Fighter on DVDThe Fighter (DVD)
The story begins as Dicky (Christian Bale), once known as “The Pride of Lowell” after going toe-to-toe with Sugar Ray Leonard, has fallen on hard times. His boxing days are behind him and his life has become shattered by drug abuse. Meanwhile, younger brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg) has become the family’s fighter with his mother Alice (Melissa Leo) managing his fledgling career. When Micky’s latest mismatched fight nearly kills him, he is persuaded by his new iron-willed girlfriend, Charlene (Amy Adams), to do the unthinkable: split with his family, pursue his own interests and train without his troubled brother. Eventually Micky gets a shot at the World Welterweight Championship, but it soon becomes clear that it will take his brother and the rest of the family to get him there.

It’s the brotherly bond and family drama that fuels this picture. The cast is stellar. Wahlberg may be the heart that got this movie made, but it’s the rest of the ensemble that truly makes it great as he is consistently outshined by his co-stars. Micky is relatively quiet, but a physical presence that Wahlberg appears to play effortlessly. Bale is worthy of the Academy Award, proving he hasn’t lost any of his acting know-how while stomping around as the Caped Crusader or saviour of the human race. His character is a balance of broken hero in search of redemption and appealingly funny guy, which is no easy feat but executed perfectly by Bale. Leo’s Oscar-nominated Alice is incredibly persistent. She is the matriarch of the family and a force to be reckoned with in every scene. Charlene is street smart and self-assured, and Adams portrays her flawlessly. She needed to be strong enough to stand up to Micky’s entire family and she does so without batting an eyelash.

Special features include: commentary by David O. Russell and “The Warrior’s Code: Filming The Fighter”. (Alliance Films)

Hereafter on Blu-rayHereafter (Blu-ray)
George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American with a special connection to the afterlife dating back to his childhood. French journalist Marie (Cécile de France) has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when London schoolboy Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren) loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each seeking the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might – or must – exist in the hereafter.

At more than two hours, the film definitely runs too long. It becomes dreadfully boring after the first hour, which leaves 90 minutes of sporadically interesting moments. The film simply feels stretched beyond the breaking point, exploring the lives of these three people touched by death in too much detail. It doesn’t really say anything new about the life-after-death debate, except that it promotes the affirmative side. The lack of real discussion is a major hole in the narrative.

Special features include: “Step into the Hereafter with Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon,” which probes the world of skeptics, psychics and mediums who explore the possibility of life-after-death, and focus point videos on topics such as “twin bonding” and “why the white light”; and “The Eastwood Factor – Extended Version”, a feature-length profile of the actor/director’s career. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Sharktopus on DVDSharktopus (DVD)
It is known as S-11, a diabolical hybrid of shark and octopus created by genetic scientist Nathan Sands (Eric Roberts) as the U.S. Navy’s next super-weapon. But when its control implants are damaged during a training experiment, the beast escapes to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a taste of sun, sand, bikini babes, jet-skiers, spring breakers and beyond. Now a hotshot mercenary, an investigative reporter and Sands’ biomechanical engineer daughter must stop the creature that is unlike any ever encountered: it has superior intelligence; it attacks without warning; and it likes to snack on bungee jumpers. It is the 8-tentacled eating machine called SHARKTOPUS!

This is a throwback to ’80s B-movie creature features. The monster is absurd and unstoppable, save for an explosion of some sort. There’s lots of blood and numerous missed opportunities to stop the abomination’s destruction. In addition, there are countless victims that make stupid, fatal mistakes, such as attempting to fight the creature with useless weapons or failing to run when they have the chance. This film is exactly what you’d expect based on the title and attachment of producer Roger Corman, though the lack of gratuitous, Spring Break nudity was surprising.

Special features include: commentary by producers Roger and Julie Corman and the trailer. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

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