This week’s releases include: an alien invasion; a gambling drama; an anniversary release; a supernatural series; a risky relationship test; a real life invincible man; a tale of grief and love; a fairy tale with an edge; and a scary desert story.

Battle: Los Angeles on blu-rayBattle: Los Angeles (Blu-ray)
For years, there have been documented cases of UFO sightings around the world — Buenos Aires, Seoul, France, Germany, and China. But in 2011, what were once just sightings will become a terrifying reality when Earth is attacked by unknown forces. As people everywhere watch the world’s great cities fall, Los Angeles becomes the last stand for mankind in a battle no one expected. It’s up to a Marine staff sergeant (Aaron Eckhart) and his new platoon to draw a line in the sand as they take on an enemy unlike any they’ve ever encountered before.

This is a full-fledged, on the ground war picture, but the enemy isn’t human – it’s extraterrestrial. The handheld camera takes viewers into the middle of the action as the marines we are stationed with fight to stop a seemingly unstoppable invading force. There is also enough speculation and explanation provided to make the enemy tangible. It’s action-packed and testosterone fuelled from the moment the team is deployed to when the credits roll. Eckhart is more than competent as the experienced but not trusted leader. Moreover, the entire cast is a convincing set of career soldiers, appearing well trained and dedicated.

Special features include: “Behind the Battle”; “Aliens in L.A.”; “Preparing for Battle”; “Creating L.A. in LA”; “Directing the Battle”; “Boot Camp”; “The Freeway Battle”; movieIQ; and “Command Control,” which enables picture-in-picture, storyboard comparisons, battle points and more. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Cincinnati Kid on blu-rayThe Cincinnati Kid (Blu-ray)
The Cincinnati Kid (Steve McQueen) is a small-timer eager to take his chances in high-stakes poker. He gets his chance. Regal, ruthless Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson), the elite gambler called the Man, accepts the Kid’s challenge. The film is a taut exploration of back-room gaming, building suspense with each turn of a card.

The film is The Hustler, but with poker. McQueen is stellar and the film is only made better by the incredibly talented supporting cast that includes Ann-Margaret, Karl Malden, Rip Torn and Joan Blondell. The narrative’s best and most intense moments occur during the high-stakes game on which it centres, but it nonetheless works.

Special features include: commentary by director Norman Jewison; scene-specific commentary by Celebrity Poker Showdown hosts Phil Gordon and Dave Foley; “The Cincinnati Kid: Plays according to Hoyle,” a vintage featurette; and theatrical trailer. (Warner Home Video)

The Decline of the American Empire on blu-rayThe Decline of the American Empire (Blu-ray)
What do women really think of men? What do they talk about when men aren’t around? What about men, what do they talk about? Fantasies, temptation, desire, indiscretions, infidelity, confessions, acrobatics and everything else that makes sex the only subject worth talking about. Every taboo is hilariously exposed in this unforgettable classic about modern relationships.

Special features include: Documentary: 15 years later and Homage to The Decline of the American Empire: 25 years later – French only. (Entertainment One)

Haven - Season 1 on blu-rayHaven – Season 1 (Blu-ray)
FBI Agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) travels to the small town of Haven, Maine to solve the murder of a local ex-con. Soon she discovers that Haven is a refuge for people with supernatural powers, and it’s up to her to unlock the town’s mysterious secrets, including the hidden truth about her own past.

A new sci-fi series in the same vain as The X-Files, Haven solves one case an episode as relationships develop between the recurring characters. The possible love triangle between Audrey, her partner (Lucas Bryant) and a local (Eric Balfour) is constantly hovering just below the surface of most storylines, but it’ll likely take several seasons to develop one way or the other. Like most television shows of this type, it took a few episodes to find its voice but moved ahead quite smoothly once it did. The additional subplot about Audrey’s identity adds a mystery element to the series that is an extra link between episodes.

Special features include: 12 commentaries with cast and crew; the making-of featurettes; six behind-the-scenes video blogs; interviews with Rose, Bryant and Balfour; and a season two writers’ room sneak peek. (Entertainment One)

Hall Pass on blu-rayHall Pass (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are best friends who have a lot in common, including the fact that they have each been married for many years. But when the two men begin to show signs of restlessness at home, their wives (Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate) take a bold approach to revitalizing their individual marriages: granting them a “hall pass,” one week of freedom to do whatever they want…no questions asked. At first, it sounds like a dream come true for Rick and Fred. But it isn’t long before they discover that their expectations of the single life—and themselves—are completely, and hilariously, out of sync with reality.

Special features include: theatrical version plus extended cut with footage not seen in theatres; an additional scene; gag reel; and a digital copy of the film. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Kill the Irishman on blu-rayKill the Irishman (Blu-ray)
Over the summer of 1976, 36 bombs detonate in the heart of Cleveland while a turf war raged between Irish mobster Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) and the Italian mafia.  Kill the Irishman chronicles Greene’s heroic rise from a tough Cleveland neighbourhood to become an enforcer in the local mob.  Turning the tables on loan shark Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken) and allying himself with gangster John Nardi (Vincent D’Onofrio), Greene stops taking orders from the Mafia and pursues his own power.  Surviving countless assassination attempts from the mob and killing off anyone who went after him in retaliation, Danny Greene’s infamous invincibility and notorious fearlessness eventually led to the collapse of mafia syndicates across the U.S. and also earned him the status of the man the mob couldn’t kill.

Based on true events, this is an intriguing tale of one man’s rise to the top. What began as an honest need to create change and help people was slowly twisted into criminal intent. Stevenson’s portrayal of Danny is undeniably likeable as he repeatedly proves he has a good heart, even if his head isn’t always in the right place. The story easily maintains the viewer’s interest by spanning the major events in Danny’s life rather than focusing on the minor details.

Special features include: the documentary “Danny Greene: The rise and fall of the Irishman.” (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

The Other Woman on DVDThe Other Woman (DVD)
Emilia is a Harvard law school graduate who falls in love with her married boss, Jack (Scott Cohen), a high-powered New York lawyer. Starting a new life together, Emilia and Jack’s happiness turns to grief when they lose their newborn daughter. Devastated but determined to carry on, Emilia struggles to connect with her precocious new stepson William (Charlie Tahan), and resist the interference of Jack’s jealous ex-wife (Lisa Kudrow).

To begin with the death of a baby informs the tone of the rest of the film.  Most of the events that occur are coloured by this tragedy, but that is akin to the life Emilia has led since Isabelle’s death. The cause of the infant’s death remains a mystery until the latter third of the film, but its impact on Emilia is constantly prevalent. But in addition to her struggle with grief, the film is also about her relationship with her eight-year-old stepson. This is complicated by the boy’s unwillingness to connect with the woman who separated his parents and his mother who makes no attempt to disguise her feelings. The narrative remains dramatic while rarely entering the territory of melodrama. In addition, the actors are excellent, portraying the array of emotions each of their characters experience throughout the film.

There are no special features. (Alliance Films)

Red Riding Hood on blu-rayRed Riding Hood (Blu-ray and DVD combo pack)
Set in a medieval village where a werewolf has been terrorizing the citizens. Though the night has become a more and more dangerous time for the villagers, who never know when the beast will leave more bodies strewn in its wake, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a girl on the brink of womanhood, and is so preoccupied with her love and lust for an orphaned woodcutter that she risks leaving herself vulnerable – both literally and figuratively. Meanwhile, the townspeople hire a werewolf hunter (Gary Oldman) to track down the monster and kill it before it wrecks more bloody havoc. But as suspicions brew, the people of the once peaceful town begin to turn on each other, letting the innocence of their once happy community fall further and further into the past.

Special features include: theatrical version and alternate cut; “Secrets behind the red cloak”, picture-in-picture commentary; “Red Riding Hood: Red’s men,” in which the guys share their casting stories and show clips from there audition tapes; two music videos; and a digital copy of the film. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Stranded on DVDStranded (a.k.a. Djinns) (DVD)
Algeria, 1960. French paratroopers venture into the Algerian desert in search of a missing plane. They soon find the wreckage, but no survivors – just an attaché case stamped “top secret.” Besieged by enemy soldiers, they take refuge in a strange abandoned fortress. Ignoring the warnings of the site’s Keeper, the paratroopers awaken the malevolent desert spirits – the Djinns.

This is somewhat more of a psychological thriller than an outright horror movie. The paratroopers sent to retrieve the lost cargo are not a very tight knit group, even though they sound as if they’ve been together for a while. In addition, they’re easily frazzled. The fact that the fictional narrative is linked to a real life event only makes the story stranger. It feels as though it was tacked on to the conclusion rather than integral part of the tale.

There are no special features. (Entertainment One)

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