This week’s releases include: a demonstration of the survival of the fittest; the true story of daring journalists; a cop that doesn’t play by the rules; a future that must confront its violent past; the defeat of a terrorist hijacking; a sequel to a contemporized Grimm fairy tale; an overdramatic love story; the anthropomorphising of a Labrador retriever; a teenager’s date with his dream woman; a couple of Muppets adventures; a unique take on the vampire; and an explosive story of revenge.

Assassins on blu-rayAssassins (Blu-ray)
Robert Roth (Sylvester Stallone), a veteran hit man, is being stalked by a younger, hungrier colleague (Antonio Banderas) eager to usurp the top-dog slot. Robert survives several attacks by enlisting a female surveillance expert (Julianne Moore), who agrees to help him eliminate the younger threat.

Forget the non-action scenes in this movie; the best part is watching Stallone and Banderas face off against one another. They’re constantly trading places in the cat and mouse chase that fuels the narrative. Still relegated to the smaller role at this point in his career, it’s not surprising Banderas outshines his co-stars. His portrayal of the ambitious and somewhat psychotic hit man steals the viewer’s attention in every scene.

There are no special features. (Warner Home Entertainment)

The Bang Bang Club on blu-rayThe Bang Bang Club (Blu-ray)
The Bang Bang Club was the name given to four young photographers: Greg Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe), Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek and Joao Silva, whose photographs captured the final bloody days of white rule in South Africa. Two were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for their acclaimed work. The film tells the remarkable and sometimes harrowing story of these young men – and the extraordinary extremes they went to in order to capture their pictures. Anna (Malin Akerman) is their photo-editor, who looked out for them, protected them and made sure their photographs were seen across the world. Based on the book by Marinovich and Silva, The Bang Bang Club tells the true story of these four young men, recounting their relationships with each other and the stresses, tensions and moral dilemmas of working in situations of extreme violence, pain and suffering. It is also the story of the final demise of apartheid and the birth of a new South Africa.

Special features not available. (Entertainment One)

Cobra on blu-rayCobra (Blu-ray)
Lt. Marion “Cobra” Cobretti (Sylvester Stallone) is a one-man assault force whose laser-mount submachine gun and pearl-handled Colt .45 spit pure crime-stopping venom. His current case has him hunting a merciless serial killer. The trail leads to not one murderer but to an army of psychos bent on slashing their way to a “New Order” – and killing the inadvertent witness (Brigitte Nielsen) to their latest blood spree. Fortunately, Cobra is her protector.

Stallone was probably in the best shape of his life in this picture; which also means he peaked 25 years ago but who’s counting. Cobra is a dark, rogue cop, action movie, made in the ’80s when these types of films also had their heyday. Brian Thompson’s Night Stalker is genuinely creepy, as is the custom blade he uses to kill his victims. Everyone’s performance is quite grave and the film can feel a little too long at times, but it still delivers for the genre. Just don’t call him Marion.

Special features include: commentary by director George P. Cosmatos; a making-of featurette; and the theatrical trailer. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Demolition Man on blu-rayDemolition Man (Blu-ray)
In 2032, arch criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) awakens from a 35-year deep freeze in CryoPrison to find a serene, nonviolent Los Angeles ready for the taking. Unable to deal with Phoenix’s brutal 1990s style, officials seek an old-fashioned cop to fight old-fashioned crime. They revive Sgt. John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), was was unjustly serving a Cryo-Prison sentence because of his last encounter with Phoenix.

Possibly the one joke to survive all 18 years since the film’s release refers to the three seashells. But there are many elements of the film that remain memorable, such as the dominion of Taco Bell, the government’s success at taking the fun out of sex, the commercial jingle radio station and the fantastic rant by Denis Leary’s rebel character. This is a future constantly surprising viewers with its absurdity as it simultaneously highlights many of the world’s social, economic and political issues. Stallone’s man’s man attitude is the perfect natural protest to this sanitized existence.

Special features include: commentary by director Marco Brambilla and producer Joel Silver; and the theatrical trailer. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Executive Decision on blu-rayExecutive Decision (Blu-ray)
A 747 travelling from Athens to Washington, DC is hijacked by a group of terrorists. They claim it’s to force the government to release their leader, but covert intelligence man David Grant (Kurt Russell) doesn’t believe it. He tries to persuade the authorities to keep the plane out of U.S. airspace while a rescue mission is put together. This mission involves the use of a high tech plane specifically designed for mid-air crew transfers. With Grant, they make it aboard the 747 only to find that they must overpower the terrorists and disable a bomb with enough nerve gas to knock out all of Washington.

First, don’t be put off by the appearance of Steven Segal in the film’s opening scenes – his role is limited. But you should also know it does feel like it goes on for too long. There are too many tactics for tracking the in-flight terrorists before they finally take action. In addition, it appears choppy switching between several locations and numerous characters. At least all the actors play their parts adequately with a cast including Russell, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt and Joe Morton.

There are no special features. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Hoodwinked Too! Good vs Evil on DVDHoodwinked Too! Good vs Evil (DVD)
The sequel finds our heroine, Red (Hayden Panettiere), training with a mysterious covert group called the Sisters of the Hood. But Red is forced to cut her training short when she gets an urgent call from Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), the head of the super secret Happily Ever After Agency, aka the HEA. A wicked witch (Joan Cusack) has abducted two innocent children, Hansel (Bill Hader) and Gretel (Amy Poehler), and Nicky needs the whole Hoodwinked gang — Red, Granny (Glenn Close), the ever-clueless Wolf (Patrick Warburton) and his over-caffeinated little partner, Twitchy (Cory Edwards) — for the search and rescue mission.

The quick recap at the start of the picture makes it unnecessary to have seen the first film. Most of the voice actors return, though Anne Hathaway has been replaced by Panettiere. Nonetheless, it is two new characters that steal the show: Hansel and Gretel. Hader and Poehler’s gluttonous German kids are hilarious. Twitchy also provides a healthy dose of funny. On the other hand, most of the other characters are quite forgettable, as is the storyline. Outside of the scenes including the aforementioned characters, the narrative is bland and loosely strung together.

Special features include: storyboard sequences; “The Voices of Hoodwinked Too!”; production artwork; and three music videos: Hayden Panettiere’s “I Can Do it Alone”, Lavay Cole “You Know It” and CeeJ’s “Perfect Two.” (Alliance Films)

Jane Eyre on DVDJane Eyre (DVD)
When orphaned governess Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) arrives at imposing Thornfield Hall, she’s intrigued by her brooding wealthy employer, Rochester (Michael Fassbender). His dark moods and the strange occurrences in the house lead her to discover a terrible secret that he had hoped to hide from her forever.

Based on Charlotte Bronte’s novel of the same name, the film reproduces her melodramatic story. It travels back and forth between the past and present as Jane’s story unfolds, which can be somewhat irritating and disorienting. The opening creates a curiosity around her new situation, but there is little reason not to have found the answer through a linear path. Wasikowska is convincing as the mousy governess, while Fassbender’s ominous Rochester appears reluctantly duplicitous in most of his encounters with Jane. Judi Dench has a small role as the head maid at Thornfield, but her presence simply fills the screen.

Special features include: commentary by director Cary Fukunaga; commentary by Rob Meyer and Ameer Youssef; deleted scenes; “A Look Inside Jane Eyre”; “To Score Jane Eyre: Cary Fukunaga and Dario Marianelli Team Up”; and “The Mysterious Light of Jane Eyre.” (Alliance Films)

Marley & Me: The Puppy Years on blu-rayMarley & Me: The Puppy Years (Blu-ray)
“The world’s worst dog” now has a frisky voice and an attitude to match. Join Marley for his mischievous puppy years, as he and his summer pal, Bodie Grogan, wreak havoc on a neighbourhood dog contest. Marley outwits Dobermans, Shepherds and Collies, while stealing hearts in his own unique and lovable way.

Special features include: “Marley & Me: The Puppy Years Goes to Training Camp”; “Part of the Family”; and “My Favorite Moments.” (Fox Home Entertainment)

Meet Monica Velour on blu-rayMeet Monica Velour (Blu-ray)
When Tobe Hulbert (Dustin Ingram) sets off on a journey to track down his favourite adult star from the 1980s, the legendary Monica Velour (Kim Cattrall), he is confronted with a case of harsh reality: Monica is a 49-year-old mom who lives in a trailer park and her life is nothing like Tobe imagined it would be. The last thing Monica needs is another complication in her life, but Tobe is determined to do whatever it takes to get close to her.

This is a type of film not often seen in Hollywood: its protagonist is a woman in her 40′s who is a witty realist. This film feels like Cattrall is attempting to rise above the Samantha Jones character she’s been associated with for so long, and she succeeds. Ingram doesn’t just try to connect to Tobe’s geeky personality, but also his sarcasm and the feelings he believes he has for Monica. The script doesn’t sugar coat Monica and Tobe’s relationship. It’s clear from the start Tobe’s expectations are delusional and Monica is in no position to provide the guidance he needs. Happily, the film’s end is quite satisfying, tying up the story’s loose ends.

Special features include: commentary by writer/director Keith Bearden and Kim Cattrall; and deleted scenes. (Anchor Bay)

Muppets from Outer Space on blu-rayMuppets from Outer Space (Blu-ray)
The Muppets embark on a hilarious extraterrestrial adventure in hopes of finding out about Gonzo’s past, and discover that Gonzo’s family members are aliens from a distant planet. Gonzo then gets a message that his relatives are coming for a visit from outer space. But when word gets out on Miss Piggy’s talk show, “UFOMania,” that the friendly aliens are coming, a secret government agency led by K. Edgar Singer (Jeffrey Tambor) captures Gonzo and goes to great lengths to learn when his extra-terrestrial family will arrive. Now only the Muppets, led by Kermit and Miss Piggy, can save Gonzo and make the world safe for a friendly alien invasion.

Special features include: outtakes; and The Dust Brothers featuring Jeymes music video for “Shining Star.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Muppets take Manhattan on blu-rayThe Muppets Take Manhattan (Blu-ray)
Broadway bound, the Muppets take Manhattan by storm in this magical musical about breaking into show business. Fresh out of college, Kermit, Fozzie and the entire cast of Kermit’s musical “Manhattan Melodies” head for the Big Apple with plans to turn their small play into a big hit. All they need now is someone to produce their show. But when no one in town will even meet with them, it’s up to Kermit to believe hard enough for all of his friends that the show WILL go on!

Special features include: Fourteen Jim Henson interviews; and “Muppetism” featurettes on Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog and Pepe. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Priest on blu-rayPriest (Blu-ray)
The film is set in an alternate world — one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest (Paul Bettany) from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece’s boyfriend (Cam Gigandet), a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess (Maggie Q) who possesses otherworldly fighting skills.

These vampires are unlike any ever seen before; they are eyeless, gooey and reminiscent of a creature from Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Thus, this movie has more in common with your typical monster flick than most films in the vampire genre. At less than 90 minutes, one would expect the pace to be quicker, but filmmakers opt for more talk than action. Having previously portrayed an angel (Legion), Bettany now takes on the role of a human servant of God. Bettany infuses Priest with a brooding personality and relentless determination, while Gigandet plays the somewhat foolish but courageous hero. The Warrior Priests are similar to history’s Knights Templar, raised to fight the world’s evil – except the vampire threat is more concrete.

Special features include: commentary by director Scott Stewart, writer Cory Goodman, Paul Bettany and Maggie Q; “Bullets and Crucifixes,” picture-in-picture experience; deleted and extended scenes; “The Bloody Frontier: Creating the World of Priest”; and “Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles.” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Specialist on blu-rayThe Specialist (Blu-ray)
May Munro (Sharon Stone) is a drop-dead beauty with a fatal past. She’s sworn death to the mobsters who murdered her parents and she’s decided the method of their disposal: blast ’em one-by-one to kingdom come. She also knows the right man for the job: ex-CIA explosives expert Ray Quick (Sylvester Stallone). Miami’s playground of the super rich becomes an incendiary slayground as May lures the murderers and Ray ingeniously detonates them into ashes. But a vicious mob boss (Rod Steiger), his brash son (Eric Roberts) and a psychotic hired gun (James Woods) with a lethal grudge against Quick aren’t the kind who go down without a fight.

This is a mediocre revenge film that manages to eventually drain the cool element from on-screen explosions. It may have worked better if the writers had chosen between May’s or Ray’s storylines; together they pull the story in too many directions. On a different note, sadly, and comically to some extent, it’s difficult to determine what accent Steiger is using; but otherwise his and Roberts’ performances are convincingly menacing and heartless. Stone is a practiced femme fatale that easily seduces all the men in her company. Most of Stallone’s most touching moments in this picture include his pet cat.

There are no special features. (Warner Home Entertainment)

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