Guillermo del Toro goes big (but not home) in Pacific Rim.
In summer filled with giant-sized spectacles that strangely seemed much too small, Guillermo del Toro's sea monsters vs. big-ass robots picture stood tall on the big screen, displaying the kind of outsized scale you'd think audiences would want from a summer blockbuster. Sadly, it seems that moviegoers weren't all that interested in del Toro's brand of summer entertainment, as Pacific Rim failed to crack the $100 million mark at the domestic box-office. (The movie did significantly better overseas, though.) But maybe they'll realize their mistake now that the movie is on Blu-ray, where even shrunken down to TV-size, Pacific Rim still delivers plenty of thrills, chills and earth-shaking action. Is the character work a little light and the story (which is essentially a creature feature version of Top Gun) a tad on the predictable side, especially for a director is creative as del Toro? For sure. Pacific Rim's world-building, on the other hand, is top-notch. Even if del Toro never gets to make a sequel, expect the movie to live on forever in the realm of fan fiction.
Extras: A commentary track with the eternally enthusiastic director, fourteen making-of featurettes and a peek inside del Toro's famous notebooks filled with pre-production art and story ideas.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see why Pacific Rim wasn't a hit at the American box-office
Let Me Explain
Between Identity Thief and The Heat, 2013 was a very good year for Melissa McCarthy, Hollywood's newest comedy star. (She also had a role in The Hangover Part III, but everyone makes mistakes.) Of course, while both of those movies were successes, only one was any good… and it wasn't the film co-starring that Arrested Development guy. Granted, The Heat isn't a classic either, but it's a well-executed cop comedy in the tradition of 48 Hours enlivened by the formidable dynamic between McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, who plays the uptight FBI agent to the Mike & Molly star's bull-in-a-police-precinct lawwoman. Bridesmaids director Paul Feig gears the movie to McCarthy's strengths, while Bullock effectively carves out her own territory. Like a lot of the '80s movies it's inspired by, The Heat will probably be a cable staple for decades to come. For that matter, so will the Kevin Hart concert movie, Let Me Explain, not because it's the best of its kind (it's not, not by a longshot), but because these feature-length stand-up movies always have a home on Comedy Central or late-night HBO. Hart's certainly more at home onstage than he's been in any of his narrative features and he gets off a few great one-liners, but if you're expecting the second coming of Chris Rock… well, don't.
Extras: The Heat offers a slew of commentary tracks anchored by McCarthy and Feig, the original MST3K trio and the extended members of McCarthy's onscreen family (in character), deleted scenes, a gag reel and seven featurettes. Let Me Explain includes two featurettes and three music videos.
Click here to read our original review of The Heat
With Captain Phillips currently in theaters, now's the perfect time for folks to discover this modern-day piracy-at-sea Danish thriller, which came and went from U.S. screens last spring. Where Phillips never leaves the boat that's being boarded by desperate Somali mercenaries, A Hijacking divides its time between the boardroom of the corporation whose vessel is under siege as well as the ship itself, as the pirates and the moneymen try to negotiate a ransom for the crew caught in the middle. It's gripping stuff, the Dog Day Afternoon to Phillips's Die Hard. Both films are very good alone, but great when viewed together.
Extras: Five making-of featurettes.
Embrace of the Vampire (1995)
Embrace of the Vampire (2013)
After growing up on camera on Who's the Boss, Alyssa Milano tried to leave her child actress past behind with the 1995 bloodsucking, skin-baring flick Embrace of the Vampire, one of those softcore erotic thrillers that so many '80s child stars appeared in to prove they were all grown up. (See also: Drew Barrymore in Poison Ivy.) Obviously, the new-to-Blu movie -- in which Milano plays a nubile college co-ed torn between her sexy boyfriend and just-as-sexy nighttime visitor -- hasn't gotten any better with age, which is why they went ahead and remade it with Sharon Hinnedael taking over Milano's part, this time as an ex-Catholic school girl who finds a brave new (haunted) world when she steps onto a college campus. Looks like Skinemax has its Halloween-themed double feature set to go.
Extras: Both movies are, unsurprisingly, bare bones.
Wild Style: 30th Anniversary Edition
A rich time capsule of early '80s hip-hop and New York City in general, this 1983 cult favorite was filmed on location in the South Bronx and Lower Manhattan and stars such notable music icons as Grandmaster Flash and the Rock Steady Crew. While writer/director Charlie Ahearn gives viewers a slender narrative to hang onto -- a storyline involving a graffiti artist (played by real-life tagger Lee Quinones) who cruises around the Big Apple, marking up walls, interacting with musicians and romancing a lovely writer (Lady Pink Fabara) -- but his primary focus is on recording the sounds and sights of New York's urban landscape in that era for posterity. And that's Wild Style's lasting contribution as a film -- audiences today and tomorrow will be able to experience a now-mythical version of New York that no longer exists in the real world.
Extras: Ahean and Fab Five Freddy chat over a commentary track and are also featured in freshly-recorded interviews; there's also footage from two 20th and 25th anniversary jams, footage of '80s graffiti, a new photo gallery and a collectors booklet with additional photos and memories.
Also on DVD:
Elijah Wood unconvincingly goes psycho in the first-person point-of-view horror movie, Maniac. The Robert Wise horror classic The Haunting gets a handsome high-def transfer, as does the John Hughes teen classic Weird Science. Clint Eastwood directs and stars in the well-liked 1973 Western High Plains Drifter. With Richard Curtis's latest film, About Time due out in theaters soon, some of his back catalogue finds its way to Blu-ray, including Notting Hill, which he wrote, and Love Actually, the all-star love story mash-up he wrote and directed and which is really, really, really terrible.
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