DVD reviews: 'Pacific Rim,' 'The Heat' and 'Drug War'
“Pacific Rim” (2013, PG-13, 131 min., $28.98). Mexican director Guillermo del Toro has a solid resume as a director, and he rarely comes up short. “Pacific Rim” is his latest, and it's an action extravaganza that carries supreme special effects and epic fight sequences. Unfortunately, these are the best aspects of a movie hampered by a poor storyline, stale dialogue and lousy performances. “Pacific Rim” charts the survival of humankind after monstrous creatures known as Kaiju rise from the sea to destroy everything in their path. To beat the Kaiju back, special weapons known as Jaegers are developed by world leaders. Jaegers are giant robots controlled by two human pilots. Initially, the Jaegers slow down the Kaiju, but the monsters adjust to diminish the Jaegers. With time running out on civilization, those responsible for establishing the Jaegers pull their resources together one last time to attempt at extermination of the Kaiju. Special features in Blu-ray and standard DVD packages are very good, carrying a series of making-of featurettes, director commentary, blooper reels and deleted scenes. A director's notebook is the only extra exclusive to Blu-ray sets. 2 Stars
“The Heat” (2013, R, 117 min., $29.98). The combination of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy is enough to establish “The Heat” — a below-average buddy comedy — as a 2013 film that's worth checking out. The veteran actresses play well off of each other, and develop a chemistry that really boosts director Paul Feig's flick. Otherwise, this is a predictable cop comedy that puts two very different personalities together for yucks. Bullock plays Ashburn, a straight-laced FBI agent sent to Boston to corral a drug dealer. McCarthy is Mullins, a hard-nosed Boston detective who doesn't mind breaking the rules to get her man. Ashburn and Mullins are put together in an effort to stamp out a big-time dealer named Larkin. As they delve deeper into the case, the women get a better feel for each other, eventually becoming friends. Even more important, Mullins and Ashburn close in on taking Larkin off the streets. Extras aren't available for standard DVD packages, but Blu-ray buyers will find plenty of making-of featurettes, deleted scenes and commentary with the filmmakers and members of the cast. 2 stars
“Drug War” (2012, R, 107 min., $24.98). Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To has a reputation for making hard-hitting action films thick with a criminal element. The director's most successful international pictures have followed this theme, and “Drug War” is no different. In this one, the police are trying to shut down the methamphetamine business, and they get a boost when a high-level dealer falls in their laps. Timmy Choi, dealing with the after effects of an explosion at a meth lab, ends up in the hospital, and the authorities pounce. Facing a crime punishable by death, Choi decides to turn on his criminal counterparts and work for the police. The dealer gets Captain Zhang and his team closer than they've ever been to shutting down a large operation. It's just not clear if Choi can be trusted, and that leads to some intense sequences in “Drug War.” Packing in more grit than most of To's pics, “Drug War” is an excellent picture that delivers well-drawn characters in an entertaining storyline that offers lots of tension. Don't be surprised if an American director snatches this up for a remake in the next few years. Unfortunately, standard DVD and Blu-ray packages don't offer any special features. 3 Stars.
“Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain” (2013, R, 75 min., $21.98). Big-time comedian Kevin Hart leaves it all out there for this entertainingly funny and honest documentary about his performances in New York City's Madison Square Garden. There's plenty of standup comedy from the hilarious Hart to go with the behind-the-scenes stuff.
“A Hijacking” (2012, R, 103 min., $26.98). Tobias Lindholm wrote and directed this Danish thriller about a cargo ship that's heading for harbor when it's hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The pirates are looking for millions of dollars in ransom, but the shipping company's CEO isn't sure he wants to pay the money.
“Maniac” (2012, NR, 89 min., $24.98). Elijah Wood turns in one of his strongest performances in this remake of the horror film of the same name from 1980. Wood plays the owner of a mannequin store who leads a double life as a serial killer. When women get too close to him, something snaps, and he loses control.
“Dirty Wars” (2013, NR, 87 min., $24.98). Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is at the center of this fascinating documentary that explores America's expanding covert military operations around the world. Directed by Rick Rowley, the picture takes the viewer inside the secretive strikes that don't make the covers of newspapers.
“Plush” (2013, R, 99 min., $19.99). Emily Browning, Cam Gigandet and Xavier Samuel star in Catherine Hardwicke's drama about a musician named Hayley who finds herself in a tough stretch with the loss of her brother and the flop of her latest album. A new bandmate tries to help Hayley, but he might be expecting something in return.
“Exploding Sun” (2013, NR, 120 min., $19.97). Directed by Michael Robinson, this TV movie crosses over the action and science-fiction genres, as a solar flare four times larger than Earth makes its way toward the planet. As it turns out, there's only one man who can turn back the flare, but he's seen as a renegade scientist who's hard to trust.
“Embrace of the Vampire” (2013, NR, 93 min., $14.98). Sharon Hinnendael stars as Charlotte, a young girl making her way to college after spending time at an all-girls Catholic school. As she settles into her new school, she realizes an evil force has made the trip with her. A vampire is making the push for Charlotte's soul, but she's a fighter.
“Abducted” (2013, NR, 96 min., $19.98). Glen Scantlebury and Lucy Phillips wrote and directed this science-fiction thriller about a handful of couples who are abducted from their homes, locked up and forced to go through bizarre medical experiments. When they escape, they find the world outside is different from what they remember.
“Ingenious” (2009, R, 89 min., $26.98)
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“Love Actually: 10th Anniversary Edition” (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, 2003, R, 129 min., $19.98)
“High Plains Drifter: 40th Anniversary Edition” (Clint Eastwood and Verna Bloom, !973, R, 105 min., $19.98)
“Notting Hill” (Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, 1999, PG-13, 123 min., $19.98)
“Jumper” (Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson, 2008, PG-13, 88 min., $19.99)
TV ON DVD
“The Fall: Series 1” (two discs, five episodes, $39.99)
“Vikings: Season One” (three discs, nine episodes, $49.98)
“Hart of Dixie: The Complete Second Season” (five discs, 22 episodes, $59.98)
“Anger Management: Volume Two” (two discs, 22 episodes, $34.97)
“Defiance: Season One” (three discs, 12 episodes, $59.98)
“Counting Cars: Season 2, Volume 1” (two discs, 12 episodes, $14.98)
“Gentle Ben: Season One” (four discs, 28 episodes, $29.99)
“American Horror Story, Asylum: The Complete Second Season” (four discs, 13 episodes, $49.98)