DVD reviews: 'Prisoners,' 'Elysium' and 'The Lone Ranger'
“Prisoners” (2013, R, 153 min., $28.98). Talented Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve assembled a tremendous cast — Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano and Viola Davis — for “Prisoners,” a work that offers plenty of twists and turns inside a thrilling storyline. The movie has two Pennsylvania families in the same neighborhood dealing with a kidnapping of both of their daughters. When a possible suspect (Dano) pops up right away, one of the girl's fathers (Jackman) is sure the guy is guilty. Once the detective (Gyllenhaal) on the case is forced to release the suspect, the father takes the law into his own hands, grabbing the guy off the street and attempting to extract information. However, he might just be wrong. “Prisoners” has missed out on a lot of the end-of-year awards so far, but it is one of the better films of 2013. Weighing in at 153 minutes, it's a bit long, but “Prisoners” never drags. Villeneuve keeps the pace moving. A couple of featurettes can be found on Blu-ray and standard DVD. One looks at the thrilling aspects of the picture, while the second takes a look at the performances that boost the picture. 3 Stars.
“Elysium” (2013, R, 109 min., $30.99). Director Neill Blomkamp set the bar incredibly high with his 2009 dystopian hit “District 9.” The film was lauded by viewers and critics, and set Blomkamp up as a filmmaker to watch. “Elysium” marked the South African's second film, and, unfortunately, doesn't measure up to “District 9.” Still, this isn't a picture that should be skipped. Set in 2154, there are two groups of people, the haves and the have-nots. The haves live a life of luxury on a space station that hovers above Earth, while the have-nots struggle below on a polluted and crime-ridden planet. Max (Matt Damon) has a checkered past, but he does his best to stay out of trouble. When he's in an accident at work, the only place he can get treatment is Elysium, that hovering space station. Unfortunately, that option is closed. As a result, Max becomes part of a conspiracy that will open up Elysium to the people of Earth. Blomkamp delivers a fine picture, but the plot moves a bit too fast to fill in all the holes. The action sequences are stupendous, but the storyline isn't strong enough to balance the film. Blu-ray buyers will find a wealth of extras, but standard DVD packages are cut short. 2.5 Stars.
“The Lone Ranger” (2013, PG-13, 149 min., $29.99) Widely considered one of the biggest bombs of 2013, Disney's blockbuster take on the Lone Ranger isn't all that bad. The pairing of Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp in the lead roles of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, respectively, worked well, and director Gore Verbinski engineered some fantastic action sequences. However, “The Lone Ranger,” based on the old-time radio and television series of the same name, struggled in its down moments. It hits a snag with some incredibly boring moments inside a script that's not enticing or exciting. At 149 minutes, it's a slog, but some of the action-packed moments are worth the wait. The picture is an origins story, and it takes the viewer inside the paring of Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Pushed together by fate, they take on Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), an evil fellow looking to grab control of the railroad in the growing United States. Cole has plenty of bad guys on his side, and it will take a heroic effort from the Ranger and Tonto to bring him to justice. As with most Disney films, “The Lone Ranger” is packed with special features. There's plenty to see in standard DVD and Blu-ray packages. 2 Stars.
“Ain't Them Bodies Saints” (2013, R, 96 min., $24.98). Starring Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster, this acclaimed drama from David Lowery flew under the radar in 2013. When a young man takes the blame for his girlfriend shooting a cop, he's sentenced to a long prison term. After escaping, he tries to reunite with his girlfriend, but it won't be an easy task.
“Insidious: Chapter 2” (2013, PG-13, 106 min., $30.99). This sequel to the wildly popular horror film from 2011 follows the same Lambert family and their mysterious connection to a terrifying spirit world. Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson are back in the lead roles, in a picture that also has James Wan returning to his place as the film's director.
“Kick-Ass 2” (2013, R, 103 min., $29.98). With a new director (Aaron Wadlow) and a few new characters, the ultra-violent “Kick-Ass” franchise made its return to the theater in 2013. This second installment of the superhero pic has Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) facing a new league of super villains in an explosive adventure.
“League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis” (2013, NR, 60 min., $24.99). Produced by “Frontline” for PBS, this important documentary takes an in-depth look at the concussion problem in the National Football League. The picture pays extra attention to the tragic case of Mike Webster, a Hall of Fame center who played for the Steelers for most of his career.
“The Family” (2013, R, 111 min., $29.98). Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones star in this mob-centered picture written and directed by Luc Besson. The feature follows a crime family moved into witness protection. Relocated to Normandy, France, the family has problems leaving their past behind. This could cause problems down the road.
“One Direction: This Is Us” (2013, PG, 92 min., $30.99). One of the top pop groups in the world allows an all-access pass behind the scenes at their life on the road. Academy Award-winner Morgan Spurlock is behind the camera to tell the remarkable tale of One Direction's rise to fame, and he does it through live concert footage and detailed interviews.
“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” (2013, PG, 106 min., $29.98). The second film in the “Percy Jackson” franchise, this is the sequel to the 2010 picture “Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief.” This adventure has Percy attempting to track down a magical Golden Fleece in the turbulent Sea of Monsters. There's evil around every corner in this quest.
“Man of Tai Chi” (2013, R, 105 min., $24.98). Actor Keanu Reeves make his directorial debut with “Man of Tai Chi,” an action-packed picture in which he stars, as well. The film follows a humble Tai Chi student recruited to battle in an underground fight club in Beijing. When the fighter is seduced by money and power, it causes a bloody war that rages out of control.
“The Berlin File” (2013, NR, 120 min., $26.98). Korean filmmaker Ryoo Seung-wan delivers an action-packed thriller that has an unknown agent showing up to interrupt an illegal arms deal in a Berlin hotel. When the transaction goes horribly wrong, the North Koreans and the CIA are left to pick up the pieces and figure out where the mysterious agent came from.
“Night Train to Lisbon” (2013, R, 111 min., $26.98). A stellar cast, including Jeremy Irons, Melanie Laurent, Jack Huston, Christopher Lee and Charlotte Rampling, stars in this picture about a Latin teacher who's life is changed when he discovers a book from a Portuguese poet. In an attempt to learn more about the author, the teacher pieces together an epic story.
“Force of Execution” (2013, R, 99 min., $24.98). Steven Seagal, Ving Rhames, Danny Trejo and Bren Foster amp up the action in this picture from Keoni Waxman. “Force of Execution” takes the viewer inside a city that has three merciless crime bosses looking to take control. In the middle of it is a ruthless enforcer, who's just looking to survive the massacre.
“Shadow on the Mesa” (2013, NR, 87 min., $14.93). Firmly rooted in the Western genre, this tale of revenge made its debut on the Hallmark Movie Channel. Starring Kevin Sorbo, Meredith Baxter and Wes Brown, “Shadow on the Mesa” follows a bounty hunter looking for revenge when he finds out his mother's dead and the killer has not been brought to justice.
TV ON DVD
“Justified: The Complete Fourth Season” (three discs, 13 episodes, $55.99)
“Family Guy: Volume 12” (three discs, 22 episodes, $39.98)
“Burn Notice: Season Seven” (four discs, 13 episodes, $49.98)
“The I Love Lucy Christmas Special — Colorized for Kids of All Ages” (one disc, three episodes, $16.99)