DVD reviews: '300: Rise of an Empire,' 'Enemy' and 'Blood Ties'
“300: Rise of an Empire” (2014, R, 103 min., $28.98) If there's one good thing to say about “300: Rise of an Empire,” the sequel to 2007's “300,” it gives its target audience exactly what it wants. The film doesn't lack any brutality, filling its time with blood-soaked battle scenes against a visionary background that's inspired by the work of Frank Miller. Looking past the action, though, the film, directed by Noam Murro, is largely hollow, specializing on good and bad guys motivating their soldiers to annihilate the enemy. “300” had the same types of issues, but its characters weren't as bland. The movie's timeline takes place around the same time as “300,” but it takes the fight to the sea, as Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) leads his outnumbered band of soldiers against ruthless Persian commander Artemisia (Eva Green) and her massive armada. Themistocles uses plenty of tricks to hold off the Persians, but he's going to need unexpected help to win this war. Lots of extras are available on standard DVD and Blu-ray packages, including “The 300 Effect,” a featurette that explores the visionary style of the film made popular by “300: Rise of an Empire” screenwriter Zack Snyder. 2 Stars.
“Enemy” (2013, R, 90 min., $19.98) Director Denis Villeneuve and actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who first worked together on 2013's “Prisoners,” reunite for “Enemy,” a head-scratching movie that might require multiple viewings for storyline clarity. Based on Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramongo's novel “The Double,” “Enemy” follows a boring history professor named Adam (Gyllenhaal), who trudges through life. That all changes when he finds out he has a double named Anthony, an actor who lives not that far away. Adam reaches out to Anthony, who is initially annoyed by the situation, and they finally meet. It's a situation that spins quickly out of control, with both men falling into each others' lives and into a finale that is best described as shocking. With its thick atmosphere, stirring score and collection of evocative symbols, “Enemy” sets its tone early, telling viewers that there's something going on under the surface. However, putting everything together proves to be a difficult task. Let's say there's plenty of room for different interpretations. There's not much going on with special features on standard DVD and Blu-ray sets. A decent making-of featurette which sheds some light on the film is the extent of the extras. 3 Stars.
“Blood Ties” (2013, R, 128 min., $19.98) If there's one movie from 2013 that should have been so much better, it's “Blood Ties,” a New York City cop drama from French director Guillaume Canet, who also helped to pen the script with James Gray. The picture is largely disappointing, featuring an all-too familiar storyline that's disorganized and boring. If it wasn't for the top-notch cast — Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, James Caan, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana and Lili Taylor — “Blood Ties” would be a total loss. The film explores the lives of two brothers, Chris (Owen) and Frank (Crudup), on opposite sides of the law. Chris is a con looking for a new start after a prison stretch, and his brother Frank wants him to make it. However, times are tough, and Chris, who needs to support his kids and make some money, slides back into a life of crime. Chris' decisions put Frank in a difficult situation, as he has to decide between looking the other way or taking his brother off of the streets again. A single featurette is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD packages. The featurette gives viewers a look behind the scenes of the production, and includes some decent interviews with cast and crew. 2 Stars.
“Fracknation” (2013, PG, 77 min., $26.98) An important documentary for those of us living in Western Pennsylvania, journalist Phelim McAleer takes to the road to speak with scientists and Americans living in places where companies are fracking for natural gas. McAleer gets both sides of the controversial drilling process, and explains how it works.
“Winter's Tale” (2014, PG-13, 118 min., $28.98) Akiva Goldsman, the Oscar-winning screenplay writer of “A Beautiful Mind,” makes his directorial debut with this adaptation of Mark Helprin's novel of the same name. The movie is about a love story that spans more than a century. Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt star.
“Rob the Mob” (2014, R, 104 min., $28.99) Directed by Raymond De Felitta, “Rob the Mob” is based on the true story of Tommy and Rosemarie Uva, a couple in need of some money who decided to rob some of New York City's toughest mobsters. The top-notch cast includes Michael Pitt, Andy Garcia, Ray Romano and Tony winner Nina Arianda.
“Some Velvet Morning” (2013, NR, 83 min., $26.95) Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve star in Neil LaBute's drama about an attorney who finally leaves his wife for a mistress he hasn't been with for four years. When Fred (Tucci) arrives at Velvet's (Eve) door, she's surprised and doesn't even know if she wants to be with Fred. That's where this story starts.
“Wolf Creek 2” (2013, NR, 106 min., $27.97) Mick Taylor, the murderous psychopath from Australia's outback, is back for another dose of bloodshed in this sequel to the successful 2005 horror film. Mick (John Jarratt) finds his latest victim in Paul (Ryan Corr), an exchange student who doesn't know what he's getting into when he visits Wolf Creek Crater.
“Repentance” (2013, R, 95 min., $26.98) Forest Whitaker, Anthony Mackie, Mike Epps and Sanaa Lathan have key roles in this suspenseful drama from Phillippe Caland. “Repentance” follows a successful author and life coach (Mackie) who gets kidnapped by one of his clients (Whitaker). The deranged client then uses the life coach's teachings against him.
“Walk of Shame” (2014, R, 95 min., $19.98) Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden have leading roles in this comedy about a TV anchor who goes out for an epic night of partying after failing to land her dream job. The next day, though, she finds out she has another shot at the job, but there are consequences to be paid after her wild night out on the town.
“The Chef, the Actor and the Scoundrel” (2013, NR, 108 min., $24.98) When a cholera epidemic ravages the streets of Beijing during World War II, a Chinese intelligence team kidnaps a Japanese general and biochemist, because they might hold the key to stopping the outbreak. The team is forced to use odd interrogation techniques to solve their problem.
TV ON DVD
“Masters of Sex: The Complete First Season” (four discs, 12 episodes, $55.99)
“Unforgettable: The Second Season” (four discs, 13 episodes, $59.99)
“Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Sixth Season” (six discs, 26 episodes, $130)
“Star Trek: The Next Generation: Chain of Command” (one disc, two episodes, $28.28)
“Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Complete Second Season” (four discs, 20 episodes, $39.98)
“Mama's Family: The Complete Fourth Season” (four discs, 25 episodes, $29.95)
“Duck Dynasty: Season 5” (two discs, 10 episodes, $19.98)