There's two decidedly different films due on the home entertainment front this week: For mind-numbing action post-Memorial Day there's 'Drive Angry,' the latest Nicolas Cage saga in which the star once again plays a hero facing impossible odds and impossible villains as he fights for truth, justice and a strong backend deal. Way at the other end of the movie spectrum is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's very depressing (but ultimately uplifting) 'Biutiful,' which highlights a bravura performance by Oscar-nominated Javier Bardem as a conflicted man facing his own mortality in the seedy underbelly of Barcelona. Read on.
What It's About: Milton (Nicolas Cage) is a hardened felon who has broken out of Hell intent on finding the vicious cult that brutally murdered his daughter and kidnapped her baby: He has three days to stop them before the charismatic Jonah King and his murderous followers sacrifice his infant granddaughter beneath a full moon. He joins forces with Piper (Amber Heard), a sexy, tough-as-nails waitress with a '69 Charger, who's also seeking redemption of her own. The two of them -- along with the Devil's Accountant, who's hot on their trail -- create a bloody swathe of death and destruction throughout the South on their way to salvation.
It's Kinda Like: 'The Crow' meets 'Kill Bill' and 'The Searchers'
What We Say: This is pure grindhouse junk at it's best, the kind of stuff Roger Corman used to put out, but to the nth degree. Like last year's 'Machette,' you'll need a computer to tally up the body count, and will have to gobble up bag after bag of microwave popcorn to suspend disbelief enough to accept all the near misses and wild escapes. Unfortunately, 'Drive Angry' arrived too close to Cage's turns in 'Season of the Witch' and 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' and audiences may not have been ready for another "fighting angry" Cage; the film tanked at the box office. Which is too bad, cause this gory actioner is a true guilty pleasure of exploitation goodness.
• Extras: 'How to Drive Angry' and 'Milton's Mayhem' featurettes, commentary, deleted scenes. Also available in 3D and 2D Blu-ray Discs, which adds 'Access: Drive Angry' that allows users to activate "scene specific" features including interviews with cast and filmmakers, as well as track the body count in 'Milton's Mayhem.'
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Watch a DVD clip from 'Drive Angry':
What It's About: Javier Bardem stars as Uxbal, a conflicted man who struggles to reconcile fatherhood, love, spirituality, crime, guilt and mortality amidst the dangerous underworld of modern Barcelona. His earns his livelihood by helping smugglers and illegal aliens, by selling knock-off goods, and as a spiritual advisor to his neighbors (he's able to talk with the dead). The film follows him as navigates the shoals of the Spanish underclass, deals with an unfaithful wife (who's having an affair with his brother) and impending death, all the while juggling the internal conflict of good and bad and letting it be known that the most important thing in the world is his children -- and the love he passes on to them.
It's Kinda Like: '21 Grams' meets 'Traffic'
What We Say: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's films are not noted for their uplifting themes ('21 Grams,' 'Babel,') yet within the grim frameworks he creates, there's always a note of optimism at the end, a spark of humanity that glows and gives hope for the future. That's also the case here; Though it's painful to watch, 'Biutiful' is, indeed, beautiful. Bardem, of course, dominates the film, his eyes speaking heartfelt volumes, moving through each frame with a yearning for a better world, one in which this tragic love story between a man and his children would have a happier ending. Bardem was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar and though he didn't win, certainly deserved it.
• Extras: A making-of documentary.
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Watch a trailer for 'Biutiful':
Other New May 31 DVD Releases:
'Cross':When beautiful young women start disappearing from the streets of L.A., Callan (a.k.a. Cross) -- granted incredible power by his ancient Celtic cross -- and his crew of weapons experts kick into high gear to take out the trash, uncovering a plot by an immortal Viking who wants to destroy mankind with his doomsday device. Stars Brian Austin Green, Jake Busey, Tom Sizemore, Michael Clarke Duncan, Vinnie Jones, Lori Heuring.
'Kaboom': The latest film from iconoclastic independent filmmaker Gregg Araki is a hyper-stylized 'Twin Peaks' for the Coachella Generation; It's a wild, witty and sex-drenched horror-comedy thriller about an ambisexual 18-year-old college freshman who stumbles upon a monstrous conspiracy in a seemingly idyllic Southern California seaside town.
'Passion Play': Stars Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray, Rhys Ifans, Kelly Lynch and former UFC champ Chuck Liddell. A washed-up jazz musician (Mickey Rourke) fleeing a trigger-happy gangster (Bill Murray) stumbles across a traveling carnival and is instantly mesmerized by the carnival's prized attraction, Lily "The Bird Woman" (Megan Fox). But Lily is no carny fake: her wings are real. The fugitive musician falls in love with this angelic creature and he convinces her to leave with him, to the anger of her ruthless employer (Rhys Ifans).
'Savage County': A group of kids trespass on the land of a family of mutant in-bred Tennessee lunatics with a taste for torture -- and guess what happens to the teens. Started life as a Web miniseries, but due to popular demand, was turned into a feature and had its premiere on MTV2. The DVD features the uncensored cut that was too graphic for basic cable.
May 31 Blu-ray Debuts:
'American Graffiti Special Edition' (1973): George Lucas' breakout film gets the Blu-ray treatment. The HD images are fine but it's the music that comes to the fore in this edition. Stars Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Wolfman Jack, Bo Hopkins, Manuel Padilla Jr., Harrison Ford. Bonus features: Video commentary with director George Lucas and 'The Music of "American Graffiti' and 'The Making of American Graffiti' featurettes.
'A Clockwork Orange 40th Anniversary Edition' (1971): Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Malcolm McDowell, this adaptation of Anthony Burgess' dystopian novel is just stunning in its Blu-ray debut. The old "Ultra-violence" just pops off the screen into your living room. The two-disc release includes two newly-produced bonus features: "Turning Like Clockwork," a 25 minute documentary about the film's "Ultra-violence" and its cultural impact, and "Malcolm McDowell Looks Back," a short documentary where Malcolm McDowell reminiscences on closely working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick. Also includes the feature-length documentaries "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures" and "O Lucky Malcolm!" as well as "Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange," "Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange," commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman. Packaged in a 40-page Blu-ray Book with rare photos, production notes and more.
'Once Upon a Time in the West' (1968): Sergio Leone's cult classic spaghetti Western stars Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam and Keenan Wynn, with Fonda playing the blackest character of his career: A ruthless and murderous psychopath who suffers no conscience pangs after annihilating an entire family at the behest of a powerful railroad tycoon. Jason Robards and Charles Bronson (as the mysterious harmonica man) go after the bad guys. Populated by rich and fascinating characters, driven by a great plot, this is arguably Leone's greatest Western. Written by Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci. With a great score by Ennio Morricone. Bonus features: Commentary with contributions by directors John Carpenter, John Milius and Alex Cox, film historians Christopher Frayling and Dr. Sheldon Hall, and cast and crew; featurettes: "An Opera of Violence," "The Wages of Sin," "Something to Do With Death," "Railroad: Revolutionizing the West," "Locations Then & Now"; production gallery.
'Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection': A Nine-film, 10-disc collection contains every film the director made since 1960. The collection features the film and bonus content from "A Clockwork Orange 40th Anniversary Edition," the Blu-ray debuts of "Lolita" and "Barry Lyndon," as well as "Spartacus," "Dr. Strangelove," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Shining," "Full Metal Jacket" and "Eyes Wide Shut," boxed in new book-style premium packaging with a 40-page hard-cover book. Price tag: $148.95.
Check out other new May 31 DVD releases at OnVideo.