CATEGORIES DVDs, Blu-ray DVDs

There's two exciting action-thrillers heading up the home video bounty this Fourth of July week. From cult director Takashi Miike comes '13 Assassins,' a traditional samurai film that, despite its loyalty to the genre, takes the fighting spirit to new heights. Then there's the gore-heavy 'Hobo With a Shotgun,' starring Rutger Hauer as an itinerant traveler who ends up in a lawless town where life is cheap and death is plentiful -- and decides to take justice into his own hands. Pull up a bib for all the blood and read on.

'13 Assassins'
What It's About: Legendary cult director Takashi Miike ('Ichi the Killer,' 'Audition') delivers a bravado action film set at the end of Japan's feudal era in which a group of samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic, murderous lord to prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a war-torn future. The 13 assassins track the lord down and lure him into a small town that they have transformed into a city of death, there to battle his 200-man string army in one of the longest -- and most elaborate -- battles ever committed to celluloid.

It's Kinda Like: 'Seven Samurai' meets 'High Noon'

What We Say: Miike -- generally known for gore and extreme violence -- here tones things down in mainstream, old-fashioned samurai film that would make Akira Kurosawa proud. Yes, there is bloodshed (particularly at the beginning, when Miike sets up the personna of the evil lord who has no qualms about beheading his servants just for the heck of it), but most of the film deals with samurai ritual, strategy and logistics -- until the aforementioned fabulous battle scene that lasts well over an hour and ends the film. And even then the bloodshed is not overwhelming. A beaut of a production.

• Extras: Interview with director Takashi Miike, deleted scenes.
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'Hobo With a Shotgun'
What It's About: The winner of the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez SXSW Grindhouse Trailer Competition, 'Hobo With a Shotgun' was transformed into a full-length horror thriller that won accolades as a double-barrelled killer of a film. Rutger Hauer stars as a hobo looking to start a new life by saving money to buy a lawn mower. But he finds himself in a new city run by a psychopathic crime boss, his two sadistic murderous sons and a corrupt police force. There's so much violence around him that the Hobo gets a shotgun and, instead of mowing lawns, mows down the bad guys in an effort to clean things up.

It's Kinda Like: 'Machete' meets 'Emperor of the North Pole'

What We Say: This boodbath of a movie gives new meaning to the word gore. Forget your 'Saws' and 'Hostels,' this is the real deal -- and it's got a sense of humor to boot. Hauer is perfectly low-key as a man who just gets fed up with all the violence and chaos around him and decides to take the law -- and justice -- into his own hands, adding to the violence in his own way. Brian Downey (the weaselly Stanley H. Tweedle from the late, great 'Lexx') gives an over-the-top performance as the nasty crime boss. The takes are too long and the acting is stilted at times, but hey, who needs perfection when you're having so much fun. And there's this one scene with bumper cars ... well, just try to get us on one of those rides ever again.

• Extras: Commentaries, behind-the-scene featurettes, deleted scenes, video blogs, test reels, more.
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July 5 Blu-ray Debut:
  • 'Das Boot' (1981) Wolfgang Petersen's beautifully crafted WWII submarine saga gets the Blu-ray treatment featuring a newly remastered, director's cut version with an added 60 minutes. The film introduced German star Jurgen Prochnow to American audiences. Included in the two-disc set is the original theatrical version of the film and almost three hours of all-new Blu-ray exclusive special features, including a retrospective documentary with Petersen.


Other New July 5 DVD Releases:
  • 'Ferocious Planet': A groundbreaking device is created by the government to glimpse into alternate universes but malfunctions on its first presentation, inadvertently transporting a group of observers into a nightmarish new dimension populated with fearsome, man-eating creatures. Stars Joe Flanigan, John Rhys-Davies, Catherine Walker.
  • 'The Frankenstein Syndrome': Modern re-imagining of Mary Shelly's 'Frankenstein,' wherein a beautiful young stem-cell researcher joins a secret research group attempting to develop a stem-cell based universal healing serum -- and ends up developing a serum that can bring the dead back to life -- but with horrific results. Stars Tiffany Shepis, Louis Mandylor, Patti Tindall, Scott Anthony Leet, Ed Lauter.
  • 'Of Gods and Men': Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery perched in the mountains of Algeria in the late 1990s. When Islamic fundamentalists foment a civil war and begin murdering foreigners, fear sweeps through the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay ... come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996. A beautiful, sad tale.
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  • 'Wake Wood': The parents of a 9-year-old girl killed in a savage dog attack move to the remote rural Irish community of Wake Wood, where they're introduced to a bizarre pagan ritual that will bring the girl back from the grave -- but for three days only. Stars Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall.

Check out more July 5 DVD releases at OnVideo.