This year's fourth quarter is shaping up to be a great one for DVD and Blu-ray, and October kicks off with 'Fast Five' and 'Scream 4,' followed next week by 'Green Lantern,' 'Horrible Bosses' and 'The Tree of Life.' This week also sees the Blu-ray debuts of 'The Lion King,' 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Dead Alive.' Read on.
What It's About: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead a reunion of returning cast members from every chapter of the fast-paced franchise built on speed. In this installment, former cop Brian O'Conner (Walker) partners with ex-con Dom Toretto (Diesel) on the opposite side of the law. After Brian and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) break Dom out of custody, they head to Rio de Janeiro and again get involved in heists using hot cars and fast moves. And to cement their freedom, they decide to rip off $100,000 from a Brazilian drug lord. But there's more than bad guys to fight: Hot on their trail is federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Look out, Rio.
It's Kinda Like: 'Fast & Furious' meets 'The Bourne Identity'
What We Say: Director Justin Lin (who helmed the third and fourth outings in the franchise) has hit his stride, taking all he learned from 'Fast & Furious' and 'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' to made an amalgam greater than the sum of its parts. The plot is more unbelievable than the series' predecessors, the racing and stunts more outrageous (rivaling those in 'Ronin' and the 'Bourne' films) and the action more kinetic than, well, the 'Bourne' films. But the best part (in addition to the final chase down the streets of Rio with two cars dragging a bank vault) is the face off between bald action giants Diesel and the Rock. You can't ask for much more.
• Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel and featurettes on the lead characters highlight the DVD; the Blu-ray adds behind-the-scenes featurettes, a look at the cars used in the movie, and storyboard-to-screen progressions.
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What It's About: It's a 10-year reunion of sorts for the friends and lovers of Woodsboro: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now the author of a self-help book, returns home on the last stop of her book tour, where she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell). Unfortunately, Sidney's appearance also brings about the return of slasher serial killer Ghostface.
It's Kinda Like: 'Friday the 13th xxx' meets 'Scary Movie xxx' meets 'Final Destination xxx' (you get the idea)
What We Say: It's been 15 years since 'Scream' and Ghostface shook up the cinema (and trick or treaters, as I recall) in the self-referential horror flick directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, and where the original was built on its characters pondering the "rules" of horror films, this edition (also by Craven and Williamson) violates the main rule: Don't be predictable.
• Extras: A behind-the-scenes featurette, an alternate opening, an extended ending, deleted and extended scenes, and a gag reel.
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'Pulp Fiction' Blu-ray
What's the Deal?: This is the film that put Quentin Tarantino on the map as a director (after penning 'True Romance' and helming 'Reservoir Dogs'). 'Pulp Fiction' is a compendium of interrelated lurid crime-thriller-drama-comedy stories about misfits, miscreants, gangsters and molls starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette and Christopher Walken. It's a classic that holds up and mesmerizes some two decades after its release, with hard-as-nails (but from-the-heart) dialogue and a rousing surf-guitar soundtrack.
Special Features: For this release Tarantino has added a new "Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat" cast interview featurette and a critic's retrospective featurette called "Here Are Some Facts on the Fiction." Ported from the DVD are "Pulp Fiction: The Facts" documentary, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes montages, a production design featurette, more.
Is It Collection Worthy?: There's been two prior versions of 'Pulp Fiction' on DVD but this one is the best of the lot ... and it's a must-have for film buffs. The image and sound are reference quality, honoring Tarantino's color palette and kicking out all the stops on the soundtrack. If you haven't invested in a Blu-ray player yet, this release is reason enough to make the plunge.
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'Dead Alive' Blu-ray
What's the Deal?: Before he traveled to Middle Earth, Peter Jackson directed the goriest film of all time, 'Dead Alive' (1992), a riotous mix of horror and comedy that stands right up there with 'The Evil Dead' as a modern classic of the genre. Set in Jackson's home of New Zealand, the film follows the trials and tribulations of Lionel, a young man whose domineering mother is bitten by a rat monkey and turns into a flesh-eating zombie who infects everyone she bites. Lionel tries to hide mom from the world, but she starts growing bigger and bigger until she becomes the size of a house -- literally -- and a party thrown by his uncle turns into a bloodbath the likes of which you have never seen before on the big (or little) screen. As Lionel tries to fend off the horde of zombies created by mom, he turns to his weapon of choice: a lawn mower. Fabulously over the top.
Special Features: Disappointingly, none. Not even commentary.
Is It Collection Worthy?: If all you know of Jackson is the 'LOTR' films, the 2005 'King Kong' or 'The Lovely Bones,' you have to rush right out and get this film. (Unless you get queasy seeing buckets of blood). The Blu-ray version adds clarity and definition to the film, particularly highlighting the reds. The effects are not state-of-the-art, but with blood and guts all over the place, who needs CGI?
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Other New October 4 Blu-ray Releases:
- 'The Lion King' (1994): There's no need to talk this one up: Disney's 'The Lion King' is one of the greatest animated films of all time -- just witness how it topped the box office in wide release last month, 17 years after its theatrical debut. The story, the songs and the voice acting are just perfect. The film has been on DVD hiatus since 2004, and since Disney will most likely lock Simba, Mufasa, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa in the vault again soon, now is the time to get a copy. Also check out:
- 'Cinema Paradiso' (1988): Giuseppe Tornatore's love letter celebrating the magic of the cinema.
- 'Jackie Brown' (1997): Quentin Tarantino's crime thriller stars Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro.
- 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' (1985): The first big-screen outing for Tim Burton and Paul Reubens.
- 'Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom' (1975): Pier Paolo Pasolini's controversial modern take on the Marquis de Sade, transposing de Sade's physical, mental and sexual torture to 1944 Fascist Italy. From The Criterion Collection.
Other New October 4 DVD Releases:
- 'Buck' (2011): Documentary on Buck Brannaman (the man who inspired 'The Horse Whisperer'), a true American cowboy and sage on horseback who travels the country for nine grueling months a year helping horses with people problems.
- 'The Caller' (2011): A troubled divorcee is tormented by a series of sinister phone calls from a mysterious woman who claims she's calling from the past. Stars Stephen Moyer, Rachelle Lefevre and Luis Guzman.
- 'The High Cost of Living' (2010): The story of two people whose lives cross in tragedy: A young, pregnant woman whose world falls apart when she loses her child in a hit-and-run accident and a drug dealer who becomes her unlikely guardian angel. Stars Zach Braff, Isabelle Blais.
- 'Silent Night, Zombie Night' (2009): A viral outbreak the week before Christmas turns the citizens of Los Angeles into the walking dead. Stars Jack Forcinito, Andy Hopper, Nadine Stenovitch.
- 'Submarine' (2011): Coming of age story about a 15-year-old daydreamer who listens to French crooners and concocts various self-absorbed fantasies, but suddenly finds himself submerged in dual, real-life challenges: Plotting to lose his virginity with a quirky new girlfriend and struggling to salvage his parents' marriage. Stars Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine.
Check out more October 4 DVD releases at OnVideo.