Poor California has suffered its share of unnatural disasters at the movies — everything from giant ants and radiated octopuses to body-snatching space pods and English-mangling Terminators. So it's good to see someone finally sending in the Marines this Father's Day.
"Battle: Los Angeles" arrives June 14 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, DVD $28.95; Blu-ray Disc $34.95; Blu-ray Combo Pack $38.96), and here's the word from the front: It is outfitted for serious duty, with DTS-HD audio fully capable of afflicting heavy damage on home theater set-ups all acrossMaryland.
So watch the skies, and especially those volume levels.
Could everything you and Dad heard about this 2011 alien invasion flick be true? That's affirmative, sir. It's as much a throwback to classic war movies as it is a modern, CGI-enabled sci-fi fantasy. There are the good guys and there are the underdogs. Unfortunately, that's just our side. On the other side: Miles and miles of water-hungry superbugs from outer space.
Square-jawed Aaron Eckhardt slips out of his stereotype as a misogynistic creep in indie films long enough to report for lead duty here as the Marine staff sergeant whose final mission may literally be his final mission. True to long-established precedent, he will have to take charge when his advance unit is cut off from reinforcements and there's a civilian enclave at risk.
The standard DVD does all the heavy grunt work when it comes to basic behind-the-scenes extras, but the elite forces go all out on Blu-ray, racking up an impressive array of bonus supplements like storyboards and a BD Live component. Plus, there's all that enhanced picture detail that only 1080p can deliver.
More heavy combat
Just in case Dad gets stoked and is ready to sign up for another tour of duty, Oliver Stone is also back this Father's Day with his take on what real combat is like in the "Platoon" 25th Anniversary Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack (MGM/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment, rated R, $29.99). Be warned, though, that watching this film is always a sure way to stir up old feelings about theVietnam War.
This is the first time the 1986 Oscar-winner has been available on Blu-ray, and it makes all earlier video versions seem like green recruits. Its DTS-HD audio puts you right there in the jungle with the bullets buzzing and the flares crackling, and that high-def picture lets you peer deeper into the dank, gunbarrel blue underbrush, just like you were walking point.
Many of the extras are carried over from the two-DVD MGM special edition, including both filmmaker commentaries and that three-part "Flashback To Platoon" documentary. New here are interviews with Vietnam vets, a look back at the 1975 fall of Saigon, and deleted scenes and features on how the actors were trained for their roles as soldiers. The combo pack includes a DVD copy of the movie in standard definition.
Also debuting on Blu-ray is "Tigerland" (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, Blu-ray Disc $24.95), another memorable look at young soldiers caught in the lengthening grip of Vietnam. Taken from a memoir written by one Fort Polk veteran, this 2000 release wants to drive home the brutal folly of war by focusing on pointless conflicts among the young draftees in a harsh boot camp known as Tigerland.
The film was a hit at film festivals, but it got only a limited theatrical release. It became popular on DVD mainly for the screen debut of Colin Farrell, who is excellent as a sort of conflicted rebel misfit who chooses to throw himself in the gears of the soldier-making machinery.
For more vintage action fare, MGM/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment has released two Western classics on remastered Blu-ray Discs for $19.99 each. Take a look at how handsome Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper were in their prime in the 1954 "Vera Cruz," playing American adventurers caught in the 1866 Mexican revolution. Then check out Walter Hill's epic look at Jesse James and the Youngers in "The Long Riders," starring four sets of real-life brothers: the Carradines, the Keaches, the Quaids and the Guests.
These discs are pretty much movie-only editions, but they present the films in their original wide-screen ratios and often look outstanding.
More titles for Dads
Dads don't just like war and action movies, of course. Here's a quick cheat sheet on the range of other new Blu-ray releases this Father's Day:
•"The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert" (MGM/20th Century-Fox, rated R, Blu-ray Disc $19.99).Three Sydney drag performers (memorably played by Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and the then-unknown Guy Pearce) give a city bus a gay makeover and set out for a distant nightclub gig in Alice Springs in this sassy 1994 road comedy. The catty, adult humor flows thicker than the mascara here, but there are sidetrips into mature relationship terrain that make it surprisingly appropriate for Father's Day — though we wouldn't want to spoil any of the fabulous fun getting there. It is perfect for Blu-ray, filled with stunning location vistas and color-saturated art designs, and with extras like bloopers and outtakes, behind-the-scenes features and a director's commentary.
•"Hall Pass" (New Line Home Entertainment, rated R, DVD $28.98; Blu-ray Disc $35.99). We always suspected that, given time, Hollywood would produce the perfect anti-family-values movie, and this Farrelly brothers comedy comes close. Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play long-time married men who are given a one-week "hall pass" by their wives to get their sex fantasies out of their systems. There hasn't been this much winking at marital infidelity since Tom Ewell was a leading man, but there are also some laughs along the way. Things could have gotten even cruder, one suspects. So when it comes to gratitude for favors these days, what does size matter?
•"The Hustler" 50th Anniversary Edition (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment, not rated, Blu-ray Disc $27.19). Paul Newman's magnetic performance as a pool hall shark entering killer whale-infested waters had everyone lining up for more back in 1961. This 50th anniversary Blu-ray "digibook" will show you why. The wide-screen black-and-white cinematography is silky and luxuriant in high-def, lending an extra layer of dazzle to the dramatic fireworks. The Blu-ray also manages to rack up an impressive array of bonus extras that tell us all about the stars, the film and the Darwinian world of professional pool players.