Golden oldies lead these movies that have arrived on Blu-ray and DVD this week.
"Chariots of Fire" (Warner/Blu-ray, 1981, PG, two discs, $35.99, new/old featurettes, audio commentary, deleted scenes, CD sampler, photo-book packaging). With the Summer Olympics kicking off in a couple of weeks, there will no doubt be many Olympics-themed movies popping up all over the place, but none are better than this stirring true story of a pair of British sprinters in the 1924 Olympics in France.
Although several athletes are on the periphery, the story's focus is on a pair of sprinters, a devout Scottish missionary (Ian Charleson) running to please God and a Jewish Cambridge student (Ben Cross) hoping to prove himself to the snobbish upper-crust whose subtle bigotry drives him. The acting is superb from the largest to the smallest roles and the meticulous period sets and Oscar-winning costumes perfectly capture the period, with its gorgeous cinematography even more stunning in this Blu-ray transfer.
In 1982 this was a surprise Academy Award-winner as best picture. The smart money was on Warren Beatty as best director "Reds," and it's rare that the best director and best picture categories are divided between two films. So when Beatty won late in the evening, no one gave a second thought to the final award of the night; it would have to be "Reds." When "Chariots of Fire" won, there were audible gasps in the audience.
Beatty was beloved in the Hollywood community, but the voters apparently couldn't resist "Chariots" when it came to best picture. Give it a look; you'll feel the same way.
"The Maisie Collection," Volume 2" (Warner Archive, 1942-47, b/w, five discs, $49.95, four trailers, available at www.WarnerArchive.com). This set has the last five of the 10-movie B-comedy series about singer/dancer Maisie, played by pitch-perfect Ann Sothern, and that includes the final entry, "Undercover Maisie," which has long been out of circulation. But the best are the first three, "Maisie Gets Her Man," with Maisie teaming up with Red Skelton for a new act; "Swing Shift Maisie," with our gal taking work in an aircraft factory; and "Maisie Goes to Reno," in which she tries to repair a divorce (with young Ava Gardner as the wife).
"Butterfly Swords" (Well Go, 1993, $19.98). Set during the Ming Dynasty, this martial-arts extravaganza has a pair of sibling assassins infiltrating a rebel group to prevent an overthrow of the empire. The story is convoluted and the "wire-fu" is obvious but it's a real opportunity to see a pair of superstars in this genre at the peak of their powers, Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh.
"Being Flynn" (Focus/Blu-ray, 2012; R for language, sex, drugs, brief nudity; $34.98, featurette). True story of a young writer (Paul Dano) working at a homeless shelter, hoping to find inspiration, when the father (Robert De Niro) he hasn't seen in 18 years walks in. Character study with two fine actors at its core, but it never quite catches fire. (Also on DVD, $29.98.)
"Fightville" (MPI/Blu-ray, 2012, $29.98, deleted/extended scenes, featurette, trailer). Documentary follows a pair of young Louisiana athletes who throw themselves into the world of mixed martial arts hoping for a shot at the big time in Las Vegas. Unflinching but engrossing. (Also on DVD, $24.98.)
"Cherry Bomb" (Well Go, 2012, $19.98, deleted scenes/alternate ending, audio commentary, bloopers, trailer). Variation on "I Spit On Your Grave" has exotic dancer taking vengeance on men who assaulted her, then a hit man is hired to take her out. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.98.)
"American Reunion" (Universal/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012; R for sex, nudity, language, drugs; two discs, $34.98, deleted/extended/alternate scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). (Also on DVD, $29.98.) Most of the original "American Pie" cast returns for this older-but-no-wiser-and-still-sleazy sequel.