A passel of foreign-language movies leads this look at films new to DVD this week.
"Lost Heritage" (Cinema Libre, 2010, $19.95). Pierre Mambin (played by the excellent Luc Saint Elroy) travels from his home in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean to a remote African kingdom to claim some kind of inheritance — only to discover he is the inheritance.
Pierre is expected to marry for the sake of peace between two regions, after which he will be made king. At first hesitant, he gradually warms to the idea with assistance from the prime minister and a wiggy witch doctor, but it's not as simple an arrangement as he expects.
This whimsical melodrama laced with humor and rooted in the historical traditions of his people comes from veteran West Indies filmmaker Christian Lara. "Lost Heritage" is charming and winning and completely surprising, although the human dilemmas here, despite fanciful, dreamlike visions, are surprisingly universal. (Be advised there is occasional female nudity among the natives.)
Extras: widescreen, in French with English subtitles, introduction, featurette, trailers
Twentieth Century Fox has come up with a new foreign-film label, Fox World Cinema, under which it is releasing three new titles and re-releasing five previously issued titles ("Slumdog Millionaire," "La Misma Luna," "Night Watch," "Day Watch" and "My Name is Khan").
"The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman" (Fox World Cinema, 2010, PG-13, color and b/w, $29.98). This hyper Chinese comedy is a strange mash-up of violent period thrillers and very broad humor, shifting from black-and-white to color to that muted almost-black-and-white that is so popular among modern filmmakers (but not so much with moviegoers).
The story focuses on a mystical blade that passes through the hands of the three title characters, giving an anthological feel to the proceedings. But it's so wild and weird that general audiences are likely to be put off, while fans of Asian cinema will likely compare it unfavorably to Jackie Chan or Stephen Chow.
Extras: widescreen, in Mandarin with English subtitles, trailers
"Dum Maaro Dum" (Fox World Cinema, 2011; R for violence, drugs, language; $29.98). This one toplines a pair of Bollywood stars as, respectively, a tough cop in Goa attempting to take down a drug kingpin and a college student who turns to crime when he loses his scholarship. Violent and stylish but not terribly compelling.
Extras: widescreen, in Hindi with English subtitles, trailers
"Angel of Evil" (Fox World Cinema, 2010; R for violence, language, sex, nudity, drugs; $29.98). The Italian underworld is the subject of this action picture about a real-life Milan gang leader. But it's so overstuffed with action and understuffed with character development that it becomes merely headache-inducing.
Extras: widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles
"Secrets in the Walls" (Vivendi, 2010, $19.93). Jeri Ryan stars in this Lifetime TV movie about a single mother with two daughters who leaves Detroit for a home in the suburbs — but, of course, it's haunted. No surprises but it's an OK paranormal thriller.
Extras: widescreen, trailers
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (Paramount/Blu-ray, 2011, PG-13, two discs, $29.99). DVD dealers may have trouble figuring out where to file this one — under fantasy? Sci-fi? Comedy? Is there a "toy" genre now? If there's a shelf devoted to destruction or disaster movies, that one gets my vote.
Michael Bay, who's never heard the expression "less is more," directs with a heavy hand (and a busy camera) as the "Transformer" robots do battle (guided by interfering humans) and lay waste to Chicago. Visually impressive, yes. But after awhile, you are likely to become inured by all the mayhem.
Extras: widescreen; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; (single-disc DVD, $19.99)
"The Ledge" (IFC/Blu-ray, 2011; R for sex, language, violence; $29..98). An atheist (Charlie Hunnam) has an affair with the wife (Liv Tyler) of his fundamentalist Christian neighbor (Patrick Wilson), which drives the zealot round the bend. So Wilson forces Hunnam onto a high-rise ledge and gives him an hour to jump or someone else will die. High-minded ideas lose any spark in this muddled thriller. Terrence Howard is a cop trying to help.
Extras: widescreen, featurette, trailer (also on DVD, $24.98)
"Brand New Day" (Fox/Blu-ray, 2009, PG-13, $29.99). Australian pop musical tells of an Aborigine teen that runs away from boarding school to reunite with his girlfriend while his headmaster (Geoffrey Rush) is in hot pursuit. Interesting, nicely photographed mix of genres but rather unfocused.
Extras: widescreen (also on DVD, $22.98)
"Love, Wedding, Marriage" (IFC/Blu-ray, 2011, PG-13, $29.98). Mandy Moore is a marriage counselor and also a newlywed, but her world turns upside down when her parents (Jane Seymour, James Brolin) separate just before their 30th anniversary. Flat comedy with no laughs, directed by actor Dermot Mulroney.
Extras: widescreen, trailer (also on DVD, $24.98)
"The River Murders" (Sony, 2011; R for violence, language, nudity, sex; $26.99). Gory, repellant thriller about a homicide detective (Ray Liotta) investigating a string of murders that just happen to be his ex-girlfriends. Christian Slater and Ving Rhames co-star but this one is very disappointing.
Extras: widescreen, audio commentaries, featurette