The surprisingly good “World War Z” leads a variety of new movies on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
“World War Z” (Paramount/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, two discs, $39.99, Blu-ray unrated version, DVD theatrical version, digital version, featurettes). The PG-13 version of this film, which played in theaters and was a big hit, is a thrilling, chilling zombie-fest with Brad Pitt globetrotting to try and find a way to prevent the undead from destroying all human life.
Several aspects make this film stand out in the oversaturated horror sub-genre of zombie flicks, the very things that earned a PG-13 instead of an R rating: slow-to-build tension instead of overdoing the action, subtle twists and turns that bring about a sense of dread, toning down the foul language, and especially keeping extreme gore at bay so as to not push the audience out of the experience.
But now, the producers (which include Pitt) seem to be more interested in amping up the graphic violence for the “new, unrated cut” that is the focus of the home-video ad campaign. This cut is seven minutes longer and quite a bit gorier, and that’s fine if you give the audience a choice — but if you want to see the PG-13 version you can forget about Blu-ray.
The theatrical cut is available only on DVD and only the unrated cut is on Blu-ray. Why both versions couldn’t be on both discs is a mystery, especially for fans of Blu-ray who aren’t necessarily gorehounds. (Also on DVD, $29.99, and 3D combo, $54.99 — and the 3D/Blu-ray is the PG-13 version; go figure.)
“Bless Me, Ultima” (Sony, 2013, PG-13, $30.99). Generally well thought-out adaptation of Rudolfo Anaya’s coming-of-age novel about a boy in rural New Mexico during World War II taken under the wing of a local “healer,” and her affect on his maturing as he faces prejudice, spiritual crises and unanswerable questions. A few missteps (cartoony supporting characters, a heavy-handed narration) but most of the way this is a gentle, beautifully photographed and nicely modulated bit of old-school storytelling.
“The Last Tycoon” (Well Go/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $29.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). Gangster-flick clichés mix with Shakespearean themes in this Hong Kong action picture about a young man whose ill-fated choices put him on a path to become a mob boss (played as an adult by the great Chow Yun-Fat). The action scenes are great. Martial arts star Sammo Hung co-stars. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“The Bling Ring” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for teen drugs and alcohol, language; $19.98, featurettes). Filmmaker Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) wrote and directed this true story of celebrity worship at its most extreme, as a group of Los Angeles teens burglarize homes of their favorite celebrities, most notably Paris Hilton. Emma Watson (“Harry Potter”) plays one of the teens. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“Behind the Candelabra” (HBO/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $24.99, Blu-ray and digital versions, featurettes). This HBO movie about Liberace (Michael Douglas) focuses on his closeted gay lifestyle during the 1970s and his toxic romance with a younger man (Matt Damon). As a TV film it’s not rated but could be R for sex, nudity, language, drugs and surgical gore. (Also on DVD, $19.97)
“Drift” (Lionsgate, 2013, R for language and drugs, $19.99, DVD and digital versions, featurette). This soap opera set against the backdrop of Australia’s fledgling surfing industry during the 1970s focuses on two brothers trying to establish a business selling wetsuits and surfboards as local drug-dealing bikers try to move in on them. Sam Worthington has a supporting role. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“Disconnect” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for sex, nudity, language, violence, drugs; $19.98, DVD and digital versions). This drama attempts to say something about how the Internet age has become rife with pornography, online sex trafficking, etc., by interconnecting four separate families’ stories. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.98)
“The We and the I” (Virgil, 2013, not rated, $19.99). Interesting but ultimately superficial experimental film about high school kids on a real-time bus ride. As they act out, oblivious to adults on the bus, their revelations never really scratch the surface. The result of workshopping with non-actor Bronx teens over three years.
“Breakout” (Sony, 2013, R for violence and language, $26.99). Brendan Fraser breaks out of prison to rescue his two young children who, after witnessing a murder, are hunted in the wilderness by the two killers (Dominic Purcell, Ethan Suplee).
“And Now a Word From Our Sponsor” (Virgil, not rated, $19.99). Satire similar to “Being There” is essentially a comedy skit stretched out to feature length as an ad exec (Bruce Greenwood) suffers a brain trauma and finds he can only speak in ad slogans. Parker Posey co-stars.
“Java Heat” (IFC/Blu-ray, 2013; R for violence, language, sex; $29.98, trailer). Action picture set in Indonesia has Kellan Lutz (“Twilight”) as an American that teams up with a Muslim detective (Indonesian star Ario Bayu) to solve a mystery that eventually leads to a psycho criminal (Mickey Rourke). (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“Simon Killer” (IFC, 2013, not rated, $24.98, featurettes, poster gallery, trailer). This thriller has an American slacker adrift in Paris when he meets a prostitute and concocts a scheme with her to rob one of her wealthy clients. Bad idea.
“Gimme the Loot” (Sundance, 2013, not rated, $24.98, deleted scene, audio commentary, featurettes, short film, trailer). Loosey-goosey cinema verite-style character study follows two teen graffiti artists as they pull a series of small-scale scams so they can grease the palm of someone at Shea Stadium and tag the arena’s huge iconic apple.
“Augustine” (Music Box, 2013, not rated, $24.95, in French with English subtitles, featurettes, music videos, short films). Based on the true story of the title character, a 19-year-old maid (French singer Soko) in late 19th-century Paris who is prone to seizures and treated with hypnosis by Dr. Jean-Martin Carcot (Vincent Lindon). (Also on Blu-ray, $34.95)
“The Haunting of Helena” (Vivendi, 2013, not rated, $14.93, featurettes). Horror yarn set in Italy has a single mother and her daughter being terrorized by a haunted house and its primary occupant, an evil tooth fairy.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com