The latest Mormon pioneer-trek film by T.C. Christensen and a collectible box set for “The Dark Knight” trilogy lead new movies on home video this week.
“Ephraim’s Rescue” (Excel, 2013, $24.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette, music videos). After his success with “17 Miracles,” Christensen pulled together more true stories from the ill-fated Willie and Martin Handcart Companies for this follow-up, intercutting English immigrants making their way across the treacherous plains with a biographical look at the titular character, Ephraim Hanks — whose faithful healing gifts may be familiar to those who study LDS Church history.
Hanks’ story is the best element, although, overall, the film is not quite as compelling as “17 Miracles,” which was an extremely high watermark for LDS cinema. Still, there are plenty of moving episodes, the performances are quite good, and Christensen’s trademark technical excellence captures the period convincingly, from the cinematography to the sets to the costumes to the makeup. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)
“The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2005-12, six discs, $99.97, three films, Blu-ray and digital versions, previously released special features and three new featurettes; three Hot Wheels vehicles, collectible villain cards, 48-page hardcover book). Heed the title; this is indeed a “collector’s edition,” with lots of tchotchkes and a colorful, photo-filled hardback book about the making of these movies.
The three hit films starring Christian Bale are dark but hugely popular thrill rides, each marked by Christopher Nolan’s artful and exciting direction, along with a stellar supporting cast, led by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman.
“Fill the Void” (Sony Classics, 2013, PG, $30.99, in Hebrew with English subtitles, audio commentary, featurette). An 18-year-old woman in the cloistered Orthodox Jewish Haredi community is pressured to marry her brother-in-law when her older sister dies in childbirth, and the complicated family dynamics leading to this situation are chronicled in a respectful and yet stirring manner, leading to a most satisfying resolution.
“In the House” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 2012, R for sex and language, $34.98, in French with English subtitles, deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers, poster gallery; eight-page booklet). The latest from French filmmaker Francois Ozon is a low-key thriller laced with dark comedy about a 16-year-old student who insinuates his way into the family of a schoolmate, then chronicles their most sordid secrets in stories for a class. The complications that result grow more disturbing and sinister as the film progresses. Frabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emmanuelle Seigner star. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
“Room 237” (IFC/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $29.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, trailers). Offbeat documentary deconstructs Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining,” adapted from Stephen King’s novel and starring Jack Nicholson, to address suggestions by obsessive fans that Kubrick laced the movie with hidden messages about the Holocaust and the Apollo 11 moon landing, among other things. (Also on DVD, $27.98)
“Bernadette” (Cinema Libre, 2013, not rated, $19.95, featurette, photo gallery, trailer). Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) is a hereditary degenerative nerve and muscle disorder affecting some 2.5 million people in the world and has no cure. This documentary chronicles the decline of the young woman of the title as she attempts to become “the face” of CMT.
“Red Reign: The Bloody Harvest of China’s Prisoners” (Cinema Libre, 2013, not rated, $19.95, in English and Chinese with English subtitles, trailer). The title refers to China’s alleged practice of harvesting organs “on demand” from prisoners, following a spiritual practice known as Falun Gong.
“Redemption” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for violence, nudity, sex, language; $19.98, featurette). Jason Statham gives a solid performance, more emotive than usual, in this yarn about a former special forces officer with PTSD looking to avenge a friend’s killing. But the movie is way too sleazy. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“Blood of Redemption” (eOne/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $29.98, Blu-ray and DVD versions, featurette). Ex-con and former high-roller in a crime syndicate (Billy Zane) seeks revenge on those who crossed him, with help from his hulking henchman (Dolph Lundgren). (Also on DVD, $19.98)
“Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit” (Lionsgate, 2011, PG, $19.98, featurette, trailers). This Chinese animated feature, obviously designed to cash in on the “Kung Fu Panda” craze, has been dubbed in English by Utah native Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”), Tom Arnold, Rebecca Black and the late Michael Clarke Duncan.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com