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This week: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and more aging action heroes are back to blow things up in the explosive "The Expendables 2."
Also new this week is a collection of Quentin Tarantino movies handpicked by the filmmaker himself, the Blu-ray debut of 1975's "Zorro" starring Alain Delon and a Criterion Collection edition of the formerly maligned/recently praised 1980 Western "Heaven's Gate."
'The Expendables 2'
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Box Office: $85 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 66% Fresh
Storyline: Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and the rest of the Expendables (Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth and Dolph Lundgren) are sent by Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) to Albania to retrieve an item from a downed plane only to lose one of their own in an ambush by an opposing group of mercenaries led by Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme). The action then moves to Bulgaria where the Expendables track down Vilain to stop him from selling plutonium on the open market. Arnold Schwarzenegger — now free from governing California — takes part in more of the action, Chuck Norris steals scenes as lone operative Booker and Yu Nan adds some welcome femininity to the testosterone gun show.
Extras! In addition to the expected deleted scenes, making-of featurettes and a commentary track by director Simon West, the DVD and Blu-ray also contain "Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980s and the Rise of Action Films," which is a necessary supplement given the cast.
We Say: Although some of the one-liners are predictable cheese (Schwarzenegger says "I'll be back," Willis chides him for saying it, Schwarzenegger fires back, "Yippie ki-yay," etc.), action fans will geek out watching their favorite genre heroes of the past 30 years blow everything up. Although Mickey Rourke is missed from the first movie, the addition of Norris and Van Damme make this the rare sequel that outguns the original.
'Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection'
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Box Office: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Storyline: This collection has eight films that Quentin Tarantino chose to illustrate the first 20 years of his career: "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction," "True Romance," "Jackie Brown," "Kill Bill: Vol. 1," Kill Bill: Vol.2," "Death Proof" and "Inglourious Basterds."
Extras! There are two discs with five hours of all-new bonus material, highlighted by a critics' retrospective on Tarantino's catalogue and "20 Years of Filmmaking," which contains interviews with critics, stars and other cinema masters.
We Say: All of the movies in this handsome box set with graphic novel-style artwork are already available individually on both DVD and Blu-ray, so if you already own them you probably won't want to double-dip just for additional bonus features. If you're a Blu-ray newbie and a Tarantino disciple, this collection needs to be at the top of your holiday wish list.
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Box Office: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Storyline: This unique 1975 incarnation of "Zorro" features French star Alain Delon as the masked hero who masquerades as the new governor of a territory in Latin America that's ruled by the cruel Colonel Huerta (Stanley Baker) and his soldiers. Zorro joins with a monk and a beautiful aristocrat (Ottavia Piccolo) in a fight against Huerta for the oppressed people of the land.
Extras! This Blu-ray debut has the original trailers, a photo gallery, radio spots and restoration clip comparisons.
We Say: Although the front of the disc case boasts that the film has been "digitally restored," don't expect this to be on par with the "Jaws" or "Star Wars" restorations — the opening song sounds like a scratchy AM radio broadcast and artifacts can still be seen throughout despite the picture having been cleaned up. Still, this edition of "Zorro" is the best-looking version on the market and is worth rediscovering for Delon's spirited performance and the final swordfight scene, which is said to be one of the longest in film history.
'Heaven's Gate' Blu-ray
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Box Office: $3.5 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 43% Rotten
Storyline: This 1980 Western directed by Michael Cimino stars Kris Kristofferson as a federal marshal in Wyoming who learns of a government-sanctioned plot by cattle barons to kill the area's European settlers for their land. The resulting conflict is based on the real-life Johnson County War of 1892. This full director's cut also stars Christopher Walken, John Hurt and Isabelle Huppert.
Extras! This Criterion Collection Blu-ray debut has new interviews with cast and crew, a video interview with historian Bill O'Neal about the Johnson County War that inspired the film and comes packaged with a booklet featuring an essay by critic and programmer Giulia D'Agnolo Vallan.
We Say: When it was released, "Heaven's Gate" was a huge box office bomb that some called one of the worst films of all time. This year, the film got a second lease on life when it played at both the Venice Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. One writer described the film as "a turkey that sank a studio is a modern masterpiece." Now available in high definition with Cimino's complete cut, "Heaven's Gate" is worth rediscovering.
Also New This Week:
"Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups"
"Grave of the Fireflies" Blu-ray
"Bringing Up Bobby"