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New Releases: 'Hatfields & McCoys' is a hill country 'Godfather'

Also reviewed: 'Forever Marilyn: The Blu-Ray Collection,' 'The Hunter,' 'The Weight of the Nation.'

July 26, 2012|By Noel Murray, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Bill Paxton stars as Randall McCoy in "Hatfields & McCoys" on History.
Bill Paxton stars as Randall McCoy in "Hatfields & McCoys"… (Chris Large, History Channel )

Hatfields & McCoys

Sony, $45.99;Blu-ray, $55.99

In the waning days of the American Civil War, a member of a West Virginia clan known as the Hatfields killed a member of a Kentucky family called the McCoys, touching off a bloody and world-famous feud that lasted the better part of a half-decade, costing a dozen men their lives. In May 2012, the History channel aired an original three-part miniseries about the feud — starring Kevin Costner as the head of the Hatfields and Bill Paxton as the head of the McCoys — which became the most-watched scripted program in the history of basic cable. The real surprise, though, is that no one's thought to go the miniseries route with this story before, given that its epic sprawl and larger-than-life characters would seem to be a natural for the medium. And though the History production isn't as toothy as a pay-cable version might've been, "Hatfields & McCoys" is well-acted and instilled with classic Americana, like a hill country "Godfather" saga. The DVD and Blu-ray contain the uncut version of the miniseries, plus a featurette.

Forever Marilyn: The Blu-Ray Collection

20th Century Fox Blu-ray, $99.98

More than just an icon, Marilyn Monroe was a legitimate actress and movie star who brought a unique energy to every film she was in: at once girlish, wounded and seductively human. The attractively priced "Forever Marilyn" Blu-ray collection packages together seven of Monroe's best pictures: "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "How to Marry a Millionaire," "River of No Return," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "The Seven Year Itch,""Some Like It Hot" and "The Misfits." That's a good mix of sexy comedies and realistic dramas, and though these discs are light on bonus features (outside of "The Seven Year Itch" and "Some Like It Hot," both of which contain commentary tracks and featurettes), the set as a whole makes a strong case for Monroe as a performer with talent to match her curves.

The Hunter

Olive, $29.95

"The Hunter's" colorful, rock 'n' roll-scored opening is the first indicator that writer-director Rafi Pitts intends to eschew the usual Iranian neo-realism. As deliberate as any other Iranian art film — quietly following an ex-con, played by Pitts, as he's driven to violence upon hearing that his family has been killed in a protest march — it's also suspenseful, and stunningly shot, with images that convey the hero's sense of being ground down by institutional oppression. The movie ends memorably too, with a lengthy cat-and-mouse sequence set in the hazy outdoors, where it's hard to tell who's on whose side, or why.

The Weight of the Nation

HBO, $19.97

Positioned at the center of a wide-ranging initiative to reduce obesity, the four-part HBO documentary "The Weight of the Nation" outlines the reasons why we're getting fatter, as well as what will become of us if we continue on this path, and — most important — what we can do to course-correct. The material in this doc is alarming, but not despairing, and it's backed with hard science that makes a persuasive case. The DVD goes even further, adding 11 bonus shorts that expand on the data in "The Weight of the Nation" and tell compelling personal stories.

And…

ATM

IFC/MPI, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Le Havre

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

LOL

Lionsgate, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.99

Available on VOD beginning July 31

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