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New releases: 'The Expendables 2' reloads bullets, quips

Also: 'Ken Burns' The Dust Bowl,' 'Eclipse Series 37: When Horror Came To Shochiku,' 'Omnibus: James Agee's Mr. Lincoln & The Civil War.'

November 17, 2012|By Noel Murray
  • Chuck Norris stars in "The Expendables 2."
Chuck Norris stars in "The Expendables 2." (Frank Masi / Lionsgate )

The Expendables 2

Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Nov. 20

Doubling down on what worked just fine two years ago, this sequel brings back Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and adds Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme to the roster of action veterans paying homage to the big, dumb guns-and-bombs flicks of the 1980s. The plot this time has the team of mercenaries losing one of their own and exacting revenge, but "plot" isn't really the point of either of the "Expendables" movies; the idea is to show buff, beloved old stars, swapping quips and bullets while running in slow-motion ahead of explosions. The big difference with the second movie is that Stallone abandons the director's chair to Simon West, who has more experience making a blockbuster shoot-em-up look as slick as it's supposed to. The DVD and Blu-ray add a commentary track by West, and a 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

Ken Burns' The Dust Bowl

PBS, $24.99; Blu-ray, $29.99

Arriving on DVD and Blu-ray one day after it finishes airing on PBS, Ken Burns' two-part, four-hour documentary makes a fine follow-up to Burns' recent docu-series "Prohibition." Just as "Prohibition" was ultimately about the hubris of a grass-roots movement to legislate morality, so "The Dust Bowl" is about how financial speculation and a disregard for the balance of nature led to an ecological and economic disaster in the 1930s. Burns and his team tell the story of those who weathered the storm and those who fled, with stunning pictures and the voices of some of the survivors. Bonus features on the DVD and Blu-ray include further interviews and deleted segments.

Eclipse Series 37: When Horror Came to Shochiku ("The X From Outer Space" / "Goke: Body Snatcher From Hell" / "The Living Skeleton" / "Genocide")

Criterion, $59.95

In the early '60s, the Shochiku Co. was responsible for some of the most daring films of the Japanese New Wave, giving the likes of Nagisa Oshima and Kenji Mizoguchi an opportunity to make masterpieces. When that commitment to art led to financial worries, Shochiku decided to capitalize on the post-Godzilla horror/sci-fi boom, but as the Eclipse set "When Horror Came to Shochiku" shows, the studio didn't completely sell its soul for the almighty yen. Movies like "The X From Outer Space" (about a viral alien invasion), "Goke: Body Snatcher From Hell" (about a malicious alien force that turns those who encounter it into blood-sucking parasites), "The Living Skeleton" (about ghost pirates) and "Genocide" (about killer insect Armageddon) are some of the strangest genre films of the era, from anywhere in the world.

Omnibus: James Agee's Mr. Lincoln & The Civil War

E1, $34.98

The educational TV series "Omnibus" ran for eight seasons on three networks, never drawing huge ratings but leaving behind a valuable record of American high culture in the 1950s. This DVD collects an Agee-written five-part Lincoln biopic starring Royal Dano and Joanne Woodward, along with contemporaneous "Omnibus" segments about the Civil War — some fictional and some documentary. The life of Lincoln has been the subject of multiple plays and movies over the years — including the new Steven Spielberg epic — but this live TV take was one of the best and has been hard to see up until now.

And …

Heaven's Gate

Criterion, $39.95; Blu-ray, $49.95

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Complete Series

Shout! Factory, $119.99

That's Entertainment! Trilogy Gift Set

Warner Bros. Blu-ray, $35.99

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