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New releases: 'Django Unchained' has exceptional performances

Also: Jackie Chan in 'Police Story' and 'Police Story 2,' plus 'A Monster in Paris.'

April 14, 2013|By Noel Murray
  • Leonardo DiCaprio in "Django Unchained."
Leonardo DiCaprio in "Django Unchained." (Andrew Cooper, The Weinstein…)

Django Unchained

Weinstein/Anchor Bay, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Typical of Quentin Tarantino, this Deep South "western" is strong stuff, telling the epic story of an escaped slave (played by Jamie Foxx) on a quest for over-the-top bloody revenge on his wife's owner (Leonardo DiCaprio), with the help of a gentlemanly bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz, in a role that won him his second Oscar). Atypical of Tarantino, "Django" stumbles down the stretch, as the filmmaker who usually excels at endings settles into one apocalyptic shootout after another, with numbing results.

Nevertheless, the first two hours of this nearly three-hour film are a humdinger, with Tarantino confronting the prejudice embedded in old Hollywood myth-making in action set pieces and long dialogue scenes that are equal parts comic and pulse-pounding. The performances are exceptional too; not just Waltz's but also that of Samuel L. Jackson as a slave who cruelly controls the plantation, and gets across most of what Tarantino and "Django" mean to say about the insidiousness of racism and the roles it forces people to play. The DVD and Blu-ray add featurettes.

Jackie Chan: Police Story/Police Story 2

Shout! Factory, $12.99; Blu-ray, $19.97

Before martial arts superstar Jackie Chan crossed over to the U.S. market, fans of Hong Kong action movies were already passing around bootlegs and imports of his biggest Asian hits — especially the landmark 1985 cop flick "Police Story," which featured some of the most eye-popping stunts ever captured on film. The new Shout! Factory "Police Story" DVD and Blu-ray sets also contain the 1988 sequel — along with deleted scenes and outtakes — but the real selling point is the spiffy transfer of the original film, which even now is incredibly entertaining. "Police Story" catches an in-his-prime Chan at his funniest and most graceful, as a superstar police sergeant who hangs off the side of buses, dives from shopping mall balconies and uses every available inanimate object as either a weapon or a shield.

A Monster in Paris

Shout! Factory, $14.97; Blu-ray, $24.97

French animator Bibo Bergeron — who previously directed the big DreamWorks productions "The Road to El Dorado" and "Shark Tale" — returns home for a Luc Besson-produced computer-animated cartoon about a projectionist, a nightclub singer and the mutated flea who complicates their lives. Unlike most American animated features, "A Monster in Paris" is leisurely paced, getting most of its action and humor from clattering slapstick set pieces; and the English-language dub lacks vitality, despite the presence of strong comic actors such as Jay Harrington and Adam Goldberg. But the movie has a lovely design, making Paris look like an elaborate diorama; and kids who liked "Hugo" may appreciate another heartfelt journey into early 20th century nostalgia.

And …

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts in Georgia

Lionsgate, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.99

Save the Date

MPI, $24.98

Small Apartments

Sony Blu-ray, $30.99

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