The Shelf: Tarantino, Expendables, and Fireflies
by Brian Walton on November 20, 2012
There really isn’t much going on this week in the world of Blu-ray releases, with, you know, the whole Black Friday thing happening after we gorge on turkey this week? But that doesn’t mean The Shelf is barren. We have a box set for the “Hollywood rebel” Quentin Tarantino, a testosterone fueled mercenary super team, and an anime classic on Blu-ray for the first time.
The special edition releases of Quentin Tarantino’s films have all been must-own sets, but it’s time to trade them in (while they’re actually still worth a little something at the used book store). Tarantino XX is a collection of all seven of Quentin Tarantino’s feature films that have come out over the last 20 years, plus his writing effort True Romance. There’s nothing we haven’t seen before as far as content from the films, but the amount of discussion on Quentin Tarantino’s career in the special features is enough to feel like you’ve taken a film school course on the guy. While it is impressive that all of the studios were able to come together on this, the set doesn’t include the complete Grindhouse, Four Rooms, or From Dusk Till Dawn. Perhaps one day in the future we’ll see a set that covers the entire Tarantino experience, or maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the amount of stuff in the Incredible Mel Brooks set we talked about last week. By all means, upgrade to Tarantino XX, but it still just scratches the surface of this filmmaker.
It’s almost beside the point for The Expendables 2 to feature a gag reel as a bonus feature, since the movie itself practically is one, what with Chuck Norris telling Chuck Norris jokes, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis stealing each other’s catchphrases while practicing mock indignation, Dolph Lundgren referencing his real-life background as a chemical engineer, Terry Crews extolling the virtues of military-issue pasta, and Jean-Claude Van Damme going on about demonic tattoos, all while Sylvester Stallone tries to be the straight man despite giving himself a preposterous love interest (Yu Nan). A step up from the first film, which took itself too seriously, The Expendables 2 is not, objectively speaking, a “good” movie (some shots aren’t even in focus), but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Includes an audio commentary with director Simon West, and a featurette about the ’80s action movies this one’s riffing on.
Before watching this movie, we strongly recommend having a box of tissues and/or a pillow to agonizingly clutch because writer/director/Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most achingly sad anti-war movies ever made. After their mother is killed in the firebombing of Tokyo near the end of World War II, teenage Seita and his baby sister Setsuko must try to survive in a time of hardship, human suffering and global conflict. Where the film truly shines is in its portrayal of the many characters they meet in this war-torn landscape. Presented in a balanced way, even the most despicable characters in the film have some relatable element deep within their core, making it less about ideology and more about humanity. One of the most hauntingly beautiful films to come out of Studio Ghibli, Grave of the Fireflies is a powerful tale that was practically demanding an HD Blu-ray release. Now, seriously, guys, who has been chopping all these onions?
Also Out this Week:
Alter Egos – Superhero partners Fridge and C-Thru must uncover a plot around a prisoner they’re in charge of transporting, all while dealing with their own personal problems and dating lives. If you liked James Gunn’s The Specials, you should give this one a try.
Additional reporting by Dan Casey and Luke Y. Thompson