Iron Man 3The sheer variety of home video releases in any given week can be startling. Literally dozens of new DVD and Blu-ray titles hit retail shelves each Tuesday, online and off -- and that's not even counting the various emerging modes of digital distribution via streaming, download and video-on-demand.
The upside is that you can put together some pretty fun home movie double feature nights. The big blockbuster release this week is the very fun Iron Man 3, still the top box office earner of 2013 with more than $400 million in receipts, and that's just from U.S. theaters.
Robert Downey, Jr., returns as billionaire inventor Tony Stark, squaring off this time against the iconic comic book villain The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Director Shane Black provides a few twists this time around, so don't let anyone spoil the plot if you're not already hip to the script.
In fact, there's an overall playfulness to this third installment of the franchise that goes a long way toward keeping things fresh. Downey, as usual, finds the right balance of humor and heroics – he delivers some laugh-out-loud throwaway gags here that were clearly improvised on-set. Iron Man 3 doesn't take itself too seriously, and that's a good thing indeed.
The technical crew, on the other hand, clearly takes its job very seriously. The digital and practical effects in the film are state-of-the-art, as you might expect. But there are also good conceptual ideas here – it's not just high-output CGI fireworks. The final scenes are a delirious swirl of spectacle as multiple heroes and villains, robotic and otherwise, demolish a giant oil rig in a chaotic battle royale. These are the scenes you're paying for with a movie like Iron Man 3.
Extras: For those who like to dig into behind-the-scenes details, the three-disc retail bundle (DVD/Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D) includes several making-of mini docs, plus deleted and extended scenes, a digital copy of the film for mobile devices, and the Marvel short film Agent Carter.
If you want to make a film nerd double feature night of it, consider the fascinating indie documentary Room 237, also new to DVD and Blu-ray this week.Room 237
Room 237 is a deep-focus breakdown of Stanley Kubrick's classic 1980 horror film The Shining, based on the Stephen King book. Director Rodney Ascher employs voiceover narration from a half-dozen obsessed Kubrick fans as they spin their theories about the film's hidden meanings.
Each of the film's nine segments features a different analysis, with interviewees arguing that The Shining is really about the Holocaust, or the genocide of Native Americans, or the alleged faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Individual scenes are broken down on a shot-by-shot basis, with the obsessed fans pointing out recurring motifs and patterns of symbolism. Director Ascher also employs archival footage and, interestingly, snippets from other unrelated films in lieu of dramatic recreations.
The various theories are about 85 percent hogwash, I'd estimate, but the movie isn't really about decoding The Shining. It's about spinning up postmodern theory to dangerously goofy levels, and how we can extract all kinds of meaning from visually and thematically dense films like The Shining. Room 237 is a great documentary in that it's trippy and scary, but it also tweaks the documentary form as it asks us to consider new ways of thinking about the movies.
Extras: The bonus materials feature even more delicious minutia, including a commentary track, 11 deleted scenes and an hour-long panel discussion at the hotel that inspired King's immortal Overlook Hotel.
Also New This Week:
Two cinema greats, Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave, headline the British comedy-drama Unfinished Song (originally titled Song for Marion), concerning death, aging and community choirs.
Three young kids build a house in the woods in the melancholy coming-of-age indie The Kings of Summer.
The horror anthology V/H/S/2 continues the series' novel approach of collecting together scary found-footage shorts.
Jason Staham -- one of our most underrated movie stars, I think – headlines the revenge thriller Redemption.
Major League Baseball continues its line of team-specific DVD releases with San Francisco Giants: Hometown Heroics. All sensible people are Giants fans, of course, but if you must you can sample the other team offerings at MLB.com.
Incredibly dark and surprisingly gory for a prime time network show, NBC's Hannibal has issued its season one collection on DVD and Blu-ray.
The French thriller In The House, starring Emmanuelle Singer and Kristin Scott Thomas, has already won a shelf full of awards in Europe.
Get ready for October with John Carpenter's enduring horror classic Halloween 35th Anniversary Blu-ray, with an all-new commentary track and behind-the-scenes materials.
2 Broke Girls: The Complete Second Season
Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Season
Foyle's War: Set 7
Hawaii Five-0: The Third Season
Law & Order: SVU – The Fourteenth Year
Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season
South Park: The Complete Sixteenth Season