Jan 19, 2012

New Spy DVDs Out Since Christmas

I've gotten several weeks behind now on new spy DVDs, but there's been some great stuff coming out! So here's a massive post-Christmas catch-up.

Remember Age of Heroes, the movie we first heard about in 2010 about "Ian Fleming's Red Indians," the 30 Assault Unit commando team created by the future Bond author while he served in Naval Intelligence during WWII? It came out on Region 2 PAL DVD last June from Metrodome Distribution, and I had little hope of it ever showing up stateside. But this week, thanks to eOne Entertainment, it has, on both DVD and Blu-ray! The film stars former Bond baddie Sean Bean, and James D'Arcy plays Commander Fleming. A good old-fashioned war adventure, Age of Heroes depicts the incredible true story of how James Bond creator Ian Fleming oversaw the activities of an elite and supremely well-trained commando unit during World War II, following the members of the 30AU from defeat at Dunkirk to a chance to change the course of the war on a top secret mission in Norway. For more on Fleming's involvement with 30AU, check out Craig Cabell's books Ian Fleming's Secret War and The History of 30 Assault Unit: Ian Fleming's Red Indians.

Also out this week on DVD and Blu-ray, from Lions Gate, is Abduction, the teen spy movie starring simian Twilight heartthrob Taylor Lautner. This movie got terrible, terrible reviews when it came out theatrically last fall. And I won't say they're not deserved; it is, after all, a pretty terrible movie. But so are a lot of movies, and Abduction isn't any worse than most other bad movies, and is a whole lot more fun than most bad movies. So... okay, I will say that it didn't deserve quite the drubbing it took. Because if you have some friends over, pour some drinks, and put this on, you're all going to have a pretty good time. And while you're cracking jokes about Lautner's unbelievably terrible performance and wondering aloud what the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, Alfred Molina and Michael Nyqvist are doing in this movie, you're also going to find yourself sucked in a bit by John Singleton's ridiculous action sequences and the overall absurdity of the script. It's bad, yes... but it's enjoyably bad! (And I have a sneaking suspicion that some people probably thought the teen spy movies of my youth were bad, like my own personal favorite If Looks Could Kill.) Extras on both versions include the featurettes "Abduction Chronicle: On-Camera Production Journal," "Initiation of an Action Hero: Taylor's Amazing Stunts" and "The Fight for The Truth: Making Abduction" as well as a gag reel. On top of that, the BD offers "an exclusive In-Film Experience with in-picture documentaries and exclusive behind the scenes interviews with cast and crew." If you care. Retail is $39.99 for the Blu-ray (which also comes with a digital copy) and $29.95 for the DVD, but of course they're both half those prices on Amazon.

Earlier this month, Acorn released the second volume of the Sixties ITC spy series Man in a Suitcase, starring Richard Bradford as sacked CIA agent turned private operator McGill. These episodes from the second half of the show's single, super-sized season made their Region 1 DVD debut. (The entire series was released in single volumes in Britain and Australia.) Many of McGill's best adventures come in the second half, so this would be a welcome release and a must-buy for American ITC aficionados on that basis alone... but as it happens, there's even more reason. Man in a Suitcase: Set 2 also includes a very big bonus feature: the 69-minute interview with star Richard Bradford that first appeared on Network's Region 2 DVD release (but was not found on the Region 4 Umbrella set). Bradford was a perfectionist and a Method actor, which brought him into conflict with some members of the cast and crew and earned him a reputation for being "difficult." In this surprisingly candid interview from 2004, he speaks frankly and openly about those on-set clashes, as well as discussing his early days studying at Lee Strasberg's famous Actors Studio, working with his friend and fellow Method actor Marlon Brando, and more. If for some reason you needed further encouragement to buy the second and final collection of this top-notch Sixties spy show, this is it! Man in a Suitcase: Set 2 retails for $59.99, though it's considerably cheaper from the usual online vendors.

Read my review of Acorn's Man in a Suitcase: Set 1 here.

In the last week of 2011 (on my birthday, in fact), Fox snuck out one of the very best spy releases of the year, Archer: The Complete Season Two, on DVD and Blu-ray. The wildly irreverent, always inappropriate Archer remains one of my favorite spy shows on TV, and as I said in my post about the Best Spy Television of 2011, I find it very impressive that the writers managed to maintain the high level of quality in its second season. That's particularly tough for a parody series. The secret, of course, is that Archer is much more than a mere spy parody. It's a dysfunctional family comedy that happens to be set in a spy agency. As I said before, the extremely raunchy humor is definitely not for all tastes, but if it is to your liking, you'll no doubt appreciate the excellent animation and cool spy style on top of the gags. And even if I didn't love it already, a very obscure Magnum, P.I. reference in Season Two assured the show my allegiance forever! The Season Two discs contain some very good extras, including excerpts from last year's Comic-Con panel, which are hilarious (though I wish they'd included the 2010 panel, too, which featured less cutting up from the cast, but more legitimate answers about how the show is made and what influenced its creators), and several animated shorts. In one, Archer himself answers viewers' questions (and the writers get a whole lot of mileage out of a single set-up!), and in another he messes up the opportunity to give a shout-out to troops stationed overseas who love the show in a uniquely Archer way. These extras certainly make up for Season One's fake "unaired pilot" (which annoyed some fans), but they don't let that concept go, either. In fact, another funny short expands upon the main gag in that feature. The same day Season Two came out, Fox also made Archer: The Complete Season One widely available on Blu-ray for the first time. The high-def version was previously a Best Buy exclusive, and Archer's top-notch design and crisp animation make it one show that truly benefits from high-def presentation.

Finally, Universal released the Jason Statham/Clive Owen period assassin thriller Killer Elite on dual formats, DVD and DVD/Blu-ray combo. The only real bonus material on both versions is deleted scenes, which is too bad, because I would have liked some featurettes exploring the supposedly factual book on which the movie was based, The Feather Men, and how and why the film deviates from its source. Oh well. The combo version also includes a digital copy and an Ultraviolet copy (oooh!), which is something the studio wants you to be way more excited about than you no doubt are. Retail is $29.98 for the DVD and $34.98 for the combo, though of course both are considerably cheaper than that on Amazon right now. I really enjoyed Killer Elite. You can read my full review of the film here.

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