The go-to guys for gory kicks
Three years ago, directors Zach Snyder and Edgar Wright caught the attention of critics and audiences with their well- received zombie films. Snyder directed the stylish remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” while Britisher Wright helmed the flesh-eating living-dead spoof “Shaun of the Dead.”
Serendipitously, their latest efforts -- “300" (Warner, $35) and “Hot Fuzz” (Universal, $30) -- make their DVD bows today.
Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, Snyder’s “300" is a visual marvel of computer graphics that received mixed reviews but earned more than $200 million at the box office.
The well-chiseled Gerard Butler (“The Phantom of the Opera”) stars as Leonidas, the Greek king who leads 300 of his fellow Spartans into battle at Thermopylae against hordes of Persian troops. Rodrigo Santoro plays the Persian king Xerxes. Blood, guts, and severed heads and limbs flow freely, so “300" is not for the faint of heart.
The extras on the two-disc set feature a fascinating examination with historians of how much of the film is fact; a look at the Spartans; an interview with Miller; a behind-the-scenes production documentary; a montage of clips of the production from the first day until the last; a few deleted scenes, with an introduction by Snyder; and informative commentary with Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong.
Wright teamed up with his “Shaun of the Dead” star and co-writer Simon Pegg for “Hot Fuzz,” a clever, funny and very violent spoof of such action flicks as “Point Break” and “Bad Boys 2.”
Pegg plays a brilliant London cop who is transferred to a quiet rural town. Right after his arrival, there is a series of gruesome murders that the police department insists are accidental. Pegg teams up with an oafish co-worker (“Shaun’s” Nick Frost) to find the killer.
The supporting cast includes Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy. There are also cameos by “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson -- he’s a crazed Santa Claus -- and Cate Blanchett, who does her scene as Pegg’s ex-girlfriend covered by a surgical mask.
The funny extras include a giggle-inducing gag reel, deleted scenes, Pegg and Frost pretending to be Michael Caine and Sean Connery, footage of Wright, Pegg and Frost’s media tour of the U.S., a kicky trivia track and irreverent commentary from Wright and Pegg.
“Starter for 10" (HBO, $28): The versatile Scottish actor James McAvoy (“The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Last King of Scotland”) is the best thing about this romantic comedy-drama about a young man who goes to Bristol University with hopes of joining the school’s quiz-show team. Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall play the women in his life. Extras on the DVD are pretty mundane -- an “HBO First Look” featurette and a music trivia track.
“20 Millions Miles to Earth -- 50th Anniversary Edition” (Sony, $25): Stop-motion special effects legend Ray Harryhausen supplied the terrific scaly green creature from Venus called the Ymir in this delicious sci-fi epic, directed by Nathan Juran and starring William Hopper and Joan Taylor. The two-disc set features the original black-and-white version and a newly colorized one that Harryhausen supervised, informative commentary from Harryhausen and visual effects artists Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett, a retrospective documentary, an interview with Harryhausen conducted by Tim Burton, a new interview with Taylor, a look at the film’s score and an examination of the colorization process.
“Babylon 5: The Lost Tales” (Warner, $25): As with “Star Trek,” the sci-fi series “Babylon 5" has a strong following. The series aired in syndication from 1994 to 1997 and then moved to TNT for its final season. A spinoff, “Crusade,” aired on TNT in 1999. And now “Babylon” makes its made-for-DVD bow in “Lost Tales,” which finds former commander John H. Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) celebrating his 10th year as president. Creator J. Michael Straczynski wrote and directed. Extras include several interviews and behind-the-scenes featurettes.
“Firehouse Dog” (Fox, $30); “Lonely Hearts” (Sony, $25); “Pathfinder (Unrated Edition)” (Fox, $30); “Roving Mars” (Disney, $30); “The Darwin Awards” (Fox, $20); “Kung Fu Hustle -- Axe-Kickin’ Edition” (Sony, $20); “Everything’s Gone Green” (First Independent, $27); “Played” (Lionsgate, $27); “Blue Water, White Death” (MGM, $20).