Borrowing from sources as varied as the 'Django' spaghetti westerns starring Franco Nero and grindhouse fare like 'Mandingo,' Quentin Tarantino serves up a powder keg of a revenge thriller with 'Django Unchained' (2012, Anchor Bay, R, $30).
The action kicks into high gear when a pair of bounty hunters - former slave Django (Jamie Foxx) and one-time dentist King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) - journey to Mississippi to try and free Django's wife (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of a despicable plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Unpredictable, fiendishly funny, brutal, over-the-top, relentless, 'Django Unchained' pushes hard at the boundaries. Saddle up. Extras: featurettes.
Also New This Week: 'A Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia' (2012, Lionsgate, R, $20) A follow-up in name only to the 2009 horror shocker starring Virginia Madsen, this entry is set in rural Georgia and concerns a family who moves into what was once a stop on the Undergound Railroad. Oddly enough, almost the entire family, including the mother Lisa (Abigail Spencer), her sister (Katee Sackhoff) and young daughter Heidi (Emily Alyn Lind) can see dead people. While Lisa spends most of the movie trying to deny her gift, young Heidi hangs out with the long-deceased former owner of the property. 'Haunting' deserves points for trying to be socially conscious but it's too unfocused to leave much of a mark. Extras: deleted scenes, featurettes and commentaries.
'Dragon' (2012, Anchor Bay, R, $25) Martial arts nuts won't want to miss this surprisingly soulful spin on David Cronenberg's 'History of Violence' set in China during the early days of the 20th century. Donnie Yen stars as a village craftsman named Liu who goes out on a limb to save the lives of two store owners as they're being brutalized by a pair of gangsters. Liu's bravery draws the attention of his father, a criminal overlord who wants Liu back in the fold of the dastardly 72 Demons gang. Director Peter Ho-Sun Chan can stage action sequences with the best of them. 'Dragon' is a real keeper. Extras: music video and featurette.
'Future Weather' (2012, Virgil, unrated, $20) Since this Philly-shot indie was largely funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as part of its exercise to support films that stir up interest in science, you might expect it to be dry and preachy. But,the occasional climate change warning aside, the focus in squarely on the characters. Perla Haney-Jardine stars as a teenager whose obsession with science helps her survive some tough times after she's abandoned by her no-good mother (Marin Ireland). Amy Madigan and Lili Taylor co-star in a coming-of-age drama that's a modest but distinct pleasure. Extras: deleted scenes.
'Escapee' (2012, Anchor Bay, R, $25) A deranged killer named Harmon Porter ('Prison Break's' Dominic Purcell) is on the loose and he's hellbent on tracking down Abby (Christine Evangelista), a psychology student who caught his eye during a visit. Writer/director Campion Murphy has one awkward twist up his sleeve but for the rest of the movie, he essentially cuts back and forth between Abby and the approaching Boogeyman. The acting is pedestrian and the suspense almost nonexistent. 'Escapee' is a real slog. Extras: featurette.
'The Sorcerer & The White Snake' (2012, Magnolia, PG-13, $25) In this thrilling fantasy epic based on Chinese legend, a magic man (Jet Li) is dismayed to discover that a villager (Raymond Lam) has fallen in love with a thousand year old snake-demon disguised as a beautiful woman (Charlene Choi). Despite the couple's happiness, Li knows that order must be restored and the demon banished. The action sequences are outstanding and the special effects are jaw-droppingly lovely. Sit back and enjoy the fun. Extras: featurettes.
'A Monster in Paris' (2012, Shout Factory, PG, $15) Set in Paris in 1910, this charmer of a 3-D cartoon centers on two buddies (Adam Goldberg, Jay Harrington) who are determined to protect an overgrown flea named Franc from the villainous politician Commissioner Maynott. The beginning is a bit chaotic, as is a long chase sequence, but the film boasts some catchy Latin-flavored tunes and an affection for silent cinema that will put you in mind of both Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' and 'Phantom of the Opera.' Fun voice work by Catherine O'Hara and Danny Huston too. Extras: none.
'That Thing You Do!' (2001, Fox, PG, $20) Tom Hanks directorial debut didn't cause much of a stir at the box-office back in 2001 but it has aged remarkably well. The focus is on an Erie, Pa. band called the Wonders who surprise everyone, including themselves, by climbing the charts in the early 1960s with the title ditty, a perfect little pop song written by Montclair, North Jersey's Adam Schlesinger (of the Fountains of Wayne). The new-to-Blu-ray movie, which features Hanks in the small role of the boys' manager, does a lovely job depicting both small-town life and the joys of newfound fame. Extras: both the theatrical and extended cuts and featurettes.
'A Man Escaped' (1956, Criterion, unrated, $30) Robert Bresson's gripping prison-break picture, based on the real-life experiences of Andre Devigny, begins with the transportation of French Resistance leader Fontaine (Francois Leterrier) to a desolate Nazi fortress. Before his death sentence can be carried out, Fontaine hatches an elaborate escape plan involving spoons, shredded bedding and hooks stolen from the light fixtures in his cell. When Fontaine finally makes the break, the suspense is breathtaking. 'A Man Escaped' is a stone-cold classic. Extras: vintage featurettes and 1984 documentary.
'Makers: Women Who Make America' (2013, PBS, unrated, $30) In this three-hour documentary about the woman's movement, there's plenty of information about watershed moments like the creation of Ms. Magazine and the efforts to end the income gap between the sexes. But it's the personal stories in the Meryl Streep-narrated series which are the most captivating. Oprah Winfrey discusses the days when she earned less than her male counterparts and Kathrine Switzer talks about being the first woman to formally enter (and complete) the Boston Marathon. Fascinating stuff. Extras: none.
'Erroll Garner: No One Can Hear You Read' (2012, First Run, unrated, $25) This wonderful documentary about the Pittsburgh-born pianist bounces along as effortlessly as one of the great man's solos. Time and again, fans like Woody Allen and Maurice Hines praise Garner for the joy he brings to his playing, and the footage of the pianist from TV programs like 'The Steve Allen Show' and 'The Tonight Show' proves their point. Garner infuses so much happiness into his music that even the ballads swing. Extras: extended interviews.
'Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures: Triple Feature Presentation' (1973-1977, Lionsgate, PG-13-R, $14) Three of the wildest exploitation movies released through Tarantino's Rolling Thunder imprint are collected on one disc. There's 'The Mighty Peking Man' (1977), a campy spin on 'King Kong;' 'Detroit 9000' (1973), an actioner about jewel thieves being tracked down by Motor City cops; and 'Switchblade Sisters' (1975), a teen drama which follows a gang of explosive femmes called the Dagger Debs. Extras: none.
'I Will, I Will … For Now' (1976, Warner Archive, R, $25) When exes Les (Elliott Gould) and Katie (Diane Keaton) decide to get back together again, they sign a six-month contract instead of taking a wedding vow. But little do they know that their lawyer (a funny Paul Sorvino) is trying to bust the couple up so he can have Katie for himself. Written and directed by a hack named Norman Panama, 'I Will' aims to be a pointed satire of modern sexual mores like 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' but, thanks to crude jokes and obvious plot turns, it comes up way short. Extras: none.
'Family Ties: The Sixth Season' (1987, Paramount, unrated, $45) One of the most popular sitcoms of the '80s was still going strong during its sixth season when Courteney Cox joined the cast as the gal pal of the over-achieving Alex (Michael J. Fox). Other developments include Mallory's (Justine Bateman) decision to intern at her Dad's (Michael Gross) station and young Andrew (Brian Bonsall) setting his sights on becoming an Alex-in-training. Extras: none.
Amy Longsdorf is a freelance entertainment writer. Her DVD reviews appear Sunday in The Mercury.