Escape with Disneynature Wings of Life and Pawn

We begin this week with an unexpected film from The Land of the Fjords and the Midnight Sun, recommended in its native Norwegian (in DTS-HD Master Audio, with subtitles) for the proper experience. Nature-philes curious about the miracle of life and the wonder of flight will want to check out Disney's latest documentary, and anyone looking for a fresh, taut crime drama will almost certainly enjoy this edition's final unearthed gem.

Escape (Entertainment One)

Norwegian action thrillers are quite different from what typically see here in the United States. Take for example the period fiction of Escape. Following the devastating effects of The Black Death some 650 years ago, families apparently roamed the countryside looking for new places to settle, while marauding gangs sought to take whatever they could from whoever they found. When such a gang happens upon such a family, it doesn't go well for the family, and even pretty young survivor Signe (Isabel Christine Andreasen) might have been better off dead. She soon realizes that she has little choice but to flee her heartless captors, and the chase begins.

Escape is not an extraordinarily complex or plot-driven film but it does draw us into this unenviable predicament faced by these interesting characters, while also showcasing the awesome beauty of Norway. (I mostly know the country from The Empire Strikes Back. Did anyone else know that the whole place is not covered in snow?)

Perhaps the most "Hollywood" aspect of this release is the array of supplements, a tasty smörgåsbord of bloopers and deleted scenes, plus a brief study of the special effects.

Wings of Life (Walt Disney)

Wings of Life takes a look at an important cross-section of our planet's flying critters: the birds and the bees of course, along with butterflies, hummingbirds and bats… plus some flowers in a supporting role. Why them? Because, as director Louie Schwartzberg's brilliantly researched documentary explains, they play a vital part in maintaining one-third of the world's food supply. We also learn that this delicate relationship is in jeopardy, as many of these species are frightfully endangered.

The latest in the ongoing Disneynature series, Wings works wonderfully on Blu-ray (a DVD is also bundled into this two-disc set), as the amazing extreme-close-up and super-slow-motion photography reveals details most of us have never seen before. While it might feel a tad slow for attention-indigent youngsters or a little lean on hard facts for the grownups, the charming narration of Oscar-magnet Meryl Streep goes a long way to make it enjoyable for all. There are no bonus features per se, just a preview of Bears!, the next installment on its way to theaters, and a promo clip for the Disneynature series.

Pawn (Anchor Bay)

The challenge facing a movie like Pawn, with a cast full of high-profile actors including Michael Chiklis, Avatar's Stephen Lang and 2006's Best Actor Forest Whitaker is one of perception. With so much talent, and we're only hearing about it upon its Blu-ray debut, can it be any good? The answer here is an emphatic yes.

In this tense, twisty drama, a policeman (Whitaker) interrupts a diner robbery, but the whole truth of the situation—which I'm loathe to reveal for spoiling the surprises—only comes to light as the evening wears on, and it's definitely worth sticking around for. The genuine originality on display is refreshing, and also inspirational, as we get the sense that the big-name thespians involved probably took a pay cut in order to make this movie happen, and the results certainly justify their sacrifice. The sole extra is a decent behind-the-scenes featurette, but a DVD copy is also included in this combo pack, just in case.

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