New DVDs: Detective Dee, more 'Thrones,' Russian punk activists

Help us, Dee: In "Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon," Kim Bum (left) and Angelababy are menaced by the titular monster.
Help us, Dee: In "Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon," Kim Bum (left) and Angelababy are menaced by the titular monster. (Well Go USA)
Posted: February 22, 2014

One of the most prolific action film directors out of Hong Kong, Tsui Hark, 64, reached the pinnacle of his influence in the mid-1990s with Once Upon a Time in China, an astonishing three-film collaboration with martial arts master Jet Li.

After a series of box office misses, Tsui made a comeback with the 2010 international hit Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, an edge-of-your-seat murder mystery featuring a phenomenal turn by Andy Lau as a veteran police detective in seventh-century China.

A heavily fictionalized take on real-life Tang Dynasty government official Di Renjie, Lau's Detective Dee has Sherlock Holmes' perspicacity and Dr. Watson's eye for the ladies.

Tsui followed up last year with another rousing romp, Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, a prequel starring Taiwanese Canadian actor Mark Chao as a young version of Dee.

This inexperienced Dee is faced with the challenge of his life when he's tasked with fighting off a sea monster intent on destroying the city - and of unmasking the people responsible for unleashing the critter. The film has it all: romance, horror, suspense, and even a nice bit of slapstick comedy. ( www.wellgousa.com; $24.98 DVD; $29.98 Blu-ray; not rated)

Other DVDs of note

The White Queen: Season One. The intricacies of British history can be daunting, especially when it comes to the War of the Roses, a mid-15th-century conflict in which two branches of a once-united royal dynasty locked in a bloody squabble over the English throne.

That conflict is brought alive - even made sexy - in this 10-part adaptation of Philippa Gregory's book series. In a nice twist, the story is told through the eyes of three women who find themselves at the center of the conflict, including the titular white queen, played by the regal, Ingrid Bergman-esque Swedish actor Rebecca Ferguson. The stellar cast also includes Janet McTeer, James Frain, Faye Marsay, Juliet Aubrey, and Max Irons. ( www.anchorbayentertainment.com; $49.98 DVD; $59.99 Blu-ray; not rated)

Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season. Speaking of royal wars, HBO's acclaimed adaptation of novelist George R.R. Martin's fantastical saga continues for a third gory season. Will my favorite character, the icy-hot beauty Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) win the day? Or will the sleazy, filthy-rich Lannisters prevail? ( http:/store.hbo.com; $79.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo)

Memory of the Dead. One of the best horror movies of 2013, Argentinian director Valentín Javier Diment's creepy, occult thriller is about a recently widowed woman who invites her late husband's best friends for a memorial party, then uses them in ways grotesque and violent to perform a blood-soaked resurrection spell. ( www.artsploitationfilms.com; $29.95; not rated)

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. Russian feminist pop trio/performance artists/political prisoners Pussy Riot became a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin's less-than-democratic government last year when they staged a 40-second punk prayer in Russia's main cathedral and were arrested. Their story is told in this intimate documentary, shot over six months. ( www.docurama.com; $29.95; not rated)

About Time. With films such as Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral under his belt, New Zealand-born director Richard Curtis has become the undisputed king of the contemporary British big-screen romance. He's in fine form with his latest picture about a young man (Domhnall Gleeson) who learns that all the men in his family can travel through time. So   he travels oceans of time to find the perfect woman (the lovely Rachel McAdams). ( www.universalstudiosentertainment.com; $29.98 DVD; $34.98 Blu-ray; rated R)


tirdad@phillynews.com

215-854-2736

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