'Expendables 2,' 'Tarantino XX' and 'Lawrence of Arabia' Arrive on Home Video

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With Thanksgiving threatening to obliterate any and all opportunities to watch movies in lieu of – gasp! – spending time with family and friends, the list of Blu-ray releases available this week is painfully small. But last week’s glut more than makes up for this one’s shortage, so we’re including a few high-profile titles that we overlooked at the time.

Among this week’s picks are true cinema classics, unheralded works from great filmmakers, anthologies from iconic directors, and, last but not least, The Expendables 2.

Empire of the Sun (Warner Home Video)

The One-Liner: Steven Spielberg’s WWII coming-of-age story comes to Blu-ray for the first time, reintroducing the world to one of the director’s unheralded masterpieces even as it revisits one of Christian Bale’s earliest roles.

Picture Perfect? A gloriously well-shot film, Empire shows beautiful clarity and detail in high definition, preserving its celluloid source material without sacrificing the sharpness of contemporary technology.

What Else Is There? A documentary that appeared on the DVD turns up here, as well as a featurette about Warner Bros.’ depiction of war on film.

How Badly Do I Want It? As a personal favorite Spielberg, we want it really badly, but regardless it’s a really special film that deserves to be rediscovered.

The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate)

The One-Liner: The sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s epic team-up film arrives on home video, offering action junkies another chance to check out a fun, grown-up (but definitely sophomoric) adventure.

Picture Perfect? Although the film looked wildly uneven on the big screen, the disc’s digital transfer is remarkably consistent, offering a saturated and detailed picture that looks great on the small screen.

What Else Is There? A series of featurettes looks at the legacy of the film’s heroes during their heyday, and accompany more traditional fare such as deleted scenes and a gag reel.

How Badly Do I Want It? As the most irresistible dumb entertainment of 2012, this is a must-see for popcorn-munchers, but it’s up to your affection for the stars that will decide whether to rent or buy it.

Heaven’s Gate (Criterion Collection)

The One-Liner: Michael Cimino’s film is widely considered one of the biggest flops in movie history, but Criterion resurrects it in order to give it a second chance.

Picture Perfect? Despite a disclaimer in the liner notes of the packaging, the transfer is truly amazing, offering a glorious high-definition image that makes the film look better than ever, especially in this release’s 216-minute director’s version.

What Else Is There? A collection of detailed, long-form featurettes and interviews recorded expressly for Criterion gives the film a cultural and artistic context that helps newcomers appreciate its merits.

How Badly Do I Want It? As a renowned flop, its immediate appeal is primarily for long-term fans, but skeptics will find much to dig through here, making it a worthwhile rental or purchase.

Lawrence of Arabia (4-Disc 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The One-Liner: One of the greatest epics in cinema history, David Lean’s opus comes to Blu-ray in a deluxe box set that bolsters the film’s quality and impact with a spectacular array of supplements and extras.

Picture Perfect? Appropriately, SPHE spared no effort making sure that the film looks absolutely magnificent in high definition, making its dusty landscapes and grand vistas shine with a vividness and clarity that surpasses all previous editions, and ranks among the best transfers of the year.

What Else Is There? Although some of the supplements are from previous editions, new interviews with cinephiles and filmmakers like Martin Scorsese provide added perspective and even more historical context to the film’s enormous legacy.

How Badly Do I Want It? Not just a great pick for yourself but for any movie-loving relative, this is a cinematic experience unparalleled by virtually all others, and this set provides just the sort of celebration it deserves.

Tarantino XX 8-Film Collection (Lionsgate)

The One-Liner: Lionsgate collects all eight of Quentin Tarantino’s films (including True Romance, which he only wrote) in a box set celebrating the filmmaker’s 20 years in Hollywood to commemorate the forthcoming release of Django Unchained.

Picture Perfect? As all of the titles previously existed on Blu-ray in their own versions, the transfers are nothing new, but the good news is that all of them were solid and consistent, giving his films the sheen and clarity they deserve.

What Else Is There? In addition to supplements that appeared on the individual releases, the set includes two discs of extras, such as a two-plus-hour retrospective on his work, and a conversation between film critic Elvis Mitchell and Tarantino, Pam Grier and Robert Forster in conjunction with Jackie Brown.

How Badly Do I Want It? Truthfully, if you’re a fan at all, you probably already have most or all of these films, but it’s a nice little set with some great artwork that is worth investigating, certainly if you own fewer than half of them.

Watch the trailer for Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained below.

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