By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
Chris Hemsworth (“Avengers: Infinity War,” “Thor”) stars in “12 Strong,” arriving on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Tuesday May 1. The powerful military drama from Alcon Entertainment, Black Label Media and Jerry Bruckheimer Films tells the declassified true story of the first American soldiers sent into Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S.
The Australian actor, currently seen on the big screen reprising his role as the god of Thunder in “Avengers: Infinity War,” plays U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Mitch Nelson, who led the successful secret military campaign that was classified until recently.
At a press conference earlier this year, he said playing a real-life flesh-and-blood hero was a nice change of pace.
“I’ve done a lot of stuff in the comic book world and played fantasy heroes and it’s been a lot of fun, but I desperately wanted to do something with some real heart and more grounded,” he said.
When the opportunity arose to depict the leader of a small team of U.S. Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, who took on a dangerous classified mission in war-torn Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Hemsworth didn’t hesitate.
Based on the book “Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan” by Doug Stanton, “12 Strong” recounts the story of the dozen soldiers, who risked their lives to find and eradicate a large contingent of Taliban terrorists embedded in a remote part of the Middle East country. Weeks after the attack on the U.S., the Special Forces unit was sent in to work together with the Northern Alliance, a somewhat fractured coalition of Afghan military leaders that came together to rid their country of the ruthless Taliban, to defeat the well-armed terrorists who outnumbered them 5,000-1. Codenamed Task Force Dagger, it was as much a diplomatic mission as it was a military operation.
As Nelson, he is the leader of the elite team who has to convince Afghan General Abdul Rashin Dostum, portrayed by Iranian actor Navid Negahban (“Homeland”), to cooperate in a mission to fight their common adversary—the Taliban and its Al Quada allies.
Though the real Special Forces soldiers were well-trained fighters, they faced the unexpected challenged of northern Afghanistan’s rugged terrain—steep mountains, which only could be traversed by horses and mules. Though they had little to no experience on horseback, the 12-man team learned on the job, just as the actors did on the film production. Hemsworth stars alongside Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals,” “The Shape of Water”), Geoff Stutts (“Only the Brave”), Thad Luckinbill (“Only the Brave”) and Michael Pena (“Ant-Man”). Trevante Rhodes (“Moonlight”), Geoff Stults (“Only the Brave”), Thad Luckinbill (“Only the Brave”), Austin Stowell (“Bridge of Spies”), Ben O’Toole (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Austin Hebert (“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”), Kenneth Miller (“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”), Kenny Sheard (“13 Hours”) Jack Kesy (TV’s “The Strain), Navid Negahban (“American Sniper,” “Homeland”), Elsa Pataky (the “Fast & Furious” films), William Fichtner (“Black Hawk Down,” “Armageddon”) and Rob Riggle (“The Hangover”) also star.
Award-winning filmmaker Nicolai Fuglsig (“Exfil”) directed the film, which is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “Black Hawk Down”) together with Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill under their Black Label Media banner (“La La Land,” “Sicario”). Oscar winner Ted Tally (“The Silence of the Lambs”) and Peter Craig (“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Parts 1 & 2”) wrote the screenplay, based on Doug Stanton’s acclaimed book “Horse Soldiers.” The executive producers are Oscar nominees and Alcon principals Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson (“The Blind Side”), together with Chad Oman, Mike Stenson, Ellen H. Schwartz, Garrett Grant, Yale Badik, Val Hill and Stanton.
Released in theaters earlier this year, “12 Strong” will be available on Blu-ray Combo Pack for $35.99 (SRP) and on DVD for $28.98 (SRP). The Blu-ray Combo Pack features a Blu-ray disc with the film in high definition and the special features in high definition, a DVD with the film in standard definition and a Digital version of the movie. It also will be available on Movies Anywhere. Extras include a making-of featurette and more. Fans also can purchase “12 Strong” from digital retailers.
Magnolia Home Entertainment presents “In the Fade,” arriving on Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday May 1. The drama, which won the Best Foreign Language film at the Golden Globes earlier this year, also is available now on Digital HD.
German actress and former model Diane Kruger stars in the German-language drama, her first, 15 years after she made her feature film debut in the American TV movie “The Piano Player,” opposite Dennis Hopper and Christopher Lambert. She received the Best Actress award at Cannes last year for her heartbreaking dramatic performance.
“I always wanted to do it,” said the actress last year while promoting the film.
Best known for her role as ship-launching beauty Helen in the Hollywood war epic “Troy,” Kruger plays a German woman named Katja, whose idyllic family life is upended when her Muslim Kurd immigrant husband and her young son are killed in a bomb blast. She hopes justice will be served when a pair of neo-Nazis are arrested and tried in court. But, alas, the suspects are acquitted when a so-called witness comes forward placing the defendants elsewhere at the time of the brutal attack. Katja is then transformed from grieving mother and widow to hardened vigilante. She makes it her mission to exact justice on the duo when they flee the country, no matter what the cost.
Special features on the home entertainment editions include the story behind the film from Cannes with Kruger and filmmaker Fatih Akin, another featurette with Kruger and German co-star Denis Moschitto as well as interviews with Kruger and Akin. The DVD and Blu-ray of “In the Fade” are available for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $29.98 and $26.98, respectively.
The “Star Trek”-inspired “Please Stand By” arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD Tuesday May 1. Dakota Fanning (“The Alienist”), Academy Award nominee Toni Collette (“The Sixth Sense”) and Alice Eve (“Star Trek: Into Darkness”) star in the heartwarming and humorous film.
The world is a confusing place for Wendy (Fanning). As a fiercely independent and brilliant young woman with autism, she longs to leave the regimen of her group home and return to life with her sister’s family and their new baby, but she must first prove herself. As a lover of all-things Star Trek,” Wendy writes fantasy stories in her free time. To her, people are an indecipherable code, so she uses her “Star Trek” filter to understand them. When a screenplay competition presents itself, Wendy decides to finish her 500-page script and enter. Now, the problem is submitting it on time. In order to meet the deadline, Wendy must travel hundreds of miles outside her protected boundaries to deliver her script in person.
With her small dog, Pete in her purse and a few dollars in her pocket, Wendy boldly goes where she has never gone before. And with her no-nonsense therapist (Collette) and big sister Audrey (Eve) following close behind, Wendy, with the help of some colorful friends she meets along the way, must learn how to follow her dream and find her place in a world she hopes will accept her for herself.
From Director Ben Lewin (“The Sessions”), “Please Stand By” includes a special appearance by Patton Oswalt (“Veep”). Extras include deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and the theatrical trailer.
The Chinese epic drama “Once Upon a Time” is available on Blu-ray Tuesday May 1. Based on the best-selling fantasy novel “Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms,” the visually stunning epic drama tells the story of brutal battles, deep passion and the powerful forces that drive mortals and gods alike toward revenge, loyalty and eternal love. It also is available on digital formats.
“Once Upon a Time,” from Well Go USA Entertainment, follows an immortal woman who reconnects with a love from her past life. First-time feature film directors Zhao Xiaoding (Academy Award-nominee for Best Achievement in Cinematography, “House of Flying Daggers”) and Anthony LaMolinara (Oscar winner for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, “Spider-Man 2”) co-directed the lush and romantic film starring Liu Yifei (“White Vengeance” and the upcoming Disney’s live action version of “Mulan”), Yang (“Joyful Reunion”), Yikuan Yan (“The White-Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom”), Jin Luo (“Shaolin”) and Chun Li (“Guilty of Mind”). It is available for a SRP of $29.98.
Acorn TV features the DVD debut of the New Zealand drama “Dear Murderer: Series 1” Tuesday May 1. This raucous five-part series tells the true story of New Zealand’s most controversial lawyer, Mike Bungay, starring Mark Mitchinson (“The Hobbit,” New Zealand TV’s “Bloodlines”) in the lead role.
After overcoming a miserable upbringing, Bungay decides to go to law school based on the results of a coin toss. In a high-profile career that begins in the 1960s and spans decades, he makes enemies of fellow lawyers and clients alike with his unconventional methods and his penchant for fast cars, married women, and whisky. Successfully defending alleged murderers, spies, and gang members with his own brand of justice earns him notoriety—and the occasional slap in the face. But no matter how many legal victories he wins, Bungay can’t quit his self-destructive habits and escape his own inner demons. The two-disc DVD set features five episodes ($39.99, Amazon.com). “Dear Murderer, Series 1” made its U.S. premiere on Acorn TV in January and can still be viewed on that streaming service.
A true feast for the eyes, Front Row Features is giving away a copy of the Chinese fantasy adventure “Once Upon a Time” to five lucky readers on Blu-ray this week. To enter the contest, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org by May 8 for your chance to win. Good luck!