The annual sale is back to tempt cinephiles
Are you in on the secret?
Every year, Barnes & Noble drops prices across the board on their entire in-stock collection of Criterion titles. Old and new, DVD and Blu-ray, everything as long as it's in print and on hand.
This year the sale began on Tuesday, November 1 and runs through Monday, November 21. It's a great opportunity to pick titles you've missed along the way or get that gift for a cinephile friend.
The sale runs through every store and on the website. You can browse the titles here.
Plus the latest 'Californication' and the debut of 'The Courtship of Eddie's Father'
The HBO Original documentary "His Way" (HBO) profiles Hollywood producer Jerry Weintraub and his five-decade career, with an emphasis on style and culture over his career. Videodrone's review is here.
"Brideshead Revisited: 30th Anniversary Collection" (Acorn) features a new HD edition of the classic 1981 BBC miniseries, and adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel that became a TV event when it played in Britain (and three months later in the US on the PBS showcase "Great Performances"). It effectively launched the career of Jeremy Irons, who stars as the young Oxford student Charles Ryder who falls under the sway of aristocrat Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews) and his entire decadent, doomed family before World War II snaps him back to reality. The series remains a high water mark of the form and one of the most sumptuous TV dramas ever. Diana Quick co-stars as Sebastian’s sister Julia and Simon Jones is his elder brother, Lord Sebastian, and the supporting cast of grand old British actors includes John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, and Laurence Olivier. Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg direct.
The new edition features two newly-recorded commentary tracks with producer Derek Granger (on Episode One) and director Charles Sturridge (on Episode Eleven) and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg with a bonus commentary set to a "Brideshead Remembered" slide show of stills, plus the previously-available 2006 documentary "Revisiting Brideshead" and the two commentary tracks from the earlier DVD edition.
The bad behavior continues on "Californication: The Fourth Season" (Paramount), the Showtime series starring David Duchovny as Hank Moody, novelist, hedonist and the least admirable father figure on TV. The season begins with his arrest for statutory rape (he didn't know she was underage, but then again it never occurred to him to even ask) and ends with the trial and aftermath. In between, the show pretends to confront his aggressive recklessness and disregard for anyone but himself ("I sometimes make people angry," he confesses with a little boy grin), but its not fooling anyone. The show is almost as hypocritical as Hank, letting him off the hook for his worst behavior and pretending that he is actually a good dad because he always bad about it when his daughter finds out, but there is something fascinating about the show. Or maybe its just all that cable sex and raunchiness. 12 episodes on three discs in a box set of two thinpak cases, plus bonus episodes of "Gigolos" and "Episodes" and two web-accessible episodes of "The Borgias."
"The Courtship of Eddie's Father: The Complete First Season" (Warner Archive), the sixties sitcom about widowed father Tom Corbett (Bill Bixby) and his devoted young son Eddie (Brandon Cruz), debuts on DVD-R from the Warner Archive collection. The stories generally revolve around Eddie's efforts to find a wife for his dad (not that dad needs much help; he's quite the charmer and Eddie is so cute his dates just love the boy) but the chemistry between the two is terrific. Miyoshi Umeki co-stars as their maternal housekeeper Mrs. Livingston and James Komack is Tom's swinging bachelor best friend and Eddie's "Uncle" Norman. 26 episodes on four discs in a standard case with hinged trays.
"Rawhide: The Fourth Season, Volume 2" (Paramount) features the final 14 episodes from the fourth season the cattle drive western series starring Eric Fleming as the trail boss and Clint Eastwood in his breakout role as Rowdy Yates. The four-disc collection also features a bonus episode from Season Five. "Victorious: Season One, Volume Two" (Paramount), the Nickelodeon series about students at Hollywood Arts, presents nine episodes plus a bonus "iCarly" crossover episode on two discs.
'Tis the Season:
The made-for-cable movies "Dear Santa" (Image) with Amy Acker and David Haydn Jones and "The Santa Incident" (Vivendi) with Ione Skye and Greg Germann try to bring the spirit of Christmas to the small screen.
Hit the way back machine for old school style in this HBO documentary
Jerry Weintraub is one of the last of the old-school show biz entrepreneurs. Today he's best known as a movie producer, most recently of the "Oceans" films, but he muscled his way to the top as an agent and a promoter. He launched the first concert tour of Elvis' seventies comeback and then did the same for Sinatra a couple of years later.
"His Way" (HBO), Douglas McGrath's affectionate profile of Weintraub, is not so much biography as a celebration of a way of life and kind of show business culture that thrived in the sixties. The roll call of friends called upon to praise itself is a measure of his success: From James Caan and Elliot Gould to the "Oceans" pack of George Clooney, Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts to George and Barbara Bush, they all testify to his loyalty and chutzpah. Sure, his successes are noted (he also represented John Denver and The Carpenters and produced "Nashville" and "The Karate Kid") but it's all about the stories and the style and the art of the hustle. McGrath directed the documentary for HBO.
The DVD also features a bonus interview with Weintraub discussing "My First Real Job."
The original silent classic is released in a new special edition
Lon Chaney became a star for "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) but it was the 1925 "Phantom of the Opera" (Image) that confirmed his stardom and his talent.
The first version of many versions of the Gaston Leroux novel is still considered the definitive, thanks to Chaney's committed performance (right down to enduring painful make-up that he himself designed to give him a death's head look and a horrifying rictus grin) and magnificent sets for the grand Paris Opera and the underground labyrinth of tunnels and canals and secret rooms. This lavishly executed production threatens to slip into hoary melodrama with a magnificent backdrop but for Chaney's performance.
Chaney, however, creates both a monstrous and a tortured villain, part shunned mastermind, part proto-Frankenstein monster smitten with a young beauty His backstory is left blank, which allows the viewers to fill in their own from his aristocratic bearing, his maniacal pounding on a pipe organ in his underground dungeon lair and his obsessive pursuit of the comely young understudy Christine (Mary Philbin), whose stardom he engineers via secret coaching and threats to the opera company owners. Chaney is both tender and terrible, wooing Christine from behind a mask, a mystery lover who dedicates his heart and soul to her success, then turns vindictive when she spurns him.
Plus 'Trespass,' 'Snow Flower,' Ken Kesey, the Nutcracker and more
Overbusy but energetic, colorful and jammed with gags, "Cars 2" (Disney) is the first Pixar feature directed by founder and chief creative officer John Lasseter since the original 2006 "Cars." The DVD and Blu-ray also include new Pixar shorts. Videodrone's review is here. Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson star in the depression-era romantic drama "Water for Elephants" (Fox), based on the bestselling novel. Click here for a review and an exclusive clip from the DVD/Blu-ray supplements.
I don't want to oversell "Crazy, Stupid, Love." (Warner), but in this day of gross-out comedies and bad-behavior romances, a genuine romantic comedy for grown-ups is a rarity and this film respects its fumbling adults. Steve Carell, playing the kind of easy-going, regular guy he's rarely called upon for, stars as a complacent husband and father blindsided when his wife (Julianne Moore) asks for a divorce. He's not selfish or insensitive but he's missed the signs of her unhappiness and is left dangling when his world is yanked from under him. Ryan Gosling is the playboy king of the nightclub scene who, out of pity or largess or simply because he likes a challenge, mentors Carrell in the art of picking up women. There are of course lessons learned all around, and in that great Hollywood tradition the guys come to it after sating themselves on empty, meaningless sexual excess.
The biggest weakness of the film, directed by Glenn Ficara and John Requa from an original script by Dan Fogelman, is that it fails to address the feelings and anxieties and frustrations of the women also fumbling through relationships. Moore is given little more than a sketch of a part and Emma Stone has even less definition, and it's to their credit that they create so much from so little. MSN film critic James Rocchi complains that "the end result is so completely phony as to be without value" but I appreciate the portrait of male friendship and paternal anxiety and the reverberations of separation on the kids, all of it presented with both seriousness and humor.
The DVD features deleted scenes and the Blu-ray adds a pair of interview featurettes ("Steve and Ryan Walk Into A Bar" with Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling and " The Player Meets His Match" with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone), plus a bonus DVD and access to an Ultraviolet streaming copy (requires connection to the Internet).
"Tabloid" (IFC), the latest documentary from Errol Morris, supports the case that truth is stranger than fiction. He profiles Joyce McKinney, a vivacious blond beauty who, in the seventies, flew to Britain to kidnap her runaway Mormon boyfriend and… well, the details are too good to give away here. Morris lets her tell her own tale and even at age sixty, she is so committed to her version of events that you are ready to believe her. At least while she's on camera and not dodging nagging evidence that contradicts her fairy tale romance. This story of love, obsession and delusion made tabloid headlines in the seventies. Morris' dissection of the story -- and of the press fascination with and exploitation of the story -- is even more fascinating. MSN film critic Kat Murphy agrees: "Morris' interviews with the "barkin' mad" McKinney and some of the aging "dwarves" who fed off her fantasies and scandals may inspire hilarity or horror (or both), but the canny methods the filmmaker uses to get deep inside his subjects are, as usual, utterly riveting."
"Trespass" (Millennium), the home invasion thriller starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman and directed by Joel Schumacher, arrives on home video a mere 2 ½ weeks after opening in theaters (and soon after disappearing from sight immediately). MSN film critic Glenn Kenny confesses that it is "something of a dog, although it does provide some nasty laughs insofar as it features once big movie stars going through the paces of cheapie quasi-grindhouse thrillers." Both the DVD and Blu-ray include the featurette "Trespass: Inside the Thriller" and the DVD (but not the Blu-ray) features a bonus digital copy.
"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" (Fox), based on the novel by Lisa See and directed by Wayne Wang (of "The Joy Luck Club" fame), lasted longer in theaters but didn't get much better reviews. MSN film critic James Rocchi complains that the film "functions more as a cautionary tale about what can happen when a director is so eager to repeat his biggest success that he winds up creating a soulless clone of his own work." Both the DVD and Blu-ray feature the documentary "The Sworn Sisterhood of the Secret Fan."
Jessica Alba is a quirky young woman who hides her emotions behind a fascination with numbers in "An Invisible Sign" (MPI), a romantic comedy co-starring Chris Messina and J.K. Simmons. "Alba gives such a focused, interior portrayal that she just might have managed to carry the movie had it been better," writes Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas.
Elle Fanning, Nathan Lane and John Turturro star in Andrei Konchalovsky's "The Nutcracker: The Untold Story" (Universal), which turns the story that inspired the ballet into a Holocaust metaphor. It was released to theaters in 3D last year. Film critic Roger Ebert was appalled by the film and argues that it "easily qualifies as one of the most preposterous ideas in the history of the movies."
"Bunraku" (ARC Entertainment) is a genre soup of an adventure film, with Josh Hartnett, Gackt, Woody Harrelson, Kevin McKidd, Ron Perlman and Demi Moore in what Boston Globe critic Wesley Morris describes as "a Western, a swordsman movie, and gangster epic, and yet none of those things" and "118 minutes of effects, art-direction, and genres." Features commentary by director Guy Moshe and co-star Kevin McKidd.
More True Stories:
"Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for Kool Place" (Magnolia) puts us in the Magic Bus and the legendary sixties road trip by "The Merry Band of Pranksters." "It's the lysergic soap opera going on among Kesey, Neal Cassady, and various pals, scribes, spouses, and hangers-on piled onto the rainbow-hued school bus that's at the heart of this rollicking road pic," writes Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Steven Rea. Features director commentary, deleted scenes and other supplements.
"Hot Coffee" (Docurama) takes a fresh look at a notorious lawsuit that had for years been ridiculed by showing the other side of the case and how such lawsuits are often the only way to make corporations change dangerous behaviors. "The Last Mountain" (Docurama) profiles the struggle between Appalachian citizens to stop a coal company from razing a mountain. "Rejoice & Shout" (Magnolia) is a tour through the history and culture of gospel music.
And the rest:
Ruben Studdard stars in "The Perfect Gift" (Image), a musical stage production filmed for home video. Brad Dourif and Thomas Ian Nichols star in "Fading of the Cries" (Lionsgate), an action film that pits Nichols against a horde of demons. "Roswell: The Aliens Attack" (Paramount) is one of those rare films where the plot is pretty much captured in the title. "Boy Toy" (Lionsgate) is a sex comedy about a male underwear model who becomes a male escort.
Mater takes the lead in a head-on collusion between car race adventure and spy thriller
Tow Mater (voiced in a good old boy drawl by Larry the Cable Guy), the lovable hick who played support in the first "Cars," takes the lead in "Cars 2" (Disney), which sends Mater along with his best buddy Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) on a globe-trotting race circuit and into the middle of an international conspiracy where he is mistaken for an American secret agent car.
Yes, it's the classic wrong man (or, I suppose, wrong car) scenario meets racing drama: a little James Bond (courtesy of Michael Caine as a vintage model with superspy gadgets), a little bit Speed Racer, a little eco-awareness conspiracy drama: it's a battle between big oil and a new biofuel upstart with the lemons of the world grinding the gears of progress.
Pixar has a track record as the best storytellers in American animation and John Lasseter, the company founder and chief creative officer, is back behind the wheel for this one, but it's easily the weakest story they've tackled to date. It’s not that this overbusy concoction is a bad film. It’s energetic, colorful and jammed with bright gags, driven in top gear from start to finish and set to a spot-on score by Michael Giacchino, who channels the Bond aesthetic with a bounce. Kids will be entertained and so will adults. I just didn't find myself particularly engaged.
MSN film critic Glenn Kenny, however, appreciates the lightness of the production. "Sometimes it's a relief when a film doesn't swing for the emotional fences, when it's just content with being a lively, pleasurable, colorful diversion," he wrote in his original review. "It all goes by very briskly, and brings frequent smiles, one or two not-unpleasant tugs-to-the-heart, but no overt tragedy or potential tragedy. A light summer feast for the senses that will have the whole family vrooming, for sure."
The DVD and Blu-ray releases are much lighter on supplements than previous Pixar home video releases but I doubt the kids will mind because it does include two bonus animated shorts. "Hawaiian Vacation," which played in front of the film in its theatrical run, features the "Toy Story" characters putting on a tropical getaway for Ken and Barbie and adds a nice chapter to the ongoing saga. "Air Mater" is a new tall tale short with Mater learning to fly.
For those looking for the more conventional production supplements, director John Lasseter and co-director Brad Lewis (as they are billed on the credits) contribute a commentary track, with Lasseter taking the lead with long stories about his inspirations for the script and the scenes. In fact, it's a little dull and not as informative as other, more lively Pixar tracks. Maybe they need to get in a few more voices for the next one.
The film was originally released to theaters in 3D and there is also a deluxe Blu-ray 3D edition.
Reese Witherspoon joins the circus
Based on the bestselling novel by Sara Gruen, "Water for Elephants" (Fox) stars Reese Witherspoon as a bareback rider in a threadbare circus and Robert Pattinson (who made the film between "Twilight" films) is the young veterinary student who, essentially, runs off and joins the circus in the height of the depression. He falls for two girl: the older woman Witherspoon, who is married to the autocratic owner and ringmaster (Christoph Waltz), and the even older elephant Rosie, who is cruelly mistreated by the ringmaster.
"The pantheon of great movies about the circus remains unshaken by the release of "Water for Elephants," writes MSN critic Glenn Kenny, who nonetheless found it "directed with surpassing visual prettiness by Francis Lawrence." Indeed, as Roger Ebert observed in his review, "In an age of prefabricated special effects and obviously phony spectacle, it's sort of old-fashioned (and a pleasure) to see a movie made of real people and plausible sets."
Reese Witherspoon talks about learning to be a circus acrobat in this exclusive clip from the DVD/Blu-ray release.
The DVD features commentary by director Francis Lawrence and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, a making-of featurette "The Traveling Show: Page to Screen" (featuring author Sara Gruen) plus very short video profiles of stars Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon (each under four minutes). The Blu-ray includes behind-the-scenes featurettes on the special effects ("Working Without a Net: The Visual Effects of Water of Elephants") and production design ("Raising the Tent"), a portrait of featured elephant in the film ("The Star Attraction") and a short overview of circus history and culture ("Secrets of the Big Top"), plus a bonus digital copy.
Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week.
"Cars 2" (Disney) is the first Pixar feature directed by founder and chief creative officer John Lasseter since the original 2006 "Cars." Overbusy but energetic, colorful and jammed with gags, the globetrotting race drama turned spy conspiracy puts Mater in the lead this time, the hick tow truck mistaken for a brilliant secret agent. The DVD and Blu-ray also include new Pixar shorts. Videodrone's review here.
Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore star in "Crazy, Stupid, Love." (Warner) a romantic comedy for grown-ups (reviewed on Videodrone here), and Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson star in the depression-era romantic drama "Water for Elephants" (Fox), based on the bestselling novel. Review and exclusive clip from the DVD/Blu-ray on Videodrone here.
"Trespass" (Millennium), the home invasion thriller starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman, arrives on home video a mere 2 ½ weeks after opening in theaters (and pretty disappearing from site immediately). "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" (Fox), based on the novel by Lisa See, lasted longer in theaters but didn't get much better reviews.
"Tabloid" (IFC), the latest documentary from Errol Morris, supports the case that truth is stranger than fiction with this story of love, obsession and delusion that made tabloid headlines in the seventies. Other new documentaries this week include "Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for Kool Place" (Magnolia) and "Hot Coffee" (Docurama), which takes a fresh look at a notorious lawsuit that had for years been ridiculed.
TV on DVD:
"His Way" (HBO) Douglas McGrath's affectionate profile of Hollywood producer Jerry Weintraub and his five-decade career, is not so much biography as a celebration of a way of life and kind of show business culture that thrived in the sixties. Videodrone's review is here.
"Brideshead Revisited: 30th Anniversary Collection" (Acorn) features a new HD edition of the classic 1981 BBC miniseries plus new commentary tracks for this edition. Videodrone revisits the show here.
The bad behavior continues on "Californication: The Fourth Season" (Paramount), the cable series starring David Duchovny as the least admirable father figure on TV, and the sixties classic "The Courtship of Eddie's Father: The Complete First Season" (Warner Archive) arrives exclusively from the Warner Archive collection.
Cool, Classic and Cult:
"Pearl Jam Twenty" (Columbia), Cameron Crowe's portrait of the Seattle band, had a limited release and a PBS screening before arriving on DVD, which includes bonus footage.
"Identification of a Woman" (Criterion), Michelangelo Antonionni's 1982 Italian feature, is arguably the final masterpiece from the master filmmaker. Betrand Blier's "Going Places" (Kino Classics) made stars of Gerard Depardieu and Miou-Miou. Both reviewed on Videodrone here.
"The Essential Daffy Duck" (Warner) collects the best of the Daffy classic cartoons along with revivals and TV specials.
The original "Phantom of the Opera" (Image), starring Lon Chaney in his most iconic role, is still considered the definitive version of the classic novel, thanks to Chaney's committed performance and the magnificent sets and scale. It arrives on Blu-ray in multiple editions the day after Halloween. Videodrone's review is here.
And shifting holidays, Bill Murray is "Scrooged" (Paramount) in the screwball take on the Dickens classic, learning the true spirit of Christmas from a screwy trio of Christmas spirits. Videodrone's review is here.
Also new on Blu this week: "The Grateful Dead Movie" (Shout! Factory), the 1977 concert film co-directed by Jerry Garcia, the George Clooney-directed "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (Lionsgate) and "Cop Land" (Lionsgate) with Sylvester Stallone and Harvey Keitel.
The complete calendar of releases this week is after the jump:
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