As the final season begins, revisit Chuck Bartowski's wild ride to the altar
"Chuck," the tongue-in-cheek spy show about an amiable nerd turned into super-spy, is heading into its fifth and final season on TV. Consider "Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season" (Warner) your chance to catch up with everyman super-spy Chuck Bartowski, implanted with a program called The Intersect, who begins the season retired from the spy game.
Right, like that's going to last, especially when he discovers his mother (Linda Hamilton) is in the hands of the enemy and the old Buy More store has been rebuilt as a high-tech CIA/NSA cover, and they want Chuck back in circulation. So while his sister has a baby, his mother plays double agent and he spends half the season planning the perfect proposal to his partner and paramour Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), Chuck remains busy taking out enemy agents, in particular this season's token international criminal mastermind Alexei Volkoff (a perfectly droll Timothy Dalton).
Actually, one of the show's attractions is its fun casting and this season gets Richard Chamberlain and genre figures Dolph Lundgren, Lou Ferrigno, Steve Austin, Robert Englund and Summer Glau, not to mention Harry Dean Stanton as a repo man in the season debut. And just as fun is "Chuck Versus the C.A.T. Squad," which opens as a parody of "Charlie's Angels" as a cheesy cable action show. And it all ends with a wedding, which goes just as smoothly as you would expect in a show where Chuck discovers an international criminal every time he blinks.
24 episodes on six discs on DVD and four discs on Blu-ray, plus the featurettes "Chuck Versus Directing" (on star Zachary Levi directing the episode "Chuck Versus the Leftovers) and "Operation Gomez: Spying on the Cast" (with co-star Joshua Gomez), and "Buy Hard: The Jeff and Lester Story," the complete five-part webisode series starring Vik Sahay and Scott Krinsky as Buy More slackers Jeff and Lester on the trail of an elusive video game. That's in addition to the usual deleted scenes and obligatory gag reel.
Exclusive to Blu-ray is "The Top Secret Chuckapedia Interactive Experience" video commentary to the episode "Chuck Vs. the First Fight."
Plus 'Beautiful Boy,' 'Mr. Nice' 'Zookeeper,' 'Judy Moody' and more
There is no denying the ambition of "The Tree of Life" (Fox), Terrence Malick's portrait of one boy's education growing up in Texas set against nothing less than the origins of life in the universe. Videodrone considers the ramifications here. "Green Lantern" (Warner), the big screen debut of the DC Comics superhero starring Ryan Reynolds, underwhelmed its fan base, but that hasn't stopped Warner from pulling out all stops for the Blu-ray release on Friday, October 14. Videodrone's review is here.
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves as traveling companions in the Michael Winterbottom-directed "The Trip" (IFC). Ostensibly on assignment for a series of articles on the finest dining establishments in Northern England, they spend more time in comic one-upmanship, at least between Coogan's desperate attempts keep a failing long distance relationship together by cell phone with spotty reception. Their dueling Michael Caine impressions, clips of which were minor Internet sensations, is worth the price of a rental and, as MSN film critic Glenn Kenny notes, "The not-entirely-good-natured sense of competitiveness displayed therein nicely encapsulates the Coogan/Brydon relationship." The film is edited down from a six-part TV series and the DVD features over an hour of deleted scenes from that longer version, as well as a featurette.
Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis plot revenge against their "Horrible Bosses" (Warner), played by Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey in this black comedy. The film is "a slapdash construction that substitutes (largely faked) bile and resentment for actual character development and story structure," complains MSN film critic Glenn Kenny, "And yet, I'm rating "Horrible Bosses" pretty highly, as bad movies go, because it did make me laugh more than a few times." The DVD features the theatrical version of the film but the Blu-ray features the extended "Totally Inappropriate Edition" along with a collection of lightweight featurettes, yet more deleted scenes and a bonus DVD and digital copy. Also available via Digital Download.
John C. Reilly is an eccentric high school vice-principal who helps out an outsider in "Terri" (Fox), an indie comedy from Azazel Jacobs with Sundance credentials. "Movies about high school misfits are common; this is an uncommon one. Terri, so convincingly played by Jacob Wysocki, is smart, gentle and instinctively wise," praises film critic Roger Ebert. The DVD and Blu-ray both include a featurette and deleted scenes.
In "Beautiful Boy" (Anchor Bay), Maria Bello and Michael Sheen are separated parents who turn to each other in shared grief after the death of their teenage son. The film is "clearly a passion project for all involved, but it isn't simply a vanity project," writes MSN film critic James Rocchi. "Bello gives her best performance since "A History of Violence," and "Both Sheen and Bello are raw and messy here… a rare chance to see real actors doing real work." On DVD and Blu-ray, with commentary by director Shawn Ku and collaborators and deleted scenes.
Rhys Ifans plays "Mr. Nice" (MPI), based on the crazed true story of a wildly successful British marijuana smuggler. "Rhys Ifans is an engaging protagonist, playing Marks as a passive and seemingly unflappable character whose iron nerve and ability to keep cool in a crisis get him out of more than one desperate situation," writes San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle. On DVD and Blu-ray, both with a making-of featurette.
Kevin James gets romantic advice from talking animals in "Zookeeper" (Sony), which is pretty much all you really need to know about this one. In the words of MSN film critic Glenn Kenny, "Even with the expectations bar lowered to the criterion Mr. James and his work represent, it is still rather surprising just how godawful "Zookeeper" is." The DVD features the usual selection featurettes and bloopers and the Blu-ray adds a game demo.
"Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" (Fox), a PG-rated kid comedy based on the children's book by Megan McDonald, got only slightly better reviews. MSN film critic James Rocchi describes it as "less a summer-fun story than it is the kid-film equivalent of "shock and awe," a bombardment so brutal that it leaves you cowed and crumpled in the force of its full-frontal assault." The DVD comes with featurettes, deleted scenes and activities and the Blu-ray features a bonus DVD and digital copy.
"Submarino" (eOne), the story of two brothers trying to overcome the damage of a violent childhood, is from director Thomas Vinterberg ("The Celebration). In Danish with English subtitles. "Leap Year" (Strand), a low-budget drama from Mexico, is "A gripping, mysterious use of no-budget cinema at its finest, and an intimate character study with surprising emotional power," according to Salon film critic Andrew O'Hehir.
Colin Hanks is "Lucky" (Phase 4), a lottery winner who happens to be a fledgling serial killer. Samuel Jackson and TV stars Nina Dobrev and Daniel Dae Kim provide support in "Arena" (Sony), a direct-to-DVD thriller about an underground bloodsport league.
The zombies are in London in "Devil's Playground" (Vivendi), where one woman's DNA may hold the answer to a cure, and in Argentina in "Phase 7" (Vivendi), where an epidemic turns neighbors into killers. And the indie-horror "VLOG" (Anchor Bay) is an anatomy of a webcast murder.
And the rest:
The documentary "The Harvest" [la cosecha] (Cinema Libre) investigates the reality of migrant labor in the United States. Not quite so documentary is "Adventures in Pornoland" (Walking Shadows), a comedy of desperate actors who slide into the adult film industry.
The gooiest crime show on TV is also the most fun
The upcoming season of "Bones," which gets a belated start in November this year, will be truncated due to the pregnancy of star Emily Deschanel (she gave birth to a boy in September), so the full-sized "Bones: The Complete Sixth Season" (Fox) will have to fill the void for some of us. Not to give any spoilers away, but yes, the pregnancy is worked into the show, but the season is more concerned with a new love for Agent Booth (David Boreanaz), the pregnancy of Bones' best friend Angela (Michaela Conlin) and the hunt for a former Army sniper gone rogue (guest star Arnold Vosloo) which becomes a very personal mission for Booth.
Full disclosure: "Bones" is my favorite TV show. Not necessarily the best or the smartest or the most inventive, but to me a perfect alchemy of fun characters, snappy dialogue, murder mystery complications, gooey forensics and, most important, screen chemistry bonded to perfection, and not just the tremendous love and loyalty between Bones and Booth. As the first episode attests, this team will do anything for another. There isn't a group of characters on TV I'd rather spend time with. Especially when it involves some of the most creatively decomposed fake human remains dripping across network screens.
23 episodes (two of them extended versions) on six discs on DVD and four discs on Blu-ray, plus commentary on two episodes, two featurettes, the obligatory gag reel and the pilot episode of the AMC original series "The Killing."
Not to mention 'The Help,' ' The Debt,' 'Take Shelter' and more films that have made 2011 her year
Jessica Chastain has been making films almost non-stop for the past four years. It only seems like she came out of nowhere this year. A Julliard graduate with experience on stage and screen, her first TV role was in 2004, she appeared opposite Al Pacino in his 2006 stage production of "Salome" and shot her first feature, a film adaptation of Pacino's "Salome" production, a year later. She's been making movies ever since but, through a curious quirk of fate, these films (apart from a few small productions that flew under the radar of most people) didn't start hitting theaters until 2011. Suddenly, it seems she's everywhere: "The Tree of Life," "The Help," "The Debt," "Coriolanus," "Take Shelter" and "Texas Killing Fields."
"I went to every festival this year," she recalls. Well not every festival, just Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Deauville, Toronto and Venice. "I had no experience with press at all and this year it's been all at once. What a steep learning curve." While shooting a new film in Toronto, she spent a rare day off doing -- what else? -- phone interviews for her many previous films. With "The Tree of Life" arriving on DVD and Blu-ray this week, we discussed working Terrence Malick, preparing for a role and, as is Videodrone's practice, what she's been watching when she's not making movies.
MSN: What have you been watching?
Jessica Chastain: I'm doing a movie called "Mama," produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Andres Muschietti, who made some amazing shorts. It's really, really creepy, kind of like a mix between "The Ring" and "The Orphanage." So everything in between has been these kinds of genre movies because it's a really new experience for me. I got "Ju-on" -- I'd seen the remake "The Grudge" but I hadn't seen the original -- "[rec]," which was remade as "Quarantine" with Jennifer Carpenter, I got the original "The Thing," I got all of the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" films, of course I have "The Ring" and "The Orphanage." I got "Psycho," "The Exorcist"… I'm scaring myself. (laughs) I have something playing in my trailer whenever I come in just to give me what that energy is of those films. Because it is different and I work very closely with the energy of what that piece is.
That's dedication. You come off the set of a horror movie and watch a horror movie.
Yes! And I have it in my trailer in between takes. You have to live in it as an actor. For me, anyway. When I was doing "The Tree of Life" I was reading about cultivating grace and gratitude and meditating and all these things that put me in a space of grace. Whatever I'm working on, I try to feel the energy. For "The Help," I watched all of Marilyn Monroe's films because there was that kind of diving head-first, this lust of life that she had in her character.
"The Tree of Life" is as much a film of privileged moments as it is a story of growing up. What kind of direction did Terrence Malick give you to create this impressions?
What he helped me do was he guided me toward certain paintings. I looked at Raphael's Madonna. I spent many hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art studying paintings of the Madonna and seeing how these women held themselves, how they held their heads, their eyes. There's never a direct gaze, you never feel this aggressiveness, it's always this very soft, sweet, loving grace that they all had. He also suggested watching early movies of Lauren Bacall because even though it was a voice she had worked on with a voice teacher, there was something about her voice that was so slow and smooth. And he also gave me a piece written by Thomas à Kempis which is actually in the film, "The Difference Between Nature and Grace."
The second-tier superhero fails to light up the screen
Marvel comics has proven remarkably successful in recent years in elevating characters beloved by comics fans but largely unknown to the public at large into big screen successes. DC Comics, which is not so coincidentally owned by the Warner Bros. parent company, isn't doing quite so well with its back catalogue of characters that aren't named "Batman."
See an exclusive clip from the Blu-ray release below
Case in point: "Green Lantern" (Warner), who has been around since the 1940s but never quite matched the zeitgeist of Superman or Batman. It's kind of a kitschy premise -- an American test pilot is gifted with an alien ring that gives its bearer the power to shape a green ray into shapes limited only by his will and his imagination -- and the visually dazzling and narratively emaciated film does little to take the kitsch out of the spectacle.
In this version, Ryan Reynolds is the classic irresponsible daredevil who lives recklessly and punctuates every irresponsible action with a smart-ass quip. It's the classic American story: the man-boy is given great power (because with great power comes… oh wait, that's the other guy) and forced to man up and become responsible, which he does with childlike flair. Seriously, for a tool limited only by the imagination, this guy's inspirations are limited to toys and cartoons. Meanwhile the filmmakers -- director Martin Campbell and a small scroll of credited screenwriters -- give him a personal life with even less depth than his imagination. Or is it just the casting of Blake Lively as a hard-ass test pilot turned defense contractor CEO?
The script is all over the place, the special effects overloaded with dazzle at the expense of clarity and Reynolds, who can generally be counted upon to deliver to goods, is all hard-body flexing and glib delivery. Only Peter Sarsgaard, who plays a meek scientist with self-image issue who turns uber-villain when he's infected with the power of yellow (the dread enemy of green!), hints at something more interesting, or to be more accurate, more fun than the dreary hero's tale that plays out without surprises.
In the words of MSN film critic Glenn Kenny, "as many suggestions as are made over the course of the picture, they never add up to a picture that's willing to forsake its transparently insincere and unnecessary patina of earnestness in order to deliver a just plain good time."
The DVD features previews of the "Justice League #1" Digital Comic and "Green Lantern: The Animated Series," both essentially cross-promotions. The Blu-ray edition is where you can find the extras, beginning with an extended cut of the film that runs nine minutes longer. I really couldn't tell you what the difference is beyond the running time. Also features the interactive "Maximum Movie Mode" with picture-in-picture commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes (also accessible separately), the longer featurettes "The Universe According to Green Lantern" and " Ryan Reynolds Becomes Green Lantern" and deleted scenes among the supplements, plus a bonus DVD and an "Ultraviolet" digital copy (which is stored online through a Flixster account -- that means you need a Flixster account access it -- and is then accessible via web-connected devices). All of these supplements are also available on the Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, which features both 3D and 2D version of the film (but the extended cut is only 2D).
All editions come out on Friday, October 14.
See an exclusive clip about the design and creation of the movie's villain after the jump
Terrence Malick's visionary portrait of a life
There is no denying the ambition of "The Tree of Life" (Fox), Terrence Malick's portrait of one boy's education growing up in Texas set against nothing less than the origins of life in the universe.
That's not an exaggeration. Ostensibly the story of one man recalling his childhood, growing up with two brothers, a mother (Jessica Chastain) with the maternal glow of the Madonna and a father (Brad Pitt) whose loving protectiveness is complicated by a bullying authoritarian streak that is unleashed by the coiled rage under his skin, the film is filled with privileged moments of magic and terror, of remembered shards of treasured memories turned idealized snapshot and moments that are more textured evocations of emotions and anxieties. And then Malick rewinds to the beginning, and I mean that in the cosmic sense: the big bang, the formation of suns and planets, the primordial states of the Earth, the rise of the dinosaurs and the predatory cycle of life that, Malick suggests, still grounds the DNA of the human animal.
That threw off some viewers who went to see the new the Brad Pitt film at the multiplex and ended up watching an impressionistic journey of cosmic dimensions and personal moments of grace, terror and the human condition. Some patrons demanded their money back, prompting one theater to post a disclaimer explaining that the film is "a uniquely visionary and deeply philosophical film" and "does not follow a traditional linear narrative approach of storytelling." Some critics dismissed the film as pretentious, "arty" or boring.
That's their right and I too have my issues with the way the Malick's impressionist portraits reduce the characters to collections of symbolic representations. Yet I am also moved by the impressions of maternal grace and paternal fear, the instinctive savagery of adolescence coming out in wilding play, the sheer wonder and scale of his primordial imagery, and the symphony he creates of his images and moments and movements. The experience of the film is like no other American film I've seen in recent history.
MSN critic Glenn Kenny proclaims it "the most bold and unconventional and visionary picture made using the apparatus of big-studio pictures since ["2001: A Space Odyssey"]. That alone makes it kind of a mind-blower." He doesn't claim to "get it" all in his glowing five-star review but he appreciates that Malick offers "a complete and fulfilled and often amazing vision. It's also a film that can't fully be apprehended on the first viewing. Its title, "The Tree of Life," suggests a concept both huge and simple, and yes, it is that."
There are no supplements on the DVD. The Blu-ray features the appropriately impressionistic featurette "Exploring The Tree of Life," a half-hour production featuring interviews with the producers, actors and other collaborators discussing the way Malick works and their experiences on the set of the film. Not your traditional featurette and the notoriously press-shy Malick, of course, is nowhere to be seen (though fellow directors Christopher Nolan and David Fincher drop by to offer their praise to Malick's vision). It doesn't really tell you the how or whys of the film, but it does suggest the journey of this artist in finding his way through the material with the help of his collaborators. The Blu-ray also features a bonus DVD and digital copy.
Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week.
There is no denying the ambition of "The Tree of Life" (Fox), Terrence Malick's portrait of one boy's education growing up in Texas set against nothing less than the origins of life in the universe. It has amazed, confounded and frustrated audiences, but the experience is like no other American film I've seen in recent history. Videodrone's review is here and interview with star Jessica Chastain here.
"Green Lantern" (Warner), the big screen debut of the DC Comics superhero starring Ryan Reynolds as the mere human given the power of an alien ring, underwhelmed its fan base. Warner, however, is pulling out all stops for the Blu-ray release, offering an extended cut of the film, an interactive viewing mode and, of course, all sorts of featurettes and supplements. And there is a Blu-ray 3D version as well. All editions come out on Friday, October 14. More from Videodrone here.
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are traveling companions on "The Trip" (IFC) to the finest restaurants in Britain, where they spend time in comic one-upmanship (their dueling Michael Caine impressions is worth the price of a rental).
Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis plot revenge against their "Horrible Bosses" (Warner) Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey in the black comedy. John C. Reilly is an eccentric high school vice-principal in "Terri" (Fox), an indie comedy with Sundance credentials, Rhys Ifans plays "Mr. Nice" (MPI), based on the crazed true story of a wildly successful British marijuana smuggler, and "Beautiful Boy" (Anchor Bay) stars Maria Bello and Michael Sheen as separated parents who turn to each other in shared grief.
TV on DVD:
As the tongue-in-cheek spy show embarks on its fifth and final season, "Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season" (Warner) catches you up with the adventures of amiable nerd turned super-spy Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), who spends the season looking for his mother (guest star Linda Hamilton), who also happens to be a spy and may be working for the other side. Oh, and there's a birth and a wedding. Mission debriefing from Videodrone here.
And while "Bones" has no end in sight, the upcoming season will be truncated due to pregnancy, so the full-sized "Bones: The Complete Sixth Season" (Fox) will have to fill the void for those of us who love the show, bones and all. Videodrone examines the remains here.
"Workaholics: Season One" (Paramount) arrives as the second season of the new Comedy Central sitcom is underway and "Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1: Season 1" (Warner) is the is actually the new incarnation of the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim hit "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," renamed but as weird as ever.
From Britain comes the dark comedy "Snuff Box" (Severin), part sitcom and part sketch comedy, and "Without Motive" (Acorn), the complete 12-episode series about the search for a serial killer in Bristol. "Casper The Friendly Ghost: The Complete Collection 1945-1963" (Shout! Factory) and "JEM and The Holograms: The Truly Outrageous Complete Series!" (Shout! Factory) are collections of animated programs of yesteryear.
Flip through the TV on DVD Channel Guide here
Cool, Classic and Cult:
"Great Italian Director's Collection" (Lorber Films) features Michelangelo Antonioni's debut feature "Story of a Love Affair" (1950), the anthology film "Boccaccio '70" (1962) with contributions by Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittoria De Sica and Mario Monicelli, and Monicelli's "Casanova '70" (1966). Not necessarily major films but certainly major directors and new editions of films either long out of print or never available on DVD in the U.S.. Videodrone's review of both DVD and Blu-ray editions here.
"The Four Feathers" (Criterion) gives the Criterion treatment to Zoltan Korda's 1939 Technicolor adventure of British imperial heroism and stiff-upper-lip loyalty. Quite the outdated Hail Britannia piece but a beautifully shot film with a rousing score. The 1966 remake of "Stagecoach" (Twilight Time) can't help but fall in the shadow of John Ford's original masterpiece, but it has a cast that keeps the wheels rolling (including Ann-Margaret, Red Buttons, Bing Crosby and Slim Pickens), while "South of Heaven" (Synapse) offer a more contemporary western by way of blood-soaked revenge thriller.
"I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK" (Pathfinder) is an offbeat character piece by South Korean auteur Pak Chan-wook (of "Oldboy" fame) and foreign terrors come from "The Child's Eye" (Lionsgate), a Hong Kong production from The Pang Brothers, and "The Sylvian Experiments" (Lionsgate) from Japanese screenwriter turned director Hiroshi Takahashi.
Criterion offers Blu-ray upgrades of two previous DVD releases: Masaki Kobayashi’s samurai drama "Harakiri" (Criterion), a classic tale of samurai ideals versus political hypocrisy, and Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom" (Criterion), his notorious adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's opus of torture and degradation relocated to 1944 Fascist Italy.
"Boccaccio '70" (Lorber Films) and "Casanova '70" (Lorber Films) arrive on Blu-ray in separate editions but, like the DVD box set above, with no supplements of any substance. "Scrooge" (Paramount) is the 1970 musical incarnation of "A Christmas Carol" with Albert Finney and "Last Exit to Brooklyn" (Summit) is Uli Edel's adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.'s cult novel.
The countdown to Halloween brings Blu-ray debuts of "The Bad Seed" (Warner), the psycho-child classic starring Patty McCormack as a well-mannered little psychopath, plus minor cult items "Maniac Cop" (Synapse), with Bruce Campbell, and "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" (VCI).
The complete calendar of releases this week is after the jump:
|Tags:||Week in review|
The latest chapter in the public relations disaster of the Netflix split
In the latest about face from Netflix in the wake of splitting its once-free streaming service from its rent-by-mail service and charging separately for each, CEO Reed Hastings proclaimed this morning that it will NOT spin off its DVD-by-mail serviceinto a new, separate website called "Qwikster," a name seemingly concocted by someone still high on the fumes of Napster.
Netflix subscribers, meanwhile, are giving Reed Hastings a failing grade for the way he's dragged out the worst public relations disaster in the company's history.
A couple of weeks ago, Hastings announced that they renamed the original DVD service Qwikster, ostensibly to make it easier to justify the separate charges, and promised to improve service in the future. The announcement, made before the new site was ready to launch, had the smell of desperation, a belated plea to staunch the bad press the company has earned since first announcing the separate charges for bundled services that proved to be so successful for the company. Since the announcement, many subscribers opted out of one or another of the services, and as many as a million are reported to have cancelled their subscription entirely.
The crisis appears more to be a matter of public relations than simply numbers. Netflix was built on renting DVD by mail and its success changed the home video rental business, putting a lot of neighborhood video stores out of business. Streaming video was added later, an added value bonus to subscribers which exploded in popularity with its customers, thanks to the growth in delivery devices (from laptops to smart phones to iPads) and the increasing ease of streaming to home theater systems. As streaming video grows and the catalogue increases, changes were inevitable, and in July they announced price changes and separate charges for the two services. In the midst of economic hard times, Netflix stumbled in the way it broached the subject, announcing price increasing without any change in service (beyond some vague "improvements" in the future) and the response from customers was swift and unequivocal (as the thousands of comments on the blog attest).
Reed Hastings then sent an "apology" to customers (on the Netflix blog here) announcing that they would split the two services into separate websites, which only made customers more frustrated (again, just browse a few of the 27,000 plus comments on the Netflix blog). So it's apology time again.
From the Netflix company blog: "It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.
"This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster."
Based on the comments so far, customers are not impressed.