Your guide to our coverage of the new DVD/Blu-ray releases
Here's what's new on DVD and Blu-ray this week as featured on Videodrone
'Fast Five' – The Car Heist Franchise Goes South
The New Release Rack: 'Scream 4,' plus 'Submarine,' Disney's 'African Cats' and more
TV on DVD:
'Prohibition' – Ken Burns' latest slice of American history
TV on DVD Channel Guide: William Hurt in 'Moby Dick,' the lost 'Honeymooners' episodes and more
The Cool and the Collectible:
Cult Watch: 'Amer' – A Horror Trip Like No Other
'Pulp Fiction' and 'Jackie Brown' - Two by Tarantino
Watching with Ken Burns, director of 'Prohibition'
Watching with Pam Grier and Robert Forster, stars of 'Jackie Brown'
Coming up next week:
"Green Lantern" (Warner) (Friday, October 14)
"The Tree of Life" (Fox)
"Horrible Bosses" (Warner)
"Beautiful Boy" (Anchor Bay)
"Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" (Fox)
"The Four Feathers" (Criterion)
"Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season" (Warner)
"Bones: The Complete Sixth Season" (Fox)
"Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1: Season 1" (Warner)
"JEM and The Holograms: The Truly Outrageous Complete Series!" (Shout! Factory)
"The Bad Seed" (Blu-ray) (Warner)
"Last Exit to Brooklyn" (Blu-ray) (Summit)
"Maniac Cop" (Blu-ray) (Synapse)
|Tags:||Week in review|
Plus Peter Jackson's 'Dead Alive,' Oscar winners from Italy and more
Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" (Lionsgate) and "Jackie Brown" (Lionsgate) debut on Blu-ray. Videodrone reviews both here, and I speak with "Jackie Brown" stars Pam Grier and Robert Forster here.
"The Lion King / The Lion King 3D" (Disney) comes off a successful theatrical 3D revival and on to Blu-ray, in both the original theatrical version and the new 3D incarnation. The 1994 "Hamlet on the veldt" animated feature, about a cub born to be pack leader who returns from self-imposed exile to face the evil lion who killed his father and usurped his throne, was another jewel in Disney's animation crown, a huge hit that won two Oscars. The home video edition was expanded with the inclusion of an extra song, “Morning Report,” which written for the Broadway musical adaptation.
The Blu-ray "Diamond Edition" debut arrives in multiple versions. The Blu-ray+DVD Combo pack features all the supplements of the previous DVD release (featurettes, deleted scenes, interviews and art galleries) along with new supplements, notably the 40-minute retrospective featurette "Pride of the Lion King," "The Lion King: A Memoir" with producer Don Hahn, four never-before-seen deleted scenes and a blooper reel. There's also a Blu-ray 3D edition (four discs) and an eight-disc collection featuring the direct-to-home video sequels.
Win a copy of the new "The Lion King: Diamond Edition" DVD+Blu-ray release. To enter the giveaway, simply "Like" MSN Movies on Facebook.
A pair of Tim Burton storybook fantasies arrive on HD this week. "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" (Warner), Burton's 1985 feature debut is a comic adolescent fantasy with heart, imagination, and enough madness for adults and kids alike. Paul Reubens’ Pee Wee in an inspired creation – a spastic hero in a dreamworld funhouse – and director Tim Burton was the right man to meld his a gingerbread fairy tale into a comically distorted world. Features commentary by buddies Burton and Reubens, deleted scenes (love Pee Wee’s boomerang tie) and an isolated score with composer Danny Elfman filling the silences with commentary on his inspirations and experiences.
Tim Burton returned to Roald Dahl’s original novel (and Dahl’s original title) for his 2005 "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (Warner). Burton favorite Johnny Depp is downright odd (even for Depp) as the eccentric and reclusive chocolate mogul Willy Wonka, who has built his own private candy wonderland and shares it for one day with lucky kids who have found the golden tickets hidden in his Wonka Bars. Burton feeds his creative sweet tooth with delicious art direction and imaginative creations and composer Danny Elfman writes a goofy set of pop tunes to Dahl’s original lyrics. But for all of the flights of fantasy, Burton never quite finds the heartbeat that warmed the original classic with Gene Wilder. Features commentary by Tim Burton and a Blu-ray exclusive "In-Movie Experience" mode with picture-in-picture interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, plus the featurettes from the previous DVD special edition.
"Dead Alive" (Lionsgate), Peter Jackson’s sophomore feature, proves that if gory is funny, then excessively gory is downright hysterical. He builds slowly, from gross-out gags of oozing puss and rotting body parts at a formal dinner to an army of hungry zombies pureed by a lawnmower brandished like a sword to an outrageously Freudian confrontation between dominating monster-mother and newly liberated son. Make no mistake, this is not for the weak of stomach, but if you like your horror with a sense of humor, or comedy with a gristle, then wade through this bucket of blood (and bone and body parts…). No supplements.
From Italy comes a pair of Oscar winners. Giuseppe Tornatore's "Cinema Paradiso" (Lionsgate), a tribute to a lifetime of loving the movies, won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This edition features the American cut (edited down from the much longer Italian version) with no supplements. Robert Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful" (Lionsgate), a dark comedy of a Jewish father who tries to shield his son from the horrors of the Holocaust, is almost as famous for Benigni's crazy Oscar acceptance speech as for its controversial mix of horror and farce. Includes a featurette. Both in Italian with English subtitles.
"The Cider House Rules" (Lionsgate), an adaptation of the John Irving novel directed by Lasse Halstrom, earned Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor Michael Caine and Best Adapted Screenplay for John Irving. Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo and Paul Rudd star, and the disc features commentary, a featurette and deleted scenes.
And the rest:
"Space Jam" (Warner) is the Bugs Bunny meets Michael Jordan comedy that mixes live action, animation and basketball.
Plus stage specials, Japanese animation and more
"Amer" (Olive), a Belgian mindtrip from directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, pays tribute to the giallo, a deliriously stylish brand of Italian horror, with a subjective psychosexual trip that defies explanation but is a glorious experience nevertheless (or perhaps because of it). Videodrone's review is here.
"Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection" (Universal) collects five Hitchcock masterpieces of the fifties and sixties in a digipack packed with supplements (all previously available in earlier releases).
"Rear Window" (1954) is a brilliant film about voyeurism, shot in a beautifully designed courtyard set through a window the same shape as a movie screen, and a masterpiece of suspense experienced from the wheelchair of Hitch’s most physically helpless hero (played by James Stewart). "Vertigo" (1958) is, simply put, one of the greatest films ever made. James Stewart is helpless, hopeless, and guilty as sin as he tries to transform a shopgirl (Kim Novak) into his lost love and becomes lost in his own fantasy. The granddaddy of all slasher films, Hitchcock’s low budget shocker "Psycho" (1961) will never have the same impact as it did on first release, when it took American completely unawares and scared the bejesus out of them, but the gloriously seedy black and white thriller remains a masterpiece of mood and pacing, and Anthony Perkins’ disturbing performance became so identified with his image it practically destroyed his leading man image. "The Birds" (1963), Alfred Hitchcock’s tale of feathered friends turning on humanity, is all the more terrifying because he offers no explanation. It’s an unusual and unnerving film, purposely awkward, oddly alienating and genuinely disturbing. Though this is a Universal release, the studio reached out to Warner to include "North by Northwest" (1959), the smoothest of Hitch's romantic thrillers. Cary Grant, long past his days as a matinee idol, is effortlessly suave and charming and convincing as a leading man opposite Eva Marie Saint, in her first and only blonde sexpot role. Everything clicks and sly fox Hitch slides more sexual innuendo and erotic flirtation into the film than most R rated films accomplish, while the breezy smoothness hides an undercurrent of tension and a complete mistrust of authority.
All of these have been released before, both individually and in various collections, and the discs include the generous collection of supplements (commentary tracks, interviews, featurettes and other extras) from the previous special edition releases. You can argue among yourselves whether this five-disc set presents the definitive five Alfred Hitchcock "essentials," but even if you quibble ("Notorious"? "Strangers on a Train"? "Shadow of a Doubt"?), you have to admit this is pretty good start.
"Friday the 13th: The Ultimate Collection" (Paramount) boxes up the entire eight-film run of the trend-setting slasher movie franchise (minus the belated horror movie showdown "Freddie vs. Jason") in a Limited Edition box with a replica of Jason’s hockey mask. Sean Cunningham directs and produces the quintessential summer camp horror "Friday The 13th" (1980), a film that made its reputation with the creatively gory and brutal deaths of teenagers guilty of fornication, lies, petty crimes, and other death penalty offenses. (Pre-fame Kevin Bacon is one of the teenagers mutilated for your entertainment.) There is nothing subtle about this gory teenage holocaust, and its blunt style and bloody brutality has nothing on John Carpenter’s "Halloween," which launched the stalk-and-slash classic genre, but those very qualities may be what made it a smash hit and a successful franchise. And remember, the killer in the original film was actually the mother of Jason Vorhees, a madwoman taking her revenge on the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake for the drowning death of her son (as "Scream," the knowing mid-nineties tribute to the eighties phenomenon, reminds us in the opening scene).
Jason rises to become the unstoppable juggernaut in "Friday the 13th Part 2" (1981) and in "Friday the 13th Part 3" (1982), which was originally released in 3-D, he dons the hockey mask for the first time. The rampage continues in a the succession of sequels: "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter" (1984, co-starring young Corey Feldman), "Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning" (1985), "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives" (1986), "Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood" (1988), and "Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan" (1989), where Jason stows away on a cruise ship. There's commentary on most episodes, a 3D edition of "Part 3," and oodles of featurettes and interviews. The complete collection has been available on DVD before, but this presents each of the eight films on a separate disc with new supplements in a booklet case with each page a slipsleeve.
"The Pee-Wee Herman Show On Broadway" (Image) presents Paul Reubens' stage revival of his Pee-wee persona, which he originally created for a stage show in 1981. This production was shot in front of a live audience and originally presented on HBO. On DVD and Blu-ray, with commentary by Paul Reubens and the cast.
"Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On" (Image) records the Divine Miss M's return to Las Vegas with a splashy stage extravaganza of song, dance and crazy costumes. Also originally presented on HBO. On DVD and Blu-ray, no supplements.
And the rest:
"Legend of the Millennium Dragon" (Sony) is an animated adventure fantasy from Japan about a boy who travels back in time to become a hero in an epic war. Available on a Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack, with original Japanese and English dub soundtracks and optional subtitles.
"Grandview U.S.A." (Paramount) is a small-town romantic comedy with Jamie Lee Curtis and Patrick Swayze, set in the world of demolition derby. Robert Downey Jr. was a rising young star when he made "Soap Dish" (Paramount), playing a scheming writer on soap opera starring Sally Field, Kevin Kline and Elisabeth Shue.
"Elvira's Haunted Hills" (eOne) is the 2001 horror spoof starring Cassandra Peterson in her campy horror host persona. "Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode" (Virgil) is a documentary on Bram Stoker and the inspirations for his fictional character, produced in collaboration with the Transylvanian Society of Dracula.
Plus the end of 'In Treatment' and 'Lie to Me' and many, many more shows
Ken Burns' "Prohibition" (PBS/Paramount) is not one of the director's epics but it explores a misunderstood period of American history and discovers remarkable parallels to contemporary politics. Videodrone's review is here, and there's an exclusive interview with Ken Burns here.
William Hurt is Captain Ahab in the made-for-cable miniseries "Moby Dick" (Vivendi), the latest of many adaptations of Herman Melville's novel. "This script dignifies Pip, offers the whale’s point of view and, most startling of all, invents scenes for Captain Ahab’s wife, who is only fleetingly mentioned in the novel and never named," writes Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times, but for all the revisions "it’s an ambitious, beautifully made adventure tale that seeks to be respectful of the book while still making the characters and story accessible to modern viewers." Ethan Hawke plays Starbuck in this version, Charlie Cox is Ishmael and Donald Sutherland and Gillian Anderson co-star. On DVD and Blu-ray. No supplements.
"Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: Season One" (Shout! Factory) presents 13 episodes from Nickelodeon's Emmy-nominated animated series about three adolescent monsters in monster school trying to be scary and mostly being funny instead. Two discs, no supplements.
Special Editions and Re-releases:
"The Walking Dead: Special Edition" (Anchor Bay) and "Planet Earth: Six Disc Special Edition" (BBC) upgrade the earlier DVD and Blu-ray editions with a generous helping of expanded supplements. Videodrone reviews both here.
Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners" ran for a single season in its familiar half-hour sitcom format, but long before that now legendary incarnation it was a recurring skit on Jackie Gleason's various variety shows. "The Honeymooners Lost Episodes: The Complete Restored Series" (MPI) collects all 107 live broadcasts of the comic misadventures of Gleason's Ralph Kramden, Art Carney's dim but loyal best friend and neighbor Ed Norton, and wives Alice (Audrey Meadows) and Trixie (Joyce Randolph) from their 1951 debut on "Cavalcade of Stars" through the 1957 appearances on "The Jackie Gleason Show, in an exhaustive 15-discs DVD box set.
Along with the live skits (some of them never seen since their live broadcast) preserved via kinescope recordings is a disc of supplements, including TV commercials and guest appearances by "The Honeymooners" stars on other shows, two complete radio shows form 1954, an interview with Joyce Randolph and the new featurette "History of the Lost Episodes." Also features scripts for three missing episodes, home movies and spoofs of "The Honeymooners," plus a booklet with a history of the series.
"The Monkees: Season 1 / Season 2" (Eagle Media) present the entire run of the pre-fab four proto-MTV sitcom, modeled on the spirit of the Beatles’ "A Hard Day’s Night" and presented with goofy slapstick comedy, machine gun editing and a couple of songs in every episode. The style may not have been revolutionary, but it was fresh for American TV and the boys managed to straddle the line between clean-cut American innocence and unhinged counter-culture anarchy (in a strictly non-political sense). Though previously released to DVD, those sets are long out of print. Eagle Media re-releases the discs in a more conventional package with all the goodies of the original release. "Season 1" presents 32 episodes on six discs, plus the original pilot episode and commentary tracks on select episodes among the supplements. "Season 2" offers 25 episodes on five discs, plus the 1969 TV special "33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee" and commentary tracks on select episodes. Both collections offer the option to jump directly to the songs.
"Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Top Ten" (Acorn) is sort of a "greatest hits" collection for the long-running British mystery series, except they are all chosen by star John Nettles, who provides new introductions to each off the ten episodes in the ten-disc set (collected in a supersized case with hinged trays). For the record, he picks the second season "Strangler's Wood" as his favorite episode and the sixth season "A Talent For Life" as the "most bizarre." Considering how weird some of the mysteries get, that's saying something.
In anticipation of the revival of MTV's signature animated series, "Beavis And Butt-Head: Mike Judge’s Most Wanted" (Paramount) presents creator Mike Judge’s 20 favorite cartoons (individual shorts, that is, not complete episodes), plus the uncut "Frog Baseball," and featurette "Taint of Greatness: The Journey of Beavis and Butt-Head" and scenes from the new series. All on a single disc.
The sessions with Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) come to an end with "In Treatment: The Complete Third Season" (HBO), the high-concept HBO drama serial that plays out in weekly sessions with three patients (played this season by Debra Winger, Irrfan Khan and Dane DeHaan) plus his own session with his new therapist (Amy Ryan). Each week consists of four half-hour "sessions." The seven weeks of this intensive (and intense) treatment -- 28 episodes in all -- are collected on four discs in a four-panel digipak.
Tim Roth knows when you're lying in "Lie to Me*: The Complete Third and Final Season" (Fox), a twist on the forensic crime show set in a private agency of human lie detectors, or "deception experts." After struggling through two seasons and contriving internal conflicts at the agency, the show was cut loose in its third season, which numbers a mere 13 episodes and ends on yet another attempt to recharge the show, to know avail. The three disc DVD set also features deleted scenes and a promotional featurette with Roth.
"The Bionic Woman: Season 3" (Universal) ended its bionically-enhanced run with 22 episodes (including the two-part "The Bionic Dog"!) on five discs, plus commentary on two episodes, podcast commentary on another and a Q&A with star Lindsay Wagner, packaged in a three-panel digipak.
"Boy Meets World: The Complete Seventh Season" (Lionsgate) brings the Ben Savage family sitcom to an end with a wedding and new life: our little boy has grown up! 23 episodes on three discs. "The PJs: Season 3" (Lionsgate), the Eddie Murphy-produced stop-motion "foamation" sitcom, ends its three-season run with 18 episodes on two discs.
"Fresh Fields: Set 2" (Acorn) presents all 12 episodes of the third and fourth series of the British empty nest sitcom starring Julia McKenzie and Anton Rogers. Sam Heughan stars in the British World War II telefilm "First Light" (BFS) and Ewan McGregor and his brother Colin McGregor, a former RAF pilot, host the documentary "Battle of Britain" (BFS).
Jason Schwartzman is back as the neurotic New York novelist turned unlicensed private investigator in HBO's "Bored to Death: The Complete Second Season" (HBO). Eight half-hour episodes of private eye conventions, modern fiction, urban malaise and intellectual disconnection with Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson (who is brilliant as a magazine publisher mentor). On DVD and Blu-ray with commentary, deleted scenes and "Inside the Episodes" mini-featurettes.
"Melissa & Joey: Season One, Part Two" (Shout! Factory) completes the inaugural season of ABC Family Channel's update of "Who's the Boss?" with sitcom veterans Melissa Joan Hart and Joseph (Joey) Lawrence as a city councilwoman and her hunky "manny." 18 episodes on two discs.
"The League: The Complete Season Two" (Fox), the FX sitcom antics of five buddies whose fantasy football league dominates their lives, is back with 13 episodes on two discs (over half of them in extended versions) on DVD and Blu-ray, plus featurettes and deleted scenes. Just in time for the new season on FX.
"According to Jim: The Complete Fifth Season" (Lionsgate) offers more parenting lessons from blue-collar husband and father Jim Belushi: 27 episodes worth on four discs, to be exact, plus featurettes. "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns: Season Two" (Lionsgate) features 20 episodes from the cable sitcom.
More vintage is "Perry Mason: Season Six, Volume One" (Paramount), with 14 episodes of courtroom brilliance from Raymond Burr's definitive TV lawyer and his crack team (Barbara Hale and William Hopper). D.A. Hamilton Burger (William Talman) never had a chance.
And the rest:
"American Experience: Houdini" (PBS) is a profile of the legendary escape artist originally produced in 2000. "The Best Of Antiques Roadshow" (PBS) collects three compilation episodes of the PBS series that spotlight some of the greatest treasures uncovered in the series. "La Reina del Sur: Volumen 1 / Volumen 2" (Telemundo/Universal) presents all 63 episodes of the Spanish-language telenovella on two six-disc sets, but be warned: there are no English subtitles on this set. "The Smurfs Holiday Celebration" (Warner) collects two smurfy animated Christmas specials.
The Italian giallo is reimagined in gloriously overripe style
Is "Amer" (Olive), a giallo—that deliriously stylish brand of Italian horror that (at its best) swirled overripe color and perverse violence with visceral imagery, voyeuristic tendencies and flamboyant camerawork—or a portrait of life imagined as a giallo?
The story (such as it is) of "Amer" comes down to three apparently defining moments in the life of a highly imaginative (perhaps borderline mad) heroine. It's a film seen through keyholes and ajar doors, down hallways and staircases, through windows and under doors, but mostly through the overheated mind's eye of Ana as she transforms family drama and every day encounters into hothouse moments of sexual desire and repression, voyeurism, conspiracy, witchcraft, stalking and murder. That, or she sees the lurid and dangerous reality under the surface that no one else notices.
Any objective understanding of the narrative is tangled up in the subjective experience of Ana (played by three different actress) and the expressionist delirium served up by filmmakers Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. But this isn't mere tribute to the genre, it's a celebration of the style, the texture, the psycho-sexual atmosphere of the best films, recreated in a triptych that could be a horror film, a coming-of-age story or a twisted Walter Mitty adventure from a Dario Argento fanatic. While the cinematic phantasmagoria is more interesting than any psychological reading or narrative understanding, it's like mainlining decades of giallo highlights in a single screening. Quite a trip indeed.
The DVD also include the first five films by the filmmaking team of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, a series of shorts that explore the same love of horror style, with introductory notes by the filmmakers. Also features trailers and a teaser.
The two survivors of the seventies talk about movies and the generosity of Quentin Tarantino
Pam Grier, the queen of what was not-always-affectionately known as "blaxploitation cinema" of the seventies, and Robert Forster, the intense, enigmatic almost star of the late sixties turned B-movie stalwart of the late seventies and eighties, had never worked together before Quentin Tarantino cast them in "Jackie Brown," but they came to the film with one thing in common: they were both talented actors with distinctive screen personalities who had become out of fashion with Hollywood. Tarantino revived the faltering career of one-time superstar John Travolta with "Pulp Fiction" and was determined to give the same boost to both Grier and Forster in his follow-up. With the Blu-ray debut of "Jackie Brown" (Lionsgate) this week, Videodrone spoke with both performers (by phone) about their early careers, making "Jackie Brown," working with Tarantino and, of course, what they've been watching.
As a side note, I don't believe I have ever interviewed two more gracious professionals in my life. Their appreciation of Tarantino, as both a director and a friend, is unbound.
What have you been watching?
Grier: I do like the View on Demand from Amazon and streaming video from Netflix. I love "It's Complicated" and I like "Secretariat," "Avatar," Hitchcock and the classics. I like "The Red Pony" on DVD. I'm a mood viewer. When I'm in a special mood, I want to view a certain type of film. I don't stick to just one genre. A lot of horse films.
Forster: I watch way too much news. I saw the French film "Point Blank." What a movie! I saw "The Devil's Double." This guy's [Dominic Cooper] going to have a big, big career. You can hardly believe he's playing both parts. And it shows, if you hadn't realized it before, what it must be like for people living under tyranny. Where there is no justice. When you realize that, you realize what the world is composed of free places and places where there is no freedom. You don't want to be part of the latter.
Grier: I like to purchase because I really like to just have them for my collection, like books. I like to read a lot. I like first editions, beautiful leatherbound books. One of my favorite places is Bauman Rare Books in New York. I translate that to film as well. I like to have the DVD, but if it's not on DVD and if I can stream it through Amazon or Netflix, I do that. Because I can be in a hotel and I can stream right to my iPad.
Quentin Tarantino was a fan of your films. Were you a fan of his when you were cast?
Grier: Very much so. He had established himself as a filmmaker of really raw or true grit when you saw "Reservoir Dogs" and he paid homage to me in that. Everyone said, "Do you know you’re mentioned in the Quentin Tarantino movie?" And I said, "Yes, and I fell out of my chair." And I love his work. And then when he did "Pulp Fiction"… I had met with him, we had talked about a role and it wasn't going to work out, the same way with Robert Forster, so he said, "We're going to work together."
Forster: Well, sure. This guy made great movies. I had auditioned for one of his movies, for "Reservoir Dogs." I thought I was going to get it until I realized that he had dedicated the film to the guy to did the part that I wanted, Lawrence Tierney. So it came as a big surprise when I walked out of that audition thinking that I had just hit it out of the park, and then Quentin comes out after me and says, "Look, this isn't going to work. I'm going to give this part to the guy I dedicated the script to, but I won't forget you."
The first TV gift sets roll out for the holiday season
Okay, do we really need "The Walking Dead: Special Edition" (Anchor Bay), a deluxe edition of a season that ran a mere six episodes? Well, need has rarely played a part in such release strategies and let's face it, cult may not win ratings but it definitely sells DVDs and Blu-rays. And by any measure, this is a series with a passionate following, even after only a mere six episodes.
It doesn't hurt that the show, based on the acclaimed comic book/graphic novel series written by Robert Kirkman and developed for cable by Frank Darabont, is an intelligent, expansive, character-rich program that combines genre conventions (slow moving, voracious ambulatory corpses trailing gore and entrails swarming after humans running for their lives) with the human drama of people trying not simply to survive but find community and meaning after the end of the world as we know it. Which is not to say such concerns were absent from the film incarnations, merely rare and limited. As Kirkman says in the home video supplements, "Zombies movies all have an ending. I wanted to know what happens next."
What does the "Special Edition" have to offer that the first release didn't? To begin with, commentary on all six episodes by episode directors along with various combinations of producers (including comic book creator Robert Kirkman on two episodes), writers, actors and other collaborators (like make-up guru Greg Nicotero on episode two). Then there is a black and white version of the pilot episode (Darabont likes his monochrome), an interview featurette with Darabont and Nicotero, and new featurettes on make-up, the digital effects, the process of adapting the comics and the popularity of the new show. That's in addition to the featurettes of the previous release (including the superior half-hour "The Making of The Walking Dead" and the absurdly useful six-minute "Zombie Tips for Halloween").
Is that enough to entice you to pick up this new edition? Let me know one zombie fever takes over again when the second season shuffles onto AMC later this month.
"Planet Earth: Six Disc Special Edition" (BBC) upgrades one of the greatest natural history documentary shows ever made. The 11-part, almost 10-hour 2006 production, shot with state-of-the-art high-definition cameras and lenses, was the most expensive documentary series in BBC history at the time is still an astounding achievement. The crew gets footage of animal behavior never before captured and tracks animals through their environment from vast distances away, and perhaps more importantly uses the scope of their imagery to put a new perspective on the traditional documentary. The stunning array of seemingly environments are all connected by shared dependence on the sun, the biosphere, the land and sea, the heartbeat of the Earth, and stunning photography from space reminds us of the interconnection of life on planet Earth.
This edition features the original British version narrated by British documentary legend Sir David Attenborough and includes producer commentary on five episodes, four original bonus programs ("Great Planet Earth Moments," "Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth," "Secrets of the Maya Underworld" and "Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert") and a sneak peek at the upcoming "Frozen Planet" and along with the supplements of the previous edition, which includes 10-minute production featurettes on each episode and the three-part, 150-minute documentary "Planet Earth – The Future."
Plus 'Submarine,' Disney's 'African Cats' and more documentaries and foreign films
"Fast Five" (Universal) takes the fast cars and speed-demon criminals to Rio for a cast reunion featuring co-conspirators from all four previous installments and a new nemisis in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a cartoon characters of a humorless American agent. Videodrone's review is here.
"Scream 4" (Anchor Bay), which reunites director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson ten years after the last chapter in the franchise, is strangely and even comfortingly old school as the filmmakers once again cast the conventions and clichés of horror movies through a self-aware cast of characters. They pile on self-referential gags through the tongue-in-cheek opening, getting it out of the way fast so they can get on with this story of horror movie victimization in the age of reality-TV celebrity.
In this one, Neve Campbell returns home and so does Ghost Face, the killer with a thousand alter egos. David Arquette and Courtney Cox are also back but most of the screaming and bleeding duties are left to cast of younger models: Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Kieran Culkin, plus knowing bits by the likes of Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Lucy Kate Hale and Aimee Teegarden.
"One surprise of the film is that, overall, it doesn't play nearly as tired as you think it's going to," admits MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. "It's not a disgrace -- indeed, it's not bad if you like that sort of thing -- while not particularly good, and yet it's one of the better horror films I've seen in a long time."
The DVD features commentary by Wes Craven and cast members Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere and Neve Campbell, "The Making of Scream 4" featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, plus an alternate opening and an extended ending among the supplements. The Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack also features a code for the downloadable Digital (good until Dec 21, 2012).
Watch the trailer below, after the jump.
"Submarine" (Anchor Bay), a British indie coming-of-age comic-drama, stars Craig Roberts as a disaffected Welsh 15-year-old trying to hold his parents' marriage together while acting out in the ways that quirky kids in indie coming-of-age films do. MSN film critic Glenn Kenny complains that "Not one of the talented cast, which includes Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine in its adult cast and Craig Roberts as Oliver, can sell the material as much else beyond a sour live-action affected-hip cartoon." On DVD and Blu-ray, both with a making-of featurette and deleted scenes.
"African Cats" (Disney) is Disney's latest big screen natural history documentary. MSN film critic Glenn Kenny praises the photography but reminds us that the filmmaking is "in a grand tradition of kid-friendly Disney nature films and thus rather shameless in its attempts to make young viewers empathize and identify with the film's titular kitties." Samuel L. Jackson narrates and Disney will contributed a portion of all home video sales to a conservation fund to protect lions, cheetah, elephants, zebra, giraffe and a host other species in Africa. The Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack features an interactive "Filmmaker Annotations" mode with behind-the-scenes footage and a "Save the Savanna" featurette among the supplements. Also available via High Definition Movie Download and OnDemand.
The acclaimed "Buck" (IFC) is a documentary profile of Buck Brannaman, the real-life horse trainer who inspired "The Horse Whisperer." The film is "beautiful, thoughtful and a look inside a world few of us know," observes MSN film critic James Rocchi, but ultimately the film "works less as a discussion of how to ride and more as a discussion of how to live." Features commentary by the filmmakers with Buck Brannaman and deleted scenes.
Zach Braff stars as a drug dealer whose life is at a crossroads in the indie drama "The High Cost of Living" (Tribeca/New Video). "Jackass" buddies Ryan Dunn and Bam Margera star in the comedy "Living Will" (Lionsgate).
The Argentine comedy "A Boyfriend For My Wife" (Olive), about an unhappy husband who hires a womanizer to romance his wife in the hopes that she will ask for a divorce, was the top-grossing film in Argentina in 2008. Stephen Rea stars in "Nothing Personal" (Olive), an award-winning drama from Ireland, and "Little Sparrows" (Film Movement) is a drama from Australia about three sisters who come together when their mother's breast cancer returns.
"Jig" (Screen Media), a look into the little known world of competitive Irish Dancing, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack with two commentary tracks and featurettes. "The Red Chapel" (Lorber), a chronicle of a Danish comedy trio's tour of North Korea, and "The Juche Idea" (Lorber), a deconstruction of North Korean propaganda, both take a satirical approach to North Korean political culture.
And the rest:
Brian J. White and Zoe Saldana star in the romantic comedy "The Heart Specialist" (Fox). "The Presence" (Lionsgate) is a ghost story starring Mia Sorvino and Justin Kirk and "The Caller" (Sony) is a thriller starring Rachelle Lefevre and Stephen Moyer.