Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week
Tuesday is officially new release day for DVD and Blu-ray, but this week a pair of new releases have staked out the Friday usually reserved for "Harry Potter" films and other youth-skewed blockbusters: "The Smurfs" (Sony) and "Friends with Benefits" (Screen Gems) both released on Friday, December 2.
"The Smurfs," featuring little blue CGI creatures scrambling and singing through live action New York City while a hygiene-challenged wizard pursues them, is a juvenile comedy for the kids and includes lots of supplements on the DVD and Blu-ray editions. Videodrone's review is here. "Friends with Benefits" is an R-rated romantic comedy with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake navigating the fine line between sex and love and it arrives on DVD and Blu-ray with commentary and deleted scenes. Reviewed here.
Even without those films, Tuesday is a huge week for New Releases, the biggest between now and January. "Our Idiot Brother" (Anchor Bay), starring Paul Rudd as a sweetly oblivious guy whose instinctive honesty and generosity tends to complicate the lives of his sisters, is my pick for the day, an easy-going comedy with a good cast (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer as the sisters) and a big heart. With commentary, deleted scenes and a featurette on DVD and Blu-ray. More here.
MSN film critic Glenn Kenny, on the other hand, is upbeat about "30 Minutes or Less" (Sony), a black comedy about a pizza delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg) sent to rob a bank with dynamite strapped to his body. Kenny describes is as "punchy, nasty, laugh-out-loud-funny stuff that doesn't flag or wear out its welcome." The DVD features deleted scenes and a featurette and the Blu-ray adds commentary and more.
My indie pick this week is the horror comedy "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" (Magnet), with Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk as good-natured idiot hicks in the woods attacked by smug college kids convinced the boys are horror movie hillbilly killers. Hilarious mayhem ensures. Videodrone's review is here.
Werner Herzog's documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (MPI), an exploration of the ancient Chauvet Cave, home to the oldest human artwork known to exist, was originally released in 3D and is available on Blu-ray 3D as well as standard DVD and Blu-ray editions. Videodrone's review is here. Also new on the non-fiction front: "Reel Injun" (Kino Lorber), a survey of how native Americans have been portrayed in the movies.
And they keep on coming: Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in the romantic drama "One Day" (Universal). Brit Marling co-writes and stars in "Another Earth" (Fox), an indie drama with a science fiction backdrop and breakthrough performance from Marling. The offbeat comedy "The Future" (Lionsgate) is the second feature from acclaimed performance artist Miranda July.
Plus: the coming-of-age film "The Art of Getting By" (Fox) with Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts, the faith-based golf drama "Seven Days in Utopia" (Arc Entertainment) with Robert Duvall and Lucas Black, "5 Days of War" (Anchor Bay), Renny Harlan's portrait of the brief but brutal attack on Georgia by Russia in 2008, and the foreign films "Kidnapped" (IFC) from Spain, "The Wave" (IFC) from Germany (but based on a true story from an American high school) and "Vampires" (IFC), a horror comedy from Belgium.
"Smallville," the long-running WB youth superhero series about Superman before he donned the cape, ended last season after an impressive ten-season run. So while we get "Smallville: The Complete Tenth Season" (Warner) on both DVD and Blu-ray, we also get the deluxe "Smallville: The Complete Series" (Warner), on DVD only but an impressive collection of all 218 episodes and supplements, plus exclusive bonus supplements, on 62 discs in a box set of hefty digibook cases. Season Ten reviewed on Videodrone here, and the "Complete Series" is revisited on Videodrone here.
Peter Graves returned to duty for "Mission: Impossible – The 1988 TV Season" (Paramount), the first of two seasons in the revival of the secret agent caper series. 19 episodes on five discs, no supplements. More on Videodrone here.
Adam Rifkin turned his video surveillance film into a Showtime series with "Look: Season 1" (Image). 11 half-hour episodes on two discs. "Vietnam in HD" (A&E/History), a documentary series made for the History Channel with rare film footage shot by the soldiers themselves, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray a few weeks after its cable debut.
"30 Rock: Season 5" (Universal) features 22 episodes of the hit sitcom, which is set to begin its sixth season in January. The three-disc set includes both versions of the season live show, commentary tracks and other supplements. Also this week are "Hot in Cleveland: Season Two" (Paramount) and "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns: Season 3" (Lionsgate).
Flip through the TV on DVD Channel Guide here
"Sabu! (Eclipse Series 30)" (Criterion) collects three Alexander Korda productions (all directed by his brother, Zoltan Korda) starring Selar Shaik, renamed Sabu when was elevated from boy elephant driver of a maharaja to star of the film "Elephant Boy" (1937). The set also features "The Drum" (1938), with Sabu as a young prince protected by the British colonial forces in India, and "Jungle Book" (1942), all carried by Sabu's energy, sincerity and screen charisma. (A fourth Korda feature starring Sabu, "The Thief of Bagdad," was previously release by Criterion.) Videodrone's review is here.
"The Cycle" (Nima Pictures/Facets) is a 1978 drama from Iranian master Dariush Mehrjui, made during the reign of the Shah, whose regime banned it for its uncompromising portrait of poverty in the country. "Chillerama" (Image) is anthology film of four tongue-in-cheek horror shorts directed by Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan. "The Invisible Frame" (Icarus) is a rumination on the Berlin Wall from filmmaker Cynthia Beatt and actress Tilda Swinton.
"Horror Express" (Severin), the cult Spanish horror film with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing previously available in numerous DVD editions of dubious quality, gets the deluxe treatment and a new HD master for its Blu-ray debut in an edition that features new and archival interviews and a bonus DVD copy. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
The complete calendar of releases this week is after the jump:
Two reels were inadvertently switched in the Warner Archive edition of the cult science fiction film
UPDATED November 29, 2011
Cornel Wilde's end-of-the-world thriller "No Blade of Grass" is the most under-appreciated apocalypse-now films of the seventies. It's also one of the most densely designed with flashbacks and flashforwards. For that reason it might not be clear right way that there is a significant error in the Warner Archive release, which marks the home video debut of the film and the first opportunity I've had to see the R-rated film complete and uncut (prints on Turner Classic Movies removed scenes of nudity, extreme violence and a live, clinically explicit childbirth).
While the entire film is (to the best of my knowledge) intact (including a brutal rape scene completely missing from the cut version that casts the film in a much darker, more unforgiving light), it's not in right order. The third and fourth reels of the film have been inadvertently swapped, creating a major continuity error. A comparison to the Turner Classic Movies edition confirms the error. At around 36 minutes into the film, it leaps ahead from the characters escaping from bandits on the road in their cars to suddenly tramping out in the hills, where one of the previously intact characters is suddenly dead and gone. The film continues on as they pick up more members for their growing militia, then at about 56 minutes, we're back to them on the road, in their cars with the original line-up (including the missing character back in the passenger seat; the death scene soon follows).
Warner has sent no formal press release out but they are aware of the error and promise that corrected replacement discs are being prepared and will be sent out "very soon."
UPDATE: November 29, 2011
I've been told that Warner will be contacting everyone who purchased a copy by E-mail once replacement copies are ready and then will automatically send out replacements. E-mails should go out by the end of the week.
I'll be reviewing the corrected disc at Videodrone when I receive it.
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
Exclusive Clip: J.J. Abrams' 'Super 8'
The New Release Rack: 'Conan' Revived, 'The Devil's Double,' 'Sarah's Key,' a new 'Spy Kids' and much more
TV on DVD:
The Original 'The Office: Special Edition'
The Cool and the Collectible:
Classics: Henry Fonda Calms '12 Angry Men
Watching with John Landis, director of "¡Three Amigos!"
Gift Guide Roundup: Classics Deluxe and Redux
Coming up next week:
"The Smurfs" (Sony) (Friday, December 2)
"Friends with Benefits" (Screen Gems) (Friday, December 2)"Our Idiot Brother" (Anchor Bay)
"30 Minutes or Less" (Columbia)
"One Day" (Universal)
"Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" (Magnet)
"Another Earth" (Fox)
"The Future" (Lionsgate)
"Cave of Forgotten Dreams (MPI)
"Sabu! (Eclipse Series 30)" (Criterion)
"30 Rock: Season 5" (Universal)
"Smallville: The Complete Fifth Season" (Warner)
"Smallville: The Complete Series" (Warner)
"Hot in Cleveland: Season Two" (Paramount)
"Horror Express" (Blu-ray+DVD Combo) (Severin)
|Tags:||Week in review|
If you can't wait for the TV showings, you can always take these home with you
Thanksgiving is officially over and that means it's all Christmas all the time, from Black Friday (such a picaresque title for a holiday event) to Christmas morning presents, and especially TV, where holiday specials classic and contemporary dot the schedules. A lot those are also on home video. Here's a round-up of recent releases and re-releases.
"Prep & Landing" (Disney) is the newest holiday original. The story of the elite elves who prepare the homes for Santa's arrival is a lively Disney CGI production that debuted in 2009 on ABC and earned an Emmy Award in 2010. The 22-minute program debuts on DVD with a collection of two bonus animated shorts and a stocking full of featurettes. In fact, you might call this a stocking stuffer of a release.
"Santa's Magical Stories" (Warner) is a three-disc set featuring "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," directed by Chuck Jones and narrated by Boris Karloff (still one of the greatest of the animated holiday specials), "The Year Without a Santa Claus" and "Jack Frost," along with a few of the lesser holiday oddities: "The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold," "Pinocchio's Christmas," "Rudolph's Shiny New Year," "Nestor, The Long-Eared Donkey," "A Miser Brothers' Christmas" and "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July." You know, the B-team holiday specials.
"Dr. Seuss's Holidays on the Loose" (Warner) also includes "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (this one is the deluxe edition) along with a pair of Seussical follow-ups, "The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat" and "Halloween is Grinch Night" and a batch of supplements in a two-disc set.
"Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas – Special Edition" (Disney) is a Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack with featurettes, sing-alongs and other supplements. And then there's "The Smurfs Holiday Celebration" (Warner), which collects two holiday episodes from the animated series: "'Tis the Season to be Smurfy" and "The Smurfs Christmas Special."
That runs the gamut of holiday juvenilia, from the superior to the negligible, but if your tastes run more to the real classics, two of the greatest Christmas movies of all time also get a holiday rerelease for the season:
"It's a Wonderful Life Gift Set" (Paramount) doesn't add anything new terms of video supplements but you gotta admire the gimmick: it comes with a miniature bell Christmas ornament. Yeah, it's a cheap little gewgaw and the promised "Commemorative Booklet" is an eight-page leaflet, not worth the price increase from the Blu-ray-only release, but the bell is a clever touch.
"A Christmas Carol: 60th Anniversary Diamond Edition" (VCI) is yet another new edition of the classic film, remastered for both DVD and 1080p HD for Blu-ray and featuring all-new supplements, including (on Blu-ray edition) a bonus DVD with the superb 1939 radio adaptation narrated by Orson Welles and starring Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge.
The biggest and most lavish releases of Hollywood classics this year
Here are a few of the most impressive releases of 2011 for the classic movie buff on your list.
The Ultimate Edition of the 1955 "The Ten Commandments" (Paramount) with Charlton Heston as Moses is available on DVD, Blu-ray and a "Limited Edition Gift Set," a massive six-disc box set that includes DVD and Blu-ray editions, plus two bonus discs of supplements, including a Blu-ray edition of the original 1923 silent version of the film. Videodrone's review is here.
"Ben-Hur: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition" (Warner), another Biblical epic built on the stiff masculinity of Charlton Heston, is now available in a new edition featuring a new documentary on Heston as well as documentaries on the film and a DVD edition of the original silent version of the film from 1925. More here
"Citizen Kane: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition" (Warner) is the definitive edition of the great American movie, remastered for Blu-ray in a three-disc edition featuring the documentary "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" and "RKO 281," a fictionalized dramatization of the making of the film, among the supplements. The Amazon exclusive edition features the DVD debut of "The Magnificent Ambersons" as a bonus, making it the only way to get the film on DVD in the U.S. (short of importing a foreign DVD edition). 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," "Vertigo," "North by Northwest," "Psycho" and "The Birds." 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. Details here.
"Tracy and Hepburn: The Definitive Collection" (Warner) is the first comprehensive collection of every films starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Hollywood's great screen couple, from "Woman of the Year" in 1942 to the 1967 "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," completed weeks before Tracy died of a heart attack. Complete line-up and disc details here.
"Laurel and Hardy: The Essential Collection" (Vivendi) is an impressive ten-disc set featuring newly-remastered editions of ten features and dozens of shorts from their Hal Roach period, from their first sound short to "A Chump at Oxford" and "Saps at Sea" in 1940. There's a whole disc of supplements plus alternate versions of some shorts and feature films. Details here.
Plus 'The Taking of Pelham One Two Three' and 'The Big Country'
"¡Three Amigos! 25th Anniversary Edition" (HBO), starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short as intellectually-challenged actors in silent movie westerns mistaken for genuine heroes, may be the forgotten John Landis comedy classic. It's certainly the sweetest of the American western parodies, and it is a loving tribute to the innocence of the early westerns. The Blu-ray debut features 20 minutes of newly rediscovered deleted scenes. More on the film -- plus an interview with director John Landis -- here.
"Rushmore" (Criterion), Wes Anderson's second feature, wasn't universally praised upon release but it has certainly earned it place in the category of modern classics, thanks to the mix of whimsy, confidence and heartache and Anderson's lively direction and playful design. Jason Schwartzman stars as a high school eccentric and Bill Murray earned accolades and awards as a sad sack millionaire who becomes his mentor and his rival. ""Rushmore" has a good deal of content and human qualities to spare, but what makes it such a charming and satisfying experience is its style," wrote Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum in 1999, who praises the way that "everyone in the movie is accorded a certain dignity."
Criterion released the film on DVD in a director approved edition ten years ago. The Blu-ray debut features all the supplements from that release: commentary by Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson, and actor Jason Schwartzman, a behind-the-scenes documentary, Anderson and Bill Murray on "The Charlie Rose Show," cast auditions, and galleries of storyboards, stills and other graphic ephemera. But to my mind, the coolest supplement is the trio of “Max Fisher Players” stagings of films “Armageddon,” “The Truman Show,” and “Out of Sight” for the MTV Movie Awards.
Also new this month: "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (MGM) with Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, which is so superior to the instantly forgettable remake, and William Wyler's sweeping 1958 western "The Big Country" (MGM) with Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston and Jean Simmons, both of which arrived earlier in November.
Plus mob movies 'The Nickel Ride' and '99 44/100% Dead' and Japanese zombie comedy 'Helldriver'
Henry Fonda calms "12 Angry Men" (Criterion) in the classic 1957 courtroom drama set entirely in the jury room. Sidney Lumet made his feature debut in the big screen adaptation of the original live TV production. The Criterion debut features both versions and plenty of supplements. Videodrone's review is here.
Two D.W. Griffith silent movie landmarks receive newly remastered editions on DVD and Blu-ray debuts. "Birth of a Nation" (Kino) was not the first American feature film, but it was the most influential and the most controversial. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it “history written in lightning” upon its release. One hopes he was responding to the amazing recreations of Civil War battle and not the grotesque distortions of the post-war South and Griffith's portrayal of the KKK as heroes. And yet for all its hateful caricatures of blacks (all played by whites in blackface portrayals, of course, as they make a mockery of politics and plot to despoil the virgin white women), it is a rousing piece of filmmaking. Griffith, who spent years experimenting with storytelling techniques and perfecting the ideas that worked, combines them all here, and while it won't wow modern audiences the way it did in 1915, there is still a poetry to his handling of intimate moments and a tintype grandeur to his spectacle, modeled on the photos of Matthew Brady. Though it was a couple of generations since the war, it has an authenticity of texture.
The new three-disc DVD and Blu-ray editions feature a new edition of the film remastered in HD from archival 35mm elements, with a score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, along with the 1993 restoration by David Shepard and Film Preservation Associates (DVD only on both sets) with Joseph Carl Breil’s original score supplemented and performed by Jon C. Mirsalis. Also features the prologue filmed with D.W. Griffith and Walter Huston for the film’s 1930 re-release (with newly rediscovered intermission sequence), the 24 minute 1992 documentary "The Making of Birth of a Nation," and seven Civil War shorts directed by Griffith: "In The Border States," 'The House With Closed Shutters," "The Fugitive" (all from 1910), "His Trust" and its sequel "His Trust Fulfilled," "Swords and Hearts," and "The Battle" (1911), along with an archive featuring excerpts from the original 1915 film souvenir book and other programs, and documents from the censorship battle over the film’s 1922 re-release.
"Way Down East" (Kino) from 1920 is almost self-consciously old-fashioned, based on a chestnut of a sentimental stage melodrama made larger than life with Griffith's Dickensian approach and his flair for spectacle, in particular a thrilling race across the ice drifts (which he borrowed from the stage version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"). A radiant Lillian Gish plays the innocent betrayed by a mustache twirling cad (future director Lowell Sherman), who leaves her with a child out of wedlock, and protected by the all-American Richard Barthelmess. The new DVD and Blu-ray debut feature a print newly remastered in HD from the Museum of Modern Art's 35mm restoration with color tints and a score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, plus galleries of stills, documents and notes on the film, plus a clip from the Edison Studio's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" with the ice floe sequence.
"Action Double Feature: The Nickel Ride / 99 and 44/100% Dead!" (Shout! Factory) pairs up a couple of seventies mob movies. Jason Miller is a mob caretaker for the warehouses of stolen goods in "The Nickel Ride" (1975) directed by Robert Mulligan, and Richard Harris is a hitman sent to rub out a rival mobster in "99 and 44/100% Dead!," a John Frankenheimer film co-starring Edmond O'Brien and Chuck Conners as a rival enforcer hired to intercept Harris.
From Japan comes "Helldriver" (Well Go USA), a gruesome comedy of zombies and a heroine with a chainsaw from the director of "Tokyo Gore Police" and "Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl." On DVD and Blu-ray, in Japanese with bonus short films.
"The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas '78" (Eagle Vision) is a concert film with a new Mick Jagger interview and classic clips from the Stone on "Saturday Night Live." "New York Dolls: Lookin' Fine on Television" (MVD) is a collection of rare live performance clips and interviews with the seminal New York punk band.
"Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World – Special Edition" (Disney) is a rerelease of the 1997 direct-to-video animated feature starring the original voice cast from the movie. "Marvel Knights Animation Box" (Shout! Factory) collects five previously-released motion comics: "Black Panther," "Astonishing X-Men: Gifted," "Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D.," "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers" and "Iron Man: Extremis."
Criterion's new edition features the original live TV production as well as the feature film
The classic 1957 "12 Angry Men" (Criterion) began life as a landmark of live television. Reginald Rose's original teleplay won an Emmy Award in 1955. Henry Fonda brought the story to the big screen and brought Rose along with it to adapt and expand the script.
Producer Fonda takes the lead as a hold-out juror who tries to stop a rush to judgment in a murder trial and debate the facts at hand before sentencing a young man to death. Lee J. Cobb leads the "guilty" votes and becomes belligerent as others change their votes during the debate. Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, and Robert Webber co-star as fellow jurors. The film marked the feature debut of Sidney Lumet, himself a veteran of live TV, and he effectively modulates the drama without ever taking the camera out of the jury room until the verdict is in and the jury is out.
"The movie plays like a textbook for directors interested in how lens choices affect mood," wrote Roger Ebert in 2002. "By gradually lowering his camera, Lumet illustrates another principle of composition: A higher camera tends to dominate, a lower camera tends to be dominated. As the film begins we look down on the characters, and the angle suggests they can be comprehended and mastered. By the end, they loom over us, and we feel overwhelmed by the force of their passion.