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DVD Reviews for 12/18: Truly A Semi-Glourious Week.
by Peter Sobczynski

As we head towards the tail end of 2009, the DVD pickings are growing slimmer and slimmer (although this week does feature the debuts of two of the year’s more inspired films and the Blu-ray arrivals of a few comedy classics) and as a result, there really isn’t much of anything worth writing at length about. Instead, may I suggest that you take another look at last week’s column, in which I solicited titles for my upcoming annual look at films that have yet to appear on DVD, and send in a few suggestions of your own. C’mon, it is the week before Christmas--you can’t be that busy. . .


G-FORCE (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $39.99): Under normal circumstances, I would use this space to excoriate all the actors involved with this noisy and insultingly stupid Disney family film about a group of secret agent guinea pigs for wasting their talents on a crapfest that didn’t offer the entertainment value on display in even the weakest episode of “Secret Squirrel.“ However, considering that most of the people involved did fine work elsewhere in 2009--Nicolas Cage appeared in two of the year’s freakiest films (“Knowing” and “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”), Penelope Cruz gave amazing performances in “Broken Embraces” and “Nine” and Tracy Morgan continued to steal scenes left and right on “30 Rock”)--I am willing to give them a mulligan this time. Just don’t let it happen again because if I have to watch a bunch of CGI vermin dancing around to the tune of the Black-Eyed Peas again, I am going to be very annoyed.

THE GIRL FROM MONACO (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.99): In the latest work from French director Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel“), a straight-laced lawyer working on a high-profile murder case finds his life pulled in unexpected directions by a dedicated bodyguard who will do anything to keep his client out of harms way and a sexpot weather girl who worms his way into his heart (among other body parts) but who may have a secret or two up her sleeve (if she wore anything with sleeves, that is). It starts off as an intriguing character study but as it goes on, the film becomes more interested in the machinations of the plot and by the time it gets to its oh-so-ironic ending, most viewers will be too bored to care.

THE HANGOVER (Warner Home Video. $34.99): As inexplicable as it sounds, this rancidly unfunny film about a trio of dopes visiting Vegas for a bachelor party who try to piece together what happened to them and the groom during one extremely hazy evening was not only the “sleeper” hit of the summer, it became one the most successful comedies ever made. Well, if you liked it in the theater, you will most likely dig the DVD version that offers an unrated version running eight minutes longer, behind-the-scenes nonsense, outtakes and additional photos chronicling what really happened to the trio on their misadventures.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Universal Home Entertainment. $34.98): I can’t say for sure yet if Quentin Tarantino’s WW II epic truly was the best film of 2009--I haven’t seen “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” as of yet--but I can assure you that it was easily the most sheerly entertaining thing that I saw on a movie screen this year. Filled with brilliant writing (the opening sequence is already a thing of legend), audacious plot twists, dark humor, thrilling action and, in Christoph Waltz’s mesmerizing turn as the milk-sipping head Nazi, the year’s best performance, this film not only lived up to its considerable expectations, it exceeded them. Besides, how can you resist a war film that climaxes with a sequence that boldly rewrites history and includes visual homages to two Brian De Palma films?

THE MEL BROOKS COLLECTION (Fox Home Entertainment. $139.99): If you get done watching “The Hangover” and find yourself in the mood to see something that is actually funny, you should try to grab a copy of the box set of nine films from the legendary comedy filmmaker that are making their Blu-ray debuts. This collection includes three flat-out masterpieces (“Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Silent Movie”), three very funny films that are somewhat underrated (“The Twelve Chairs,” “High Anxiety” and “History of the World, Part I”), two hit-and-miss efforts that still have more than their fair share of funny bits (“To Be or Not to Be” and “Spaceballs”) and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” about which the less said, the better. On the bummer side, the set doesn’t include “The Producers,” which both his funniest film and one of the greatest comedies of all time. On the other hand, it doesn’t include “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” either, so I guess that is a fair tradeoff.

MURDER BY DECREE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $14.98): In one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies to date not to be an adaptation of one of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, the intrepid sleuth (Christopher Plummer) and loyal sidekick Watson (James Mason) attempt to track down and apprehend no less of an adversary than Jack the Ripper himself. One of the more intriguing aspects of this particular film, which also features appearances from the likes of Donald Sutherland, John Gielgud and Genevieve Bujold, is that it was directed by none other than Bob Clark, the admittedly eclectic filmmaker who would go on to make both “Porky’s” and “A Christmas Story,” among others.

NEW YORK YANKEES 2009 WORLD SERIES COLLECTORS EDITION (A&E Home Video. $79.95): Whether you want to relive every moment of the New York Yankees winning their 27th World Championship (the first in their new stadium, a trick that they also pulled off when the old Yankee Stadium was opened in 1923), you missed the games when they were originally played or you just want to see Kate Hudson in something without having to trudge out to see “Nine,” this 8-disc set, containing all six games of the Series (including multiple audio tracks of the various broadcasts), the ALCS Game Six that found them clinching the pennant over the L.A. Angels and a bonus disc filled with interviews and highlights from both the regular and the post-season. If all 20-odd authors seems a little too daunting, this week also sees the release of “2009 New York Yankees: The Official World Series Film (Shout Factory. $19.99 ) which distills the entire thing into 115 minutes.

ROGER CORMAN BEST OF THE B’S COLLECTION 1: HOT BIKES, COOL CARS & BAD BABES (Infinity Releasing. $29.98): The legendary B-movie producer (and recent recipient of an honorary Academy Award for his decades of work as a filmmaker and for helping to shape the careers of such people as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme and James Cameron) get his box-set due with this collection of seven films featuring, well, hot bikes, cool cars and bad babes (not to mention early performances from the likes of Jack Nicholson and Ellen Burstyn). The films included in this set are “The Naked Angels,” “Bury Me An Angel,” “The Fast and the Furious” (no relation), “The Wild Ride,” “The Winner” and “Angels Hard as They Come.” I don’t know about you, but I know what my venerable mom will be getting this Christmas.

SITA SINGS THE BLUES (Indiepix. $19.99): One of the most talked-about films to hit the festival circuit last year was this stunningly original animated epic from Urbana, IL native Nina Paley, a hypnotic work that blended together the stories of an ancient goddess and a contemporary animator whose husbands have left them, a riff on the ancient Indian epic “Ramayana” and the songs of Twenties-era jazz singer Annette Hanshaw in unpredictable and unforgettable ways. Unfortunately, for a while, it seemed as if it might never be shown again when the people who owned the rights to Hanshaw’s recordings (an integral part of the film, needless to say) demanded too much money for the use of them in a commercial theatrical release. Happily--happily--the dispute was settled and you can now experience its glories for yourself in the comfort of your own home.

STAR TREK: SEASON 3 (CBS DVD. $129.99): The final (and weakest) season of the classic sci-fi series heads to the final frontier of Blu-ray in a set that includes all the extras from the previous DVD editions and such new features as an alternate version of the show’s second pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and a number of interviews with various supporting players and die-hard fans conducted by writer David Gerrold at Comic-Con and conventions held in Las Vegas and Germany. Other TV-related DVDs appearing this week include “Criss Angel--Collector’s Edition” (A&E Home Video. $99.95), “The Five Lives of Criss Angel--Mindfreak” (A&E Home Video. $24.95), “Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three” (A&E Home Video. $39.95), “The Paper Chase: Season Two” (Shout! Factory. $49.99), “Robot Chicken: Season Four” (Warner Home Video. $29.98), “The Sherlock Holmes Collection” (A&E Home Video. $19.99) and “The Tudors: Season Three” (Showtime/Paramount. $42.99).

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originally posted: 12/18/09 22:39:23
last updated: 12/19/09 00:52:21
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