|DVD Reviews For 9/29: Bring Your Own Shawarrma
|by Peter Sobczynski
No time for a cutesy intro--there are plenty of titles both old and new and famous and obscure to get to right now.
NEW AND NOTABLE
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: THE COMPLETE 1ST SEASON (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98): In this highly acclaimed and deeply twisted horror series (released just in time to tie in with its upcoming second season on FX), a family (Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton and Taissa Farmiga) move into a restore Los Angeles mansion to start anew after a rough patch in their lives and discover that it comes fully equipped with a sinister next-door neighbor who isn't quite what she seems (Jessica Lange in a role that won her a Golden Globe and an Emmy), a sinister housekeeper who isn't quite what she seems (Frances Conroy) and a number of spirits ranging from the relatively benign to the downright Satanic. Weird, warped and highly entertaining (at least for those that can handle it), this is one of those rare shows where you start each episode thinking that it can't get any stranger and end it with the realization that it has. Highly recommended but be warned--after watching it, you will never look at rubber bondage suits or Dylan McDermott in the same way again. Other TV-related titles now available include "Army Wives: Season Six, Part 1" (ABC Home Entertainment. $39.99), "Body of Proof: Season Two" (ABC Home Entertainment. $39.99), "CSI: The Complete 12th Season" (Paramount Home Video. $63.98), "CSI Miami: The Complete 10th Season" (Paramount Home Video. $55.99), "CSI New York: The Complete 8th Season" (Paramount Home Video. $55.98), "The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection" (Time-Life Video. $59.95), "Charlie's Angels: The Complete Series" (Sony Home Entertainment. $65.99), "Desperate Housewives: The Complete 8th And Final Season" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Family Guy: Volume 10" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Gossip Girl: The Complete 5th Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Second Season" (Paramount Home Video. $55.98), "Law & Order-Special Victims Unit: The 13th Year" (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.99), "The Mentalist: The Complete Fourth Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Modern Family: The Complete Third Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98), "Portlandia: Season 2" (VSC. $19.95), "Rawhide: The Complete Fifth Season" (Paramount Home Video. $69.98), "Rescue Me: The Complete Series" (Sony Home Entertainment. $95.99), "Suburbgatory: The Complete First Season" (ABC Home Entertainment. $44.98) and "Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98).
THE AVENGERS (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): The year's most successful film to date brought together an army of superheroes--Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johaansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Rener) band together to save Earth from the all-powerful depravations of the Norse god Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Although I am not ordinarily disposed to liking superhero epics, I am willing to admit when one delivers the goods and while this one has a few flaws of note (such as yet another climactic battle featuring yet another metropolis being reduced to rubble with no apparent loss of life), writer-director Joss Whedon pulls this one off so well that all the previous movies featuring the aforementioned characters now feel like little more than lengthy coming attractions previews for this one. As for the bonus features, they include behind-the-scenes documentaries, a commentary from Whedon, a blooper reel, deleted scenes and the new short film "Item 47," which I will let you discover for yourselves.
THE BABYMAKERS (Millennium Films. $28.98): After discovering that he can no longer father children, an ordinary dope (Paul Schneider) teams up with a couple of other idiots (Kevin Heffernan and Jay Chandrasekhar of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe) to break in to a sperm bank in order to steal a sample that he donated a while earlier and give his wife (Olivia Munn) the baby she wants. The end results are as icky and silly as one might expect from such a premise and while it doesn't come close to hitting the hilarious heights of the previous Broken Lizard films (and since the only connection besides the two performers and the direction by Chandrasekhar, it is pretty much to them what "Room Service" was to the Marx Brothers), it does have several scenes that are indeed laugh-out-loud funny interspersed with all the dumb stuff. It may not be worth buying or even renting but if you stumble across it on cable one day, it might prove to be sufficiently entertaining.
BAIT (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $29.95): After a typhoon wreaks havoc on a seashore town, a group of people are trapped inside a flooded supermarket and desperately struggle to find a way to escape before it is too late. Just to make things slightly more complicated, a couple of great white sharks turn up to make them the special of the day. As dumb shark movies go, this is certainly one of them but unlike the cheapjack CGI-fish movies that Roger Corman cranks out for the Syfy Channel, there is a little more to this one than just a catchy title.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.99): Because I don't want to ruin any of the considerable surprises in store for those who have yet to see this horror-comedy from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" veterans Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (the former produced, the latter directed and they co-wrote the screenplay), all I will say about it is that it features five college friends who go off to a remote cabin in the woods for a weekend of fun and frolic that quickly goes wrong in enormously inventive and entertaining ways that will delight horror fanatics and regular moviegoers in equal measure. Some may have worried about the film's quality because it sat on the shelf since 2009 for various reasons (so long ago that co-star Chris Hemsworth had yet to film his star-making role in "Thor") but all that delay means is that what might have been one of 2009's most delightful films is now one of 2012's instead.
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): After a layoff lasting nearly 14 years, writer-director Whit Stillman (creator of the cult favorites "Metropolitan," "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco") made his long-awaited return with endearingly strange comedy about a young woman (Greta Gerwig) who tries to improve the lives of her fellow classmates at a Eastern college, whether they want her help or not, with a regimen rooted in personal hygiene and dancing. For those yet uninitiated into the cult of Stillman, this screwball comedy may not be the best introduction to his quirky charms because of its unabashed oddness but fans of his previous work should adore it and even those who usually cannot abide by Greta Gerwig under normal circumstances will find her to be far more palatable here than usual.
DELICACY (E1 Entertainment. $24.98): In this extremely low-key French romantic comedy, Audrey Tautou plays a winsome young lass trying to restart her life and her heart following the tragic death of her soul mate. In news that is sure to surprise you, the end results are silly and sweet and decidedly non-essential and the only real reason to watch it is for the sight of the still-adorable Tautou going through her gamine-like paces.
EATING RAOUL (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Sex, greed, ambition, murder and gourmet cooking are among the ingredients to be found in this hilarious 1982 comedy from writer-director Paul Bartel featuring himself and longtime colleague Mary Woronov as a straitlaced couple struggling to raise the money to open up their own restaurant. When they accidentally kill a sex-crazed pervert who turns up in their apartment and discover that he is carrying a lot of cash, they hit upon the brilliant idea of posing as a kinky couple to lure swingers in order to kill them and steal their money. Of course, disposing of the bodies is a problem at first but it turns out that hunky Hispanic Raoul (Robert Beltran) has a few creative ideas regarding that subject as well, as one might divine from the title. The unusual thing about the film--and arguably a key reason as to why it still holds up so well after all these years--is that Bartel (who also made the cult favorite "Death Race 2000" and too few other films before dying too soon in 2000) has not made a sleazy sicko comedy filled with graphic sex, violence and unpleasantness but instead transformed the unsavory elements into a droll comedy of manners that skirts bad taste without wallowing in it. This Blu-Ray debut for the film serves as a mini-tribute to Bartel's career by featuring a new documentary about its making as well as two of his early short films, 1966's "The Secret Cinema" (which he later remade as an episode of "Amazing Stories" in 1985) and 1969's "The Naughty Nurse."
FDR: AMERICAN BADASS (Screen Media. $24.98): Presumably launched into production during that extremely brief period in which it was thought that "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" might be a hit at the box-office, this dumb-ass spoof posits that Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Barry Bostwick) contracted the polio that crippled him from a werewolf bite and that World War II was actually dedicated to battling a race of Nazi werewolves bent on taking over world. (And you thought the notion of Bill Murray playing FDR was weird. . .) What might have been reasonably amusing as a two-minute spoof trailer is fairly unendurable at a feature length and once it was over, all I wanted to do was get on YouTube and watch the classic Chris Elliott special "FDR: A One-Man Show" for something that is not only far funnier but more plausible to boot.
THE GAME (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): As the follow-up to his ground-breaking smash hit "Seven," David Fincher presented viewers with this 1997 thriller starring Michael Douglas as a fabulously wealthy and emotionally withdrawn business tycoon who, as a birthday present from his younger brother (Sean Penn), is given a chance to play a mysterious game in which the boundaries between fact and fiction quickly blur and the end result could be salvation or destruction. At the time, many considered it to be a bit of a disappointment in the wake of "Seven" (this may be one of the few times in which audiences might have preferred a darker ending) but while it is still one of Fincher's lesser efforts, it definitely plays better now (presuming that you can put some of its absurdities out of your head) and Douglas' performance is one of the best of his career. Back in the dying days of laserdisc, Criterion issued a special edition of the film and since they began producing DVDs, there have been rumors that they would be reissuing it but the only DVD issue was a hard-to-find non-anamorphic clunker without any bonus features to speak of. Thankfully, Criterion has finally gotten their hands on the rights and have released it on DVD and Blu-Ray with all the bonus features, including a commentary featuring Fincher, Douglas, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris and numerous behind-the-scenes personnel, numerous featurettes about its production and an alternate ending.
GET A LIFE: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Shout! Factory. $59.97): Back in 1990, in a decision that still baffles the mind today, the then-fledgling Fox network gave Chris Elliott, then known for his work as a writer and occasional performer on "Late Night with David Letterman," his own series depicting the surreal misadventures of a 30-year-old man-child who not only still lived with his parents but still worked as a paperboy to boot. Offering absurdist spins on classic sitcom conventions mixed with Elliott's somewhat singular comedic persona, the end result was one of the strangest comedies to ever hit network television and despite low ratings, mass audience confusion and the rumored loathing of many Fox higher-ups, the show actually managed to last on the air for two years. Although a few episodes made it onto a pair of long-unavailable DVDs, this collection marks the first time that the entire series has appeared on home video and all I can say is that it is about damn time.
Fans of weirdo humor will also want to check out "Steve Martin: The Television Stuff" (Shout! Factory. $34.93), a three-disc collection consisting of a series of four specials that the legendary comic did for NBC between 1978-1981 as well as a compilation of guest spots he has done on other shows over the years (including the immortal "The Great Flydini" bit that he cooked up for his final appearance on Johnny Carson and two performances of his stand-up routine, all of which are still hilarious reminders of his unquestioned comedic genius.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH: 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Shout! Factory. $29.93): Bored with the idea of going back to the slasher movie well for a third time to make another straightforward entry in the "Halloween" series, John Carpenter instead proposed the notion of a series of unrelated horror films that would be released each autumn under the "Halloween" banner and chose to kick it off with a bizarre tale of a crazed madman who planned to fry the brains of America's children in a plot that involved Halloween mask, television, computer chips and a rock stolen from Stonehenge. Unfortunately, just before its release, producers finally realized that while a film entitled "Season of the Witch" might make X amount of money, a movie with "Halloween III" added to the title stood to make 3X amount of money at the very least and made the change. The flaw in that thinking became horribly apparent on its opening weekend--the title lured in slasher fans who naturally felt ripped off but kept away those who didn't want to see what appeared to be another knifed babysitter extravaganza--and after a big opening weekend, it quickly sank like a stone and became a whipping boy for genre fans of the type not seen since "Exorcist II: The Heretic." The sad thing is that it actually was a pretty good movie after all (once heard, the "Silver Shamrock" theme will haunt your dreams forever) that might have done pretty well had it been issued under its intended title. That said, its reputation has improved significantly over the years among horror fans and it has finally gotten a long-overdue special edition DVD/Blu-Ray featuring commentary tracks. deleted scenes, documentaries and the like. This and "Get a Life" in the same week? Apparently we died and went to DVD heaven somewhere along the way. There is also a similarly loaded special edition of "Halloween II" (Shout! Factory. $29.93) that reveals that film to be what it always was--a perfectly serviceable slasher film that was better than most examples of the genre but which suffered from the inescapable fact that it was no "Halloween."
INDIANA JONES: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES (Paramount Home Video. $99.98): The four blockbuster adventure films from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas hit Blu-Ray (the first three for the first time) along with a fifth disc stuffed with behind-the-scenes bonus features and the like. Of the films, 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is still a blast to watch and remains one of Spielberg's most purely entertaining films to date, 1984's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" starts off brilliantly with that knockout nightclub brawl scored to "Anything Goes" and then immediately goes downhill into a dark, depressing and ugly morass relieved only by the kick-ass mine car chase, 1989's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is a perfectly solid adventure enlivened mightily by the inspired casting of Sean Connery as Harrison Ford's father and 2008's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a pretty good movie that was unfortunately weighed down by two decades of unreasonably high expectations, the irritating presence of Shia LaBeouf and all that alien crap in the third act.
KATY PERRY: PART OF ME (Paramount Home Video. $29.98): As much as I happen to like the current princess of pop--the combination of catchy pop tunes and a persona that fuses together Madonna's sexiness and Cyndi Lauper's earthy silliness is all right in my book--I found myself largely disappointed with this cinematic hagiography that spent so much time rehashing the familiar story of her rise to stardom (in the most whitewashed manner possible) and chronicling the ups and down of her relationship with now-ex-husband Russell Brand while on her massive Teenage Dream tour that it neglected to provide viewers with a single complete musical performance. Nevertheless, Perry's friendly and engaging presence helps this "Truth or Dare" knock-off go down a little easier and the availability of full versions of "Waking Up in Vegas" and "Last Friday Night" as part of the extras helps to make the whole package a little more worthwhile when all is said and done. Also available is "Paul Simon: Live in New York City" (Hear Music. $14.99), a 2-CD/1-DVD concert set that finds him playing classics like "The Sound of Silence," "Kodachrome" and "The Boy in the Bubble" along with some newer and lesser material.
THE NEW YORK METS 50TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR'S SET (A&E Television. $99.95): Now that the baseball season is winding down for most of you (unless you are Cubs fans, of course, in which case that has been happening since mid-June), those of you about to go into withdrawal may want to consider investing in this 10-disc behemoth featuring a documentary on the greatest Mets players, eight different season highlight films spanning their entire existence, chronicles of their 1969 and 1986 World Series years and five full games, including the conclusion of the 1969 World Series and, of course, the immortal Game 6. (Sadly, no Magic Loogie is included in the package.) If that isn't enough, there is also "Fenway Park--Home of the Boston Red Sox: 100th Anniversary Collector's Set" (A&E Television. $129.95), a 12-DVD set with similar features and six classic games, including key victories sparked by the legends Carl Yastrzemski and Carlto Fisk, the 1986 and 2007 pennant clinchers and the 1999 All-Star Game. (Oddly, Game 6 is nowhere to be found here despite its significance to team history.)
THIS IS CINERAMA (Flicker Alley. $39.95): Sixty years ago, with the movie industry facing its biggest threat to date with the arrival of television, a man named Fred Waller developed Cinerama, a filmmaking process that would recreate the entire range of human vision utilizing three cameras to film images, three projectors to show them and an enormous curved screen for them to appear on. Showing off the process for the first time was this globe-trotting travelogue that put viewers everywhere from the La Scala opera house in Milan to a Coney Island roller coaster to the front of a B-25. A big hit in its day, the film has rarely been seen in recent years because of the failure of Cinerama to catch on but for its long-awaited home video debut, it has been presented in Smilebox, a process that attempts to recreate what it would have looked like on the big screen (which was also previously used for the Blu-Ray version of the Cinerama feature "How the West was Won.") and while it obviously is no match for the real thing, it still allows contemporary viewers a chance to at least partially experience what it would have been like to see it back in 1952. As for the film itself, it is little more than a gimmick movie without much of a point but as these things go, it is still kind of entertaining despite its occasional lapses into cheesiness. Also included are a commentary track from a Cinerama historian and members of the original crew, a look at the film's restoration and remastering and a look at a Ohion projectionist who jerry-rigged his own Cinerama screen in order to show the film properly in the late 1990's. For additional Cinerama-related fun, Flicker Alley has also releaseed "Windjammer" (Flicker Alley. $39.95), a 1958 follow-up travelogue following the journey from Norway to New York of a crew of trainee sailor aboard a massive square-rigger.
THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT (Warner Home Video. $19.95)
BLACK SUNDAY (Kino Video. $24.95)
BOND 50: THE DEFINITIVE JAMES BOND COLLECTION (MGM Home Entertainment. $299.99)
CHILDREN OF PARADISE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
DAVE (Warner Home Video. $19.95)
THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (Warner Home Video. $19.98)
A DOUBLE LIFE (Olive Films. $29.98)
ED WOOD (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $20.00)
HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (Kino Video. $24.95)
JUDGE DREDD (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $20.00)
LISA AND THE DEVIL (Kino Video. $24.95)
MACBETH (Olive Films. $29.95)
QUEEN OF THE DAMNED (Warner Home Video. $19.98)
THE SAMARITAN (MPI Home Entertainment. $24.98):
THE TALL MAN (Image Entertainment. $29.95)
LES VISITEURS DU SOIR (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
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originally posted: 09/30/12 06:48:34
last updated: 10/06/12 00:00:11