DVD Reviews For 11/28: Now With Extra Gravitas
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 11/29/08 08:24:51
Due to an unfortunate Thanksgiving Day experiment gone horribly wrong (I was trying to counteract the effects of the tryptophan found the turkey by basting the bird with Mountain Dew), this column is running a bit late this week and will not feature a long review. However, everything should be back to normal next week and there will even be a special announcement to boot.
NEW AND NOTABLE
24: REDEMPTION (Fox Home Entertainment. $26.98): In this special two-hour TV movie, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) goes off to Africa to work as a missionary and avoid extradition to the U.S. to face any number of criminal charges and struggles to both save a group of young children from being dragooned into the militia run by the local warlord and, more importantly, fire up interest in the upcoming seventh season (the first 17 minutes of which are included among the bonus features) among those who are still bitter over that awful Season Six. Other TV shows hitting DVD this week include "90210--The Sixth Season” (CBS DVD. $59.98), “Freaks & Geeks: Yearbook Edition” (Shout! Factory. $169.98), “Gomer Pyle: The Final Season” (CBS DVD. $39.98) and “The Mod Squad: Season Two, Volume One” (CBS DVD. $39.98).
THE ATOMIC CAFÉ: COLLECTOR’S EDITION (Docurama. $39.95): This alternately hilarious and horrifying 1982 documentary used a wide variety of archival material (ranging from military training films and presidential speeches to silly pop songs) to explore how Americans reacted (and were told how to react) to the threats and promises brought on by the development of the atomic bomb. This 2-disc set also features eight complete propaganda films devised by our government to illustrate how easy it would allegedly be to survive an atomic attack, including the 1951 classic “Duck and Cover.”
BOTTLE ROCKET (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): After years of rumors, Criterion finally gets around to offering up a special edition to the 1996 debut feature from Wes Anderson (with whom they collaborated on special editions of “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tennenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”) about a trio of best friends who go on the lam after a ridiculously complex and only barely successful heist of a small bookstore. Long a bare-bones item, this new version features a commentary track with Anderson and co-writer/star Owen Wilson, a new making-of documentary, deleted scenes and the original 13-minute short film that inspired producer James L. Brooks to finance a feature-length version. This week, Criterion also offers viewers new special editions of two other previously bare-bones releases--Wong Kar-wai’s wonderful 1994 romantic drama “Chungking Express” and Martin Ritt’s gripping 1965 spy drama “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” ($39.95 each).
A COLBERT CHRISTMAS: THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL (Paramount Home Video. $19.99): Although you wouldn’t think that America’s favorite conservative talk show host would have much to celebrate at this point, he somehow managed to pull himself together for this future perennial in which he staves off an attack by a grizzly bear, sings a tune or two and greets such guests as Toby Keith, Elvis Costello, Jon Stewart, John Legend, Willie Nelson and an extra-feisty Feist. In other words, it has everything that a proper Christmas special should contain and much, much more, including a video Yule log fueled with burning books and a video advent calendar.
DAVID LYNCH--THE LIME GREEN SET (Absurda. $179.95): This week’s box-set behemoth is a partial overview at the career of America’s most iconoclastic director that has been put together by the man himself. The set includes remastered versions of “Eraserhead” (including a CD of the soundtrack), “The Elephant Man” (with a second disc of new extras) “Blue Velvet” (with a new soundtrack) and “Wild at Heart” ( with a “mystery disc” containing 32 deleted scenes) along with a disc of his early short films, another containing the “Dumbland” vignettes found on his website and the DVD debut of “Industrial Symphony #1,” a video of a multi-media piece he staged in 1990 featuring the music of Julee Cruise and appearances by Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. In other words, if you have a Lynch obsessive on your shopping list, this should satisfy and confuse them in equal measure.
ELTON JOHN: TANTRUMS AND TIARAS (Echo Bridge. $24.99): Shot by his partner, David Furnish, over the course of 1995, a year in which he received and Oscar, recorded a new album and launched a worldwide tour, this documentary follows Elton John around the world and captures any number of bizarre and bitchy moments as he goes about his daily routine. Though I can’t say that I am much of a fan of John or his music, even I found this warts-and-then-some portrayal to be compulsive watchable.
FRED CLAUS (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Although it is no longer the worst Christmas-themed film featuring Vince Vaughn (that dishonor goes to the current “Four Christmases”), there is still no reason to sit through this painfully labored would-be perennial, in which Vaughn plays the ne’er-do-well brother of Santa (Paul Giamatti) who has to save the holiday from an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) who wants to shut down Santa’s North Pole operation, outside of the admittedly fetching sights of Elizabeth Banks in an elf outfit and Rachel Weisz dressed as a Chicago cop.
HANCOCK (Sony Home Entertainment. $34.95): One of the biggest misfires of 2008, this noisy and stupid extravaganza squandered a brilliant premise (what would happen if there really was a superhero among us, only he was a self-loathing drunk whose appearances cause more destruction than they prevent) and a game cast (including Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman) on a story that never quite finds its footing and then completely goes off the rails with a couple of utterly inane plot twists in the last third.
MEET DAVE (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): Although the premise of this film--Eddie Murphy plays a spaceship whose crew (including Murphy, Gabrielle Union and Ed Helms) unsteadily navigates it through the streets of New York in search of a meteorite than could destroy the Earth--makes it sound like the stupidest thing imaginable, it actually isn’t nearly as bad as some of the reviews and its complete non-performance at the box-office might indicate. In fact, it is probably the most likable thing that Murphy has done in a long time--there are a few bits of priceless physical comedy here and there and a nifty bit in which he fights back the tears inspired by “It’s a Wonderful Life” by trying to coolly analyze it (“Lasso the moon--physically impossible!”) Again, this isn’t the greatest comedy ever made by a long shot but those looking for a film for the entire family could do much worse than this one. . .
PSYCHIC KILLER (Dark Sky. $14.98): . . .such as this 1975 low-budget shocker in which mental patient Jim Hutton becomes a student of astral projection so that he can wreak bloody psychic-based revenge on those whom he blames for his incarceration and for the recent death-by-neglect of his beloved mother.
RIVER QUEEN (The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. $24.95): In his first feature film since 1998’s “What Dreams May Come,” visionary filmmaker Vincent Ward (whose “The Navigator” and “Map of the Human Heart” are absolute must-sees) tells the story of a Irish woman (Samantha Morton) in New Zealand whose half-caste son is kidnapped by his Maori grandfather following the death of her lover and whose quest to find the boy puts her in the middle of a love triangle involving a Maori freedom fighter (Cliff Curtis) and an Irish soldier (Keifer Sutherland). Alas, it became one more film dumped to DVD by the Weinstein Company and to add insult to injury, it has been given box art designed to make it look like an episode of “24.”
SLAP SHOT 3: THE JUNIOR LEAGUE (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98): More than 30 years after the hilariously rude 1976 cult classic hockey comedy starring Paul Newman, the Hanson Brothers (whose antics supplied some of the original’s biggest laughs) strap on their skates again for a made-for-DVD sequel that features a cast filled with nobodies save for a special appearance from Leslie Nielsen as “the Mayor of Charlestown.” You will forgive me if I give this one a past, won’t you?
SPACE CHIMPS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): A trio of monkeys (voiced by Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines and Patrick Warburton) are sent into space as part of a NASA mission and find themselves charged with saving an entire planet from the fearsome Zartog (Jeff Daniels) in an animated film that you probably have never even heard of since it happened to come out on the very same day as a little thing called “The Dark Knight.” While it doesn’t come close to approaching the artistic heights of something like “WALL*E,” it has plenty of colorful hijinks for the kids and contains enough off-beat humor to keep the adults reasonably entertained as well.