DVD Reviews For 11/13: The DVD Column That Tells You What Your Parents Can’t!
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 11/13/09 01:28:23
Outside of the appearance of one of the very best films of 2009 and the Blu-ray debuts of such classics as “Heat” and “Logan’s Run,” this is a pretty weak week for new DVD releases. Therefore I would like to suggest that we forgo the long review, pick through the few interesting titles on display and meet back here next week when things will hopefully be back to normal. Sound good to you? Groovy.
NEW AND NOTABLETHE ACCIDENTAL HUSBAND (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.96): Did you ever find yourself wondering about whatever happened to that comedy with Uma Thurman in which she plays a talk show host result of a prank pulled by a man (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) whose own relationship went south as the result of her advice? Well, it seems as if it was just too good to actually play in theaters and that, along with the bankruptcy of its original distributor, is why it is debuting this week on DVD.
BALLAST (Kino Video. $29.95): In this award-winning debut film from Lance Hammer, the unexplained suicide of a man is the unexpected catalyst that brings together his suicidal twin brother, his embittered ex-wife and their 12-year-old son, a would-be thug who has gotten himself into trouble with some local crack dealers. Although not without its merits--the performances are strong and it looks beautiful despite its obviously low budget--but for too much of its running time, it feels too much like a rehash of the films of David Gordon Green and the finale in strangely dull and uninvolving.
THE BREAK-UP ARTIST (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $26.97): According to the IMDB description for this direct-to-DVD comedy, “A woman who gets paid to break people up is forced to become a matchmaker when some new competition muscles her out of the break-up business. Now, in order to save her company (and keep her high-priced wardrobe) she'll have to rely on her old nemesis: love.” At this point, I would like to issue one of my periodic reminders that I do not actually make up the plots of the films I cover here--I merely report them.
FEMALE ANIMAL/TEENAGE MOTHER (Secret Key. $19.98): Although I haven’t seen “Female Animal,” I have seen the 1967 sexploitation epic “Teenage Mother,” a powerful and thoughtful drama about a sultry Swedish health teacher who comes to a typical American high school to teach sex-ed and winds up getting raped by a group of drug-dealing students and blamed for the pregnancy of another of her charges. Therefore, I can assure you that while it is pretty much standard-issue sleaze for the most part, it does contain two elements that might make it of interest to some viewers. For one thing, it climaxes with a long, graphic and full-color depiction of an actual baby being born that must have inspired interesting reactions amongst the grindhouse audiences who came upon it. Secondly, and perhaps more intriguing for most contemporary viewers, that really is the then-unknown Fred Willard in the role of “Coach.”
KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS--SEASON TWO (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): Look, I have never before in my life watched an episode of this reality show featuring the misadventures of the celebutante sisterhood--in the wake of “Can’t Stop the Music,” I have tried as a rule to avoid any form of entertainment featuring even the tangential presence of Bruce Jenner--and I therefore cannot add any sort of critical commentary towards this DVD set comprised of its second season. That said, I must confess to actually finding Kim Kardashian and her sisters to be kind of attractive. Deep down, I know that there is probably something deeply wrong with this and I am certain to be mocked over this admission but it is something that I just had to get off my chest. Thanks for listening. Other TV-related DVDs this week include “Dawson’s Creek--The Complete Series” (Sony Home Entertainment. $119.95), “Heartland: Season One, Volume 2” (E1 Entertainment. $24.99), “J.A.G.: Season Nine” (CBS DVD. $55.98), “Nash Bridges: The Third Season” (CBS DVD. $49.99), “Show Me Yours--The Complete Series (E1 Entertainment. $24.98) and “The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 2” (CBS DVD. $39.98).
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL WORLD SERIES COLLECTION (A&E Home Entertainment. $229.95): If you have a baseball fan who you really want to impress on your holiday shopping list this year, look no further than this behemoth--a 20-disc set (totaling nearly 50 hours) consisting of films commemorating every World Series held since 1943 bound inside a hardcover book featuring additional photos and trivia. Yes, it is a bit on the expensive side but for all the fascinating footage it contains (though sadly little of it involving the Chicago Cubs for some reason) it a bargain at twice the price. Just be careful when passing it along on Christmas morning because it is heavy enough to break a toe if dropped--on the bright side, most sports buffs would be so delighted to receive it that they probably wouldn’t even notice a mashed digit or two.
THE MERRY GENTLEMEN (Vivendi Entertainment. $19.95): Michael Keaton’s directorial debut tells the story of an abused woman (Kelly MacDonald) who flees her violent boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) to begin a new life in Chicago and finds herself in the middle of a romantic triangle that also involves a depressed hitman (Keaton) whose recent post-job suicide attempt she inadvertently prevented and the depressed detective (Tom Bastounes) who is trying to get to the bottom of his rival’s recent string of hits. At best, this is the kind of film that is often referred to as an ambitious failure--however, this is the kind of ambitious failure where the failure portion outdoes the ambition by a wide margin. To be fair, its failings aren’t necessarily Keaton’s fault and he does get some reasonably affecting performances from himself and MacDonald. The trouble is that the screenplay by Ron Lazzeretti doesn’t know whether it wants to be a dark crime drama, a black comedy or an offbeat romance and so tries to be all of them at the same time. The result is a mess of clashing tones that never rings true for a second and which never makes much sense in the long run.
MOVEON THE MOVIE (Disinformation. $19.98): If you have a deeply conservative acquaintance that you really want to annoy over the holidays, you might want to consider sending them a copy of this documentary about the liberal-minded action group that has grown into a sizable force on the political landscape over the last ten years thanks to the explosion of the Internet and an unwillingness to cave in on key issues at a moment’s notice. Even better, the film’s country of origin is France!
ONE CHRISTMAS (RHI Entertainment. $12.95): In this 1994 made-for-TV adaptation of the story by Truman Capote, a young Depression-era lad (T.J. Lowther) is sent off to New Orleans to spend Christmas with his long-lost father (Henry Winkler), a con man who is currently wooing a spinster (Swoosie Kurtz) and who is in serious need of holiday-fueled redemption. Although somewhat forgotten today, this agreeably sentimental film will have a lasting place in screen history because it contains the last performance from the one and only Katherine Hepburn.
SPREAD (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $29.98): In what I assume he meant to be his “Shampoo” (though in terms of critical and box-office success, it came closer to “Town and Country”), Ashton Kutcher stars as a financially strapped gigolo who hooks up with a rich older woman (Anne Heche) while falling in love with another closer to his age (Margarita Levieva), only to discover that they have more in common than he could possibly imagine. Kutcher isn’t that bad here but all of the characters are so thoroughly unlikable that few people will be able to endure the spectacle of watching them in order to find out what happens to them in the end.
SUMMER’S MOON (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $26.98): Based on the assumption that fans of “Twilight” will buy anything that is even remotely connected to it in the weeks leading up to the release of “New Moon,” Lionsgate is offering this direct-to-DVD item in which “Twilight” supporting player Ashley Greene plays a young woman whose search for her estranged father is complicated when she crosses paths with a guy who turns out to be, naturally, a psychopath. If you are checking this one out because the fact that Greene’s character is named Summer makes the title sound all the more interesting, it should be noted that this was originally called “Summer’s Blood” and has presumably been retitled in an effort to lure in the “Twilight” fanatics.
THE THREE STOOGES--VOLUME 7: 1952-1954 (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.96): With every one of these two-disc collections gathering remastered editions of all the short subjects from the legendary and long-running comedy trio in chronological order, we come closer and closer to my dream--a set consisting entirely of the shorts featuring Joe Besser, a notion that, despite Besser’s reputation as the weakest Stooge and his films being the worst of the entire bunch, strikes me as an oddly fascinating display of anti-comedy at its best/worst. Okay, so this week has seen me cop to fascinations with Kim Kardashian and Joe Besser--I think I may need a vacation.
THE UGLY TRUTH (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.96): Although there are plenty of elements to criticize in this deeply unfunny and borderline hateful stab at romantic comedy in which stuck-up TV producer Katherine Heigl and obnoxious commentator Gerard Butler act like idiots who hate each other for two hours before acting like idiots who love each other, the least successful has to be the total lack of chemistry between the two leads. In the words of one wise critic‘s review, “You know how some on-screen couples are described as being sizzling or steaming up the scream or some other vague cooking reference? In this case, the on-screen pairing of Heigl and Butler is like tossing a bunch of utility-grade meat into a crock pot, waiting around all day for things to start cooking and only belatedly discovering that you forgot to plug the damn thing in.” Okay, that wise critic was me and while I apologize for the recycling, no power on Heaven or Earth could induce me to either watch this monstrosity again or give it any more consideration than I already have.
UP (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $45.99): Although 2009 has been a pretty impressive year for animated films, thanks to the release of such wonders as “Coraline,” “Sita Sings the Blues,” “Ponyo,” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the best of the bunch remains this glorious effort from the folks at Pixar about the misadventures of a grumpy old man (Ed Asner) who sails his house to South America via an enormous collection of helium balloons--if you have seen it already (which is entirely possibly as it was one of the year’s biggest hits), you know what comes next and if you haven’t, I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the surprises in store. Originally presented in 3-D in theaters, it is only available in its 2-D iteration and to be perfectly frank, it is actually better this way since the brightness of the film’s color scheme isn’t dulled by the polarized lenses of the required glasses. If you manage to get through the hours of bonus features on display here and are still hungry for more Blu-ray Pixar goodness, this week also sees the format debut of the 2001 charmer “Monster’s Inc.” (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $40.99) in its own expansive special edition and a reissue of their 2006 disappointment “Cars” (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $49.99)--a disappointment, it should be noted, only in comparison to their other films since it still beats the best efforts of most of their competitors--in a new gift pack featuring versions of Lightning McQueen and Mater in collectible die-cast metal forms.
THE GENERAL (Kino Video. $34.95)
GODZILLA (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.98)
HEAT (Warner Home Video. $28.99)
LOGAN’S RUN (Warner Home Video. $28.99)
NEAR DARK (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.95)
THE NEGOTIATOR (Warner Home Video. $28.99)
RED HEAT (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
ROLLING STONES LIVE: AT THE MAX (Hip-O Records. $24.98)
WATCHMEN--THE ULTIMATE CUT (Warner Home Video. $59.99)