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DVD Reviews for 4/16: “Oh God, I Look 20 Years Old!”
by Peter Sobczynski

Crime-fighting mice, imperiled astronauts, razor-fingered killers and broken lizards--just a few of the sights to be seen in this week’s column. And remember, I’M YOUR BOYFRIEND NOW!!!!


APOLLO 13: 15th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98): Just in time to mark the 40th anniversary of the events that it chronicles, Ron Howard’s impressive 1995 depiction of the near-disastrous NASA mission--arguably the last great movie that he has made to date--splashes down onto Blu-ray in an edition that includes the bonus features from the previous DVD editions (including documentaries and a commentary featuring Howard, mission commander Jim Lovell and his wife, Marilyn) and exclusive new features explaining the science behind the story and other things going on in the world at the time of the events. Even if you don’t have much of a vested interest in the space program, this remains an uncommonly gripping and exciting film--even more impressive when you consider that the ending is a given--and it is hard to resist any film with the wit to cast Roger Corman as a budget-conscious senator.

DEFENDOR (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.96): For those who simply can’t wait to see “Kick-Ass”--and believe me, you almost certainly have better things to do with your time and money--you might get a kick out of this similarly themed and barely released comedy-drama in which Woody Harrelson plays a not-quite-there guy who prowls the mean streets of the city with a homemade costume and arsenal in an effort to bring down a local crime boss and the corrupt cop protecting him. On the bright side, column crush object Kat Dennings turns up as the teen prostitute who is rescued by the goof and who later teams up with him.

THE ESSENTIAL GAMES OF THE DETROIT TIGERS (A&E Home Entertainment. $29.95): Although the essentialness of this collection may vary depending on your location or personal allegiances, the four complete games do cover some of the more important moments of the modern history of the Tigers--Game 5 of the 1968 World Series in which Mickey Lolich pitched a complete game, the final game of the 1984 World Series where they triumphed over the lousy, cheating, scum-sucking San Diego Padres (all of whom should burn in hell for eternity for their sins), the final game at the old Tiger Stadium in 1999 and the final playoff game that sent them to the 2006 World Series.

THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $19.99): Made just before the Disney animation renaissance that kicked in a couple of years later with the success of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “The Little Mermaid,” this low-key 1986 effort, a spin on the Sherlock Holmes stories with mice and rats as the main characters, tends to get overlooked in discussions of their films. That is too bad because while it is definitely a second-tier effort at best, it does have its charms, chiefly a nice visual style and a nifty vocal turn from the legendary Vincent Price as the evil Ratigan. Most importantly, it is nowhere near as bad as the monstrosity known as “Young Sherlock Holmes.”

NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (New Line Home Entertainment. $24.98): In a move designed to piggy-back on the theatrical release of the upcoming remake, the 1984 Wes Craven horror film that launched a thousand “Fangoria” covers (not to mention the big-screen career of the then-unknown Johnny Depp) makes its Blu-ray debut in an edition that brings together all of the bonus features included in previous versions. While I have never personally been a huge fan of this particular film--mostly because of my utter loathing for its final scene--I will admit that it does still have a few fairly creepy moments (especially the opening stalking sequence and the bit in the bathtub), a performance for the ages from Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger and, most importantly, it is infinitely better than any of the sequels except for Craven’s brilliant 1994 post-modern wrap-up “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.” If you need further proof in regards to my view on the sequels, this week also sees the release (though not on Blu-ray) of “Nightmare on Elm Street Collection” (New Line Home Entertainment. $49.98), an 8-disc set that includes the seven official movies and the amusing 2003 monster mash “Freddy Vs. Jason,” but not the disc of bonus features that accompanied an earlier box set release.

PIRATE RADIO (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): In the mid-1960’s, the British Broadcasting Company, which had a monopoly on broadcasting in England, would play less than 45 minutes of so-called “popular music” a day and in response, numerous pirate radio stations based out of boats floating in international waters that emerged to protest government control of the airwaves took advantage of the situation by blasting rock music to the delight of millions until they were finally legislated out of existence in August of 1967. There is a great movie to be made from this particular subject--something along the lines of such cult favorites as “American Hot Wax” and “24 Hour Party People”--but alas, this is not that movie. Instead, writer-director Richard Curtis has given us a film set on the boat Radio Rock (loosely inspired by the real-life Radio Caroline) consisting of a number of subplots--instead of a coherent and informative story. Curtis knows how to give each of his performers a memorable bit or two (which would explain the presence of a strong cast that includes the likes of Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost, Emma Thompson and Philip Seymour Hoffman) but seems at a loss as to how to tie them together into a satisfying story. Some of it is fun and the soundtrack is crammed to the breaking point with choice cuts but considering how much it talks about the joys of freedom and liberation as represented by the music it celebrates, it is kind of a shame that the film is ultimately as stodgy and dull as it ultimately is.

THE SLAMMIN SALMON (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.98): No, this is not an exceptionally tasteless retitling of “The Lovely Bones.” It is the latest effort from the Broken Lizard comedy team in which they portray the wait staff of a fancy seafood restaurant competing against each other in a contest to bring in the highest receipts in one night--the winner gets $10,000 and the loser gets a pummeling from the owner, a former heavyweight champion played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Although I have been a big fan of their previous efforts, including “Super Troopers,” “Club Dread” and “Beerfest,” I must admit that this is their weakest effort to date--their patented blend of clever writing and gross-out silliness leans a little too heavily towards the latter approach this time around and too many of the extended jokes have payoffs that can be seen a mile away. On the other hand, there are still a lot of laughs to be found and their loyal fans are likely to eat it up. Oh yes, my compliments to the chef who came up with the idea of garnishing this particular cinematic dish with the presence of Cobie Smulders.

VALENTINO (MGM Home Entertainment. $19.98): In response to the success of Warner Brothers offering up lesser-known titles on DVD via their Warner Archives website, MGM has begun to do the same with some of their less familiar holdings as well. Among the titles they are putting on sale this week is Ken Russell’s wild and woolly 1977 biopic (for lack of a better term) on the legendary movie star who became Hollywood’s first real sex symbol before his early and untimely death. Although it pales in comparison to the delirious excesses of “The Music Lovers” or the jaw-dropping “Lisztomania,” mostly because Rudolph Nureyev is kind of a drip in the lead, it still contains enough nuttiness (especially in the way it conveys the madness that gripped the nation after his passing) to make it worth a look. Besides, in this increasingly staid era of Hollywood filmmaking, it is kind of amazing to realize that there was a time not that long ago when something as odd as this could make it through the system relatively intact.

YOUSSOU N’DOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE (Oscilloscope. $29.99): Having already established himself as one of the most important and influential musicians in the world over the last few decades, the acclaimed Senegalese singer (perhaps best known in these parts for his collaborations with Bono and Peter Gabriel) recorded the 2005 album “Egypt,” a work that was designed to pay tribute to his Islamic faith and to present it to the world as a peaceful religion. While the work was generally celebrate throughout the world, it caused a stir at home amongst people who felt that his merging of the sacred and the popular was borderline blasphemous. This documentary examines the controversy and the resulting film is both a fascinating look at what can happen when the worlds of faith and art collide and a celebration of the life and work of one of the great artists of our time.

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originally posted: 04/16/10 01:41:58
last updated: 04/16/10 01:57:26
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