DVD Reviews For 11/5: “Don't give me that intelligent life crap,give me something I can blow up!"
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 11/05/10 05:12:16
We must be getting near the holiday gift-giving season as a whole slew of classic films are hitting the fabulous Blu-ray format for the first time, along with the long-awaited DVD releases of a long-forgotten Rolling Stones concert film and a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Roger Vadim, Gene Roddenberry and Rock Hudson
NEW AND NOTABLETHE ALIEN ANTHOLOGY (Fox Home Entertainment. $139.99): The classic sci-fi/horror franchise makes its Blu-ray debut in a set that includes 2 different versions of each one of the films--the unquestioned classics “Alien,” and “Aliens“ and the thoroughly underrated “Alien 3” and “Alien Resurrection”--all of the voluminous bonus features from the previously released “Alien Quadrilogy” set and a bunch of new extras as well, the most interesting of the bunch being the unexpurgated version of the “Alien 3” making-of documentary that was shorn of nearly a half hour of footage by Fox because they felt that some of the comments were too harsh on them. Best of all, those stupid “Alien Vs. Predator” things are nowhere to be seen here.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Universal Home Entertainment. $79.98): The classic time-travel comedy from Robert Zemeckis, made back when he used to be one of the most creative and entertaining filmmakers around, makes its hi-def debut in a six-disc set that includes all three films in the trilogy, all the bonus features from previous editions (including commentaries deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes documentaries and a tour through the theme park ride it inspired) and new extras, the most significant of which being a new making-of documentary that includes a few brief glimpses of the footage shot with Eric Stoltz in the role of Marty McFly before he was replaced by Michael J. Fox. As for the films themselves, “Back to the Future” is a pretty delightful work that is marred only by a terrible ending that seems to unironically suggest that money really can buy happiness, “Back to the Future Part II” is a hilarious and underrated goof on the whole sequel mentality that may well be Zemeckis’ last truly great movie and “Back to the Future Part III” is a cheerfully amiable Western comedy that passes the time nicely enough but which otherwise isn’t that memorable.
BAND ON THE RUN (Hear Music.$29.98): The classic 1973 album from Paul McCartney & Wings gets the deluxe reissue treatment in this 3-disc set that includes a remastered version of the original album, a second disc containing nine bonus tracks and a DVD featuring the original music video for “Band on the Run” and “Mamunia” and the 1974 television special “One Hand Clapping.” This marks the first installment of a series of reissues supervised by McCartney himself--can’t wait to see what they do with the soundtrack to “Give My Regards to Broad Street.”
CANNIBAL GIRLS (Shout! Factory. $22.97): Years before becoming one of the key architects of contemporary screen comedy by producing “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and directing “Ghostbusters,” Ivan Reitman made his directorial debut with this 1973 horror spoof about an innocent couple (an impossibly young and pre-“SCTV” Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin) who stop off at a homey-looking bed-and-breakfast inn run by a trio of seemingly innocent girls with a terrifying secret that is cunningly hidden in the film’s title. It is dumb, of course, but it maintains a certain charm and if things get too intense, you can always watch it with the supplementary audio track that features a horn that blares every time something gruesome is about to happen.
CHER: THE FILM COLLECTION (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98): If you are counting down the days until the release of the upcoming “Burlesque” (and really, who among us isn’t at this point?) and need a Cher fix to keep you going until Thanksgiving, this set offers up a collection of six previously released titles featuring the iconic performer ranging from early works like “Good Times” and “Chastity” to the comeback vehicles “Silkwood” and “Moonstruck” to the later efforts “Mermaids” and “Tea with Mussolini.”
DARK STAR (VCI. $19.99): John Carpenter made his directorial debut with this 1974 expansion of a student film that he did at USC in collaboration with the then-unknown Dan O’Bannon, a sci-fi spoof about a spaceship sent out to destroy unstable planets that is plunged into jeopardy when one of the bombs (which are sentient) lodged itself in its bay and threatens to blow itself up. Though undeniably crude, this satire still holds up pretty well today and it is interesting to watch it today to see how many elements O’Bannon apparently cribbed from it for another one of his screenplays, a little thing called “Alien.”
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (Music Box Films. $29.95): In this second part of Steig Larsson’s best-selling “Millennium Trilogy,” Goth hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is falsely accused of murdering her abusive guardian and a pair of journalists working on a big story about sex trafficking and while on the run to prove her innocence with the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), she makes some shocking discoveries about her own past. Not quite as effective as “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”--the storyline gets a little too absurd at times and it mysteriously keeps the two leads, whose shared chemistry was a key assent of the earlier film, separated for nearly the entire running time--but it is still worth watching for another absolutely mesmerizing performance from Rapace.
THE GOONIES: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Warner Home Video. $39.98): I have to confess that even though I was clearly part of the target audience for this Steven Spielberg-produced adventure about a bunch of kids searching for pirate treasure when it came out in the summer of 1985, I thought it was a loud, joyless and deeply irritating mess and watching it again after more than a quarter-century, I am pleased to see that my original analysis has held up after all this time. On the other hand, there are plenty of other people who feel differently towards it than I do and they will probably be interested in picking up this special gift set that includes the film, a board game, a reprint of a tie-in magazine published during its original release, a reprint of a 20th anniversary reunion interview with the cast from Empire magazine and a collection of storyboards.
LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $14.98): The late Hal Ashby directed this 1983 concert film following the Rolling Stones through a couple of dates on their 1981 “Tattoo You” tour. Of all the numerous concert films featuring the Stones that have been released over the years, it is by the least interesting of the bunch but taken simply as a video jukebox stuffed with classics like “Satisfaction” and the title tune, then-new hits like “Start Me Up” and covers such as “Let Me Go” and “Twenty Flight Rock,” it gets the job done. The perfect background noise for when you sit down to peruse “Life,” Keith Richards’ recently published must-read autobiography.
NIP/TUCK: THE COMPLETE SERIES GIFT SET (Warner Home Video. $198.98): Every nip, snip, lip, tip, lurid plot twist and oddball guest star to be featured on this long-running cult sensation about the bizarre personal and professional lives of a pair of highly successful plastic surgeon (Julian McMahon and Dylan Walsh) is contained within the confines of this 35-disc behemoth. As someone who has only just now begun to watch it, all I can say is that this thing is weird with a capital “WEIRD.” Other TV-related DVDs now available include “CSI: NY--The Sixth Season” (CBS DVD. $62.99), “Dirty, Sexy Money--The Second and Final Season” (ABC Studios. $23.99), “Earth & Space” (A&E Home Entertainment. $79.95), “Law & Order: U.K. Season One” (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98), “Star Wars: The Clone Wars--The Complete Season Two” (Warner Home Video. $44.98), “War of the Worlds: The Final Season” (CBS DVD. $39.98) and “You Don’t Know Jack” (HBO Home Video. $26.98).
PATHS OF GLORY (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Stanley Kubrick’s first unquestionable masterpiece was this absolutely brilliant and shattering World War I drama in which Kirk Douglas plays a French colonel charged with defending three soldiers randomly selected by their superiors to stand trial for their lives for cowardice after the utter failure of a suicide mission that they had the misfortune of surviving. Kubrick would subsequently revisit the subject of warfare and the people who wage it time and again throughout his career but never with the direct power that he brought to the subject in this film. After years of being represented by a bare-bones DVD, this classic finally gets the full-out special edition it deserves in this set that includes vintage interviews with Kubrick and Douglas, an audio commentary from critic Gary Giddins and a segment from French television about the real-life incident that inspired the film. One of the best films ever made and one of the best DVDs of the year.
PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW (Warner Archives. $19.95): The men behind two of the most notable science-fiction projects of the late 1960s--“Barbarella” director Roger Vadim and “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry--teamed up for a film and while it didn’t take place in outer space, it certainly featured a wide variety of heavenly bodies. In this jet-black comedy, Rock Hudson plays a popular guidance counselor at a California high school who sleeps with a number of his lovelier students and then finds himself compelled to kill them in order to keep them quiet. That is only the beginning of the weirdness--this unapologetic and ahead-of-its-time fusion of the teen sex comedy and the teen slasher film also features Angie Dickinson as a sexpot substitute who winds up seducing one of her star pupils, Telly Savalas as the cop in charge of the investigation, Roddy McDowell as the increasingly uptight principal, James Doohan in a supporting role, a jaw-dropping climax (could a film like this have had anything but) and a song score performed by, of all people, The Osmonds. Long unavailable on home video for one reason or another, this is now being made available as part of the Warner Archive program and can be ordered directly from them at Warnerarchive.com
PSYCHOMANIA (Severin. $19.98): In this decidedly bizarre blend of the biker and horror genres from 1974, the leader of a British motorcycle gang known as “The Living Dead” is killed in a chase, comes back to life and encourages his fellow gang members to do the same. This was the last film of legendary character actor George Sanders who, in a ghoulish echo of the action seen in the film, committed suicide during its production, though he did not actually come back to life at any point.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER (Cinema Libre. $24.95): In his second-most-disappoint theatrical release of 2010, this documentary finds Oliver Stone going down to Central America to interview several of the new political leaders in the region but winds up throwing them puffball questions and blatantly sucking up to them instead of asking anything that might be considered to be controversial or probing. Not quite as bad as “Commandante,” the barely-seen documentary that saw Stone brown-nosing Fidel Castro from two hours,, but pretty close.
TOY STORY 3 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.99): Of course, if you have any kids of your own, this particular title is probably already in near-constant rotation in your home entertainment center. However, even if you are childless and alone, you should still get a copy of this as soon as possible because this continuation of the Pixar franchise is one of their finest efforts to date--hilarious, harrowing and heartbreaking in equal measure and with a final sequence that will reduce even the biggest cynics to tears.
WHO IS HARRY NILSSON (AND WHY IS EVERYBODY TALKING ABOUT HIM)? (Kino Video. $29.95): Best remembered today for the novelty hut “Coconut” and his legendary booze-induced bad behavior, this fascinating documentary looks at the life and work of the late singer through vintage film clips and new interviews with friends and colleagues like Terry Gilliam, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks and Yoko Ono.
WINTER’S BONE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $27.98): Arguably the year’s most overrated and overwrought movie to date, this turgid indie drama follows a young girl in the Ozarks (Jennifer Lawrence) searching for her missing father when she learns that he has put up their house as part of his bail bond before disappearing. Lawrence is good, no doubt about it, but the rest of the film is an insufferable slab of faux-rural “realism” that seems more interested in letting the actors yell, curse and threaten each other than in allowing them to create convincing characters.
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (Sony Home Entertainment. $34.95)
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (Fox Home Entertainment. $34.00)
ELF:ULTIMATE EDITION (New Line Home Entertainment. $49.99)
HIGHLANDER (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
HIGHLANDER 2: THE QUICKENING (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
HOUSE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
MANIAC (Blue Underground. $34.98)
SANTA CLAUS THE MOVIE: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (Fox Home Entertainment. $34.99)
WHITE CHRISTMAS (Paramount Home Video. $29.99)
THE WIZ (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98)