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DVD Reviews For 12/17ish: “Salsa Y Ketchup--You Tell Me and I’ll Fetch Up!”
by Peter Sobczynski

There is pretty much something for everyone in this round-up of recent DVD/Blu-Ray releases--cult classics, recent hits, animated blockbusters, movies making their Blu-Ray debuts in order to capitalize on current remakes/sequels and even a director's cut of the immortal "Straight to Hell."


BIG BAD MAMA/BIG BAD MAMA 2 and CRAZY MAMA/THE LADY IN RED (Shout! Factory. $19.98): The latest Shout! Factory releases from the vaults of legendary, and now Oscar-winning--producer Roger Corman focus on crime films dominated by women. “Big Bad Mama” is the drive-in classic in which Depression-era widow Angie Dickinson and her two daughters begin a crime spree that lands them on the Most Wanted list and her in the bed of William Shatner and “Big Bad Mama 2” is the direct-to-video sequel about which we will say no more. “Crazy Mama” is an attempt to replicate the success of “Big Bad Mama” and is best known today as an early directorial credit for Jonathan Demme and “Lady in Red” features the giggity-worthy Pamela Sue Martin as the girlfriend of gangster/film enthusiast John Dillinger in a film written by the soon-to-be-celebrated John Sayles.

CRONOS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Guillermo del Toro made a huge splash with this 1992 directorial debut about an antique dealer who comes upon a golden scarab that grants whomever possesses it immortality and finds himself pursued by ugly American Ron Perelman, who wants it for himself. Beautifully refreshed for home video, this disc features an excellent commentary from del Toro and a never-before-seen short film, “Geometria,” that he made in 1987.

DESPICABLE ME (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): In one of the surprise hits of last summer, diabolical genius Steve Carell tries to pull off his evil plan to steal the moon with the aid of his loyal and bizarre minions but is driven to distraction by the three adorable young girls that he, for reasons too complicated to get into here, has been saddled with. This was actually one of the better animated films of 2010--it was bright (even brighter now that it is no longer being presented in 3-D), funny and willing to go off on its own path rather than slavishly follow the Pixar formula like so many of its competitors.

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (Oscilloscope. $29.99): How to explain this documentary, for lack of a better term, that is ostensibly about the life and work of British street artist Banksy? Frankly, I have no idea how to go about such a task but I can say without hesitation that you have got to see this singularly strange and absolutely compelling film.

FANTASIA/FANTASIA 2000 (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99): Walt Disney’s ultra-trippy 1940 attempt to bring culture to the masses by putting together classical music with animation finally makes its long-awaited Blu-Ray debut and as one of the great animated films of all time, it is a must-own movie for viewers of all ages. Oh yeah, the package also includes the 2000 sequel, a perfectly okay movie that has the great misfortune of standing in the shadow of an authentic masterpiece and can’t help but suffer by comparison--sort of like the relationship of “Big Bad Mama 2” to “Big Bad Mama”

GOING THE DISTANCE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Drew Barrymore decided to stretch her acting horizons by appearing in this romantic comedy in which she plays one half of a couple attempting to make a go of a long-distance relationship. Actually, this one is somewhat better than average, mostly thanks to Barrymore’s charm, but it definitely would have been improved if someone other than the charisma-free Justin Long had been cast as her other half.

INCEPTION (Warner Home Video. $28.98): If you haven’t yet seen Christopher Nolan’s mind-blowing blockbuster featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as the leader of a gang that steals and sells corporate secrets by entering the dreams of business leaders and selling them to the competition, then you owe it to yourself to finally see the most audacious and original film of 2010. If you have already seen it, then you deserve to see it again and again to better absorb the twists and turns of its cheerfully labyrinth plot.

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (MPI Home Video. $27.98): This hilarious, revealing and oddly touching documentary, which somehow didn’t make the cut for this year’s Best Documentary Oscar, follows the pioneering comedienne through the highs and lows of an exceptionally eventful year while giving her a chance to reflect on her entire career. Even if you haven’t given a thought to her since the days when she used to be the guest host of “The Tonight Show,“ you should see this movie because she is just as sharp, funny and outrageous as ever.

KNIGHT & DAY (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): Not even the combined star power of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz could quite make this action comedy about a rogue spy and an ordinary woman being chased all over the world by malevolent forces work. The two try really hard to bring on the charm but after a while, it just becomes more irritating than entertaining.

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Zack Snyder, the “visionary” director of the “Watchmen” debacle, returns with this animated epic about a young owl charged with saving all of owl kind from the depraved clutches of the Pure One by enlisting the aid of the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole. To quote Groucho Marx, “Why this is so simple, a four-year-old child could understand it. Run out and get me a four-year-old child--I can’t make heads or tails out of it.”

MICMACS (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95): Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the genuinely visionary filmmaker responsible for the likes of “City of Lost Children” and “Amelie,” returns with this whimsical tale about an odd young man who teams up with a band of similar oddballs to enact a complex plan to destroy the livelihoods of two rival arms manufacturers. This is a bit of a disappointment as Jeunet seems to be relying on his personal bag of tricks instead of attempting something new but it does have enough moments of visual splendor to make it worth a rental.

THE OTHER GUYS (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.96): In the funniest film that he has made in a while, Will Ferrell teams up with Mark Wahlberg to play a couple of misfit New York City cops who finds themselves embroiled in a case that begins with a construction permit violation and ends with a billion-dollar bit of financial chicanery. The disc includes both the original theatrical version and an extended version that adds several minutes of footage that was wisely excluded in the first place along with plenty of deleted scenes and ad-libs.

SCHOOLGIRL REPORT VOL. 7: WHAT THE HEART MUST THEREBY. . .(Impulse Pictures. $24.95): More soft-core Swedish smut for grind house fanatics to drool over (if we’re lucky), this entry in the long-running series opens with police busting up an exclusive brothel filled with schoolgirls plying their tawdry trades. In court, each one explains what led her to a life of prostitution and each tale leads to a new vignette filled nudity and nuttiness. Yeah, it is trash through and through but if you have a taste for sexploitation epics from this period, it is worth a look--just don’t wear out the “pause” button.

SHREK: THE WHOLE STORY (Dreamworks Home Entertainment. $53.99): The entire saga of the grumpy animated ogre and his friends is collected in this box set containing all four films--“Shrek,” “Shrek 2,” “Shrek the Third” and “Shrek Forever After”--along with a slew of bonus material for viewers of all ages. The funny thing about this is that even though I know I saw, I had kind of forgotten that there was a fourth one until it arrived in the mail.

STRAIGHT TO HELL RETURNS (Microcinema. $24.95): Alex Cox’s ultra-weird 1987 crime film in which a group of desperate-but-incompetent criminals hole up in a small Mexican town filled with hostile coffee addicts that eventually explodes in a spray of blood, bullets and sexual tension returns to home video in a director’s cut that adds about five minutes of never-before-seen footage. By most standards, this film is pretty bad but it is interesting in the way that anticipates “Pulp Fiction.” Besides, I firmly believe that it is impossible to resist any movie, especially a sweaty crime film, with a cast that includes Joe Strummer, the Pogues, Elvis Costello, Jim Jarmusch, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones and a then-unknown Courtney Love. Give it a shot--you may hate it but you’ve never seen anything quite like it.

THE TOWN (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Proving that his acclaimed 2007 directorial debut “Gone Baby Gone” was no fluke, Ben Affleck worked both sides of the camera in this surprisingly effective crime drama in which he plays a member of a gang of thieves who finds himself conflicted when he begins a relationship with a bank teller (Rebecca Hall) who may have been a witness to one of his gang’s crimes. Filled with good supporting performances (Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm are standouts), a lot of effective local color and some impressive action sequences, this was one of the better crime films of the year and confirms that Affleck has real talent as a filmmaker.

TROUBLE IN MIND (Shout! Factory. $19.97): Arguably the best film to date from the perennially underrated Alan Rudolph, this strange and lyrical neo-noir fantasia stars Kris Kristofferson as an ex-con who turns up in Rain City and finds himself involved in the lives of would-be criminal Keith Carradine, the sweet and innocent Lori Singer, world-weary diner owner Genevieve Bujold and crime boss Divine--yes, Divine in the lone straight role (so to speak) of his career. Long unavailable on DVD due to rights issues, it finally makes its belated DVD debut in package that includes a making-of documentary, an interview between Rudolph and music composer Mark Isham (whose haunting score became an instant classic) and liner notes from Rudolph himself.


THE BLACK PIRATE (Kino International $34.95)

HARD BOILED (Roc-A-Fella. $19.97)

MEET THE FOCKERS (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98)

MEET THE PARENTS (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98)

TRUE GRIT (Paramount Home Video. $24.99)

VAMPIRE CIRCUS (Synapse Films. $29.95)

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originally posted: 12/20/10 11:14:10
last updated: 12/20/10 12:15:50
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