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DVD Reviews For 3/4ish: “You’re Dead, Son. Get Yourself Buried.”
by Peter Sobczynski

If you know me, you know that I don’t claim to know anything about the current neo-burlesque scene and those who populate it. Therefore, I have a question and perhaps someone out there with a little more first-hand knowledge of the subject can help me out with some answers. Suppose you have a roomful of patrons who have shelled out their three crowns and a farthing to witness the performance and the first performer turns out to be someone along the lines of Cher. Wouldn’t such a display cause some degree of consternation amongst the audience members who would prefer to see someone closer in age to the Suicide Girls than someone closer in age to being an Assisted Suicide Girl? (That said, I am certain that if it actually was Cher, she would be greeted warmly by one and all.) Feel free to contemplate this while perusing this week’s column which, amazingly enough, includes the soon-to-be-immortal and all-kinds-of-awesome “Burlesque.”


48 HRS (Paramount Home Video. $24.99): A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be watching “Beverly Hills Cop III” and it was so bad that I began thinking to myself that perhaps the Eighties were just one big mass hallucination and that Eddie Murphy was never that funny in the first place. Not ten minutes later after this particular musing, the Fed Ex guy arrived with the Blu-ray of his 1982 big-screen debut--Walter Hill’s violent and profane action-comedy featuring Murphy as a criminal temporarily sprung from jail by tough cop Nick Nolte to help catch a psychopath of Murphy’s acquaintance--and I was once again reminded that that yes, he really was a genius at one point. Unlike a lot of hits from that decade, the film still holds up spectacularly well and while its then-unique blend of comedy and violence has been imitated countless times in the ensuing years, it has rarely been presented as effectively as it was here.

127 HOURS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98 ): Okay, so maybe James Franco had no real business on stage hosting this year’s Academy Awards--aside from the amusing “Congratulations, nerds” aside, he was a stiff bore throughout--but he definitely belonged in the audience because his performance in this true-life story of a hiker who is forced to do the unthinkable when he becomes trapped in a remote canyon with a boulder pinning down his arm really was one of the best seen in any film last year. Sadly, many people stayed away from this one when it was in theaters--partly because they knew how it ended and partly because they didn’t want to see how it ended being depicted in graphic detail--but if you were one of those, you owe it to yourself to see it because against all odds, director Danny Boyle has transformed the grim-sounding material into a strangely uplifting tale and while the climax is hard to watch, it is nowhere near as gory as you might think and shouldn’t keep you away from one of the better films of 2010.

BAMBI: DIAMOND EDITION (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $39.99): It’s “Bambi.” It’s Blu-ray. Do you really need another reason to rush out and pick up a copy of this Disney animated classic that has been inspiring and traumatizing generations of kids since it debuted in 1942? Seriously, if you don’t pick this disc--which looks incredible and carries over all the bonus features from the previously released special edition DVD, I may be forced to come to your house and sing “Little April Shower” until you acquiesce and while I won’t go into specifics, I will assure that it will not be the first time I have sung that particular tune in public.

BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR (Severin Video. $24.98): The latest contender for the title of Best Worst Movie, currently being fought over by “Troll 2” and “The Room,“ is this embarrassingly awful rip-off of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (complete with a cameo from Tippi Hedren) about a small California town that is suddenly attacked by countless homicidal birds--actually, terrible special effects trying to pose as countless homicidal birds. The trouble with the film is that director James Nguyen is clearly trying to make a terrible movie in the hopes of eventually passing it off as camp but as with most other films that take that approach, it quickly becomes tiresome and unless you have a case of beer and a group of smart-ass friends around to add commentary, I doubt that many of you will actually make it to the end.

BURLESQUE (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95): Now if you are in the mood for a so-bad-its-good movie, look no further than this inadvertently hilarious fusion of “Coyote Ugly” and the edited-for-television version of “Showgirls” featuring Christina Aguilera as a small-town gal whose dreams of stardom begin to flower when she becomes the lead performer at a neo-burlesque theater run by none other than Cher. By most accounts, the film is really terrible--the story is paper-thin, the musical numbers are ridiculously overblown and Aguilera, making her big-screen debut, does for acting here what she did for the National Anthem a few weeks ago--but the difference between something like “Birdemic” and this is that this film thinks that it is genuinely good and the massive gap between its opinion of itself and its actually quality makes for a lot of unintentional laughs. The only person involved who seems to recognize the silliness of the whole endeavor is Cher and as a result, her blatantly Cher-like performance is a hoot in the best possible way.

DUE DATE (Warner Home Video.$28.98): Following up on the ridiculous success of the wildly overrated “The Hangover,” director Todd Phillips returns with this equally dreadful effort that shamelessly rips off the infinitely superior “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” in which uptight Yuppie jerk Robert Downey Jr. and weirdo Zach Galifianakis are thrown together under the flimsiest of narrative pretexts for a cross-country trip to make it on time for the birth of Downey’s first child. Aside from the fact that it simply isn’t very funny outside of a couple of brief bits from Downey, is that while “PTA” worked because the characters played by Steve Martin and John Candy were likable and sympathetic despite their flaws, the characters on display here are anything but--Downey is snide and unpleasant throughout (though who could blame him) and Galifianakis (whose appeal remains a total mystery to me) is so obnoxious that he, not unlike the movie as a whole, quickly grows intolerable.

FISH TANK (The Criterion Collection. $29.95): Proving that “Red Road,” her electrifying directorial debut, was no fluke, writer-director Andrea Arnold returns with this equally provocative drama about a troubled 15-year-old girl (Katie Jarvis in an astonishing performance) whose problems grow more complex when her mother brings home a new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender) and it quickly becomes evident that he has more of an interest in the daughter than in the mother. Yes, it is kind of grim and bleak but it is powerfully done and the work done here by Arnold and Jarvis is so strong that it is too bad that no one remembered them at any point during the recent Oscar derby.

GET LOW (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95): Set in the 1930’s, this low-key comedy stars Robert Duvall as a reclusive Tennessee backwoodsman who, sensing that the end is near, decides to throw himself a living funeral so that he can hear the stories, good and bad, that his fellow townspeople have to say about him. Although it may sound on the surface like the kind of embarrassingly twee and painfully earnest indie film that most people would go to many lengths to avoid, this effort from first-time filmmaker Aaron Schneider is pretty effective, mostly thanks to the gruffly down-to-earth performance from Duvall and the hilarious supporting turn from Bill Murray as the down-on-his-luck funeral director who gets off one of the funniest lines heard in any film last year when he remarks “One thing about Chicago, people know how to die. People are dying in bunches, but not around here.”

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98 ): In this comedy-drama from Ed Zwick, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical rep who begins a no-strings-attached relationship with free spirit Anne Hathaway that winds up taking an unexpectedly serious turn. As with her recent stint co-hosting the Oscars, Hathaway brings a lot of energy to the proceedings but alas, also like the Oscars, her efforts aren’t enough to save the enterprise from becoming a vaguely tedious bore that veer from comedy to melodrama without demonstrating much facility for either one.

MEGAMIND (Paramount Home Video. $29.99 ): In yet another animated spoof of superheroes and super villains, Will Ferrell gives voice to a bungling evil genius who accidentally dispatches his ultra-heroic rival (Brad Pitt) and who is forced to assume the good-guy mantle himself when a new Big Bad (Jonah Hill) comes to town. Although not the most blazingly original film that you will ever see--the recent “Despicable Me” mined the same basic material with far more success--there are some funny bits here and there and the little kids will probably enjoy the colorful action and silly slapstick.

ROOM IN ROME (MPI Home Video. $24.98): In the latest effort from Julio Medem, who scandalized the arthouse world a few years ago with the controversial hit “Sex & Lucia,” two female strangers (Elena Anaya and Natasha Yarovenko) meet in a bar in Rome, go back to the hotel room one of them is occupying, get naked and spend the night making love and revealing themselves to each other emotionally as well as physically. Although not as impressive or ambitious as “Sex & Lucia,” there is still enough going on here to make it more than the simple-minded skin flick that its cover implies. That said, if you are simply looking for a skin flick featuring two gorgeous women and very little clothing, it certainly does deliver those goods and then some.

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): In one of the most wonderfully dark and cynical American films of the Fifties, Burt Lancaster delivers one of the best performances of his career as a powerful Manhattan gossip columnist (largely inspired by real-life columnist Walter Winchell) hell-bent on destroying the career of a jazz musician who has made the mistake of dating his sister and Tony Curtis delivers one of the best performances of his career as the lowly press agent roped who gets roped into making it happen at any cost. Finally receiving the special edition treatment that it has long deserved, this disc includes an informative commentary from film historian James Naremore, documentaries on director Alexander Mackendrick and cinematographer James Wong Howe and an interview with Neal Gabler about Walter Winchell, whom he wrote about in the excellent biography “Winchell.” This is a great presentation of a great movie and a must-own for all film fans.

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): Having previously trained his cameras on the likes of Al Gore (“An Inconvenient Truth”), Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge (“It Might Get Loud”), documentarian Davis Guggenheim trains his cameras on the failures of the American school system and illustrate how good teachers who genuinely care about their charges can enhance lives while those teachers who are simply going through the motions thanks to the protection of tenure can potentially ruin them. This was one of the more popular and talked-about documentaries released in 2010 although in the wake of its release, there have been some charges that Guggenheim may have fudged some facts and timelines in order to create a more compelling narrative. That said, this is still reasonably powerful stuff and while it is manipulative in parts, the basic message it is trying to convey--that many of our nation’s children are being screwed out of a proper education by forces beyond their control and something has to be done about it before it is too late.


THE CABLE GUY (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.95)

DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Blue Underground. $29.98)

MEMENTO: 10th ANNIVERSARY (LionsGate Home Entertainment. $14.99)

OUT OF SIGHT (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98 )

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originally posted: 03/07/11 08:07:40
last updated: 03/07/11 08:34:08
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