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DVD Reviews For 9/4: "He Was Alive When I Buried Him!"
by Peter Sobczynski

For the most part, the last couple of weeks have been pretty slow for big-name DVD/Blu-ray releases (except for a slew of television shows, of course) but for cineastes looking for something a bit off the beaten path, this overview of recently released titles offers up a number of gems, both old and new, well worth checking out.

BASEBALL'S GREATEST GAMES: DEREK JETER'S 3000TH HIT (A&E Home Entertainment. $19.95): My guess is that this particular title is no longer on Minka Kelly's Netflix queue.

THE BEAVER (Summit Entertainment. $26.99): In one of the year's more talked-about, if little seen, films, Mel Gibson stars as a suicidally depressed businessman who begins to turn his personal and professional lives around when he begins communicating to the world via a ratty hand puppet of the titular creature. The tone of the screenplay constantly veers from black comedy to earnest melodrama to out-and-out weirdness and it is to the credit of director Jodie Foster (who also appears as Gibson's estranged wife) that she manages to handle those shifts with relatively few hiccups. (The only bum element is a tortured teen subplot involving the ultra-mopey Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence.) Alas, between the oddball nature of the story and the now-toxic public reputation of its lead actor, the film was an inevitable failure at the box-office but hopefully it will get a little more notice on home video, if only so that more people can get a look at Gibson's stunning performance, arguably the deepest and most impressive of his entire career.

THE COEN BROTHERS COLLECTION (Fox Home Entertainment. $69.98): Everyone's favorite oddball filming duo get the Blu-ray box set treatment with this collection of four key titles, three of which are making their hi-def debuts. "Blood Simple" (1985) is their electrifying debut, an alternately thrilling, grisly and hilarious modern-day noir involving an unfaithful wife (Frances McDormand), her lover (John Getz), her jealous husband (Dan Hedaya) a sleazy private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) and a murder plot that goes gruesomely out of control. "Raising Arizona" (1987) is a delightful screwball comedy pitched at the level of a live-action cartoon in which a childless couple (Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter in her first major role) decide to kidnap one of a recently born set of quintuplets on the theory that his parents have more than they can handle. "Miller's Crossing" (1990) is a Thirties-era gangster drama in the vein of Dashiell Hammett that remains one of their finest, if more underrated, efforts to date. The set is rounded out with the previously released "Fargo" and while I adore that film as much as anyone else, I can't help but wish that it had been left out in order to make room for the MIA "Barton Fink." If you don't feel like shelling out for the whole set, each of the titles are also available separately.

THE COMPLETE JEAN VIGO COLLECTION (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Despite a filmography that totaled less than three hours before unexpectedly dying of tuberculosis at the age of 29, French filmaker Jean Vigo has long been hailed as one of the greatest artists that the medium has ever known and in this collection of all his filmed works, which are as haunting, poetic and visually striking as anything that you have ever seen, you will quickly understand why. This set includes lovingly restored versions of the short films "A Propos de Nice" (1930), "Taris" (1931), the highly influential boarding school rebellion drama "Zero de Conduite" and his lone feature, the rapturously romantic "L'Atalante". Add in aan animated tribute by Michel Gondry, a 90-minute television documentary on the man and his work and a 1968 televised discussion on "L'Atalante" between Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer and you have a disc that should be an essential component of the collection of any true film lover.

GOSSIP GIRL: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Warner Home Video. $59.98): Admittedly, the backstage shenanigans involving the cast members of this show were sometimes more interesting than the on-screen ones during this particular season. However, despite the occasional hiccups, I still can't help but adore this cheekily knowing and amusing sudser and this collection allows fans to get back up to speed before the next season premieres a couple of weeks from now. Among the avalanche of TV-related titles now available are "90210: The Third Season" (Paramount Home Video. $49.99), "An American Family: Anniversary Edition" (PBS Video. $24.99), "Brothers & Sisters: The Complete Fifth Season" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Cougar Town: The Complete Second Season" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $34.99), "The Defenders: The Complete Series" (Paramount Home Video. $55.98), "Desperate Housewives: The Complete Seventh Season" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Detroit 1-8-7: Season One" (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.98), "The Event: The Complete Series (Universal Home Entertainment. $59.98) "House: Season Seven" (Universal Home Entertainment. $59.98), "iCarly: The Complete 3rd Season" (Nickelodeon. $19.99), "Mad Love: The Complete Series" (Paramount Home Video. $39.98), "NCIS: The Complete Eighth Season" (Paramount Home Video. $64.99), "NCIS--Los Angeles: The Complete Second Season" (Paramount Home Video. $64.99), "Nikita: The Complete First Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Only In America With Larry The Cable Guy" (A&E Home Entertainment. $19.95), "Parenthood: Season Two" (Universal Home Entertainment. $59.98), "Running Wilde: Season One" (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.98), "Sons of Anarchy: Season 3" (Fox Home Entertainment. $59.98) and "The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98)[br]

THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99){/i}: The increasingly intolerable Morgan Spurlock brings us another documentary-cum-egofest in which he bravely reveals the shocking fact that companies pay millions of dollars to have their products inserted into films and television shows in order to further heighten brand awareness. This will, of course, not come as new to anyone who has ever seen a James Bond movie but Spurlock seems to think it is worth investigating in his haphazard, look-at-me approach that suggest what Michael Moore might be like if he didn't have his undeniable filmmaking gifts.

ORPHEUS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
: French filmmaker Jean Cocteau is best known for his stunning 1946 take on "Beauty and the Beast" but an argument could be made that this 1950 effort, a modern-day take on the Orpheus legend in which Orpheus (played by Jean Maris) is a famous poet who, desperate for inspiration and torn between his love for his wife and his infatuation with a mysterious princess, follows the latter into the land of the dead. When you are finished absorbing Cocteau's stunning visual poetry, the disc includes a number of fascinating supplementary materials that include and 1984 documentary on Cocteau, a 1957 interview with him about his career and a 1956 discussion on his groundbreaking use of jazz music for the soundtrack. An essential part of cinema history and a must-own disc for one and all.

THE PERFECT HOST (Magnolia Home Video. $26.98): In this decidedly dark comedy/suspense drama, Clayne Crawford stars as a guy who has just robbed a bank and, needing to get off the streets, cons his way into the home of genteel David Hyde Pierce on the pretense that he is the guest of a guest to a dinner party Pierce is holding that night. Needless to say, the tables are quickly turned and as dinner hosts go, Pierce winds up giving even Martha Stewart a run for the money when it comes to genteel insanity. Not a masterpiece but a pretty good film that benefits greatly from a nicely jaundiced sense of humor and a hilarious/chilling turn from Pierce that will never allow you to watch a rerun of "Frasier" in the same way again.

PROM (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): I understand that in about 18 years, Disney plans on doing a sequel to this bit of teen-oriented nonsense about that most hallowed of school activities that will focus on the children inevitably conceived in brief moments of ill-advised passion sometime after the last dance. The title, of course, will be none other than "Prom: Legacy". (Sorry but it was either that or some vague "Carrie" reference.)

ROGER CORMAN'S CULT CLASSIC SWORD & SORCERY COLLECTION (Shout! Factory. $24.97): Never one to ignore a hot cinematic trend if it could put a few bucks in his pocket, legendary producer Roger Corman decided to cash in on the success of "Conan the Barbarian" and its ilk with a series of cut-rate epics featuring monosyllabic heroes, cheap special effects, silly screenplays and women who costumes were skimpy enough to keep viewers from noticing the monosyllabic heroes, cheap special effects and silly screenplays. The four titles rounded up here include the immortal "Deathstalker" (featuring Playboy magazine favorite Barbi Benton), "Deathstalker II" (with another Playboy playmate, Monique Gabrielle), "Barbarian Queen" (starring Lana Clarkson, now best known as the woman whom record producer was convicted of murdering) and "The Warrior and the Sorceress" (co-starring B-movie legend David Carradine--I'll leave you to guess which of the two he plays). Since these are all pretty much the same movie, whether or not you enjoy this set will depend to a large degree on your tolerance level for such nonsense but if you are into this kind of cheerfully blatant trash, this quartet will more than satisfy your taste for cinematic cheese of the ripest kind. (Too bad that they couldn't include "Deathstalker III," perhaps the best known of the bunch thanks to its hilarious skewering o "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

TROLLHUNTER (Magnolia Home Video. $26.98): No, this is not a documentary of Charlie Sheen's recent theatrical tour--I fear that would be too terrifying for the home video market. Rather, this is a Norwegian-made mockumentary about a trio of college students who, armed only with a video camera, head off into the woods to investigate mysterious goings-on and, while following a reclusive hunter, come face to face with genuine trolls. This film has been hailed as a masterpiece in the geek-centric press and while it is nowhere near as good as the hype suggests, it still shows a lot of ingenuity and it certainly beats the hell out of the fake-documentary likes of that "Apollo 18" gibberish.

WIN WIN (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): Thomas McCarthy, who previous efforts were the fascinating dramas "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor," comes up with another winner with this comedy-drama about a sad sack lawyer/high school wrestling coach (Paul Giamatti) whose luck begins to turn around when, for reasons left for you to discover, he and his wife (Amy Ryan) wind up taking in a teenage runaway who just happens to be an ace wrestler. As silly and innocuous as it may sound on the surface, this is actually knowing, witty and surprisingly moving piece of work anchored by strong performances from Giamatti, Ryan, newcomer Alex Schaffer as the runaway and Bobby Cannavale as Giamatti's exuberant best friend.

WRECKED (IFC Films. $24.98): A rhinoceros-free Adrien Brody stars in this melodrama in which he plays a man who wakes up to discover that he is trapped in a wrecked car with no memory of how he got there, a dead body in the bak seat and evidence suggesting that he might have been part of a recent bank robbery. The premise is okay, I suppose (though admittedly reminiscent of the recent "Buried") but what might have worked wonders as a half-hour episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" is a bit of a drag at feature length thanks to a poky narrative and a few too many flashback sequences for its own good.


BAMBI II (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $39.99)

DEADGIRL (Dark Sky Films. $24.98)

FINAL DESTINATION 2 (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

FINAL DESTINATION 3 (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

GOOD WILL HUNTING (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)

HOSTAGE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $14.99)

IF (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)


ROUNDERS (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $14.99)

SECRET SUNSHINE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

SWINGERS (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $14.99)

TOP GUN (Paramount Home Video. $24.99)

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: SEASON 5 (Image Entertainment. $99.98)

WOMEN IN CAGES COLLECTION (Shout! Factory. $39.99)

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originally posted: 09/05/11 07:24:03
last updated: 09/05/11 09:15:12
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