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DVD Reviews for 10/24: "Mommy Says That You're Not Dead!" Is That True?
by Peter Sobczynski

In this latest overview of what is new on DVD and Blu-Ray, you will find a long-unavailable horror classic (just in time for Halloween, naturally), a bunch of crap from last summer that you have most likely already forgotten about and a genuine, bona-fide masterpiece. (Hint: The name Judy Moody is nowhere to be found in the title).


BAD TEACHER (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): In this failed stab at outrageous comedy, Cameron Diaz stars as a gold-digging hussy who, after being unceremoniously dumped by her fiancee and forced to return to her job as a junior high teacher, goes to absurd lengths to win the heart (among other body parts) of a rich new colleague (Justin Timberlake). Diaz certainly throws herself into the part but cannot overcome the fact that she is all wrong for the role--she has an innately sweet and sunny disposition that is completely at odds with the venality of her characters--and that, combined with the lame jokes, illogical screenplay (why would a woman this monstrous be a teacher in the first place?) and strained stabs at raunch and sentiment, makes for a fairly excruciating two hours. Great title, though--maybe someone will one day attach it to a movie that deserves it.

THE BRIDGE SCHOOL CONCERTS 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Reprise Records. $29.99): Since 1986, Neil Young has put on a star-studded benefit concert every October to help raise money for The Bridge School, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with sever physical limitations, and this 2-disc set brings together many of the innumerable highlights from the past quarter century, including performances from the likes of Young, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Tom Waits, Paul McCartney, Metallica, Brian Wilson and Norah Jones, to name only a few. If that isn't enough music for you, this week also sees the release of "Peter Gabriel: New Blood--Live in London" (Eagle Vision. $14.98), a document of the art rocker's latest tour featuring radically reworked versions of his best-known tunes and covers of classics from the likes of Young, David Bowie and Paul Simon, and "Taylor Swift: Journey Into Fearless" (Shout! Factory. $16.95), a documentary showing Swift's swift rise to the top of the charts through interviews, home movies and concert footage, none of which begin to explore the fact that many of her songs sound like the kind of things that Travis Bickle himself might have written. (Seriously, have you ever listened to the words to "You Belong with Me"?).

THE FOUR FEATHERS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): No, this isn't the awful 2002 adaptation of the classic novel about a young British soldier who is unfairly accused of cowardice and who spends years trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow soldiers and his beloved fiancee. This is the breathlessly exciting 1939 version featuring direction form Zoltan Korda, performances from the likes of John Clements and Ralph Richardson, a thunderous score by Miklos Roza and eye-popping Technicolor cinematography from George Perinal. This disc includes a commentary from historian Charles Drazin, an interview with Korda's son, David, and a short film from 1939 showing Korda at work.

GREEN LANTERN (Warner Home Video. $29.98): In the big-screen debut (and quite possibly the farewell to boot) of the second-tier Marvel Comics superhero, a smug test pilot (Ryan Reynolds) is chosen basically at to become a member of a secret intergalactic police force and is charged with saving Earth from a rampaging destructive force with the aid of a magic ring that can create anything that he can think of in his mind. Pretty much a textbook example of how not to launch a superhero film franchise, this box-office disaster suffered from an uninteresting and unlikable hero (especially as portrayed by the increasingly insufferable Reynolds), a by-the-numbers origin tale that offers up nothing new, dodgy casting (while I like Blake Lively enough on "Gossip Girl," I find it difficult to buy her as a crack test pilot/aerospace heiress, especially when she is forced to say "You're grounded, pending a full investigation!"), dodgier special effects (especially in theaters when seen, barely, in the miracle of post-production 3D) and a drag of a climax that is less interested in concluding the story proper than it is in setting up a highly unlikely sequel. Maybe not the worst superhero film of recent years but pretty close.

HORRIBLE BOSSES (Warner Home Video. $28.98): In this fairly nonsensical and overly vulgar riff on "9 to 5," Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis and Charlie Day star as three friends who are so fed up with their titular employers (psychopath Kevin Spacey, jerk Colin Farrell and sexual harasser Jennifer Aniston) that they decide to do them in by utilizing advice gleaned from a self-styled "murder consultant" (Jamie Foxx) and muck things up in all the expected unexpected ways. As someone who has made no secret in the past of my disdain for Jennifer Aniston, I must admit that she is actually the best thing on display here and earns a lot of laughs with her out-there performance as a sexually rapacious monster but other than the contributions from her and a virtually unrecognizable Colin Farrell, this is a tired stab at so-called "edgy" comedy that makes one long for the coherence and quiet dignity of "Bad Teacher."

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Long unavailable on home video since a laserdisc release from back in prehistoric times, this 1932 version of H.G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau" finally returns thanks to the good people at Criterion and while most long-lost films tend to lose much of their luster once they resurface, this twisted item more than retains its position as, with perhaps the single exception of "Freaks," the creepiest and most perverse horror film of its era thanks to its bizarre setting, outré performances from the likes of Charles Laughton as Moreau and Bela Lugosi as one of his half-human/half-animal creations and any number of moments that will have even the most normally stalwart viewers squirming in their seats. Beynd the movie, Criterion has brought together a nifty collection of bonus features that include a commentary from historian Gregory Mank, a roundtable discussion including monster maven Bob Burns and filmmaker John Landis (whose new coffee-table book "Monsters in the Movies" is a must for anyone with an interest in the subject) and an interview with Devo founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, who used one of the film's most memorable moments, the part where Lugosi intones "Are We Not Men?," as the inspiration for one of their signature songs. For monster movie buffs and those just looking for something agreeably creepy to watch this Halloween, this is a must-see.

JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER (Relativity Media. $29.98): in this big-screen version of the children's book series, a throughly obnoxious young girl (Jordana Beatty in a performance so grating that it could be labeled a form of birth control) tries to make her summer the biggest, bestest and loudest ever through the accumulation of self-prescribed "thrill-points" and the assistance of her wacky Aunt Opal (Heather Graham, in an obvious sop to dads or older brothers forced to chaperone the younger family members). Admittedly, I am nowhere near the target audience for this particular item but even so, this is a monumentally awful film that only manages to replicate the sensations of being trapped in the middle of the world's noisiest slumber party with no possible method of escape.

MANIAC COP (Synapse Entertainment. $24.95): Produced back in the day when low-budget exploitation films were making the shift from grindhouse theaters to the dingier shelves of video stores, this 1986 schlock classic from screenwriter Larry Cohen and director William Lustig (best known for the grisly "Maniac") tells the tale of a seemingly unstoppable killer who roams the streets of New York murdering innocent people while clad in a cop uniform (which causes the public to fear all cops) with jaded cop Tom Atkins and framed patsy Bruce Campbell trying to figure out who or what is behind the killings. Yeah, it is silly trash through and through but as such things go, it is mighty entertaining nevertheless thanks to a reasonably ingenious screenplay, fun performances from a veritable Who's Who of B-movie stalwarts and enough excitement to help you overlook the Poverty Row budget that Lustig was working under. Not a masterpiece by any ordinary standards but it holds up better today than most major-league films of its time that you or I could mention.

MONTE CARLO (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): Tween sensation Selena Gomez attempted to spread her dominance over the slumber party set to the big-screen for this bit of nonsense in which she plays a sweet Texas girl whose dream trip to Paris is turned upside-down when she is mistaken for a stuck-up heiress for whom she is a dead ringer. Gomez and co-stars Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy are agreeable enough but not even their combined charms are able to overcome the overtly contrived nature of the story or its somewhat morally dubious conclusion in which all crimes are forgiven as long as the perpetrators are both adorable and really, really sorry for what they have done.

PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98): At a time when the entire newspaper industry is being threatened with extinction thanks to the advent of the Internet and 24-hour news channels, this fascinating documentary offers an eye-opening glimpse behind the scenes of America's most famous newspaper as it simultaneously tries to get the news out every day while trying to adjust to the changing times in order to survive. Although some may find some of the commentators a bit disingenuous in the ways that that they seem to blame everyone for the erosion of the newspaper business but themselves and their own sometimes misguided efforts, this is still a fascinating look at the business that should be required viewing for journalism students as well as anyone else interested in the changing face of contemporary media.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $39.99): With a new director at the helm (Rob Marshall instead of Gore Verbinski), Johnny Depp once again steps into the louche boots of Captain Jack Sparrow to go off in search of the Fountain of Youth (not to mention a giant paycheck) and along the way runs afoul of such entities as the fearsome Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Blackbeard's fetching daughter (Penelope Cruz) and a mermaid. Admittedly, this entry is certainly better than the atrocious "At World's End" but outside of an amusing opening sequence chronicling Sparrow's escape from the authorities (featuring a welcome cameo from the irreplaceable Keith Richards) and the presence of Cruz (who looks mighty adorable in a tri-cornered hat), it is still a tired exercise in bloated excess from a franchise that ran out of steam a long time ago and which now only exists to make Disney lots and lots of money from people who will cheerfully sit through anything as long as the name is familiar.

RED STATE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.99): Following the undeserved box-office failure of "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" and the entirely deserved critical drubbing of the hideous "Cop Out," Kevin Smith made a definite shift in tone with this oddity that starts off as a sleazy teen romp about three teen boys who venture off to answer an Internet ad promising sex with an older woman, turns into a torture porn horror film when they instead fall into the trap of a crazed religious sect that prefers murdering sinners to rehabilitating them and then becomes a siege drama when the arrival of a bungling ATF task force touches off a bloody firefight. Although the film certainly deserves points for ambition and for Michael Parks' mesmerizing performance as the head of the sect (his extended sermon justifying his actions is one of the best pieces of acting you will see this year), Smith's screenplay is a jarring collision of tones that never quite coalesce and characters that are set up as important parts of the story only to be arbitrarily disintegrated in clouds of blood and concludes with a potentially audacious moment that he inexplicably undercuts with the very next scene. Frankly, the behind-the-scenes story of the film and Smith's decision to self-distribute it himself is more intriguing than the movie itself and it plays a big part of the DVD's numerous bonus features.

THE RISE AND FALL OF MARGARET THATCHER (BBC Home Video. $34.98): For those of you who want to brush up on the history of one of England's most famous political leaders of modern times before the upcoming screen biopic featuring Meryl Streep in the role, consider watching this three-part docu-drama (originally produced for British television) that chronicles her tumultuous career from her early days in Parliament to an examination of her work as Prime Minister during the war over the Falkland Islands to her swift fall from power as portrayed by Andrea Riseborough, Patricia Hodge and Lindsay Duncan. Other TV-related DVDs now available include "Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1: Season One" (The Cartoon Network. $29.98), "Bones: The Complete Sixth Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $59.98), "Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Jem & The Holograms: The Truly Outrageous Complete Series" (Shout! Factory. $89.99) "Star Wars: The Clone Wars--The Complete Season Three" (The Cartoon Network. $49.99) and "V: The Complete Second Season" (Warner Home Video. $39.98).

THE TREE OF LIFE (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.99): When I first saw Terrence Malick's long-awaited meditation on life, death and family as seen through the eyes of a young boy growing up in Fifties-era Texas under an authoritarian father (Brad Pitt) and an ethereal mother (Jessica Chastain), i decreed it to be the best film of the year to date and while many movies have come out since then, I haven't seen one yet that has even come close to matching it in terms of ambition, scope or sheer cinematic beauty. Admittedly, Malick's free-form approach may confuse some viewers who would prefer a more linear narrative, especially in regards the present-day sequences featuring Sean Penn as the adult version of the child and an audacious break 20 minutes flashing back to the very beginnings of Earth itself, but for others, this beautifully acted, gorgeously filmed and dramatically provocative epic is the kind of once-in-a-blue-moon landmark that, more so than practically any other film in recent memory, that will be discussed, adored, decried and studied for as long as people continue to do such things.

THE TRIP (IFC Films. $24.98): The seemingly inexhaustible Michael Winterbottom returns with this hilarious road comedy, originally presented as a miniseries for British television, in which rival comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon go on a road trip to uncover some of England's greatest culinary treasures and wind up getting bogged down in a long-running game of one-upsmanship in between the courses. The film became sort of famous when its centerpiece sequence, in which the two offer up hilarious dueling impersonations of Michael Caine, became a YouTube favorite but you will be happy to know that the rest of the film is just as hysterically funny as well. Sort of a slightly kinder and gentler version of "Withnail & I," the only drawback is that this disc does not include the full-length TV series but hopefully that will be coming along as well at some point.

ZOOKEEPER (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): In this hideous fusing of "Dr. Dolittle" and "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," Kevin James stars as a friendly-but-lonely zookeeper who is about to quit his job when his menagerie reveals that animals can actually speak, an ancient secret that they spill only so that they can advise him on how to win the girl of his dreams and other such nonsense. Despite the presence of a surprisingly high-powered cast (including Rosario Dawson as the gorgeous co-worker that James inexplicably fails to notice and the voices of such luminaries as Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Nick Nolte and co-producer Adam Sandler), this is an excruciatingly unfunny bore from start to finish that may not be the worst and most deeply unpleasant zoo-related disaster of the year but it definitely has a solid grasp on second prize.


THE BAD SEED (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

CAPE FEAR (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

THE CROW (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)

DARKNESS FALLS (Sony Home Entertainment. $17.97)

THE FAMILY MAN (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.99)

THE HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS (Sony Home Entertainment. $17.97)

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (Blue Underground. $29.98)

TOMCATS (Sony Home Entertainment. $17.97)

ZOMBIE (Blue Underground. $39.98)

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originally posted: 10/25/11 02:43:53
last updated: 10/25/11 05:41:47
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