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DVD Reviews For 11/26: Are Gringos Falling From The Skies?"
by Peter Sobczynski

Between turkey-related comas and shopping-related fatigue, many of you out there would probably like nothing better at this point than to zone out in front of the television with a DVD or Blu-Ray. Luckily for you, there are a virtual plethora of new releases to choose from ranging from top box-office hits to cult favorites to oddball obscurities from around the world and there is even a shot or two of rock and roll thrown in for good measure


THE BED-SITTING ROOM (MGM Home Video. $19.95): As one of the latest entries in their series of burn-on-demand DVDs, MGM offers up this still-wild 1969 post-apocalyptic satire from Richard Lester following a bunch of people wandering around the ruins of London a couple of years after World War III, including a young woman (Rita Tushingham) who rides the still running rails with her family while in her 17th month of pregnancy, a couple of useless government functionaries (Dudley Moore and Peter Cook) advising the few survivors they encounter to "keep moving" and an aristocrat (Sir Ralph Richardson) who is slowly mutating into a bed-sitting room. Very dark and very strange, it is no wonder that this film was a total bomb when first released but it is still a funny and decidedly off-beat item that has held up surprisingly well over the years and one that fans of British comedy should especially enjoy. Other recent On Demand titles include the low-budget thrillers "The Mugger" and "Fashion Model" and the Morey Amsterdam-Rose Marie obscurity "Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title."

BELLFLOWER (Oscilloscope Laboratories. $29.95): Debuting filmmaker Evan Glodell caused quite a stir on the festival circuit this year with this ultra-low-budget item in which he plays a guy whose life is consumed with creating "Mad Max"-inspired weapons and vehicles with his best friend until he falls madly in love with an equally adventurous woman. When the relationship goes sour, alas, it sends him spiraling out of control both physically and emotionally until he can no longer differentiate between reality and his increasingly apocalyptic fantasies. Although not quite the misogynistic nightmare that some of its detractors have dubbed it (though some of the material on display is questionable enough to warrant discussion along those lines), the film is somewhat lacking in the story and characterization departments but Glodell presents the material in such an admittedly stylish manner that thoroughly belies its minuscule budget that it automatically announces him as a director to watch in the future.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.99): After years of rumored revivals of the famed Robert E. Howard sword-and-sorcery hero that supposedly involved the likes of the Wachowskis and John Milius (who directed the character's classic 1982 screen debut), he finally returned to the big-screen in the form of "Game of Thrones" star Jason under the direction of Marcus Nispel (the dope behind the unneeded revivals of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Friday the 13th") and in some of the cruddiest 3D imaginable. The result, perhaps not surprisingly, was a flop with critics and audiences alike and while it is a fairly terrible movie--the story is alternately absurdly simplistic and ridiculously confusing, demonstrates precious little on-screen charisma and the action scenes, despite the added dimension, ironically all fall flat--it does have a couple of mildly entertaining elements, such as an amusingly gory opening sequence depicting Conan's childhood and a nicely campy performance from column crush object Rose McGowan (who is featured on one of the two commentary tracks that are among the numerous bonus features on display) as the bad guy's right-hand crone.

THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.99): Loosely inspired by real-life events, this super-violent docudrama features Dominic Cooper in the dual role of Uday Hussein, the psychotic son of you-know-who, and the lookalike Iraqi soldier who is pressed into service as his body double and is pulled deeper and deeper into a world of drugs, violence and outright lunacy. Arguably the most loathsome film of the year by far, this is a deeply unpleasant craptacular that takes what could have been a fascinating premise and transforms it into just another "Scarface" clone, lacking that's film's quiet reason and dignity, of course.

DR. WHO: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SERIES (BBC. $79.98): Like most elaborate sci-fi television shows of late, I have never quite managed to wrap my head around this eternally popular British serial nor have I ever managed to work up enough interest to pursue my knowledge of it much further. However, I have plenty of friends and loved ones who feel differently and, quite frankly, if I had failed to mention it here in any way, they would have been all over my ass regarding the omission. Other TV-related titles now available include"The Adventures of Tintin: Volume One" (Shout! Factory. $19.93), "Awkward: Season 1" (MTV. $19.95), "Being Human: The Complete First Season" (E1 Entertainment. $44.98), "Law & Order U.K.: Season Two"(Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98) and "Perry Mason: Season 6, Volume 2" (Paramount Home Video. $49.99).

FLYPAPER (E1 Entertainment. $24.98): From the writers of "The Hangover" (which should be a red flag right there) comes this absurd heist comedy in which twitchy bank customer Patrick Dempsey's cringe-worth flirtation with teller Ashley Judd is interrupted when two separate groups of robber arrive to rob the joint--while he tries to negotiate something between the two gangs, the whole place is put on lockdown and the theives begin turning up dead. It sounds like a reasonably amusing idea for a black comedy but it does done in her by poor execution, mostly due to zero chemistry between Dempsey and Judd and the film's inability to ever quite find the right tone for the material.

GIORGIO MORODER PRESENTS METROPOLIS: SPECIAL EDITION (Kino Video. $34.95): Back in 1984, long before Fritz Lang's 1926 sci-fi masterpiece received the restorations that brought it more or less back to its original glory, music producer Moroder (best known for his work on such seminal soundtracks as "Midnight Express," "Flashdance" and "Scarface") took the film, added a new soundtrack featuring new tunes from the likes of Pat Benatar, Adam Ant and Queen (whose "Radio Ga Ga" was a big hit and inspired the nom de plume of a budding young artiste whom you may be familiar with) and released it as a sort of long-form version of the music videos that had just become all the rage at the time. As a representation of Lang's masterpiece, it is pretty terrible but this bizarre variant of an acknowledged classic has developed a bit of a cult following over the years (largely due to the curiosity factor and its general unavailability) and I suppose that it is worth checking out as a sort of supplement to the original, though definitely not as a replacement by any means.

LARRY CROWNE (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): In one of the more notorious box-office misses of last summer, Tom Hanks (who also wrote and directed, his first time in those capacities since his underrated 1996 debut "That Thing You Do") plays a recently fired man who decides to reinvent his life by going to community college and falls for burned out communications professor Julia Roberts. While the film is more or less forgettable and feels at times like a failed attempt to recreate the genial spirit of such early Jonathan Demme films as "Citizen's Band" or "Melvin and Howard," it has a genial spirit and enough amusing moments (most of them courtesy of, of all people, George Takei as a hilariously imposing economics professor) to make it worth a look and I suspect that it may be one of those movies where the modest scale plays better at home thanat the multiplex.

ROLLING STONES: SOME GIRLS LIVE IN TEXAS '78 (Eagle Rock. $14.98): Unseen for decades in any form other than grainy bootlegs and now restored in order to tie in with the release of a deluxe edition of their classic 1978 album "Some Girls," this film chronicles the Stones on stage in Texas ripping through a lively set that features most of "Some Girls" as well as classics such as "Happy," "Brown Sugar" and "Jumping Jack Flash." Shot during one of their peaks as a live band, it is fascinating to watch the band enthrall a stadium crowd without any of the elaborate pyrotechnics or stage sets that would become a integral part of subsequent tours. Other new music-related titles on the shelves include "Britney Spears Live: The Femme Fatale Tour" (RCA. $14.95), "Lady Gaga Presents The Monster Ball Tour At Madison Square Garden" (Streamline/Interscope. $19.99) and "Talking Heads: Chronology Deluxe" (Eagle Rock. $24.98).

RUSHMORE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Wes Anderson's 1998 breakthrough about the absurd battle of wills between an absurdly precocious 15-year-old private school student (Jason Schwartzman in his acting debut) and a burned-out millionaire (Bill Murray in the film that should have earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in a just world) for the affections of a sweet schoolteacher (Olivia Williams) is quote simply one of the very best movies of the 1990's and one of the most hilrarious, touching and wise films about adolescence that I have ever seen. Making its Blu-Ray debut, this disc contains all the bonus features from the original Criterion DVD, including a commentary track from Anderson, Schwartzman and co-writer Owen Wilson, a "Charlie Rose Show" interview with Anderson and Murray and scenes from the film nominated for Best icture by the MTV Movie Awards as enacted by the Max Fischer Players. A must-own.

SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.98): Utilizing the redoubtable twin technological miracles of 3D and scratch-and-sniff cards, the indefatigable Robert Rodriguez attempted to restart his kiddie movie franchise with a couple of new tykes discovering that their new stepmom (Jessica Alba) is really a secret agent and that, due to circumstances not worth recounting, they hold the key to saving the world from the goofy depravations of super-villain Jeremy Piven. The end results are predictably dire, even by the generally gruesome standards of Rodriguez's attempts at family filmmaking, and outside of the sight and smell of Alba covered in bleu cheese (an fetishy image if ever there was one), there is absolutely nothing of value to be seen or smelled here.

SUPER 8 (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): Paying homage to the kid-oriented genre films that Steven Spielberg produced in the 1980's via his Amblin Entertainment company (including the likes of "Gremlins," "The Goonies" and "Back toi the Future"), J.J. Abrams offers up this 1979-set tale in which a bunch of kids trying to make a Super-8 zombie movie in order to win a contest witness a massive train crash and discover that something on board a.) wasn't human, b.) escaped and c.) is wreaking havoc on their small town. Although the whole thing is pretty entertaining, the best scenes are the ones involving the kids, their stabs at super-low-budget filmmaking and their fumbling interactions with the sole girl in the group (the increasingly poised and compelling Elle Fanning)--by comparison, the shift in the last third towards big special-effects moments is far less interesting.

THREE AMIGOS: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (HBO Home Entertainment. $14.98): If you are looking for a holiday gift and are fairly certain that the recipient is all set when it comes to sweaters, you could do worse than with this anniversary edition of this amiable goof from John Landis (whose new coffee table book, "Monsters in the Movies," is a must-own item) featuring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short as a trio of silent movies heroes who go to a small town in Mexico for what they think is a personal appearance and discover that they have been hired to defeat the evil El Guapo. Although by no means a classic, this has held up pretty well over the years and it is surprising to see just how many funny bits that it does contain--the bit about the mail plane, Chase asking if there is anything other than Mexican food, Short regaling uncomprehending children with stories of Hollywood glamour and, of course, the Invisible Swordsman. Fans will be especially delighted to check out the 25 minutes of deleted scenes included as a bonus feature--none are strong enough to fully warrant their inclusion in the film proper but they will inspire more than a few additional smiles.

THE THREE COLORS TRILOGY (The Criterion Collection. $59.95): Another one of the key cinematic landmarks of the 1990's, the final ambitious creation from the late Polish filmmaker Krystof Kieslowski (whose previous works included the 10-part television mini-series "The Decalogue" and "The Double Life of Veronique") took its inspiration from the colors of the French flag and what they represent--liberty, equality and brotherhood--for a trio of features that were by turns mournful ("Blue," in which Juliette Binoche plays a woman reeling from the deaths of her husband and child), darkly funny "White" in which a Polish man devises a wicked revenge against faithless wife Julie Delpy) and deeply mystical ("Red," in which the lives of an aging judge and a young model intertwine in unexpected ways). Although the films more than stand up on their own (with "Red" being the best of a great lot), they maintain their maximum impact when seen in tandem. However you choose to watch them, however, these films are absolute essential viewing and this multi-disc collection jam-packed with extras, combining those included in the previous DVD version with a few new elements, is a must-own.

THE TREE (Zeitgeist Video. $29.99): The always-watchable Charlotte Gainsbourg is quite good in this somber drama about a woman reeling from the death of her husband, who suffered a massive stroke and crashed a car into a fig tree on their property who learns that her young daughter believes that her dad's spirit has been reborn in said tree. Look on the bright side, Charlotte--at least it isn't the end of the world.

WEST SIDE STORY: 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (MGM Home Entertainment. $29.99): What with Natalie Wood being in the news so much these days thanks to the 30th anniversary of her tragic death and the possible reopening of the case, what better time to reissue one of her most famous films--the 1961 Oscar-winning adaptation of the "Romeo & Juliet"-inspired musical featuring young love, street gangs, tragedy and plenty of windbreakers? To be honest, I have never had much fondness for the film myself--like so many stage-to-screen musical adaptations of the period, it is just a little too bloated and stage-bound for my tastes--but fans of the film will no doubt love re-experiencing it in all its Blu-Ray goodness and will want to delve into its myriad special features. (That said, the one that compares Wood's admittedly weak vocals with those of Marni Nixon--who wound up overdubbing her songs--seems a bit unduly harsh towards the actress' efforts.)
On the other hand, if you are a firm member of Team Robert Wagner, you can show your support by picking up "It Takes a Thief: The Complete Series" (E1 Entertainment. $199.98), the complete run of the 1968-1970 series in which he portrayed a debonaire cat burglar pressed into utilizing his skills as a spy in the service of Uncle Sam.


12 ANGRY MEN (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

EVIL DEAD 2: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Anchor Bay Home ENtertainment. $14.99)

FANNY AND ALEXANDER (The Criterion Collection. $59.95)

FARSCAPE: THE COMPLETE SERIES (A&E Home Entertainment. $199.99)

INFERNAL AFFAIRS (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)

THE LION KING (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $39.95)


MY FAIR LADY (Paramount Home Video. $29.99)

THE RULES OF THE GAME (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

WAY DOWN EAST (Kino Video. $39.95)

WWII IN HD (A&E Home Entertainment. $69.95)

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originally posted: 11/27/11 07:24:38
last updated: 11/27/11 08:23:30
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