DVD Reviews For 3/12: "Every Time I See You, You're Buying A Chicken."
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 03/13/12 04:47:02
People may still claim that the infamous 1959 Ed Wood epic "Plan 9 from Outer Space" is the worst film ever made but as this week's column of new DVD/Blu-Ray releases will prove conclusively, not only is it not the worst film ever made, it isn't even the worst of the titles listed below by a long shot.
NEW AND NOTABLEBENEATH THE DARKNESS (Image Entertainment. $27.07): A bunch of dopey teens are pitted against mean old Dennis Quaid in this blood-curdlingly bad thriller in which said whippersnappers are convinced that friendly neighborhood mortician Quaid is actually a maniacal killer who will stop at nothing to prevent people from revealing his secret. Unless your great dream in life has been to one day watch a retread of "Disturbia" that is even stupider than before, feel free to skip this one without a moment's hesitation.
FOOTLOOSE (Paramount Home Video. $29.95): A bunch of dopey teens are pitted against mean old Dennis Quaid in this blood-curdlingly bad remake (by Craig Brewer, the auteur of "Hustle and Flow" and "Black Snake Moan," no less) of the not-particularly-good 1984 hit about a hip young teen (Kenny Wormwald) who arrives in a small town that has banned dancing (a plot point that was barely credible 30 years ago and which has not exactly stood the test of time) and tries to win over the local preacher (Quaid) to the twin causes of overturning said ban and a romance with his rebellious daughter (Julianne Hough). Unless your great dream in life is to watch an iteration of "Footloose" that almost exactly mirrors the original and yet somehow manages to make it even stupider than before, feel free to skip this one without a moment's hesitation. And yet, as awful as the whole thing is, the existence of this film did allow for me to meet Hough in person-at Wrigley Field, no less--and while her acting abilities may be suspect, she is almost ridiculously adorable to behold.
GAME OF THRONES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment. $59.99): Based on a combination of laziness, an inability to concentrate on more than one or two hour-long dramas at a time and a general mistrust for anything involving jerkins, broadswords and dragons, I missed out on this adaptation of the first book in George R.R. Martin's fantasy series "A Song of Fire and Ice" when it originally aired. However, based on the recommendations i have heard from any number of people who did watch it, I have finally begun to sit down with the 5-disc set (chock-full of plenty of behind-the-scenes supplements, even more so on the Blu-Ray) in order to see what I have been missing. Granted, I am not that far into it as of yet but based on what I have viewed, not to mention the show's enormous popularity (the second season begins in a few weeks), I can say without hesitation that it will be nice to regularly be seeing Sean Bean as the kind of character that one could easily see him playing for years to come. Other TV-related releases now on the market include "Breakout Kings: The Complete First Season" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Happily Divorced: Season 1" (Paramount Home Video. $22.99), "HawthoRNe: Season Three" (Sony Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Here Come the Brides: Season Two" (Shout! Factory. $44.99), "Here's Lucy: Season Five" (MPI Home Video. $29.95), "Law & Order: The 10th Year" (Universal Home Entertainment. $49.98), "Mission: Impossible--The '89 TV Season" (Paramount Home Video. $39.99), "Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales: The Complete Collection" (Shout! Factory. $49.97) and "Todd & the Book of Pure Evil: The Complete First Season" (E1 Entertainment. $19.98).
HUGO (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): The notion of Martin Scorsese directing a big-budget family film, one shot in 3-D no less, sounds like the kind of absurdist notion that might emerge from a bunch of goofball cineastes drunkenly trying to come up with the most ridiculous-sounding project imaginable. And yet, this adaptation of the acclaimed children's story by Brian Selznick, in which a young orphan living within the walls of a Paris train station in the early 1930's whose determination to unlock the mystery of a mechanical man his late father was restoring leads him to an embittered old man (Ben Kingsley) who turns out to be. . .well, you'll find out, is at once a wonderful entertainment for all ages in the manner of the Harry Potter movies (though all of its magic is real) and a Scorsese movie through and through that turns out to be a love letter to the world of cinema as deeply felt as any of his writings or expansive documentaries on the subject. Hell, even the 3-D was used in an intelligent and artistic manner instead of just being deployed as an easy way of prying more money out of ticket buyers. (Of course, this aspect will be lost on home video, assuming that you don't have a 3-D television and Blu-Ray player, but it looks astounding in 2-D as well.) While it may not have been a particularly big success at the box-office (though it did triumph at this year's Oscars with 11 nominations--the most of any films--and 5 wins, tying with "The Artist" for the most wins), this is one of those family films likes "The Wizard of Oz" or "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" that I suspect will only grow in stature in subsequent years while crud like "The Smurfs" and "Cars 2" fades from memory.
I MELT WITH YOU (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98): Rob Lowe, Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven and Christian McKay play a quartet of college buddies whose booze-and-drug-fueled weekend takes a turn for the bleak and despairing and terminally boring. Director Mark Pellington has cited the late John Cassavetes as an inspiration for this foolishness but this is so awful, so self-indulgent and so inadvertently silly that it doesn't even deserve to be compared to the oeuvre of Nick Cassavetes. In fact, the only thing keeping me from declaring it to be possibly the most embarrassing credit of any of the actors involved is the fact that I have somehow not yet made it through supporting player Sasha Grey's admittedly singular filmography as of yet. Tell you what--assume that I have formally made that assessment and if anything changes, I will mention it in a future column.
IMMORTALS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): Although my tolerance level for nonsensical "300" knockoffs tends to be extremely low at best, I have to admit that I kind of dug it in a weird sort of way. Yes, the story is preposterous--some gibberish about a lowly mortal (Henry Cavill) who is charged with preventing the crazed King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) from wreaking havoc across Greece in search of a magical bow hidden by the gods that will allow him to destroy all of mankind. However, director Tarsem has bolstered it with the same wild visual flourishes that he brought to such previous efforts as "The Cell" and "The Fall" and no, I am not simply refering to the presence of Frieda Pinto as the babe holding the secret to the location of the bow. Additionally, Rourke slips the film the full Mickey with a performance that somehow manages to maintain a certain power and heft even though he is chewing the scenery like nobody's business. This may be a bad movie in most respects but as such things go, it is a hugely entertaining one.
JACK & JILL (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): As opposed to this, for example. . .
LIKE CRAZY (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): There are few films that drive me up the wall more than cloying and obnoxious hipster-douchebag romances featuring inarticulate and unlikable twerps stumbling along the path of true love while espousing the kind of wisdom ordinarily found in recalled fortune cookies to the beat of overly insistent soundtracks forced to make up for the failings in the acting, screenwriting and directing departments. However, few have enraged me more than this inexplicably celebrated monstrosity about an American mope (Anton Yelchin) and a borderline-psycho Brit (Felicity Jones) whose dreams of perfect love are thrown into jeopardy when she stupidly and unnecessarily overstays her visa and cannot return to America. Both characters are utterly devoid of charm or personality and after only a few minutes in their company, I found myself praying that the film would quickly morph into another "Saw" sequel and give these jerks exactly what they deserved. In other words, you could say that I am a bit mixed on this one.
MISS BALA (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): The violence and insanity of the drug wars in Mexico is brought to vivid life in this drama about a sweet and innocent young woman from the outskirts of Tijuana who ventures into Baja California in order to take part in a local beauty pageant, unwittingly becomes caught in the middle of the mayhem surrounding a gangland hit and finds herself being indiscriminately used by cops and criminals in a desperate bid to stay alive amidst the escalating chaos. In telling a story filled with equal parts action, drama, social commentary and dark humor, director Gerardo Maranjo takes viewers on a exhilarating ride that is so wild at times that it may seem to stretch the bounds of credibility until you discover that it was, in fact, inspired by actual events.
NFL SUPER BOWL XLVI CHAMPIONS: 2011 NEW YORK GIANTS (Vivendi Entertainment. $29.95): If nothing else, this release proves once again that there are few things more satisfying, from an entertainment perspective, than the sight of the New England Patriots going down in gruesome, humiliating defeat. The only thing that might have made this even better? A Giselle Bundchen commentary track.
9 1/2 WEEKS (Warner Home Video. $19.98): You know, I could sit here and write about the enduring importance of this Kim Basinger-Mickey Rourke kinkfest or use it as a way to pay tribute to the late, great Zalman King, who co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay before going off to make his own string of soft-core, high-gloss epics such as "Two Moon Junction" and "Wild Orchid." However, I think that I can boil it all down into one word (discounting all the ones up to this point, of course)--Giggity!
SCARLET STREET (Kino Entertainment. $29.95): Film noir is, of course, a genre that is famous for telling grim tales in which its central characters, often in the hopes of breaking out of their already bleak existences, become trapped in an increasingly nightmarish web that leaves them in even-more dire straits than they previously were. That is certainly the case of this 1945 gem from Fritz Lang--arguably the greatest of his American films and one of the darkest noirs ever produced-- starring Edward G. Robinson as a middle-aged milquetoast with a dead-end job as a cashier, a shrew of a wife and a dream of being a famous artist to which he still desperately clings. One night, he saves sexy dame Joan Bennett from the hands of abusive pimp boyfriend Dan Dureya, becomes instantly smitten with her and allows her to think that he is a wealthy and famous artist. The pimp seizes upon this and initiates a plot that soon goes brutally bad for all involved. Although this title has slipped into mild obscurity over the years, it really is one of the best in the history of the genre thanks to Lang's expressionistic direction and the brilliant and touching performance from Robinson. Fans of Lang will also want to check out this week's release of "Spiders" (Kino Entertainment. $29.95), his 1920 epic of two short features in the style reminiscent of the Indiana Jones tales (despite having been made 60 years earlier) following the adventures of wealthy hero Kay Hoog as he travels the globe seeking treasure while avoiding the clutches of the evil syndicate known as the Spiders.
THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Sony Home Entertainment. $45.99): For his first foray into straightforward genre storytelling (although "straightforward" may not necessarily be the best word to describe it), the ever-flamboyant Pedro Almodovar offers a wildly perverse horror tale about a gifted plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas, marking his first film with Almodovar in 20 years) who has developed a formula for synthetic skin and who is keeping his gorgeous test subject (Elena Anaya) under lock and key in his remote mansion for deeply twisted reasons that will leave even his biggest fans agog at the weirdness that is in store for them. At first glance, this may seem like a strange trifle coming from Almodovar on the heels of such recent dramatic triumphs as "Volver" and "Broken Embraces" but this dark, demented and oddly tender work is one of those films that viewers will either love or loathe in equal measure--I cannot imagine anyone coming away from something like with a "meh" reaction. Regardless of where they stand on the issue, anyone who does go to see it will come away with the sensation that they have indeed truly seen something that they won't forget for a long time, no matter how much they may want to do so.
TO CATCH A THIEF (Paramount Home Video. $22.99): In one of Alfred Hitchcock's more enduringly popular films, Cary Grant stars as a former cat burglar whose retirement in the French Riviera is thrown into upheaval by the arrivals of a gorgeous American heiress (Grace Kelly) and a thief who is stealing valuables in the area using his own methods. Is Grant innocent or is he wooing Kelly as a way to get a hold of her mother's lavish collection of diamonds? Most likely, you won't really care who is behind the robberies but you will be so distracted by the brilliant pairing of Grant and Kelly, the lush locations and the hilarious double-entendres to notice. Is essence, this is second-tier Hitchcock from an artistic perspective but it is more pure fun than the best efforts from most normal filmmakers. The latest film from the master to hit Blu-Ray, the film (which won the Best Cinematography Oscar back in 1955) looks beautiful and buffs will enjoy the surprisingly hefty array of bonus features
TOOTH FAIRY 2 (Fox Home Entertainment. $22.98): There are any number of cruel jokes that one could make in reference to this direct-to-video sequel to a film that no one with any sense actually remembers. In the spirit of quiet dignity, I will leave them to others to make and simply move on.
VANYA ON 42nd STREET (The Criterion Collection. $29.95): In what would prove to be the final film of a career cut short by his untimely death, director Louis Malle reunited with Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, with whom he worked on the 1981 masterpiece "My Dinner with Andre," to chronicle a year-long theatrical project spearheaded by theater director Gregory that found him and a group of actors--including Shawn, George Gaynes, Brooke Smith and Julianne Moore--workshopping a staging of Chekov's "Uncle Vanya" (adapted by David Mamet) that they would occasionally stage in a series of private performances held over the course of a year from within a run-down Broadway theater. Combining elements of the rehearsals with the ever-changing final product, Malle presents one of the most compelling and interesting cinematic depictions of the creative process that I have ever seen. Yes, the notion of watching actors find their way through "Uncle Vanya" may not seem like a bunch of laughs for most viewers but it is essential viewing for anyone interested in the theater and other viewers may find it oddly compelling as well.
54 (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)
AQUAMARINE (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.99)
BABY YAGA (Blue Underground. $29.98):
THE BUCCANEER (Olive Films. $29.95)
THE DEER HUNTER (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)
DISCLOSURE (Warner Home Video. $19.98)
FERNGULLY (Fox Hime Entertainment. $19.99)
HARVEY (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98)
JOHNNY ENGLISH (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)
JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98)
THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Legend Films. $16.98)
THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.99)
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.99)
NIJINSKY (Olive Films. $29.95)
PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (Legend Films. $16.98)
REINDEER GAMES: DIRECTOR'S CUT (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $14.99)
THE RUNAWAY JURY (Fox Home Entertainment. $24.99)
STRIPTEASE (Warner Home Video. $19.98)
WHERE LOVE HAS GONE (Olive FIlms. $29.95)