DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews For 9/7: "What's The Matter, Don't You Like Musical Comedy?"
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/08/14 07:57:16
It is kind of a weak-looking roundup of new titles available on DVD and Blu-ray for the most part but while it may be lacking in decent A-list material, there are a bunch of TV shows hitting shelves so that people can brush up before their new seasons begin, a couple of last summer's best under-the-radar movies to catch up on and, oh yeah, one of the greatest movie musicals ever made.
NEW AND NOTABLE
ALL THAT JAZZ (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Criterion has been putting out one stellar special edition after another this year and they have come up with another one in this stellar set commemorating Bob Fosse's still-stunning 1979 semi-autobiographical musical about a hard-living director/choreographer (Roy Scheider in arguably the best performance of his career) whose punishing work schedule and overindulgence in booze, pills, cigarettes and women threaten to put him into an early grave. Although made more than 35 years ago, this darkly lacerating look at the world of show business and the creative process is as fresh and thrilling to behold as ever and the musical numbers on display are among the most beautifully conceived and stylishly executed in cinema history. A true landmark of the genre and one of the great films of the 1970's to boot. For its Blu-ray debut, Criterion has corralled extras that appeared on the previous DVD release--including commentaries with editor Alan Heim and the late Scheider--with new features that include archival interviews with Fosse, the 2007 documentary "Portrait of a Choreographer," behind-the-scenes footage and a new interview with co-stars Ann Reinking (who plays one of the faux-Fosse's many girlfriends, a role she also held in real life) and Erzsebet Foldi (the young dancer who delivered a very touching performance as his daughter and then never appeared in another film). Even if you profess to not like musicals, this is not to be missed.
BLENDED (Warner Home Video. $28.97): The third time is the charmless for the latest screen pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, a thoroughly idiotic comedy that finds them as a pair of single parents who share one atrocious blind date together and then, through circumstances too complicated to figure out, wind up sharing the same luxurious African vacation with their combined broods and take a wild guess what happens next. Although the end result may not hit the absolute bottom of Sandler's well-scraped cinematic barrel in the manner of "That's My Boy" or "Jack & Jill," this is still appallingly lazy stuff that goes on way too long for its own good, is culturally insensitive throughout (and I am being very polite in this regard) and is a particular waste of Barrymore's charms. The best thing to say about this film is that even Sandler's loyal fan base saw through this one and stayed away from it in droves when it came out earlier this summer.
DRAFT DAY (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): The opening scenes of this comedy-drama, following Cleveland Browns GM Kevin Costner over the course of the titular day as he tries to juggle his personal and professional lives while deciding whether to pull the trigger on a monster deal that could make or break the team for years to come, are so compelling that you may think that there is no way that it could possibly fail. And yet, that is exactly what happens in the second half as the realistic tone shifts to overwrought melodrama and climaxes with a series of dramatic reversals so convoluted that even John Madden would be at a loss at puzzling them out. Not even the efforts of a game cast (which also includes the likes of Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella and Chadwick Boseman) are able to make this seem like anything more than the world's most extravagant "Sportscenter" promo.
FOR NO GOOD REASON (Sony Home Entertainment. $40.99): Best known for the surreal sketches that he drew to accompany the equally odd words of the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the most notable and influential being his contributions to the legendary "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas," British artist Ralph Steadman is the subject of the genial new documentary "For No Good Reason" and for those viewers with a specific interest in his particular and peculiar artistic process, it offers up a few intriguing glimpses into the mind behind such mind-bending imagery. The problem with the film is that it seems just as interested, if not more so, in delving into his long history with Thompson and this leads to another retelling of tales that anyone with even the vaguest interest in the subject has already heard numerous times before through other documentaries, biographies and the like and the choice of actor/professional Thompson disciple Johnny Depp as narrator only serves to heighten the sense of the familiar. It has its moments and Thompson/Steadman completists will probably want to check it out despite their presumable working knowledge of the material at hand.
THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (Scream Factory. $24.97): Adapted by late genre legend Richard Matheson from his own novel "Hell House," this 1973 thriller follows a quartet of paranormal investigators (led by Roddy McDowell) who arrive at a spooky manor dubbed "the Mt. Everest of haunted houses" to uncover its secrets and discover what happened to the previous team that attempted that. Not a masterpiece in any sense, this is merely a solidly constructed and executed spook story that has a lot of fun with the conventions of the genre while still managing to generate a couple of genuinely creepy moments of its own.
NIGHT MOVES (Cinedigm. $19.96): Writer-director Kelly Reichart, whose previous films have included such wonderful efforts as "Wendy and Lucy" and "Meek's Cutoff," returns with this dazzlingly complex and thoughtful examination of three young would-be eco-terrorists (Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard and Dakota Fanning) as they plan the bombing of a dam they believe is hurting the environment and as they struggle to cope with the reality of what they have done. As with those earlier efforts, Reichardt is more interested in character development that in simple plot machinations and puts her focus on people living on the fringe of society and their uneasy relationships with the world around them. What makes her work so striking is the way that she observes all of her characters in an objective manner that allows viewers to make up their own minds about them without being told what to think. Of course, such a subtle approach may inspire some viewers to think that by not explicitly condemning her characters' actions, she is implicitly endorsing them. That could not be further from the truth--she is in no way supporting the actions of her increasingly unheroic characters--and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly not paying attention.
THEY CAME TOGETHER (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): Having expertly skewered Eighties-era summer camp comedies in their 2001 cult favorite "Wet Hot American Summer," writer-director David Wain and co-writer Michael Ian Black have now latched on to an even more popular genre--the romantic comedy--in their latest effort and the results are almost as hilarious as before. "WHAS" vets Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler star as a couple who tell the convoluted story of how they met and fell in love--he was an executive at a giant corporate candy company charged with shutting down her quirky indie sweet shop and even though they hate each other at first. . . well, you get the drill. Utilizing an army of performers ranging from other "WHAS" alumni (Christopher Meloni, Ken Marino) to newcomers to the fold (Cobie Smulders, Ed Helms, Max Greenfield, Jack McBrayer) and a couple of wildly unexpected cameos (which I wouldn't dream of revealing), the film mercilessly rips on every cliche of the genre in ways ranging from the silly to the surreal and while not every gag works (an extended bit involving Meloni suffering from gastric distress at a Halloween party goes nowhere and does so at excruciating length), the ones that do it inspire some of the most explosive laughs of the year. If you love rom-coms, there is a very good chance that you will never again be able to take them seriously again and if you hate them, this is quite simply the movie of your dreams.
WELCOME BACK KOTTER: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Shout! Factory. $129.49): Sure, everyone has been talking about that box set containing the complete "Twin Peaks" experience and while that may be all well and good, that package was woefully deficient for anyone looking for a surplus of corny jokes involving someone's uncle. For that, you need to pick up this brick of a set containing all 95 episodes of the popular Seventies-era sitcom about a teacher in a run-down school and a wacky quartet of goofball remedial students he takes under his wing and/or mustache--a show that made a star of comedian Gabe Kaplan and a superstar out of the then-unknown heartthrob John Travolta. Like most sitcoms of this era, there are a few too many Very Special Episodes to be had (with characters joining religious cults, threatening suicide, getting addicted to pills and other problems that miraculously solve themselves by the end of the half-hour) and the final episodes (with Travolta and Kaplan now only making token appearances) are pretty dire. That said, the first couple of seasons are still pretty funny and it is amusing to see soon-to-be-famous names like James Woods and Garry Shandling turning up in the credits. Other TV-related titles now available include "Chicago Fire: Season Two" (Universal Home Entertainment. $44.98), "Chicago PD: Season One" (Universal Home Entertainment. $44.98), "Crossbones: Season One" (Universal Home Entertainment. $44.98), "Haven: The Complete Fourth Season" (eOne Entertainment. $39.98), "The League: Season 5" (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98), "New Girl: Season 3" (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98), "The Originals: Complete 1st Season" (Warner Home Video. $59.98), "Revenge: Season 3" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Sons of Anarchy: Season 6" (Fox Home Entertainment. $59.98) and "The Walking Dead: Season 4" (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $69.95).
DRACULA (1979) (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)
FIRESTARTER (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)
MOM'S NIGHT OUT (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99)
THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)
QUEEN MARGOT (Cohen Media Group. $39.95)
WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT? (Kino Lorber. $29.95)