DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews for 9/28: "Birdie Num Num."
By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/29/14 05:33:42
Gee, Halloween must be approaching, based on the number of elaborate special edition Blu-ray packages featuring some of the most notable horror titles of all time in this round-up of recently-released titles. Even if you aren't a fan of the genre, there are some interesting films on display--one of Oliver Stone's more underrated works, one of the best Shakespeare adaptations and the triumphant return of a guy that I like to call Godzilla.
NEW AND NOTABLEANY GIVEN SUNDAY: 15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Warner Home Video. $19.95): With all of the problems currently facing the world of professional football, what better time to give Oliver Stone's star-studded 1999 expose of the sport a second look. Although flawed in spots--since the NFL, in a rare bit of good judgement, refused permission to use their names or logos, Stone was forced to make up his own ersatz league and teams and this addition constantly breaks up the film's verisimilitude--the headlong energy cannot be denied and as the beleaguered coach struggling with inflamed egos among the players and owners interested only in winning at all costs, Al Pacino finds a role perfectly suited for his patented brand of bluster.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.98): Although my general antipathy toward superhero movies in general prevents me from offering a full recommendation to the latest big-screen adventure of the super-patriotic Marvel Comics icon, I must admit that it is more interesting than most of them and a definite improvement on its 2011 predecessor--it is faster, funnier and tells a more complex story up until the inevitable third act in which oddly costumed people pound the bejesus out of each other while lots of stuff explodes around them. Still, any superhero movie that positions itself as a sort of modern-day "3 Days of the Condor" and then casts Robert Redford as one of the chief villains is at least worthy of consideration, I suppose.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): The film that inspired the worldwide trend of obnoxious teenagers making out while visiting Holocaust memorials hits Blu-ray at last. Many of you loved it while I hated every single thing about it aside from it serving as the introduction for that ridiculously catch "Boom Clap" song--let us just agree to disagree and move on.
GODZILLA (Warner Home Video. $28.98): With the stench of Roland Emmerich's misbegotten take on Japan's greatest movie monster still lingering in the nostrils of film fans after more than 16 years, few had any great expectations for Hollywood's latest attempt to bring the beast back to the big screen and were therefore more than pleasantly surprised to discover that it was not just one of the few truly entertaining blockbusters of last summer but arguably the best Godzilla movie since the original. Granted the human characters weren't much to speak of--Aaron Johnson was a bore, Elizabeth Olsen was wasted and anyone going primarily to see the likes of Bryan Cranston or Juliette Binoche were in for a rude awakening--but the film more than makes up for it with stylish direction from Gareth Edwards (taking a huge step up from his previous film, the low-budget genre favorite "Monsters"), a screenplay that was well-developed and which even offered viewers a few genuine narrative surprises and some fairly stunning special effects setpieces. For extra Godzilla-related fun, check out the Blu-ray debut of the cheesily entertaining "Godzilla 2000" (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.99).
THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (StarVista Entertainment. $59.95): Three years before the debut of "Saturday Night Live," NBC brought rock music to late night television with this weekly series hosted by the legendary Wolfman Jack and featuring many of the top musical and comedy acts of the era. This six-disc set (there is also a single-disc compilation and a limited edition 11-disc behemoth as well) feature 96 performances culled from the show's 1972-1981 run and includes the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Peter Frampton, Sly and the Family Stone, ELO, Fleetwood Mac, Alice Cooper, The Cars, Aerosmith, The Village People, Chic, Blondie, Todd Rundgren, Curtis Mayfield, Robert Palmer, Marvin Gaye, The Kinks, AC/DC and, of course, Rupert Holmes. Yeah, that pants-crapping degenerate Ted Nugent is on here as well but that is why fast-forward was invented. Whether you are a music fan or just in the mood for some nostalgia, this set is pretty much a blast from the first note to the last.
NEIGHBORS (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Not to be confused with the underrated John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd vehicle of the same name, this seriously misfired comedy stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as a married couple who find themselves stuck in a battle of wills with the noisy fraternity (led by Zac Efron) that has inexplicably moved in right next door to them in their formerly quiet suburban neighborhood. The whole thing is incredibly slipshod, the raunchy jokes are forced and unfunny (with gags involving rape as a punchline (twice), a dildo fight and a baby playing with a discarded condom), all of the characters are decidedly unlikable (even our so-called heroes are self-absorbed as individuals and borderline neglectful as parents) and the serious-minded moments are handled so leadenly that they might as well have a subtitle flashing "AUTHOR'S MESSAGE" flashing during them. There are a bunch of good actors here and there is a flash every once in a while of the kind of film that it could have been--a black comedy about being dragged kicking and screening from the last vestiges of youth into full adulthood--but whenever it threatens to get interesting, director Nicholas Stoller steers it back towards forced pop-culture references and half-hearted slapstick. In other words, this is no "Animal House"--hell, it is barely even "Old School."
THE PARTY (Kino Entertainment. $29.95): Although the "Pink Panther" movies are the most well-known collaborations between Peter Sellers and director Blake Edwards, this lesser-known 1968 farce is actually funnier than any of them with the possible exception of "A Shot in the Dark." In it, Sellers plays an Indian movie extra who, after ruining an expensive shot and getting fired by the director as a result, winds up being accidentally invited to a party that at the very same director's house that he proceeds to inadvertently destroy. Although the sight of Sellers posing as an Indian is questionable at best (and inevitably inspires discussions online whenever TCM shows it), the humor is more of the slapstick variety and the film contains some of the most elaborately conceived and hilariously executed set-pieces of Edwards' entire career.
PROM NIGHT (Synapse Entertainment. $24.95): Produced at the height of the post-"Halloween" boom in mad slasher movies, the 1980 film focuses on a group of four high school seniors (including Jamie Lee Curtis herself) who share a horrible secret involving a friend who died tragically six years earlier and who find themselves being picked off one by one during the titular event--on the bright side, the dead are spared the sight of Principal Leslie Nielsen disco-dancing. Not a particularly good movie by any stretch of the imagination, unless you have an affinity for the super-tacky fashions and hairdos of the day, but as an example of a meat-and-potatoes slasher film of the era, this more than fits the bill. Fans of the movie--and there are some of you out there--will be thrilled by the deluxe presentation it has been afforded here, including a new digital transfer, a commentary track from director Paul Lynch and screenwriter William Gray, outtakes, extra scenes shot for the network TV version (yes, this played network TV back in the day) to fill in the time slot after the removal of the gore and nudity and a making-of featurette.
REIGN: SEASON 1 (Warner Home Video. $59.98): Imagine a period piece version of "Gossip Girl" and you have the general idea behind this admittedly silly but undeniably entertaining CW take on the life and loves of young Mary, Queen of Scots and her court of blemish-free hunks and hotties. One probably won't be doing themselves any favors by using this as a key reference in any history reports but its soapy charms are nevertheless hard to resist. Other TV-related titles now available include "The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Seventh Season" (Warner Home Video. $54.97), "Hannibal: Season 2" (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Hawaii Five-O: Season 4" (Paramount Home Entertainment. $64.99), "Homeland: Season 3" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.95), "How I Met Your Mother: Season 9" (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98), "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Modern Family: Season 5" (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Nashville: Season 2" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Scandal: Season 3" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $45.99), "Supernatural: Season 9" (Warner Home Video. $59.98) and "The Vampire Diaries: Season 5" (Warner Home Video. $59.99)
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE: 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Dark Sky Films. $49.98): Tobe Hooper's seminal 1974 horror classic--I presume no plot recap is necessary--get the super-deluxe treatment for its Blu-ray debut. First off, the film proper has received a brand-new 4K digital transfer taken directly from the original negative, giving Daniel Pearl's cinematography arguably its best presentation ever. Then there are the wide array of supplements on hand--4 separate audio commentaries (two of them, including one with Hooper, recorded specifically for this set), behind-the-scenes featurettes, outtakes, interviews, radio spots and plenty of other ephemera for the dedicated fan to drool over for weeks to come. Granted, this film, which still has the power to freak out both newcomers and veteran viewers alike, may not be for everyone (one's response to the title alone is pretty much a dead giveaway) but for those with a taste for the sort of thing, this release is absolutely essential. This is a good time for horror fans as other new releases include "The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology" (Warner Home Video. $35.99), "Halloween: The Complete Collection" (Shout! Factory. $169.99) and "The Innocents" (The Criterion Collection. $39.95).
WE ARE THE BEST (Magnolia Home Entertainment. $26.98): Those brave moviegoers who saw "Show Me Love," the 1998 feature debut from Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson, know that it was one of the most perceptive, engaging and entertaining coming-of-age films of its time and they will be overjoyed to know that with his latest effort, he has done it again. Set in Stockholm in 1982, the story centers on Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), two 13-year-old girls who, despite having no instruments or musical ability, decide to form their own punk band (largely to show up an irritating metal group rehearsing at their local youth center and a nasty gym teacher) and after realizing that their energy and enthusiasm will only get them so far, they enlist the services of Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a classmate who has been ostracized for her Christian beliefs but who can actually play a mean classical guitar. While the basic story may not be especially unusual (outside of its setting and the age and gender of its protagonists), Moodysson's presents it with enough energy, humor and high spirits to push those thoughts aside. He is also lucky to have cast three such charismatic young actresses as Barkhammar, Grosin and LaMoyne--they work together so beautifully and naturally that there are times when it almost feels as if we are watching a documentary and not a scripted fiction film. And while I don't claim to be an expert in the area of Swedish punk rock music, the soundtrack that Moodysson has compiled here is tops with the girls' "hit" ("No More Sport") demonstrating an ideal balance between being truly catchy and sounding like it might have been composed by a couple of kids. In the annals of great fiction films about the forming of rock bands (including the likes of "The Commitments" and "That Thing You Do"), "We Are The Best" is, well, one of the best of recent times.
WILLOW CREEK (Dark Sky Films. $24.98): The latest effort from comedian-turned-filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait is a found-footage horror film in which a Sasquatch enthusiast (Bryce Johnson) and his girlfriend (Alexie Gilmore) take a camping trip to the area where that famous grainy footage supposedly revealing Bigfoot was shot and without giving it away, things don't go too well for them. Although the notion of sitting through another found-footage genre film is scarier than any of the actual movies have been in recent years, this is actually a pretty effective effort in the way that Goldthwait (who is fast becoming one of the more interesting indie filmmakers working today) takes a slow burn approach to the material that comes close to pushing it into comedy before springing its scarily effective final reel on unsuspecting viewers.
FLESH & BLOOD (Kino Entertainment. $27.98)
GHOSTBUSTERS/GHOSTBUSTERS 2 (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.98)
THE GREAT RACE (Warner Home Video. $21.99)
MACBETH (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)
STAGE FRIGHT (Blue Underground. $29.98)
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Fox Home Entertainment. $14.99)