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DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews For 10/19: "The Man Has Raisins In His Brainpan!"
by Peter Sobczynski

"1941" and "Krull" are now on Blu-ray--all is finally right in the world, at least from a home video perspective. . .


COLD IN JULY (MPI Home Video. $29.98): Jim Mickle, whose previous directorial effort was the highly impressive cannibal family drama "We Are What We Are" changes genre gears for this nifty stab at neo-noir in which a man (Michael C. Hall) kills a burglar who has broken into his house and then finds himself contending with the dead man's father (Sam Shepard) as his once-ordinary life begins to slip violently out of control. Based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, this is an uncommonly effective thriller with a bunch of good performances (including an especially impressive turn from non other than Don Johnson) and a storyline that unravels in unexpected directions while always playing fair with viewers.

LIVE. DIE. REPEAT: EDGE OF TOMORROW (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Like several of Tom Cruise's recent screen efforts, this sci-fi extravaganza in which he finds himself caught in a bizarre time loop that may allow him to uncover the secret to fighting off a horde of aliens intent on destroying Earth failed to inspire much interest in moviegoers when it appeared in theaters this past summer. Unlike those other non-performers, this one did not deserve its fate as it was one of the smartest and wittiest of the recent wave of would-be blockbusters--it came up with an ingenious premise, milked it for all that it was worth before shifting gears in the third act and contained energetic performances from Cruise and the always-welcome Emily Blunt as the only person who understands what he is going through. Whether it failed due to Cruise fatigue or the bland title (it used to be just "Edge of Tomorrow" but for home video, its tag line has essentially supplanted it as its new name) can be debated but if you want proof that a big-budget studio epic doesn't necessarily have to be dumber than a box of moronic hammers, give this one a shot--you'll be glad you did.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Having struck box-office gold with his previous film, "Ted," Seth MacFarlane was given the chance to do pretty much anything he want for his follow-up project and came up with this ridiculously raunchy and dreadfully unfunny comedy-western in which he plays a tenderfoot who finds himself going up against a fearsome gunslinger (Liam Neeson, almost inevitably) with only his opponent's girlfriend (Charlize Theron) willing to lend him a hand. Gross, stupid and only rarely inspiring actual laughs (most of them coming from Theron, once again demonstrating that Hollywood needs to take better advantage of her legitimate comedic chops), this well-deserved flop was not only not this generation's "Blazing Saddles," it wasn't even enough to go down as this generation's "Rustler's Rhapsody."

OBVIOUS CHILD (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): In one of the most endearing performances to be seen in any movie this year, Jenny Slate plays a struggling comic who unexpectedly finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand and decides to get an abortion--the only trouble is that while she can talk about this on stage with a roomful of strangers, she is strangely unable to bring it up to the perfectly decent guy who impregnated her. Not so much a movie about abortion as it is a character comedy that just happens to have that as a plot point, this is a funny, touching and utterly winning film and while I suspect that it won't happen, Slate is totally deserving of a Best Actress nomination for her work her.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA: EXTENDED EDITION (Warner Home Video. $14.97): Despite already running nearly four hours in length in its best-known incarnation (we will continue to ignore its initial American release in a version shorn on nearly 90 minutes of footage at the hands of studio executives that left it a confused mess), Sergio Leone's 1984 epic about the rise and fall of a group of Jewish gangsters (including Robert DeNiro and James Woods) in the early part of the 20th century and how the reverberations from their actions continued to affect their lives decades later returns to Blu-ray in a new edition with another 22 minutes of previously unseen footage (including Louise Fletcher's entire role) woven back into the proceedings. (Yes, you will be able to tell the new stuff because the visual quality is not on a par with the rest of the footage, a fact the packaging goes to great lengths to explain.) Although the new stuff will not cause anyone to reevaluate their views of the film, it is nice to see it back where it belongs and it helps to remind that the film, which would prove to be Leone's last, was one of the great screen epics of the Eighties and one of the best gangster movies ever made.

PENNY DREADFUL: SEASON 1 (Paramount Home Video. $42.99): With her scene-stealing performances in "300: RIse of an Empire" and "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," French sexpot Eva Green has been having one hell of a year but the best showcase for her considerable acting talents came in this strange and gripping horror-themed series for Showtime set in the wake of the Jack the Ripper killings and featuring its characters intermingling with those from such famous works of genre literature as "Frankenstein," "Dracula" and "The Picture of Dorian Grey. " Basically, this is what the misbegotten film version of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" wanted to be and while it seems impossible to believe that it could top the craziness on display here in a second season, I cannot wait to see the producers try to pull it off. Other TV-related titles now available include "24: Live Another Day" (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98), "American Horror Story: Coven" (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98), "Bates Motel: Season 2" (Universal Home Entertainment. $44.98), "Fargo: Season One" (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.99), "The Following: Season 2" (Warner Home Video. $39.98), "Hemlock Grove: Season 1" (Shout! Factory. $29.93) and "The Mentalist: Season 6" (Warner Home Video. $59.98).

SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE (Asylum Entertainment. $14.93): Yeah, it is pretty much the exact same thing as the original one-joke cult favorite--this one taking place in New York instead of Los Angeles--and yeah, it does begin to wear out its welcome long before it finally ends. That said, this cheerfully dippy cut-rate epic featuring a cast of C-list actors and slumming celebrities in cameo roles battling imperfectly rendered CGI sharks in midtown Manhattan has a certain mutant charm to it and the opening sequence, which spoofs one of the most famous "Twilight Zone" episodes of all time, is actually pretty amusing. Check it out but be prepared to hate yourself in the morning.

STEVEN SPIELBERG DIRECTORS COLLECTION (Universal Home Entertainment. $199.98): This 8-disc box set of films made by the most successful director of all time for Universal Studios offers up four previously released item--"Jaws," "E.T.," "Jurassic Park" and "The Lost World"--and four making their Blu-ray debuts--"Duel," "The Sugarland Express," "1941" and "Always"--in versions that replicate the bonus features of the previously released DVD editions but add nothing new to the proceedings other than the new HD transfers. Since the four duplicates are titles that most likely already appear in the libraries of any serious film fan, whether or not to purchase the set will depend on how much people want to pay for what is essentially four new Blu-rays and if they would prefer to wait until they are inevitably issued as separate discs. Of the newly-released titles, the pick of the litter is by far "1941," his spectacular 1979 comedy epic about Los Angeles in the grip of war nerves a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Available here in both its original release version and an extended edition replacing 26 minutes of footage cut just before it hit theaters (the longer one being the superior by far), this contains some of the most dazzling setpieces of Spielberg's entire career (the jitterbug dance sequence is a work of true beauty) and is much better than its once-disastrous reputation might suggest.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): Loud, ugly, stupid and clocking in at nearly three solid hours, the latest in the "Transformers" franchise may very well be one of the most utterly obnoxious films ever made and seems to exist only prove that returning director Michael Bay could actually make a "Transformers" film that was significantly worse than the previous entries in the sorriest film franchise in play today.

VENUS IN FUR (MPI Home Video. $24.98): In this cheerfully claustrophobic exercise in dark comedy adapted from the award-winning play of the same name by revered filmmaker Roman Polanski, a theater director (Mathieu Almaric) despairs of ever finding the right actress for his latest play, an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's S&M-themed novel "Venus in Fur," when an unknown (Emmanuelle Seigner) breezes in and demonstrates herself to be a shockingly perfect fit for the part--perhaps too perfect as the extended "audition" turns into a bizarre battle of the sexes in which the roles of the director and actress end up being thoroughly reversed. Kinky, claustrophobic, funny, sexy, strange, brilliantly acted and leading up to a knockout finale, this is prime Polanski--arguably his best and most consistent work in years--and more than makes up for the debacle that was his previous stage-to-screen translation, the woeful "Carnage."

THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION II (Shout! Factory. $79.97): The horror icon gets a further helping of his hi-def due with this set featuring seven genre favorites making their Blu-ray debuts with each title coming with a series of nifty bonus features. The films featured here include "The Raven," "The Comedy of Terrors," "The Tomb of Ligea," "The Last Man on Earth," "Dr. Phibes Rises Again," "The Return of the Fly" and "House on Haunted Hill" and pretty much constitute an entire Halloween party all by themselves.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.95): In the latest sequel/prequel/spinoff/whatever of the seemingly never-ending superhero franchise, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back in time by the modern-day incarnations of Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) to the early Seventies so that their younger incarnations (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, along with Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique) can help prevent the instigation of a top-secret government program that will threaten the existence of mutants and mankind alike in the future. Coming in the wake of the genuinely entertaining "X-Men: First Class," the best of the franchise to date, this movie is a bit of a disappointment, though an admittedly ambitious one. I liked the stuff involving the past incarnations of the characters but the modern-day stuff left me curiously unmoved and it all climaxes in a manner that will almost certainly leave everyone not in the immediate fan base out in the cold. Still, as superhero epics of late go, I would take it over the last "Spider Man" movie in a heartbeat.


ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)


KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Fox Home Entertainment. $24.95)

KINGPIN (Paramount Home Video. $21.99)

KRULL (Mill Creek. $9.98)

LAST EMBRACE (Kino Lorber. $29.95)

LEPRECHAUN: THE COMPLETE MOVIE COLLECTION (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $39.95)

MARRIED TO THE MOB (Kino Lorber. $29.95)

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

NEKROMANTIK (Cult Epics. $29.95)

ROGER & ME (Warner Home Video. $14.98)

SLEEPING BEAUTY: DIAMOND EDITION (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $36.99)

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originally posted: 10/20/14 10:56:04
last updated: 10/21/14 00:33:32
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