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DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews For 11/18: "Time To Drink From The Fire Hose!"
by Peter Sobczynski

All is good with the world tonight--"UHF" is now on Blu-ray. . .


22 JUMP STREET (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): The sequel to the surprise hit sendup of the redoubtable Reagan-era cop show about undercover narcs suffers from the same basic problem as it did the first time around--it can't decide whether it wants to be an over-the-top action-comedy or a spoof of over-the-top action comedies and the clash of the two opposing attitudes results in an inconsistent mess; if these films have done nothing else, they have proven definitively that there is scant difference between a straightforward stupid car chase and an ironic stupid car chase. The film tries to compensate with some failed stabs at meta-movie goofiness along the lines of the infinitely more entertaining "Gremlins 2" but other than once again demonstrating Channing Tatum's appealing flair for broad comedic schtick, this is one of those instantly forgettable slogs that I guarantee that you will not think about again until the sadly inevitable release of "23 Jump Street" in a couple of years.

BATMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Warner Home Video. $199.70): To hell with that "Gotham" thing with its broody cops trying to make things right in a corrupt world and Jada Pinkett Smith trying to prove that she is still a thing and Donal Logue offering up endless variations of "You're getting in too deep"--if I want to watch a "Batman" TV series, I will stick with the famously campy variation that was all the rage in the mid-Sixties and gave the world such such questionable sights as Burt Ward in short-shorts, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler and the Batusi. Long unavailable on home video, it makes its long-awaited DVD/Blu-ray debut in this lavish set that includes every single episode, looking better than ever, and hours of bonus materials that will keep you firmly ensconced in your own Batcave for days to come. Other new TV-related titles now available include "Quincy M.E.: Season 7" (Shout! Factory. $39.97) and "True Blood: Season 7" (HBO Home Entertainment. $59.99).

BOY MEETS GIRL/MAUVAIS SANG (Carlotta Films. $29.95 each): In a move sure to cause most film buffs to rejoice, the first two features from perennial enfant terrible Leos Carax are making their Blu-ray debuts at last. "Boy Meets Girl" (1984) is a hallucinatory black-and-white romantic melodrama in which a young man (Carax mainstay Denis Levant) takes the loss of his girlfriend to his best friend somewhat hard--going so far as to attempt to strangle the latter before giving up and fleeing--until he meets a young woman who has just undergone her own traumatic breakup. "Mauvais Sang" (1986) is a glorious crime-romance mashup up in which a couple of old thieves are hired to steal the vaccine to combat a new type of disease that only strikes those that make love without actually being in love. To aid them, they enlist the son of a former colleague but let us just say that this decision inspires any number of unexpected complications. Although lacking the majesty of such major later works as "Les Amants de Pont-Neuf" and "Holy Rollers," Carax nevertheless had an incredible command of his filmmaking gifts even at an early age and as a result, these two efforts are not to be missed. As a bonus, "Mauvais Sang" comes with "Mr. X," a fascinating 2013 documentary feature on Carax that includes interviews with the enigmatic director himself, sheds a little more light on his life and work and also comes highly recommended.

DOLLS (Shout! Factory. $29.95): After his gruesomely entertaining H.P. Lovecraft adaptations "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond," Stuart Gordon ventured into more conventionally creepy areas with this 1987 horror film involving a spooky old mansion and a bunch of seemingly innocent-looking dolls that go around killing off the hapless and largely hateful people who are forced to stay over one dark and stormy night. Yes, this is pretty silly but Gordon realizes that and presents the material in a tongue-in-cheek manner that recalls his earlier works without quite going overboard in terms of the gore on display. Of course, if you are one of those people who find most dolls to be kind of creepy and off-putting all by themselves, this film will keep you up nights for a long time to come.

IF I STAY (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): In yet another disappointing choice for the gifted young actress Chloe Grace Moretz, she plays a cello prodigy who, following a horrible car accident that kills the rest of her family while landing her in a coma, ruminates on her life while trying to decide to stay alive to be with her drab rocker boyfriend or join her family in the afterworld. Unfortunately, as depicted here, both sides come across as so goonishly unappealing that this may be the first film of this time to argue persuasively for just staying in limbo and saying to hell to both of them. The best thing to say about this adaptation of the YA bestseller is that it is slightly less offensive to the sense than "The Fault in our Stars," if only because this film lacks a scene involving the young lovers making out at a solemn memorial to the Holocaust.

INTO THE STORM (Warner Home Video. $28.98): If you thought that "Twister" was just about the dumbest movie that could have possibly been made about giant tornadoes, the idiots who love to chase them and the idiots who can't seem to stay out of their paths, this moronic effort somehow managed to make that one seem borderline intelligent by comparison. Although the technical aspects are an improvement over the low-budget likes of the"Sharknado" franchise, the screenplay, direction and acting are so lame that there hardly seems to be any difference between the two. Seriously, if you see only one film this year involving a bunch of cheesily executed CGI tornadoes wreaking havoc, you really need to expand your entertainment horizons.

JERSEY BOYS (Warner Home Video. $29.98): How do you take a seemingly surefire idea for a movie--a screen adaptation of the long-running and crowd-pleasing jukebox musical chronicling the rise and fall of Frankie Valli and the Four Season--and turn it into one of the bigger flops of the year? Easy--give it to a director like Clint Eastwood who, despite his obvious gifts as a filmmaker, has no particular feel for either the musical genre in general or of the type of music that the group represented, and allow him to turn it into a grim, muddled and visually murky mess that couldn't help but fail to appeal to anyone not named Richard Schickel.

MONKEY SHINES/THE DARK HALF (Shout! Factory. $29.95 each): Although still most famous for his zombie epics, horror auteur George A. Romero has been known to dabble in stories that do not in any way involve the flesh-chewing undead and these two titles, both making their Blu-ray debuts in special editions featuring commentaries from Romero, interviews, making-of documentaries, deleted scenes and such, are prime examples of that. The former is a fascinating 1988 thriller--one much better than it may sound at first--about a newly paralyzed man whose instantaneous bond with his helper monkey goes wrong when the simian seems to be acting out his darkest thoughts, especially the ones involving unfaithful girlfriends, incompetent doctors and the goddamn pet bird belonging to his hateful nurse. The latter is a 1993 adaptation of the Stephen King novel about a serious writer (Timothy Hutton) who decides to kill off the nom de plume that he has used to write a bunch of trashy, violent thrillers only to discover that the alter ego has taken on a life of his own and will do anything to stay in print. Again, it sounds silly but Romero manages to strikes a balance between the dark humor, the grisly violence and intriguing thoughts about the nature of the creative process.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $29.98): Although it arrived in theaters maybe five years too late for its own good (as demonstrated by its shockingly anemic performance at the box office), the sequel to Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's 2005 screen version of the latter's noir-influenced graphic novel series still packed a decent amount of twisted fun into its quartet of stories filled with guns, gams and gore--in maximum doses and often at the same time--and enacted by a cast including the likes of Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Josh Brolin, Powers Booth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Juno Temple and many more. The scene-stealer of the bunch, however, is Eva Green, whose eye-popping turn as the most fatale femme imaginable is, to paraphrase Taylor Swift, a nightmare (un)dressed like a daydream who is so good at being bad that you will wish that Rodriguez and Miller had simply jettisoned the other stories and focused entirely on her--I know I was.

UHF (Shout! Factory. $29.95): With his star newly ascendant thanks to his chart-topping album "Mandatory Fun," what better time to give Weird Al Yankovic's 1989 shot at big-screen stardom the Blu-ray treatment? The film, in which he plays a schnook who inadvertently finds himself put in charge of a failing UHF station (parents--you can explain this to your kids) that becomes a surprising hit thanks to his bizarre programming choices ("Wheel of Fish" anyone?), is little more than a bunch of skits, music videos and outright weirdness tied together in the most tenuous manner imaginable but while it may not be the most sophisticated film that you will ever see (indeed, there are few that are less sophisticated than this one), the jokes, as corny as they may be, hit more often than not and the entire thing has an appealingly goofy tone that still holds up fairly well today despite the inescapably dated nature of many of the jokes. Plus, you also get to see a pre-"Seinfeld" Michael Richards as a lowly janitor who becomes the channel's top performer with the hit show "Stanley Spadowski's Playhouse." Those of you with a yearning for extra Al will be thrilled to discover that the long-unavailable mockumentary "The Compleat Al" (Shout! Factory. $19.95), complete with the videos for such classics as "Eat It," "Ricky" and "I Lost on Jeopardy," is now making its DVD debut as well.

THE WIND RISES (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99): For what will reportedly be his final film, celebrated Japanese animator Hiyao Miyazaki eschewed the elaborate fantasy narratives of his best-known films for a straightforward (albeit with literal flights of fancy here and there) biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, the Japanese aviation engineer who would go on to develop the Zero airplane that would prove to be so decisive to his country's military fortunes. Even though a film chronicling the work of a Japanese aviation expert might not seem to be the most gripping of possible storylines, it is never less than utterly engrossing. Although working in a more realistic manner than usual, there is no shortage of visual delights on display here and the extended sequence depicting the Kanto earthquake is one of the most elaborate and striking setpieces of his entire career. Dramatically, it is just as strong as well as Miyazaki's depiction of the creative process is compelling even to those who have no working knowledge of aerodynamics and the love story that eventually develops between Jiro and Nahoko is touching without delving into mawkish melodrama. While the end result may not necessarily be the best film to serve as an introduction to Miyazaki's work for newcomers, others will find watching it to be an enormously enriching cinematic experience. This week also sees the Blu-ray debuts of two other Miyazaki masterpieces, "Kiki's Delivery Service" and "Princess Mononoke" (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $29.99 each).


DEMONS/DEMONS 2 (Synapse Films. $24.95 each)

DRUM (Kino Lorber. $29.95)

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

MONTY PYTHON LIVE: ONE DOWN, FIVE TO GO (eOne Entertainment. $24.98)

A POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (Kino Lorber. $29.95)

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originally posted: 11/18/14 14:01:53
last updated: 11/25/14 00:21:54
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