This week on home video, you’ll be seeing a lot of shapeshifting robots engaged in epic battles with each other, as not only does Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen hit store shelves, but also the all-encompassing Transformers 25th Anniversary “Matrix of Leadership” Edition. While the former was a poorly reviewed box-office smash hit, the latter is the source material (as in, every single episode of the Generation One series), often equally incomprehensible in plot, but somehow much more endearing. In addition, we’ve got a handful of indie dramas in Cheri, Beauty in Trouble, and the Criterion re-release of director Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, which comes packed with special features. Then we’ve got something for the kids, something for fans of mindless action films, and an American classic getting the hi-def treatment. Check out our picks and decide what you’ll be snatching up this week.
Let’s be real for a minute here. The first installment of the Transformers franchise was a little disappointing for several reasons, but it still seemed to fulfill the desire to see the popular 80s toy/cartoon/comic heroes brought to the big screen sufficiently, at least by audience standards. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was Michael Bay’s chance to improve upon past mistakes and deliver a bigger punch, and both critics and audiences responded less favorably to it than they did to the first. Having said all that, you probably won’t find a bigger, bolder, more explosive (literally) depiction of giant robots beating the crap out of each other anywhere else, so if that’s your bag, then ROTF is most certainly worth a look. If you missed it in the theaters (where, in all honesty, it probably would have looked more impressive), then the next best thing is to bring it home and run it through your home theater system. Accordingly, you can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
If neither of the two Transformers film adaptations “did it” for you, this week you’ll also have the option of investing in a piece of nostalgia with the Transformers 25th Anniversary “Matrix of Leadership” Edition box set. That might be a mouthful, but it seems appropriate, given the quality of the collection. First off, the packaging is modeled after the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, and it opens up the same way the Matrix would — by pulling outward from the edges. Inside, you’ll find every episode from Generation One of the series (you know, before Beast Wars and all that), a featurette documenting the history of the Transformers, old commercials for the Hasbro toys, a roundtable discussion featuring 8 of the original voice actors, and so much more. This set would appear to be an absolute must-have for anyone who grew up loving the Transformers, so be on the lookout for it. (You can also watch a preview video of the set on IGN)
Director Mira Nair opens a new film this week, the Amelia Earhart biopic aptly titled Amelia, but her most acclaimed work is probably 2002’s Monsoon Wedding, a modestly budgeted family drama that weaves several dramatic and comic threads around the central story of a woman who is preparing to marry a man she’s never met before. Though the film is already available on DVD, this week it receives the Criterion treatment in both DVD and Blu-Ray; the new edition will include a slew of special features, including a few of Nair’s documentaries and short films, complete with introductions by Nair herself. It’s a worthy consideration for anyone who enjoyed her other films, like Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, and her debut, Salaam Bombay!
Released just in time to get you in the Thanksgiving spirit is the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (Those Aren’t Pillows! Edition) DVD. This road/buddy comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy is arguably the late John Hughes’ greatest achievement, and has become something of a perennial for those who look askance at the forced gaiety of the holidays. This special edition DVD contains several featurettes and a deleted scene.
If you’re in the mood for a twisty ensemble dramedy, you could do far worse than the Czech import Beauty in Trouble. Inspired by a Robert Graves poem, BIT stars Ana Geislerova as a sex addict who must choose between her husband and an older suitor; hilarity, sadness, and complex emotions ensue. It’s sitting pretty at 83% on the Tomatometer, which means critics found more Beauty in it than Trouble.
B-movie kingpin Roger Corman and his studio American Independent Pictures (AIP) helped start the careers of many American titans, among them Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Fonda. After the trio worked with AIP on multiple films, Columbia hit them up for a re-visioning of their popular Biker opus Wild Angels. While Easy Rider didn’t display the volatile, hippie-hating aggression that made other AIP counter-culture dramas so raw/dangerous, it did have a swinging soundtrack, off-color comedy and just enough tragedy to make the whole nihilistic exodus seem simultaneously pointless and perfect. The Blu-Ray features director commentary and a featurette called “Shaking the Cage.”
Granted, vampires have been getting a lot of screen time as of late, and the story of a half-breed taking on the evil, bloodsucking forces of darkness is far from revolutionary. But with the combination of so-bad-it’s-good dialogue and some frenetic martial arts action, this live-action adaptation of the popular anime might just be worth a late night rental. You won’t see anything that hasn’t done before (and possibly better), but it could end up being more fun than it’s supposed to be. Pick it up on DVD, or get it on Blu-Ray for hi-def madness.
Most of the players who brought us Dangerous Liasons in 1988 produced Cheri, a gauzy and somewhat candy colored arthouse charmer. Unfortunately, audiences failed to turn out to see Michelle Pfeiffer, though her performance is often called the highlight of the film. This fair-weather romance about a May-December relationship stars Pfeiffer as Lea, a retired courtesan, who embarks on an affair with a much younger consort, Cheri (Rupert Friend). The film’s dry and acerbic one liners, along with Pfeiffer’s performance, appear to be the most memorable parts of this lesser recognized drama. The DVD features a making-of featurette, costumes of the period, and a scad of deleted scenes.
Earlier this year, Warner Home Video released a collection of Peanuts television specials from the 1960s, and that set included the two beloved classics A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This week, they follow up with their next big collection, this time from the 70s, which includes the first six specials that aired between 1970 and 1974. While the collection doesn’t include the same caliber of specials as the first set, it does feature another fan favorite in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, as well as a featurette on the introduction of Snoopy’s sidekick, Woodstock. The 1970s perhaps weren’t as impressive a showing for the Peanuts gang as the 60s, but the appeal is still there, and fans of all ages will have no trouble reconnecting with them.
One of the most notorious bombs of the mid-1990s, Waterworld probably didn’t deserve its toxic reputation. If anything, it’s an ambitious misfire, loaded with silliness (Kevin Costner does his best fish impression! Dennis Hopper chews the scenery… again!) but featuring some exciting set pieces and innovative production design. A two-disc Blu-Ray edition hits stores this week, so you can decide for yourself if it’s a sci-fi campfest or an overlooked cult classic.