This week on home video, we’ve got a bizarre combination of interests represented by new releases. With the holiday season in full swing, what better gift to give than… a Quentin Tarantino movie? Sure, why not? It got pretty great reviews, and it’s the most acclaimed new release on deck this week. But if fantastical, talky, WWII-era war films aren’t your thing, then perhaps you’ll go for an over-the-top buddy comedy, or maybe a group of talking CGI guinea pigs. Still not your bag? Well, alright, then we’ve got a collection from a comedy legend, some eccentric animation, a documentary on a winning sports team, and a beloved sci-fi franchise. And, if all else fails, there’s always a prosthetic penis to complete the holiday mood. Yeah, there’s pretty much something for everyone this week.
Anticipation is always at a frothy high when a new Quentin Tarantino film comes out, but the buzz behind Inglourious Basterds, his latest, was somewhat mixed when it premiered earlier this year. After the film opened wide in August and more voices began to chime in, however, it became apparent that QT had little to worry about. Basterds was deemed a success, a truly unique take on war movies that could only come from the mind of Tarantino, and besides earning Certified Fresh status on the Tomatometer (88%), it’s also recently just garnered multiple nominations from several leading awards events. The plot moves back and forth between a young Jewish woman whose family was brutally murdered by the Germans and a group of Jewish-American soldiers on a Nazi-killing spree, both striving for the same goal while simultaneously attempting to avoid detection by a devilishly sharp Nazi Colonel (played with magnificent panache by Chistoph Waltz). The movie incorporates QT’s masterful knack for dialogue, which is utilized to build tension thicker than most thrillers, and packs a brutal climactic punch. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
No one is going to call The Hangover a revolutionary re-visioning of the Bachelor Party film (c’mon, does the Bachelor Party genre really need overhaul?), but its treasure hunt and who-dun-it (or rather what-did-we-do) formula changed the paradigm. It’s a Stag Nite movie all about consequences, but for all the masculinity in this comedy, the film goes down like a girly drink. The biggest surprise standout in the performances was Ken Jeong as the nefarious Mr. Chow, and he’s the star of the DVD extras in a 10-minute long rant called “The Madness of Ken Jeong.” Who cares if it’s unrated or swimming in bloopers, Mr. Chow’s gonna spill it!
Nicolas Cage’s career is made up of roles that are just at the cusp of credulity-he’s always either deadly serious and totally absurd and usually at the same time. Take him counterbalanced by Tracy Morgan, a comedian whose sanity is a recurrent topic in the tabloids, and you should be wondering where, in this magic dialectic, Werner Herzog got off not making Bad Lieutenant 2 a buddy cop film. (With all the iguanas, The Big Easy totally could have done with a few talking Guinea pigs… with guns. You know I’m right.) The Blu-Ray is a 2 DVD set with countless (read: 5) technological accessories: featurettes on concept creation, music videos and what promises to be an exercise video on Blaster’s (Morgan) G-Force Training. I figure that last one’ll involve a lot of core.
Ang Lee’s dramedy Taking Woodstock hit theaters the weekend of the 40th anniversary of the mother of all rock fests. Unfortunately, neither critics nor audiences seemed that enthused by this good-natured examination of the three days of peace and music. Starring Demetri Martin and Emile Hirsch, the film focuses on the buzz of activity around the festival, omitting the music for a lighthearted look at the phenomenon that changed pop culture forever. While it’s an interesting approach from an outstanding filmmaker, a number of critics found Woodstock to be pleasant but slight. The DVD features commentary from Lee and a featurette on the fest – perfect for those who don’t have the time to watch all four hours of Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock.
Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter who you’ve got working for you; if the product they’re working on isn’t up to snuff, there’s a good chance things will go south quickly. Unfortunately, such was the case with The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. Headlined by Jeremy Piven and Ving Rhames, the cast was comprised mainly of lesser known, up-and-coming comedic “that-guy”s, including Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, Kathryn Hahn, and Rob Riggle, among others. All of these actors have proven themselves elsewhere, and director Neal Brennan brought us the wildly popular “Chappelle’s Show,” but this story about a salesman for hire who attempts to make a car dealership profitable for a weekend was perhaps not the best vehicle (no pun intended) for those involved to showcase their talents; the film earned a mere 26% on the Tomatometer and faltered at the box office. Nevertheless, for better or for worse, The Goods hits shelves this week on DVD and Blu-Ray, so it might at least be worth a rental for the curious.
Who knew that a modest science-fiction TV show from the 60s that only ran for three seasons would have such a monumental cultural impact and spawn a legion of followers more dedicated than your average sports fan? In any case, earlier this year we got J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the film franchise, potentially ushering in a new generation of Trekkies, and this sparked a renewed interest in the Trek series of the past. This week, the Orginial Series – as in Gene Roddenberry’s 1966 show starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — finds its way to home video via a Blu-Ray box set of the previously released individual three seasons. The set itself doesn’t contain any extras not already found in the individual releases, but if you’ve held off on picking any of them up, this is your chance to scoop up all three at once.
One of MTV’s early forays into animation, Oddities, featured episodes from two separate animated series: The Maxx and The Head. Both were experiments in more adult-oriented animation, but they developed followings of their own, and in full recognition of the fact, Amazon.com is exclusively releasing complete collections of the two titles this week through their CreateSpace on-demand DVD manufacturing program. In other words, they’re not officially packaged and sold collections that you’ll be able to find in any brick-and-mortar DVD store. On the other hand, don’t presume this means they’ll lack any special features; The Maxx will include all 13 episodes with audio commentary tracks and interviews with the creators.
Insanely ambitious, occasionally hilarious, and often heartbreaking, Boogie Nights tells of the rise and fall of a John Holmes-esque porn star named Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). Loaded with fascinating characters and period details, it drew comparisons to the work of Robert Altman and signaled the arrival of Paul Thomas Anderson. But take out the sleaze and you have a touching portrait of a group of misfits who form a surrogate family, and that factor, finally, may be the key to Boogie Nights‘ enduring appeal. The Blu-ray hits shelves this week, though they’re exclusively Best Buy shelves – for the time being, anyway.
If you’re a Yankee hater, feel free to skip this entry. If, however, you’re a diehard fan of the Bronx Bombers, you won’t want to miss the 2009 New York Yankees: The Official World Series Film Blu-ray, in which you can relive the team’s 27th championship and revel in the exploits of Jeter, A-Rod, Godzilla and the rest of the gang in loving high-definition. This doc features the key plays in the team’s run, plus behind-the-scenes footage and reactions from the players. (For pinstripe obsessives, there’s also the five disc New York Yankees 2009 World Series Collector’s Edition, which comprises every single game of the fall classic, along with locker room celebrations and interviews.)
Earlier this Month, when Mel Brooks was feted at the Kennedy Center Honors, President Obama summed up the enduring appeal of the legendary jokester: “In his satires and parodies, no cow is sacred, no genre is safe.” Brooks may not have originated the movie parody, but for years he was synonymous with the form. He gleefully skewed westerns (Blazing Saddles) old school horror flicks (Young Frankenstein), silent movies (Silent Movie, natch), and sci-fi blockbusters (Spaceballs). You’ll find these and other classics on the nine-disc Mel Brooks Collection on Blu-Ray (which also features interviews and trailers). If you’ve never seen Brooks’ influential, gut-busting movies, this is a great place to start.
Written by Tim Ryan, Sara Schieron, and Ryan Fujitani