Good Luck Chuck (Lionsgate)
There's not much left to say about 2007's worst reviewed big-money, high-profile punch in the face. Yes, it's inept, boorish, insulting, adolescent, ugly, brain-dead, tired, desperate, and another head-to-desk groan for the likable Jessica Alba. All of which are demonstrably forgivable traits, marginally, in the movie marketplace, which can find audiences for any damn thing. What isn't forgivable, though, is being boring, and Good Luck Chuck has all the engaging magnetism of an unflushed toilet. If there were half as many laughs as there are erect nipples, there might be something here. And about those nipples: In a previous era, this would be a disc that 15-year-old males hid from their moms with the magazines under the mattress. But in our age of easily accessible Internet porn, that's not even a reason to crack the security tape, unless a naked Dane Cook is your turn-on. In which case, you can have my copy with my blessings.
The upfront box sticker on Good Luck Chuck's "Chucked Up! Unrated" edition DVD boasts "over 35 minutes of footage too outrageous for theaters!" Given that the disc's running time is 101 minutes compared to the original 96, we're not too sure about the math here. In any case, the DVD offloads four brief featurettes -- "Look how we made a chick with three boobs!" sets the tone -- plus three deleted/alternate scenes (with an alternate ending), a six-minute gag reel, and ad-libs; and, for those aforementioned 15-year-olds, "Sex Matrix," which isolates 16 of the quickie sex scenes comprising the film's Dane Cook: Loogie Nights montage.
The Blu-ray disc -- for that naked Dane Cook skin in pore-diving high-def -- holds all of this stuff plus three other featurettes and a music montage.
The Ten (City Lights Pictures)
Okay. After that unpleasantness, if you must see one new Jessica Alba release this week, make it this one. The Ten is, in fact, the best movie on my desk today. It's no earth-shaker, but it is fitfully funny and more deserving of Good Luck Chuck's publicity budget.
More a piece of performance art than a movie, The Ten is the very definition of "hit or miss." It's a string of ten distinct but intersecting vignettes, each giving one of the Ten Commandments a more-or-less comical thematic spin. Paul Rudd stars as the emcee and framing device, existing in an empty black void with two gigantic stone tablets. His unhappy wife (Famke Janssen) interrupts his entr'acte monologues to set up the marital woes that include his affair with Jessica Alba. The rest of the cast includes Gretchen Mol, Winona Ryder, Adam Brody, Oliver Platt, Liev Schreiber, Rob Corddry, Kerri Kenney-Silver and Thomas Lennon from Reno 911, and more.
It's directed by David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, the MTV sketch comedy series The State), who cowrote with Ken Marino.
Naturally some bits work better than others. Brody and Ryder's opening "Thou Shalt Have No Gods Before Me" story -- after skydiving without a 'chute, a man survives only by being stuck permanently in the ground -- riffs on our national pastime of unearned celebrity and ludicrous media fame. Gretchen Mol plays a 35-year-old virgin who gets her "awakening" at the hands of a hunky Mexican handyman with a surprise up his manly sleeve. Schreiber is terrifically deadpan as a cop who covets his neighbor's CAT Scan machines. The cartoon rhinoceros (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) is a speed bump, and Ken Marino as a surgeon who kills his patient "as a goof" exists mainly to set up the prison anal rape jokes later on. But what's not to love about Oliver Platt as an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator in a tender Lifetime Channel spoof? And placing Ryder in the "Thou Shalt Not Steal" chapter (having headboard-pounding sex with a ventriloquist dummy while she's at it) shows that we're all still cool with her, man. Famke Janssen reveals an unsuspected flair for light comedy, and Alba is more at home in these relaxed, small-scale jobs. (Won't somebody try her in a TV sitcom?)
The blackout-sketch structure -- plus the cast of familiar faces spun into absurd or satirical situations, the collegiate sexual and literate humor (there's a Jonathan Lethem joke!), and the playful tastelessness -- all bring to mind the fondly remembered Kentucky Fried Movie / Amazon Women on the Moon anthos from the '70s and '80s. A set of jokes about Woody Allen may be a namaste bow of acknowledgement to Allen's similar Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).
The Ten is modestly ambitioned and budgeted, and nobody's working over-hard, but it's a good-looking production and everyone looks like they're having a good time "as a goof." It's hit or miss, and although the hits aren't grand slams, the misses usually at least graze the target.
This THINKFilm title, released by City Lights, loads the DVD with a good, clean image, Dolby Digital 5.1/ DTS 5.1 audio options, and a bucket of strong extras. They start with a funny, non-traditional audio commentary track with David Wain, Ken Marino, Paul Rudd -- "plus soothing jazz and Davis's parents." There's also a collection of outtakes, line improvs by the cast, and deleted/extended scenes. An interview with Marino, Wain and Rudd was shot at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festival. A short "making of" featurette gives us a trip behind the scenes. An exclusive episode of Wainy Days comes from Wain's mini-TV series on his website, MyDamnChannel.com. Finally we get "exclusive (and outrageous) ringtones & wallpaper" and trailers (rated and unrated).
Family Guy: Blue Harvest (Fox)
Here's the 47-minute, double-length Season Six premiere episode of Fox's Family Guy given its own special DVD release. Freakin' sweet, huh? Plus, it's a can-quote-all-the-dialogue-by-heart, 30th Anniversary spoof of the original Star Wars that recasts Luke, Vader, Han, Chewbacca, Leia and other beloved Star Wars characters with Peter, Stewie, Brian, Lois and the rest of the Family Guy regulars. Whoa, feel the Force flowing through it! With Seth MacFarlane and Family Guy's long-time love affair with George Lucas's galaxy far, far away (a "BFF" underlined by almost every extra on the DVD), this disc is bound to be more fun than a frat kegger in Ewok Village!
Sigh. Sorry. This riff on a pop-culture icon by TV's most pop-culture riffingest animated show is surprisingly limp and uninspired. Family Guy: Blue Harvest gets its title from the code name used when filming Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and that's pretty much the extent of the creativity on view here. The duplicated scenes from A New Hope are so shot-for-shot faithful that the whole project feels boxed in by its reverence rather than freed up to cut loose with the fearless bravado that we tune into Family Guy for. Without the show's signature cutaway gags, there are still some laugh-out-loud bits here -- RD-D2/Cleveland's response to getting blasted by Darth Stewie's "Thai" fighter is one that wasn't allowed on the air, and the episode points a fun finger at the movie's gaps in plot logic -- but too many jokes are too easy or obvious or simply fall flat for lack of effort. Instead of Han saying, "Great, kid! Don't get cocky!" we get Han/Peter saying, "Great, kid! Don't get penis-y!" Even for Family Guy that's low-hanging fruit.
The references to other movies and TV shows dig on Airplane, Dirty Dancing, The Breakfast Club, National Lampoon's Vacation, Sanford and Son, Doctor Who (the Tom Baker era, sweet!) and others aiming at the audience that came of age in the '70s. One-liner cameos include Judd Nelson, Rush Limbaugh, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo. The concluding gag -- Seth Green as Chris Griffin pointing out that Robot Chicken (co-created by Green) did the same thing three months ago, and better -- raises a small chuckle as it cross-promotes while it self-references to an audience of several.
In the great social Venn diagram of fandoms, Family Guy and Star Wars share a sizable intersection. The fact that this whole enterprise was therefore a no-brainer may have made everyone -- except the animators as, really, the Star Wars imagery is on the money -- lazy. Overlong at twice the length of its material with a disappointing lack of freshness and creativity, Family Guy: Blue Harvest can't tell Sith from Shinola. (If you thought that was funny, this may be the disc for you.)
Fox delivers Family Guy: Blue Harvest in a standard edition and, with inexplicable optimism, a pricier Special Edition with "limited-edition collectibles." Both come with a good transfer and enthusiastic DD 5.1 surround audio.
The extras in the standard edition start with a convivial commentary track by Seth MacFarlane, writer Alec Sulkin, executive producer David Goodman, assistant director Joseph Lee, editor Mike Elias, director Dominic Polcino, music editor Patrick Clark, producer Danny Smith and producer Kara Vallow. The "making of" featurette, Once in a Lifetime: The Making of Blue Harvest (19 minutes), gives us some interesting behind-the-scenes material. A Conversation with George (12 minutes) records a casual sit-down between the adoring MacFarlane and George Lucas at Skywalker Ranch. If we are to believe The Flannelled One (even his floor is plaid), the TiVo at the Lucas manse is filled with Family Guy episodes, but he won't buy the DVDs. Select Animatic Version to watch Blue Harvest in its black-and-white line drawing stage. Family Guy Star Wars Clip Show collects a couple dozen Star Wars-themed cutaway gags from the series' history. There's also a Family Guy promo, as if you need one by this point.
The Special Edition adds 3D Blue Harvest Fight Scene; 3D glasses; 12 trading cards that form a 3D scene on the back; a 20-page Art of Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest booklet with sketches, notes and a letter from MacFarlane; and a T-shirt (100% cotton, black and -- stereotyped with love -- XL).
Saving Sarah Cain (Fox)
Lisa Pepper stars in this Lifetime Channel dramedy, from Believe Pictures and the Fox Faith imprint, that follows a sweet, successful, self-absorbed "city girl" journalist as she's forced to take on five children after the death of her estranged Amish sister in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This "heartwarming" adaptation of a book by Christian novelist Beverly Lewis will probably find a welcome reception among the nominal "family values" audience, but they deserve "nice" and "decent" movies that offer more engaging and challenging fare than this draggy, transparently sentimental, obvious, by-the-numbers fable about "lifestyle priorities." It's a musty "happiness comes when you least expect it" weepy in all the predictable, over-familiar ways.
Lisa Pepper is an appealing new face, and the five Amish kids embarrass nobody. Elliott Gould and Tess Harper co-star, and it's directed in a bland and flabby fashion by Michael Landon, Jr. Although Landon and writer Brian Bird are credited as "Award-Winning Producers," that award is the Character and Morality in Entertainment Award. That's nice, but.
Fox's DVD presents a solid transfer with only an ordinary "behind the scenes" featurette and a handful of deleted scenes.
Also out this week:
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning. Two-disc anniversary edition with new digital transfer. Extras: Commentary by singer Marni Nixon and film historian Joseph McBride; "Affairs to Remember: Deborah Kerr"; "Affairs to Remember: Cary Grant"; "Directed by Leo McCarey" featurette"; "A Producer to Remember: Jerry Wald" featurette; "The Look of An Affair to Remember"; "AMC Backstory: An Affair to Remember"; "Fox Movietonews: An Affair to Remember Shipboard Premiere Attracts Celebrities" featurette; poster gallery; still gallery. (Fox)
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
Joan Taylor, Hugh Marlowe, Donald Curtis, Morris Ankrum. In black & white and colorized versions. Two-disc set. Extras: Commentary by Ray Harryhausen, Arnold Kunert, Jeff Okun, Ken Ralston; featurettes: "Ray Harryhausen on Earth vs. the Flying Saucers," "A Present Day Look at Stop-Motion," "The Colorization Process," "Original Screenplay Credits," "Tim Burton Sits Down With Ray Harryhausen, "Interview with Joan Taylor," "David Schecter on Film Music's Unsung Hero," "The Hollywood Blacklist and Bernard Gordon"; advertising artwork video montage of film's ad materials by producer Arnold Kunert; video photo galleries; sneak peek of digital comic book "Flying Saucers vs. the Earth." (Sony)
Extras Gift Set: Seasons One and Two
The set also include the 90-minute "Extra Special Series Finale." (HBO Video)
He Was a Quiet Man (2007)
Christian Slater, Elisha Cuthbert, William H. Macy. This surreal, darkly humorous drama is one of Christian Slater's best. A troubled office worker/wannabe killer turns accidental hero when he saves a troubled girl from another man's bullet. Extras: Commentary by director Frank A. Cappello, deleted scenes, "First Look: He Was a Quiet Man." (Anchor Bay)
In the Heat of the Night (40th Anniversary Edition) (1967)
Dir.: Norman Jewison; Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Larry Gates, James Patterson, William Schallert. Extras: Commentary by Jewison, Grant, Steiger and Haskell Wexler; three featurettes: "Turning Up the Heat: Movie Making in the Turbulent 60s," "The Slap Heard Around the World," "Quincy Jones: In the Heat of the Music" featurette. (MGM)
It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)
Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis, Ian Keith. In black & white and colorized versions. Two-disc set. Extras: Commentary by Ray Harryhausen, Arnold Kunert, Randy Cook and John Bruno; Ray Harryhausen on It Came From Beneath the Sea" featurette; video photo galleries; "Tim Burton Sits Down With Ray Harryhausen" featurette; a video discussion of "It Came From Beneath the Sea's" 1955 marketing and advertising campaign by producer Arnold Kunert; "David Schecter on Film Music's Unsung Hero" featurette; "A Present Day Look at Stop-Motion" featurette; sneak peek of digital comic book "It Came from Beneath the Sea . . . Again!" (Sony)
Kingdom: Series 2
Delves even deeper into the realm of the supernatural that takes place at the Kingdom Hospital in Copenhagen then in the first acclaimed chiller. Danish with English subtitles. Extras: Lars von Trier's "Kingdom" documentary, selected commentary, music video, more. (Koch Lorber)
Martin Scorsese Presents Val Lewton: Man in the Shadows (2007)
Scorsese produced and narrates this fascinating study of Val Lewton, the legendary film producer who brought a new perspective to the horror genre at RKO during the 1940s, creating such gems as "Cat People," "Curse of the Cat People," "I Walked with a Zombie," "The Body Snatcher," "Isle of the Dead," "Bedlam" and "The Seventh Victim." (Warner)
The Naked Prey (1966)
Dir.: Cornel Wilde; Cornel Wilde, Ken Gampu. New, restored high-definition digital transfer. Extras: Commentary by film scholar Stephen Prince; "John Colter's Escape," a 1913 written record of the trapper's flight from Blackfoot Indians -- which was the inspiration for "The Naked Prey" -- read by actor Paul Giamatti; original soundtrack cues created by director Cornel Wilde and ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey, along with a written statement by Tracey on the score; plus a booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Michael Atkinson and a 1970 interview with Wilde. (The Criterion Collection)
Oswald's Ghost (2008)
Dan Rather's PBS documentary on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Extras: Zapruder film, extended interviews, "Dealey Plaza Freaks." (Paramount)
Sally Hawkins, Rupert Penry-Jones, Alice Krige, Anthony Head. Jane Austen's romantic masterpiece. (Warner)
Postwar Kurosawa (Eclipse Series #7)
No-frills collection of five Akira Kurosawa films: No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), One Wonderful Sunday (1947), Scandal (1950), The Idiot (1951) and I Live in Fear (a.k.a. Record of a Living Being) (1955). (The Criterion Collection)
Rising Damp: The Movie (1980)
Feature film based on the British TV series about a lecherous landlord and his ridiculous bunch of social misfit tenants; stars Leonard Rossiter. (Acorn Media)
Scenes of a Sexual Nature (2006)
Ewan McGregor, Polly Walker, Eileen Atkins, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hardy, Andrew Lincoln, Gina McKee, Sophie Okonedo, Mark Strong. Investigates the lives of seven couples in various stages of relationships on a sunny afternoon in Hampstead Heath in England. Extras: "If You Build it They Will Come: The Making of Scenes of a Sexual Nature." (ThinkFilm)
She's Gotta Have It (1986)
Spike Lee's debut feature, about a young woman (Tracy Camilla Johns) spinning among three suitors (one played by Mr. Lee), gets a long overdue DVD release. (MGM)
Syndromes and a Century (2006, U.S. release 2007)
The Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Blissfully Yours) imagines the lives of his parents before they were married in this much acclaimed feature that ranked high on many 2007 "Best Films of the Year" lists. (Strand Releasing)
Suburban Girl (2007)
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alec Baldwin, Maggie Grace, James Naughton, Chris Carmack. A Manhattanite book editor (Gellar) finds her take on the game of romance changed after she lures the attention of an influential older man. Extras: Commentary by director Marc Klein. (Image Entertainment)
Wedding Daze (a.k.a. The Pleasure of Your Company) (2006)
Jason Biggs, Isla Fisher, Michael Weston, Joe Pantoliano, Joanna Gleason, Edward Herrmann. After losing the woman of his dreams, a young man is convinced he'll never fall in love again, but at the urging of his best friend, he spontaneously proposes to a dissatisfied waitress named Katie and an innocent dare evolves into romance. Extras: Deleted scenes. (MGM)
Yes: Classic Artists (2007)
Fully authorized documentary that looks at the twists and turns of the band's career, now told for the first time in a series of exclusive interviews with Yes members past and present. Two-disc set with 20-page full-color booklet. Extras: extended interviews, music videos, rehearsal footage, stills gallery. (Image Entertainment)