What's landing on our DVD shelves this week? Here are some that snatched our attention. Keep visiting us here at Film.com/DVD for more reporting and opinionating on titles you see here.
Now you can bring home one of 2007's most lauded (and then backlashed) indie hits on a single-disc edition DVD, or a two-disc Special Edition "with Digital Copy" (meaning you can load it onto your iPod), or on Blu-ray hi-def disc. For some it's a catchphrase-infested, self-consciously clever, bandwagon-praised smug-fest; for others it's an entertaining charmer with a script that earned Diablo Cody that Oscar, and a social comedy that probably marks a watershed pop-culture moment by putting its finger on the values and 'tudes of our times -- this generation's The Graduate. I know where I stand. Either way, Ellen Page is awesome here and hers will be a post-Juno world.
The extras include an enjoyable commentary track from director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody. Also here are behind-the-scenes production featurettes, 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary, screen tests, a gag reel, a gag take, a music jam session with the cast and crew, trailers, and Fox's "Inside Look" on the movie.
Editor's rating: 5 out of 5 Oh-hell-yeahs
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (THINKFilm)
This dark thriller pivoting on a desperate crime gone wrong was directed by Sidney Lumet and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Rosemary Harris, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney. With a top-down line-up like that, you're in the money.
Time magazine's Richard Schickel named Before the Devil Knows You're Dead one of the top 10 films of 2007, ranking it at #3, saying, "At one level the movie is a wonderfully intricate exploration of family dysfunction. At another, it's a coolly controlled examination of increasingly insane criminal ineptitude. Either way you look at, this is a hypnotizing film from one of our great masters." Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, calling it "superb" and saying "The Japanese name some of their artists Living Treasures. Sidney Lumet is one of ours." The under-released 2007 film currently rates an 84 at MetaCritic and an 88% "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes.
Extras start with a commentary track with director Lumet, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Ethan Hawke. We also get a production documentary, Directed by Sidney Lumet: How the Devil Was Made, with Lumet, Hoffman, Hawke, Tomei, and two of the film's producers along with behind-the-scenes footage.
Editor's rating: 4 out of 5 Oh-hell-yeahs
Lars and the Real Girl (MGM)
Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan said that this offbeat, poorly marketed indie's cast and crew have constructed "a Frank Capra-style fable, a throwback tribute to the joys of friendship and community, around a sex toy.... The creators of this film were fiercely determined not to go so much as a millimeter over the line into sentiment, tawdriness or mockery. It's the rare film that is the best possible version of itself, but Lars fits that bill." Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and called it "an offbeat comedy that plays as if Preston Sturges came back to life and collaborated with the Coen Brothers on an updated version of the Jimmy Stewart film Harvey." Lumenick said the script by Nancy Oliver "eschews cheap laughs for character-driven humanist comedy, and is sensitively directed by Craig Gillespie."
Any movie that compares favorably to Preston Sturges and the Coen Brothers in a single sentence is way alright in my book.
Extras include alternate scenes, a deleted scene, and two behind-the-scenes featurettes: "The Real Story of Lars and The Real Girl" and "A Real Leading Lady."
Editor's rating: 4 out of 5 Oh-hell-yeahs
Also on DVD This Week:
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (Unrated) (Fox)
In the words of Film.com's resident horror-film aficionado, C. Robert Cargill, "What's a 22-letter, four-word phrase for incredibly tedious bore?" and "The worst part is that it isn't even fun crappy.... It's just another dull, lifeless cash grab, yet another example of milking a pair of great movies for every last dollar they are worth."
Extras include two commentary tracks: one with co-directors Colin and Greg Strause and producer John Davies; the other with special-effects supervisors Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis. Also here are an "Added Footage Marker" showing where the "Unrated" footage got inserted, five short production documentaries, and seven galleries of stills. Grrr, arrrgh.
The Final Season (Sony)
The true story of Kent Stock (Sean Astin), who in the early '90s takes the job of a lifetime as head coach of the Norway High School baseball team, a school that has won 19 state titles and equates baseball with life. Kent must win over his players and convince them and himself that he can fill their former coach's shoes all while dealing with the reality that this will be the team's final season due to an impending ... ::snore:: ... huh, where am I? ... Oh, look, shiny objects....
Inside (Genius Products)
Yet another torture-porn horrorschlock freakfest. Will the fun ever stop? Or maybe it's a transcendent meditation on the beauty of childbirth. Whatever. The editor didn't have the stomach for it, so our resident horror aficionado, C. Robert Cargill, will be reviewing this one later this week. (I owe you one, Big C.)
I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (Genius Products)
Written and directed by Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), this light romantic comedy features Garlin, Sarah Silverman, and Bonnie Hunt, along with several improv veterans of Chicago's Second City and its 1950s predecessor, Compass Players. Rotten Tomatoes gave I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With a "fresh" rating of 74% with 34 positive reviews and 12 negative ones, with the "cream of the crop" giving it a rating of 81%. The New York Times described the "rambling" film "laid back and affectionate." In a appreciative review, Roger Ebert called it "a minor movie, but a big-time minor movie.... If there is such a thing as a must-see three-star movie, here it is." But John Maynard in The Washington Post scorned the movie, writing, "A better awkward title would be 'Random Events of a Failed Actor Plodding the Streets of Chicago.'"
In the Name of the King - A Dungeon Siege Tale (Fox)
What does a "2% Rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes look like? What's such an appealing cast doing in a movie like this? Is it true that researchers are closing in on a cure for Uwe Boll?
Our picks for this week's TV on DVD
Alien Nation - The Ultimate Movie Collection (Fox)
This three-disc DVD set continues where the popular science fiction/social allegory television series left off. Matt Sikes and George Francisco are an unlikely team of detectives who solve crime and moderate human and alien Newcomer activity in this collection of Alien Nation movies that debuted on television. The collection features the following five made-for-TV films: Alien Nation: Dark Horizon (1994), Alien Nation: Body and Soul (1995), Alien Nation: Millennium (1996), Alien Nation: The Enemy Within (1996) and Alien Nation: The Udara Legacy (1997). Each disc is also loaded with extras such as commentaries and production featurettes. As Film.com's MaryAnn Johanson says in her review, "these five movies do what the single season of the series did best: explore concepts of prejudice -- racism, sexism, religious bigotry, and more -- by turning them on their bald, spotted heads."
I Remember Nelson (Acorn Media)
From Acorn Media -- our go-to source for British TV on DVD -- this week we get I Remember Nelson, an engaging drama about Britain's greatest naval hero, Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, with riveting performances and lushly detailed costumes. Although it originally aired on Masterpiece Theatre in 1982, this four-part drama feels contemporary because of its innovative storytelling approach, with each part taking the point of view of a different person close to Lord Nelson.
Worshipped as a national savior, Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson masterminded the naval victories that thwarted Napoleon's plans to invade Britain. Yet, in the midst of public adulation, rumors swirled about his private life. Nelson took a friend's wife as a mistress and even fathered a child by her in secret.
Starring Kenneth Colley (Monty Python's Life of Brian), Geraldine James (The Jewel in the Crown, The Amazing Mrs Pritchard), and Tim Pigott-Smith (V for Vendetta, Bloody Sunday), this lavish historical drama examines Nelson through the eyes of four people close to him: his wife, who feels bitter and betrayed but ultimately loving; his friend, who helplessly loses his wife to a hero; his captain, who admires Nelson's bold leadership but disdains his lifestyle; and an ordinary seaman, who turns to his commander for inspiration while facing death. What emerges is an unconventional portrait of a complex figure and a study in the effects of fame.
Rich with sexual and political intrigue, this critically acclaimed miniseries delivers captivating characters and historical insight.
Clive Cussler's The Sea Hunters - Set 2 (Acorn Media)
Also from Acorn this week is Clive Cussler's The Sea Hunters - Set 2, featuring six more episodes of the underwater documentary series delivering dramatic action and fascinating history.
What really happened to the Andrea Gail, the little fishing boat made famous in The Perfect Storm? Can a treasure-trove of artistic masterpieces survive after 200-plus years underwater? How did the ship that rescued Titanic survivors meet its fate? Led by bestselling action-adventure author Clive Cussler (Dirk Pitt) and distinguished marine archaeologist James Delgado, a team of expert divers attempt to answer those questions and more—not for profit, but to complete the historical record.
Careful never to remove relics from their final resting places, the Sea Hunters record their finds with superb underwater videography. Each episode includes historical background on the targeted shipwrecks and details the team's elaborate planning, high-tech methods, and spectacular underwater filming. These six action-packed episodes make the viewer a participant in daring expeditions and a true witness to history. The Sea Hunters series aired on the National Geographic Channel.
- Episode 1: The Search for the Carpathia -- On April 15, 1912, the passenger liner RMS Carpathia bravely raced through ice-choked waters to save the survivors of the Titanic and was sunk by a German U-boat six years later.
- Episode 2: The Search for Andrea Gail -- Immortalized by the bestseller and hit movie The Perfect Storm, the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail sank somewhere in the North Atlantic in the monstrous meteorological confluence of 1991.
- Episode 3: Catherine the Great's Treasure Ship -- Laden with artistic masterpieces bound for the Russian empress's collection, the Vrouw Maria sank in 1771 and now lies almost perfectly preserved on the Baltic seabed.
- Episode 4: Russalka: The Czar's Lost Ironclad -- The flagship of Czar Nicholas II's navy, the Russalka mysteriously vanished in 1893. Apparently defying gravity and physics, it seems to have sunk vertically and now stands upright in the ice-cold waters off Estonia.
- Episode 5: Lost at Sea: The Great U.S. Navy Airships Akron and Macon -- Search for the remains of the Akron and Macon, two dirigibles that fell into the sea a continent apart in the 1930s. They represented the Navy's last experiments in deploying flying aircraft carriers.
- Episode 6: The Search for the SS Alabama -- During the American Civil War, the Confederacy commissioned ships specifically designed to beat the Union blockade of Southern ports including their deadliest raider, the Alabama.
Special features include bonus footage for each episode and a Clive Cussler bio.