DVD of the Week
A rat with the voice of comedian Patton Oswalt aspires to become a chef in a Parisian restaurant, facing discrimination, incompetent help and a formidable critic. Pixar's latest summer smash may not refresh the parts Happy Feet didn't reach, but it's their meatiest offering since Monsters Inc., boasting sumptuous visuals, robust gags and -- in its dining room chase -- a four-course set-piece. With deleted scenes, a pointless featurette with chef Thomas Keller and an additional short called Your Friend the Rat.
Adam Sandler and Kevin James are the last two people to get the joke that any buddy movie is a de facto gay love story. They play a pair of firemen who pretend to be sons of Gomorrah so they can get domestic partner benefits. The macho Sandler ruins things by falling for Jessica Biel. This makes James and us cry, but for different reasons. With the stars' commentary, deleted scenes and five featurettes.
It's a sad fact that the booming doc scene is booming precisely because CNN, Fox and the rest can barely deliver incisive reporting about a cat stuck in a tree, let alone our decrepit health service. Michael Moore to the rescue, sorta. He flings selective facts on HMOs designed to make liberals wring hands and conservatives to switch DVDs. The indignation is real, but it's wrapped in Moore's patented smarm and unlikely to change anybody's mind.
Die-hards know that each Pixar feature comes with a short-film preface. This collection allows the animation nation to survey some of the CGI wizards' earliest efforts (1984's The Adventures of Andre & Willy B.), as well as other shorts featuring the stars of Cars and Monsters Inc. Among the 13 selections are three Best Animated Short Film Oscar winners: Tin Toy, Geri's Game and For the Birds.
Michael Moore fans may enjoy this tale of growing-up, French style. Fidel! is a wry nine-year-old's view of a house turned upside down when the parents become Marxists in the heady 1970s. Soon the committed activists have a Cuban nanny (who supports Batista) and real-life Reds in the bed. Directed by Julie Gavras, whose radical filmmaker father Costa Gavras made the classics Z and Missing.
Director Bruno Dumont and cinema go together like a thug, a brick and a shop window. He applies a brutish sensibility to this story of backward French yokels being shipped off to fight in foreign lands. There they work out their issues over sharing a girlfriend. Dumont's attitude towards sex 'n' violence has all the subtlety of the farmyard, which makes this an interesting pendant to the upcoming Iraqi war movie Redacted.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." Jack Nicholson is Jake Gittes, the wormy P.I. who discovers just how filthy Los Angeles really is while investigating the mysterious death of an L.A. water board member. The twisted plot may demand judicious use of the pause button today, but Roman Polanski's 1974 landmark is essential viewing. It's a detailed meditation of a vanishing city where the scent of eucalyptus mingles with perpetual rot. Nicholson, Polanski and scriptwriter Robert Towne contribute to a making-of doc.
Having made the transition from B-movie stalwart to Hollywood star, Nicholson helped buddy Robert Towne realize the second installment of his projected Chinatown trilogy in 1990. Harvey Keitel replaces John Huston as his nemesis, and this time it's oil that runs through L.A.'s stinking veins. A flop on release, this curious sequel deserves revisiting. Nicholson is on hand to discuss the film in an 18-minute interview.
Hong Kong's Johnny To is the best action director in the world today. His cinematic calling card is this 2005 classic, a prequel to Triad Election released earlier this year. A pair of Cantonese gangsters vies for control of a triad. One doesn't take his loss lying down, and soon gangsters are being thrown down hills and open war brews.
Thanks to perennial reruns, it's hard to believe that Seinfeld wrapped up the same day Frank Sinatra called it quits. That's way back in 1998, for you kids in short pants. By this season, Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George were running on empty. In spite of the occasional glimmer of brilliance -- such as "The Merv Griffin Show" episode -- water-cooler conversations were mostly of the "What was that?" variety. This DVD set includes the finale in its 75-minute entirety, as well as new interviews with the cast.
Stephen Colbert's Bill O'Reilly impression isn't quite as funny as he and the blogosphere thinks it is. (We're still cringing from that Meet the Press interview.) His finest moments come when Colbert departs from the preening ditto-head script and does crazy-ass sh*t like duetting with Barry Manilow or Jedi jousting with George Lucas. But there's nothing in this comp that hasn't already been You Tubed to death.
With its JD heroine (Genevieve Cortese), horse ranch setting and studly trainers, this ABC Family series is tailor-made for adolescent girls who've worn out Black Beauty. As winning as a Judy Blume book, except without the messy gynecological stuff. Comes with audio commentaries and a featurette on how the second season incorporated performances from the likes of James "Rhymes With" Blunt.
It's a story that has been told before (and again and again.) Still, there's no denying the power of footage from the mod's "My Generation" early days, or the Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour appearance when Keith Moon blew up his drumkit in Bette Davis' face. Surviving members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey contribute new interviews. Sting and Eddie Vedder are also on hand to pontificate.
In the mid-1990s, Oasis tantalized audiences with the promise of champagne supernovas. They now live out their days peddling middling retro-rock sludge and coasting on past glories. This naps 'n' all '05/'06 tour film finds the band on the cusp of middle age, padding their bank accounts for retirement amid occasionally incandescent performances and backstage games of Frustration. Right idea, wrong time.