Above: You Don't Mess with the Zohan, The Happening, Sleeping Beauty
You Don't Mess with the Zohan
Adam Sandler wandering into topical territory, actually making sense, and stll making the funny? I was surprised too! Don't worry, he still packs in plenty of juvenile gags about the outlandish size of his package and drags in every ancient ethnic stereotype possible, but as an Israeli intelligence operative who wants to become a hairdresser, he pulls off the neat trick of creating a completely silly character in a wish-fulfillment scenario that, well, nearly everyone wants to see. Rent it. Available rated (theatrical cut) on a single-disc DVD and unrated in single-disc and double-disc DVD editions. The Blu-ray includes both the rated and unrated versions.
Maybe the inclusion of "over 1 hour of intense bonus footage not shown in theaters!" -- extended versions of "Lion Attack" and Survivalist Porch" among them -- will convert me. Maybe I'll watch M. Night Shyamalan's first R-rated horror flick again some day to see if it still makes me roll my eyes and laugh out loud at scenes that were evidently intended to make me shiver in my seat. Maybe one day pigs will fly. Skip it. Available on DVD and Blu-ray with deleted scenes and "making of" features.
Scott Weinberg has already written about the awesomeness of the new edition of Disney's animated treasure on Blu-ray. This is a classic no-brainer, a movie that both young and old can dip back into time and again. Buy it. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
After the jump: Indies on DVD, Blu-ray, and Collector's Corner. Join us, won't you?
Call me middlebrow. I was immensely moved by Richard Jenkins' performance as a middle-aged college professor unexpectedly confronted face to face with the hard facts of immigration in America. Life has passed him by and he has shut himself off from the vagaries of emotional highs and lows. Writer/director Tom McCarthy uses a hot button issue to wake the man out of his walking coma, and it's a marvel to see Jenkins slowly thaw. The immigration debate is fairly one-sided, but by the time it takes center stage, the main point becomes how the professor will respond, not the issue itself. It's often subtle yet stubbornly sentimental. Rent it. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
I'm burned I missed this one theatrically; I thoroughly enjoyed director John Crowley's high-energy ensemble piece Intermission, and I'm stoked to see this drama about a young ex-con's attempt to go straight in a society that advocates acceptance and forgiveness but, in practice, makes it very difficult for anyone's past sins to be forgotten. Rent it. Available on DVD.
Teen skateboarders, an unsolved murder, and Portland, Oregon -- it must be a film by Gus Van Sant! The director's most recent works (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days) have struck people as either moody and evocative or maddening and frustrating. You probably already know which camp you fall into. There is no middle ground, is there? Buy it or Skip it. Available on DVD.
Le Doulos / Le Deuxième Souffle
The Criterion Collection releases two 60s crime films by the masterful Jean-Pierre Melville. The former features Jean-Paul Belmondo as a gangster who may or may not be an informant; the latter stars Lino Ventura as a prison escapee "roped into one last robbery" and the "suave inspector ... relentlessly seeking him." Some days I wish I had an unlimited budget. If you do, Buy them. If you're pinching pennies, Rent them. Both available on DVD.
Despite a minimal amount of extras, the movie itself is endlessly rewatchable, as much as anything to see how many film noir references and call-outs Lawrence Kasdan could stuff into his deliciously overripe dialogue. At the time of its 1981 release, the sex scenes between William Hurt and Kathleen Turner were radioactively hot. Notable for its blown-out neon noir color photography and Mickey Rourke's memorable bit part. Oh, and Ted Danson, pre-Cheers. And John Barry's jazzy musical score. OK, I love this movie, even while acknowledging that it's not as good as the classics that influenced it. Buy it.
I'm eager to rewind the clock 20 years and see how this Tim Burton comic ghost fantasy holds up. Ah, the late 80s, when a dream cast consisted of Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, and Geena Davis. Rent it.
Again, apparently this has just a minimum of extras, but this had my entire high school talking, and it's a great showcase for Brian DePalma's developing mastery of film grammar. Plus naked girls, buckets of blood, Sissy Spacek, the terrifying Piper Laurie, John Travolta, and one of the greatest (and most imitated) final scenes of the 70s. Rent it.
On the positive side, Young Frankenstein has a load of extras, including most of what was previously offered on standard-def plus some new extras. On the negative side, will you want to watch it more than once? Mel Brooks' jokes are very funny but the humor wore thin for me on multiple plays. Rent it.
The Omen was a hoot and half once, but as I recall, takes itself far too seriously for a movie with its basic premise. That may betray studio influence. While it's better than its pallid remake, that isn't saying much. At least the original had Gregory Peck, whose Old Hollywood minimal acting style lent the production a touch of dignity, but not enough to redeem the movie as a whole. Skip it.
Ray Harryhausen Gift Set
You could buy the four childhood stop-motion classics (20 Million Miles to Earth, Earth vs. Flying Saucers, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 7th Voyage of Sinbad) on Blu-ray in the "Ray Harryhausen Collection." As an alternative, for about the same amount of money you could buy the "Ray Harryhausen Collectible DVD Gift Set" (pictured), which includes two-disk editions of the first three films with copious extras and "a collectible Ymir figurine based on Ray Harryhausen's original 1957 hand-crafted design." Your choice.
Touch of Evil (50th Anniversary Edition)
This two-disc edition includes for the first time three separate versions: the original theatrical cut (as mucked up by Universal Studios), a longer (by 13 minutes) preview version that represented the studio's first attempt at a butcher job, and the 1998 restored version that endeavored to return the film to what director Orson Welles intended. Four audio commentaries are included, as well as a reproduction of Welles' infamous 58-page memo, pleading with the studio to undo the damage they'd done. This is definitely a tough, grueling watch, but definitely rewarding, and worth a place in any film buff's library.
All three Hitchcock classics get the "Universal Legacy Series" treatment and all three feature new transfers. If you already own these on standard-def DVD, as many of us do, you may want to wait for the inevitable Blu-ray editions. If not, these are the ones to get.
PS to horror fans: Be sure to bookmark Your Halloween 2008 Mega-Bloody DVD Shopping Guide (Mwahaaaa!), in which Cinematical's Scott Weinberg runs down all that titles leading up to the spookiest day of the year!