New DVD & Blu-ray Reviews: 'Zombieland,' 'The Music Man,' and 'House Of The Devil' on VHS
Plus 'Star Trek Online' sends Trekkies into orbit
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Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.
It's not a terrible week for releases, but as I'm looking at the weeks ahead, it seems to me like the industry is just going through the motions. I'm a film nerd, so I absolutely will find something to be excited about every week, but for the general public, there are fewer and fewer must-have titles, fewer and fewer great surprise catalog releases. It just seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy, like the industry has decided that VOD is going to take over, so they're doing everything they can at this point to make that come true.
Blech. I love my physical media, and I don't want an all-VOD future. Let's see what's going on this week that will keep me feeling like someone somewhere cares:
THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:
That's right... the beloved Robert Preston vehicle finally hits BluRay, and that starts with "B" and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for "pool." I watched this Sunday night with both of my boys, and they loved it. The music delights, number after number, the comedy still plays loud and clear, and the new transfer by Warner Home Video is probably the best we could ask of the film. There are places where the grain inherent to the print is a little overwhelming, but for the most part, the colors pop and the image shimmers. This is one of those feel-good movies that you can never overplay, and that was built to last, and this new edition only underlines just how true that is.
I quite liked Ruben Fleischer's debut feature, and the BluRay looks sensational. What's interesting about rewatching the film is that you can clearly see how it was structured originally as the kick-off of a TV series, several episodes from a larger arc smooshed into a theatrical feature instead. The film's got clever to spare, whether in the way it establishes the rules at the beginning or in the case of the Big Movie Star Cameo sequence, and Fleischer has an excellent eye. I think one of the reasons the film ended up being so much fun is because it didn't use the idea of zombies to push a larger metaphor, which is typically how the genre ends up playing out. Not that I dislike zombies as a metaphor, but it's just occasionally nice to see a film cut loose and have fun. It helps that the cast is all on their game, and that the film plays more to the comedy side of the horror/comedy equation. "Zombieland" may not be an all-time genre classic, but sometimes "just plain fun" is exactly what you're looking for.
Yeah, you read that right. There is actually a DVD/VHS bundle that you can buy for "The House Of The Devil," Ti West's slow-burn babysitter vs. Satanists movie, and the VHS is actually pan-and-scan. It says a lot about the way film nerd fetishize things that I'm actually giddy about a pan-and-scan transfer. All of this nostalgic packaging aside, "House Of The Devil" is a solid low-budget horror film that features a nice performance by the adorable Jocelin Donahue, and I'm not going to oversell the film to you. I think it's really for people who like their horror films creepy more than explicit, and that if you're a fan of early '80s horror films, you'll get more out of this than younger viewers who expect certain types of beats from their movies. Ti West is building a very particular filmography, and what I like most about him is the way he's following his own voice instead of chasing trends.
It's a good thing Toshi isn't old enough for video games, or I would lose him permanently to this MMORPG in which players can create their own starships, play any race they want, and undertake their very own five-year missions to seek out new worlds. I have a feeling this could be one of the games that builds an active ongoing community, and it'll be interesting to see where this one's at by the time the sequel to last summer's smash hit movie finally reaches theaters.
ALSO ON BLURAY:
I'm not a rabid fan, and I haven't seen the last few seasons, but in general, I find the modern era of the show to be tremendous fun, so I'm looking forward to "Doctor Who: The Complete Specials" (BluRay/DVD), especially since it's all about David Tennant, who absolutely owns the role at this point. One of the first things I watched when I got back from Sundance was "Planet Hulk" (BluRay/DVD), which Toshi had been waiting to see for the whole time I was gone, and it works well as a savage, exciting animated story that dumps Bruce Banner completely in favor of a Hulk-goes-alien-gladiator storyline. I'm guessing that I can already predict every beat even before I put "Love Happens" (BluRay/DVD) in the player, and I'm not sure I want to give up two hours to it, but for fans of sappy romantic dramas, it might well do the trick. I'm glad to see that both "Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior" (BluRay) and "Ong Bak 2: The Beginning" (BluRay/DVD) are out today, and even if the sequel turns out to be a bit of a mess, narratively, both films show off Tony Jaa and his magic flying elbow punches, and for fans of high-impact martial arts mayhem, the BluRays should provide tons and tons of slow-motion opportunities. I did not see Mira Nair's "Amelia" (BluRay/DVD), but it never really caught fire with critics or audiences. I'm still curious to see how they handle the life story of the pioneering aviator, and to see Hillary Swank's work. The transfer on Universal's new release of "Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas" (BluRay) is impressive, and this may well be the best-looking Terry Gilliam film currently available. I'm not a fan personally, but I know many people love the melodramatic "Mystic River" (BluRay), and the new high-def transfer today should please them mightily. I'm going to check out "New York, I Love You" (BluRay/DVD) this week, and it's already on my stack. With the list of filmmakers who contributed to the anthology love letter to the Big Apple, I expect at least a few winners in the running time. My buddy Vern actually liked "Universal Soldier: The Regeneration" (BluRay/DVD), which means I'm now obligated to watch the BluRay that was sent to me for review. I'm curious to see if Miramax fixed their truly rancid original release of "Gangs Of New York" (BluRay) with the new remaster that's out today, and once I check it out for myself, I'll report back.
ALSO ON DVD:
Betty White's acceptance speech at the SAG Awards this year for the Life Achievement Award was a nice reminder of how great she is, and the clips they showed were a solid reminder of how incredible "The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Sixth Season" (DVD) was for its entire run. It's the rare sitcom that is absolutely worth revisiting. Last year, the autism romance "Adam" (DVD) played Sundance, and it had its fans. I never got around to seeing it, but I'll check it out for myself now that it's out. She's not my favorite working comic by a long shot, but "Wanda Sykes: I'm'a Be Me" (DVD) is a good example of a comic who builds a set that is personality driven and that plays directly to her fans. Again, it's not really for me, but I guarantee that when I bring home "Yo Gabba Gabba: Birthday Boogie" (DVD), much dancy-dancing will commence. Should we all pretend to be shocked by the timing on the release of "The Wolf Man: Universal Legacy Series" (DVD)? Finally, Shaw Brothers fans can pick up a double-feature this week of "Heroes Shed No Tears" (DVD) and "The Delightful Forest" (DVD), and since I've only seen one of them, I'll pick them up and catch up.
NEXT WEEK: Best Picture nominee "A Serious Man" hits BluRay and DVD, and the highly-anticipated "Bioshock 2" will arrive for gamers of all stripes.
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