Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast for November 24, 2009.
Black Friday is this week, and the shelves are as full as they're going to get right now. The studios really dumped most of their big-ticket merchandise onto shelves over the past few weeks, and this week, it's just a last few things being released as consumers hopefully hit the stores and go crazy.
As the industry debates internally about whether physical media is finished, it's worth asking the question: what, if anything, are you planning to pick up either for yourself or for loved ones this season? Anything? Everything? I'm interested in what you guys have to say about it.
Right now, let's jump in and look at this week's titles of note:
THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:
Judd Apatow's latest is perhaps more uneven and harder to get a handle on than his earlier films "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up," but the ambition of it is part of what I love. It's a big, sprawling, messy story about a guy who isn't very nice and learns nothing from a tough situation. Talk about cashing in your commercial credibility on something difficult. Apatow decided to cast his buddy Adam Sandler in a film that pretty much defies every commercial impulse that Adam Sandler's films typically follow, and that actually mocks those films at the same time. Seth Rogen, Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill, and Eric Bana all provide excellent support for Sandler's lead, but once again, it's Leslie Mann who sort of dominates, giving a performance that is edgy and alive, and which proves that this is one Hollywood power couple where both halves are equally strong. My original review for the film can be read here. If you've picked up any of Apatow's earlier films on DVD or BluRay, you know what to expect here. It's packed with features, although I am disappointed they didn't throw in an extra disc and just put out the entire live event, "An Evening With Funny People." Bummer, guys.
This verité look at life in a housing project run by one of Italy's crime families is difficult and troubling stuff. Not every viewer is going to tune in to the fly-on-the-wall style of filmmaking, where there's no easy drama, but if you're willing to hang with it, the film is rewarding, and I'm pleased to see Criterion tackling more recent films that might otherwise never get this sort of mainstream exposure. As long as they're pilfering the shelves over at IFC, can I strongly encourage them to put together a worthy release for "The Good, The Bad And The Weird"?
I didn't see this show when it aired originally, or on BBC America, so it was entirely viewed on domestic release DVD for me. Somehow I managed to avoid all spoilers, so the experience was fresh for me as I watched both seasons, and I loved every second of it. It's smart, trippy stuff, but even if you just want to watch it as a period cop show, it works on that level, too. John Simm stars as Sam Tyler, who is in an accident in the present day. He wakes up in 1973, and the series deals with his attempts to figure out if he's dead, crazy, in a coma, or somehow otherwise transported, and each week, the crimes he solves may also serve as puzzle pieces to the larger mystery. This second series ends in a way that conclusively wraps everything up, but there's still plenty of room to interpret what you've seen, which is the best you could possibly hope for. Simm and Philip Glenister have such great chemistry together that I'd watch any show about these characters. The fact that the series is genuinely wonderful is just a bonus.
Here's an event for you... the high-definition debut of one of the best series that television's ever coughed up, and I'm looking forward to using the excuse to revisit the great American family, one season at a time. This portrait of a major crime family in New Jersey works as family drama, crime saga, and an x-ray of American culture, and on top of all that, it's frequently hilarious just because of the tremendous character work from the entire cast, James Gandolfini on down.
I've written about the tremendous documentary "Not Quite Hollywood" several times here on the site, and one of the pleasures of that look at the Australian exploitation industry is tracking down all of the featured movies afterwards. There's a big section of the film that deals with crazy Dennis Hopper at his absolute craziest, shooting a film called "Mad Dog Morgan," which I'd never seen or even heard of. Now, thanks to Troma, the film's available on a special-edition disc, and I'm eager to sit down and watch it over the holiday weekend. Philippe Mora directs this based-on-a-true-story about Daniel Morgan, one of Australia's most notorious criminals, and the way his career in crime started and evolved. Troma's been digging deep in their vaults lately with releases like this, "Combat Shock," and "The Last Horror Film," and I hope they continue.
ALSO ON BLURAY:
I wasn't a huge fan of "Angels & Demons" (BluRay/DVD), but I like that the film's home video release is unrepentant about servicing fans of the series. A great transfer, a longer edit, and tons of extras should please Dan Brown and Tom Hanks fans enormously. I hate when it takes a full year for studios to release their holiday films on home video. Honestly, it feels like "Four Christmases" (BluRay/DVD) came out ten years ago at this point, and yet I still haven't seen it. I'm not exactly sure what "Ghost In The Shell 2.0" is, but I love the "Ghost In The Shell" films I've seen previously, and I'm willing to give anything in the franchise a chance. When the BluRay version of "Shorts" (BluRay/DVD) showed up at the house, Toshi soberly informed me that it is "the best movie ever made." Of course, he says that about every movie he's in love with, but he has been particularly eager to see this one again since we saw it together at Warner Bros. I think the wish fulfillment aspect of the film plays to kids in a very special way, and it's not really something adults can experience the same way. Another inexplicably popular series releases a new entry today with "Santa Buddies" (BluRay/DVD), and again... Toshi jumps out of his skin every time he sees an ad for this one or the cover. There's something fiendishly brilliant about a series that stars a bunch of puppies and no actors you've ever heard of. All the rest of the big BluRay releases today are catalog titles getting anniversary releases or special editions or simply upgrading to high-definition, including "The Monster Squad," "Angel Heart," "Cujo," "Frailty," "The Way Of The Gun," "Air America," "New Police Story," "My Bloody Valentine: Special Edition," and "My Brilliant Career." The flood of BluRay titles seems to increase each week, and it's a pleasure sorting through what's coming out, looking at how these films are being treated.
ALSO ON DVD:
I love the old anthology shows, packed with some of the best examples of short-form writing for film or TV, and so it's little wonder I'm excited about "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Four" finally coming out. I'm equally fond of the way live drama used to have a place on TV, and I'm dying to get my hands on "The Golden Age Of Television (Criterion)", which contains the original broadcasts of "No Time For Sargents," "Marty," "Days Of Wine and Roses," and more. What a wonderful idea for a box set, and leave it to Criterion to put it together for us. I heard an interview a few months back with William H. Macy where he bemoaned the fate of "The Maiden Heist," a caper film that stars him, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher Walken as security guards who work at a museum, and when the collection they guard is sold off and broken up, they decide to perserve it by stealing it. Sorry it never got its theatrical release, but at least it's coming out now so we can get a look at it. I find myself drawn by a morbid curiosity to check out Eddie Murphy in "Imagine That," and I'm curious which will depress me more: the idea that both this and "Bedtime Stories" both got made somehow or the trajectory of Murphy's career. As a music fan, I'd like to check out "The Movie Box, 1981 - 2007: Genesis," which features five full discs of live performances by the band. I'd like it more if it was from the earlier configurations of the band, but I'm still interested. I've never seen "Silent Scream," but it's one of those horror films I've always known from the front of the VHS version, so just seeing the cover show up on this week's release schedule has me ready to finally see the film. Until the day I day, I'll never understand how there was a sitcom set in the German POW camps of WWII, made less than 20 years after WWII ended. Edgy stuff by nature, but played as innocuous silliness, and now every blessed minute of it is available in "Hogan's Heroes: The Komplete Series, Kommandant's Kollection." I've got most of the episodes of "Superman: The Complete Animated Series" already, but not all of them, and I always prefer just having the whole thing as a single collection, and I love this particular series, so it'll totally be worthwhile. The latest Ice Cube/Mike Epps comedy didn't even get a real theatrical release, and now it's already being dumped to video, and if you're curious, check out "Janky Promoters." And finally, one of the best-reviewed art house releases of the year is coming out, and it gives me the opportunity to check out "Three Monkeys" for myself.
ALSO IN GAMES: Nothing. Not a bloody thing. "Modern Warfare 2" sucked all the oxygen out of the room, although here at Casa De McWeeny, it is "Assassin's Creed II" that is currently chipping away at what little free time I have, and I'm happy to give myself over to what is (so far) an amazing experience.
NEXT WEEK: "Mystery Science Theater 3000 XVI," "Terminator Salvation," and Criterion's release of "A Christmas Tale." Kind of slim, all things considered, but there's always something worth discussion, so I'll see you back here then.
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