New in Home Entertainment – September 25, 2012

New in Home Entertainment

September 25, 2012

Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In French with English Subtitles

The very beautiful French actress Audrey Tautou (Amelie) stars in this charming little romantic comedy about a young widow who finds romance at work years after her husband dies in an accident.  I say romantic comedy but in actuality the film is rather plain at first, then depressing as can be, and then finally a third way in starts to blossom into a workable romance with plenty of laughs.  Much of the laughter though comes from a weirdness brought on by the Swedish love interest played by Francois Damiens.  His strange mannerisms and even stranger actions make you think that truly anyone could have a chance with lovely Audrey.  Movies are such liars aren’t they.  While adorable much of the time the film does suffer from occasionally dull writing and wardrobe choices that are almost unforgivable. Seeing Tautou wearing a Captain Kirk costume for half of the film shows that either the budget needed a slight increase or the costume designer needed to be sacked.  But even with its faults, I still found myself enjoying this little foreigner which had me laughing and crying in equal measure.  B+

The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Favorites

Available on DVD

Some of my earliest laughs I remember come from watching the Carol Burnett Show in the early 70’s.  Very quickly into this set it’s easy to see that much of today’s television comedy is inspired by this brilliant lady and her terrific writing team.  Time Life is releasing, mostly through their website, a variety of different options including 22-disc and 11-disc options, but this batch of Carol’s favorites includes a mere 18 hours of Carol’s own picks with guests like Steve Martin, Betty White, The Jackson Five and many others.  I especially loved some of the bonus features including a rare interview with two of my favorite classic comedians Tim Conway and Harvey Korman.  A

Modern Family: The Complete Third Season

Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Three years ago everyone was telling me to watch this new show that frankly I just wasn’t interested in.  But shortly after the first season had completed I decided to see what the big deal was.  Baby what a big surprise.  What I thought from the outside looked like a run-of-the-mill family comedy I soon learned was one of the best written and acted television programs in years.  The third season is full of winners and there is little wonder why season three just brought home so many trophies at the Emmys.  Like The Carol Burnett Show and MASH were in their day and Seinfeld was a decade later, Modern Family will one day be thought of fondly as a great American classic.  A

New in Home Entertainment – September 18, 2012

New in Home Entertainment

September 18, 2012

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures
Available on Blu-ray
Fans have much to be excited about with Indie finally hitting blu-ray.  Not only is one of the most beloved franchises finally being released in hi-def, but the first film in the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, has a brand-new frame-by-frame restoration making it look and sound like it could have been made yesterday.  Being that I grew up with these films about the Nazi-fighting archeologist (aside from Crystal Skull for which I am one of the few critics who actually enjoyed apparently) I have a very special place in my heart for Indie and love that one of my heroes is able to get such a high-quality release.  A+

Cabin in the Woods

Rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This trippy and quirky little horror film from Joss Whedon (The Avengers) tells the story of a group of college friends who go camping in a small cabin in the middle of nowhere.  Unbeknownst to them, they are actually part of what seems like an experiment for some white-collar secret government workers with a frightening agenda.  Slick and creative, there’s not much horror to this horror pic, but it is a lot of fun and it is at times absolutely hysterical.  And the cast, including Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, as well as being written by the writer/director of 2012’s highest-grossing film The Avengers, lends the film the necessary high caliber of talent needed to make the film work.  B+

Chico & Rita
Unrated but contains nudity, sexual situations, language and violence
Available on DVD and special Blu-ray/DVD/CD Soundtrack Combo

Earlier this year we got quite the surprise when Cars 2 and The Adventures of TinTin were excluded from the Oscar nominations for Best Animated Film and in their place were two foreign projects hardly anyone had heard about.  The first of these is Chico & Rita which is getting a grand blu-ray release this week.  Jazz pianist Chico meets Rita in their native Cuba when he sees her sing at a local jazz club and falls in love immediately.  The love-struck couple encounter a torturous life-long obsession with each other as their careers progress and they each go their separate ways performing around the world.  The animation is simple, but fits the film well.  What really pops off of the screen though is the amazing music which adds so much to the art of the film.  B

Supernatural: The Complete Seventh Season and The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Third Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

The CW show that is part-way responsible for setting the trend for all of today’s fantasy television programming is still running strong and this latest season, full of demons and other devastating baddies is surprisingly fresh, or at least fresh enough to come off as an enjoyable guilty pleasure.  Also about to start off a new season and out on DVD this week is CW’s The Vampire Diaries which serves as proof that CW is capable of making low-budget yet high quality fantasy and horror programming.  Neither are quite up to AMC or HBO standards but then again, their audience is vastly different and I’m sure their advertisers are extremely happy.  B

Get a Life: The Complete Series
Available on DVD

Christ Elliot is not for everyone, but if you love truly weird and random comedy that is way ahead of its time, you gotta check this one out.  Sharing the adventures of a 30-year-old paperboy who lives at home with his parents, Get a Life was out of place in the 90s but seems rather at home twenty years later.  The strange and ridiculous humor pulls laughs seemingly out of nowhere and it becomes quickly obvious why this program has become such a cult classic.  A-

The Possession

The Possession
Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis and Matisyahu
Directed by Ole Bornedal
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and disturbing sequences

    When a divorced father (Morgan) spends time with his daughters one weekend, the youngest daughter, (Calis) buys an antique box that seems to be calling her name.  Unbeknownst to the family, the box is a dybbuk, or a container of an evil spirit excised by a Rabi.  As the young girl starts to become possessed, the father must figure out how to save his little girl before she is lost.

    Everything outside of this film is quite frightening.  The poster is scary, the trailer sends goosebumps and the “true” story it is based on will make you wish you didn’t have that knowledge floating around in your head.  So how could the film not be scary?  I don’t know the answer to this but it succeeds in being another completely lame demon possession movie, for which we have seen too many of late.  I’m a big fan of The Exorcist and even the first two Paranormal Activity films, but since Paranormal’s wild success, these kinds of movies are so common they almost deserve their own sub-genre, and yet most of them are bad or worse. 

    Does the film have potential?  Possibly.  I think they definitely could have made it creepier.  Once you’ve seen the fingers coming out of the throat in the trailer, nothing else really gets you here.  Maybe if the little girl were a bit more evil instead of just strange?  I’m not a horror writer, so I can’t tell you exactly how to improve the script, and if they had hired a decent horror writer this would be a much different review.

    I can tell you that hiring good actors would have been a big boost to the films enjoyability.  Morgan is solid as the father, but Sedgwick, Matisyahu and much of the supporting cast are just laughable.  But in their defense, they didn’t have a great script to work from either. 

    So while it would have been nice to see a good Jewish exorcism film, I guess we’ll have to wait because this one should have been left in the box.  C-

New in Home Entertainment – September 11, 2012

New in Home Entertainment

September 11, 2012

Rated PG-13 for disaster related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

When Titanic first hit theaters, many were predicting the three-plus-hour over-budgeted mega-movie would sink faster than the ship it was based on.  And then it hit number one at the box for more weeks than even the most optimistic fanboy could have predicted.  Having been beaten out by director James Cameron’s latest spectacle, Avatar, as the all-time box office champ, Titanic is still holding on to the number two spot and has managed to reach a new generation of theatergoers with its new 3D transfer.  Now on blu-ray for the first time, this new set contains a stunning hi-def transfer as well as new featurettes.  And for those fans of Cameron and the mighty ship itself, Disney is releasing this week Ghosts of the Abyss 3D, the documentary about Titanic which introduced the world to Cameron’s 3D technology which has now managed to change the way we watch movies theatrically.  A

Snow White & the Huntsman
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Last year there were many discussing the Snow White wars and guessing who would win the battle: Mirror Mirror or Snow White and the Huntsman.  Both had famous queens, beautiful princesses, handsome leading men and a group of dwarves.  If box-office and critical acclaim are the deciding votes, then its safe to say that the easy winner is Snow White and the Huntsman.  The film itself is a well-crafted fantasy with familiar elements and fantastic performances.  I can’t imagine a more perfect evil queen than Charlize Theron and for the first time I wasn’t completely annoyed by Kristen Stewart (and that’s a compliment).  The only disappointment was the way the story handled the dwarves.  If you’re going to get some big names like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones, you need to give them better parts.  Here they felt like afterthoughts.  B+

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Once again trying to capture the magic of Love Actually, Hollywood attempts to throw a star-studded cast performing many separate stories around a central theme (having babies in this case).  Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Brooklyn Decker and many others are all thrown into parenthood in one unfunny moment after another.  And when the movie attempts to be touching, it comes off as fake. It’s pretty awful from start to finish and I’m pretty certain it’ll come away with some razzie noms later this year.  D

New in Home Entertainment – September 4, 2012

New in Home Entertainment

September 4, 2012

The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When I had heard that the second season of AMC’s breakout horror drama The Walking Dead would be losing its creator Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), and that it would also be slashing its budget, I was skeptical about the show continuing the momentum left off from the first season.  But with its very talented cast and equally talented writing team, Dead proved that it is still one of the best shows on television.  After leaving Atlanta, the group of survivors find a farm in the country where they take temporary shelter from the zombie incursion.  Just as you would expect, the internal drama is as effective as the external horrors when it comes to keeping a sense of tension floating throughout each episode.  And talk about a barn-burner of a finale.  We are all left with a dreadful sense of impatience as we have to wait for season three to hit on October 14.  A-

The Five-Year Engagement
Rated R for sexual content, and language throughout
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Jason Segel and Emily Blunt play a couple whose engagement keeps getting pushed off again and again in order to make room for life’s inconvenient challenges that keep getting thrown in their way.  If you go into this movie thinking you’ll get an hysterical raunch com, then you will be sadly mistaken.  Very sadly.  There is a lot of good humor to be found here, but most of it is soaked in gravity and much of the film comes off as more real than funny.  Unfortunately, while some of the jokes work, much of it seems random and incoherent.  The worst part of this is Blunt’s group of grad students she works with.  While I’m sure they are meant to lighten the load, they come off as silly and unnecessary and a complete distraction from the film, rather than a nice bonus.  And when you see a more than two-hour running time on a rom com, you start to come up with stuff that should have been left out and I really wish these characters would have all been cut.  B-

Hung: The Complete Third Season
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

In this third season of HBO’s comedy about a down-on-his-luck school teacher in Detroit who moonlights as a male prostitute, Thomas Jane finds himself having to compete against a younger male-ho who begins to steal his business.  Unfortunately, the show seems to be delivering more of the same and the nuance has completely worn off.  It’s still funny and equally quirky, and the performances are solid, but just like the lead character, I’m beginning to think the series might be running on a bit too long.  C+

The Office: Season Eight
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

You gotta give props to the original British Office which quit early and left the audience craving more.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the American version could do the same?  When Steve Carrell bid adieu to the show in season seven, he left behind a talented group of actors, but no where to go with them.  The story lines are all dried up and the show is now a train wreck.  I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing – that they won’t put this show to pasture or that I keep watching it.  Either way, if you don’t want to experience the complete mess, just do what I wish I did and pretend that the show ended back in 2011.  C-