THIS WEEK IN DVD’S – NOV 22, 2007
Shrek the Third (Paramount)
It may have been an enormous success this summer, but man, Shrek the Third (Paramount) is a stinker. Mike Myers’ once-adorable voice performance as the stinky, wart-covered ogre one can’t help but love is on complete auto-pilot this time around, the film’s flimsy narrative is way too complicated and clunky for its own good – the whole thing just reeks of being nothing more than a corporate-mandated cash cow.
Christmas Time In South Park (Paramount)
And with animated releases like Shrek’s, it becomes easy to heap praise onto something as comparatively low-rent as Christmas Time In South Park (Paramount), even if this release is just as cash-cow: This single-disc release houses some of the classic show’s holiday-related episodes. While many of them are full-tilt classics – anything involving Mr. Hanky is well worth watching in its own regard, believe me – for die-hards like me who already have season-long collections of the show, this is nothing more than an unnecessary greatest-hits package.
Captain N and the Super Mario World (Shout Factory)
But these two release spin circles around Captain N and the Super Mario World (Shout Factory). This collection of Saturday morning cartoon editions of our favorite Nintendo game characters is almost as bizarre as the Super Mario Bros. movie with Bob Hoskins, but nowhere near as engaging. Yeah, Yoshi is cute and no one can deny that the sight of Mario and Luigi make one want to dust off the NES and start playing, but this 2-DVD set is for desperate, nostalgic gamer stoners only.
BOOB TUBE PARTY
Perry Mason: Season Two, Volume Two (Paramount)
Raymond Burr has the authority of a high school principal on Perry Mason: Season Two, Volume Two (Paramount), and he does his best as the title character of this series to ensure that all bad guys serve their time. But while it’s easy to discern that pretty much every courtroom drama of today owes more than a little to this pioneering series, it’s definitely a simple beast. Compared to the character-driven windstorms of crime shows like CSI: Miami and even Law & Order, Perry Mason seems detached and emotionally distant.
The Flight of the Conchords: The Complete First Season (HBO)
Far more prescient yet six times as bizarre is The Flight of the Conchords: The Complete First Season (HBO), hands-down one of the weirdest and most enjoyably zany comedy romps this writer has seen in quite some time. These New Zealand boys know their rock and roll – their original songs are hilarious, and their send-ups of David Bowie left me with belly-laugh soreness – so even if some of the stuff on this set falls flat (what sketch-oriented comedy series doesn’t strike out every once in a while?), it has enough gems to keep it afloat.
Martin: The Complete Third Season (HBO)
Melrose Place: The Third Season (Paramount)
Time has not been kind to Martin or Melrose Place. There are moments in Martin: The Complete Third Season (HBO) that are as histrionically funny as anything in Martin Lawrence’s stand-up, but each glimmer of hope is buttressed by terrifically unfunny Facts of Life-grade plot constructions and character conflicts. And Melrose Place: The Third Season (Paramount) is nearly unwatchable: While it showcases some severely crazy characters, this season’s prevalence of bombings as plot points (??) make it so ludicrously unbelievable that it makes Days of Our Lives look like The Sopranos.
Inside the Actor’s Studio: Leading Men (Shout Factory)
And talk about deflating: While Inside the Actor’s Studio is, in theory, a fantastic venue in which we as movie lovers can learn more about our favorite performers and what makes them tick. But Inside the Actor’s Studio: Leading Men (Shout Factory) is so surface-level and benign that it belies the whole point of the show. Emcee James Lipton is notorious for being a boob as far as interviewing goes (he basically finds a way to ask ‘You know you’re amazing, right?’ in various permutations for an hour), but these episodes seem truncated, heavily-edited and almost schizoid in their meandering ramblings. These actors and their fans deserve more.
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (Paramount)
It goes without saying that George Hickenlooper’s and Fax Bahr’s Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (Paramount) is a stellar documentary – arguably the best doc about filmmaking ever made – and the fact that it’s now on DVD is a reason to celebrate. The movie captures all the mania, rampant narcissism and over-budget nightmares that accompanied the making of Apocalypse Now with finesse and you-are-there immediacy. And this DVD not only offers a bonus documentary (a look back at the film from today) and a commentary track from the Coppolas, but a sneak peek of Francis’ Youth Without Youth. Don’t miss it.
Rescue Dawn (MGM)
Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn (MGM) is an easily-appreciated film, one that sports a Hell of a story basis (it’s based on Herzog’s documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly), a scorching performance from a usually-humdrum Steve Zahn and a killer sense of paranoiac pacing. However, Christian Bale’s turn as the movie’s protagonist is a clear case of miscasting – he simply doesn’t gel with the rest of the film. It’s hard to believe because Bale’s been hot lately with recent projects (his performance in I’m Not There is nothing short of excellent), but it’s true – he seems out of place here. Maybe he’s not up to the levels of insanity notoriously tied to Herzog productions…
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Sony)
And finally we have Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Sony), which gets not only a 3-DVD special edition release this month, but an inaugural Blu-ray set (the high-def edition was not available for review at press time). The film is, not surprisingly, a classic – one of Spielberg’s grandest and most labyrinthine experiments. But this is the umpteenth time the film has been released on DVD, and it’s starting to reek of overkill. The good news: All three versions of the film are included here (really, the only one worth watching is the 1997 cut – the others are good as reference points, but pale in comparison), and we get a handful of bonus features to round things out.
If you already have the film on DVD, this one isn’t exactly a must-have, but I bet if you’re looking to flush out your Blu-ray collection, it might be a killer addition.