By Harley Lond - 09/30/13 at 07:49 PM CT
THIS WEEK'S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
Every once in a while a comedy comes along that pushes the boundaries of what one expects in a movie. "Pink Flamingos," "The Life of Brian," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Borat" and "The Hangover" come to mind. Now add to the list "This Is the End," an outrageous, raunchy comedy directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and starring a bevy of Hollywood stars playing themselves as petty, selfish, lascivious Hollywood stars attending a party at James Franco's house in the Hollywood Hills. In attendance are Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Emma Watson, Martin Starr, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and many, many others -- all having a wild time until a series of strange and catastrophic events -- the apocalypse -- devastate Los Angeles. Five of the party goers, all friends -- Franco, Hill, Rogen, Baruchel and Robinson -- soon joined by Danny McBride -- are trapped in the house and, as the world outside burns in the heat of damnation, dwindling supplies and cabin fever inside threaten to tear the friendships apart. There's some very, very nasty, almost pornographic scenes and crazy special effects that, in conjunction with the actors poking fun at themselves and their lifestyles, makes for a very funny ride. I was shocked, titillated and fell off my chair with laughter. But beware -- "This is the End" earns its very hard "R" rating. DVD extras include commentary with Rogen and Goldberg and several self-referential featurettes, including "Directing Your Friends," "This Is the Marketing" marketing outtakes, a redband sizzle trailer, and more, The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes; "This Is the Gag Reel," a line-o-ramas blooper reel with back-to-back shots of the actors' different delivery of certain lines from the film; and six more featurettes. From Sony.
Also due this week: "The Croods," which was unavailable for review.
It's another great week for film lovers, with restored versions of "The Littler Mermaid," "The Big Parade," "From Here to Eternity" and "House of Wax," as well as a new edition of "The Wizard of Oz."
Kids today may not have heard of King Vidor, but he was one of the early geniuses of Hollywood film making, beginning in silent films in the 1910s and working his magic right through the 1950s. Along the way he made such classics as "The Crowd" (1928), "The Champ" (1931), "Stella Dallas" (1937), worked on the Kansas scenes in "The Wizard of Oz," "Northwest Passage" (1940), "Duel in the Sun" (1946), "The Fountainhead" (1949) and "Solomon and Sheba" (1959). "The Big Parade," making its DVD and Blu-ray debut this week, is his monumental masterpiece, a 140-minute opus that tells the harrowing story of a young man's (John Gilbert) front-line experiences in World War I. It was the highest-grossing silent film of all time, as well as the first realistic war drama, and stands the test of time as a stunning work of art. The Blu-ray is packed with a 64-page book with comprehensive notes by film historian Kevin Brownlow, with original art, photos and advertising material. Other extras include commentary by historian Jeffrey Vance with King Vidor, "The Men Who Made the Movies: King Vidor" documentary, and a vintage 1925 studio tour short. Co-stars Renee Adoree, Hobart Bosworth and Claire McDowell. A must-have for every cinephile. From Warner.
Disney has brought one of their most-in-demand DVDs out of the vault and plied their magic with it in a Diamond Edition Blu-ray and DVD with digital image restoration and high-definition sound: We're talking about none other than "The Little Mermaid" (1989), which ushered in a renaissance of Disney animated films that set the stage for "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." Though this is not one of my favorites -- that has to go to the aforementioned two titles -- "The Little Mermaid" is still a wonderful tale about a headstrong young mermaid, Ariel, who falls for a human and trades her beautiful singing voice to the evil Sea Witch Ursula for human legs. The Blu-ray transfer is fabulous with colors ever-so bolder and clearer than the DVD; the new soundtrack improvements will only be noticed if you have a surround sound set-up. The film features the voices of Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, Pat Carroll, Buddy Hackett, Christopher Daniel and Kenneth Mars, with the fabulous lyrics and music by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. "The Little Mermaid" is available in a variety of packages, including a 3D version: A three-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Music Download), $49.99; two-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray + DVD/Digital Copy), $44.99; two-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray + DVD), $39.99. Extras a new music video, "Part of Your World"; "@ Disney Animation" behind-the-scenes; a deleted character, Harold the Merman; "The Real Little Mermaid: Live Action Reference Model"; "Part of Her World: Jodi Benson's Voyage to New Fantasyland"; and classic DVD bonus features.
"From Here to Ethernity" (1953) was the film that reinvigorated Frank Sinatra's flagging film career and featured incredibly nuanced performances by a bevy of Hollywood luminaries, including Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed and Ernest Borgnine. Director Fred Zinnemann's adaptation of the racy James Jones novel incensed both the film censors and the U.S. Army for it's hot love scenes and depiction of army life; the film went on to win eight Academy Awards and become one of the highest grossing films of all time. Sony has meticulously restored the film from a 4k scan for its Blu-ray debut -- and it's scrumptious. Extras include commentary with Tim Zinnemann (the director's son) and screenwriter Alvin Sargent; a vintage "The Making of From Here to Eternity" documentary; vintage "Fred Zinnemann: As I See It"; and a new "Eternal History" graphics in picture track that explores the story of how 1953's Best Picture winner came to be told, with new interviews, exclusive photos and other rare material. Another must-have.
Warner has a new, restored and remastered high-definition release for the Blu-ray debut of director Andre de Toth's creepy 1953 horror film "House of Wax," the first color 3D feature released by a major studio and the first 3-D film with stereophonic sound to be presented in a regular movie theater. The film, starring Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni and Charles Buchinsky (aka Charles Bronson), become a huge hit (If adjusted to today's gross, it would have brought in more than $401 million, placing it among the top 100 highest grossing films ever). It also marked Vincent Price's first major starring horror role and changed the course of his career. Originally designed to lure audiences away from their TV sets, 3D utilized a "left-eye/right-eye" dual projection process and polarized glasses, the basis for what is seen today. Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging group's work on "House of Wax" included a 4K scan, and a full restoration of the two "eyes," as well as perfect 3D image alignment. Extras on the 3D Blu-ray/ 2D release include a new featurette, "House of Wax: Unlike Anything You've Seen Before"; "Mystery of the Wax Museum," the original 1933 film on which "House of Wax" was based; commentary; "Round-the-Clock Premiere: Coast Hails House of Wax"; and the original trailer.
It seems like only yesterday that Warner gave us a souped up Blu-ray version of the wonderful "The Wizard of Oz" -- and, in fact, it was only four years ago, in 2009, that they releases a now-out-of-print collector's edition of the classic. With "Wizard" turning 75, the company has put together yet another edition of the 1939 film, here in a "The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition" five-disc set that includes Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and UltraViolet versions of the film; a new documentary, "The Making of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"; bonus features from previous editions; premium collectibles (a collectible 75th Anniversary journal, Sparkle Ruby Slippers Globe, Noble Collection 3-piece enamel pin set, a map of Oz and a 48-page hardcover book); all for $105.43. Three more editions will be available separately: a two-disc 3D/Blu-ray ($35.99), a one-disc Blu-ray ($19.98) and a two-disc DVD ($16.95), all with the new documentary and extra content.
Also due this week: "Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2 and 3" is a limited edition set that includes Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3 in special collectable gift-set packaging, with more than three hours of previously released bonus video, including "Downton Abbey: The Making of," "Downton Abbey: Behind the Drama" and more; the set includes the bonus disc "Secrets of Highclere Castle," a one-hour documentary that steps inside the castle featured in "Downton Abbey." On DVD, $89.99, and Blu-ray Disc, $99.99, from PBS Distribution ... In the mid-1960s the often rigid and colorless British way of life was irrevocably transformed by the emergence of a cultural underground movement. Led by a loose collective of young radicals, they introduced new social, sexual and aesthetic perspectives. Operating out of the heart of London, their various activities, from The International Times -- a bi-weekly journal that no hipster could be seen without -- to the psychedelic nightclub UFO, promoted alternative lifestyles and values, and sparked a social revolution. "Paul McCartney -- Going Underground: McCartney, The Beatles and the UK Counter-Culture" (2013) not only traces the history of this underground scene, but also explores its impact on the pre-eminent British group of the era, The Beatles. Although they were well established by the time the movement emerged, The Beatles, and Paul McCartney in particular, were closely linked with several of its key players, and through their exposure to cutting edge concepts, brought ideas directly from the avant-garde into the mainstream. Features new interviews with key players from the time, including Barry Miles of the IT, Pink Floyd producer Joe Boyd, Robert Wyatt, and many more, as well as rare footage, archive photographs, and music from The Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Soft machine, and others. On DVD from MVD Visual.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
"The Amityville Horror Trilogy Deluxe Collector's Edition Blu-ray" is at three-disc set with "The Amityville Horror" (starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Oscar(R)-winner Rod Steiger), "Amityville II: The Possession" (starring James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Andrew Prine, Jack Magner, Diane Franklin) and "Amityville 3-D" (starring Tony Roberts, Tess Harper, Candy Clark). Extras: "The Amityville Horror": New interview, "Haunted Melodies With Composer Lalo Schifrin"; "For God's Sake, Get Out!" documentary with actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder; audio Commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer, Ph.D. in Parapsychology (author of "Murder in Amityville"); original theatrical trailer; TV spot; radio spots. "Amityville II: The Possession": "The Possession of Damiani" interview with director Damiano Damiani; "Adapting Amityville" new interview with screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace; "Family Matters" new interview with Actress Diane Franklin; "A Mother's Burden" new Interview with actress Rutanya Alda; "Father Tom's Memories" new interview with actor Andrew Prine; new interview with ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzer ("Growing Up Haunted: A Ghostly Memoir"); new audio commentary with Holzer; original theatrical trailer. "Amityville 3-D": "A Chilly Reception" new interview with actress Candy Clark, original theatrical trailer. From Shout! Factory ... "Dead Before Dawn" (2013), starring Devon Bostick, Martha MacIsaac, Christopher Lloyd, Brandon Jay McLaren, Brittany Allen, Kevin McDonald, Kyle Schmid, Rossif Sutherland and Ellen Dubin, is yet another take on Zombies. Casper Galloway (Bostick) and his college friends visit an occult shop run by Casper's grandfather (Lloyd) and accidentally unleash an evil curse, causing people to kill themselves and turn in to Zombie Demons, aka Zemons. Armed with a slew of homemade weapons and a Winnebago, the college kids race through the night, killing Zemons and fighting time while frantically searching for a way to reverse the curse within 24 hours. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, 3D Blu-ray Disc/DVD Combo (at Best Buy) from Wango Films/Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment ... "Morning" (2010) follows five days in the life of an American couple immediately following the accidental death of their child; their grief becomes a private torment that threatens to destroy their world and, driven apart by sorrow, they try to find their way back to each other and the chance to love again. Stars Jeanne Tripplehorn, Leland Orser, Laura Linney, Elliott Gould, Kyle Chandler and Jason Ritter. From Anchor Bay ... In "The Frozen Ground" (2013), starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens and Radha Mitchell, Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe (Cage) sets out to end the murderous rampage of Robert Hansen (Cusack), a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for 13 years until one of his victims escapes and helps give the police vital information on the psychopath. Based on actual events. From Lionsgate ... In "Fright Night 2: New Blood" (2013), a group of high school students travel abroad to study in Romania and find themselves ensnared in a sexy female vampire's chilling web of lust and terror. Stars Will Payne, Jaime Murray, Sean Power and Sacha Parkinson. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Fox ... "100 Bloody Acres" (2012 -- Australia), starring Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Anna McGahan, Oliver Ackland, Jamie Kristian, John Jarratt and Chrissie Page, is inspired insanity about two brothers, Reg (Herriman) and Lindsay (Sampson), who are struggling to keep their organic blood and bone fertilizer business alive. Though their secret "recipe" for success -- using dead car crash victims in their product -- has been a huge boon to business, their supply runs low until Reg stumbles upon three stranded travelers to use for even fresher ingredients. But when Reg finds himself falling for the lovely Sophie (Anna McGahan), one of his intended victims, things get trickier -- and gorier -- for both his bossy brother and himself. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Doppelganger Releasing ... Aaron Kwok, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Charlie Young, Andy On and Terence Yin star in the Hong Kong police actioner "Cold War" (2012). In the safest city in Asia, the Hong Kong police department has been untouchable for years. That was until they receive an anonymous call after a fully loaded police van, carrying five highly trained officers and equipment, disappears off the grid. After several cryptic phone calls, it becomes clear that the hijackers are aware of every crucial decision the task force makes. As the perpetrators execute a carefully planned attack, the police do their best to fight back but little do they know they've become unwitting pawns in a bigger, more dangerous game. From Lionsgate ... An 18-year-old's life is headed in the wrong direction -- hanging out with a bad crowd and seeking an escape from the drama at home -- until she volunteers for a Christmas play with underprivileged children, finding purpose by helping people in need and using that to help heal her troubled family in "So This is Christmas" (2013), starring Vivica A. Fox, Eric Roberts, Lexi Ainsworth and Titus Makin Jr. From Image Entertainment ... In "Eyes of the Woods Unrated Special Edition" (2009), starring Walter Phelan, Elizabeth O'Brick and Lira Kellerman, a group of teens find themselves lost and soon hunted by an unforgiving creature deep within the woods. From Lost Empire/MVD Entertainment ... When a young man moves across the hall from his high school crush, his basic lust turns to obsession; he quickly discovers that voyeurism alone will not be enough to quench his desire for her in "My Boo" (2013), starring Ashlee Mclemore and Revon Usif. From Lee Production/MVD Entertainment ... During an excavation in the remote Jordanian desert, an atheist archaeologist discovers an ancient parchment, buried in the ruins of an ancient temple, indicating the location of the long-lost "Seal of Solomon," which, according to legend, was given by God to King Solomon. This sets into motion a treasure hunt by the Vatican's elite Treasure Guards, the archaeologist's estranged father (himself a famous archaeologist), and other schemers in "Treasure Guards" (2001), starring Anna Friel, Raoul Bova, Volker Bruch and Andre Jacobs. From Monarch Home Entertainment.
"With Love ... From the Age of Reason" (2010 -- France/Belgium) stars Sophie Marceau, Marton Csokas, Michel Duchaussoy and Jonathan Zaccai. "Dear Me. Today I am seven years old and I'm writing you this letter to help you remember the promises I made when I was 7, and also to remind you of what I want to become ..." Thus begins the letter that Margaret receives on her 40th birthday. An executive at a multinational construction firm, Margaret's regimented lifestyle revolves around meetings, business dinners and per-scheduled sex with her partner. But when a retired notary delivers a stack of letters written by Margaret when she was seven years old, the successful professional begins to rethink her existence. From First Run Features.
FOR THE FAMILY:
In "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown" (2012-13), the Turtles face off against new enemies and old in a two-disc set featuring the final 12 episodes of the first season. $12.99 from Nickeloden/Paramount ... "Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: Best of Collection" (2013) is a four-disc set with 28 episodes of the preschoolers' favorites, with each disc devoted to one Wuzzleburg friend: "Best of Wubbzy," "Best of Widget," "Best of Walden" and "Best of Daizy." $19.98 from Anchor Bay ... "Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel" (2012) is a perfect example of cross-pollination between divisions of a conglomerate, here Disney, which broadcasts "Phineas and Ferb" on its Disney Channel, and Marvel Comics, which Disney bought in 2009. Phineas and Ferb team up with Marvel Super Heroes (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk) in one of seven episodes in this anthology. After Dr. Doofenshmirtz's latest "-inator" scheme accidentally removes the powers of some very well-known Marvel Super Heroes (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk), the heroes enter the world of Danville and team up with Phineas and Ferb to relocate their powers, defeat the Marvel Super Villains (Red Skull, MODOK, Whiplash and Venom) and save Danville from ultimate destruction. Includes a collectible comic book and an exclusive Marvel poster.
- "Branca's Pitch" (2013): On October 3, 1951 Ralph Branca became a legendary figure in baseball history. The 26-year old Brooklyn Dodger pitcher became infamous for losing the 1951 National League Pennant to the bitter rival New York Giants, by giving up the game winning home run termed "The Shot Heard Round the World." Jeered by once-adoring fans and labeled a scapegoat for the rest of his life, Ralph never reclaimed his career. This feature-length documentary follows Branca' journey to pen a memoir that finally tells his side of the story (he shares a secret held for over 50 years -- that the New York Giants cheated) to try and restore his fascinating, yet overlooked legacy in baseball. From Strand Releasing.
- "Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey/In Pursuit of the Dragon" (2013): Two documentaries on the legend: "A Warrior's Journey" reveals the soul of Bruce Lee and includes 33 minutes of continuous action footage that was shot for "The Game of Death" but had been lost and appears for the first time here. "In Pursuit of the Dragon" follows the chronology of Lee's four films: "The Big Boss," "Fist of Fury," "The Way of the Dragon" and "Enter the Dragon."From MVD Visual.
- "A Fierce Green Fire" (2012): Spanning 50 years of grassroots and global activism, this Sundance documentary brings to light the vital stories of the environmental movement where people fought -- and succeeded -- against enormous odds: From halting dams in the Grand Canyon to fighting toxic waste at Love Canal; from Greenpeace to Chico Mendes; from climate change to the promise of transforming our civilization. Narrated by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende and Meryl Streep. From First Run Features.
- "North America" (2013): The Discovery Channel journeys deep into a hidden world, crossing impossible mountains and endless deserts, diving into unexplored forests and crashing into rugged coasts to discover Earth's most spectacular wildlife. "North America" showcases the unforgiving and brutal, yet beautiful, continent and the boundless rewards it offers for those brave enough to take on this land and call her home. Narrated by Tom Selleck. Formats: DVD, $29,93; Blu-ray Disc, $34.99. An additional Blu-ray, with a 32-page photo booklet of the continent's untamed wildlife and wilderness, will be available for $39.93. Extras: Blu-ray adds a photo gallery. From Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment.
- "Shaquille O'Neal Presents All Star Comedy Jam -- Live from Atlanta" (2013): Hosted by funnyman Faizon Love and hand-picked by NBA All Star Shaquille O'Neal, this evening of stand-up comedy presents a top-notch lineup pairing veterans with up-and-coming talent: Robert Powel, Lavar Walker, Gina Yashere, Finesse Mitchell, Red Grant and a special guest appearance by DJ Big Tigger. Filmed at the Atlanta Symphony Hall in front of a live audience during the 2013 NCAA Final Four Weekend. From Lionsgate.
FROM TV TO DVD:
In "Agatha Christie's Poirot, Series 7 and 8" (2000), Poirot (David Suchet) solves complex cases with flair and finesse with the help of Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser), Chief Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) and Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran). Newly remastered editions of four mysteries in their original U.K. broadcast order: "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," "Lord Edgware Dies," "Murder in Mesopotamia" and "Evil Under the Sun." In two-disc DVD, two-disc Blu-ray sets from Acorn Media ... "Awkward Seasons One and Two" (2013) is a four-disc with all 24 episodes of MTV's hit series about the trials and tribulations of being a teenager, $26.99 from Paramount ... "Beauty & the Beast -- The First Season" (2012-13) is a six-disc set with 22 episodes of the series that centers on homicide detective Catherine "Cat" Chandler, who teams with the mysterious Dr. Vincent Keller, the man who saved her life years earlier and who has a terrible secret -- when he's enraged, he becomes a terrifying beast, unable to control his super-strength and heightened senses. The pair develop a complex relationship, understanding that their connection is extremely dangerous for both of them. $54.99 from CBS/Paramount ... "China Beach: The Complete Season One" (2012) is a three-disc set with eight episodes of the ground-breaking series set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War, $22.95 from StarVista Entertainment/Time Life ... "Glee: The Complete Fourth Season" (2012-13) includes 22 episodes of the hit series, in a six-disc DVD set, $59.98, and four-disc Blu-ray set, $69.99, from Fox ... "How I Met Your Mother Season Eight" (2012-13) is a three-disc set with 23 episodes, $39.98 from Fox ... In "Jack Irish, Set 1" (2012), Guy Pearce stars as the brooding antihero of Australian writer Peter Temple's award-winning novels; this Blu-ray/DVD Combo includes two feature-length movies ("Bad Debts" and "Black Tide"). From Acorn Media ... "Magnum P.I.: The Complete Series" (1980-88) includes all eight season of the iconic series, collected together for the first time in a 162-episode, 42-disc collection, $169.98 from Universal ... "New Girl Season Two" (2012-13) is a three-disc set with 25 episodes, $39.98 from Fox ... "Teen Mom: The Complete First Season" (2009-10) is a three-disc set with eight episodes, $9.96, exclusively at Walmart, from MTV/Paramount.
Check out other new October 1-7 DVD releases at OnVideo.