This week in home video, we’ve got a lot of brand new releases paired up with a handful of old classics making their comebacks. Among the choices from the current year’s latest releases are the conspiracy theory-themed blockbuster based on Dan Brown’s novel of the same name, Angels & Demons, as well as the Judd Apatow film about standup comedy, Funny People, which stars Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. Then we’ve got Four Christmases and Shorts to round out the new ones, while titles such as The Monster Squad, Ichi the Killer, and Hogan’s Heroes make up some of the other choices. Have a look and see what could be added to your collection this week!
Author Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code was a bestseller that sold millions of copies worldwide before being adapted for the big screen, and its film version was just as successful, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. So it didn’t surprise anyone that, despite The Da Vinci Code‘s poor critical rating, a sequel was in the works, based on Brown’s earlier novel, Angels & Demons. This time around, “symbologist” Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) attempts to unravel an intricate plot involving the Illuminati’s efforts to control the election of a new pope, which has been interrupted by the threat of an antimatter bomb placed somewhere within the Vatican. Langdon follows a trail of mysterious historical clues and ultimately saves the day. Critics were generally more impressed with Angels & Demons than with The Da Vinci Code, and though that’s not saying all that much, the film proved that audiences are still up for intricate, conspiracy-themed mysteries. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
After hitting the big-time with his raunchy-but-heartfelt comedies, Judd Apatow decided to go in a slightly more serious direction with Funny People. The result divided critics and failed to drum up boffo box office business. Still, many pundits found this tale of a self-centered comedian, (played by Adam Sandler) whose perspective changes after learning he has a dread disease, to be more thoughtful than most comedies, and if it doesn’t all come together, it’s still ambitious and interesting. The DVD features both the theatrical and unrated extended cut of the film, plus deleted and extended scenes, making-of docs, and commentary from Apatow, Sandler, and Seth Rogen.
The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a so-so yuletide comedy. Four Christmases stars Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon as an unmarried couple with two sets of divorced parents who are forced to spend time with all of their wacky relatives after they’re bumped from a flight to Fiji. The critics found this to be a lump of coal — predictable, over-the-top, and unable to make the most of a talented cast — but if you’re looking for something slightly cynical for the holidays, it might just do the trick. However, fans of special features will be disappointed with this disc.
Producer/writer/director Robert Rodriguez (the Spy Kids movies, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D) puts on his family friendly hat once again for Shorts. Starring Jon Cryer, William H. Macy, and Leslie Mann, the movie is about a model home community where BLACK BOX Unlimited Worldwide, the creator of the country’s latest and greatest communication gadget, employs the entire town. After the arrival of a wish-granting rock that gives ultimate creative power to whomever holds it, a group of kids must figure out how to save the town from itself after the magic rock falls into the troublemaking hands of adults. With a limited number of special features that include behind the scenes footage, cast interviews, and tips from Rodriguez on how kids can make the most of their homemade movies (and make cookies), the home version of the kid-friendly film caters to its target demo.
One of the smaller foreign films that flew under the radar of most audiences was the Italian crime flick Gomorrah. Based on a non-fiction 2006 book by Roberto Saviano about the organized crime in Naples, Italy, Gomorrah is a collection of grim stories — five in all — relating to the effects that organized crime has on different clusters of the population. From intra-clan disputes to control of haute couture to commercial waste management, the film explores how people perceive, initiate, and endure violence in their lives, and critics roundly praised the film, earning it a 91% Tomatometer and Certified Fresh status. This Criterion Collection edition of the film includes a number of featurettes and interviews with the director and cast, as well as deleted scenes and a 17-page informational booklet. It’s available this week on both DVD and Blu-Ray.
Alright, so the 20th Anniversary Edition of The Monster Squad actually came out a couple of years ago, and this Blu-Ray release actually offers nothing new in the way of special features, but some of us here at RT have such an affection for the movie that we thought its transition to hi-def was worth mentioning anyway. For the uninitiated, The Monster Squad tells the story of a group of classic horror-loving teens who discover that Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, Wolfman, and Gill Man are all out to destroy a mystical amulet, thereby shifting the balanced powers of good and evil in favor of evil. The Monster Squad, as the kids call themselves, set out to thwart Dracula’s nefarious plans, and what results is a fun and charming homage to the Universal horror icons, made specifically for younger audiences. As mentioned, the Blu-Ray version doesn’t have any brand new features, but it does contain everything from the DVD release, including commentary tracks, a five-part retrospective featuring the director and cast, deleted scenes, and more.
In 1965, CBS dared to air a new sitcom that was set in a World War II German POW camp, operating under the premise that Allied prisoners of war were actually working undercover to sabotage Nazi efforts. Luckily, the show, which starred Bob Crane as the titular hero, was a hit, and it continued to run for six seasons until 1971. Though Crane’s troubles after the show ended are well documented (a motion picture starring Greg Kinnear was even made based on Crane’s life), he helped Hogan’s Heroes become one of the most popular programs on TV during its time. This box set is neatly packaged and includes every episode from the series, as well as a separate disc full of special features, such as a Mad Magazine parody of the show called “Hokum’s Heroes,” an alternate version of an episode entirely in German (with subtitles), cast interviews, an extended version of the pilot episode, and more.
After the success of Batman: The Animated Series, Warner Bros. decided to bring another DC Comics heavyweight to life with Superman: The Animated Series, and much to their satisfaction, the new show was also met with both critical acclaim and fan approval. Now, fans can own the complete series, which some have labeled the most faithful adaptation of the Man of Steel’s story, in one convenient package, along with a bunch of bonuses. They include the requisite Commentary tracks, featurettes, and trivia tracks found on previous single season collections, but this complete set also comes with a brand new documentary entitled The Despot Darkseid: A Villain Worthy of Superman. Some might be turned off by the double-sided discs, but if you want all of your Superman in one place, now would be the time to get it.
Not everyone knows who Takashi Miike is, but those who follow the cult director’s work follow it religiously. Known for extreme violence and disturbing themes, Miike’s films have been the subject of much controversy over the past decade and a half. One of his best known films is Ichi the Killer, about a Yakuza enforcer named Kakihara who becomes embroiled in an intricate gang war when his boss is murdered. The film is a brutally graphic gorefest, and indeed, this is the major draw of the movie. The Blu-Ray release has been delayed a couple of times, but it’s finally here and ready for all of you who’ve got the stomach for it in hi-def. Ichi the Killer, and Takashi Miike in general, isn’t for everyone, but for those who are fans, here’s your chance to see all the bloody detail like you’ve never seen it before.
Ever wonder what it would be like to walk in Kobe Bryant’s shoes? Well, the closest you’re likely to get is Kobe Doin’ Work, Spike Lee’s day-in-the-life documentary that follows the Lakers star from his pregame routine to the heat of competition against conference rivals, the San Antonio Spurs. The DVD features an uncensored version of the film that differs slightly from the cut that ran on ESPN, plus deleted scenes, a making-of doc, the press conference from the big game, and a Bruce Hornsby music video (!) for the film’s theme tune.