This week on home video, we’ve got what many of you have been waiting for. A few hints: it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, it was directed by Christopher Nolan, and you’ve referenced it at least five times since July when talking about your dreams (even if you didn’t like it). Then, we’ve got the final installment of an animated Dreamworks franchise, a collection of excellent made-for-TV sports documentaries, and a Certified Fresh doc on the war in Afghanistan. Lastly, we’ve also got a couple of psycho-thrillers that have gotten the Criterion Collection treatment, and one massive collection from one of the major studios. Rest assured that the last item alone will ensure that this week pretty much does have something for everyone, so check out the list!
We know some of you have been chomping at the bit for Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster feature, so we’re happy to report that your wait is over. Inception hits video store shelves everywhere this week, and though a heftier release is sure to come sometime in the future, this one should hold you over until then. For those who missed the sci-fi noir in theaters, Inception centers on Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), an expert thief who specializes in entering dreams and stealing information from his victim’s subconscious. In hopes of securing a safe and legal return to the US to reunite with his children, Cobb teams up with other likeminded individuals not to steal, but to implant an idea into a corporate bigwig’s (Cillian Murphy) mind. Co-starring an exceptional cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, and Tom Hardy, among others, Inception was a smash hit this Summer, even garnering high marks from critics, who helped it to achieve a Certified Fresh 87% Tomatometer score. DVD extras are a bit slim, but if you pick up the Blu-Ray, you’ll get a few more featurettes.
The first two installments of the Shrek franchise did fairly well, each notching a Certified Fresh 89% on the Tomatometer, but 2007’s Shrek the Third wasn’t so lucky, largely because it sacrificed much of the series’ charm and wit for easy pop culture references. With that in mind, many weren’t sure a fourth film was really necessary, but it came anyway, and while Shrek Forever After did mark an improvement, most were thankful it would be the (alleged) final chapter. Forever After sees the titular Mike Myers-voiced ogre being tricked by Rumpelstiltskin, who transports Shrek to an alternate reality in which he never existed. Critics felt that the film did recall some of what made its first two installments great, but by the same token, they also felt that Forever After simply didn’t bring anything new to the table. It currently sits at 58% on the Tomatometer, which isn’t really terrible, but it isn’t anything to jump for either. You can pick up Shrek Forever After this week on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Journalist Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington spent a full year with an American Airborne platoon in Afghanistan to report on the war for Vanity Fair magazine, and when their time was done, they crafted a raw, visceral portrait of what they saw. Restrepo is the documentary film that chronicles their experiences as they witnessed the 2nd Platoon, 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team defend the outpost they named OP Restrepo after platoon medic PFC Juan S. Restrepo, who was killed in combat. Focusing less on narrative and more on immersing viewers in the grit and grime of war, Restrepo struck a powerful chord with many who saw it, and it not only earned a whopping Certified Fresh 97% on the Tomatometer, but also the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. For anyone seeking an up close and personal look at the front lines overseas, this documentary is about as good as it gets, and it’s available on home video this week.
Long live the new flesh! David Cronenberg’s 1983 sci-fi may look a little quaint set against today’s technology — well, who was to know that sentient VHS cassettes wouldn’t be the future of mankind? — but the film’s then-prescient ideas on the nature of man’s relationship to media remain as rich and resonant as ever. In a grubby near-future, James Woods plays a sleazy cable TV producer who stumbles upon a pirate station broadcasting a torture show called “Videodrome,” but when his curiosity turns to obsession he soon finds himself sucked into a reality where technology is mutating with the human body. Fans of the film know what we’re talking about here — and the effects work from Rick Baker, then coming off An American Werewolf In London, still impresses in its creepy brilliance. The Criterion Edition finally does justice to this great film, with a new HD transfer, audio commentaries from Cronenberg, Woods and co-star Deborah Harry, plus a new documentary on the making of the movie, extended footage, and an interesting 1982 discussion featuring Cronenberg, John Landis and John Carpenter. Plus, the packaging replicating a chunky old VHS box is very cool indeed.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is a great idea, wonderfully executed. To celebrate the channel’s 30th anniversary, the Worldwide Leader commissioned 30 esteemed directors to make documentaries on a variety of sports-related topics, and the resulting movies are both idiosyncratic and informative – sometimes are the same time. The six-disc ESPN Films 30 for 30 Gift Set Collection, Volume 1 contains 15 films, including work from Peter Berg, Ice Cube, Barry Levinson, and Steve James; the films look at key moments in the careers of legendary athletes like Muhammad Ali and Wayne Gretzky, as well as oddball sports stories like the big games that happened the same night as the OJ Simpson Bronco chase and the Baltimore Colts marching band’s refusal to quit playing even after their beloved team had moved to Indianapolis. The box set contains oodles of bonus footage, plus director’s statements and interviews.
Director Guillermo del Toro has lately made a name for himself with fantastical tales full of vivid and striking imagery like Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy films. Those who were previously familiar with his work, or who went back to rediscover what he had done prior to his big hits, know that his signature style and dark underlying themes have been present since the beginning, when he debuted with a taut supernatural thriller called Cronos. Federico Luppi plays an old antiques dealer named Jesus Gris, who comes to possess an ancient and elaborate mechanical device with mystical powers. After the device pricks his hand and draws blood, Jesus begins to realize that his youth is returning to him, both in appearance and in vigor; the only catch is that he’s also developed a taste for blood. Critics were impressed with the film, noting its intelligence and charm, as well as its graphic style, and saw fit to give it an 89% Tomatometer score. This week, Criterion reissues the film in a director-approved edition with special features like a del Toro short film, a video tour of del Toro’s home offices, and more.
75 years, 75 movies. That’s the concept behind the Fox 75th Anniversary Collection, a beyond-massive compilation that draws the best movies from the studio’s rich catalog. Collection is split into three volumes: 1933 – 1959 (The Grapes of Wrath, The Day the Earth Stood Still, An Affair to Remember), 1961 – 1985 (The French Connection, Star Wars, Alien), and 1986 – 2010 (Independence Day, Slumdog Millionaire, Avatar), and includes a hardcover book. One of the most notable tidbits about this release is that it exclusively contains the DVD release of 1933’s Best Picture-winning Cavalcade, pleasing film buffs while simultaneously pissing them off because, well, they’re going to have to pay 500 bucks to get their hands on it.
Written by Ryan Fujitani, Tim Ryan, and Luke Goodsell