This week in home video, we’ve gone out of our way to provide you with a nice variety of selections, as we always try to do. Of course, there are the newest of the new releases (Crank 2 and Dance Flick, both of which opened earlier this year), as well as a couple of classics getting the hi-def treatment (Friday and Creepshow). We’ve got one of the hottest comedies on television (The Office), and we’ve got a strange little half animated, half live-action gem from the Disney archives (Bedknobs and Broomsticks). If arthouse is your thing, we’ve got an entry on the week’s Criterion Collection releases and a visually sumptuous Terrence Malick film (The New World). So grab your popcorn and fire up them video machines, because it’s time for some DVD action.
Jason Statham is probably this generation’s closest approximation of the classic action hero, and he’s done a fine job bolstering his resume with roles that showcase his physical prowess and knack for extreme survival. 2006’s Crank was only borderline Fresh at 60%, but it earned a sort of cult following that led to its sequel, High Voltage. Statham is back as Chev Chelios, more amped than ever, and this time around, he’s forced to run around town in search of electrical jolts to keep the batteries in his newly transplanted (not by choice) mechanical heart charged. Amy Smart and Dwight Yoakam return to reprise their roles as Chev’s girlfriend and doctor pal, respectively, and there’s even a cameo by the recently departed David Carradine, playing (of course) a 100-year-old Chinese Triad boss. High Voltage will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Also coming to DVD and Blu-Ray this week is the latest entry in the Wayans dynasty, Dance Flick, a spoof film poking fun at the recent abundance of dance-themed movies and television shows. Ushering in the next generation of the Wayans family, Dance Flick stars the son of Damon Wayans, Damon Wayans Jr., as a defeated urban dancer who meets a female dancer with a troubled past of her own, played by newcomer Shoshanna Bush. The two hit it off and spark an interracial romance a la Save the Last Dance… except with a healthy of smattering of absurdist humor, thanks to the involvement of the usual Wayans suspects. Critics weren’t feeling the groove on this one, but if you’re a fan of the Wayans’ work, you’ll probably enjoy yourself.
Remakes haven’t been doing so well in Hollywood during the past several years, but one in particular has been continually bankable since 2005… and it’s not a movie franchise. The Office began as a US recreation of the original BBC series starring Ricky Gervais, but has since established its own unique tone and collection of story arcs, becoming one of the most popular comedies on American television and launching the careers of several of its stars. Season Five of the show arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, with extras like webisodes, TV promo spots, episode commentaries, and the always entertaining gag reel, but for you diehard fans, there’s also a 100-episode collection of all five seasons, including all the extras.
Disney is well known for their policy of releasing their classic animated films on DVD for a limited period of time, then returning them to their “vault” until further notice. As such, this is not the first time Bedknobs and Broomsticks has been available (the film even got a 30th Anniversary Edition in 2001), but it does mean you’ll only have a short time to pick it up before it disappears for several years. For those who aren’t familiar, this particular classic is a combination of live action and animation, featuring Angela Lansbury as an aspiring witch who teaches a couple of lucky kids magic and takes them on adventures atop a flying bed. Oh, and it takes place against the backdrop of World War II. Sound wacky? Yeah, it kind of is, but who does wacky better than Angela Lansbury?
This week, Homicide is one of three Criterion Collection releases that will draw the attention of cinephiles and those looking to step away from more conventional fare. In his third directorial effort, David Mamet unravels a cop movie about self-discovery, morality, and conspiracy, with Joe Mantegna starring as a Jewish police officer who becomes embroiled in a murder case more complex than it first seems. Mamet’s trademark dialogue is on display throughout the film, which resonated well with critics. The DVD features a commentary track with Mamet and William H. Macy, cast interviews, and even a gag reel. Otherwise, be sure to look for the other two Criterion editions dropping on Tuesday: That Hamilton Woman, starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and Masaki Kobayashi’s epic drama The Human Condition.
“I’m gonna get you high today, because it’s Friday, you ain’t got no job, and you ain’t got **** to do.” Though Chris Tucker is probably better known for his work with Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour movies, he and rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube succeeded in cementing their place in stoner lore with their turns as Smokey and Craig, respectively, in F. Gary Gray’s Friday, which Cube also co-wrote. As two slackers whiling away a lazy day in South Central, Tucker and Cube feed off each other’s energy, the latter playing straight man to the former’s fast-talking weed fiend. Its popular soundtrack, almost surreal comedy, and wealth of quotable lines fueled a fan following, sparking two sequels and elevating its two stars’ profiles, and now it’s finally getting the hi-def treatment. Pick it up on Blu-Ray, but hide it from Deebo, because he’ll snatch it up like a cheap gold chain. And you know this, maaaan!
Director Matt Tyrnauer followed legendary fashion designer Valantino Garavani and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti for the final two years of Valentino’s career, utilizing access to private meetings, conferences, and backstage areas for runway shows to bring the man’s life into focus. The film toured the festival circuit in 2008, receiving much acclaim, before opening in the US earlier this year. Finally here on DVD and Blu-Ray, this is the everyday Joe’s chance to catch a rare glimpse of the intimate inner workings of the glamorous fashion industry through the eyes of one of its most influential personalities.
Another cult classic finds its way to your Blu-Ray player in Creepshow, the 1982 collaboration between two giants of the horror genre: director George Romero and writer Stephen King. A compilation of five short segments inspired by the E.C. horror comics of the 1950s, three of which were not based on earlier stories by King, the film blended traditional elements of horror with camp and dark humor. Creepshow elicited a mixed response from critics but went on to spawn sequels (both official and unofficial), a comic book series, and a few similarly themed television shows. In fact, there’s even a fourth installment in the works, but it’s not slated to open until 2011, so this should hold you over until then.
The second F. Gary Gray film hitting Blu-Ray this week, Set It Off is a unique take on the heist film, starring an all-female cast that includes Jada Pinkett (before she added the “Smith”), Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise. As with the Gray’s other film on this list, Friday, Set It Off featured a popular soundtrack, and though the film garnered a lukewarm reception from critics, it helped jumpstart the film careers of its four central stars. Pick up the Extended Director’s Cut this week and you’ll get a special featurette on the making of the film.
If there is one director whose films might be best served by the Blu-Ray treatment, it might arguably be Terrence Malick. His often striking cinematography and sweeping shots of landscape are, in fact, on full display in The New World, Malick’s romantic depiction of the relationship between American pioneer John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher). Though this is Malick’s least celebrated film thus far, somewhat splitting critics and barely earning Fresh status at 61%, it’s a unique look at this country’s origins that should look magnificent in high definition. What’s more, this is the Extended Cut of the film, with over 30 minutes of extra footage, and the special features include a 10-part documentary on the making of the film, a must have for Malick fans.