It’s a blockbuster week for DVD watchers, as two highly anticipated titles — a little robot action here (Transformers), a little zombie plague there (Planet Terror) — come a’calling. Thankfully for you more reserved types, we’ve also got some more serious (and critically endorsed) fare, whether it’s based-on-real-life sorrow (A Mighty Heart), trickery (The Hoax), or unexplainable attraction (Crazy Love) you’re after.
Michael Bay‘s high-octane saga of alien robot races warring on Earth blasted audiences away last summer and in IMAX, and the DVD release follows suit this week with a wealth of buying options. If you want two specially-made exclusive figurines with your Transformers, go to Best Buy. For a tin collectible case and an animated prequel film, hit up Wal-Mart. But if you ask us, the sweetest release comes courtesy of Target, which will exclusively offer a DVD case that transforms into OPTIMUS PRIME!! Pure marketing genius, we say. Oh yes, there are also behind-the-scenes featurettes and a commentary by Michael Bay. But the Target DVD case IS A TRANSFORMER!
Robert Rodriguez‘s half of the mis-marketed Grindhouse double feature comes this week to finish what Quentin Tarantino‘s Death Proof started back in September: namely, teasing fans with a longer version of the original flick and a few extra features while conspicuously omitting those fan-favorite fake trailers. For those, we’ll have to wait for the deluxe DVD. But, lest we encourage you to wait for that holy grail of Grindhouse fun, let us remind you that some Planet Terror is better than no Planet Terror, and watching the extended, gorier version of what some might argue was the better half of the double bill might just make your day. Features on the 2-disc release include commentary by Rodriguez, an Audience Reaction track, 10-Minute Film School with the director, and more.
This Certified Fresh dramatization of the real-life disappearance and murder of Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Pearl is told through the eyes of Pearl’s widow, Marianne, whose memoirs serve the basis for the film. Director Michael Winterbottom‘s handheld camera captures deeply emotional performances by his cast, led by Angelina Jolie; the disc’s three special features (a making-of piece, a public service announcement by Christiane Amanpour, and a documentary about the Committee to Protect Journalists) remind us of the real-life circumstances of Pearl’s case and the dangers posed to embedded journalists reporting in highly volatile areas of the world.
Richard Gere stars as Clifford Irving, a writer in the 1970s who had all of America convinced he’d written an authorized autobiography of infamous recluse Howard Hughes — until the book, for which he’d collected hundreds of thousands of dollars — was declared a fake. Critics lauded the film’s performances and direction, earning The Hoax a Certified Fresh distinction. The bonus menu is populated by the expected commentary tracks, but look especially for an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, in which he recounts being duped himself by Irving’s charade.
Supplementary Selections for Your Cinematic Senses
A young Bronx beauty in 1959 tries to break off her affair with a married man, but he becomes dangerously obsessed and plots a horrible attack on her; when he is released from jail years later, she not only forgives her attacker, but marries him. The craziest part about Crazy Love? It’s not fiction. The real-life rocky relationship between Burt Pugach and Linda Riss was well-documented tabloid fodder in the 1960s, and now co-directors Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens have crafted a complex documentary about love, obsession, and forgiveness that is almost as hard to believe as it is to watch. As they say, that’s amore!
Lights in the Dusk
Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismaki, a veritable master of deadpan humor, completes his “Loser trilogy” (which began with Drifting Clouds and the The Man Without a Past) with this slow but rewarding bleak comedy about a lonely watchman being set up by a blonde.
The Trials of Darryl Hunt
Wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a white woman, Darryl Hunt, an African-American man, spent nearly two decades in prison before being exonerated; his case and court battles are chronicled in this convincing documentary.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Complete Series
Creator Aaron Sorkin crafted this seriocomic backstage serial, set behind the scenes of a fictional primetime sketch comedy show called Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; unfortunately, fans of the show were as fervent as they were few, and dwindling ratings led the way to cancellation after just one season. If you were among Studio 60‘s champions, make this 6-disc complete series collection a must.
Knowing is Half the Battle
Critics found little to redeem the overwrought clichés of this Biblical plague pic, which couldn’t even be saved by a starring performance by Oscar-winner Hilary Swank.
This teen ghost story about a dying kid solving his own murder while invisible to everyone around him proved too ludicrous, and yet too dull, for most critics to bear. Will you want to see it on DVD? (Get it? “See”? He’s invisible!)
Until next week, happy renting!