This week’s new releases include a few Hollywood takes on science fiction (Fox’s remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still; the 1984 sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact on Blu-ray), and a few that fall into the fantasy genre (Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories; Jim Carrey in Yes Man, where he romances the 18-years younger Zooey Deschanel — a middle-aged male fantasy if there ever was one). Awards-watchers have an Oscar-nominated film new to DVD (Doubt) and a new double-dip from a Coen brothers classic in the making (No Country for Old Men Collector’s Edition). Read on for more!
When studios remake films, the question always arises: Why fix it if it ain’t broken? (The original 1951 sci-fi classic sits pretty at a robust 94 percent on the Tomatometer.) The folks at Fox apparently don’t like such questions, because they decided to “update” the tale of an alien visitor named Klaatu who brings a message of peace — and then, potential destruction — to the callow denizens of Earth. Keanu Reeves‘ monotone delivery as Klaatu didn’t help TDTESS‘s clunky direction and script, though in his defense, he was doing it on purpose. Find the 3-Disc version for a plethora of bonus materials (production photos, storyboards, and concept art) and tons of thematic and making-of featurettes; unfortunately, the lone commentary track does not feature the film’s stars or its director, Scott Derrickson. The good news? Limited editions of the 2-Disc and 3-Disc DVDs also come with the original The Day The Earth Stood Still, so you might get some enjoyment out of the release after all.
Next: Adam Sandler in Bedtime Stories
Back again with another family-friendly comic clunker, Adam Sandler stars as a goofball uncle named Skeeter who entertains his niece and nephew with fantastical stories — stories that begin to come to life! Although the appealing Keri Russell co-stars as Sandler’s love interest, and the rascally Russell Brand as his best friend, this high concept comedy fell flat. Even director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) couldn’t breathe enough pep and life into the proceedings, and he was able to make people enjoy watching John Travolta in drag. Special features include pieces on the film’s special effects, child actors, and computer-generated guinea pig, bloopers, deleted scenes, and an infomercial-type appearance by Big Daddy co-stars Cole and Dylan Sprouse (now bonafide Disney idols).
Next: Multiple Oscar nominee, Doubt
Oscar-watchers absolutely must see this Certified Fresh chamber piece, which earned five Academy Award nominations and was adapted by director John Patrick Shanley from his own Pulitzer-winning play. With creds like these, is there any, ahem, doubt, that serious moviegoers should move this to the top of their Netflix queue this week? A strong cast led by Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams give this period piece about suspicion and the specter of abuse in a 1950s parish serious weight, though a brief, powerhouse performance by Viola Davis steals the show.
Next: Say maybe to Jim Carrey’s Yes Man
Jim Carrey is a shadow of his former self in Yes Man, a predictable comedy about a straight-laced banker who battles his mid-life crisis by embracing a single word: yes. Unfortunately, critics overwhelmingly disagreed with the film’s central theme (“Say yes to everything!”), despite a winning if strained performance by Carrey, who plays against his strengths as the straight man with the occasional glimmer of that slapsticky, classic Carrey. And then, there’s Zooey Deschanel. Always winning as the token “manic pixie dream girl,” she’s extra-quirky in a role as a scooter-driving, rock band-fronting, Silverlake-dwelling free spirit who, naturally, falls in love with Carrey (18 years her senior in real life). Deschanel’s musical performances, included in full as bonus features, are the highlight of Yes Man on DVD – watch one below!
Next: Contemplate your credit history with I.O.U.S.A.
Economy got you in a funk? If watching an entire documentary about the nation’s money woes won’t sink you further into depression, then we fervently recommend picking up I.O.U.S.A. (maybe a rental — it’s more cost-effective). This nonpartisan doc aims to educate America about fiscal responsibility — but in an entertaining way, unlike your bank’s customer service agents — utilizing engaging graphics to make its terrifying point. Another bonus: I.O.U.S.A. is directed by award-winning filmmaker Patrick Creadon, whose 2006 doc Wordplay introduced audiences to the nation’s biggest crossword nerds — and won a Golden Tomato award to boot.
Next: Yup, someone made a movie entitled Donkey Punch
The title does bear explanation, but you’ll have to watch this film to find out what it means. It’s got a promising premise; this British thriller follows a group of young partiers adrift on a boat trip that takes a dangerous turn at sea. Critics liked it to a point, but gave it negative reviews for giving way to tired genre cliché. Brutal violence, drug use, and general hedonism abound, if you like that sort of thing…but while curiosity is bound to get the best of anyone looking for sordid thrills, Donkey Punch might turn out less impactful than its own title.
Next: Painterly animation and adventure in The Tale of Despereaux
When it comes to animation, it would seem that American studios (Pixar, DreamWorks) have a monopoly on critical success. European studio Framestore Animation nonetheless tried their hand with The Tale of Despereaux, whose titular character is a mouse of particular courage and manners. Despereaux aimed to capture the imaginations of young audiences but ended up splitting critics, who credited it with handsome, painterly CG visuals but complained of a lack of spirit. The bland allegory, based on the novel by author Kate DiMillo, might serve hardcore fans of animation (and those with small children) best; all else, be warned. A few games and making-of featurettes highlight the DVD.
Next: Get naughty and nostalgic with the Pre-Code Hollywood Collection
Hearken back to an Old Hollywood unencumbered by silly “morals,” before that stuffy Hays Code took effect, with six delightfully dirty classics: The Cheat (1931, pictured above), Merrily We Go To Hell (1932), Hot Saturday (1932), Torch Singer (1933), Murder at the Vanities (1934), and Search For Beauty (1934). Among the set are films starring the likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Cary Grant, Lucille Ball and Claudette Colbert, with salacious storylines that span the un-PC themes of adultery, wedlock, murder, and good old-fashioned smut. (Bankhead’s The Cheat plays like an early version of Indecent Proposal, as an indebted woman considers paying the ultimate price to a “lecherous scoundrel.”) A mini-handbook reprint of the infamous 1934 Production Code accompanies the set; here, we share our favorite bylaws: “Revenge in modern times shall not be justified” and “Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown.”
Next: Should you double dip with the No Country For Old Men Collector’s Edition?
Double-dip home video releases are never enticing to fans who already own a title, but this week’s Blu-ray release of the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men comes with enough new bonus material that fervent Coen fans should take a look. When No Country first hit DVD and Blu-ray a while back, only a trio of features accompanied the film; all three of those features are ported over to the new Collector’s Edition 2-Disc Blu-ray and 3-Disc DVD, and share space with a wealth of new extras, which include Josh Brolin‘s behind-the-scenes feature, a Q&A with Joel and Ethan Coen and cinematographer Roger Deakins, and nine additional pieces featuring the Coens and their stars talking with various media programs about No Country. If you’ve spent hours analyzing the film’s ending, shot compositions, or Anton Chigurh’s hairdo of choice, consider these materials study guides to the Coen classic.
Next: 2010: The Year We Make Contact hits Blu-ray
It was an audacious idea to begin with; who in their right mind would attempt to follow Stanley Kubrick‘s science fiction classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, with a sequel? In the year 1984, that person was director Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, The Star Chamber, Timecop), whose adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s follow-up novel picked up nine years after the events of 2001. Roy Scheider stars as Dr. Heywood Floyd, a now-disgraced aeronautics expert investigating the HAL 9000 glitch, who along with John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, and Bob Balaban, tries to unlock the secret of the monolith. While the release comes with woefully few bonus features (a vintage featurette and the theatrical trailer), it’s a great High Def release for science fiction purists.
Until next week, happy renting!