Prepare to relive the rise (and death, and rise and death) of Jason Voorhees as the first three Friday the 13th flicks are re-released this week (Part 3 even comes with 3D glasses)! Also consider picking up Kevin Smith’s latest raunch fest (Zack and Miri Make A Porno), a teenage hipster romance (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), a Dakota Fanning Deep South drama (The Secret Life of Bees), and new editions of an animated and a comedy classic (Oliver & Company 20th Anniversary, Being There 30th Anniversary). But be on the lookout for Jessica Simpson, as she hides out from the fashion police by taking cover in Direct to Videoland…
This week, on the verge of Jason Voorhies’ long-awaited return to the big screen, Paramount re-releases the slasher flicks that started it all: Friday the 13th (uncut and also available on Blu-ray), Friday the 13th Part 2, and Friday the 13th Part 3-3D. While many might agree that the F13 flicks weren’t the best-crafted pieces of the genre — as a rule, befitting Roger Ebert’s “dead teenager movie” profile — the first three films offer more in the way of nostalgia: a twenty-two year old Kevin Bacon meeting his untimely death in the original Friday the 13th; the series’ arguably best heroine, Ginny Field (Amy Steel) in Part 2; and three-dimensional gimmicks in Part 3. (Plus, we’re suckers for DVDs that come with their own 3D glasses!) You can also read about our very own Alex Vo’s journey through every installment of the series, which begins today, here.
As for the DVDs themselves, a commentary with director Sean S. Cunningham and cast, plus a bevy of nostalgia-heavy featurettes comprise the extras on Part 1, though Part 2 and Part 3 are sorely lacking in additional materials. Watch an exclusive clip below, in which the Jasons of the Friday the 13th franchise pick their favorite kills.
Next: Zack and Miri Make A Porno
As far as Kevin Smith’s hit-or-miss filmography goes, Zack and Miri Make a Porno landed comfortably in the middle of super fresh and rotten, nestled between Dogma (68%) and Clerks II (63%). While hampered by the dual yearnings to go uber blue and gently romantic all at once, Zack and Miri still retained the essential Kevin Smith signature — namely, average people in ridiculous situations talking like real average people in ridiculous situations, comically. And so, in a 2-disc DVD set (and on Blu-ray), Zack and Miri more than makes up for its cinematic shortcomings with a wealth of laugh-inducing bonus features, including featurettes that run 20-, 45-, and even 75-minutes long. Deleted scenes, improvised lines, a making-of video, a gag reel and more — including a feature on Smith’s infamous ratings battle with the MPAA over the flick — make this a decent title for Kevin Smith fans.
Next: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
3. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist — 72%
Real life hipsters might be too cool to own Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but the MTV and Facebook crowd should have no problem adding this indie pop romance to their DVD shelves. (Just don’t own up to it, in the interest of coolness.) Teen straight-edgers Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) don’t know it yet, but they’re about to fall in love…one night during an all-city chase for an elusive secret show, with an evil ex-girlfriend on the trail and a drunken BFF on the loose. Cast and filmmaker commentaries, a music video by soundtrack contributors (and cameo musicians) Bishop Allen, and the requisite young Hollywood hipster bonus feature (“A Nick & Norah Puppet Show by Kat Dennings”) and more make for a well-rounded disc.
Next: The Secret Life of Bees
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith produced this adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, about a teenage girl (Dakota Fanning) who escapes to South Carolina with her nanny (Jennifer Hudson) to live with three independent-minded sisters (Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo, and Alicia Keys) in the 1960s. While it’s remarkable enough that a major studio drama was made featuring strong black female characters, and by an African-American female director (Gina Prince-Blythewood), critics called The Secret Life of Bees corny and saccharine. Loaded with weighty extras, the film comes to DVD with filmmaker commentaries, an extended director’s cut, deleted scenes and making-of featurettes.
Next: Bottle Shock
Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Freddy Rodriguez and Eliza Dushku come together for this so-so tale of oenophilia, family, and wine country drama, based on the true story of a California vineyard that won a Parisian taste test in the 1970s. In dramatizing the event, however, director and co-screenwriter Randall Miller lost something in translation; then again, Eliza Dushku shows up for a key cameo as a character named “Joe the bartender,” and as we all know, any movie starring The Dush is a movie worth watching. (Director Miller also made the thriller Nobel Son with much of his Bottle Shock cast, including Rickman, Pullman, and yes, Eliza Dushku.)
Next: Oliver and Company 20th Anniversary
For some, Oliver & Company is but a distant memory, a relic of Disney animation; after all, veritable classics like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast hog all the attention as hallmarks of Disney’s modern animated musicals. But what you might not realize is that Oliver & Company — an animated version of Oliver Twist, told through the eyes of a spunky kitten and his adopted family of street-wise canines — is the reason Disney returned to the musical game at all. Two decades later, the 1988 adventure (which admittedly has some less-than-cuddly themes and kills off its villains) is back in a glorious 20th Anniversary Edition, which boasts a handful of worthy extras, shorts, and sing-along tracks…and serves as a time machine that’ll take you back to the days when a Huey Lewis tune could get your head boppin’, Billy Joel (voicing Dodger), Cheech Marin (as Tito) and Dom Deluise (as Fagin) still had cache, and Joey “Whoa!” Lawrence had yet to hit puberty.
Next: Madagascar Escape 2 Africa
In a rare exception to the sequel rule, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa scored better with critics than the original. But does that mean you should see it? Like Madagascar (55%), Escape 2 Africa duplicates the quick-draw, semi-funny pop culture spewing sensibilities of modern day animated flicks that try — and often, fail — to keep grownups entertained while dazzling the kiddies. The 2-Disc “Move It, Move It” Edition (it’s a reference to one of the film’s many musical numbers) features making-of segments, a commentary track, featurettes on real-life animal behavior, and interactive games.
Next: Being There
If you already know who Chance the Gardener is, then you’ve most likely seen Being There. And if you’ve seen Being There, then you probably love it already. Hal Ashby’s understated 1979 comedy is an exercise in restraint, mining laughs from the most mundane situations; Peter Sellers stars as Chance the Gardener — or, Chauncey Gardiner — a middle-aged naïf with a green thumb who is mistaken for an insightful power broker by Washington, D.C. politicos. The 30th Anniversary Edition of Ashby’s classic pays tribute to the staying power of Being There, named by Judd Apatow, David S. Goyer, and the members of Broken Lizard as one of their Five Favorite Films, respectively; Ileana Douglas appears in one featurette to commemorate the performance of her father, Melvyn, who won an Oscar for his role as the sickly Ben Rand. Watch the extended gag reel for outtakes highlighting Sellers, who died of a heart attack just six months after the film’s release.
Next: Private Valentine: Blond and Dangerous
Lastly, we close with the latest installment of Direct to Video DVD of the Week. Hot on the heels of her Chili Concert Mom Jeans Fashion Fiasco, Jessica Simpson bounces back (take that, Perez Hilton!) in yet another starring vehicle heading straight for the Direct to Video bins. Private Valentine: Blond and Dangerous follows the adventures of a down-on-her-luck actress who enlists in the army on a whim. Could life imitate art? (Sharp-eyed Simpson fans will recognize Private Valentine as the same Direct to Video flick she shopped around Cannes, only back then it was called Major Movie Star.) Think it couldn’t get any worse? Private Valentine also stars Steve “The Gut, pronounced like Goot” Guttenberg, Keiko Agena of Gilmore Girls, Olesya Rulin of High School Musical, Vivica A. Fox and Cheri Oteri, all of whom now have our sympathy for having their names forever associated with a Jessica Simpson production. (And did we mention it’s directed by Steve Miner, of Friday the 13th Part 2 and Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken fame?)
Until next week, happy renting!