This week, another Hasbro toy franchise’s debut hits DVD, as well as a modern remake of a suspenseful thriller, a couple of classics, a doc on the food industry, a couple of perennial Christmas favorites, and a box set of arguably the greatest sports film franchise. Check out our list of recommendations and see if a few of them don’t make it onto your shelves!
With Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise reaping box office profits like gangbusters, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to bring its Hasbro partner G.I. Joe to the big screen. For The Rise of Cobra, Paramount enlisted another blockbuster director, Stephen Sommers (the Mummy films), and secured a list of veteran actors like Dennis Quaid, as well as up-and-comers such as Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Rachel Nichols. Unfortunately, though the movie followed through on its promises of explosive action, much like Transformers, critics found fault with its story and campy, over-the-top nature. Nevertheless, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra still scored over $150 million at the box office, proving summer audiences sometimes just want an excuse to watch larger-than-life heroes save the world once in a while. You can pick it up this week on DVD and Blu-Ray.
In the recent tradition of unnecessary remakes, director Tony Scott (probably best known for Top Gun) decided to revisit 1974’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (which had actually already been remade as a TV movie in 1998) earlier this year, and the result was a mixed reaction from the critical community. Starring powerhouse actors John Travolta and Denzel Washington, Pelham depicts an intense showdown between a New York subway hijacker (Travolta) and an MTA dispatcher (Washington). While the performances were bolstered by a strong cast (including supporting roles from John Turturro and James Gandolfini), most felt that Tony Scott’s direction was a bit too frantic and that the film lacked the punch of the original. Still, those looking for a tensely acted thriller, Pelham may not prove to be such a bad ride to take.
High school humiliation is typically pretty funny, especially when seen through the detached lens of adulthood. This is perhaps why high school comedies lean on style… But then there are style-free humiliation fests. Here, for example, is I Love You, Beth Cooper, a sitcom tidy comedy about the fair-weather love of a valedictorian for the High School Hottie. Chris Columbus’ film, based on the bestselling novel of the same name, fails to live up to the grandeur of the book, but the nostalgia the silly HS revamp drums up may make that all seem unimportant. With deleted scenes, alternate endings, featurettes and more, this notebook is stocked for the summer – which is good, because freshman year is a whole new bundle of humiliation.
The idea that dinner is dangerous should conjure up the memories of bad dates past, disgruntled Thanksgiving celebrations or maybe visions of zombie lobsters. But for Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, the men who wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Fast Food Nation,” respectively, the grossest, most callous, inhumane and ultimately destructive part of your supper happens months before you even enter the restaurant. Director Robert Kennar’s expose on the government ally protected policies that force scientists to modify, farmers to overproduce, livestock to suffer and citizens to get sick will leave you with lots to consider. The Blu-Ray includes deleted scenes, celebrity PSAs on the issue, “Nightline’s” interview with the CEO of Chipotle, and 40 minutes of previously unseen footage.
Does Forrest Gump present an overly-simplistic perspective of the Baby Boom generation’s trials and tribulations? Sure. Did it deserve to win best picture over Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption? No way. But c’mon, cynics: why all the Gump hate? The movie has a few big laughs, some of the best special effects of its time, and a protagonist who, as played by Tom Hanks, is one of recent cinema’s most fundamentally decent heroes. The new Forrest Gump Chocolate Box Gift Set is loaded with making-of docs, interviews, and audio commentary from director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Sharkey, and art director Rick Carter. And that’s all we have to say about that.
Like Yule logs and eggnog, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life. Which, come to think of it, is pretty strange; Frank Capra’s 1946 classic is darker and more disquieting than most noirs, as its hero George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) embarks on a tumultuous journey of the soul before arriving at his titular conclusion. If you haven’t seen this heartrending classic, the It’s a Wonderful Life Two-Disc Collector’s Gift Set, on DVD and Blu-Ray, is a good way to take the plunge (no pun intended). And though, this set contains no wings, it does come with a limited-edition Christmas ornament that will make you the envy of Bedford Falls, or whatever your hometown happens to be.
A substantial arthouse hit, Wings of Desire launched Wim Wenders to the forefront of world cinema, inspired a Hollywood remake (City of Angels), and almost certainly made Bono cry like a baby. And why not? It’s a wonderful film, full of grand romantic gestures and haunting black-and-white cinematography. Bruno Ganz stars as an angel who yearns for the messy complications of everyday life instead of the coldness of immortality. This new Criterion edition features a ton of interviews with the film’s cast and crew, as well as outtakes and audio commentary from Wenders and star Peter Faulk.
In 1983, National Lampoon’s Vacation earned its spot as a tried and true comedy classic, which made the failure of its follow-up, 1985’s European Vacation, that much sadder. Who knew the franchise would return with a vengeance in 1989 with Christmas Vacation, which saw the Griswold family playing host to their decidedly less classy (is that even possible?) extended family during the holidays. Though critics still found Christmas Vacation inferior to the original, it found its niche as a classic holiday family comedy, sneaking its way into DVD players and onto TV channels every winter. Though this new release, available on both DVD and Blu-Ray, doesn’t offer any new special features, it does come nicely packaged in a nifty collectible tin, along with stocking stuffers like fake snow, a moose figurine, coasters marked with memorable quotes, and Clark’s Santa hat.
North By Northwest is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most enjoyable thrillers, for reasons that are readily apparent. Featuring the ultra-suave Cary Grant at his wittiest, this espionage caper follows a hero on the run both from the authorities and a sinister cabal; his journey takes him across the country, where danger awaits at every turn. This 50th Anniversary Edition contains documentaries on Hitchcock and Grant, two in-depth looks at the film and its impact, an audio commentary from screenwriter Ernest Lehman, and a music-only track.
Alright kids, hold on to your gloves, because the ultimate collection of Rocky films is about to hit your video store shelves. Coming exclusively to Blu-Ray this week is Rocky: The Undisputed Collection. This seven-disc set contains not only every Rocky film, from the 1976 multiple Oscar-winning original to 2007’s Rocky Balboa, but hours of special features, including a boatload of featurettes, tributes to various contributors to the films (including Burgess Meredith), a video commentary track with Sly Stallone himself, and more. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the whole collection is on Blu-Ray, so you’ll get to see all the spatters of blood and spit in high definition.
Like a Korean War vet at the local VFW, Ben Kenobi wouldn’t stop yapping to young Luke Skywalker about his service as a Jedi Knight in the Clone Wars. Now you can discover what all the fuss was about. Chronicling the events between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the animated Star Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One hits DVD shelves with a tie fighter-load of extended episodes and bonus materials, including a 64-page book of production stills and sneak peak at season two.