This week on home video, we’ve got the usual new releases (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Orphan), a couple of underseen indies (Il Divo, Medicine for Melancholy) a couple of fun horror flicks (Fear(s) of the Dark, Night of the Creeps), and a couple of sci-fi fan favorites (Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, Stargate). Read on to find out about some new films and find out what the new DVD releases contain!
Earlier this year, the third installment of Fox’s Ice Age franchise hit theaters in 3D, unveiling a brand new world full of giant reptiles for the old gang to explore. All of the regular voice talents return for the sequel, which pits Mannie, Diego, Sid, and Ellie against a thawed out world full of T-rexes, brontosauruses, and pterodactyls. Critics were mixed in their response to the film, but they cited its lush animation, which seems to be more and more common in CGI films as of late, as a strength. Though it might not spark much humor for grown-ups, the visuals and crisply designed characters should be enough to captivate children for a couple of hours, particularly if you choose to pick it up on Blu-Ray.
Stories about demon spawn can’t help being a little on the campy side, but this venture into accidental camp surprises largely because of the pedigree of its performers. Vera Farmiga plays a mother whose recent loss of a pregnancy result in a universe of trauma for her and her marriage, so she and her husband (Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt a tiny psychopath. Esther (Isabelle Furman) is eerily mature, has a wardrobe all her own, paints oddly well and plays the piano like a prodigy: all of this she’s accumulated in her 9 traumatic years on earth. Without being cagey about it, the reveal is a another source of possible comedy but the scares are certainly worth the time. The Blu-Ray includes both deleted scenes and an alternate ending (oooohhh!!!), a digital copy and a featurette called “Mama’s Little Devils: Bad Seeds, Evil Kids and Orphan.” Good times with bad kids.
Who knew that the reimagined Battlestar Galactica television series would garner such a huge cult following? Capitalizing on political and social themes that were relevant to the times, BSG successfully offered compelling storylines and fleshed out characters, thereby earning a special place in the sci-fi canon as a smart, inventive, and fantastical reflection of modern society. For those who haven’t finished the series, which came to an end earlier this year in March, and those who have yet to discover the BSG universe, we won’t ruin anything here with spoilers. In short, The Plan is a companion piece to the series, a 2-hour long feature that chronicles some of the series’ events from the perspective of the Cylons. It’s a must-have (a must-see, at the very least) for fans, and the special features include a handful of featurettes, deleted scenes, and a commentary track.
Starring Daily Show regular Wyatt Cenac and talented newcomer Tracey Heggins, Medicine for Melancholy spends a day with a pair of African American hipsters who wake up in a bed with no recollection of each other; they spend the day wandering though San Francisco, sharing social commentary along with the intimate details of their lives. Barry Jenkins’ minimalist, conversational debut marks him as a filmmaker to watch, and the DVD comes with an in-depth interview with the director.
Costa Gavras’ electrifying political thriller Z hasn’t aged a wit since its release in 1969. If anything this drama about the assassination of a left-wing activist — and the subsequent government stonewalling of an investigation into the crime — has a raw vitality that has only deepened over time. This spiffy new Criterion edition contains interviews with Costa Gavras and cinematographer Raoul Coutard, as well as archival footage of stars Yves Montand, Irene Papas, and Jean-Louis Trintignant. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
In late October of 2008, a small French film opened in just a handful of theaters and maintained a presence that would last only 10 weeks. It was a decidedly unique movie: an anthology of 6 animated horror shorts by various graphic artists, some of whom had never worked in the medium of film before. The result was a collection of Hitchcockian explorations on the theme of the fear of the unknown, as implied by the title, and included traditional animation as well as two- and three-dimensional computer animated pieces. Though the tone of the film was more subtle than, say, a Saw film, critics helped propel it to Certified Fresh status and noted interest in seeing what these fledgling directors would offer in the future. Starting this week, you can pick up Fear(s) of the Dark on DVD and see for yourself what you may have missed.
Time has been kind to Sam Fuller: though initially dismissed as a shlockmeister, he’s now seen as an auteur of pulp, and a forerunner of independent cinema. The Sam Fuller Collection compiles a number of his key works, including It Happened in Hollywood, Adventure in Sahara, Power of the Press, Shockproof, Scandal Sheet, The Crimson Kimono, and Underworld USA. It also contains several in-depth documentaries and appreciations by Martin Scorsese and Curtis Hanson.
Now that the American spin on the Mafia has gone from sappily nostalgic to downright exhaustive, Italians are taking back their cultural claim. Yet, a recent spate of Italian films on crime are taking the brutally violent (soap) operatics of organized crime flicks and adding to that the danger of biography. Case in point: Il Divo. It’s named for the real life politician currently seen as the most powerful person in the Italian post-war era, Giulio Andreotti, a politician whose reign in office has exceeded term limitations to a degree almost laughable and all because he’s got the house in his back pocket. The man himself suffers from migraines, is enslaved by his obsessive ambition and possesses such a diminutive appearance he’s like Don Corleone, Darth Vader and Monte Burns, all rolled into one. The DVD for this 2008 Cannes Jury Prize winner promises subtitles.
With the recent re-popularization of horror/comedies like Shaun of the Dead, Drag Me to Hell, and even Zombieland, it’s easy to forget that they’ve been around for some time. Older films in particular, due in part to lower production values, often reveled in camp, taking advantage of unbelievable storylines to add levity to a genre overridden with gloom and gore. One such film was 1986’s Night of the Creeps, a B-movie homage about two college kids who steal a corpse as part of a frat initiation and unknowingly unleash a horde of bodysnatching alien slugs up on the city. This cult favorite has escaped the DVD market for several years, but the director’s cut will be available this week on both DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time ever and will include the original ending, commentary tracks, and deleted scenes.
Coming exclusively to Blu-Ray this week is the new 15th Anniversary Edition of Roland Emmerich’s 1994 blockbuster, Stargate. This is the original that started it all and spawned four television series, the most recent of which premiered just earlier this month, as well as various books, comics, and video games. The new DVD features both the theatrical and extended versions of the film in newly remastered hi-def transfers, as well as three new featurettes, a picture in picture feature titled “Stargate Ultimate Knowledge,” and a blooper reel. Altogether, the extras amount to about four hours of bonus material and should provide a lot of entertainment for fans of the film.