This week in home video, we had to wade through some slim pickings to give you a handful of rentals and video purchases worth your time. Having said that, we still managed to select a few gems here and there that many of you will be able to appreciate. There are several new releases coming out tomorrow, though most of them did not fare too well with critics (Year One, My Life in Ruins, Imagine That), and then we’ve got a couple of reissued classics (Snow White from the Disney vault and Miracle on 34th Street). There are a couple of docs, and a straight-to-DVD horror flick that might actually be worth a gander. In any case, take a look and see for yourself.
Another week, another treasure from Hollywood’s golden age getting the deluxe DVD/Blu-Ray treatment. This week, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs hits stores, providing audiences with a new way to see Disney’s first animated feature, which revolutionized not only cartoons but family entertainment as a whole. This new set includes a making-of featurette, lost storyboards, and several interactive games, all of which helps to make this one of the fairest DVD sets of them all.
Looking for a good Biblical comedy? History of the World, Part One or Monty Python’s Life of Brian should do the trick. Unfortunately, if you like your gags to be of the lowest common denominator variety – or your satires toothless – Year One is for you. The critics largely balked at this one, despite the fact that it starred Jack Black and Michael Cera and was directed by Harold Ramis. The DVD features unrated bonus material, plus commentary from the stars and director and a gag reel.
After a string of juvenile comedies (Norbit, Meet Dave), Eddie Murphy’s in gentler, more family-friendly territory with Imagine That. This story of a hard-working single dad whose daughter’s imagination turns out to be an asset on the job fared only so-so with the critics, but many found Murphy more relaxed and less manic this time out – and Yara Shahidi was praised as a promising newcomer.
To quote AC/DC, it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll. And few bands understand – nay, embody – such a sentiment to a greater degree than cult Canadian thrash heroes Anvil. This touching, sobering, and sometimes perversely funny documentary follows Anvil in its attempts to achieve the success the group – and may of its peers – always believed was its due, and the result is a remarkably candid look at the humiliations and triumphs of a working band. The DVD contains commentaries from the band members, deleted scenes, and a lengthy interview with Metallica drummer (and Anvil fan) Lars Ulrich.
Critics mostly lambasted My Life in Ruins, calling it a charmless romantic comedy comprised of shrill stereotypes and a fatal shortage of wit. However, most said the one redeeming feature of Ruins – aside from its charming lead, Nia Vardalos – is its breathtaking shots of Greece, making the film perfect for those who want a little plot to go with their travelogues.
There are few people today who are capable of telling a twisted story quite like Japanese cult director Takashi Miike does, and 2001’s Audition is no exception. Audition focuses on a widower whose TV producer friend holds auditions for a fake show in hopes of finding him a new companion; unfortunately, one of the auditioning females turns out to be a psychotic stalker. The grisly and disturbing film is Certified Fresh on RT, but it might not be for everyone. The new Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray comes with commentary, cast interviews, and a booklet essay on Miike’s career.
For connoisseurs of trash cinema, Not Quite Hollywood will be a godsend. This doc chronicles the wild and crazy world of “Ozploitation” – the Aussie equivalent to the low-budgeted cheap thrills of 1970s drive-in movies in the States (Quentin Tarantino himself turns up to sing the praises of these films ). The Mad Max movies are certainly the best-known from this era, but as the rapturously-reviewed Not Quite Hollywood makes plain, there are plenty of oddities that provided ample seedy entertainment – and plenty of death-defying stunts.
Generally speaking, it’s a bad sign when a horror flick is relegated to direct-to-DVD status, given the dearth of quality fright-fests getting a theatrical release these days. What, then, to make of the strange case of Trick ‘r’ Treat? It’s got a solid cast that includes Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, and Dylan Baker, and received tons of good buzz from horror fans after screening at several festivals. The DVD features an animated short with optional commentary from director Michael Dougherty.
It’s not too early to stock up on inspirational Christmas merriment. The unabashedly sentimental Miracle on 34th Street comes to Blu-Ray this week to make spirits bright. With a warm performance from Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, Miracle has become a holiday perennial, and the new two-disc edition features several documentary featurettes for obsessives (including a history of the Macy’s Parade). And, for those of you who can’t stand black and white, the not-bad-at all 1994 version starring Richard Attenborough is also hitting Blu-Ray this week as well.
The 80s saw its share of schlocky horror films (Ghoulies, C.H.U.D., etc.), but one of the strangest might be 1987’s The Gate. Starring a young Stephen Dorff, The Gate centers around a group of kids who discover a demonic portal in their back yard and must deal with the creatures who emerge from it. It’s not quite The Exorcist, but it’s not quite Gremlins either, and if the image of a boy gouging out a monstrous eye that’s emerged from the palm of his hand with a Barbie doll isn’t disturbing to the PG-13 demographic, then maybe we here at RT are just squeamish.