RT on DVD: The Future of Watchmen, Plus Sleeping Beauty, Touch of Evil Remastered

And did we mention the Zen master of martial arts (and the blues) has returned?

by | October 6, 2008 | Comments

Juicy Watchmen DVD news leads off this week’s RT on DVD, as Zack Snyder reveals the future of Watchmen and its spinoff DVD, The Black Freighter. Elsewhere, Hollywood’s most powerful studios join forces to block the latest advances in “legal” DVD ripping. And among this week’s new releases, we’ve got a lot to recommend (Sleeping Beauty‘s 50 Anniversary, Touch of Evil remastered), a few we don’t recommend (You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, The Happening), and a couple of new titles for those of you with more esoteric tastes (let’s just say, Steven Seagal has returned to duty).

1. Zack Snyder Shares More Black Freighter DVD Plans

At a recent event for the press in which Zack Snyder wowed a room of journalists with 25 minutes of Watchmen and revealed that his current cut was running just under three hours (!), he also spoke a bit about Tales of the Black Freighter, a short film accompaniment to Watchmen that will appear on its eventual DVD release.

The Black Freighter storyline, a meta tale-within-a-tale about a castaway and a ghost ship, will appear as a standalone release on DVD five days after the film debuts in theaters next March. But Snyder and Warner Bros. eventually plan to integrate it into a future home video cut of the film itself, along with the mockumentary Under the Hood, which will be released as a supplement on the Black Freighter DVD.

“Those two pieces will be on there,” Snyder told IGN Movies, “a tell-all documentary that talks about what’s in the book, interviews with different characters, and then The Black Freighter. And then hopefully later on we’re hoping for a Watchmen movie that has the Black Freighter in it.”

What this means for Watchmen fans is that, as you may have suspected, you might opt to wait for an ultimate special edition of Watchmen that includes the Black Freighter/Under the Hood extras within the film itself. Then again, that home video release is pretty far away. Can you ignore the itch to snatch up Black Freighter come March?

Next: Studios sue producer of “legal” DVD ripper

2. Studios Sue Producers of “Legal” DVD Ripper

Were you getting excited about RealNetworks’ new, groundbreaking software that would allow you to rip DVDs legally and for the low, low price of $30? Well, hold your horses, because a cabal of Hollywood’s biggest studios have banded together to stop RealNetworks and its evil thieving invention.

Paramount, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures and Sony joined forces in the lawsuit which alleges that RealNetworks violates the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act because it goes around a mechanism built into every studio-issued DVD intended to prevent copying. RealNetworks claims that their product is indeed lawful because it still prevents digitized movie files from being distributed on file sharing networks.
But studios claim the danger in RealNetworks’ DVD burning program would come from users who rent a DVD, copy and return it instead of buying the disc itself. Now you wouldn’t do that, would you, dear readers?

Next: Sleeping Beauty Turns 50 (And We’ve Got Exclusive Concept Art Sketches)!

3. Sleeping Beauty Turns 50 (And We’ve Got Exclusive Concept Art Sketches)!

Disney picked a true classic to launch their first foray into the world of Blu-ray with their 1959 tale of a beautiful princess, an evil witch, and a curse that can only be broken by the kiss of a true love. With an all-new remastering, new bonus features and tons of digital treats, fans should be delighted by the magnificent treatment given to Princess Aurora (AKA Sleeping Beauty), this week on DVD ($29.99) and Blu-ray ($35.99).

Sleeping Beauty was the last of the completely hand-drawn Disney films, but its ushering in a new era in Disney home video as the first Disney Classic animated feature to be released in high definition. The 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition (standard DVD) contains an in-depth making-of documentary, an alternate opening, four deleted songs, interactive children’s games, archival preview materials, an immersive 3D look at the original Disneyland attraction, and the Oscar-winning Grand Canyon short that played alongside Sleeping Beauty in theaters.

Blu-ray viewers will be treated to an additional host of goodies, including a Picture-in-Picture commentary with John Lasseter, Andreas Deja and film critic Leonard Maltin, a “virtual castle” that changes in real time depending on the user’s geographical location and weather, and the four-pronged features of Disney’s first BD-Live experience (US only). Blu-ray buyers will also get the unprecedented gift of a bonus standard DVD of the film, an experimental move by Disney to gauge how many DVD shoppers will be buying the disc in anticipation of purchasing a Blu-ray player in the future.

We are excited to bring you an exclusive gallery of concept art for the character of the evil witch Maleficent, one of the most memorable villains in Disney history. Click on the image above to view the gallery.

Next: What to Skip on DVD This Week

4. New to DVD: What to Skip This Week

Also new to DVD this week are two of the summer’s biggest disappointments. (Viewer beware!)

In The Happening, M. Night Shyamalan continues his downward spiral with — what else? — another supernatural thriller. [Spoiler alert] I mean really, it’s super natural. As in, when killer plants attack. Yes, you read that right. [End spoilers] Despite the admirable attempts of “Marky” Mark Wahlberg and his funky bunch of supporting players (Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo), The Happening scored an abysmal 18 percent on the Tomatometer. Surprisingly, given its poor box office performance and the notorious reputation of its director, The Happening has received a decent DVD release chock full of behind-the-scenes footage and making-of documentaries, which might prove entertaining for diehard Shyamalan fans.

The same might be said of the once-funny Adam Sandler. The Sandman’s latest big budget cheesefest is also on DVD this week, and while the thought of Sandler in short shorts and a Euro trash goatee might titillate his fanbase, the Tomatometer recommends you skip You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (35%). That said, the disc does offer up a commentary track with Sandler, Robert Smigel, Rob Schneider, and Nick Swardson (in addition to a generous menu of featurettes and deleted scenes), which is almost enticing enough to make us think about maybe possibly putting Zohan in our Netflix queue. Almost.

Next: A Certified Fresh Indie Trifecta on DVD This Week

5. A Certified Fresh Indie Trifecta on DVD This Week

Forget Zohan — if you’re looking for quality programming this week on DVD, the Tomatometer has a few solid suggestions straight from the indie film circuit.

In The Visitor (93 percent and Certified Fresh!), character actor Richard Jenkins makes his most significant leap into the limelight after years of impressive supporting work (Six Feet Under, Burn After Reading). Jenkins captured the often stony hearts of film critics with his performance as a disillusioned professor whose unlikely friendship with two illegal immigrants changes his life; we recommend The Visitor as one of this week’s must-see films.

Another art-house choice this week is Paranoid Park (73 percent), the latest from indie auteur Gus Van Sant. Combining the music of Elliot Smith, the cinematography of Christopher Doyle, and his own impressionistic direction, Van Sant’s poetic portrait of a troubled teenager coping with guilt over the accidental death of a security guard also earned the Certified Fresh stamp of approval.

Rounding out this week’s trio of Certified Fresh indie offerings is Boy A (88 percent), adapted from the book by British writer Jonathan Trigell. Based on the practice of protecting the identities of former criminals upon their release at the age of 18, Boy A follows one such character as he struggles to re-enter society after committing murder in his youth.

Next: New on DVD: 30 Rock Season 2

6. New on DVD: 30 Rock Season 2

After setting up camp at the acceptance podium at the Primetime Emmys a few weeks back, America’s best Sarah Palin impersonator hits DVD this week with Season 2 of the hit show 30 Rock. Tina Fey’s series about the behind-the-scenes goings on of a Saturday Night Live-like sketch show has won awards left and right for the second season in a row, and here’s why: “SeinfeldVision,” “Ludachristmas,” and guest spots by the likes of Carrie Fisher, Will Arnett, David Schwimmer, and Matthew Broderick.

30 Rock Season 2 contains fifteen episodes, ten episode commentaries, deleted scenes, a table read of the episode “Cooter,” a rehearsal of the episode “Secrets and Lies” at the UCB theater, and more.

Next: Watch Michael Moore’s Latest Doc For Free

7. New on DVD: Watch Michael Moore’s Latest Doc For Free

With David Zucker corralling all of conservative Hollywood in his right-wing satire An American Carol (now in theaters), liberal Hollywood is striking back with their own counter-programming, courtesy of lefty filmmaker Michael Moore (who, incidentally, is unceremoniously spoofed by Chris Farley’s brother in American Carol).

Follow Moore in Slacker Uprising as he tours college campuses during the 2004 presidential election, attempting to inspire the youth of America to rise up and register to vote. Whether or not his efforts helped…well, that’s to be determined. Eddie Vedder, Roseanne Barr, Tom Morello and more show up to help him out. As an added incentive, you can download the entire film at its official site.

Next: New Simpsons, South Park, and Robot Chicken

8. New on DVD: New Simpsons, South Park, and Robot Chicken

What a week for DVD — so jam packed with goodies, especially when it comes to offerings for animation fans.

Start things off by picking up the Complete 11th Season of The Simpsons this week, a mere eight years after it aired on television. What, you don’t remember exactly what happened on The Simpsons in 1999? (Hint: that year’s “Treehouse of Horror” explored the Y2K glitch. Coincidentally, this is around the time The Simpsons began going downhill…) In traditional Simpsons DVD fashion, this is an excellent package for fans, with commentaries on all 22 episodes, sketch and storyboard galleries, and more.

But perhaps you graduated from The Simpsons once Matt Parker and Trey Stone’s raunchier, more offensive toon parody of American life hit the airwaves. Check out a very special DVD release that pays homage to the self-centered, homophobic, anti-Semitic, slightly sociopathic, big-boned elementary school anti-hero of South Park: Eric Cartman. The new release The Cult of Cartman: Revelations (in a brilliant marketing move, it comes in a Biblical-looking hard cover case shaped like a book of the gospel) allows you to worship at the altar of Cartman with twelve of his best episodes, ranging from the classic “Scott Tenorman Must Die” to the expletive-filled “Le Petite Tourette” to the fascism parable “Ginger Kids.” Exclusive new animated “Life Lessons” brought to you by Cartman himself accompany the release.

And finally, if you have a hunger for even quicker, faster, and more random shots of pop culture satire, look for Robot Chicken Season 3, new to DVD this week. Seth Green and Matthew Senreich’s Adult Swim brainchild also includes a ton of behind-the-scenes tidbits (commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate takes, video blogs, and a tour of the Robot Chicken studios).

Next: Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil Remastered, in Three Versions

9. New on DVD: Touch of Evil 50th Anniversary Edition

In 1958, Orson Welles‘ film noir Touch of Evil cemented his history among cinema’s midcentury auteurs — as well as his reputation as one of Hollywood’s most notorious enfant terribles. This week, Welles’ classic comes to DVD in its most definitive package to date, complete with a crisp re-mastering, insightful new bonus material, and enough info about its infamous production to fill a film theory class!

From its masterful three-minute opening tracking shot to its sordid behind-the-scenes history, Touch of Evil is one of the most fascinating films in Hollywood history. In a splendid 50th Anniversary Edition, Universal Home Video has compiled three distinct cuts of the film that chronicle Welles’ long battle with the studio: the 1958 theatrical version, completed by the studio when Welles interrupted editing to pursue his next project; a “preview” version of the film found in 1976 that incorporated some of Welles’ 58-page memo filled with suggested edits; and a “restored” version that fully realizes the memo, re-edited in 1998 by veteran editor Walter Murch.

The three-disc release also contains the 58-page memo, new audio commentaries by stars Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh and restoration director Rick Schmidlin, a commentary on the theatrical cut by film critic F.X. Feeney, a commentary on the preview version by Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore, and never-before-seen documentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes on the film’s production and restoration. If you consider yourself a true film geek, this is a must-have release.

Next: New on DVD: Hitchcock’s Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window Remastered

10. New on DVD: Hitchcock’s Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window Remastered

Film geeks will be spending big this week; in addition to the 50th Anniversary Touch of Evil set, Universal Home Video is releasing new Special Editions of three Hitchcock classics: Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window. With a host of new and comprehensive bonus materials on each separate release, Universal’s Legacy Series aims to give cineastes a Criterion-like experience, which is all the better for those hungry to learn more about their favorite film classics.

The digitally re-mastered Psycho (1960) offers previously released shower scene storyboards by Saul Bass, stills, set photos, and lobby cards, trailers, production notes, and a making-of feature length documentary. New to the edition are an audio feature of Francois Truffaut’s 1962 Hitchcock interview; a feature length commentary by Hitchcock scholar Stephen Rebello, the “Lamb to the Slaughter” episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (which might have made more sense as a Vertigo special feature), and In the Master’s Shadow, in which filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin, and Guillermo del Toro discuss Hitchcock’s influence on their careers.

Similarly, the re-mastered Vertigo (1958) lends a sharpness superior to previous editions already in your library, plus a selection of great new material. Previously released extras include the Foreign Censorship Ending given to international prints of the film, production notes, trailers and photographs, and the restoration doc Obsessed with Vertigo. William Friedkin provides a new feature-length audio commentary; you get another Hitchcock Presents episode, “The Case of Mr. Pelham.” Also new, the Partners in Crime feature examines Hitchcock’s longtime collaborations with designer Edith Head, composer Bernard Herrmann, Saul Bass and Alma Hitchcock.

Rounding out the three-pronged release is a re-mastered version of Rear Window. The precursor to such modern classics as Disturbia and Men at Work, Rear Window’s new disc includes production notes, trailers, and photos, a featurette in which screenwriter John Michael Hayes discusses the film’s production, new features on Hitchcock’s filmmaking techniques and use of sound, plus another Francois Truffaut interview and the “Mr. Blanchard’s Secret” episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

All three releases are available for $26.98.

Next: Gross Out Blu-ray Pick of the Week: Faces of Death

11. Gross Out Blu-ray Pick of the Week: Faces of Death

If you’re not already familiar with the twisted cult entity that is Faces of Death, perhaps it’s better left undiscovered. But if you’re of a particularly sick and perverse countenance and you like this sort of thing, well, this is the sort of thing you might like.

The shockumentary to top all shockumentaries (at least in terms of notoriety, since for many years audiences thought it was an actual documentary), Faces of Death depicted scene after scene of “real” human and animal deaths and spawned numerous sequels after its debut in 1974. Banned for years in many countries, Faces of Death was for years a staple of VHS-collecting cult movie hounds, and has been newly re-mastered for its first High Definition release this week.

Though director Conan le Cilaire has never acknowledged that many of the human deaths were staged (which others involved in the production have since confirmed), he opens up in a new feature-length documentary on the Blu-ray release. The disc also includes featurettes with special effects artists Allan A. Apone and Douglas J. White and editor Glenn Gurner, which reveal much of the film’s staged effects. Trailers, outtakes, and deleted scenes round out the release. Buy it for $29.98.

Next: Your Steven Seagal Pick of the Week

11. Your Steven Seagal Pick of the Week: Kill Switch

Lastly, we have to show some love to our favorite butt-kicking Buddhist, Steven Seagal. (Be forewarned: we will always make time for Steven Seagal here at RT on DVD.) In his latest direct-to-video opus (written and produced by Steven Seagal), Steven Seagal stars as Memphis Detective Jacob King — excuse us, Cajun Memphis Detective Jacob King — a shoot first, ask questions later homicide cop. There’s a serial killer on the loose, and Steven Seagal’s stunt doubles are going to find and dispatch him faster than you can say, “You gon’ bend ovah and I’m gon’ stick my size fo’teen up yo ass.” (See trailer for reference.)

Sadder than the fact that the 57-year-old Steven Seagal is still running around with these direct-to-video actioners, and worse than the fact that Steven Seagal wrote himself a scene in which he apparently gives a bad guy a curb job (gross!), is the fact that Kill Switch will go down in history as one of the last on-screen projects of the late, great Isaac Hayes. Ruminate on that.

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