The first month of the Summer movie season is officially over, and some of the big releases from earlier this year are making their way to home video. This week, we’ve got the latest collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (as well as Burton regulars Helena Bonham Carter and composer Danny Elfman), which was hotly anticipated but received mixed reviews. Then, we’ve got the Universal remake of a monster classic, as well as a couple of big budget films on Blu-Ray for the first time, a tribute to the Super Bowl winners of last year, a groundbreaking nature series, and a collection of some of the most iconic Westerns ever made. Read on to see the full list!
Fans of Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow) have been fantasizing about what he could do to the classics of the Victorian era ever since Frankenweenie came out and he grumpily parted ways with Disney. The 1951 Disney cartoon wasn’t just a staple, it was a standard, even with all its sojourns into weirdness. Those talking flowers were dreamy until they got mean-the same can be said of the expectant fans waiting years for this film’s release. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton opted to relocate Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now 19, to a “surprise!” engagement party she’s desperate to escape. With less overt metaphor than could be found in other renditions of the story, Alice finds her way half-knowingly through Wonderland and restores balance to the country by helping the White Queen (a balletic Anne Hathaway) reclaim power from her more evil and far more colorful sister, The Red Queen (a cranially enhanced Helena Bonham-Carter). Tamer than Burton’s last (Sweeney Todd) but with just as much sickly eye shadow (maybe more), Alice offers as much to love as to deride, which might sound like faint praise, but it’s exactly this mix of emotions that inspires a person to buy a DVD and repeat view. Extras, split into “Wonderland Characters” and “Making Wonderland” sections, are littered with featurettes and the enthusiasm of the cast.
The Universal Horrors are widely adored and after the major success that was Steven Sommers’ Mummy revamp, the door seemed open and the audiences ready for more. Since there’s always a clutch of fans resistant to the notion of an update, the revamps were couched in their originating period, which meant these revisionings had to put snazzy effects into the past, and we’ve learned from Kevin Costner that explosions look ridiculous in Medieval England. Joe Johnson’s Wolfman used its Victorian England setting to showcase the tension between the pagan lore of the Wolfman and the modern medicine of the era — medicine we can call draconian because it’s all kinds of cruel. The subtitle of this one might as well be Daddy Dearest, and with what the scenery-chewing Sir Hopkins does here he could inspire a whole new branch of camp. Extras are plenty on the Blu-Ray and include alternate endings and a director’s cut. The focus is on the effects and makeup but that’s what extras are all about: showing you again that thing you couldn’t believe first time round.
Long before Michael Bay was making headlines about Megan Fox and an army of robots in disguise, he was accompanied by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for his feature debut in the 1995 Jerry Bruckheimer production Bad Boys. Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Smith) are Miami detectives that discover the biggest drug bust of their careers – a stash valued at $100 million – has been stolen from what was thought to be a secured police vault. Facing the shutdown of their department if the drugs aren’t recovered, Burnett and Lowrey trade identities and well, what ensues is a chorus of crowd pleasing one-liners and situations that many thought were heavily influenced by fellow buddy cop franchise Lethal Weapon en route to [SPOILER ALERT] solving the crime. With the comedic talents of Smith and Lawrence, paired with the early days of Michael Bay, you know what you’re getting into for this action-comedy: Lots of jokes, “Aww Gina!”s, explosions, gunfights, and the beginning of a franchise that it appears could still have legs over fifteen years after its initial release. Before the film’s much speculated third installment, the first chapter in the story finds its way to Blu-Ray this week.
Almost 30 years after Steven Spielberg waxed (action packed) poetic about the loving relationship between humans and aliens, he showed us exactly how the human race would bite it: by blistering, otherworldly light beams. Gosh, remember that candy colored light show at the end of Close Encounters? Spielberg’s earlier-career aliens communicated by synth lullaby and Reece’s Pieces! But in this heavy-hype revisioning of the H.G. Wells book (by way of the 1953 Byron Haskin adaptation), the aliens are conquering, the people kinda deserve it, and Tom Cruise does a lot of running. Dakota Fanning, again playing a tragically precocious little girl (tooootally pre Runaways), does her fair share of show stealing. And legacy is basically what the DVD Blu-Ray extras point to. Well, legacy and technology, since a whole mess of pixels went into the look of those tripods. Extras include content on the characters, previsualizations, production diaries, featurettes called “Revisiting the Invasion,” “Designing the Enemy,” “Scoring War of the Worlds,” Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds and the H.G.Wells Legacy.
Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints?! For NFL fans and the city of New Orleans last year, no one had the answer for the offensive playmaking abilities of Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, and Marques Colston and teams were left shaking their heads at the team’s opportunistic and athletic defense lead by Darren Sharper, Will Smith, and Jonathan Vilma. Arriving on both DVD and Blu-Ray, fans can relive New Orleans’ exciting Week 13 victory against the Washington Redskins along with all the team’s playoff games against the Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, and the Super Bowl showdown against the Indianapolis Colts that was the Saints’ first-ever Super Bowl win in 43 seasons. Keep in mind that these are not just highlights, but the original full broadcasts of the games, making this a 4 DVD/Blu-ray set for your pigskin-loving friends. With the NFL’s preseason just three months away, this set should hold over Saints fans for at least a solid weekend, with the disclaimer that it might only add to the anticipation and cause cravings for buffalo wings, domestic brews, and pizza.
The BBC has been churning out amazing nature documentaries for decades, providing viewers with astonishing and unbelievable footage of landscapes and wildlife from all over the world. In 2006, a groundbreaking series titled Planet Earth captivated audiences with its high definition footage and never-before-seen imagery, and to follow that up, the BBC teamed up with the Discovery Channel once again to launch a 2009 series called Life. Similar to Planet Earth, Life utilizes state of the art technology and four years’ worth of on-location filming to introduce its viewers to the fantastic spectacles observable in nature. Focusing on different categories of animals in each episode (“Mammals,” “Insects,” “Plants”), Life explores the ways in which living things have evolved over time to adapt to various environments and survive. If you are a fan of nature programming, and if you were beset by wonder and awe upon your first viewing of Planet Earth, then you owe it to yourself to pick up this latest series, and even more so on Blu-Ray.
Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns of the 1960s helped to further define the genre, and Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of “The Man with No Name” in these films put an iconic face on the archetypal cowboy persona. With that in mind, fans of Leone and Eastwood will want to get their hands on this collection of the “Man with No Name” Trilogy on Blu-Ray. Comprised of A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), the unofficial trilogy only came to be grouped together later, as a result of Eastwood’s consistent portrayal of his character, as well as the outfit he wears. Other than the central character, the films are not related to each other in plot. Though there have been some grumblings about the apparent slight “zoomed-in” picture, the picture quality is overall consistently good, and each film comes with a large collection of extra features, compiled from several previous editions of each film. That alone should make the collection worth picking up.
Written by Sara Maria Vizcarrondo, David Chung, and Ryan Fujitani