DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
“Maleficent”: Finally, a mean and nasty villain to yearn for. The folks at Disney have twisted around the 1959 classic “Sleeping Beauty” by putting the whole fairy tale — in which an evil fairy, Maleficent, slighted at not being welcome at the christening of princess Aurora, casts a spell on her — into a larger context of greed and exploitation. Angelina Jolie is sexy, serene and ultimately mean as Maleficent, a winged fairy savior who saves her peaceable animal forest kingdom from being invaded by a nearby human king intent on subjugating her land. However, a childhood human friend, Stefan, betrays her when the dying king offers his crown — and daughter’s hand — to whomever can kill Maleficent; he doesn’t kill her but cuts off her wings as proof for the king. Later, when Stefan and the kimg’s daughter give birth to Aurora, Maleficent casts her evil sleeping spell. Without giving away any more of the surprisingly intelligent plot, suffice it to say that there’s more than a kiss of “true love” needed here to end the curse and bring happiness all around. Blu-ray extras include “From Fairy Tale to Feature Film”: Reimagining Maleficent for a new generation; “Building an Epic Battle”: Creating the clash between Maleficent and King Henry’s forces; “Classic Couture,” which examines Maleficent’s head wraps and jewelry; “Maleficent Revealed,” which explores the layers of special effects; and deleted scenes. Co-stars Elle Fanning, Juno Temple, Sharlto Copley, Peter Capaldi, Brenton Thwaites, Ella Purnell, Imelda Staunton and Sam Riley.
“A Most Wanted Man,” the latest big-screen adaptation of a John Le Carre spy tale, is a complicated, involved, cerebral and at times confusing thriller redeemed by Anton Corbijn’s (of Depeche Mode, U2 and Metallica music video fame) dark and off-kilter direction and the agonizingly deep and moving second-to-last lead performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman (he starred in “God’s Pocket” and co-stars in the upcoming “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” films). The film revolves around German and U.S. secret agents who try to uncover the reason behind a Chechen Muslim’s illegal immigration to Hamburg; ostensably he’s there to repatriate money stolen from Chechnya by his rogue military father, but the Germans and Americans think he may be an extremist intent on destruction. Hoffman plays the head of the German covert operation, Robin Wright plays his American counterpart; also drawn into the intrigue is Willem Dafoe as a banker and Rachel McAdams as a young lawyer looking out for the Chechen man. Extras include a pair of featurettes: “The Making of A Most Wanted Man” and “Spymaster: John Le Carre in Hamburg.” From Lionsgate.
For almost 25 years, Merv Griffin held sway on TV as the host of “The Merv Griffin Show,” which ran on NBC, CBS and first-run syndication from 1962 to 1986. MPI Media Group has put together “The Merv Griffin Show 1962-1986,” a new collection of the greatest episodes from one of the premier talk shows in television history, hosted by the charming and intelligent Griffin, who became one of the most beloved TV personalities of his time (winning 10 Emmy Awards). He was a savvy interviewer — his easygoing style allowed his guests to open up and, unlike other talk shows, his interviews went on for up to 30 minutes — and entrepreneur (he created the evergreen quiz shows “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” and owned the Beverly Hilton Hotel). This unprecedented retrospective covers 24 years of star-studded entertainment and provocative in-depth interviews, in a 12-disc collection containing 44 classic episodes and more than seven hours of bonus material, newly transferred from recently discovered master tapes. Features more than 200 guests from the worlds of entertainment, politics, music, sports, literature and art, most of which have not been seen for decades. Viewers will be entertained by the likes of Mel Brooks, Lucille Ball, the Everly Brothers, Willie Mays and Aretha Franklin; enlightened by Salvador Dali, Dr. Timothy Leary and Maya Angelou; and inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, President Ronald Reagan, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Among the film and TV legends interviewed by Griffin in this collection are John Wayne, Bette Davis, Gene Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Ingrid Bergman, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Warren Beatty, the cast of The Golden Girls, Dennis Hopper, Jayne Mansfield, George Clooney, Jane Fonda and the final interview with Orson Welles, who died just a few hours after the show. The array of comedy greats includes a young Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, Bill Maher and Jay Leno, as well as Richard Pryor and Jerry Lewis together, Joan Rivers, Steve Martin, Moms Mabley, Bill Cosby, Henny Youngman, Jack Benny, Redd Foxx, Carol Burnett, Andy Kaufman and Woody Allen. On DVD, $129.98.
At the other end of the “business” spectrum we have the Blu-ray debut of “The Sopranos: The Complete Series” (1999-2007) with 28 discs packaged in an elegant box set featuring iconic artwork from the series, $279.98; includes Digital HD copies of all 86 episodes. For six seasons, millions of viewers loyally tuned in to HBO to watch the drama unfold as modern-day mob boss Tony Soprano juggled responsibilities between his family and his other “family.” David Chase’s drama series stars three-time Emmy winners James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and Edie Falco as Tony’s wife Carmela, plus Lorraine Bracco as therapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Emmy-winner Michael Imperioli as Tony’s nephew Christopher Moltisanti and Dominic Chianese as Uncle Junior. Other series regulars include Robert Iler as Anthony Soprano, Jr., Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano, Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts, Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, Aida Turturro as Tony’s sister Janice, Steven R. Schirripa as Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri, John Ventimiglia as Artie Bucco, Vincent Curatola as Johnny Sack, Frank Vincent as Phil Leotardo and Ray Abruzzo as Little Carmine. Extras include new and exclusive feature exploring how “The Sopranos” came to be and how it transformed the television landscape. “Defining a Television Landmark” features all-new interviews with cast, crew, celebrities, filmmakers and academics — including series creator David Chase, star James Gandolfini, director Steven Soderbergh, Jeff Daniels and Steve Buscemi — discussing the impact and influence of the groundbreaking series, with brand new archival footage. Additional bonus material includes lost scenes, two round table dinners with cast and crew, 25 audio commentaries and much more. From HBO.