THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
Every once in awhile a high concept idea bubbles up in Hollywood that’s so good that, in the same year — sometimes only a few months apart — two “copycat” movies on the same or similar themes get made. Such was the case in 1998 with “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” and “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life,” and in 2006 with “The Illusionist” and “The Prestige.” This year the hot idea floating through Hollywood was “Die Hard in the White House,” and so in March we got Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” in which an ex-Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) single-handedly fights off North Korean terrorists who have taken over the White House, and then in June we got Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down,” in which a wannabe Secret Service agent (Channing Tatum) single-handedly fights off U.S. terrorists who have taken over the White House. Both films scored about the same with critics and audiences, with “Olympus” taking in about $25 million more than its counterpoint (probably because it was first out of the gate). Both films have likeable (if not overly talented) leads; both films sport strong support by their co-stars (Morgan Freeman in “Olympus” and Jamie Foxx in “White House”); both films have great special effects and destruction sequences (Emmerich is used to destroying things; he wiped out the White House once before, in “Independence Day,” and wiped out the world in “2012”)); both films have despicable villains you can root against; both films vindicate the hero and freedom-loving people everywhere (I added that last part in just for the heck of it). If you liked “”Olympus,” pop “White House” into your DVD player and enjoy the excitement. The synopsis: Capitol Policeman John Cale has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service. Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, and, coincidentally, during their visit, the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it’s up to Cale to save the president, his daughter … and the country. Extras include a host of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a gag reel. From Sony.
Who would have thought that a movie about a porn star — a movie about sex, drugs and the adult film industry — would be boring. Well, that’s just the case with “Lovelace,” a bio-drama about unlikely porn star Linda Lovelace and “Deep Throat,” the first scripted adult theatrical feature film (in 1972) that was a phenomenal success and pretty much legitimized adult films for the American middle class. Linda Susan Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) escaped a strict religious family and discovered freedom and the high-life when she fell for and married charismatic hustler Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), who coerced her into the biz as the “girl-next-door” with an impressive capacity for fellatio, then fell prey to his abuse, eventually leaving “Hollywood” for a mid-West, suburban life, where she fought violence against women. It’s really not much of a story; aside from the few sexual hijinks highlighted in the film, both Lovelace, Traynor and their friends and entourage are pretty uninteresting — which just goes to show that show biz can be just as dull as any other biz. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette. From Radius-TWC/Anchor Bay.
“Girl Most Likely” is a pretty dull outing for talented actress Kristen Wiig, who’s been trying to step out from her supporting roles as everyman’s wife and girlfriend and hold down a film by herself. Coming off 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” in which she almost lost the film to an overpowering Melissa McCarthy, Wiig took on the lead in this boxoffice flop about a failed New York playwright — dumped by her high-society boyfriend — who has to move back home with her younger brother, her gambling-addicted mother (Annette Bening), and her mom’s oddball new boyfriend (Matt Dillon). It’s a worked to death premise not made any better by lackluster direction, slow pacing, and laughs that are far and few between. Extras include a couple featurettes, a gag reel and deleted scenes. From Lionsgate.
Adam Sandler keeps making the same junky films over and over again — and keeps making tons of money. “Grown Ups 2” is no exception. Here we have the same characters, the same stupid bits, the same sloppy jokes, the same bathroom humor — from “Grown Ups” and almost every previous Sandler film — with a different locale and slightly different situations. After reuniting with his high school classmates three summers before (in 2010’s “Grown Ups”), Lenny (Adam Sandler) decides he wants to move his family back to his hometown and have them grow up with his gang of childhood friends and their kids. It’s boring, disgusting and stupid. Nuff said. The should-be-ashamed co-stars include Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Maria Bello. Extras include a couple featurettes and deleted scenes. From Sony.
And the gift-set assault begins … With Hanukkah just three weeks away and Christmas following a month later, the studios are raising the ante on their box sets for gift-giving. This week there’s some pretty nifty offerings, headed up by “Naked City: The Complete Series” (1958-63), a 29-disc set with all 138 classic episodes of the acclaimed Emmy Award-winning police drama series filmed entirely in New York City and starring Paul Burke, Horace McMahon, Harry Bellaver, James Franciscus, John McIntire and Nancy Malone. “Naked City’s” first season featured half-hour episodes while the remainder of its four season run was comprised of hour-long episodes. The classic TV series — which focused on the lives of the detectives of New York’s 65th Precinct, but wasn’t shy on vivid chases and gun fights — was famous for the signature closing line of every episode, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” The show featured an amazing list of guest stars including Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, William Shatner, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Rip Torn, Alan Alda, George C. Scott, Telly Savalas, Leslie Nielsen, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, James Caan, Jack Klugman, Jean Stapleton, Walter Matthau, Jon Voight, Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken, Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Peter Falk, George Segal, Jack Warden, Ed Asner, Doris Roberts, Suzanne Pleshette, Diane Ladd, Vic Morrow, James Coburn, Mickey Rooney and Burgess Meredith, to name just a few. From Image Entertainment.
For Doctor Who fans there’s “Doctor Who: The Complete Series 1-7 Limited Edition Blu-Ray Gift Set,” a 29-disc set celebrating Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary. The set includes the complete adventures of the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), available in newly remastered Blu-ray versions at full 1080p resolution for the first time ever, sitting alongside those of the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith). Also includes fully remastered complete Tenth Doctor Specials as well as The Complete Fifth and Sixth Series (previously available on Blu-ray), to full 1080p resolution, and the new “Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series Blu-ray.” Extras include hours and hours of bonus features from the past collections plus 120 minutes of bonus material that has never previously been available on disc. Add in a Doctor Who Universal Remote Control Sonic Screwdriver, a gesture-based remote control replica of the Eleventh Doctor’s trusty tool, crafted from real metals and featuring sound effects from the show; now you can control your television with a wave of your hand and feel like a Time Lord yourself. There’s also three exclusive original art cards and an exclusive Doctor Who comic book. $349.98 from BBC Home Entertainment … The “James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition” is a beautifully designed and packaged limited and numbered seven-disc Blu-ray set celebrating James Dean. When he died in 1955 at the age of 24 in a car crash, Dean — a talented “method” actor, rebel and risk taker — was mourned by millions of fans throughout the world. Despite only making three films — all of them for Warner Bros. — Dean became one of Hollywood’s most spectacular stars, and 50 years later still remains an internationally compelling force, an iconic image, and a cult favorite of timeless fascination. The core of the set are his three films: “East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant,” each in a 4k restoration from original camera negatives remastered at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging. For “Rebel Without a Cause,” the stereo soundtrack was reconstructed from the magnetic soundtrack stripes of CinemaScope release prints. Also included are three full-length documentaries: “James Dean Forever Young,” narrated by Martin Sheen; “American Masters: James Dean — Sense Memories” and “George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey” (Stevens directed “Giant”). The collection also contains a 48-page photo book with behind-the-scene images and rare insight into each film, three mini reproductions of the original theatrical movie posters, and reproductions of production memos from “East of Eden” and “Rebel Without a Cause.” The “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” will sell for $99.98; each film will also be available as a stand-alone Blu-ray book for $27.98 each. Extras include a new featurette: “Dennis Hopper: Memories from the Warner Lot”; vintage documentaries: “James Dean Remembered,” “Forever James Dean,” “George Stevens: Filmmakers Who Knew Him,” “Return to Giant, “Memories of Giant,”” East of Eden: Art in Search of Life,” “Rebel Without a Cause: Defiant Innocents”; commentaries on all three films; premiere footage for “East of Eden” and “Giant”; wardrobe tests; screen tests; deleted scenes for “East of Eden” and “Rebel Without a Cause”; and much, much more. From Warner … Also from Warner, just ahead of the December 13 release of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” comes “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition” The set — available as a five-disc Blu-ray 3D set ($54.98), a three-disc Blu-ray set ($35.99) and a five-disc DVD set ($34.99) features a 13-minute longer cut and nine hours of new special features, including commentary with director-producer-screenwriter Peter Jackson and co-producer/screenwriter Philippa Boyens, and “The Appendices,” a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy. From New Line.
“Farscape: Complete Series” (1999-2003) is a 15th Anniversary Edition with all 88 complete and unedited episodes from the four-season run. Includes a 16-page mini comic book created by the same team that made Jim Henson’s acclaimed graphic novel “Tale of Sand.” Based on the prequel “Peacekeeper Wars,” the comic includes select images from The Jim Henson Company’s archive and an exclusive interview with Brian Henson revealing never-before-shared facts about the Farscape Legacy. In 20-disc Blu-ray ($149.95) and 27-disc DVD ($129.95) sets. Extras include “Memories of Moya: An Epic Journey” documentary; “Farscape Undressed,” the home-video premiere of the rarely seen, long-sought-after never before released behind-the-scenes special; three archival documentaries: “In the Beginning: A Look Back With Brian Henson,” “Making of a Space Opera” and “Season Three: A Look Back With Executive Producer David Kemper”; three “Inside Farscape” featurettes: “Villains,” “Visual Effects” and “Inside Farscape: Save Farscape,” in which fans, cast and crew discuss the fate of the series; 31 audio commentaries; deleted scenes, director’s cut scenes, and an alternate version of the Season 2 premiere; behind-the-scenes interviews with the characters, cast, and creative team of “Farscape”; and more. From Cinedigm … “Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga”celebrates the 5th anniversary of the theatrical debut of the first “Twilight” film; this boxed set features all five films, more than two hours of brand new bonus content and every special feature ever produced for the blockbuster franchise. The deluxe packaging arrives in a double-sided box that highlights the iconic characters, one side featuring Edward and Bella and the other side featuring Jacob; and the discs are held in a commemorative photo album highlighting the most iconic moments from the entire saga. In a 12-disc DVD, $64.98; 10-disc Blu-ray, $74.99. From Summit/Lionsgate … “Dexter: The Complete Series Collection” (2006-13) includes all eight seasons in a collectible recreation of the actual blood slide box used by Dexter Morgan to catalog his victims on the show. Also designed and included specifically for this collection is “Grafix: The Art of Dexter,” a collection of photography, fan artwork and iconography and images used in the series’ cutting edge promotional campaigns. Finally, fans will enjoy an all-new bonus disc with over three hours of behind-the-scene interviews, featurettes and more. This bonus material delves deep into the series and is highlighted by the new documentaries “The Evolution of Dexter Morgan” and “The Code.” In a 33-disc DVD, $352.99; 25-disc Blu-ray, $427.99 from Paramount … “Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All of It” is a 10-disc set that contains every episode and special from the award-winning five-season series, spanning over 20 years of misguided adventures with fashionista best friends Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) — all tucked away in a superr-luxe limited edition faux iguana skin clutch bag. $158.72 from BBC Home Entertainment.
D.W. Griffith changed the course of film history with his 1915 Civil War blockbuster “The Birth of a Nation,” and, spurred on by its colossal success, he went even bigger on his next epic, the ambitious and still awe-inspiring (1916) “Intolerance,” in which he masterfully links four centuries-apart stories of universal suffering — and which makes its Blu-ray debut this week. Stung by charges of glorifying racism in “The Birth of a Nation,” Griffith decided to make his next film a plea for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. An epic like nothing that came before , the monumental film remains as powerful today as it was almost a century ago; the major innovation in screen narrative tells four stories in parallel about social injustice and the effects of intolerance through the ages. “The Modern Story,” about a working man wrongly accused of a crime, was later issued as a separate film (“The Mother and the Law,” 1919). “The Judean Story” tells of Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees and Rome. “The Medieval Story” is about the effects of the massacre of 16th-century French Huguenots. “The Babylonian Story,” about the conquest of Babylon by Persia, also was issued later as a separate film (“The Fall of Babylon,” 1919). Skillful cross-cutting and linking shots of a figure representing Eternal Motherhood rocking a cradle, bring all four stories to a tense climax. With the profits from “The Birth of a Nation,” Griffith spared no expense on “Intolerance,” constructing huge sets and hiring thousands of extras for spectacular crowd scenes; the most iconic representation of this lavishness remains the sequence set at the immense walls of Babylon. Many of the leading stars of the silent screen appear in the film, including Griffith regular Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Elmo Lincoln, Robert Harron and Constance Talmadge. Remastered in 2K. The musical soundtrack is in mono for the DVD and 2.0 LPCM for the Blu-ray. Carl Davis’ orchestral score is in 5.1 Dolby Digital. Extras include the two full-length features drawn from “Intolerance”: “The Fall of Babylon” and “The Mother and the Law,” accompanied by new scores by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra; a 2013 featurette with film historian Kevin Brownlow; new essays by Cineaste magazine editor Richard Porton and historian William M. Drew; and a theatrical rerelease trailer. From Cohen Film Collection.
On Blu-ray this week: Heading up the list this week is the gorgeous Blu-ray debut of “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), directed by William Wyler with an all-star cast of Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O’Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Russell, Gladys George, Roman Bohnen and Ray Collins. One of the greatest films of all time encapsulates the dreams, desires and realities of mid-20th century America. The Academy Award-winning film (seven Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director) follows three WWII veterans who return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed. Capt. Fred Derry (Andrews), a soda jerk before the war, returns to a loveless marriage; Sgt. Al Stephenson (March), a banker, returns a stranger to a family that’s grown up without him; and sailor Homer Parrish, a machinist, returns home, tormented by the loss of his hands, to his loving and understanding girlfriend. Extras include an introduction by Virginia Mayo, interview with Mayo and Teresa Wright, theatrical trailer … also from warner comes “The Right Stuff “ (1983), directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward and Jeff Goldblum. The 30th Anniversary Blu-ray Book includes rare photos, production notes and more; extras include “The Journey and the Mission” scene specific commentary, “John Glenn: American Hero” [1998 PBS Documentary], “Realizing the Right Stuff,” “T-20 Years and Counting,” “The Real Men With The Right Stuff” … “The Three Faces of Eve” (1957), starring Joanne Woodward, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a woman with multiple personality disorder — Eve White, a troubled housewife who begins seeing a psychiatrist and, under hypnosis, reveals her additional personalities: a vamp and an independent sophisticate. From Fox … and “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947), directed by Henry Koster and starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Gladys Cooper and Elsa Lanchester. From Warner.