THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
Every once in a while a comedy comes along that pushes the boundaries of what one expects in a movie. “Pink Flamingos,” “The Life of Brian,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Borat” and “The Hangover” come to mind. Now add to the list “This Is the End,” an outrageous, raunchy comedy directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and starring a bevy of Hollywood stars playing themselves as petty, selfish, lascivious Hollywood stars attending a party at James Franco’s house in the Hollywood Hills. In attendance are Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Emma Watson, Martin Starr, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and many, many others — all having a wild time until a series of strange and catastrophic events — the apocalypse — devastate Los Angeles. Five of the partygoers, all friends — Franco, Hill, Rogen, Baruchel and Robinson — soon joined by Danny McBride — are trapped in the house and, as the world outside burns in the heat of damnation, dwindling supplies and cabin fever inside threaten to tear the friendships apart. There’s some very, very nasty, almost pornographic scenes and crazy special effects that, in conjunction with the actors poking fun at themselves and their lifestyles, makes for a very funny ride. I was shocked, titillated and fell off my chair with laugher. But beware — this is rated a very hard “R.” DVD extras include commentary with Rogen and Goldberg and several self-referential featurettes, including “Directing Your Friends,” “This Is the Marketing” marketing outtakes, a redband sizzle trailer, and more, The Blu-ray adds deleted scenes; “This Is the Gag Reel,” a line-o-ramas blooper reel with back-to-back shots of the actors’ different delivery of certain lines from the film; and six more featurettes. From Sony.
Also due this week: “The Croods,” which was unavailable for review.
It’s another great week for filmlovers, with restored versions of “The Littler Mermaid,” “The Big Parade,” “From Here to Eternity” and “House of Wax,” as well as a new edition of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Kids today may not have heard of King Vidor, but he was one of the early geniuses of Hollywood filmmaking, beginning in silent films in the 1910s and working his magic right through the 1950s. Along the way he made such classics as “The Crowd” (1928), “The Champ” (1931), “Stella Dallas” (1937), worked on the Kansas scenes in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Northwest Passage” (1940), “Duel in the Sun” (1946), “The Fountainhead” (1949) and “Solomon and Sheba” (1959). “The Big Parade,” making its DVD and Blu-ray debut this week, is his monumental masterpiece, a 140-minute opus that tells the harrowing story of a young man’s (John Gilbert) front-line experiences in World War I. It was the highest-grossing silent film of all time, as well as the first realistic war drama, and stands the test of time as a stunning work of art. The Blu-ray is packed with a 64-page book with comprehensive notes by film historian Kevin Brownlow, with original art, photos and advertising material. Other extras include commentary by historian Jeffrey Vance with King Vidor, “The Men Who Made the Movies: King Vidor” documentary, and a vintage 1925 studio tour short. Co-stars Renee Adoree, Hobart Bosworth and Claire McDowell. A must-have for every cinephile. From Warner.
Disney has brought one of their most-in-demand DVDs out of the vault and plied their magic with it in a Diamond Edition Blu-ray and DVD with digital image restoration and high-definition sound: We’re talking about none other than “The Little Mermaid” (1989), which ushered in a renaissance of Disney animated films that set the stage for “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.” Though this is not one of my favorites — that has to go to the aforementioned two titles — “The Little Mermaid” is still a wonderful tale about a headstrong young mermaid, Ariel, who falls for a human and trades her beautiful singing voice to the evil Sea Witch Ursula for human legs. The Blu-ray transfer is fabulous with colors ever-so bolder and clearer than the DVD; the new soundtrack improvements will only be noticed if you have a surround sound set-up. The film features the voices of Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, Pat Carroll, Buddy Hackett, Christopher Daniel and Kenneth Mars, with the fabulous lyrics and music by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. “The Little mermaid” is available in a variety of packages, including a 3D version: A three-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Music Download), $49.99; two-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray + DVD/Digital Copy), $44.99; two-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray + DVD), $39.99. Extras a new music video, “Part of Your World”; “@ Disney Animation” behind-the-scenes; a deleted character, Harold the Merman; “The Real Little Mermaid: Live Action Reference Model”; “Part of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland”; and classic DVD bonus features.
“From Here to Eternity” (1953) was the film that reinvigorated Frank Sinatra’s flagging film career and featured incredibly nuanced performances by a bevy of Hollywood luminaries, including Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed and Ernest Borgnine. Director Fred Zinnemann’s adaptation of the racy James Jones novel incensed both the film censors and the U.S. Army for it’s hot love scenes and depiction of army life; the film went on to win eight Academy Awards and become one of the highest grossing films of all time. Sony has meticulously restored the film from a 4k scan for its Blu-ray debut — and it’s scrumptious. Extras include commentary with Tim Zinnemann (the director’s son) and screenwriter Alvin Sargent; a vintage “The Making of From Here to Eternity” documentary; vintage “Fred Zinnemann: As I See It”; and a new “Eternal History” graphics in picture track that explores the story of how 1953’s Best Picture winner came to be told, with new interviews, exclusive photos and other rare material. Another must-have.
Warner has a new, restored and remastered high-definition release for the Blu-ray debut of director Andre de Toth’s creepy 1953 horror film “House of Wax,” the first color 3D feature released by a major studio and the first 3-D film with stereophonic sound to be presented in a regular movie theater. The film, starring Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni and Charles Buchinsky (aka Charles Bronson), become a huge hit (If adjusted to today’s gross, it would have brought in more than $401 million, placing it among the top 100 highest grossing films ever). It also marked Vincent Price’s first major starring horror role and changed the course of his career. Originally designed to lure audiences away from their TV sets, 3D utilized a “left-eye/right-eye” dual projection process and polarized glasses, the basis for what is seen today. Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging group’s work on “House of Wax” included a 4K scan, and a full restoration of the two “eyes,” as well as perfect 3D image alignment. Extras on the 3D Blu-ray/ 2D release include a new featurette, “House of Wax: Unlike Anything You’ve Seen Before”; “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” the original 1933 film on which “House of Wax” was based; commentary; “Round-the-Clock Premiere: Coast Hails House of Wax”; and the original trailer.
It seems like only yesterday that Warner gave us a souped up Blu-ray version of the wonderful
“The Wizard of Oz” — and, in fact, it was only four years ago, in 2009, that they releases a now-out-of-print collector’s edition of the classic. With “Wizard” turning 75, the company has put together yet another edition of the 1939 film, here in a “The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” five-disc set that includes Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and UltraViolet versions of the film; a new documentary, “The Making of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”; bonus features from previous editions; premium collectibles (a collectible 75th Anniversary journal, Sparkle Ruby Slippers Globe, Noble Collection 3-piece enamel pin set, a map of Oz and a 48-page hardcover book); all for $105.43. Three more editions will be available separately: a two-disc 3D/Blu-ray ($35.99), a one-disc Blu-ray ($19.98) and a two-disc DVD ($16.95), all with the new documentary and extra content.
Also due this week: “Downton Abbey Seasons 1, 2 & 3” is a limited edition set that includes Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3 in special collectable gift-set packaging, with more than three hours of previously released bonus video, including “Downton Abbey: The Making of,” “Downton Abbey: Behind the Drama” and more; the set includes the bonus disc “Secrets of Highclere Castle,” a one-hour documentary that steps inside the castle featured in “Downton Abbey.” On DVD, $89.99, and Blu-ray Disc, $99.99, from PBS Distribution … In the mid-1960s the often rigid and colorless British way of life was irrevocably transformed by the emergence of a cultural underground movement. Led by a loose collective of young radicals, they introduced new social, sexual and aesthetic perspectives. Operating out of the heart of London, their various activities, from The International Times — a bi-weekly journal that no hipster could be seen without — to the psychedelic nightclub UFO, promoted alternative lifestyles and values, and sparked a social revolution. “Paul McCartney — Going Underground: McCartney, The Beatles and the UK Counter-Culture” (2013) not only traces the history of this underground scene, but also explores its impact on the pre-eminent British group of the era, The Beatles. Although they were well established by the time the movement emerged, The Beatles, and Paul McCartney in particular, were closely linked with several of its key players, and through their exposure to cutting edge concepts, brought ideas directly from the avant-garde into the mainstream. Features new interviews with key players from the time, including Barry Miles of the IT, Pink Floyd producer Joe Boyd, Robert Wyatt, and many more, as well as rare footage, archive photographs, and music from The Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Soft machine, and others. On DVD from MVD Visual.