New: Controversy, cuddly bears, and docs, docs, docs
You’ve got to love a week where both A Serbian Film (Invincible Pictures, now available) and Winnie the Pooh (Walt Disney Home Entertainment) both come out on DVD. One’s a controversial film that’s been banned in various countries and horrified film festival audiences with its brutal portrayal of violence and exploitation, and the other perfectly reboots a vintage cartoon favorite with charm and wit. Just don’t get the discs mixed up.
The other big news for this week and next is a slew of fascinating documentaries on a variety of subjects. If you’re already counting the days until Comic-Con 2012, two new titles should help you pass the time: The People vs. George Lucas (Lionsgate, now available) looks at the love-hate relationship that Stars Wars addicts have with their Jedi Master, and William Shatner’s The Captains (entertainment one, now available) talks to all the actors who have gotten to say things like “Engage!” and “Fire photon torpedoes!” while exploring Shatner’s own mixed emotions about being James T. Kirk.
Two other docs worth exploring are Hot Coffee (Docurama Films, available November 1), which explored the real story behind that infamous McDonald’s lawsuit as a way into looking at our litigious society, and Out Late (First Run Features, now available), about gay men and lesbians who didn’t come out until reaching their twilight years.
Classic: Singin’ in Shangri-La
The musical remake of Lost Horizon (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s “Columbia Classics” video-on-demand, now available) was something of a notorious flop in the early 1970s, mixing a song score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (that the composers later somewhat disavowed) with non-singing actors like Peter Finch and Olivia Hussey. But whether you’re one of the film’s die-hard champions (and if you don’t believe they exist, check out their Facebook group) or someone who gets tickled over the idea of a dancing Liv Ullmann, this infamous mega-budget musical merits a look. Unlike most VOD titles, this one actually features some remastering as well as the restoration of the long-excised “fertility dance” number.
If you’re getting a head start on your holiday planning, two of my favorite screen adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol are making their Blu-Ray debuts. I’ve always had a soft spot for the musical Scrooge (Paramount Home Video, now available) — which stars Albert Finney as both the young and old Ebenezer — for its catchy songs and extraordinary supporting cast (including Alec Guinness and Dame Edith Evans). But nobody doesn’t like the Alastair Sim A Christmas Carol (VCI Entertainment, available November 1), which gets a “Diamond Edition” reissue that includes a Leonard Maltin intro and several silent-film versions of the beloved tale.
If you like bad boys, check out Gérard Depardieu’s star-making performance in Bertrand Blier’s 1974 road trip Going Places (Kino, available November 1), and if you like bad girls, there’s the “Lethal Ladies” collection (Shout Factory, now available), featuring such chicks-with-guns epics as Firecracker, TNT Jackson, and Too Hot to Handle. And if you like bad dinosaurs, don’t miss out on the snazzy new Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy set (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, now available), the perfect stocking-stuffer for the paleontologist in your life.
The MGM Limited Collection Edition keeps coming up with cool and bizarre little nuggets from yesteryear: Recent gems include The Christine Jorgensen Story, a biopic of the pioneering transsexual that’s aged horribly but makes for an interesting look at the squeamishness with which this topic was once handled; the let’s-just-film-a-hit-play comedy Top Banana, starring Phil Silvers and Rose-Marie; Ken Russell’s wonderfully over-the-top Tchaikowsky bio The Music Lovers; and The White Bus, an early, rarely-seen film from acclaimed British director Lindsay Anderson (if…, O Lucky Man!).
TV: Spies, superheroes and Snoopy
It’s the time of year when holiday-gift box sets start making their way into the marketplace, and one of the more impressive ones is Barney Miller: The Complete Series (Shout Factory, now available). This staggering (25 discs!) collection of one of TV’s greatest sitcoms features the series’ complete run, along with a never-aired pilot, commentaries, interviews, and the first season of the Abe Vigoda–led spinoff comedy Fish.
Acorn Media, which consistently brings the best of British TV to American DVD, has two more great collections to offer: Just in time for the upcoming movie version, the original mini-series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (now available), starring Alec Guinness as the unflappable George Smiley, and a 30th anniversary edition of Brideshead Revisited (available November 1), the ground-breaking adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews.
While Marvel Comics may be doing better on the big screen of late (until Christopher Nolan’s next Dark Knight movie, anyway), DC seems to be winning the battle on the animation front, both in their direct-to-DVD features and on TV. Case in point: Young Justice: Season One, Volume Two (Warner Home Video, now available), the Cartoon Network series that does a bang-up job assembling the adolescent members of the DC Universe into a fighting force.
Also new for animation fans: robots kick ass in Voltron: The Final Battle (Vivendi Entertainment, available November 1), and Happiness is…Peanuts: Snow Days (Warner Home Video, now available), features several wintry TV adventures of Charlie Brown and his pals.
And finally, if you just can’t cram enough Mystery Science Theater 3000 into your DVD collection (and I know I can’t), Shout Factory has just released two more classic, hilarious episodes: The Touch of Satan and The Atomic Brain.