DVD Obscura: Gift Sets, Stephen Sondheim, Stanley Kubrick and More

DVD Obscura: Gift Sets, Stephen Sondheim, Stanley Kubrick and More

Nov 21, 2012

New: Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams Are Unhappily Married

It ran for just four nights in New York before being shown in movie theaters across the country, but if you missed the latest, all-star incarnation of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical Company (Image Entertainment; now available), it’s yours to own on DVD and Blu-ray. This musical about love, sex and marriage totally rewrote the Broadway playbook when it first premiered in the early 1970s, and four decades later, it’s still a showstopper, especially with this extraordinary cast.

Neil Patrick Harris stars as Bobby, the charming, handsome guy who’s the only bachelor in his group of married friends, mainly because he runs from commitment as fast as he can. The ensemble also includes Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, Jon Cryer, Martha Plimpton, Craig Bierko, Katie Finneran, Jim Walton, Anika Noni Rose and, putting her own spin on “The Ladies Who Lunch,” Patti LuPone.

While the rehearsals and backstage goings-on were no doubt fascinating, this release features no documentary or deleted footage; the only extra is a lengthy essay by director Lonny Price, a longtime Sondheim collaborator.

Actress Sarah Polley made a strong showing with her directorial debut, Away from Her, netting rave reviews around the planet and scoring Oscar nominations for her script and for Julie Christie’s lead performance. So while Polley’s sophomore feature, Take This Waltz (Magnolia Home Entertainment; now available) is perhaps inevitably disappointing, it still reveals her as a filmmaker worth watching.

Michelle Williams stars as a young woman in a happy-enough marriage to chef Seth Rogen, suddenly finding herself attracted to the bohemian rickshaw driver across the street (played by Luke Kirby). It’s a film full of talented actors and promising ideas, but the results are a little disappointing. Still, the movie offers several pleasures, among them a ferocious supporting performance by Sarah Silverman as an in-law who’s struggling with sobriety.

Several noteworthy docs hit the new releases shelf as well: Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (Magnolia Home Entertainment; now available) offers a candid and previously unseen discussion with the late inventor and entrepreneur; Half the Sky (Docurama Films; now available) sends actresses like Olivia Wilde, Eva Mendes, Gabrielle Union and Diane Lane around the globe to spotlight gender inequity as well as opportunities for women throughout the third world; and Nitro Circus: The Movie (Arc Entertainment; now available) offers everything from motorcycles to school buses in extreme-sports situations — and in 3D, no less.


Classic: David Lean and Ridley Scott Under Your Tree

It’s the holidays, so be on the lookout for lots of lavish DVD gift sets for that cineaste in your life. (Even if that cineaste is you.) Probably the splashiest is the 50th anniversary edition of Lawrence of Arabia (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; now available). The basic two-disc Blu-ray offers this classic in high def along with conversations with Peter O’Toole and with fervent admirer Steven Spielberg; spring for the four-disc gift set, and you also get a gorgeous coffee-table book, a soundtrack CD, a never-before-released deleted scene and even a frame from a 70mm print.

And since fans of Blade Runner (Warner Home Video; now available) apparently never tire of new home video editions of this visionary classic, there’s now a four-disc 30th anniversary version, complete with numerous different cuts of the film and a cool replica of Deckard’s Spinner car.

Lest you think this anniversary-special-edition business is reserved only for manly man movies, HBO Home Entertainment celebrates the 10th birthday of sleeper hit indie My Big Fat Greek Wedding (now available) with the comedy’s Blu-ray debut. Extras include a new 30-minute making-of retrospective (including interviews with John Corbett and the film’s writer-star Nia Vardalos) along with never-before-seen deleted scenes.

It’s not necessarily a “box set,” but any DVD shelf will suddenly get classier and sexier with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life (The Criterion Collection; now available), which packages together the Italian auteur’s definitely-not-for-high school English versions of literary classics The Canterbury TalesThe Decameron and Arabian Nights. Bawdy, sensual and provocative, these adaptations are anything but dry and musty. This snazzy Criterion set might make a librarian blush, but he or she would admire the treasure trove of documentaries, essays and deleted scenes contained within.

Stanley Kubrick went out of his way to keep people from seeing his debut feature, 1953’s Fear and Desire (Kino Classics; now available), but once he passed on, there was no way to keep that barn door closed. Thanks to Kino and the Library of Congress, at least you can now see this early war picture (costarring Paul Mazursky, who would later become an auteur in his own right) in high-def Blu-ray. The disc also features The Seafarers, a Kubrick short film from the same year.

Music fans won’t want to miss Ike & Tina: On the Road: 1971-72 (MVD Entertainment Group; now available), a collection of concert footage featuring two R&B giants at the peak of their game. (Granted, it’s hard not to think about what was going on between those two offstage, but as performers, they were electrifying together.) And fans of Italian horror should get their hands on Night of the Devils (RaroVideo; now available), an influential fright flick that featured early effects work by Carlo Rambaldi, who would go on to design the character of E.T.

Finally, before West of Memphis hits theaters with its look at the “West Memphis Three” and their wrongful incarceration for the murder of three young boys, The Paradise Lost Trilogy (Docurama Films; now available) compiles the groundbreaking work of documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, who originally brought this tragic and powerful story to life. The trilogy is a potent reminder of the power of filmmaking both to move audiences and to change society. (And even if you’ve seen all three Paradise Lost docs, this new set comes with an entire fourth-disc’s worth of new material.)


TV: Cowabunga, Dude

Speaking of snazzy holiday gift sets, do some totally awesome shredding (with Shredder!) and pick up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Classic Series (Lionsgate; now available). Dude, it’s 23 DVDs, covering all 10 seasons of the classic cartoon, packaged in a replica turtle van. Anyone who can distinguish Rafael, Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo based solely on the color of their domino masks needs this exhaustive collection (complete with over three hours of special features) in their lives.

BBC Home Entertainment offers a snazzy Doctor Who: Limited Edition Gift Set (now available), featuring the first six seasons of the show’s recent reboot, with Doctor Who: Series Seven, Part One (now available) for Who-vians who want to keep extra-current with the new-school version of the time-hopping hero. They’ve also got BBC America’s sexy Copper: Season One (now available), a gritty police series set in Civil War–era New York City.

And if you’ve ever wanted to watch a Ken Burns movie without committing to the gargantuan length of his miniseries on baseball, Prohibition or World War II, get your feet wet (or dirty, rather) with The Dust Bowl (PBS; now available), a fascinating look at the Depression-era disaster in America’s farmland, which clocks in at a mere two episodes of two hours each.


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