Pleasant Surprise of the Week
The Three Stooges (Fox)
Release Date: Apr 13, 2012
Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Cast: Will Sasso, Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Jane Lynch, Sofía Vergara. Full cast + crew
By all evidence I should have hated The Three Stooges. I haven't really liked a movie from the Farrelly brothers since Shallow Hal, which was over a decade ago. The trailer for the film caused brutal eye strain from so much eye rolling (really, the cast of the Jersey Shore is your big pop-culture relevancy?), but most importantly, I've never liked the Three Stooges. That's not to say I hate the slapstick trio, I've just never really gotten the appeal of their humor. Perhaps it's a generational thing, but their shtick has never, ever interested me. But damn it all, I quite enjoyed this new The Three Stooges.
Stars Will Sasso, Sean Hayes and Chris Diamantopoulous are fantastic as the bumbling Stooges trying to raise money to save their orphanage, and the Farrelly brothers really know how to operate between their extremes, striking a chord that's affable and surprisingly mature. This is a family film engineered by adults who know what makes little kids laugh, but also know just how much silliness will make the parents in the room groan. And they nail it.
Special Features: Featurettes on the history of the Stooges, the physical comedy, the sound effects, the casting process and deleted/extended scenes
Not Your Average RomCom of the Week
Friends With Kids (Lionsgate)
Release Date: Mar 09, 2012
Director: Jennifer Westfeldt
Cast: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph. Full cast + crew
Friends With Kids is a tricky movie because it's both exactly what you expect it to be, but then also just enough off base that it defies expectations. On the surface it seems like a safe, all-stereotypes-covered rom-com where you have the single friends, the lusty new couple, and the reliable old couple; and just throw in a bunch of kids for laughs. The jokes writer-director-producer-star Jennifer Westfeldt go for with how these kids affect each couple are all obvious and, to a relatively new parent like me, kind of condescending in a, "Man, aren't kids the worst?!" kind of way.
And that side of the movie is exactly what you expect. But then there's this other side -- this more adult side that's interesting in a jaded sort of way. The parents curse up a storm and have realistic (albeit predictable) fights with one another. They talk openly about sex and life and marriage and fears, and there's a bitter edge to some of that material that really saves the movie. Is it particularly insightful to what life is like as a parent? Not really. But it's funny and smart and cute when it needs to be.
Special Features: Commentary with Jennifer Westfeld, Jon Hamm (who was also a producer) and DP will Rexer II; Deleted Scenes; Making-Of
Oh and a gag reel, which includes this gem (without the bleeping):
Other New Releases
Speaking of not your average romcoms, Nacho Vigalondo's Extraterrestrial hits DVD today. It's not quite what you'd expect from a follow-up film by the man who made the very cool time travel flick Timecrimes, especially considering the name of the movie, but as long as you don't get hung up on expectations, it's a cute movie about a guy and girl whose one-night stand is prolonged by the arrival of a UFO.
Also new this week is Casa de mi Padre, AKA that movie where Will Ferrell speaks Spanish. It's kind of funny, but its pretty one note and never does anything particularly inspired. The same can be said of Intruders, which is an intriguing horror movie starring Clive Owen as a father facing an otherworldly visitor. I wouldn't rush out and grab a copy, but it's got enough creepy moments to earn a random watch from Netflix.
And lastly we have Lockout and Get the Gringo, two very different prison movies that both feel like they belong on late night cable in the '90s-- and that's a compliment in our book. We'll actually be doing a feature on Get the Gringo later this week focusing on the real prison featured in the movie, so keep an eye out for that.
Collector's Item of the Week
Singin' in the Rain (Warner Bros.)
Release Date: Apr 10, 1952
Director: Apr 10, 1952
Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell. Full cast + crew
Warner Bros. has been doing a tremendous job of putting out elaborate Blu-ray packages for some of their classic films and Singin' in the Rain is no exception. The Blu-ray transfer here is simply stunning and doesn't show a single day of age. It doesn't look overly processed for a digital conversion, it just looks like a pristine version of this 60-year-old musical is beaming straight into your living room from a film vault deep underground. It's gorgeous.
As is the film itself. If you've never seen it, this is a terrific piece of old Hollywood magic; a movie that's both about the evolution of the film industry from silent films to talkies, as well as a comedy about the studio system and the stars of yesteryear. It's funny, it's smart, it's insightful, and truly timeless. If you're the type of person who has basically written off all movies made before 1975, Singin' in the Rain is a shining example of why you shouldn't. It's like The Artist, only genuine.
Special Features: Where to start? The film is nestled in a sturdy box containing a 48-page hardcover book filled with glossy behind-the-scenes photos and production notes, three mini reproduction posters (11"x3.5"), and a full-size, colorful umbrella. The discs themselves include one Blu-ray and two DVDs, one an SD copy of the film, the other bonus features.
The BD's new HD special features include a 51-minute retrospective about the film featuring a current generation of entertainers reflecting back on the movie. It's a nicely put together package that only further proves how timeless Singin' in the Rain really is. There's also a fun Jukebox feature that lets you create a playlist out of the film's songs, and an audio commentary track featuring the film's stars, director, screenwriters and Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann. Here's a clip from the latter special, thanks to Warner Bros.:
The DVD of extras includes old material produced for the film, which is over three hours of extras, including the 1996 feature-length documentary "Musicals Great Musicals," which is about plenty more than just Singin' in the Rain. Then there's a look back at the films that inspired this film's musical numbers, as well as the complete scoring sessions, and more.
As you can see, it's a pretty hefty package and would make an excellent contribution to any Singin' in the Rain fan out there. And Warner Bros. only made 75,000 of these, so they truly are a collector's edition.
I don't know who it was that decided July would be Catalog Blu-ray Month at Warner Bros., but I want to buy 'em a drink. Singin' in the Rain aside, this week's offerings aren't quite as impressive as last week's sci-fi classics, but there's still an appreciably random number of old action movies and thrillers hitting BD for the first time this week. I'm not sure anyone was clamoring for, say, The Butterfly Effect 2 on Blu-ray, but here it is to remind us that there's actually a decent movie to be made out of that premise. It's at least better than the Ashton Kutcher original, though if that's your cup of tea, it's out this week as well.
Then there's Cellular, which is a fun thriller to rewatch both for its heavy use of now antiquated technology (it's actually a plot point how many phone numbers a cell phone automatically stores!) and Chris Evans. This was just one of several stepping stones to stardom for Captain America, but even here it's clear that he's got more than enough charisma to anchor a movie.
Then there's the sort of grab bag releases of Steven Seagal's Hard to Kill and Patrick Swayze's Next of Kin. Both are amusing in a late-'80s kind of way, but they haven't exactly aged well. Just Cause, Mean Streets, Murder in the First and A Perfect Murder, on the other hand, have fared better. None are given elaborate treatment on the Blu-ray front, but if you're a fan of any of the above, they're worth a gander.
The rest of the week's catalog releases are filled out with a few critically acclaimed gems - High Noon, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Criterion's Down by Law, in particular - as well as two new releases. No one seemed to care much for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen when it came and went earlier this year, and I doubt it's going to develop a cult following on Blu-ray. The Turin Horse, an arthouse favorite this year, on the the other hand does have a good chance of finding plenty more fans now that it's readily available.
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