24 December 2014
Because the world Definitely needed a version of Hercules starring the Rock and directed by Brett Ratner, of all people. If it were up to me, we would have stopped adapting this myth when Disney perfected it with their 1997 animated musical version but, if big budget action is more your bag, then the good news is that this Blu-Ray+ DVD+ Digital HD set is packed with tons of extra action that was cut from the theatrical version, as well as effects & weapons- heavy featurettes.
Reno 911!, The Complete (Uncensored) Series
You only need three words to convince me that this DVD is worthwhile (and there’s a hyphen so it’s really only two words): Wendi McLendon-Covey. End of story; tell me Wendi’s involved and I’m in. But the Reno 911! cast (and their crazy list of guest stars!) is full of people almost as funny as Wendi (because no one is funnier than Wendi) so the embarrassment of riches that is this ace box set’s special features menu makes the $50 price point totally worth it. Lots of extra character material, commentary on a whopping 32(!) episodes and (the kicker with a cast this improv-happy) 2 hours of bloopers and outtakes! This groundbreaking Comedy Central show isn’t everyone’s speed but, if it’s yours, this box set is a must-have.
Yet More Perry Mason
Paramount is seriously Perry Mason happy. The newly released whodunits include”The Case of the Poisoned Pen”,”The Case of the Desperate Deception”,”The Case of the Silenced Singer”,”The Case of the Defiant Daughter”,”The Case of the Ruthless Reporter”,”The Case of the Maligned Mobster”,”The Case of the Glass Coffin”,”The Case of the Fatal Fashion”,”The Case of the Fatal Framing”,”The Case of the Reckless Romeo” (winner of best name),”The Case of the Heartbroken Bride” and “The Case of the Skin-Deep Scandal”.
The Christmas Gift/The Thanksgiving Treasure & The House Without a Christmas Tree
Cheesy (Heartwarming? Depending on your mood) Americana holiday fare “for the whole family”. Acceptably charming, I suppose, but maybe save your 15, 20 bucks and try to track down the old Little House on the Prairie Christmas special instead; that Michael Landon sure knew how to warm a heart.
Joe Swanberg’s latest mumblecore masterpiece is a tentative lovestory between two sisters in law- the transcendent Melanie Lynskey as Kelly, a serious novelist turned stay at home mom, and her husband’s troubled younger sister Jenny (Anna Kendrick) who is every bit as infuriating as inspiring. Lena Dunham is also there as the most likeable character she’s ever played, Kendrick’s even-keeled but still fun best friend, while the director takes on the role of the well-intentioned man keeping Jenny and Kelly together. Refreshingly taking on a relationship model that Hollywood rarely investigates (I love in-law stories but until now the best ones have all been on Parenthood), Happy Christmas is moving, understated and honest, as all the best mumblecore is (and Joe Swanberg has made some of the best mumblecore ever). The movie doesn’t look very pretty but, in its best moments (a wonderful tipsy scene between the three women, an awkward profession of love between Jenny and Kelly), it’s truly beautiful. Stay through all the credits to receive the gift of an extra scene between Lynskey, Kendrick and Dunham as they hash out the details of a proposed erotic novel; it’s pure gold. Special features of any kind would have been nice (come on, this is exactly the sort of film I want to hear discussed in audio commentary! The whole film is improvised; where are the outtakes?) but Happy Christmas is worth owning for the re-watch value alone.
Gabriel Iglesias presents Stand-Up Revolution, Season 3
I’ve said before that stand-up specials on DVD are a waste of money because they lack re-watch value (the audio-only versions are a bit more practical because they’re great for road trips) but the animated elements of Stand-Up Revolution and this DVD’s Bonus Features give it a bit more oomph. It helps that Fluffy’s a showman at heart.
Jeff Dunham: All Over the Map
See above. The Jeff Dunham schtick is amusing once in awhile, once. But who wants to watch a ventriloquist act twice? It’s also strange when comedians use footage from different spots on their tour and splice it together, shining a light on the fact that they do the same jokes everywhere. But the point of All Over the Map is that a joke that works in one region is actively dangerous somewhere else, which gives this special an interesting edge. And a point, which I wasn’t expecting it to have. Strong special features are also a plus.
Drunk History, Seasons 1 & 2
The bizarro genius Comedy Central series is worth owning not because the box set has many great special features (though it has a few) or because you really want to watch Drunk History over and over again (though you might) but mostly because you want to have it on hand to show your friends instead of trying to explain to them why they should watch it (it’s really a hard thing to explain). Great guest stars, a ridiculous/ridiculously effective premise, plus bonus points for the super swanky faux-leather box design- a real winner of a DVD set.
Broad City, Season 1
Yes, yes, a million times YES. The commentaries are good but the features are otherwise lame… but who cares?! Broad City is smart and funny and fresh and honest but not too honest. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Grazer are killer writer/performers and their onscreen best friendship is one of the most compelling in years so it’s amazing that Hannibal Buress is able to steal as many scenes as he does (his character Lincoln might be my favourite deadpan performance ever). Buy it so you can own it and watch it forever and show it to everyone you know so they too will want to buy it and own it and watch it forever and show it to everyone they know, and so on and so forth. *MUST-BUY OF THE MONTH*
Happy Days, Season 6/Mork & Mindy, Season Four/Mork & Mindy, The Complete Series
If you’re a TV collector, you can’t skip this kind of stuff. If you’re anything but a TV collector (or a child of exactly the right era to have the softest of spots for old Gary Marshall sitcoms), you should skip this kind of stuff. In retrospect, these classic shows are repetitive, cheesy and uninspired. But they’re legendary and that’s not nothing. Especially in light of the loss of Robin, the sparse Mork & Mindy special features are to be particularly cherished; when I say sparse, I mean criminally sparse, but a Robin Williams gag reel will never not be worth owning.
The Legend of Korra, Book Three: “Change”
This challenging and forward-thinking animated show inspired many many many many many many many many many words on this site (yes, every many is a different very long article about this series. Created by people as passionate about the material as the fans and the critics, the Creators and Crew bring 4 excellent audio commentaries to the DVD as well as 4 episode-specific featurettes.
Gunsmoke, Season 11
You know how your dad never likes anything on TV? He probably likes Gunsmoke. The season, or even the episode, doesn’t matter- they’re all the same (this one happens to be Season Eleven). This classic western will amuse you for one episode tops, but your dad, he’d love Gunsmoke on DVD, so buy it for him (and nobody else, unless they’re a collector because collectors love classics like this).
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 7 & “All Good Things”
TNG‘s final season is in fine form on this Blu-Ray disc with top-notch audi0-visual quality and a great selection of special features, but the real must-see is the series’ landmark final episode included on the season disc AND released separately for that weird Star Trek fan who doesn’t want to own the full season (who are you? are you out there? where did you learn such moderation?). The best news is that the more conservative disc with just the series finale is unexpectedly just as strong (or close to it) as the full season when it comes to special features, including deleted scenes, one great featurette, and an audio commentary from exactly who should be doing audio commentaries- the writers. In this case, the writers were Brannon Braga (whose journey from intern to EP on TNG is pretty badass) and Ronald D. Moore, aka the future Battlestar Galactica pooh bah and the man who grew up watching the original Star Trek and worshipping Captain Kirk only to grow up and be the man who wrote his hero’s death (coolest. story. ever.). Literally, All Good Things.
Kroll Show, Seasons 1 & 2
Nick Kroll isn’t for everybody. I’m personally not so into him (he’s no Key and/or Peele) but his show is well-executed if you’re into his style. Plenty of great guest stars pepper the show’s first two seasons and the special features on this DVD set are a good mix of the traditional (audio commentaries- always the best special feature option) and the just plain fun (music videos! and the rest of the crazy stuff Kroll includes). Not sure about the re-watch value here but it’s definitely not a total waste of money.
Under the Dome, Season 2
Total waste of money. While the second season of this absolutely ridiculous show was better than its first, it’s still absolutely ridiculous. I really like that networks are getting into the short-season summer drama series game but, when I think about the calibre of the writing on this show and then I think about the number of truly great network shows that never saw a fourth episode let alone a second season, I get pretty angry. It’s also annoying that CBS managed to take a Stephen King book about survival and society and world-building and make it about a fishbowl with supernatural powers (and butterflies!). Okay, I may have over-stated it, this may not be a Total waste of money. Things that make it not horrible: Rachelle Lefevre’s hair, Mike Vogel’s face, the incredibly likeable Colin Ford as teenage whizkid Joe McAlister, strong special features (including one all about super badass prolific genius Stephen King, who mysteriously supports this bastardization), the actual box itself is nice (literally, the packaging, this is the best thing about this DVD set). That’s about it. Don’t buy this, it’s a ridiculous thing to spend your money on. CBS, cancel this thing and go make me a new show co-starring James Wolk and Hamish Linklater to make up for what you did to The Crazy Ones!
Walker Texas Ranger: The Road to Black Bayou
I mean… sure… okay, it’s Walker Texas Ranger, what do you want me to say? It’s Chuck Norris, he’s wearing a great hat, the title includes the word Bayou, the DVD cover has but a single quote as an endorsement for the film’s quality: “… fast-moving…” from something called DVD Verdict. This is clearly the worst thing ever created. Or maybe the best. It depends if you’ve made it into a drinking game or not.
Extant, Season 1
This crazy sci-fi series is like the classic movie big brother to Under the Dome– they come from the same household (CBS) and they look sort of alike (high-concept genre summer series) but Extant’s just bigger, stronger, a tiny bit smarter, a lot better looking, and generally just has its act together more than the Dome-dwellers. It also has Pierce Gagnon and that kid is the coolest. Extant is not actually all that good, it just looks good in comparison to the ridiculous summer network fare it was competing with or programmed alongside. Is it worth owning? Not really. But if it is the sort of show you’d like, it’s definitely the sort of show you might watch more than once (being effort-full and all that), which is the biggest reason why you should buy TV on DVD. The second biggest reason is special features and this set has great ones, and plenty of them. Try a few episodes online first and, if you’re into it (and only if you’re Really into it) I’d say spring for this one.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This movie is not as bad as it could have been but it’s certainly not good. Too dark, too forced, too computer-heavy with very little of the fun of the classic Turtles adventures (the ooze!). I kind of like Megan Fox (she seems smarter than she’s given credit for and she was great in Friends with Kids) but this is exactly the sort of movie she should be staying away from. It’s the sort of movie a lot of us should be staying away from, really. A concept as weird as the Turtles should be interpreted with more idiosyncrasy than this. The Blu-ray, Digital, DVD combo pack has some decent special features and, on a film this technical, that can be cool. Too bad no one involved in the film really has all that much of interest to say about it beyond the basics of “this is how we did that”. All that criticism said, though, the DVD was delivered in a Turtles-brand pizza box which was just the sort of time/resource/money-wasting gimmick that the film needed to appear charming and like it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Well done on that one, Paramount Home Distribution Marketing Team.