I Want My DVD: Tuesday, August 21, 2012

by Ethan Alter August 21, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Worst. Tyrant. Ever.

The Dictator
Having exhausted his supply of characters from his old Ali G HBO show, Sacha Baron Cohen decided to create an all-new persona in this never-as-bold-as-you-wish-it-were political satire. The British actor of a thousand faces plays General Aladeen, the tyrannical ruler of the fictional North African nation of Wadiya. While in New York City to lecture the United Nations about the glories of dictatorships and the evils of capitalism, Aladeen is subjected to a Prince and the Pauper-like coup organized by his most trusted adviser (Sir Ben Kingsley... hey, better this than another Uwe Boll film!) and winds up wandering the mean streets of the Big Apple, an exceptionally strange stranger in a strange land. It's up to a crunchy granola-eating owner of an organic foods store (Anna Faris, sadly wasted as the token love interest) and a Wadiyan refugee he had condemned to death (The League's Jason Mantzoukas, the movie's ace scene stealer) to help him reclaim power. Although there are some scattered laughs throughout, overall The Dictator lacks the daring anything-can-happen air of the star's previous movies. The film accomplishes what you wouldn't think possible: it makes Cohen predictable.
Extras: An unrated extended cut with even more scatological humor and a batch of deleted and extended scenes.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to read our Q&A with Jason Mantzoukas
Click here to read our coverage of General Aladeen's New York Press Conference

Richard Linklater puts a lightly comic spin on a Texas-set true crime story with Bernie, which isn't just one of 2012's best movies -- it also ranks amongst its director's finest work. Jack Black stars as the title character, an outgoing assistant funeral director in the small town of Carthage, who somehow befriends a local widow (Shirley MacLaine) notorious for her shriveled heart. Although some suspect he's after her millions, Bernie claims to only be interested in her emotional well-being. So it's a surprise to everyone -- including himself -- when he shoots her in the back one afternoon and proceeds to hide her body in a freezer. We won't give away the case's various twists and turns after that, but suffice to say the movie becomes less about the murder than it does about the mutability of peoples' perceptions as well the power of small town loyalty. Crisply directed by Linklater and packed with great performances, Bernie is a gem that deserves discovery on DVD.
Extras: A more by-the-book featurette detailing the facts of the real-life case, another featurette starring Carthage's gossipy residents and a rendition of "Amazing Grace" by the star and one-half of Tenacious D.
Click here to read our original review

A Separation
The winner of this year's Oscar for Foreign Language film (and one of Top Ten movies of 2011), Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's A Separation doubles as both a tense procedural and a wrenching family drama. When a domestic worker is injured in an accident caused by -- or was it? -- her employer, the two sides take their grievance to Iran's court system, which results in the exposure of multiple secrets and lies. Expertly paced and beautifully written, A Separation more than deserves the numerous accolades and awards that were showered upon it last year.
Extras: A commentary track and additional video interview with the director, plus a featurette about Farhadi's career.
Click here to read our original review

The Rescuers: 35th Anniversary Edition
The DisneyNature machine cranks out another nature-themed documentary, this one following the adventure of an orphaned chimp living deep within an African forest. After his mother vanishes, the little furry guy (whose name is Oscar) tries to fend for himself, before striking up a friendship with the leader of another chimp tribe. But his new protector has other things on his mind, what with a rival band of chimps plotting a raid on his camp any day now. The wildlife photography (courtesy of experienced nature doc director Alastair Fothergill) is terrific, but the cutesy-poo narration (provided by Tim Allen) gets to be a bit much at times. We recommend watching Chimpanzee with the sound off and the music from Disney's The Jungle Book playing in the background instead. The Mouse House is also releasing a few other new-to-Blu-ray sets today, the best of which is this two-disc set containing 1977's The Rescuers and its 1990 sequel The Rescuers Down Under. Both movies find the Rescue Aid Society's top mice-agents Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor) on the trail of kidnapped children. Although rarely grouped amongst Disney's finest animated features, the two Rescuers adventures are enjoyable diversions enlivened by the stars' lively vocal performances and solid set-pieces. Fun fact: Down Under was also the first Disney movie to use its CAPS process, where the animation was completed on a computer rather than by hand, a procedure later used to memorable effect in Beauty and the Beast.
Extras: Chimpanzee comes with a seven making-of featurettes offering additional footage, three additional short docs about Disney's conservation efforts and a music video for the McClain Sisters track "Rise," featured over the end credits. The Rescuers set includes a deleted scene from the '77 film, a making-of featurette for the sequel, an animated short, a sing-along song and a short nature documentary about water birds.

Also on DVD:
Disney's other, lesser high-def offerings this week are The Aristocats (a movie that has its fans, even if we don't rank amongst them) and Pocahontas: Two-Movie Special Edition (movies that, as far as we know, have no fans). In new releases, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black steps behind the camera with Virginia, which stars Jennifer Connelly as a mentally trouble woman who tries to be a good mother to her teenage son while also carrying on an affair with the local sheriff (Ed Harris). Despite good performances, the movie itself lacks a compelling dramatic pull. Still, it's nice to remember that, in addition to being one of the screen's great beauties, Connelly is a talented actress when she's given good material. Also new this week is the enjoyable British romantic drama Weekend, about two men whose casual one-night stand becomes an intense two day-long relationship. And Robert De Niro shows up to cash another paycheck in the direct-to-DVD crime drama Freelancers starring fellow Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and soon-to-be Razzie contender 50 Cent. Hey, look! Good Will Hunting turns 15 this year and celebrates with a new Blu-ray anniversary edition. How do you like them apples? The 1983 favorite WarGames also gets a high-def release, one year shy of its 30th birthday. Because someone somewhere out there apparently demanded it, Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 are now available on Blu-ray. Yay? And last but not least, Kevin Smith's sophomore effort Mallrats finally goes Blu as well after a previous release on HD-DVD (remember that?). Although widely maligned at the time, Mallrats has demonstrated considerable staying power and today can be appreciated as the silly romp it is. In addition to launching Jason Lee's acting career, it even managed to make Shannen Doherty appealing, which is a major achievement in and of itself.

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