I Want My DVD: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

by Ethan Alter September 18, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Joss Whedon has a bad case of cabin fever.

The Cabin in the Woods
Originally completed in 2009, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's smart, self-aware spin on the classic "killer in the woods" horror movie premise finally nabbed a theatrical release a month before Whedon blew up big time courtesy of The Avengers. And as much fun as that all-star superhero extravaganza is, if you want a better example of the same stylistic playfulness and formidable wit that distinguished Whedon's TV work, The Cabin in the Woods should be your movie of choice. The set-up is classic Evil Dead: a group of good-looking guys and gals (including Chris Hemsworth, who shot this movie long before picking up Thor's hammer) make their way to an isolated woodland cabin primed for an awesome, alcohol-fueled weekend. Little do they suspect that they've wandered into a trap centuries older than themselves, one that's run by a top-secret organization white-suited men and women observing their victims' every move. A supremely clever film -- more clever than scary, to be honest -- The Cabin in the Woods is designed to fuel long, rambling post-movie discussions about free will vs. pre-determination and film school term papers analyzing the mechanics of the horror genre. That guarantees it the kind of longevity that a $600 million theatrical gross can't buy.
Extras: One of Whedon's typically insightful and laugh-filled commentary tracks (co-anchored by Goddard), a fake making-of documentary, four additional featurettes and footage from a WonderCon Q&A.
Click here to read our original spoiler-free review
Click here to read our original review, with spoilers

Katy Perry: Part of Me
The pop tart (and one-woman Glee soundtrack) behind such omnipresent hits as "Firework" and "California Gurls" gets her own 3D documentary/concert film from the same producing team that made Justin Bieber's 2011 hagiography, Never Say Never. Although the overall tone is relentless upbeat, Part of Me does venture into more personal territory than you might expect, specifically in regards to the deterioration of the Katy Perry/Russell Brand romance that occurred during filming. We also get to meet the singer's family, including her spitfire grandma. Not surprisingly though, Perry is at her most comfortable when performing her legions of devoted fans onstage, in spectacle-driven concerts filled with special effects, wardrobe changes and... oh yeah, the occasional song or two. If you're not a fan of Perry's brand of pop, Part of Me probably won't change your mind, but don't be surprised if you come out of it with a few new earworms.
Extras: Full concert performances, additional behind-the-scenes footage, and bonus featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures
Grab your fedora and bullwhip and cue the John Williams score, because everyone's favorite archeologist/adventurer, Indiana Jones, is embarking on another expedition, this time into the realm of high-definition. Leading off Paramount's handsome new Blu-ray box set is Raiders of the Lost, a stone-cold classic that's just as thrilling today as it was thirty years ago. If everyone can agree that Raiders rocks, the next three installments are more divisive. Temple of Doom has its devoted fans obviously and while the movie does boast a number of killer set-pieces, the casual cruelty and cartoonish racial stereotypes can be hard to take. The Last Crusade is often dinged for being a lighter, sillier adventure and while it's true that the movie is tinged with camp, the father/son dynamic shared by Harrison Ford and Sean Connery dynamic is a blast to watch, as is the big climax as Dr. Jones complete a series of trials to reach the Holy Grail itself. And then there's The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the sequel everybody wanted until they actually saw it. There are lots of things that are inexcusable about the fourth Indy outing -- Shia LaBeouf, nuking the fridge, Shia LaBeouf, freakin' aliens and Shia LaBeouf again -- but Spielberg is too skilled at this sort of thing to make a complete disaster. If anything, Crystal Skull falls into his "resoundingly mediocre" category of blockbusters, alongside such titles as Minority Report and The Lost World. That said, we don't blame you if that turns out to be the disc that gets the least amount of play in your house.
Extras: Do you have seven hours to kill? Because that's how much bonus material has been packed into this slender volume. The main attraction is an extensive and exhaustive look at the making of Raiders, which includes never-before-seen on-set footage shot during production. The other films also come with extensive behind-the-scenes documentaries, plus additional cast and crew interviews. Perhaps they got LaBeouf to actually say something nice about Crystal Skull for a change.

Judge Dredd
Ed Wood
The Game
The Indiana Jones set is this week's big Blu-ray release, but a few other noteworthy titles are premiering on the format as well. First up is the Judge Dredd, the 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle that was supposed to continue his post- Cliffhanger comeback and launch a new franchise based around the titular British comic book staple. But the film wound up failing on both counts, as the liberties it took with the source material (Stallone opts out of wearing Dredd's signature helmet for much of the movie's runtime) pissed off fans, while everyone else just thought it looked junky and dumb... and they were right. (Although the movie does offer Rob Schneider -- remember him? -- the finest moment of his big-screen career when he does his dead-on impersonation of Stallone's trademark snarl.) In the wake of Dredd's failure, Stallone's career hit the rocks once again and the character returned to the funny pages. A decade later though, they're both back, Stallone with The Expendable franchise and Dredd with another big-screen outing (simply called Dredd) starring Karl Urban. Just goes to show you that if you wait long enough, everything comes around again. Like Judge Dredd, Tim Burton's Ed Wood didn't do much business during its theatrical release in 1994, but unlike Stallone's flop, audiences missed out on a great movie, one that still ranks among the director's finest achievements. Watching it today is to journey back to a place and time when Burton told original stories instead of applying his now-formulaic stylistic quirks to well-known properties and his leading man Johnny Depp gave full-bodied performances rather than just clown around for the camera. Finally we come to The Game, David Fincher's third feature and the one that's most often overlooked in his canon. Sandwiched in between Se7en and Fight Club, The Game isn't as stylistically innovative as either of those movies, but it is one of his most structurally complex pieces, with the narrative constantly twisting and turning back on itself right up until the love-it-or-hate-it climax. This may never be Fincher's most celebrated movie, but having it on Blu-ray at least brings it back into the conversation.
Extras: Judge Dredd arrives sans bonus features, but Ed Wood ports over goodies from an earlier edition, including a commentary track, deleted scenes, a documentary about Wood's favorite instrument, the Theremin, and additional featurettes. Since it hails from the Criterion Collection, The Game wins in the extras department, offering a cast-and-crew yack track, an alternate ending and behind-the-scenes footage with additional commentary.

Also on DVD:
One of the summer's big success stories, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel featured an all-star cast of older British actors (Judi Dench! Maggie Smith! Bill Nighy!) traveling to India to find a new lease on life. It's entirely predictable, but the ace ensemble is a delight to watch. Morgan Freeman does his cranky old man shtick in the latest movie from the once-great Rob Reiner, The Magic of Belle Isle, a dramedy that's neither all that dramatic nor funny. The British period piece Hysteria is a pleasantly cheeky interpretation of a bit of random real-life history: the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England. Speaking of '90s classics premiering on Blu-ray, we can't not mention the arrival of the gloriously daffy The Devil's Advocate, in which Keanu Reeves discovers that he's working for the devil in the form of Al Pacino. Talk about typecasting. Finally, Shout! Factory unleashes extras-laden high-def versions of John Carpenter's Halloween II, the sequel to his iconic horror hit, and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which tried to continue the franchise without signature killer Michael Myers. Needless to say, that didn't work out so well; Myers was back killing off nubile teenagers in Halloween IV and hasn't left the series since.

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