‘Drinking Buddies’ and Robert Altman’s ‘Nashville’ Are Among the Best Blu-ray & DVD Releases of the Week
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Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are friends and co-workers at a beer brewery, and both are in relationships. She’s dating Chris (Ron Livingston), and he’s engaged to Jill (Anna Kendrick), but when the four get together for a weekend at Chris’ cabin some lines are crossed in the realm of love and fidelity.
Ignore the marketing as it’s selling something (a romantic comedy) that this film is most definitely not. Director Joe Swanberg keeps the improv method used in his past “mumblecore” films, but it still manages to tell a cohesive and truly affecting story. A big reason for that is a cast of extremely talented actors with wicked good comedic timing in the lead roles. The four performers, along with a more assured Swanberg directing and editing, have crafted a story about heartbreak, temptation, and friendship. While they’re all fantastic, this is Wilde’s show, and she absolutely crushes it with a character that will leave you frustrated, aroused, entertained, and engaged in nearly equal measure.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, interviews, featurettes, commentary, trailer]
Pitch: “It’s the kind of party where everyone gets wasted.” It took them seven years to come up with this tag line…
Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is an enigma to the boys and girls at her high school. She was friends with an outcast, she blossomed physically over the summer into a blond bombshell, and she has yet to let anyone into her pants. A small group invite her to a weekend getaway in rural Texas, but while the boys have plans to go a-boning someone else has plans for murder. Murder!
Jonathan Levine’s first film is seven years old, but it only released in the U.S. this year. Why? Because the Weinsteins are dumb. Happily, it remains an interesting and attractively-shot take on the slasher genre while also offering a commentary of sorts on school bullying that’s even more relevant today. The film has an intoxicating style too that just lulls you in with its visuals and soundtrack in preparation for the bloodshed. Plus, Amber Heard.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Pitch: “They bring you the news so you don’t have to get it yourself.” So yeah, they’re based on reality…
The 1970’s were a magical time for local TV news anchormen, and the legendary Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) was a man among other men. Together with his team (including Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner) he kept San Diego classy and partially informed, but his greatest challenge came in the arrival of Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). This film documents that totally true story.
Real talk, I only just watched Anchorman for the very first time. And I laughed a lot! Adam McKay’s casual but comedically refined direction combined with a stellar cast of funny men and women has resulted in an eminently quotable movie that remains one of Ferrell’s career high points. This Blu-ray re-release (timed for the arrival of the sequel later this month) combines all the special features from previous incarnations including both the theatrical and unrated versions as well as the “alternate” film Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie.
[Blu-ray extras: Three versions of the film, commentary, bloopers, deleted scenes, music video, auditions, featurettes]
Pitch: Replace Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton with Karen Black and Barbara Baxley and you’re somewhere in the ballpark of this Nashville…
Boasting an incredible ensemble cast replete with talented musicians, discovered unknowns, iconic character actors, and some of the biggest movie stars of ’70s New Hollywood, Robert Altman’s epic Nashville paints an intricate and uncompromising portrait of the dark corners between fame, politics, and the American Dream. His most ambitious film until Short Cuts, Nashville is the magnum opus of the many notable films Altman’s made throughout the 1970s. Here he perfects his kinetic widescreen palette and groundbreaking use of multi-track sound mixing to map onto the film’s eponymous setting such detailed, intimate, and subtly incisive interactions between two dozen-plus characters.
With loads of features, Criterion’s release stages a full appreciation of Nashville as a masterpiece of collaborative and improvisatory filmmaking. Come for the hilarious Elliot Gould cameo, but stay for Keith Carradine’s heartbreaking serenade to Lily Tomlin with “I’m Easy.” ‐ Landon Palmer
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Altman commentary, feature-length making-of documentary, archival interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, trailer, and an illustrated booklet with an essay by Molly Haskell]
Eva van End is a shy, insecure teenage girl saddled with a family that’s often too focused on their own lives to even notice her. Her life, and that of her family, changes dramatically with the arrival of a German exchange student named Veit. Suddenly her parents, her two brothers, and Eva herself find themselves changing and growing in unexpected ways. Michiel Ten Horn’s feature is an odd duck that owes much to the films and sensibilities of Wes Anderson, and while it doesn’t approach their level of accomplishment or cohesion there’s enough here to make Horn a talent to watch.
[DVD extras: Short films]
Freda Kelly took an unassuming receptionist job when she was just a teen, and while she expected very little from it the gig ended up being something truly extraordinary. Her employers, a band called The Beatles, found some success in the entertainment industry, and they brought Freda along for the ride. This fits in nicely with other recent documentaries offering a glimpse into a previously unknown part of music history in that it’s both somewhat engaging and ultimately forgettable.
Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, Q&A, interviews, commentary, gallery, trailer
Clary Fray (Lily Collins) is a fairly unique and special teenager in that she’s descended from magical warriors whose job it is to defend humanity against the armies of darkness. Cue the convoluted exposition, mixed bag visual effects, uninteresting love interest, and setup for a sequel that’s already in pre-production. Skip it and watch Beautiful Creatures instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, music video]
There really should be a saying about how truth is often stranger than fiction, but in lieu of that I’ll simply point out that while Michael Bay’s latest film is based on a true story it remains one of the year’s strangest tales. Amateur thugs in Miami decide to kidnap a Schlotzky’s franchisee in order to fleece him of all his wealth, but the situation escalates in incredibly violent and ridiculous ways. It’s a fun movie, but this “Special Collector’s Edition” re-release is an insulting double dip for a movie that just released a bare-bones version a couple months ago. A commentary from Bay would have justified it, but the 56 minutes of promotional making-of material does not.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
This Beatles-inspired mockumentary from the mind of Eric Idle seems at first at risk for picking such easy targets for spoofing, but Idle and his fantastic supporting cast deliver some real laughs. Just as important, they show an affection for the subject that’s evident in the detail and attention they’ve made in recreating certain sequences and appearances. Cameos from the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and John Belushi seem fitting, but seeing George Harrison get in on the act is a delight unto itself. This is a great gift idea for fans of laughter and the Fab Four.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, Can’t Buy Me Lunch]
Adam (Kirk Douglas) is stationed on a moonbase off Saturn, and in addition to working on ways to increase Earth’s food supply he spends much of his days smiling. Why? Because the only other person there is Alex (Farrah Fawcett), and she’s prone to dressing scantily. Their perfect situation takes a dark turn when Harvey Keitel arrives with a murderous robot in tow. This is an odd piece of sci-fi entertainment even beyond the decision to dub Keitel’s voice, but it’s worth a watch for genre fans.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, trailer]
Matt Groening’s The Simpsons has been a staple of Fox’s Sunday night for almost three decades, and while it doesn’t garner the same level of respect and popularity today as it used to there are still some laughs to be found. The latest release is actually from the 2004–2005 season though, so you’re still allowed to truly enjoy it. It opens with the standard “Treehouse of Horror” episode, but the highlight has to be “Thank God It’s Doomsday” which sees Homer messing around with the Rapture. This season also features a healthy roster of guest stars including Jason Bateman, Liam Neeson, Amy Poehler, James Caan, Eric Idle, Lucy Liu, and… Thomas Pynchon?
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, bonus episodes]
The Pink Panthers are (loose) gang of jewel thieves who’ve been behind some of the more audacious burglaries and robberies in recent years of gems of all kinds. Far from the Thomas Crowne school of deft style and grace, these folks use brute force and shock to achieve their goals. This documentary features original footage, recreations, animations, and interviews with witnesses and members of the gang to tell the group’s history. The film is surprisingly lacking in energy, but there are enough fascinating elements at play here to make it watchable.
[DVD extras: Interview, cctv footage, featurettes]
When the evil Gargamel (Hank Azaria) kidnaps the only Smurf with a working vagina the remaining Smurfs join forces with Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays to rescue her as part of Operation: Blue Balls. That’s a loose interpretation of this sequel’s plot, but it’s accurate enough. The material never rises to the level of the cast or CGI quality though leaving laughs to fall flat on the floor between uninspired set-pieces. Kids who appreciate lowest common denominator entertainment may enjoy this, but you really shouldn’t encourage them. Skip it and watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog instead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, short “The Legend of Smurfy Hollow”]
A group of friends head into the woods for a camping trip, but the vacation turns deadly when they discover a dead couple and the man who’s most likely responsible. It’s a bad sign when much of your serious film feels like an unfunny comedy, but that’s the least of this movie’s issues. There’s not a single believable human action here as everyone acts and reacts in ludicrous ways as the film winds its way towards a dumb ending. Skip it and watch Rabies instead.
[DVD extras: Commentary, trailer]
Hugh Jackman stars (once again) as the X-Men’s most popular hero, Logan aka Wolverine, but this time he’s fighting without his superhero friends acquaintances by his side. He heads to Japan to meet a man whose life he saved decades earlier and who now offers Logan a chance at mortality. There’s no doubt this is a major upgrade over the first stand-alone Wolverine film, and handily bests the third X-Men too, but there are still some issues holding it back from greatness. It should be noted that an extended cut is also available separately.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Alternate ending, featurettes]
Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:
Argo: The Declassified Extended Edition
Dick Figures: The Movie
Duck Dynasty: Seasons 1–3 Collector’s Set
Il Generale Della Rovere
The Hangover Trilogy
Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Series
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Criterion)
The Jack Ryan Collection
Lilyhammer: Season One
Things Never Said
Zatch Bell 1 & 2