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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 25, 2014

by Ethan Alter March 25, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Because Oscar voters failed to do so, Leonardo DiCaprio toasts himself on a killer performance in The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio's lengthy, lucrative collaboration with Martin Scorsese finally results in their Goodfellas, a turbo-charged, darkly-funny tour of some not very nice people doing some not very nice things. The Wolf of Wall Street isn't specifically designed to be Goodfellas 2, natch, but the connections between the two films are clear. Most notably in the way that Scorsese subtly, but pointedly indicates that the ethics-challenged Masters of the Universe who dominated the financial world in the '80s and '90s replaced the '50s and '60s-era Mob as the secret society of "made men" that ambitious young go-getters wanted to be part of. Clocking in at an expansive three hours, Wall Street can be exhausting in a way that its more finely calibrated predecessor never is. But DiCaprio's tour-de-force performance is a marvel throughout, the star turn that should have won him in an overdue Oscar. He's backed up by an equally on-point ensemble and a director who understands the evil that lurks in the hearts of men and dramatizes it in a rich, entertaining way that avoids simplistic moralizing. (Of course, that approach does often result in push back; see all those misreads of the film that incorrectly suggested that Scorsese was somehow celebrating the characters' behavior.) DiCaprio and Scorsese will undoubtedly collaborate on future projects, but it's hard to imagine them topping this one.
Extras: A lone making-of featurette, so banish all hope of deleted/extended scenes or a longer director's cut from your head.
Click here to read our original review

Delivery Man
Welcome to the Jungle
Increasingly irrelevant actor Vince Vaughn attempted to become relevant again by starring in his second shot-for-shot remake, this time for writer/director Ken Scott, revising own 2011 French-Canadian comedy, Starbuck. Changing little apart from the location (New York standing in for Montreal), Delivery Man casts Vaughn as a hapless meat deliveryman who discovers that, thanks to the copious amount of sperm he donated in his 20s, he's now the father of over 500 adult children, who are eager to meet their "dad." After taking the steps to protect his identity, he tries to catch up with his offspring on the sly, dropping in on their lives and lending some assistance. Not especially funny in its original incarnation, Delivery Man is virtually laugh-free and a checked-out Vaughn doesn't even try to enliven the proceedings. At least the cast of the equally chuckle-challenged Welcome to the Jungle is putting in some effort, starting with Jean-Claude Van Damme, now firmly in the self-parody portion of his career, playing a self-proclaimed survival expert who leads a team of white-collar lawyers into the wild for a weekend retreat/training session. Those lawyers include geeky Adam Brody, crazy Kristen Schaal, pretty Megan Boone and sadistic Rob Huebel, who promptly goes all Lord of the Flies and sets up his own tribal kingdom. Though it's little more than the cinematic equivalent of an ill-conceived improv sketch, the comic ringers in the cast do try to make the material play and come through the experience with their appeal mostly unscathed. But they can't save what's clearly a doomed safari.
Extras: Delivery Man includes deleted scenes, bloopers and three featurettes. Welcome to the Jungle comes with a deleted scene and making-of featurettes.
Click here to read our original review of Delivery Man

The Past
Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi decamps from his native country to Paris in this follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2011 feature, A Separation. Marriage, specifically the complications of ending one, is once again the topic on Farhadi's mind, as he spins a yarn about a French woman (Bérénice Bejo) who is in the process of divorcing her Iranian-born husband (Ali Mosaffa) so she can wed her new lover (Tahar Rahim). Complicating matters is the fact that her hubby-to-be is also still married and his wife is in a coma following a suicide attempt triggered by the discovery his affair. Farhadi remains a skilled writer and the actors play every emotional beat to the hilt, but there's a stilted quality to this film that wasn't present in his previous film. Maybe the change of scenery has something to do with it; A Separation functioned as both a terrific piece of storytelling and a vital glimpse into a country and a culture that we're still struggling to understand stateside. The Past takes place on more familiar terrain and, as a result, lacks that vital element of surprise.
Extras: A commentary track with Farhadi and a separate Q&A with the director.
Click here to read our original review

Best of Bogart Collection
Still among one of the most iconic actors to ever grace the silver screen, Humphrey Bogart's four standout Warner Bros. films -- The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The African Queen and, of course, Casablanca -- are given the Blu-ray box set treatment. Falcon, of course, is the prototypical detective story, while The African Queen is one of the finest adventure films ever made and Casablanca is… well, Casablanca. But the best film of the bunch has to be Sierra Madre, a stunning meditation on human greed set against the backdrop of the titular mountains. As memorable as he is as Sam Spade and Rick Blaine, Dobbs might be Bogart's finest screen creation.
Extras: Each film includes a host of bonus features, ranging from commentary tracks with Bogie biographer Eric Lax and vintage featurettes to radio shows and archival newsreels.

Also on DVD:
This year's Foreign Language Oscar went to Italy's The Great Beauty, the story of a recovering, elderly party animal reviewing his wild life and times. The CGI0animated dino epic Walking with Dinosaurs got stampeded over by Disney's Frozen when it hit theaters last December, which just goes to show you that if you don’t have Ice Age or The Land Before Time in your title, your prehistoric critters aren't going to get much commercial traction. Anton Yelchin plays a short-order chef with paranormal abilities -- like the power to down an entire plate of fries without gaining a pound! -- in the indie oddity Odd Thomas. Still uncertain about the ramifications of coming out, a group of gay teenagers form a "Geography Club" to secretly discuss their issues -- at least until their cover is blown -- in the high school comedy Geography Club. And finally, speaking of Martin Scorsese, the director's underappreciated 1982 cult favorite The King of Comedy premiers on Blu-ray at last, giving old and new Scorsese fans the chance to appreciate the dark, demented genius of Robert De Niro's terrific comic performance.

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