I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 30, 2013

by Ethan Alter April 30, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"So Jennifer... how much does an Oscar weigh, anyway?"

Silver Linings Playbook
2012 was a very good year for Jennifer Lawrence, kicking off with her first blockbuster big star vehicle, The Hunger Games, and concluding with the release of Silver Linings Playbook, the David O. Russell-directed romantic comedy that won the actress her first Oscar at the tender age of 22. Playbook received a host of other nominations as well, including a Best Actor nod for the movie's male lead, Bradley Cooper (making him the first ex-Alias actor to receive such a distinction), and Best Director and Best Screenplay kudos for Russell, completing the director's comeback from his post-I Heart Huckabees stint in movie jail. The movie's live wire, Lawrence absolutely deserved her nomination (and victory) for playing one of the few manic pixie dream girls who feels as though she could be an actual person. As for the film itself... meh. To be fair, Playbook is more interesting than the majority of rom-coms that Hollywood churns out, but it's missing the zaniness and sense of risk that runs throughout Russell's first batch of movies, from Spanking the Monkey through Huckabees. Then again, as the majority of those films never saw a dime at the box office, it's perhaps understandable and inevitable that he'd turn to more commercial fare. But that doesn't really excuse Playbook's descent into crowd-pleasing mawkishness in its final act. Here's hoping his next movie, American Hustle, (which reunites him with Cooper and Lawrence) will be a better blend of old and new Russell.
Extras: Deleted scenes, four featurettes and highlights from the cast's many post-screening Q&A's.
Click here to read our original review

Not Fade Away
Shamefully ignored by critics and audiences during its ultra-brief theatrical release last December, David Chase's feature filmmaking debut takes a tired genre -- the '60s coming-of-age story -- and revitalizes it with the writer/director's typically impressive attention to detail, not to mention his stellar taste in music. Newcomer John Magaro shows off his acting chops and impressive set of rock pipes (plus a hairdo to rival Bob Dylan) as a small-town Jersey boy who is inspired by the arrival of the Rolling Stones on U.S. shores to join a local band, much to the displeasure of his overbearing dad (James Gandolfini). Starting out as just the drummer, Magaro soon becomes the frontman and catches the eye of disaffected suburban girl (Bella Heathcote) who becomes his source of inspiration and heartbreak. Thankfully free of the nostalgia-addled sentimentality and overabundance of historical exposition that often plagues these kinds of semi-autobiographical '60s stories, Not Fade Away is a pitch-perfect recreation of a vanished time and place and boasts an ending that's up there with The Sopranos finale in terms of its beautiful obliqueness. See it... and play it loud.
Extras: Deleted scenes and four making-of featurettes. Sadly, the movie's soundtrack isn't included, but be prepared to want to download that from iTunes as soon as the credits roll.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to read our Q&A with Chase and the movie's cast

Broken City
Moviegoers mostly ignored it during its brief theatrical release in January, but Allen Hughes's feature-length Chinatown homage is an eminently enjoyable crime drama that plays quite nicely on the small screen. Wahlberg portrays a disgraced NYC cop turned P.I. who does a favor for the Big Apple's ruthless mayor (Russell Crowe) and winds up stumbling upon a corruption plot that sends him plunging into the city government's seedy underbelly. Like Jack Nicholson's J.J. Gittes, Wahlberg's private dick is meant to be behind the eight ball for the majority of the movie's runtime, a character trait that fits Wahlberg's default setting of wide-eyed earnestness. And Crowe is far more ease at playing a bad who doesn't have to sing, even if his mayor is written and performed more as Giuliani than Bloomberg. (Come to think of it, the entire movie feels as though it's taking place in '90s New York... maybe that's how long the script has been languishing in development hell.) If you passed on Broken City in theaters, it's a worthwhile watch for a night in.
Extras: Deleted scenes (including an alternate ending), a making-of featurette and cast profiles.
Click here to read our original review

The Guilt Trip
Hard as it may be to believe, this Seth Rogen/Barbra Streisand mother-son road trip comedy wasn't the worst film I saw last year. It wasn't even in the Top 20 to be honest. I wouldn't go so far as to imply that The Guilt Trip is a good movie, but it is far from the painless endurance test I feared going in. A big part of the film's modest charm stems from the two leads, who effortlessly recreate the distinct dynamic Jewish kids have with their moms. Streisand in particular is fun to watch, most notably in what counts as the movie's comic centerpiece -- an extended sequence where her East Coast mama frequents a restaurant deep in the heart of Texas, and gets her competitive eating on by trying to down an entire plus-sized steak dinner in an hour. Another enjoyable aspect of the movie is imagining the alternate feature that could have been made featuring all the guest stars -- Casey Wilson! Colin Hanks! Adam Scott! -- who pop up for only a scene or two in the theatrical cut and then disappear. Best of all, the whole thing is over in only 90 minutes with little muss or fuss... which is more than you can say for a lot of real-life family road trips.
Extras: Deleted scenes with lots more Rogen/Streisand improv and a host of featurettes.
Click here to read our original review

The Details
With its darkly comic take on white people problems and overarching theme of how much (if at all) people should allow their less-than-noble actions to weigh on their conscience, The Details is like a cross between American Beauty and Crimes and Misdemeanors. While it's less obnoxious than the former, it's definitely not as incisive and witty as the latter, with writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes and the cast -- which includes Tobey Maguire as a suburban family man and doctor whose life goes into a tailspin when he cheats on his wife (Elizabeth Banks) with a next door neighbor (Laura Linney), as well as a good family friend (Kerry Washington) -- frequently fumbling the comic moments. (The slapsticky scenes between Linney and Maguire are especially cringe-inducing.) The ideas are there -- it's the execution that's lacking.
Extras: An alternate beginning and an alternate ending.

Strictly Ballroom
The Notebook: Limited Edition Giftset
A pair of popular contemporary love stories arrive on DVD in new high-def editions this week. Let's go in chronological order and start with Baz Luhrmann's 1992 debut, Strictly Ballroom, a spirited Down Under version of Dirty Dancing about an experienced male dancer (Paul Mercurio) who accepts the challenge of training a female newbie (Tara Morice) as they prepare to strut their stuff in a high-profile ballroom dancing competition. All of the elements that continue to make Luhrmann loved and hated in equal measure are on full display here, from his energetic (some would say, chaotic) editing, to the broad (some would say, obnoxious) humor as well as the over-the-top (some would say, caricaturish) characterizations. As far as I'm concerned, Ballroom remains Luhrmann's second-best feature (after Moulin Rouge, of course) and a spirited, if chaotic delight. On the other hand, I've never been a big booster of Nick Cassavetes' 2004 feature The Notebook, which dramatizes the goopy Nicholas Sparks book with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as the central couple whose love endures despite the numerous obstacles placed in their paths. Then again, the movie doesn't really need my help; while not a major hit in theater, it has become one of the defining romantic dramas of the past decade, with an army of dedicated fans always ready and eager to watch it again. And, to be fair to the movie for a moment, Gosling and McAdams do have potent chemistry together. But chemistry alone isn't enough to overcome Sparks's painfully contrived storyline.
Extras: Ballroom comes with a Lurhmann-led commentary track, as well as a deleted scene, a design gallery and two featurettes. The Notebook giftset comes with a 96-page journal, six postcards and a locket in addition to the usual mix of commentary tracks, deleted scenes and featurettes.

Also on DVD:
Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection remakes the George A. Romero zombie classic, moving the setting from Pennsylvania to Wales. Those wacky stoner buddies are back in cartoon form in Cheech and Chong's Animated Movie, an all-new direct-to-DVD feature that feels more like an extended trailer for the duo's '70s and '80s live-action marijuana-laced classics like Up in Smoke and Still Smokin. And timed to the release of The Guilt Trip, see Barbra Streisand in her prime in a new Blu-ray edition of Funny Girl, the 1968 movie musical that made her an international superstar.

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