Last week I lead off the column with Richard Donner’s
“Inside Moves,” a low-key and terrific character study that
was finally released on DVD after years of rights issues.
My “Pick of the Week” this time out is another warm audience pleaser: director Randall Miller’s delightful BOTTLE SHOCK (***, 109 mins., 2008, PG-13), which arrives on DVD courtesy of Fox.
Based on a true story, Alan Rickman stars as Steven Spurrier, a British
wine connoisseur who sets up a blind taste-testing that pits a group of
French stalwarts against a Napa Valley vineyard owned and operated by
dad Bill Pullman and hippie son Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in the
upcoming “Star Trek” movie). Even though the Californians
are struggling to generate sales in a market dominated by Europeans,
Rickman’s plan sets the gears in a motion for a particularly
fitting patriotic contest during America’s Bicentennial summer of
Miller, who wrote “Bottle Shock” with Jody Savin and Russ
Schwartz, has assembled a terrific cast for this laid-back,
entertaining tale: Rickman is splendid as the stuffy Brit trying to
make a name for his wine shop, and he’s balanced perfectly by the
young Americans, from Pine to Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez and
Eliza Dushku. Veteran support from Pullman, Miguel Sandoval and Dennis
Farina adds the icing on the cake, with an especially fine score from
Mark Adler and pleasing cinematography from Michael J. Ozier backing
the predictable yet undeniably pleasant and charming proceedings.
Fox’s DVD boasts a crisp 16:9 (2.35) widescreen transfer with 5.1
Dolby Digital sound and several fine extras: commentary with the cast
and crew, four deleted scenes, and two Making Of featurettes. Highly
TV on DVD
Warner Home Video continues their remastered editions of the classic
“Peanuts” TV specials this month with a new double feature
highlighted by YOU’RE A GOOD SPORT, CHARLIE BROWN (25 mins., 1979).
Debuting on CBS on October 28th, 1975, “You’re a Good
Sport” finds Peppermint Patty talking Charlie Brown into
participating in a motocross race, where good o’l C.B. takes on
Snoopy (dressed up as the Masked Marvel) and company in a race that
comes down to the wire -- and doesn’t exactly end how
“Peanuts” fans might anticipate.
creator Charles Schulz’s son, Chris, was heavy into motor sports
growing up, with his father having built areas on their property for
tennis, golf, and even his son’s fondness for racing bikes.
“You’re a Good Sport” incorporates these athletic
elements into a cohesive and entertaining story, which starts with
Snoopy providing some John McEnroe-like antics on the tennis court, and
ends with an amusing spin on “The Tortoise and the Hare.”
Vince Guaraldi’s score, as always, lends a spirited assist to the
Making its formal debut on DVD in the U.S., “You’re a Good
Sport” is one of the better “Peanuts” specials from
the mid to late ‘70s. Complimenting the show on DVD is the debut
of the 1979 special “You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown,”
which puts Charlie Brown through the Junior Decathlon, and once again
against the dastardly Masked Marvel (Snoopy of course).
Both specials have been cleaned up and remastered for this Warner DVD,
and each looks crisp and every bit as vibrant as the source material
allows. The mono sound is also perfectly acceptable, and extras include
one 10-minute featurette offering an interview with Chris Schulz about
the background that led to “You’re a Good
Sport...”’s creation along with comments from other
Next up for Peanuts fans is a remastered edition of
“Snoopy’s Reunion,” due out on April 7th along with
one of the less-memorable specials, “It’s Flashbeagle,
Charlie Brown” (nearly the low point in the series next to
“Happy New Year, Charlie Brown”).
series were all rage back in the 1980s, from “Amazing
Stories” to “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” the new
version of “The Twilight Zone,” the ridiculously violent
“Freddy’s Nightmares” and one of the shows that
started it all -- producer George A. Romero’s TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE (1983-85, aprx. 9 hours; CBS/Paramount).
I was never a fan of “Darkside” growing up, finding the
stories obvious and the low-budget production values to be a detriment
to the outlandish tales the producers were trying to tell, but fans who
enjoyed Romero’s anthology film “Creepshow” (written
with Stephen King) found this similarly-themed series to be agreeable
enough, with each half-hour episode ending with a pre-ordained plot
twist and a fair amount of horror to be had in most episodes.
Paramount’s DVD box-set includes the syndicated series’
initial 24 episodes (produced between 1983 and 1985) in satisfying
full-screen transfers and mono soundtracks. Romero offers a commentary
on the debut episode “Trick or Treat,” and there are
appearances from Christian Slater, Justine Bateman, Danny Aiello, Brent
Spiner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (as a genie in an unfortunate adaptation of
a Harlan Ellison story), Tippi Hedren, Eddie Bracken, and Fritz Weaver
scattered throughout the show’s first season.
“E/R” star Julianna Marguiles took some time off before returning to TV in the recent Fox network vehicle CANTERBURY’S LAW (2008, aprx. 265 mins., Sony).
Alas, this fairly routine legal drama, starring Marguiles as a defense
attorney with an understanding but often frustrated husband (Aidan
Quinn), never really caught on with audiences, earning decent critical
notices but lukewarm ratings when it premiered a year ago. It’s
likely that the strike didn’t help matters, but regardless,
it’s safe to say that there’s nothing about
“Canterbury’s Law” that anyone is likely to remember
other than it being “just another legal drama.”
Sony’s double-disc DVD set preserves the entire series -- all six
episodes -- in 16:9 (1.78) widescreen transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital
Next week Sony also releases another recent small-screen drama on DVD: AMC’s odd BREAKING BAD (2008, aprx. 346 mins.).
While those of us who recall AMC as being an actual home for classic
movies still lament, from time to time, its evolution into just another
cable network (airing movies that are anything BUT classics), at least
the channel has produced several original series of note, including the
superb, Emmy-winning “Mad Men.”
“Breaking Bad” is a little bit more “out
there,” following Bryan Cranston as a chemistry teacher,
diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, who opts to work with one of his
former students in selling crystal meth in order to support his family.
It sounds a little bit like “Weeds” (the Showtime series
with Mary Louise Parker as a suburban single mom who supports her
family by selling pot), but from what I’ve seen of the show here
and there, “Breaking Bad” is a more compelling and gripping
dramatic work, anchored by Cranston’s Emmy-winning lead
Sony’s DVD box-set of “Breaking Bad” includes
commentaries from creator-producer Vince Gilligan, screen tests,
deleted scenes, numerous interviews and a Making Of segment, plus
excellent 16:9 (1.78) widescreen transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital
HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE (**½, 110 mins., 2008, R; MGM/Fox):
Box-office disappointment for British comic-actor Simon Pegg, who stars
in this vehicle as an obnoxious celebrity journalist who comes to the
U.S. for work for a Manhattan magazine published by Jeff Bridges.
Kristen Dunst plays a fellow writer, while Megan Fox is the actress
pursuing and Gillian Anderson her surprisingly accommodating publicist.
A few laughs do pop up along the way but the movie is a little bit too
long and unfocused to really click; still, it’s worth a rental
for Pegg fans. Fox’s DVD includes commentary with Pegg and
director Robert Weide, plus a separate commentary with Weide, a Making
Of featurette, a 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Fans
of the movie should note that, while no high-definition release is on
the docket for the US, a Blu-Ray release is due shortly in the UK.
CHOKE (92 mins., 2008, R; Fox): “Fight
Club” author Chuck Palahniuk’s tale about a sex-addicted
con man (Sam Rockwell), his ailing mother (Anjelica Huston) and his
equally dysfunctional best friend (Brad William Henke) comes to the
screen in a weird, fragmented movie written and directed by actor Clark
Gregg. Fox’s DVD includes commentary with Gregg and Rockwell plus
deleted scenes, a gag reel and numerous Making Of featurettes, plus a
fine 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
SCREAMERS: THE HUNTING (95 mins., 2008, R; Sony): The
original “Screamers” was a sturdy, fairly well-made
Canadian sci-fi film; this direct-to-video follow-up stars Gina Holden
(cute but completely out of her element) leading a team of soldiers as
they return to Sirius 6B where the “screamers” first wiped
out a human colony some 13 years ago. Miguel Tejada-Flores has
certainly been a journeyman screenwriter, having penned “Revenge
of the Nerds,” “Fright Night Part II” and now this
disposable sci-fi thriller co-starring Lance Henriksen, which offers
few thrills and a derivative, Sci-Fi Channel “Original
Movie” kind of feel. Sony’s DVD includes a 16:9 (1.78)
widescreen transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound and a Making Of
few years back, while flipping through my DirecTV channels, I caught
the first “High School Musical” on the Disney Channel for a
few seconds and quickly moved on. Little did I know that master
choreographer/director Kenny Ortega’s original cable-movie would
turn into one of the larger, full-blown pop culture phenomenons of the
decade, spawning a small-screen sequel and now a big-screen finale in
the form of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 (**½, 117 mins., 2008, G; Disney).
Out this week on both Special Edition DVD and Blu-Ray from Disney, this
swan-song (apparently) for Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale
and the gang boasts more elaborate production values than its
predecessor, in addition to the same kind of feel-good story, upbeat
(and bland) pop tunes and dancing that made it such a smash with its
intended teen audience.
Disney’s double-disc DVD includes a digital copy of the movie,
presented in an extended version with additional scenes (running five
minutes longer than the theatrical version), along with a terrific 16:9
(1.85) widescreen transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound and extras
including deleted scenes with Ortega, bloopers, Making Of featurettes,
an “emotional farewell” from the gang to East High,
sing-along material and other assorted extras for kids.
The Blu-Ray set is even more elaborate: a three-platter affair also
sporting the DVD and digital copy. Technically, the AVC encoded
transfer is top-notch, as is the DTS Master Audio sound, both offering
appreciable upgrades on the DVD edition. Extras on the Blu-Ray platter
include a BD-Live exclusive photo feature, cast profiles and a
“Senior Awards” segment, along with all the goodies from
the double-disc DVD, mostly here in HD as well.
To coincide with the release of HSM3, Disney is also rolling out the original HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL
on Blu-Ray for the first time (the second installment has been on Blu
since last year). Fans will be happy that the original film is
presented in widescreen (1.78) and with lossless 5.1 PCM sound for the
first time ever here, with all the extras (music videos, sing-alongs,
and interactive dance content) recycled from the “Remix”
Special DVD edition as well.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE MYSTERY OF THE EASTER CHIPMUNK (1984-88,
66 mins., Paramount):
Compilation DVD offers five episodes from “Alvin
& The Chipmunks”’ long run on Saturday morning TV, with both an
Easter episode (“The Easter Chipmunk”) and St. Patrick’s Day-themed one
(“Luck O’ The Chipmunks”) included for good measure. The stereo sound
and full-screen transfers are all just fine.
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