Tuesday, October 30 2012, 07:31 PM MDT
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for October 30, 2012
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for October 30, 2012
By Ryan Michael Painter
(KUTV) This week’s releases feature a mix of classics and comedies. The most notable release is Universal’s remarkable 15-disc “Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection” Blu-ray box set.
If you’re looking for laughs, rather than chills, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis star in “The Campaign,” a vulgar parody of the real political races we’ve been subjected to.
Those wishing to escape politics should put the smart romantic comedy “Ruby Sparks” or the crowd pleasing “Safety Not Guaranteed.”
If you enjoyed “Frankenweenie,” “Paranormal” or “Hotel Transylvania” I’d recommend “DreamWorks: Spooky Stories.”
Fans of foreign films will most certainly want to give the Russian drama “Elena” a couple hours of their time.
Here are this week’s reviews by genre.
Comedy: The Campaign, Ruby Sparks, Safety Not Guaranteed
Family: DreamWorks: Spooky Stories
Thriller: Alfred Hitchock: The Masterpiece Collection
The Campaign (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
When “The Campaign” was released in August the mudslinging of local and national politicians had yet to really kick in. Two months later the film feels a little timelier and a little less outrageous. The story pits incumbent Democratic Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) against Republican Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), a well-meaning inept small-town tour guide. Unbeknownst to Huggins, his primary supporters are a pair of corrupt businessmen who intend on using him to push their agenda because Brady refuses to play by their rules anymore. The script never misses it chance to throw a punch below the belt and tends to opt for shock value over intelligent satire. You’ll find plenty to laugh about, but they’re cheap laughs that ultimately will keep the film from having any sort of longevity. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have any good ideas; it most certainly does. But the best of these ideas are undermined by a rather ridiculous that feels like a studio-mandated rewrite rather than a natural conclusion to the story. I kept hoping there would be a post-credits scene that would redeem the film, but it never came. If you’re looking for a vulgar political parody “The Campaign” will distract you, just don’t expect it to be a lasting remedy for all of your election season trauma.
Ruby Sparks (DVD and Blu-ray)
Following his debut novel Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) was hailed as the voice of his generation; years later he’s in counseling, still working on his second novel and unable to maintain a relationship of any lasting quality. To break his writers block Calvin creates Ruby (Zoe Kazan), a girl with the perfect mix of intellectualism and beauty. With each sentence she becomes more and more real until the day Calvin finds her standing in his kitchen.
“Ruby Sparks” is a modern fairytale filled with wit, heart and an appropriate amount of reality thrown in to keep the story from becoming too sugary. It dismisses the idea that love is easy; even when you’re paired with the perfect person. Kazan’s script is a little self indulgent at times as it name checks all of her favorite writers, but considering the film is about a self-consumed writer that prefers the fiction on his bookshelves to the life outside his house’s door these little excesses are easily overlooked. Looking for a smart romantic comedy? “Ruby Sparks” is your girl.
Safety Not Guaranteed (DVD and Blu-ray)
Desperate for a story a journalist set out to investigate this bizarre classified ad:
“Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.”
The results are absolutely wonderful. “Safety Not Guaranteed” was one of my favorite films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s simply a glorious and oddly uplifting character comedy filled with beautiful warmth. The cast is fantastic, particularly Aydrey Plaza and Mark Duplass, and there’s just something absolutely perfect about the way the film is paced. The final scene ranks as one of my all-time favorites and literally had me and the rest of the audience on our feet and cheering as the credits started to roll (and not in that disingenuous sort of way that happens at many Sundance Screenings).
Late in her life Elena married Vladimir, a wealthy man in need of a caretaker. Now Elena’s deadbeat son wants his stepfather to share his money with the rest of the family. Vladimir would rather die than give him a cent. Torn between her duties as a mother and as a wife Elena struggles to find a way to move forward without destroying either relationship. Things become all the more complicated when Vladimir’s wayward daughter enter the picture.
“Elena” is a Russian film that breaks away from the Hollywood formula by presenting flawed characters that have all valid points of view. They might not be “right” in the strictest letter of the law, but their actions are understandable. There’s a certain primal element to the characters. Their actions are more instinctual than rational. I like a film that challenges me to look at a situation from multiple angles. Of course the moment you think you’ve found your footing “Elena” pulls the carpet out from underneath your feat, but that’s part of what makes the film such a pleasing experience.
DreamWorks Spooky Stories (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
“Spooky Stories” is a collection of five animated shorts featuring the characters from “Shrek” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.” True to form the “Shrek” films tend to play off of established ghost stories and pop songs while “Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space” and its sequel “Night of the Living Carrots” have their roots in ’50s sci-fi. It’s more silly than it is scary, but it’s always entertaining and will likely appeal as much to adults (who’ll catch all the jokes and references) as it does to children.
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-ray)
This 15-film collection pulls together the majority of director Alfred Hitchcock’s Hollywood films starting in the early 1940s and stretching to the end of his career with 1976’s “Family Plot.” This includes Hitchcock’s most celebrated films “Psycho,” “Rear Window,” “The Birds,” “North by Northwest” and “Vertigo” alongside films like “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Marnie,” “Saboteur,” “Torn Curtain,” “Rope,” “The Trouble with Harry,” “Topaz,” “Shadow of a Doubt” and “Frenzy.” You could argue that the only classic left out of this set is “Strangers on a Train,” which made its Blu-ray debut a few weeks back. For some this collection might feel like overkill, but you’d be hard pressed to dismiss any of the 15 films as filler. Even in his weakest of moments Hitchcock is decidedly better that his contemporaries.
13 of the 15 films in this set are making their Blu-ray debuts (“Psycho” and “North by Northwest” are the exceptions). For this set Universal went back and carefully restored the original film elements and the results are very pleasing. The films look unquestionably better than the old DVD releases. The color is brighter, there is more depth and texture and the new audio mixes are effective without ever sounding modern. There is some print damage here and there, but I didn’t notice anything that took away from the presentation. My only complaint is that there wasn’t any new bonus material created for this set (there is an attractive 58-page book). This is a weak protest because they have included the majority of documentaries and commentaries that were created for the various DVD releases and those offer a more than adequate supplemental package.
This year October clearly belongs to Universal Pictures, between this and their “Universal Classic Monsters: Essential Collection” the studio has provided more than enough cinematic material to make your Halloween all the creepier.
Based on Robin Cook’s novel “Coma” was produced by Tony Scott and Ridley Scott for A&E. The story follows Susan Wheeler (Lauren Ambrose), a medical student training at Peach Tree Memorial Hospital. Susan is surprised by the number of patients who slip into comas following surgery and begins to suspect that Mrs. Emerson (Ellen Burstyn), who runs the facility known as the Jefferson Institute, has something to do with it.
The cast is good (James Woods, Geena Davis and Richard Dreyfuss also pop up), but the series has a hard time balancing its drama with its thriller elements. It sways from being sensible to outrageous. Still, there is more good than there is bad and if you can look past the campy bits (or relish in them) there’s entertainment to be had.
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)