Darkman: Collector's Edition
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy are some of the best comic book movies (well… two out of three are anyway) the genre has produced, but the director's finest superhero picture isn't based on an established Marvel or DC property. That would be Darkman, Raimi's self-generated blockbuster about a disfigured scientist (Liam Neeson) who repeatedly sheds faces and identities in an attempt to take revenge on the crime syndicate that was responsible for his accident. While the influences of such cult heroes as Swamp Thing and The Question are apparent in Raimi's vision, Darkman quickly establishes a unique identity, both as a character and as a movie. With its emphasis on practical effects and bursts of wild humor, the finished product has the inventive verve of '80s-era Raimi (before he got complacent with the digital pizzazz offered by CGI) coupled with dynamic action sequences filled with shots that resemble comic book splash pages. It's only a shame that the mass audience didn't appreciate the movie at the time, as Darkman fell well short of being the mainstream crossover that the studio and the filmmaker hoped for. (On the other hand, it developed a devoted enough fanbase to eke out a pair of exceedingly average direct-to-video sequels.) Seen today, it clearly ranks towards the top of Raimi's filmography and superhero cinema in general.
Extras: Shout! Factory has put together a great collection of bonus feature to complement this great movie, starting with a new interview with Frances McDormand (who plays the Lois Lane to Neeson's Clark Kent), a commentary track from cinematographer Bill Pope, additional interviews with various other crew members, storyboards and archival featurettes.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Rushmore and Moonrise Kingdom are probably the titles that I'd single out as being Wes Anderson's best movies, but when it comes to picking my favorite -- the one I could watch over and over again -- Fantastic Mr. Fox is a leading contender. Bringing his own unique visual and narrative style to the world of stop-motion animation, Anderson turns Roald Dahl's slender novel into an endearing caper movie with Danny Ocean himself (George Clooney, not Frank Sinatra) voicing the titular chicken/duck/apple cider thief alongside a host of other Anderson regulars and A-list newbies, including Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray. Packed with brilliant visual and verbal gags (some of which you may not notice until your third or fourth viewings) and a typically delightful, oh-so-Wes soundtrack. Dahl's genius always was writing novels that provided food for thought (and plenty of laughs) for both adults and children and Anderson honors that with crafting an animated movie that accomplishes the same feat.
Extras: A commentary track with Anderson, a feature-length storyboard animatic, behind-the-scenes footage of the cast's collective rehearsals (a rarity for animation features, where actors tend to be recorded separately), photo galleries, stop-motion tests, a documentary about Dahl and an audio recording of the author reading his text.
Kathryn Hahn gets her first indie star vehicle in this Sundance-approved portrait of pre-40s ennui. Despite sharing her stunning Silver Lake, CA home with an adorable husband (Josh Radnor) and even more adorable young son, Hahn's Rachel feels vaguely dissatisfied and out of sorts with her life and marriage. To spice things up, she and her reluctant hubby go on a double date to a strip club, where Rachel becomes entranced by a barely legal pole dancer (Juno Temple) and, in the first of many poor choices, invites her to come live in her spare room and play nanny to her kid. Writer/director Jill Soloway mines some rich dramatic territory -- most notably in an extended sequence set at a gathering of Rachel's friends and neighbors that feels like something out of a Cassavetes film -- and Hahn is more than up to the challenge, but the film is undermined by too many dramatic contrivances that render the entire premise hard to swallow.
Extras: Deleted scenes and featurettes.
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Also on DVD
A crew of badass ministers battle 3D-enhanced demons in the low-budget hell-sploitation action picture Hellbenders. Relive the immigrant experience of adorable Russian mouse Fievel courtesy of An American Tale: 2 Movie Family Fun Pack, which offers Don Bluth's 1986 original and the Western-flavored sequel.
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