BLOGS

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

by Ethan Alter June 12, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Just in time for summer, here's a healthy dose of Meatballs.

Meatballs
The original '80s summer camp comedy (although it was actually released in 1979) arrives on Blu-ray for the first time, which means this is probably the best this made-on-a-shoestring movie has ever looked. Director Ivan Reitman recruited Saturday Night Live ensemble player Bill Murray to play the wiseass head counselor at Camp North Star, a summer retreat populated by some of the weirdest and most well-meaning campers and counselors around. Like many early '80s comedies, there's no real plot to speak of, just a series of comic sequences that eventually culminates in a nerds vs. jocks showdown as Camp North Star takes on its better-funded rival, Camp Mohawk. No longer as laugh out loud hysterical as it was back in the day when we were all much younger (although many of Murray's clearly improvised one-liners still land) Meatballs is best enjoyed as an example of what raunchy teen comedies used to look like before they got all slick and, strangely, more conservative. These days, the cast would be filled with much-older, much-hotter models instead of the gawky-looking kids and young adults seen here. And the copious drug and sex talk would immediately get it slapped with an R-rating instead of a gentle PG. For better or for worse, they just don't make 'em like Meatballs anymore.
Extras: A nostalgic commentary track with Reitman and the movie's co-writer Dan Goldberg.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Guy Ritchie's sequel to his wildly successful 2009 interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's immortal sleuth is twice as loud and four times as ridiculous as the original. Essentially abandoning any attempt at mystery, the practically non-existent plot sends Sherlock (once again played by a manic, mugging Robert Downey Jr.), his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson (a bored to death Jude Law) and a superfluous new female accomplice (Noomi Rapace) running from one action set-piece to the next in pursuit of master criminal Professor Moriarty (Mad Men's Jared Harris, the only actor who deigns to give an actual performance). There are lots of explosions and fisticuffs, but all that action (directed in Ritchie's typically chaotic style) can't hide the lack of an engaging, well-plotted story. Stick with the BBC's recent Sherlock series instead.
Extras: A Maximum Movie Mode hosted by Downey and seven behind-the-scenes featurettes covering such topics as the bond between Holmes and Watson and Guy Ritchie's working methods.
Click here to read our original review

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Spider-Man
Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 3
The first half of 2012 saw the release of one of the best Marvel Comics-inspired movies -- The Avengers -- and one of the worst, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance an entirely unnecessary sequel to the entirely unnecessary 2007 original. The best you can say about the second installment is that at least it isn't as boring as the first one. Credit for that goes to the directing duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the guys behind the Crank flicks. They bring a cartoonish sensibility to Spirit of Vengeance that's entertaining... for about five minutes. But then the inanity kicks in when Nicolas Cage's Johnny Blaze is charged with recovering a young kid who has aroused the interest of his old pal, Satan (Ciarán Hinds). This quest takes him to various interchangeable locations (most of which appear to be construction sites) where he glowers and yells at the bad guys until his demonic alter ego appears. For a bad-ass biker, this Ghost Rider spends a heck of a lot of time off his motorcycle, preferring to stand around while his enemies to attack him one-by-one. Even Cage's unhinged shtick can't elevate Spirit of Vengeance from just plain dumb to dumb fun. If you want to see what good Marvel movies look like, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy are being re-released in individual Blu-ray editions today to stoke excitement for the upcoming reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 is obviously the best of the three, but the first one does a great job setting up Spidey's origin story and there's at least half of a good movie in Spider-Man 3 before it all goes to pieces. And at least it never stoops to having its hero urinate flames in the way that Ghost Rider does.
Extras: Ghost Rider comes with a video commentary with Neveldine and Taylor, a batch of deleted scenes and a six-part making-of documentary. The three Spider-Man films include a selection of previously released bonus material, including commentary tracks, blooper reels, music videos and featurettes.

A Little Bit of Heaven
Essentially a Lifetime movie that scored a theatrical release, A Little Bit of Heaven stars Kate Hudson as a fast-living single gal whose life is completely upended when she's diagnosed with colon cancer. Suddenly, long days at the office and long nights out partying are replaced by exhausting medical treatments and emotional encounters with family (including mom Kathy Bates and dad Treat Williams) and friends (Lucy Punch and Romany Malco). Helping her through the final months of her life is a handsome doctor (Gael Garcia Bernal) who gets closer to this particular patient that he perhaps should. Although there are a handful of resonant moments, much of Heaven is a slog to sit through and the attempts at irreverent humor (including Whoopi Goldberg literally playing God and Peter Dinklage's brief appearance as a male escort that briefly takes her mind of her troubles) are largely off-putting. The good intentions are there, but the feeling isn't.
Extras: None.

Also on DVD:
Tyler Perry continues to produce movies at a rate that would make Woody Allen blush; his latest Tyler Perry's Good Deeds stars Perry himself as a well-off businessman whose comfortable life is shaken up when he decides to help a single mother (Thandie Newton) who works at his office building. Aside from Christopher Nolan's Batman flicks, DC's live-action superhero outings have floundered of late, but they have a thriving line of direct-to-DVD animated features, the latest of which is Superman Vs. The Elite, an adaptation of a story that appeared in a 2001 issue of Action Comics, in which the Big Blue Boy Scout taking on a team of heroes who have no qualms about killing their enemies. Hal Ashby's 1971 classic Harold and Maude gets the Criterion treatment, including a remastered version of this marvelous May-December romance, an audio commentary with the film's producer and Ashby's biographer and a booklet with an essay by critic Matt Zoller Seitz. Criterion is also putting out a new edition of Danny Boyle's terrific 1994 debut feature Shallow Grave, which doesn't get as much love as his celebrated sophomore effort Trainspotting, but in its own way it's just as memorable. Extras include two audio commentaries, a 1993 making-of documentary and new interviews with cast members Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor.

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