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I Want My DVD: Tuesday, August 7, 2012

by Ethan Alter August 7, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How many trees did they have to chop down to print these Lorax DVD labels?

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat
Dr. Seuss's tongue-twisty, beautifully drawn books have entertained zillions of kids for decades, but they've never translated all that well to the big screen, as Ron Howard's misbegotten Grinch flick and Mike Meyers' execrable Cat in the Hat have indicated. So calling The Lorax the best Seussian film made to date isn't especially high praise. And that's only appropriate since the movie isn't especially great; in dragging the story out to feature length, the filmmakers are forced to tack on additional subplots and bits of comic business that don't make the movie any funnier or more resonant. On the other hand, the basic Lorax storyline is translated fairly well, with Danny DeVito and Ed Helms both contributing good vocal turns as the little orange environmentalist and the misguided industrialist respectively. In a death match between The Lorax and its animated predecessor, 2008's Horton Hears a Who!, I'd give this one a narrow victory. If you're looking for the best page-to-screen translations of Seuss's work, TV is the place to go; in addition to the previously available 1966 cartoon version of The Grinch and the anthology Dr. Seuss on the Loose, there's 1971's The Cat in the Hat, out today in a new Blu-ray version. Clocking in at a swift, fun 30 minutes (which is the ideal length for a Seuss tale honestly) this Cat captures the whimsy of the good doctor's wordplay and visual style with nary a sign of Mike Meyers in sight.
Extras: The Lorax comes with three all-new mini movies, a deleted scene, a sing-along, kid-friendly interactive games and, for the grown-ups, a commentary track and making-of featurettes. The Cat in the Hat includes two other small-screen Seussian specials, Daisy-Head Mayzie and The Hoober-Bloob Highway.
Click here to read our original review of The Lorax

Marley
Kevin Macdonald's expansive documentary about the reggae icon aspires to be the authorized, definitive account of Bob Marley's life and times and, in that respect, it more or less succeeds. The Jamaican musician's entire family cooperated with Macdonald -- whose non-fiction credits include Touching the Void and the Oscar-winning doc One Day in September -- sitting down for extensive interviews and turning over the keys to their private archive, allowing him to use previously unreleased music and performance footage. The result is a 145-minute treasure trove for Marley fans and a great introduction to the artist and his music for reggae newbies.
Extras: A commentary track with Macdonald and Marley's son, Ziggy, additional and extended interviews and a photo gallery.

Adventures in Babysitting: 25th Anniversary Edition
Clue: The Movie
Spaceballs: The 25th Anniversary Edition
Hands up anyone else who watched these '80s comedies (two of which are new to Blu-ray) over and over again on cable during their formative years growing up? Phew... not just me then. Picking a favorite of these three isn't easy, but I'd probably lean towards 1987's Adventures in Babysitting, the definitive babysitting comedy and the second-best madcap Chicago misadventure after Ferris Bueller's Day Off. From a cameo by "Thor" to Elisabeth Shue crooning the "Babysitting Blues" to Sara dangling off the side of the Windy City's Smurfit-Stone Building, Adventures is packed with moments that an entire generation has memorized. Based on the board game of the same name, Clue: The Movie is a comic farce dressed up as a whodunit mystery and features an A-list comic ensemble -- including Madeline Kahn, Michael McKean and Christopher Lloyd -- as the familiar color-coded cast of murder suspects. But the movie's real star is Tim Curry as harried butler Wadsworth (a character not in the game) who knows a lot more than he's letting on. Clue has probably aged the worst of these three comedies (the casually cruel gay jokes are the most unfortunate sign of its era), but Curry's performance is still a highlight, as is the extended finale when he re-enacts the entire movie on the way to revealing the identity of the killer. Last, but certainly not least is Mel Brooks' Star Wars spoof, which is being re-issued on high-def in a 25th anniversary edition. While not one of the filmmaker's top-tier comedies, Spaceballs does feature the late John Candy and the retired Rick Moranis in two of their best screen roles, takes several great digs at George Lucas's self-serious franchise (long live Pizza the Hut) and coined the immortal phrase, "May the Schwartz be with you." For that alone, it's place in movie history is ensured.
Extras: Babysitting sadly lacks any bonus features, but Clue offers all three endings (viewable either separately or as part of the movie) and Spaceballs includes a commentary track from Brooks, plus two additional tracks in the movie's fake languages (Mawgese and Dinkese), multiple making-of featurettes, bloopers and storyboard galleries.

Full Metal Jacket: 25th Anniversary Edition
Stanley Kubrick's penultimate film may be one of the director's most divisive. While everyone mostly agrees that the first half, which depicts the dehumanizing day-to-day existence of a Marine boot camp, is horrifyingly compelling, the Vietnam-set second section provokes a wider range of responses, positive and negative. Certainly it's hard to top the double act of R. Lee Ermey's scenery-chewing turn as a vicious drill sergeant and Vincent D'Onofrio's mesmerizing performance as troubled recruit, Private "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence. After the apocalyptic finale that caps that storyline, the on-the-ground battle stuff that dominates the second half feels like more conventional war movie theatrics. Still, Kubrick's famed technical prowess holds the viewer's attention throughout and Matthew Modine holds the screen quite effectively as our ostensible hero, Private "Joker" Davis. Ultimately, any Kubrick film is a must-own for serious movie buffs, even a flawed effort like this.
Extras: A commentary track with some of the cast members, a featurette and the hour-long, new-to-DVD documentary Stanley Kubrick's Boxes. The two-disc set comes in special booklet packaging that includes on-set photos, trivia and production information.

Also on DVD:
Based on the best-selling book, the religious-themed coming-of-age indie drama Blue Like Jazz is perhaps most notable for using Kickstarter funds to secure a theatrical release. Twilight fans alone probably could have funded a wider distribution deal for Robert Pattinson's Bel Ami, a period piece starring everyone's favorite love-starved vampire as a penniless 19th century French soldier who improves his prospects by seducing older, wealthier women like Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas. Speaking of seduction, Jennifer Tilly famously put the moves on Gina Gershon in the Wachowski siblings' first feature Bound, a crackerjack thriller that set them on the path to making The Matrix. John Cusack fans can double their pleasure this week, picking up new-to-Blu copies of High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank: 15th Anniversary Edition. And if you're in the mood for another cracked high school reunion, Romy & Michele's High School Reunion scores a high-def release as well, albeit one that's sorely lacking in bonus features. The late Whitney Houston scored a modest hit with The Preacher's Wife, a 1996 romantic comedy co-starring Denzel Washington as a literal angel. On the list of unnecessary sequels, Blues Brothers 2000 easily ranks amongst the top five; even the addition of John Goodman and Joe Morton can't make up for the absence of founding Brother, John Belushi. Finally, Nicholas Ray's oddball 1954 Western Johnny Guitar scores a Blu-ray release, allowing a new generation of viewers to join its small, but devoted cult of fans.

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