BLOGS

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 2, 2012

by Ethan Alter October 2, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"What do you want to do tonight, Tim?" "The same thing we do every night, Johnny -- try to make another movie that lets down our fans."

Dark Shadows
A big-screen version of a decades-old supernatural soap opera that only folks of a certain age remember always seem like an odd choice for a summer blockbuster, but we've learned not to underestimate the combination of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Sadly, both men do career-worst work in this tone-deaf, convoluted film, which whiplashes between campy humor and strained seriousness. Proudly continuing his recent tradition of picking out a funny voice and calling that a performance, Depp plays Barnabas Collins, the scion of a wealthy family who is transformed into a vampire by a lusty witch (Eva Green, the movie's lone saving grace) and gets buried beneath the Earth for two hundred years, finally emerging in the swinging '70s. Making his way back to his family's manor, he finds it filled with a motley crew of distant relatives and assorted hangers-on, played by such wasted stars as Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloƫ Grace Moretz and Jackie Earle Haley. Meanwhile, behind the camera, Burton piles on all his familiar gothic flourishes, which once felt so exciting and new and now just come across as old hat. We'll always love Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, but if this is the best Burton is capable of nowadays, it may be time for us to break up once and for all.
Extras: Deleted scenes and a maximum movie mode that offers viewers nine behind-the-scenes focus points.
Click here to read our original review
Click here to see our picks for Tim Burton's Best and Worst Movies
Click here to see our picks for Tim Burton's Best and Worst Collaborations

People Like Us
In between penning approximately 10,000 different films and TV shows -- including Fringe, Transformers and the Star Trek reboot -- with his writing partner, Bob Orci, Alex Kurtzman somehow found time to write and direct this semi-autobiographical tale of a money-hungry salesman (Chris Pine) who discovers the sister (Elizabeth Banks) he literally never knew he had after his father passes away and leaves part of his estate to this mystery sibling. In contrast to the large-scale spectacles he usually writes, People Like Us is a small, intimate dramedy where the focus is on the actors rather than the effects. Despite the obvious affection Kurtzman has for these characters though, the movie is a little too pokey and heavy-handed on the sentiment. It's not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (thank goodness) but it also ain't Ordinary People.
Extras: Three audio commentaries with Kurtzman and various cast and crew members, a making-of featurette, deleted and extended scenes and a collection of bloopers.
Click here to read our original review

The Hole
If the new horror-laced teen movie The Hole feels like the kind of thing you might have seen on cable in the '80s, that's the influence of director Joe Dante, who directed some of that decade's finest kid-friendly genre movies, from Gremlins to Explorers to The 'Burbs. Set in suburbia, the film follows a trio of adolescents -- brothers and recent Brooklyn transplants Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble) and girl next door Julie (Haley Bennett, looking a lot like an off-brand Jennifer Lawrence) -- who stumble upon a seemingly bottomless hole that introduces some pretty nasty stuff into their otherwise placid existence. If anyone remembers that '80s cable staple, The Gate, the set-up is a bit like that only filled with more intentional comedy, courtesy of Dante's sly, knowing sense of humor. Originally filmed in 2009, The Hole never received a proper theatrical release, which is a shame as it's a fine example of what its director excels at. At least its overdue arrival on DVD allows movie buffs to program their own complete Joe Dante film festival at home.
Extras: Four featurettes and a gallery of movie stills.

Cinderella
Annie
The Princess Bride: 25th Anniversary Edition
A trio of fondly-remembered family flicks arrive on Blu-ray this week, beginning with one of Walt Disney's most iconic (if not necessarily their finest) animated features, 1950's Cinderella. A return to the "fairy tale princess" genre that the studio practically invented with 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella offers some bouncy tunes (especially "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo") and good supporting characters (those helpful mice), but the titular heroine herself is something of a blank, as is her suitor, the aptly (if blandly) named Prince Charming. Whatever its flaws as a feature, Cinderella has inarguably cast a long shadow over the Mouse House and animated movies in general. Speaking of bouncy songs, the Broadway musical Annie, based on the adventures of the famous red-headed, pupil-less orphan that appeared every day in the funny pages, was a smash hit when it premiered on the Great White Way in the late '70s thanks in large part to its absurdly catchy score. Those songs are among the few things that weren't changed for the 1982 film version, which added a darker tone to the story (including a sequence where Annie is kidnapped) and miscast a few key roles (most notably Albert Finney as Annie's wealthy new guardian Oliver Warbucks). The movie still has its appealing elements though, including young star Aileen Quinn (who still acts occasionally) and, of course, those earworm-friendly tunes. (Sing it with us now: "It's the hard knock life, for us!") Last but certainly not least, is the 1987 generational classic The Princess Bride, which has been released on Blu before, but is being re-issued in a 25th anniversary high-def edition just to make those of us who saw it in theaters back in the day feel exceptionally old. There's not much left to say about Rob Reiner's winning adaptation of William Goldman's fractured fairy tale; no matter how many times we see it, we never get tired of the wonderful wordplay, the thrilling sword fights, the ROUS's and, of course, the kissing. Having This is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride on his resume assures Reiner of his place in movie history... even as he does his best to ruin that reputation with such latter-day travesties as The Bucket List and Alex & Emma.
Extras: Part of Disney's Diamond Edition line, Cinderella comes with a featurette about the woman who inspired Cinderella's onscreen fairy godmother, a personalized second screen storybook and additional featurettes. Annie offers a sing-along function, a featurette about the life of Annie herself, Aileen Quinn and a performance of "It's the Hard Knock Life" by the group, Play. (What, no Jay-Z cover?) Finally, the 25th anniversary edition of The Princess Bride crowns itself with an all-new two-part documentary with fresh cast and crew interviews (weep when you see how little Cary Elwes resembles his Dread Pirate Roberts self), plus various bonus features ported over from earlier editions, including separate commentary tracks with Reiner and Goldman, various making-of featurettes and the original theatrical trailer.

Masters of the Universe
At long last, Masters of the Universe is on Blu-ray and all is right with the world. Even at the time, it was obvious that this live-action He-Man vehicle (starring Dolph Lundgren as the buff Aryan fantasy warrior and Frank Langella -- hidden behind what looks like a mask made of Jell-O -- as his nemesis Skeletor) was terrible but damned if kids back then (ourselves included) didn't watch it over and over again whenever it popped up on cable. Boasting Cannon Films's typically cheap production values and a dumb story that strands He-Man on Earth for much of the runtime (all the better to save on budget... and shoehorn in Courteney Cox as a human sidekick), Masters is '80s cheese all the way through. But boy does it taste good.
Extras: A commentary track with the movie's director Gary Goddard, who shouldn't feel as though he has anything to apologize for.

Also on DVD:
Between her guest spot on The Newsroom and her starring role in the widely panned comedy Peace, Love and Misunderstanding, Jane Fonda must really regret her decision to come out of retirement. Luc Besson takes a break from producing so-dumb-they're-fun action movies to direct The Lady, a somber drama starring Michelle Yeoh as Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. Indie darling Brit Marling stars in and co-wrote the well-reviewed low-budget thriller Sound of My Voice. Ignore the heavy-hitting cast of stars listed on the DVD box (among them Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver) and stay far, far away from the lunkheaded paranormal picture Red Lights. The goofy B-movie Iron Sky imagines a near future where Nazis escape to the Moon after losing World War II and then make their triumphant return in the year 2018. It's like a deleted scene from Inglourious Basterds that QT desperately wanted to include in the final cut.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.

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