Spotlighting one of Peter Sellers’ most memorable performances, “Being There” (Warner, 1979, $28.99) tops the list of new titles arriving on Blu-ray this week.
Sellers plays Chance, a simple-minded gardener, who has spent his whole life working inside the walls of a classy Washington, D.C., townhouse. His two passions are caring for his flowers and plants and watching television. He has never been outside those walls. All he knows of the world outside is what he has seen on TV.
When Chance’s employer and owner of the townhouse dies, the gardener is evicted. Dressed in one of his employer’s expensive suits and armed with his most precious possession - a TV remote - Chance gets his first taste of life on the outside. He quickly learns that you can’t switch channels when you encounter something you don’t like in the real world.
Through a series of events, Chance Gardner - as he is called - finds himself accepted in Washington’s high society, which includes the president of the United States (Jack Warden). Because of Chance’s stylish appearance and his low-key manner, everyone takes him to be a deep thinker. They find profound meaning in Chance’s sayings, all of which were learned from television or are connected with gardening.
Many of the chuckles come from watching supposedly well-educated people stumble all over themselves to hear every word uttered by Chance. It all clicks because of Sellers’ near-deadpan approach to the part. Unfortunately, “Being There” was Sellers’ next-to-last film. He died at age 54 of a heart attack in 1980. “Being There” is highly recommended.
Other Blu-ray releases this week:
“Sideways” (20th Century Fox, 2004, $29.99): Miles (Paul Giamatti) decides to take his old college roommate Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a weeklong party into California’s wine country. The occasion is to celebrate Jack’s upcoming wedding, something he is having second thoughts about. The two have plenty of misadventures as they travel around attending numerous wine tasting events. Along the way they meet Maya (Virginia Madsen) and Stephanie (Sandra Oh). Giamatti and Madsen are a pleasure to watch, especially when they sit around and talk about life and wine and how those two things are related. Recommended.
“The Secret Life of Bees” (20th Century Fox, 2008, $39.99): Young teenager Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning), who lives with her abusive father, decides to flee with her caretaker Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson), to a small South Carolina town in the 1960s. There, Lily hopes to discover something about her mother who died when she was a baby. A honey jar leads them to August Boatwright (Queen Latifah), who along with her sister, raise honey bees. A friendship begins. Based on the book by Sue Monk Kidd. Recommended.
“Little Miss Sunshine” (20th Century Fox, 2006, $34.98): A quirky family wants their little Olive (Abigail Breslin) to win the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest, so they take off across the country in hopes of making the dream come true. Also in the cast are Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin and Toni Collette.
“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” (Paramount, 2008, $39.99): Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe attempt to leave Madagascar and return home to Manhattan on a rickety aircraft. Instead, they crash land in Africa. That’s when they learn what it means to try to survive. Eventually, they discover a new life and Alex finds his long lost parents. A movie the whole family can enjoy.
“Friday the 13th” (Paramount, 1980, $29.99) At Camp Crystal Lake, several young people are slashed to death by the knife-carrying Jason Voorhees. That this cheap horror movie has launched numerous sequels, an upcoming remake and dozens of teenagers-in-peril copycats, says plenty about how low the tastes of many moviegoers have sunk.
“Napoleon Dynamite” (20th Century Fox, 2004, $34.98): The red-haired title character (Jon Heder) is a teen who is pretty much of a loner but attempts to make his classmates laugh by doing stupid things. Napoleon isn’t exactly a mental giant but, then, neither are the rest of the characters is this lame-brain movie that supposedly was a hit with the teenage crowd.
“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” (Sony, 2008, $39.95): Nick (Michael Cera), the member of a band, tries to win back his ex-girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena) by sending her songs on CDs. Tris isn’t interested, but her classmate Norah (Kat Dennings) is. She finally meets Nick at a nightclub where his band is playing. The two get together, much to Tris’ dismay, and spend the night looking for a band named “Where’s Fluffy.” This one is as goofy as it sounds.
“Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway” (Sony, 2009, $38.96): Cameras are on hand to record the final performance of the Tony Award-winning musical that ran for 12 years on Broadway. Jonathan Larson’s work also won a Pulitzer Prize.
“Clerks II” (Genius, 2006, $34.99): Set 10 years after the original, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are employed at Mooby’s fast food, where they spend more time having fun than working. Cameo appearances are made by Ben Affleck, Jason Lee and Wanda Sykes.
“Zack and Miri Make A Porno” (Genius, 2008, $34.99): Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are roommates in desperate need of cash. So they do what any smart American couple would do - they film a porno movie together in hopes of making some dough.