[15 December 2009]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
A tribute to a comic genius, “The Mel Brooks Collection” (20th Century Fox, $139.99), and the finale of a classic sci-fi TV series, “Star Trek: The Original Series Season 3” (Paramount, 1968-69, $129.99), lead this week’s list of latest Blu-ray titles.
Dating back to the early days of television, Mel Brooks has been making people laugh with his writing, acting, directing, etc. for more than a half-century. He’s one of the few people who has won an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy and a Tony, and last week he added another trophy to his case when he was celebrated at the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala.
The nine movies contained in this Blu-ray collection prove that no one can spoof Hollywood and its product better than Brooks. Just hearing the title of one of his films can bring a smile to your face.
Here are the movies, all sparkling in high definition, in the set, which also includes a terrific book that highlights his career:
“Blazing Saddles” (1974): It’s the Old West, with Cleavon Little playing the new sheriff in town. Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman and Slim Pickens also add to the laughs. The disc includes “Black Bart,” the pilot for a proposed TV spinoff.
“Spaceballs” (1987): Science-fiction films and especially “Star Wars” are the target of Brooks’ zingers. John Candy, Bill Pullman and Rick Moranis as the evil Dark Helmet headline the cast.
“Young Frankenstein” (1974): A black-and-white tribute to the 1930s Universal horror films. Gene Wilder plays Dr. Frankenstein, Marty Feldman is Igor and Peter Boyle is the monster.
“High Anxiety” (1977): A spoof of Hitchcock, this one has Brooks playing a psychiatrist who has a fear of heights. Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman also are in the cast.
“History of the World Part I” (1981): Brooks takes on the sword-and-sandal epics. Sid Caesar, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn and Gregory Hines join in the fun.
“Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993): Cary Elwes plays Robin. Patrick Stewart, Tracey Ullman and Richard Lewis are among the others hanging around Sherwood Forest.
“Silent Movie” (1976): Yes, it really is a silent movie with the exception of one word being spoken. DeLuise, Caesar, Feldman and Bernadette Peters lead the cast as Brooks takes shots at other genres he didn’t hit in other films.
“To Be or Not To Be” (1983): Brooks takes on the Nazis, much to their chagrin. Anne Bancroft co-stars. Inspired by the 1942 Jack Benny film.
“The Twelve Chairs” (1970): In 1927, a man sets off across Russia to find the family jewels his mother hid in one of twelve dining room chairs. Brooks, Frank Langella and DeLuise are part of the cast.
The Brooks collection is highly recommended.
As they did with seasons one and two, CBS and Paramount have done a spectacular job of bringing the original “Star Trek” season three to Blu-ray. The picture is stunning in its detail and brilliant color and the sound has been converted to 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Again, enhanced special effects have been added that perfectly match the texture of the older footage.
There are plenty of extras here, including the original pilot “The Cage” and also an extended version of it with an introduction by creator Gene Roddenberry. The big bonus is the never-aired version of the second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” It features an entirely different opening as well a different font for the words “Star Trek.”
All 24 third-season original episodes are included in the six-disc set with each being presented the way it was meant it be seen in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Among the most appealing are “The Tholian Web,” “The Paradise Syndrome” and “All Our Yesterdays.”
As most know, William Shatner stars as Captain James Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as first officer Spock, who roam the universe in the starship Enterprise. Among the other characters aboard are Dr. “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Scott (James Doohan) and Sulu (George Takei).
This was the final season of the original “Star Trek,” which was canceled by NBC. We all know, of course, that it was not the last of Kirk and Spock, who would return in an animated series and six motion pictures. And then there were all the spinoffs.
“Star Trek: The Original Series Season 3” is highly recommended.
Other Blu-ray releases:
“Inglorious Basterds” (Universal, 2009, $39.98): One thing you know before watching a film from director Quentin Tarantino — there is going to be a plenty of blood and violence in it. In that respect, this film is no different. But above the violence is a grand piece of outlandish moviemaking that is so gratifying because the bad guys get their just desserts and then some. Brad Pitt stars as Lt. Aldo Raine, who leads a team of Jewish-American soldiers who spend their time behind enemy lines wreaking havoc on the Nazis during World War II. Christoph Waltz is outstanding as the despicable Nazi Col. Hans Landa. Melanie Laurent plays Shisanna Dreyfus, a French-Jewish girl who runs a movie theater in Paris. This two-disc edition, packed with extras, is highly recommended.
“G-Force” (Walt Disney, 2009, $44.99): A trained squad of guinea pigs is sent on a mission to thwart billionaire Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy), who is bent on world domination by controlling all of the home appliances. This whirlwind comedy-adventure is from action producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Recommended.
“The Hangover” (Warner Brothers, 2009, $35.99): This is one funny but very raunchy movie from director Todd Phillips. Doug (Justin Bartha) and Tracy (Sasha Barrese) are just two days away from their wedding when Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifiankas) decide to take the groom to Las Vegas for one last night out. The next morning, Doug’s three friends wake up in Vegas with no idea of what happened during the night. Not only that, Doug is missing. They start backtracking to find out what did happen while also looking for Doug.
“Taking Woodstock” (Universal, 2009, $39.98): Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) leaves New York City to go upstate, where he helps his parents with their motel in the Catskills. After a nearby town won’t give organizers of a rock concert a permit, Elliott gets in touch with them and offers to let them stage it in a field near Woodstock. Thus the wheels are put in motion for one of the iconic events of the 1960s.
“Lost: Season 5” (Walt Disney, 2009, $79.99): Things have changed a lot since those survivors crash-landed on the remote island five years ago. Now they are zipping forward and backward through time. Questions are answered but more pop up. The set includes 16 episodes on five discs. Recommended for avid fans of the series.