[16 July 2012]
Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
On Tuesday, DVD and Blu-ray distributors hope to make you laugh.
For example, “Casa de mi Padre” looked like a funny idea: Will Ferrell as a Mexican rancher in a parody of telenovelas and cheap movies.
And the release on video (Lionsgate, $19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray) probably makes it more fun than in theaters because you can pause and look more closely at the visual gags — and the audio commentary explains one especially obscure joke.
Watching the DVD or Blu-ray also lets you enjoy a bit and take a break — because trying to watch the movie’s 84 minutes straight through will just make you, and the basic gag, wear out.
The little-seen feature stars Ferrell as Armando, a rancher who is seeing ever more encroachment by the drug trade into his family’s land. Armando wants to do something but his father (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) instead seeks help from his other son, Raul (Diego Luna), a businessman who returns to the ranch with a beautiful fiancee (Genesis Rodriguez).
The story includes musical segments, passionate speeches, slapstick, overacting and a lot of cheesy flourishes (bad prop animals, continuity errors in wardrobe). But it does not get as goofy as you might expect; one reviewer noted that Ferrell does not speak Spanish, so there was little opportunity for him to improvise dialogue. (For that matter, Andrew Steele’s script was originally written in English and then translated into Spanish).
Besides a commentary by Ferrell, Steele and director Matt Piedmont, extras include deleted scenes, a music video, a piece about the making of the movie and the final interview with Armendariz, a veteran actor who died in December 2011 while being treated for cancer.
“The Inbetweeners,” a raucous British comedy about a group of teenage boys who are “in between” the social extremes of their schoolmates, has become quite an industry, spawning a big-screen version (due in U.S. theaters in September) and an Americanized version premiering on MTV on Aug. 20.
You can see the British show’s 18 episodes in “The Inbetweeners: The Complete Series” (Entertainment One, $39.99 on standard DVD). It’s a pretty knowing show about the minds of young men (and the agonies of teen society), but somewhat kindhearted even as rough language and descriptions are filling the dialogue. And the DVD comes with extras, including audio commentaries, a making-of piece, outtakes, deleted scenes and cast members’ video diaries.
Classic sitcom “Designing Women” completes its move to DVD in a “Final Season” set (Shout! Factory, 22 episodes, $44.99 standard DVD). The show was still capable of laughs but had declined from its peak; the cast at this point included Dixie Carter, Annie Potts and Meshach Taylor along with Jan Hooks and Judith Ivey. The DVD has no extras.
And the “American Masters” documentary “Johnny Carson: King of Late Night” (PBS, $24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray) will be available. The look at the life of the longtime “Tonight Show” host includes many of Carson’s funniest moments with an effective portrait of the guarded and often sad man behind the laughs. As I said when the production aired, it shows Carson’s skill as a performer, the arc of his career, his flaws — and virtues, like leaving $156 million to a charitable foundation. As an observer in the documentary notes, you weren’t watching “The Tonight Show.” You were watching Carson.
There are no extras. You may want to add to your shopping cart some of the other collections of Carson’s work.
Beyond comedy is “Down By Law,” the 1986 movie by independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, which makes its Blu-ray debut (Criterion, $39.95). The black-and-white effort stars Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni as guys who end up in the same jail cell in New Orleans. (Look also for Ellen Barkin in a vivid supporting role.) It’s an odd piece, seemingly natural at times but often — as Luc Sante says in an essay with the Blu-ray — “in the land of the imagination, in the province of the movies.”
That essay, and other extras, are carried over from Criterion’s DVD release of the film in 2002. But the Blu-ray transfer is marvelous, and heightens the artistry of Robby Muller’s cinematography.
Also of note: “Black Butterflies,” a dramatization of the life of South African poet Ingrid Jonker, sometimes called “South Africa’s Sylvia Plath.” (As Stephen Holden said in his New York Times review of the film, “both women destroyed themselves at an early age and had what might be called ‘daddy issues.’ “) Her poetry reached across South Africa’s racial divide; Nelson Mandela was an admirer.
Carice van Houten plays Jonker and, according to Holden, “manages the difficult task of capturing the emotional and sexual magnetism of this toxic woman at the mercy of her emotions.” Other reviews were more mixed. Extras include an interview with van Houten and director Paula van der Oest.
Down the road: Aug. 6 will see the release of “Universal Rarities: Films of the 1930s” with W.C. Fields in “Million Dollar Legs,” Mae West in “Belle of the Nineties,” Jack Benny in “Artists & Models” and Gary Cooper and George Raft in “Souls at Sea.” It will be sold through Turner Classic Movies’ online shop, http://shop.tcm.com. Sacha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator” will be in a “banned and unrated” version on DVD and Blu-ray on Aug. 21. “Battleship” arrives Aug. 28.