[25 September 2007]
Detroit Free Press (MCT)
It is now customary for hit movies that are great commercial hits or Academy Award-nominated to be released on DVD five or so months after they leave theaters, then released again, perhaps another year or so later, in 2-disc, extras-laden special editions.
That’s the case for the solemn, prestigious 2006 drama “Babel” (2 stars, Universal, $36.99). It’s been reissued this week, accompanied by a feature-length documentary about the film’s making and other new extras.
The movie, starring Brad Pitt, was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and won for best original score.
Then here comes “Knocked Up,” the summer smash directed by Judd Apatow. It’s out on disc only four months after it opened in theaters, and not just in the R-rated version seen on screen (3 stars, $29.98), but in a raunchier, slightly longer, unrated version too, that has a big bellyful of extras. It’s probably destined to outsell the R version Blockbuster and Wal-Mart will stock by about 100-1.
But wait, it’s twins!
Those two and an HDTV edition are being issued simultaneously with the “2-disc Collector’s Edition” (4 stars, $39.98), which earns an extra star for the wealth of supplements and ingenuity.
Both single-disc versions offer a commentary by Apatow and Seth Rogen, who stars as the unemployed adult-child Ben Stone, whose drunken one-night stand with Katherine Heigl results in pregnancy. There are extended scenes, outtakes and a great feature called “Line-O-Rama.” Because most of the dialogue in “Knocked Up” was improvised by the actors, “Line-O-Rama” takes advantage of their skills to reimagine how some scenes would have worked - or not worked - with different gags.
The 2-disc version takes the concept farther. A feature called “Finding Ben Stone ” attempts to convince us that Rogen was not the only choice for the role and shows Apatow trying to work with other actors like Michael Cena, Bill Hader, James Franco, David Krumholtz, Orlando Bloom and Justin Long, before deciding Rogen could do it better.
The joke is extended in “Gummy: the Sixth Roommate,” about a character allegedly cut from the film, and in a bit that has “Capote” director Bennett Miller stepping in to co-direct with a frazzled Apatow. Things become so surreal that by the time we get to Heigl’s screen test, it’s impossible to know if it’s the real thing or part of the joke.
And yes, there are some deleted scenes, including one labeled “The Topless Restaurant Scene,” that includes full-monty nudity.
Also new this week:
“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was the impetus for the first DVD release of 1972’s underrated and realistic western “The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid” (3 stars, Universal, $14.98). Directed by Philip Kaufman, it tells the story of one of the James Gang’s final and most daring robberies, with Robert Duvall as Jesse James and Cliff Robertson as Cole Younger.
“Cinema 16: European Short Films” (3 stars, Cinema 16, $29.99) collects short films by some of the best-known international directors, including Lars von Trier, Ridley Scott and Nanni Moretti, along with filmmakers who deserve wider exposure, like England’s Lynne Ramsay and Denmark’s Anders Thomas Jensen. Jensen’s comedy “Election Night” won the 1989 Oscar for best dramatic short.
TV on DVD:
Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of “As You Like It” (3 stars, HBO, $26.98) resets Shakespeare’s romantic comedy in 19th-Century Japan, turning it into a visual treat and fine romp for a cast that includes Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, as Rosalind and David Oyelowo as Orlando.
Also boxed up this week:
“Midsomer Murders Set 9” (Acorn Media, $49.99)
“Numb3rs - The Third Season” (Paramount, $61.99)
“My Name Is Earl - Season 2” (Fox, $49.99)
“The King of Queens - The Complete Ninth Season” (Columbia-TriStar, $29.99)
“The Unit - The Complete Second Season” (Fix, $59.98)
Family film of the week:
Producer Roger Corman is best known for his low-budget horror and exploitation movies, eight of which were released in a box set recently. But he is also known for giving fledgling American filmmakers (including Francis Coppola and Jonathan Demme) a chance to direct. In 1976, he afforded the opportunity to Ron Howard, who began his storied career with “Grand Theft Auto” with a caveat: First Howard would have to star in a film of his choosing the same year. That turned out to be a rare family-friendly car crash comedy called “Eat My Dust” (3 stars, Buena Vista, $19.99), now re-released by Walt Disney’s home-video division.
Howard plays small-town teen Hoover Niebold, who steals the hottest rod in town to impress a girl. With the girl (one time soap actress Christopher Norris, very female despite her name) riding shotgun, Hoover leads local law enforcement on a wild chase; and his dad, who just happens to be the sheriff, is hot on his tail. Like most Corman movies, it was made on a dime and fumes, and it’s a lot of fun.