This week's home video releases are impressive on all counts, but you won't find yourself breaking the bank to enjoy it all. Most of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases are worth a watch, but a cheap rental should suffice.
Most of the releases this week feature all-star casts in either parody or serious form and showcase Hollywood's best. The only film that doesn't seem to belong this week is Killers, which comes off as a lazy version of Knight and Day.
Either way, this week's releases are a step up from the other batches in recent months. Next week bodes well for September's home video schedule, but with some superb classics this week, it will be hard to top.
The following movies can be found on DVD and Blu-ray.
MacGruber - While MacGruber's box office numbers are embarrassing, the film was greeted with enough praise to prove a success for an SNL crossover film. Box office revenue is somewhat irrelevant on a low-budget action comedy like this, which was shot for $10 million. The cast and crew filmed the movie they wanted to make and we enjoyed it enough to smack a 3.5 out of 5 on it.
The one field that does get shafted with a bad box office is the home video release. Universal has kept most of the special features off the MacGruber release, which does still feature an Unrated Cut. The theatrical release had plenty of squeamish moments, but apparently the Unrated Cut makes that original version look like a shampoo commercial.
MacGruber is mindless fun featuring some of the better talent from SNL, specifically Kristen Wiig. It's a chance to look back at the '80s action genre with a snarky gaze and watch Val Kilmer play the bad guy once more. MacGruber is definitely worth a rent.
Killers - In what appeared to be a B-version of Knight and Day, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl gave the romantic action-comedy a taste of pop culture. In his best Matthew McConaughey impression, Kutcher spent much of the film shirtless. So, if that's your thing, Killers is a definite rent/buy.
With a mind-boggling $75 million budget, the film just barely made it back in the worldwide market. As opposed to MacGruber, it would seem the entire premise of Killers was to capitalize on a younger demographic and strike a $100 million box office. Unfortunately, the film couldn't pass the minimal market of its target demographic.
Lionsgate kept their special features limited on Killers with only a gag reel, deleted scenes and a small featurette on the cast chemistry. If you are looking for a lightweight action comedy, this is your best bet in terms of the newest releases.
Solitary Man - Michael Douglas has been praised for his role in this film most missed in theaters. During its limited run, the film made a mere $4.3 million on a $15 million budget. That budget is mostly due to an outstanding cast - Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Jesse Eisenberg, Jenna Fischer, Mary Louise-Parker, Susan Sarandon and Richard Schiff. While most of those names are not blockbuster stars, they make up a solid core of indie talent.
The film follows Douglas as a former car dealership owner whose "career and marriage were destroyed by his business and romantic indiscretions.” One of Hollywood's smoothest talkers keeps his game fresh in this dramedy that may even merit him an Oscar nomination - although he has some stiff competition.
Don't expect a lot of depth on the home video release, with only an audio commentary and short featurette, but more important is the opportunity to see the film. If you enjoy indies, this is a must-see. The cast itself should bring the rest of you in and allow the story to either grip you or lose you.
Stardust - Director Matthew Vaughn's resume is short, but damn sweet. Layer Cake and Kick-Ass were both fantastic films and he is now directing X-Men: First Class. In between his two acclaimed films was the 2007 fantasy film Stardust. Looking back, anybody who missed the film may wonder how such a star-studded cast went unnoticed - Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ian McKellen, Sienna Miller and Claire Danes.
The film nearly doubled its production budget, but generally missed the mark as a staple in the fantasy movie realm. One aspect of the film that has expanded beyond its own genre is the score. A brilliant concoction by Ilan Eshkeri keeps you on your toes and has fueled many movie trailers of the last few years.
Ultimately, the movie comes to a halt when it continues as just another genre film, but many will argue against that. The response has been mixed on its entertainment value, but I have always enjoyed it. It is visually engaging and the music brings the entire film up a notch. Definitely rent Stardust.
THX 1138 - George Lucas' first feature film arrives on the illustrious Blu-ray format today. He first made THX-1138 as a short student film while attending USC. Later, when he and Francis Ford Coppola created American Zoetrope, a feature version of the film was made. Though a box-office flop, Lucas showed extreme promise with his major directorial effort, which has become a beloved cult-classic.
The arrogantly-titled George Lucas Director's Cut - we know you directed it, George - delivers a solid package all around. You'll find the video and audio transfers are quite good for a near 40-year-old film that was made with little money. The special features are great, but anyone who owns the 2-disc DVD will find no new extras developed for the Blu-ray. Check out Lucas and sound designer Walter Murch's commentary, as well as a great documentary about the inception of famed production company, American Zoetrope.
Mars Attacks - In one of the greatest assemblies of A-list actors in the last 20 years, Mars Attacks is a time-waster actually worth watching. It is one of those films deliberately made as a joke, but ended up being thoroughly entertaining. Tim Burton does his best to direct Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Natalie Portman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Pam Grier, Lukas Haas, Jim Brown, Jack Black and Christina Applegate.
If the cast isn't enough for you, go for the hilarious delivery of a burnt out concept. Aliens come to Earth and turn out to be much more malicious than we originally assumed. The bizarre voices of the aliens makes for a hilarious inside joke amongst friends. Give the movie a chance and if you can, watch it with friends. Mars Attacks is a fantastic parody film with an unbelievable cast that will keep you laughing for 106 minutes.
The Player - It's easy to get carried away talking about The Player. It is one of the finest and most entertaining satires in film history. It holds one of the most impressive tracking shot of all time, inching out the opening shot of Touch of Evil in my opinion. Best of all, it sheds a much-needed light on the real people behind Hollywood inside a self-contained story that would be just as engaging on its own.
While this would have been a great opportunity to showcase countless special features, the Blu-ray release is more of a re-release than a new edition. The supplements include a commentary by director Robert Altman and writer Michael Tolkin, additional scenes and a featurette with Altman. Nothing special, but the film itself is a special feature worth purchasing. Go out and add this to your Blu-ray collection immediately.
Check back next week for more discussion of the latest Blu-ray and DVD home video releases.