DVD/Blu-ray Breakdown: January 4, 2011

DVD Blu-ray Releases January 4

The first DVD/Blu-ray Breakdown of 2011 features mostly low-budget movies that caused quite a stir in 2010. Most didn't make waves at the box office, but had critics and fans racking their brains for answers to a variety of questions.

Catfish and The Last Exorcism tried to redefine the structure of documentary filmmaking by infusing a narrative style. Machete and Dinner for Schmucks used two very different styles of comedy to evoke laughter during the late summer. Meanwhile, Howl flew way under the radar and does its best to share an intriguing story with those who may have missed it in limited theaters.

There are a pair of fantastic Blu-ray re-releases to check out as well. Robert Rodriguez may make an extra buck or two this week on top of Machete with his re-release of the El Mariachi Trilogy. In addition, Backdraft finds its way on Blu-ray in what we all hope will be a worthy transfer of a deserving movie.

The following releases can be found on DVD and Blu-ray.


Machete DVD Blu-ray box art

Machete - In our 2.5-star review of Machete, Vic Holtreman felt that even amidst the disingenuous political commentary, the movie had "LOTS of bloody violence...And [is] faithful to those old 70s flicks." Put mildly, the movie is not for everyone. It is a spin-off of a trailer shown during the Grindhouse double feature brought to you by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. One fact remains, those involved clearly had a blast making it.

Made in typical Robert-Rodriguez-side-project fashion for only $10.5 million, the film did relatively well at the box office. With a worldwide gross of $40 million, one could argue it was a success. In the eyes of fans hoping for blood, guts, nudity, and plenty of kick-ass one-liners, the movie delivered in every way possible. Just look at the most memorable quote of the movie, "Machete don't text."

As of now, all we know about the home video is that it includes some deleted scenes. This would be a huge letdown, since Robert Rodriguez is known to bring a great pile of additional features to his DVDs and Blu-rays. Personally, I was looking forward to another edition of his Five Minute Film School series.

Catfish DVD Blu-ray box art

Catfish - In our dual-review of Catfish, I found the movie to be a poorly conceived faux documentary, while Rob Frappier absolutely loved its ability to capture today's world. You be the judge by renting or purchasing the home video. Frankly, I don't see how it can hold up on multiple viewings. Once the suspense of what might happen is gone, there is nothing left to invest in the movie.

If anything helped the film's delivery, it was filmmaker Andrew Jarecki's involvement. The director of Capturing the Friedmans must have helped the filmmakers behind Catfish truly understand what makes a scenario feel completely real, even if it may not be true cinema veritae. The film engrossed the masses to a meager $3.2 million box office over 77 days in theaters. It may have made a profit with those numbers, but the waves of its influence will only ripple so far - if it doesn't gain some momentum on home video.

In what appears to be customary this week, Catfish leaves much to be desired in the special features category. We only know of one feature that will be on the DVD and Blu-ray copies - a 25-minute Q&A with the three filmmakers, Nev, Ariel and Henry. While it isn't eye-opening on the reality of the documentary, it provides some good insight. Then again, you can just read our interview with the filmmakers.

Dinner for Schmucks DVD Blu-ray box art

Dinner for Schmucks - In our 1.5-star review of Dinner for Schmucks, Paul Young tried to figure out if the movie was "an ‘edgy’ comedy film or just a mean-spirited, uncomfortable attempt at laughs." It might be a surprise to some that the movie didn't make any of our end-of-the-year lists. There was quite a bit of negative feedback from you, the reader, in regards to its absence. While we understand your gripes with the movie, it just didn't feel memorable in any way - even in a bad way.

The movie didn't do so hot in the box office. It barely surpassed the $69 million production budget with an $86 million worldwide gross. It's still hard to comprehend that two of the more likable comedians, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, could be a part of such a forgettable film. Alas, it did happen, but some movies just find a second life on home video and this could be another one.

The remake of 1998 French comedy, The Dinner Game, comes with few special features. The ones available seem interesting enough, but it still disappoints in a genre where supplements are the best way to show all the funny bits that had to be deleted for the sake of tightening up the finished product.

  • The Biggest Schmucks in the World
  • Schmuck Ups—Gag Reel
  • Deleted scenes
  • The Men behind the Mousterpieces (BD-exclusive)
  • Meet the Winners (BD-exclusive)
  • Paul and Steve: The Decision—LeBron James press conference spoof (BD-exclusive)
The Last Exorcism DVD Blu-ray box art

The Last Exorcism - In our 3-star review of The Last Exorcism, Vic Holtreman called it "an unconventional and fairly satisfying horror film." Another low-budget film hitting DVD and Blu-ray this week fills the horror genre nicely. Amidst money-grubbing movies like Saw 3D, controversial and mysterious ones like The Last Exorcism are a welcome addition.

On only a $1.8 million budget, the movie grossed over $64 million worldwide. That is an impressive turnaround, but not surprising as low-budget horror seems to be a popular style these days. Paranormal Activity reignited the flame that has dwindled since the days of The Blair Witch Project. The mockumentary approach may have helped add a dose of realism typically absent from the horror genre.

The DVDs and Blu-rays will feature a good list of special features to help you solve the riddles within the movie. If you need a jump start, just check out our explanation of the ending. Once you pick up a copy of The Last Exorcism, you'll have plenty more to check out.

  • Audio commentaries: Director Daniel Stamm and actors Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian and Louis Herthum & Producers Eli Roth, Eric Newman and Tom Bliss
  • Featurettes: The Devil You Know: The Making of The Last Exorcism & Real Stories of Exorcism
  • 2009 Cannes Film Festival teaser trailer
  • Witnesses to an Exorcism: An Audio Commentary with a Haunting Victim, Deliverance Minister and Clinical Psychologist
  • Audition footage
  • Theatrical trailer
Howl DVD Blu-ray box art

Howl - When we heard about James Franco's involvement in Howl, the Internet was buzzing with Oscars talk. The story is just offbeat and just real enough to capture some attention. Unfortunately, something was lost in the process because it didn't even gross $1 million and has been completely absent from any Oscars talk.

If you missed it (and you likely did), now is your chance for a quick rental to see what the fuss was about. Frankly, the story of beat poet Allen Ginsberg is one worth knowing and what better medium to learn than film? It was only given a limited theatrical release after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, so its lack of presence in movie discussions may be a result of its lack of presence in theaters.

The DVD and Blu-ray will feature a nice batch of special features. If you are unfamiliar with Allen Ginsberg, the movie and supplements will give a nicely rounded picture of his story.

  • James Franco and directors commmentary
  • Holy! Holy! Holy! Making of Howl
  • Original interviews with Ginsberg's friends and collaborators
  • Never-before-seen performance by Ginsberg in 1995 at NYC's Knitting Factory
  • Audio feature: James Franco reads Howl
  • Allen Ginsberg reads Sunflower Sutra and Pull My Daisy: never-before-seen footage from a performance in 1995 at the Knitting Factory in New York (BD-exclusive)
  • Q&A with filmmakers moderated by John Cameron Mitchell (BD-exclusive)


El Mariachi Trilogy Blu-ray box art

El Mariachi Trilogy - Robert Rodriguez's career began with a 16mm indie that shocked Sundance and became an unexpected hit. Needless to say, El Mariachi needed a proper Hollywood treatment. Rodriguez brought in Antonio Banderas and a trilogy took flight. Now, all the films are headed to Blu-ray. El Mariachi and Desperado will be placed on a single-disc edition, while Once Upon A Time In Mexico will have its own disc.

We've been used to getting a good portion of bonus features from Robert Rodriguez and these releases are no different. It's unfortunate he took a break from these supplements on his other release this week, Machete.

Desperado / El Mariachi

  • Director's commentary
  • The Cutting Room
  • 10 Minute Film School
  • Robert Rodriguez's Student Film: "Bed Head"
  • 10 More Minutes: Anatomy of a Shootout
  • Music videos: Los Lobos with Antonio Banderas, "Morena de mi corazón" & Tito & Tarantula, "Back to the House That Love Built"

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

  • Robert Rodriguez Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
  • Ten-Minute Flick School
  • Inside Troublemaker Studios
  • Ten-Minute COOKING School
  • Film is Dead: An Evening with Robert Rodriguez
  • The Anti-Hero's Journey
  • The Good, the Bad and the Bloody: Inside KNB FX
  • The Cutting Room
Backdraft Blu-ray box art

Backdraft - One of Ron Howard's first huge hits released on the now defunct HD DVD in 2007. Obviously that didn't work out, so it has finally found its way onto Blu-ray. For the first time on home video, we can experience the massive action movie in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound. My personal favorite aspect of the film has long been the unrivaled noise that precedes a backdraft - it is both haunting and nerve-wracking.

The special features should be a nice touch if you've ever wondered about the production. One aspect I am looking forward to the most is the mini-documentary on real fireman. The profession is profoundly interesting and the movie puts a huge Hollywood touch on it, so hearing from real fireman should be interesting to hear.

  • Ron Howard Introduction
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Igniting the Story
  • Bringing Together the Team
  • The Explosive Stunts
  • Creating the Villain: The Fire
  • Real-Life Firemen, Real-Life Stories

More big names from 2010 hit DVD and Blu-ray next week as The Social Network rushes to the home video market in time for the Oscars push and Piranha 3D makes waves in home theaters as well. A pair of great Robert De Niro films hit Blu-ray as well with a 30th Anniversary re-release of Raging Bull and Once Upon A Time In America.

Check back every Tuesday for the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases. If you have any favorites from this week, discuss them in the comments section below.

Source: Blu-ray

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