Let’s look at some cool new stuff on DVD shelves this week: Serenity Collector’s Edition – we already know that the Browncoats will buy this one, but if you were waiting for a jam-packed DVD set, this would be the one to get; it’s hard to believe it’s been twenty-five years since The Dark Crystal was released, but here’s its 25th Anniversary Edition, with a hologram cover and several new features; disturbia is a slacker take on Rear Window that successfully weds teen romance and psycho-killer genres, and Bubba Ho-Tep Limited Edition gives the oddball indie flick some glitzy new packaging…
Serenity Collector’s Edition
This continuation of Firefly – the show that would not die – was one of the highest-rated movies of 2005 [81 on the Rotten Tomatoes tomatometer – 87% on The Cream of the Crop Meter]. Unfortunately, like the TV series that spawned it, its theatrical performance left a lot to be desired. Fortunately, like the TV series, when the DVD came out, everyone and his dog picked up a copy. So, why anyone now pick up this Collector’s Edition?
Well, there’s the slam-bang adventure that features the crew of the Firefly-class freighter, Serenity – an adventure that inspired reviewers to say things like: As always, Whedon’s sci-fi fantasies smartly parallel the serious issues we’re grappling with here on Earth, while his protagonists remain mordantly funny in the face of utter disaster [New York Daily News]; Serenity flies with sass and spirit, qualities that have been in palpably short supply in that Star Wars series since, well, Star Wars [Newsday]; Like watching the original Star Wars for the first time, or better yet, watching The Empire Strikes Back… Mal is a guy who would shoot Greedo first [Fred Topel]; It has a great sense of humor about it, an attractive cast and it’s just a lot of fun [Richard Roeper]; Serenity is made of dubious but energetic special effects, breathless velocity, much imagination, some sly verbal wit and a little political satire [Roger Ebert], and Joss Whedon’s unassuming science-fiction adventure is superior in almost every respect to George Lucas’s aggressively more ambitious screen entertainments [New York Times].
Serenity deals with life and death issues – including some on a personal level – that engage and entertain while packing some walloping emotions – and afterward leaves a giddy feeling not unlike that that followed watching the original Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or even Transformers for the first time. It’s almost impossible not to grin goofily for hours afterward.If you haven’t seen the movie [which is entirely likely], or saw it and waited for a special edition DVD release – or saw it, bought the DVD and wanted more, then this is the DVD for you. Besides the features from the original DVD release [commentary by Joss Whedon; deleted scenes with commentary by Whedon; outtakes, and a number of cool featurettes], the Collector’s Edition adds: Commentary by Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Ada Baldwin, Summer Glau and Ron Glass; Extended Scenes; A Filmmaker’s Journey [from the acting to the stunts, see how the film developed from Joss Whedon’s beloved TV series]; The Green Clan [a behind-the-scenes spotlight on the film’s dynamic cinematographer, Jack Green]; Sci Fi Inside: Serenity [the Sci Fi Channel’s special on the making of Serenity]; Session 416 [collects the viral River Tam videos from online], and Take A Walk On Serenity [Whedon and Fillion host a tour of the new ship].
Grade: Serenity – A+
Grade: Features: A+
[b]Final Grade: A+[/b]
[b]The Dark Crystal – 25th Anniversary Edition[/b]
An epic fantasy adventure done entirely with puppets! Clearly Jim Henson was a mad genius. This tale of a Gelfling named Jen, who sets out to find the missing shard of The Dark Crystal in order to save his world, was the first all-puppet movie attempted by The Jim Henson Company [then known Hensonworks].
Raised by a group of odd, stony creatures known as The Mystics, Jen is sent on his quest when the evil Skeksis threaten to turn their world into a planet-wide hellhole. In the course of his travels, he meets a female Gelfling named Kira, who helps him face the trials [and monsters!] that lay in wait for him.
The meat of the quest is this: a thousand years ago, the Crystal of Truth was cracked by the urSkeks [ancestors of the Skeksis] and the Age of Chaos was born. Now, the time is at hand – either the crystal is healed or the world is doomed!Designed by Brian Froud, the world of The Dark Crystal is like nothing seen before or since. The lands and the characters resonate on an unconscious level and that resonance, in combination with Jen’s quest, make The Dark Crystal a movie that continues to astound to this day.
The features on this new, two-disc edition include: Disc One: Audio Commentary by Brian Froud; Disc Two: Original Making of Documentary: The World of the Dark Crystal; Deleted Scenes; Work Print Scenes; Character Drawings; Reflections of The Dark Crystal [two all-new documentaries]: Light on the Path of Creation and Shard of Illusion.
Grade: The Dark Crystal – A
Grade: Features – A
[b]Final Grade: A[/b]
While it’s probably not hard to take shots at what amounts to an alt-rock version of Rear Window, disturbia is a taut little thriller that adds some interesting tweaks to the concept of the Hitchcock classic.
The protagonist is a seventeen-year old kid named Kale [Shia LaBeouf] who has been tagged with three months of house arrest [complete with ankle monitor] for decking a teacher [a teacher who provoked the attack with comments about Kale’s late father – who he watched die!]. Of course, extenuating circumstances are for rich adults who have some form of influence, and not for teenagers who have neither, and so Kale is stuck.
When his sullen behavior ticks off his mom [Carrie-Anne Moss], she cuts off the cable and effectively cuts Kale of from the world. Thus, Kale picks up a pair of binoculars and begins scooping out the neighborhood. Before long, he knows who’s sleeping with whom; who has a neat lawn fetish, and what the pretty new girl next door likes to read…
Then he sees something unsettling that gives him cause to suspect that lawnmower man, Mr. Turner [David Morse] has committed murder. Despite his best efforts, no one who matters will believe him – and he winds up getting even less of a break from his mom, who thinks Mr. Turner is charming. So, it’s up to Kale, his best friend, Ronnie [Aaron Yu] and the girl next door, Ashley [Sarah Roemer] to prove that he’s not nuts.By adding a dash of teen romance, some teen humor and a series of nicely timed jump moments, director D.J. Caruso takes a solid script by Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth and turns it into a very satisfying thriller that riffs playfully on Rear Window without losing its street cred.
The performances range from solid [Roemer and Yu] to excellent [LaBeouf and Morse] and Caruso puts them through their paces with a rare verve. The soundtrack features a pretty impressive score as well a lot of great tunes from various current recording artists.
The DVD includes the following features: Entertaining Audio Commentary by Caruso, LaBeouf and Roemer; Deleted Scenes; The Making of Disturbia; Serial Pursuit Trivia Pop Up Quiz [like Pop Up Video, only with Q&A instead of just trivia]; Outtakes [short but funny gag reel]; Music Video: don’t Make Me Wait [This World Fair]; Photo Gallery and Theatrical Trailer.
Grade: disturbia – A-
Grade: Features – A
Final Grade: A-[/b]
[b]Bubba Ho-Tep Limited Edition[/b]
Bubba Ho-Tep is a true indie movie – written, produced and directed by Don Coscarelli [who also financed it with his own money].
Based on a story by Joe R. Lansdale [who reported loved the movie], follows an octogenarian Elvis [Bruce Campbell] and JFK [Ossie Davis] as they attempt to deal with a cowboy-hat wearing mummy that is sucking what life remains from the inhabitants of a seniors’ home.
Along with an intriguing theory to explain why Elvis isn’t really dead, Bubba Ho-Tep also comes up with a slightly less plausible explanation for why JFK is black. Of course none of that really matters when the mummy makes its appearance, but details like these add a certain depth and slightly askew humor to the piece [humor that both Campbell and Davis make sing!].
As far as I can tell, there are no new features on this edition of the DVD, but it comes packed in a plastic case and wrapped in a mini-Elvis white jumpsuit [complete with gold trim] that is both very cool and singularly appropriate.The DVD’s features include: Audio Commentary by Coscarelli and Campbell; Audio Commentary by “The King”; Joe R. Lansdale Reads From Bubba Ho-Tep; Deleted Scenes With Optional commentary by Coscarelli and Campbell; The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep Featurette; To Make a Mummy [Makeup and Effects Featurette]; Fit for a King [Elvis Costuming Featurette]; Rock Like an Egyptian [Music Featurette]; Music Video ; Photo Gallery; Original Theatrical Trailer, and a TV Spot.
Grade: Bubba Ho-Tep – B
Grade: Features: A
Grade: Packaging – A+
[b]Final Grade: B+[/b]