April 07, 2020

DVD corner

“Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Two”: The week’s best new release features the 39 episodes that appeared during the 1956-57 CBS television season, with Hitchcock delivering the introductions and closing moments with his inimitable style. The shows are just as twisted as you expect, with four particular highlights of note – “Crack of Doom,” “Conversation Over a Corpse,” “The Indestructible Mr. Weems” and Rip Torn in the excellent “Number Twenty-Two.” Good evening, indeed. Grade: A-

“American Dreamz”: The week’s worst new release assembles a sumptuous buffet for the viewer, but since director Paul Weitz isn’t hungry, he (and his movie) refuses to feast. The film attempts to send up “American Idol,” George W. Bush, pop culture and our fascination with fame, and yet somehow – incredibly, unbelievably – it misses on every level. The film has no bite. The jokes are lazy. There is no rhythm to the bits, no sense that anyone here is having a good time. Hideous. Rated: PG-13. Grade: D-

“The A-Team: Season Five”: Beyond kitsch. Hell, beyond belief. This go-for-broke, pop-culture oddity from the ’80s features four Vietnam vets outrunning the law for a crime they were ordered to commit. Meanwhile, in their downtime, they fight crime in their tricked-out van. Mr. T, currently enjoying a resurgence, steals the show as Sgt. Bosco “Bad Attitude” Baracus. Lovely manners, that man. With all of the gold circling his neck, he likely is the originator of bling. This live-action cartoon can be entertaining – for about 15 minutes. Grade: C+

“Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties”: Not a hairball, per se – though not exactly a satisfying plate of lasagna, either. This so-so sequel to 2004’s “Garfield: The Movie” finds Garfield and company in Britain, where Garfield (voice of Bill Murray) is startled to find that he has a dumpy lookalike (Tim Curry) who is heir to an English estate. Circumstances find them trading places among the rote potty jokes. In the end, the film’s fine computer animation and its brevity proves its strength – Jennifer Love Hewitt and Breckin Meyer, however, do not. Rated PG. Grade: C+

“Magnum P.I.: Complete Fifth Season”: The fatigue of familiarity brings this fifth season down a notch from previous seasons. Also, one suspects the episode “A Pretty Good Dancing Chicken” isn’t the series at its best. Still, much of it remains wryly funny, a series carried by Tom Selleck’s charm and, if you’re old enough to remember the heat the series generated in the media when it ran, apparently by the man’s moustache. Once again, Selleck’s Thomas Magnum finds himself in more questionable situations, with the give-and-take between him and his wealthy employer Higgins (John Hillerman) grounding the controlled mayhem. Grade: B-

“Monster House: DVD and Blu-ray”: Fun house. Released in time for Halloween, this entertaining film balances chills and humor with surprising depth and an understanding of the pitfalls of childhood. The house in question is vicious, eagerly snatching up those who come too close, with the three young friends determined to defeat it. Nuance is rare in today’s computer-animated movies, but “Monster House” is shaded with it, holding back throughout in ways that help it achieve its effective, sinister jolts of horror. Rated PG. Grade: B+

“Nacho Libre”: Puts another monkey on Jack Black’s back, but this time it isn’t several stories tall, it doesn’t have a thing for blondes and it doesn’t famously destroy New York real estate. The monkey in question is the script, which poses the sort of promising premise that fails to live up to its hype. With the exception of a few funny sight gags, this movie about a Mexican monk who becomes a luchadore delivers mostly disappointments. It isn’t a bad comedy – it’s just a mediocre comedy, which is somehow worse since throughout you can see what it could have been had its jokes stuck. Rated PG-13. Grade: C

“Oz: Seasons 1-6”: Hardly for everyone – and that’s the point. Set in the experimental Oswald State Correctional Facility, or Oz, this prison drama from HBO is refreshingly unhinged, with more corruption brewing inside Oz’s Emerald City than anything, you sense, unfolding outside of it. The writing is raw and seductive, cynical and sexual. The show has an insider’s ear pressed against storylines that feel derived from embarrassing, unwanted truths. Throughout, race and sexuality divide the sketchy characters, with survival and humanity’s baser elements thrumming in the undercurrents. Grade: B+

“That ’70s Show: Season 5”: This restless fifth season finds the writers working overtime to brew new complications for the kids (Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon, Wilmer Valderamma, Mila Kunis, Danny Masterson), some of whom are now steamrolling toward graduation. Breakups, reunions and romantic triangles are the order of the day, with the caustic infighting amplified throughout. The show is a simple parody of an era, but it works. The DVD extras include a satisfying, five-minute blast through the entire season. Grade: B

“Slither: DVD and HD DVD”: A slimy, postmodern homage to the B-movies of yesteryear, with scores of slithering space bugs taking over the forgotten town of Wheelsy. Located in a slice of rural America that’s perfectly scary even without the bugs, Wheelsy’s townsfolk are mostly foul-mouthed, bourbon-soaked, mullet-wearing hillbillies two steps removed from the shallow end of the “Deliverance” gene pool. When a meteorite slams into it, the town’s chief of police, Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion of “Serenity”), is forced to take notice when the wealthy Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) becomes a bug’s host. The changes he undergoes become a wee bit alarming, which is just one reason that this well-done, mindless film is as fun as it is. Rated R. Grade: B

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