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Headsup for February 23, 2008

An ongoing attempt to make sense of the onslaught of new swag that people want you to buy. Should you? I’ll try and help.

The Aristocats Special Edition DVD Cover Art
Margot at the Wedding DVD Cover Art
Becoming Jane DVD Cover Art

The Aristocats is back in a special edition, and while it’s not one of Disney‘s full-on Platinum Editions, it has a little bit to warrant it. A little, anyway. Mostly, the transfer is updated and looks a lot better than the previous release. But beyond that, there’s just bits and pieces that would interest us, since most kids find DVD player games about as interesting as a shoe that they can’t see. You get a deleted song, four minutes with the Brothers Sherman talking about the songs from the film (four minutes!), a gallery, and then two other pieces that are included because they have cats in them. First, a bit from the Disneyland series with Walt talking about cat history and the short “Bath Day” which has Figaro the cat in it. And that’s it. No commentary. Granted, this isn’t ranked up there with a Snow White or a Sleeping Beauty, but at least give us something. Ideally, Disney needs to start selling DVDs that appeal to both adults and children–like their classic films do. Put the hardcore Criterion-esque stuff on one disc, put the kid-friendly stuff on the second disc. I can solve problems like this–my rates are very reasonable. Anyway, if you don’t already own this, it’s worth having just for the film and the new transfer, especially if you have kids. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I was interested in Margot at the Wedding from jump, since Jack Black in any comedy is worth seeing, especially when it’s a comedy about people that seem thoroughly crap. And throw in Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and there’s enough here to make us not want to hold Life Aquatic against writer/director Noah Baumbach. The gist is this: Leigh is about to marry Black, and Leigh’s sister, played by Kidman, shows up for the wedding in order to make things interesting, which is precisely the job of siblings when it comes to weddings. Fairly bare bones release from Paramount, you’ve got a convo with Baumbach and Leigh, and that’s about it. Worth a rental, it’s good for anyone who has a crazy family. Which, honestly would be…everyone. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Okay, so are there many authors that get the treatment like Jane Austen? And while I detest the notion of a “chick flick,” it just seems that Hollywood (small screen and large) tend to try and go for Austen’s works whenever possible, so they can feel like they’re in Merchant Ivory country without actually having to book travel there. Now we’re getting, Becoming Jane, a movie about Austen herself and the romance that launched a thousand remakes, because presumably the statue of limitations hasn’t run out on them doing another Pride and Prejudice. Regardless, Anne Hathaway is Jane, plus you’ve got Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and James Cromwell, plus James McAvoy who seems to be in every third film coming out these days. If you’re into Jane Austen or period pieces in general, you might want to give this a rental. It’s out from Miramax with a featurette, deleted scenes and an audio commentary. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Extraordinary Rendition DVD Cover Art
The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue DVD Cover Art

For those of you who don’t know Andy Serkis apart from him being Gollum and King Kong, you’re really missing out. Because he’s a great actor in additional to being an excellent master of the mo-cap suit–which is why his mo-cap performances are so damn good. I first caught him full bore in Simon Schama’s Power of Art where he played a really scary intense Van Gogh, even though he had a piece of The Prestige before. But people who appreciate political films, take note: in Extraordinary Rendition, he’s playing the lead interrogator working over a suspected terrorist as part of the titular method of kidnapping and questioning suspects. Similar to the Reese Witherspoon movie that came out recently. This out from BFS and worth a rental for those interested parties. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Spanish/Italian production The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is out from Blue Underground in a 2-disc special edition. Blue Underground also released a single disc edition last year under one of its myriad alternate titles, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. The story is about two people who stumble upon a small town filled with corpses. My favorite part of the blurb on the back is: “Discovering that an agricultural machine using radiation waves is at the root of all the havoc…” Isn’t that great? And you thought genetically engineered crops were scary. Anyway, this comes with trailers, TV and radio spots, a locations featurette with the director, and interviews with actor Ray Lovelock, the special effects artist and the director. Zombie completists will want this–I’m putting this on the short list for this October. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ricky Gervais Extras the Complete Series DVD
Gone Baby Gone DVD Cover Art

So Ricky Gervais did another series where he got in, impressed the shit out of everyone, and got out. Typical. Now the complete series of Extras is available and, as we’ve reported before, he even made sure that HBO was going to release the finale/special separately so as to please those who didn’t feel like having the buy the whole series over again. For those who don’t know and don’t feel like waiting until somebody comes out with an Americanized version to find out, Ricky plays a working actor on his way up and what happens when he eventually gets there. Hilarious guest appearances from everyone like David Bowie and Patrick Stewart as well as Sam Jackson and Daniel Radcliffe are here as well. The boxed set has two behind-the-scenes docus, outtakes, and three featurettes, plus deleted scenes. Folks who dug the original Office are going to want this on their shelves as well. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Last but not least, it’s Ben Affleck impressing the hell out of critics for once by getting out in front of the camera and directing instead his brother in a noir film, Gone Baby Gone, that garnered lots of good buzz. So it’s Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan looking for an abducted girl in Boston, with Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman and Amy Ryan in the cast as well. (We’re giving some copies away, did we mention that?) Anyway, this film, which comes off better than the last Dennis Lehane adaptation, comes with commentary by Ben Affleck and writer Aaron Stockard. They also provide commentary on deleted scenes, plus you get an extended ending, and two featurettes. Worth at least a rental, but noir/mystery fans might want to own afterwards. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)