Vision Quest

Ten videos no home should be without.

DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, TIVO, Fancast, downloads, Netflix, or mental telepathy — the choice is yours this holiday home video season. Soon, the digitalization of America will encompass every piece of intellectual property that can be seen, heard, read, or thought about. But one thing’s for certain: People will always want to curl up in front of the flat-screen and float away to some other world — whether it’s Russell Brand‘s or Pee-wee Herman‘s. More than one cultural observer has decreed that long-form cable TV serials are the dominant art form of our time. But we’ll always have Brigitte Helm. Here’s a nutty list of home videos to keep you up all night. All prices are MSRP. Shop around.

Alice in Wonderland
Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy

The Blu-ray resolution gives us a chance to really study Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, and the intricate Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. There’s nothing to compare with Disney’s technical expertise in the commercial marketplace. The making-ofs depict the actors’ makeup ordeals in horrifying detail. (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)

Bored to Death: The Complete First Season

Writer Jonathan Ames is responsible for the haimish Brooklyn-esque mood of the HBO sitcom, which stars Jason Schwartzman as a writer moonlighting disastrously as a private detective, Ted Danson as his weed-smoking magazine editor boss, and Zach Galifianakis as a comic-book artist with self-esteem problems — bolstered by recurring actors Olivia Thirlby and Oliver Platt, and guest stars like Parker Posey, Patton Oswalt, and Jim Jarmusch. The show builds steadily, thanks in large part to Danson’s comic timing. Besides a making-of and deleted scenes, there’s a tour of Brooklyn with series creator Ames and Schwartzman. (HBO Home Entertainment)

Get Him to the Greek
Two-Disc Collector’s Edition

Bring your own dangerous drugs. Everything else is supplied in the expanded edition of Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller‘s summer laff riot about a record company gofer (Jonah Hill) assigned to shepherd a flamingly naughty rock star (Russell Brand) from London to an LA concert gig. Two complete versions, theatrical and unrated, plus gobs of gewgaws. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

The Killer Inside Me

Home is probably the best place to explore the most graphic interpretation yet of author Jim Thompson‘s misanthropic, sickeningly violent oeuvre, because no one will be looking over your shoulder. Casey Affleck‘s portrayal of homicidal deputy Lou Ford is even creepier than his Robert Ford. Director Michael Winterbottom and adaptor John Curran set noir avatar Thompson loose like never before. Beware. (MPI Home Video)

The Law

Oscilloscope, one of America’s most adventurous indie film distributors (Howl, Exit Through the Gift Shop, etc.), re-released The Law theatrically in 2010 but it never played the Bay Area. So this is your chance to catch a seldom-seen little jewel by director Jules Dassin (Rififi, Thieves’ Highway, Night and the City) about a housemaid (Gina Lollobrigida), a crime boss (Yves Montand), and a visiting engineer (Marcello Mastroianni) interacting heatedly in an Italian fishing village, circa 1959. The title refers to an infamous Italian drinking game, banned because of the violence it causes, and the DVD provides a nifty documentary about the game, L’ultima osteria, as well as a critical commentary and two period making-of docs. (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

The Complete Metropolis

You may have seen Fritz Lang‘s massively influential silent sci-fi adventure before, but you’ve never really captured the experience at home until you’ve witnessed Kino’s brand new Blu-ray version, with 25 minutes of newly discovered footage, keyed to the newly recorded 1927 score in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound. Absolutely magnificent. (Kino International)

The Pacific

Exec-producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks continue their World War II tribute (Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers) with this sweeping, well-acted, appropriately bloody, ten-part TV mini-series fictionalization of the stories of real-life US Marines in the title theater of war, slogging from island to island, each one worse than the last. The production values are first-rate. Also inside the metal box set are thoughtful documentaries, intros, and a making-of. (HBO Home Entertainment)

Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Collection

Today’s secret word is: “Overload.” Relive your childhood, or someone else’s, with a stupefyingly comprehensive look back at Chairy, Randy, Cowboy Curtis, Dixie, the King of Cartoons, Penny, Jambi, Mrs. Steve, and the rest of Pee-wee’s pals from Paul Reubens‘ award-winning Saturday-morning TV show (1986-87) — just in time for Pee-wee’s 2010 Broadway revival. The major bonus is Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, a true mind-blower with our host frolicking among guest stars who sing (Grace Jones, Charo, k.d. lang, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon) and those who don’t (Cher, Little Richard, Magic Johnson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg). Also includes two never-before-released “lost shows.” (Image Entertainment)

Red Cliff: International Version – Part I & Part II

If this year’s US release print of John Woo‘s Chinese historical epic Red Cliff seemed a little disorganized, that’s because it was trimmed down from its original two-part, four-and-a-half-hour running time to one bite-sized film for the American market. Now comes the official international cut and voila! — it’s a whole new movie, with more exposition by actors Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro and a skosh more graphic blood and guts, natch. Despite the CGI work in the climactic naval battle, this is probably the closest we can come in the 21st century to a true “cast of thousands” sword saga. (Magnolia Home Entertainment)

3 Silent Classics by Josef Von Sternberg

The home video event of the year for classic-film lovers. Three neglected titles by Hollywood mise-en-scene maestro Von Sternberg — Underworld (1927), The Last Command (1928), and The Docks of New York (1928) — get the full Criterion treatment, with a choice of music scores, visual essays, and more. Painting with light. (Criterion Collection)

Support the East Bay Express, local news, donate

Newsletter sign-up

eLert sign-up

few clouds
50.9 ° F
54 °
48 °
76 %
20 %
62 °
65 °
64 °
62 °
56 °