DVD Round-Up: 'The Artist,' 'Jump Street,' 'Ninjago,' & Rare Miyazaki
Week of June 26th
Published: 06/24/2012 01:47pm
It’s hard to pick out which of this week’s titles will sell the most copies. The mythological mash-up Wrath of the Titans did $301 million worldwide compared with just $192 million for the comedy 21 Jump Street, but domestically Jump Street out-earned Titans $138 million to $83 million so it’s anybody’s guess how these two titles will fare on disc. Wrath of the Titans (Warner Bros., "PG-13," $28.98, BD $35.99) rehashed the formula of the 2010 remake Clash of the Titans, but earned only about 60% of what Clash brought in—and it’s easy to see why, despite the best efforts of a talented group of actors, these absurd excursions into ancient mythology can quickly lose their appeal even as the special effects technology improves.
At least the makers of 21 Jump Street (Sony, "R," $29.99, BD 35.99) decided they weren’t going to try to recapture the "too cool for school" charm of the original TV series that featured a gaggle of hip young cops led by Johnny Depp. Instead they went for the raunchy, "R" rated comic jugular, and depending on your tolerance for broad comedy, succeeded in coaxing a considerable amount of humor from the silly and the stupid with a tale of hopelessly inept cops going undercover in a local high school to bust up a drug ring. Except for a bloody climax that messes with the film’s comic tone, 21 Jump Streetgenerally succeeds in fashioning a good dumb buddy comedy out of a series that was just a trendy vehicle for charismatic young stars.
The fantasy genre has been getting a major revival on the both the big and small screens these days with the "fairy tale" category getting lots of attention including the current Snow White and the Huntsmen as well as the forthcoming Maleficent. Mirror Mirror (Relativity, "PG," $28.98, BD $39.99), the first of the new wave of live-action fairy tales to make it to the big screen, takes a humorous, tongue-in-cheek approach that quickly loses its appeal in spite of a solid cast headed by Julia Roberts. Based on the far greater box office success of Snow White and the Huntsman, audiences preferred a more serious approach to the campy tack taken by the creators of Mirror Mirror.
The Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words (Paramount, "PG-13," $29.99, BD $39.99) features a high-concept premise—he plays a fast-talking agent who learns that he can only say 1,000 more words before his demise—but by taking away Murphy’s voice the filmmakers deprived the comedian of his most important tool. In other hands this might have been a clever way to create a modern slapstick silent comedy that hearkened back to the films of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, but this film, which was made in 2008 and not released until 2012 (always a bad sign), couldn’t manage to earn a single positive review on Rotten Tomatoes.
Speaking of nearly silent films, The Artist (Weinstein Co, "PG," $30.99, BD $35.99) is an Oscar-winning love letter to the silent era of Hollywood filmmaking from French director Michael Hazanavicius. Because it is silent, shot in black-and-white, and features a largely French cast, it probably won’t sell as many copies on disk as Wrath of the Titans, which is understandable, but, given the relative quality of the two films, still extremely disappointing. Of course The Artist is far from a perfect film. Jean Dujardin is brilliant as a Douglas Fairbanks-style leading man, but it should be noted that Fairbanks’ broad style of emoting was already passé by the time that sound was about to spell the end of the silent era. But it is mere quibbling to complain about the historical particulars of The Artist, which celebrates the entirety of the silent era with its dashing acrobatic heroes, its vibrant flapper heroines, and clever canines. The Artist is a largely silent black-and-white film that will appeal even to those who don’t normally enjoy either silent movies or black and white films of any sort.
TV on DVD
Other animated series targeting young viewers include Iron Man: Armored Adventures-Season 2, Vol. 1 (Genius Products, 132 min., $14.93), which includes the first six episodes of the Iron Man animated series that debuted on Nicktoons in 2009 and follows the adventures of a teenage Tony Stark, and the bargain-priced sampler,He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: 20-Episode Collection (Mill Creek, 420 min., $9.98).
The top U.S. adult-oriented release is Damages: The Complete Fourth Season (Sony, $45.99), which collects that latest season of the legal drama starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne that began on the FX network and is currently broadcast on Direct TV’s Audience Network.
Other series due on Tuesday include Law and Order: Criminal Intent—The Seventh Year (Shout Factory, 960 min., $49.97), the Canadian-produced sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie (eOne Entertainment, 300 min., $34.99), and Casablanca: The Complete Series (Olive Films, 245 min., $39.95), which collects the short-lived 1983 TV American TV series based on the classic film.
Also due this week is the Towanoquon Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, "14+," 300 min., $59.98, BD $69.98), which includes all six 45-minute anime films produced by Bones in 2011 and directed by Umanosuke Lida. Fans of American superhero comics such as the X-Men, will find some familiar narrative threads in this tightly woven science fiction saga about humans with special powers (known as "Attractors"”) who are being marked for elimination by a secret organization known as Custos.
The lone re-priced re-release of the week is the Strawberry Panic Complete Collection (Media Blasters, "13+," 650 min., $19.99), which collects the26-episode, 2005 series produced by Madhouse and based on the "yuri" light novel series by Sakurako Kimino.
Classics on Blu-ray
Equally interesting in its own right is Children of Eve, an indictment of child labor that ends with a horrific fire sequence that was undoubtedly inspired by the Triangle Shirt Waist catastrophe. The director of Children of Eve, John H. Collins, who was something of a rising star among American directors in the teens, died in 1918 in the influenza epidemic at the age of just 26.
The other film included in this package "Inside the White Slave Traffic" is a 28-minute docu-drama style film from 1913 that was shot largely on location that represents a sort of halfway step towards the full length feature films that after 1915 increasingly became the industry norm.
As old as these films are, they definitely show the ravages of age. The Devil’s Needle shows numerous signs of nitrate degeneration and one scene is missing in its entirety. Given the state of the surviving material spending the extra money on the Blu-ray edition may not be worth it, though in scenes that have come through more or less intact the detail of the hi-def version visible in the surfaces of the tweeds and other fabrics provide at least some idea of how richly detailed these films must have been when they were first projected.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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