This American Journey
Cinema Libre Studio
On DVD: 10.22.13
Inspired by their love for America, British actor Paul Blackthorne (Lipstick Jungle, Arrow) and Australian photographer Mister Basquali take a drive across the United States. During their journey, they chat with random people, finding out if America is still the country that they fell in love with after two wars and a near economic collapse. This film can be broken into three sections, lightly addressing the broad issues of class, race and faith.
The duo chats with a diverse array of folks, including shop owners, Ronald McDonald and a cowboy preacher. In their discussions, they manage to extract a sense of optimism from their interviewees while still receiving brutal honesty about America’s problems (giving a sense that the American spirit is still there, just with a bit of mud on it).
Certainly it is interesting to hear the diverse opinions offered, though the film comes across as rather simple in its approach and message. This gives the film an amateurish feel, as it was seemingly shot on the fly. This is very much a feel-good documentary that is good for watching just once. After that, I would recommend something with a little depth. –Nick Kuzmack
On DVD: 02.11
When I first heard the premise of Austenland, I thought I could get on board and maybe even relate to the lead character, Jane (played by Keri Russell). I too, enjoy the works of Jane Austen. In my personal life, I am surrounded by live action role players (LARPers: you have maybe seen them at Liberty Park on Saturday mornings).
While I have no interest in role playing a fictional character, the idea of a trip to a Jane Austen theme park sounds like a great place for hopeless romantics and literary aficionados and has the makings of an entertaining movie. The idea is good, but the execution is half-hearted. Austenland is a romantic comedy—you could guess by looking at the supporting cast (Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie and Jane Seymour).
It strives to be farcical and is full to the bonnet with cheese, and as a romantic comedy, it’s quite predictable. If only Jane Austen was around to add her classic wit to the script. I won’t lie, though, I put on my jammies, sat down with a bottle of wine and some popcorn, shut my brain off and had a wonderful, girly time. –Rebecca Frost
Dallas: The Complete Second Season
Warner Home Video
On DVD: 02.11
Twenty-one years after the original Dallas finale, TNT aired a follow-up series by the same name. It even employs characters from the original television show and their kin, making it an enjoyable show for viewers who watched decades ago. I may not have seen the original, but being pop-culturally aware has helped me realize that, oh, that’s the J.R. of “Who Shot J.R.?” fame.
Sure, it’s soapy enough that I feel like I need to take a second shower, but the drama is captivating. The DVD set of Dallas is especially J.R.-centric, with features focusing on Larry Hagman, the actor who brought the character of J.R. to life, and how he impacted others on the show. This season two set is a great addition to those who are particularly nostalgic to the original show. –Rebecca Frost
DEVO: The Complete Truth About De-Evolution
On DVD: 02.11
Directed by Chuck Statler (In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evoultion 1975-1978, The Right Spectacle: The Very Best of Elvis Costello-The Videos) this compressive collection of DEVO material highlights their socially conscious humor and distaste for corporate culture in 20 classic music videos. This includes “Worried Man,” “Freedom of Choice,” “Through Being Cool,” “Whip It” and their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
The DVD also includes bonus material with rare footage from some of their early 1970s gigs when DEVO started off with a very Stones-esque rock n’ roll sound. Another treat is commentary from bassist Gerald V. Casale on DEVO’s history and approach to making music. To make the most of the music videos, I would recommend reading and listening to the backstory in the bonus features section first.
That way, the viewer may get some keen perspective on what DEVO is presenting in their material. It’s full of fun information for anyone who may enjoy some pop-culture history, though I probably wouldn’t watch it more than twice. Once for the laugh, twice for the insight. After that, you get the idea. –Nick Kuzmack
Gerard Garilli Productions
On DVD: 01.31
If you see one movie this year that is utterly depressing it should be Fratello. This is not a slant—it serves as a strong testament to the emotion and execution behind this film. Fratello is Italian for brother and in this family drama, two brothers unravel shockingly. Seriously, you might have to watch cartoons after.
Gerard Garilli who stared, co-wrote, and produced this film wanted to create a gritty, realistic story with a lethal dose of dark. He wanted something that would challenge him. This is achieved, but what I love about the film is the heart behind all those involved with it. Garilli’s sister Justine Garilli plays a prominent role and his father also shows up for a cameo appearance. The brothers’ mentor and caretaker in the film, Joseph R. Gannascoli, even shakes off his Sopranos cobwebs for proper Italian credibility.
This film really wanted to be made and that’s a refreshing break from the over produced market we pay 10 bucks a pop to participate in. I hope Garilli’s hard work is rewarded and more from him is on the horizon. However, I think his next challenge should be a kids movie—perhaps something with bunnies. –Benjamin Tilton
Regular Show: Mordecai and Margaret Pack
Warner Home Video
On DVD: 02.11
I consider myself a dorky adult-child with a fondness for strange kids’ shows. So, when I popped in the Regular Show DVD, I watched all 16 episodes in a row. I have the attention span of a sandwich, so 20-minute long episodes suit me well.
I had never seen an episode of Regular Show before, but I was immediately sold with the first episode on the disc. A pair of assumingly lazy bros pouring coffee down their gullets in order to work more hours so they can afford concert tickets? Witty and relatable. This DVD pack specifically showcases episodes featuring characters Mordecai and Margaret and their long road to romance.
Released just in time for Valentine’s Day, the 16 episodes inspire hope that maybe yes, you too, you lazy java junkie with no car, can find love. The DVD also includes a never-before-seen clip from the Season Four finale for the fellow dedicated dorks and adult-children out there. –Rebecca Frost
Sherlock: Season Three
BBC Home Entertainment
On DVD: 02.11
After an agonizing two years, Sherlock finally premiered its third season on PBS in January. Thankfully, BBC was quick to put out the DVD for dedicated fans to watch over and over again while waiting another six years (probably) for Season Four. The show’s second season ended with a spectacular cliffhanger, allowing time for theories to swirl through the Internet.
Show creators Steven Moffatt (I know, Doctor Who fans, I know) and Mark Gatiss must have taken to Tumblr themselves to find the most ridiculous fan theories and utilize them in the show’s premiere and a behind-the-scenes featurette. The case of “How Did Sherlock Fake His Death” is indeed resolved, but leaves you also considering the possibility that maybe we will never know how he really pulled it off. “The Empty Hearse,” the first episode, reminds you exactly why you stuck with the show even during its hiatus.
Benedict Cumberbatch is wonderfully witty and sly, and Martin Freeman takes a break from being a hobbit to grow a mustache and find himself a lady friend. “The Sign of Three” slips from the show’s storytelling format and focuses on Sherlock delivering a best man speech at Watson’s wedding. Oh, he solves a mystery too, but the funnier-than-usual episode is strictly “Seriously, Sherlock gives a speech for an hour and it’s awkward.”
The finale, “His Last Vow,” unfortunately takes a severe left turn and all those Doctor Who fans out there get to say, “I told you so,” because Steven Moffatt throws everything into an insanity casserole and expects you to eat it because you are his guest. I have 14 more years until the next season to get over my frustration, but in the meantime, I strongly urge you to petition for Benedict Cumberbatch to be best man at every wedding ever. –Rebecca Frost
Treme: The Complete Series
On DVD: 01.28
If you have a superb, high-definition television and excellent sound system, you absolutely need to watch Treme on blu-ray. The HBO show that aired in 2010 for 36 episodes aims to not only educate viewers about the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina, but also about the culture that flows through New Orleans, and it makes you feel so many feels about these people and their lives.
Musicians of many varieties are highlighted, empowering the soul of New Orleans. The culture is not limited to music, although I will admit it’s the music that kept me captivated. Families, business owners, lawyers, city workers—everyone has a story and they are all woven together to make one beautiful story.
The blu-ray set includes all the special features from previous releases as well as a bonus disc with music videos from the series. I don’t recommend watching more than a few episodes a day (and maybe supplement with vitamin D to avoid being super depressed), but given the time, Treme is definitely a must watch. –Rebecca Frost
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