Entertainment options are expanding left and right, but the films with the biggest advertising budgets can often create such a wall of noise that they drown out all competitors, making it difficult to discover on DVD new movies or things you might have missed in theaters (and subsequently forgotten to add to a Netflix queue). And that hardly seems fair. Enter this column. Each week I’ll be offering up thoughts and preview looks at a wide variety of titles, a true grab bag inclusive of documentaries, new releases and forgotten classics (as well as probably some deservedly forgotten duds) just now making their bow on home video platforms.
When it comes to TV, the interesting thing is how the proliferation of cable and satellite channels has impacted primetime network programming. We live in a time where, paradoxically, there is probably more inarguably great television than ever before… but also a lot of lazy, point-and-shoot reality shows, stoking the collective narcissism of a country that really doesn’t need many more reasons to profess its self-love. All of which brings us to a heartfelt, well-written show with a passionate fanbase that was unable to sustain its network home, and instead staved off execution by migrating for a time to DIRECTV in a quirky arrangement that precluded further audience growth. Yes, the bittersweet fifth and final season of Friday Night Lights (Universal) just hit DVD this month, wrapping up the stories of Eric and Tami Taylor (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton), and the various boosters, players and hangers-on of Dillon, Texas, a football-crazy small town. Of the two included audio commentary tracks in this multi-disc set, the one to cue up with tissue in hand is for the episode “Always,” with showrunner Jason Katims. He gives great production detail and anecdotes, but also talks touchingly about the strong bonds between cast and crew. There’s also a great photo gallery/yearbook, a clutch of deleted scenes, and a moving goodbye featurette with loads of interviews.
It’s not my bag, truly (I managed to escape the South with neither an affinity for NASCAR or country music — no small feat), but Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D
is now available on DVD… in 2D, despite that title. (Confused?) I’m told it was a solid concert documentary, so give it a spin if that’s up your alley. Bonus song tracks include “You and Me,” “Don’t Blink,” “Guitars and Tiki Bars” and “Never Wanted Nothing More.” More traditional rock ‘n’ roll fans might be encouraged to reach a bit further back, to last year’s John Lennon: Rare and Unseen (MVD Visual), a fascinating and insightful look at the onetime Beatle. While it doesn’t contain cuts of his music, it does feature top-shelf talking head material, and some great rare footage from pop shows Man of the Decade and Weekend World.
For horror fans who’ve already gotten their kicks in theaters with Insidious, and are looking to curl up with something a bit bloodier, there are a couple options. First up is David Buchert’s Blood Oath (Troma), starring Tina Krause and Tiffany Shepis. The set-up is familiar (a group of friends on a camping trip investigating a twisted urban legend, don’tcha know) and the production value and acting somewhat risible, but for those who appreciate the whole DIY ethos of truly indie filmmaking, there’s a bit of fun to be had. DVD special features include an introduction by Debbie Rochon and Troma president Lloyd Kaufman, an audio commentary track by Buchert, outtakes, a storyboard slideshow and featurettes on the movie’s special effects work and production, more generally. There’s also The Inheritance,written and directed by Robert O’Hara, and costarring Keith David. Filmed on location in wintry Minnesota, this movie is interesting and notable for being the rare horror entry made by and centered entirely around an African-American ensemble — a group of ambitious cousins who gather to try to lay claim to a family fortune dating back generations. Tension and bloodletting ensues, in fairly engaging and well orchestrated fashion.
Of course, there are behemoth titles out there too. Tron Legacy (Disney) was a huge hit last December, grossing almost $400 million worldwide. Of the many iterations just now available on DVD and Blu-ray, the biggest and best is a five-disc combo pack, which pairs 3D and 2D Blu-ray versions of the film with a DVD copy, a digital copy and a DVD copy of the original 1982 film, with over five hours of bonus content that explores its impact on pop culture and the tech/computer world. If only this included a CD copy of Daft Punk’s ripping soundtrack, it might be the perfect single-film set. As is, it’s simply one of the best of the year, value-rated.
Finally, for off-the-beaten-path sports enthusiasts there’s Highwater,
Written by: Brent Simon