A little history, a little intrigue lead off new releases
This week, we begin in the ballpark:
The World Series: History of the Fall Classic This timely four-disc set (also available on two discs) offers an in-depth look at the World Series. It covers some of the series’ greatest games, as well as its most outstanding plays. Bob Costas narrates, taking the viewer through clinching games, post-game celebrations and ceremonial first pitches. Plus, for argument, an imaginary “Ultimate World Series Line Up” is offered. Not rated, 342 minutes, including bonus materials.
The Ambassador (***1/2) In this outrageous yet consistently entertaining documentary, Mads Brugger directed and also plays the title character, a Dane who travels to Africa to, first, obtain bogus diplomatic credentials and, second, use them to help set up a company making matches, and then, third, use that as a front to smuggle diamonds from the Central African Republic.
Brugger, who looks like a Scandinavian Hunter S. Thompson, meets and closes deals with various shady sorts, filming some encounters openly and some secretively.
The audacity of this film is breathtaking, giving a look at a country’s corruption while also creating an authentic concern for the health of the filmmaker.
Not rated, 93 minutes.
David Blaine: A Decade of Magic This two-disc set contains three TV specials from the celebrated magician: Vertigo, with Blaine standing on a 100-foot-high pillar for 35 hours; Drowned Alive, in which he is submerged in water for seven days; and What is Magic? with Blaine touring the country and performing magic.
Not rated, 180 minutes.
The set also contains five separate featurettes totaling more than an hour.
Peace, Love and Misunderstanding (*1/2) An excellent group of female actresses can’t save this embarrassing comedy about a dour Manhattan lawyer (Catherine Keener) whose husband (Kyle MacLachlan) leaves her.
She then takes her young daughter (Elizabeth Olsen) and son (Nat Wolff) to spend time with her mother (Jane Fonda) in Woodstock, New York.
The estranged mother and grandmother encounter expected communication problems, particularly since granny still acts like it is the 1960s. Groovy man.
Every action and piece of dialogue seems phony, making it an uncomfortable experience from usually respected director Bruce Beresford.
Rated R, 92 minutes.
The DVD includes a brief “making of” featurette.
The Barrens (**1/2) Routine horror fare sees mom and dad (Mia Kirshner, Stephen Moyer) taking their two young offspring (Erik Knudsen and Allie MacDonald) camping in a southern New Jersey forest.
There, weird things happen, dad becomes unbalanced, and a mysterious Jersey Devil haunts the forest.
Rated R, 94 minutes.
The DVD includes commentary and three minutes of deleted scenes.
The Cottage (**1/2) A surprisingly frightening David Arquette stars in this increasingly absurd psychological slasher-drama.
He plays Robert, a supposed successful writer of romance novels who answers an ad to rent a backyard cottage from an upscale couple (Kristen Dalton and Victor Brown) with a newborn baby.
They also have two teen daughters.
Of course Robert turns out to be a bad sort, terrorizing the daughters while leading some sort of strange teen cult of his own.
Not rated, 88 minutes.
Excision (**) This odd, unlikable movie wanders among coming-of-age, weird gross-out, young romance, teen misfit and several other genres.
The biggest clue to its intentions come in casting: director John Waters as a priest and Traci Lords as a caring mother.
With that, let’s go with straight satire in the story of high school student Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), who fights with her mother, has trouble at school and indulges in bizarre daydreams.
Not rated, 81 minutes.
And, for kids this week:
Disney brings back a pair of old favorites for the first time in Blu-ray:
Pete’s Dragon: 35th anniversary edition Sean Marshall plays Pete, who communicates with his invisible magic dragon friend Elliott (voiced by Charlie Callas).
Their small village makes fun of Pete until he, and Elliott, make a life-saving rescue.
With Helen Reddy, Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Shelly Winters.
Rated G, 88 minutes.
The DVD comes in all formats and combo packs and includes featurettes on live action animation, an original song concept and a storyboard sequence.
The Great Mouse Detective — Mystery in the Mist Edition Disney first began using computer technology in this 1986 animated spoof of Sherlock Holmes.
Clever mouse Basil (voiced by Barrie Ingham) searches for London’s foremost toymaker but is thwarted at every turn by evil Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price).
Rated G, 74 minutes.
The new disc comes in all formats and various combo packs. The DVD includes a “making of” featurette, a sleuthing game and a sing-along song.
Trooper and the Legend of the Golden Key The amazing detective Trooper is also an adorable, drooling Bloodhound.
One day, Trooper and his 10-year-old owner Tommy embark on an adventure to find the Golden Key, a legendary artifact that could be worth a million dollars.
Not rated, 81 minutes.
Finally, from this week’s TV offerings:
Mad Men: Season Five Our week’s Top-TV-Series-To-DVD is the latest from the four-time Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series.
In this eventful season, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and new wife Meagan (Jessica Pare) find it tough going, but Roger (John Slattery) finds unexpected comfort from Meagan’s mother (Julia Ormand).
Pete Campbell (Vincent Campbell) continues to annoy everyone and even gets into a fistfight at work.
The season sees the loss of a pivotal character, as well as the suicide of another.
Life dramatically goes on in these 13 episodes, on four discs, at Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce.
Not rated, 611 minutes.
The collection also includes commentaries on every episode by various cast and crew. Plus: featurettes on such topics as artist Giorgio de Chirico (17 minutes), composer David Carbonarra’s music score (21 minutes), Truman Capote’s famous “Black and White” party (23 minutes), the season’s best one-liners (17 minutes), a brief look at Daylight Saving Time (implemented in 1966) and more.
The Firm: The Complete Series This NBC series begins 10 years after the events of the movie based on John Grisham’s novel.
Josh Lucas plays Mitch McDeere, and Molly Parker is his wife, now relocated in Washington, D.C.
Mitch works for himself as a criminal defense attorney, landing public defender jobs, primarily with a young woman charged with murder but also with hidden connections.
Meanwhile, McDeere has become the unknowing target of the son of one of the mobsters sent to prison when the young lawyer was in Memphis.
Each week brings McDeere a new challenge while he copes with the ongoing.
Not rated, 990 minutes.
The set also offers nine cast and crew interviews, a seven-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette and four-minute featurettes on “Origins of the Firm” and on Josh Lucas.
Also on DVD: Chernobyl Diaries, Moonrise Kingdom, Neil Young Journeys, That’s My Boy