Witches, aliens, werewolves and other shady figures pop up in new DVD releases
This week, we begin in Scotland:
Rated PG, 95 minutes.
Available Tuesday in DVD
and streaming formats.
The latest jewel from Disney-Pixar takes place in Scotland, where Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) defies her community’s traditions only to face a surprising challenge. Her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), and mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), fear for her life.
With her triplet brothers, Merida bravely confronts an evil curse that has been unleashed. Colorful and action-filled. Julie Walters voices the witch, and Robbie Coltrane is Lord Dingwall.
The DVD comes in a wide assortment of choices, including the Ultimate Collector’s Edition, a five-disc 3-D combo pack. Check labels for supplements, as varying editions include director commentary, extended scenes, a featurette on the evolution of the storylines, the seven-minute theatrical short “La Luna,” the short “The Legend of Mor’du,” and featurettes on bears, the mother-daughter dynamic between Merida and Elinor, recreating the Scottish countrysides and much more.
The Watch (**1/2) In this rare combination of science fiction and comedy, Ben Stiller plays an officious Costco manager in Glenview, Ohio. To guard against an outbreak of local vandalism, he organizes a neighborhood watch and is joined by three other members (Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn and Richard Ayoade).
The foursome discovers that the neighborhood’s problems have been caused by Earth-dwelling aliens masquerading as humans. The lumpy mixture of genres allows the talented cast to milk the material for a decent amount of entertaining, satirical silliness.
Rated R, 102 minutes. The DVD, in all formats, includes 13 deleted scenes, a four-minute gag reel, a five-minute featurette on casting the aliens, and a brief segment on “Alien Invasions and You.” The Blu-ray version offers several additional supplements.
Hold Your Man (***1/2) and Red Dust (****) Warner Archive’s manufactured-on-demand series releases two first-rate films starring two then-up-and-coming MGM actors: Clark Gable, before he became a major star, and Jean Harlow, before she died at age 26.
Anita Loos provided the story and co-wrote the screenplay for Hold Your Man (1933, 87 minutes), directed by criminally overlooked studio veteran Sam Wood.
Gable plays a con man who falls for the equally shady Ruby (Harlow). The 19-year-old lands in a reformatory because of one of his schemes. But, in true love-conquers-all fashion, that can’t keep them apart.
The feisty Harlow grabs the film long enough to deliver two devastating left hooks.
In 1932’s famous Red Dust (83 minutes), uber-masculine Dennis Carson (Gable) runs a rubber plantation in Indochina. He pauses long enough from bossing the natives to notice the arrival of a stranded vagabond, Vantine (Harlow), with whom he immediately takes up.
Later, an out-of-place engineer, Gary Willis (Gene Raymond), arrives with his wife, Barbara (Mary Astor). Before long, Dennis and Barbara are having a jungle-steamy love affair, to Gary’s ignorance and Vantine’s annoyance. Harlow may share screen time, but she steals her scenes with her unbridled sexuality.
In a Hollywood oddity, John Ford remade this film in 1953 as Mogambo, with Gable taking the same role and Ava Gardner in Harlow’s role.
Dark Horse (**) Perennially misanthropic Todd Solondz directed this odd — even by his standards — satire of sorts.
Jordan Gelber plays Abe, a pathetic, mentally stunted man in his 30s who lives on Long Island with his parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken). He meets shy Miranda (Selma Blair) and falls for her.
The nearly comatose woman responds for a while before it seems she is more interested in Abe’s successful brother, Richard (Justin Bartha). The typically dark and dreary Solondz movie obscures its intentions, while never allowing in a ray of hope. Not rated, 88 minutes.
With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story (**1/2) This hagiographic documentary chronicles the life and work of the legendary 89-year-old comic book maven.
The writer and editor of Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man and many others lets his friends talk about him in entertaining interviews: Patrick Stewart, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendez, Jon Favreau, Kirsten Dunst and, of course, Kevin Smith. The documentary follows Lee’s fascinating story from the early 1960s to today.
Not rated, 80 minutes. The DVD includes commentary, extended interviews, an image gallery with more than 500 characters created by Lee, and featurettes.
Company (***) Director Lonny Price captured a live performance of Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking 1970 musical, with book by George Furth.
Neil Patrick Harris stars as 35-year-old Bobby, whose life story is told through such songs as “Ladies Who Lunch,” “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” and many more. The all-star cast includes Craig Bierko, Jon Cryer, Stephen Colbert, Patti LuPone, Martha Plimpton, Christina Hendricks, Katie Finneran and others.
Not rated, 145 minutes. Director Price contributed liner notes for the DVD.
Adventures of Bailey: Christmas Hero Around Christmas, Bailey, the Baker family’s big, bushy pup, takes off for an adventure with an American Indian who can grant holiday wishes. Instead, Bailey learns about the meanings of Christmas spirit. Not rated, 87 minutes.
Pixar Short Films Collection 2 (***1/2) In this excellent collection, Pixar has assembled a potpourri of 12 selected animated short features, including some of the earliest works of the studio’s founders and directors.
The collection includes “Burn-E,” a companion piece to Wall-E. Plus: contributions from Rob Gibbs, Jim Capobianco, Peter Sohn, Doug Sweetland, Gary Rydstrom, Ronnie del Carmen, Josh Cooley, Angus MacLane and Enrico Casarosa.
Rated G, 75 minutes. The DVD, in all formats and various combo packs, includes commentaries and seven student films from John Lasseter, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton.
And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:
Ancient Aliens: Season Four The 10 episodes of this popular H2-History channel series again examines whether Earth was once visited by aliens. Conspiracy theorists might enjoy segments on the Da Vinci conspiracy, doomsday prophecies, the Mayans and more. Not rated, 440 minutes. Also available on Blu-ray.
Duck Dynasty: Season One Reality TV grows even weirder with this first season of 15 episodes, on three discs, of the new show starring the Robertson family of Louisiana. They own and run Duck Commander, a sporting goods store filled with duck-related merchandise. Willie, Jase, Korie, Missy and Uncle Si join company founder and patriarch Phil as they navigate their customers and each other.
Not rated, 330 minutes. The collection also includes additional footage.
Wolf Lake: The Complete Series This 2001-02 series of nine episodes on three discs predated the current werewolf craze, so today it might hold some resonance with genre fans. Lou Diamond Phillips starred as a Seattle detective searching for his lost girlfriend, Ruby (Mia Kirshner). He lands in Wolf Lake, where every week he is rewarded with some surprises. With Paul Wesley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Graham Greene.
Not rated, 465 minutes. The collection also holds commentary, the unaired pilot and the documentary feature “Wolf Lake: The Original Werewolf Saga.”
Also available on DVD: Friends: The Complete Series, Lost Girl: Season Two, Queen of Versailles, Vamp