"Akeelah and the Bee"
Though I should resist mightily the development of Starbucks as moviemakers, with a confection this sweet I just couldn't stay away.
Not having any younguns to tote around, I generally stay from "family" fare, but "Akeelah and the Bee" is in a different class completely. The story of Akeelah (the simply adorable Keke Palmer) and her quest to compete in the National Spelling Bee is as smart as it is entertaining. Plus, you get Laurence Fishburne as her guru in the first performance he hasn't phoned in for a long time (and Booger is the school principal .. what more incentive do you need?)
Supplements for this glorious geekfest include three featurettes, "The Making of Akeelah and the Bee," "Two Peas in a Pod" and "Inside the Mind of Akeelah," plus deleted scenes and a gag reel. This is easily my pick of the week.
"Friends with Money"
My father and I went to see this one in the ATL, and I have to confess that it left me more than a little cold at the time. Out of love for Nicole Holofcener, who directed the nearly perfect "Lovely and Amazing," however, I'm gonna give it another chance on DVD.
As the title implies (it is, after all, almost as direct as "SoaP"), this is about four women, three of whom are relatively happily married and financially well-off, and a fourth who is struggling to get by. You couldn't ask for a better cast. Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener (who's so good I'd probably watch her in "Biodome 2") are the monied set, with Jennifer Aniston as the odd one out.
Maybe it's just a guy thing, but even with all these talented women on board, I just didn't get it. Feel free to let me know how wrong I am about this one.
"Charles Bukowski Tapes"
I'm not sure how well the movie has aged, but when I first saw it I thought Barbet Schroeder's "Barfly," based on Charles Bukowski's semi-autobiographical work, instantly became one of my favorite movies.
Now, Schroeder has compiled four hours worth of interviews he conducted with Bukowski, which no doubt reveal a colorful portrait of a troubled soul. That said, I'd never be able to go through the 52 interview segments in one sitting, but piece-by-piece they just might be fascinating.
"Lord of the Rings Trilogy - Limited Edition"
I love Peter Jackson and his Tolkein trilogy, but I can't help but think we're just getting snookered with this one.
I bought each of this great movies in their extended DVD form. Jackson's seamless weaving of additional material into the original movies for DVD made each one better. But enough is enough, Mr. Jackson.
If you do spring for these, you'll get the theatrical and extended versions of each movie, plus a full-length, behind-the-scenes documentary about each one by director Costa Botes. Personally, I'd much rather have Mr. Jackson set his sights on "The Hobbit" rather than keep living in the past, but if you somehow don't have these movies, they're definitely worth the investment.
"Arrested Development - Season Three"
I just love this show, but in season three, the story just got so strange that you had the sense they knew early on that the end was near. That said, it was still the funniest thing on TV, and well worth checking out on DVD. Plus, by the end, it was nearly impossible to tell when Fox was gonna air the show, so I haven't seen all of these final shows yet.
The shortened season only managed 13 episodes, caught on two discs. Supplements include commentary on 3 episodes by creator Mitchell Hurwitz and the actors; 19 deleted and extended scenes, a blooper reel, and what must be a truly bittersweet featurette, "The Last Day on Location."
"South Park - The Complete Eighth Season"
I long ago had to curtail my buying of TV shows on DVD, but there are still certain shows that remain irresistable. Along with "The Simpsons" and "Gilmore Girls," this troika is completed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone's foul-mouthed 8-year-olds, now in their eighth season on DVD.
Highlights from this season include "Passion of the Jew," with Mel Gibson in a very prescient meltdown, and the twisted Christmas episode "Woodland Critter Christmas." My favorite episode, however, was I believe the premiere, which paints the boys in anime form with loving care. The satire is still sharp on this one, so if you can take that it's well worth a rental.
"The Best of the Awful Truth"
I love Michael Moore, but I have to admit, he definitely goes down best in small doses. He was often at his best on this Bravo show, which ran for two years and featured very brief glimpses of his muckraking madness. It's not always funny, but with these six episodes handpicked by Mr. Moore himself, it's well worth a rental.
"Pretty in Pink," "Some Kind of Wonderful"
How in the world did it take so long for these John Hughes/Howard Deutch '80s flicks to get the royal treatment on DVD? Of the two, "Pretty in Pink" is far superior, but they're both still fun to watch.
As you might expect, they're loaded with extras that play directly to our knack for nostalgia. The "Everything's Duckie Edition" of "Pretty in Pink" includes five featurettes, "The First time: The Making of Pretty in Pink," "Zoids and Richies," "Prom Queen: All About Molly," "Volcanic Ensembles" and "Prom Stories," commentary by Deutch, the original ending (huh?) and favorite scenes.
The "Special Collector's Edtion" of "Some Kind of Wonderful" includes three featurettes, "The Making of Some Kind of Wonderful," "Meet the Cast" and "The Music," commentary by Deutch and Leah Thompson, and a John Hughes time capsule.
Now that I think more about it, the only thing I really liked about "Some Kind of Wonderful" was that crazy version of "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" by some British band I couldn't possibly recall the name of now. Oh well. Maybe time will make the heart grow fonder.
Whew! A lot of titles this week. Hope I've helped sort them out.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
"Akeelah and the Bee"