Welcome back to new release hell: The only major theatrical film coming to home screens this week is ‘Bridesmaids,’ though that ensemble comedy about women behaving badly has enough laughs to last seven days. Two Blu-ray debuts, however, will brighten up your week: ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘Dumbo.’
What It’s About: ‘Saturday Night Live’ star Kristen Wiig plays thirtysomething Annie, the girl-next-door whose life has devolved into a total mess: Her bakery — in which she sank her life’s savings — has gone under, she’s working at a thankless job; she’s being used sexually by a smarmy playboy (Jon Hamm in a scene-stealing performance), and she’s sharing an apartment with a weird brother-sister duo from Down Under. When her lifetime best friend (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and asks her to be the maid of honor, things really spiral out-of-control: Annie botches the wedding plans, alienates the other bridesmaids (Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper), and generally wreaks havoc on everyone — and everything — around her.
It’s Kinda Like: ‘The Hangover’ meets ‘Steel Magnolias’
What We Say: Billed as the female answer to the Farrelly Brothers, Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips-directed male gross-out comedies, ‘Bridesmaids’ proves, once and for all, that when girls just want to have fun, look out. It’s not so much that women can’t be nasty, revel in poop and vomit jokes, get drunk, swear and act outrageous on the screen — it’s that male directors, producers and writers generally don’t give them a chance. That’s changed now, of course, thanks to Wiig (who co-wrote the film with her friend and Groundlings alum Annie Mumolo), TV director Paul Feig and the aforementioned Apatow, who produced this laugh-laden marvel. Though the film pretty much revolves around Wiig’s trials and tribulations, it’s really an ensemble comedy of women behaving badly. The characters are real, the emotions heartfelt, and the jokes disgusting and raunchy.
• Extras: Commentary by cast and crew, deleted scenes, and a gag reel. The Blu-ray version adds behind-the-scenes featurettes. Both the DVD and Blu-ray include an unrated version of the film.
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‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ Blu-ray
Why the Release?: It’s the 50th anniversary of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s‘, director Blake Edwards’ adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella about a small-town girl who moves to New York City and reinvents herself as a worldy party girl. Though Hollywood watered down some of the story’s characterizations and plot line, the film is a classic romance — you end up falling in love both with star Audrey Hepburn (in her most iconic role as Holly Golightly) and the city. It’s sophisticated, heart-warming and sad all at once. It also features a workmanlike performance by George Peppard (as Holly’s neighbor and love interest) and outstanding work by Patricia Neal. And of course there’s ‘Moon River.’ The only sore spot: Mickey Rooney’s demeaning performance as Holly’s Japanese neighbor.
Special Features: Commentary by producer Richard Shepherd, featurettes on Hepburn, the making of the film, the music of Henry Mancini, and Tiffany’s, and “Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective.”
Is It Worth Upgrading?: ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ has been restored and remastered for this Blu-ray edition, and the image and sound are first-rate, if not spectacular. The original mono soundtrack has been cleaned up, and a 5.1 surround mix added, which highlights Mancini’s score. There are no new special features here, though Paramount has culled together various extras from the several different editions released over the past few years. ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ has been a consistent best-seller (it ranks 1,600 at Amazon) so the likelihood is that you already have a copy; if you do, there’s no real need to upgrade. If you don’t have a copy, buy this version right now.
‘Dumbo’ 70th Anniversary Blu-ray
Why the Release?: Disney is slowly but surely re-releasing its classic animated films on Blu-ray, and now it’s ‘Dumbo’s’ turn. The Disney studio techs usually take their time and spare no expense in restoring these cherished heirlooms and, according to the folks at Disney, this job was especially arduous: The restoration team “turned to the U.S. Library of Congress, who store the original 70-year-old nitrate camera negative in their film vaults, and for reference, to an original 1941 ‘release’ print, held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Using this rare nitrate ‘dye-transfer’ Technicolor print for color reference, the team was able to restore ‘Dumbo’ to the color settings most likely approved by Walt Disney himself, which will be seen in their full splendor for the first time in 70 years on the Blu-ray debut.”
Special Features: Most of the extras here have been ported over from previous versions, and include deleted scenes, a couple of “making-of” featurettes, commentary, games for the little ones, and a pair of animated shorts, ‘The Flying Mouse’ and ‘Elmer Elephant.’
Is It Worth Upgrading?: Animated films always look better on Blu-ray, and ‘Dumbo’ is no exception. The colors are gorgeous, the images smooth and luscious. Disney has added a 7.1 surround soundtrack, but the original mono track suffices. An upgrade recommendation on this one is a given. The only gripe: There’s no stand-alone Blu-ray version; Disney makes you buy a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack to get the hi-def edition. Boo!
Other New September 20 DVD Releases:
- ‘Le beau Serge‘: (1958) Of the hallowed group of ‘Cahiers du cinema’ critics-turned-filmmakers who would transform film history with the French New Wave, Claude Chabrol was the first to direct his own feature. His stark and absorbing landmark debut, ‘Le beau Serge,’ follows a successful yet sickly young man (Jean-Claude Brialy) who returns home to the small village where he grew up. There, he finds himself at odds with his former close friend (Gerard Blain) — now unhappily married and a wretched alcoholic — and the provincial life he represents. From The Criterion Collection; also available on Blu-ray.
- ‘Les cousins’: (1959) A mirror image of ‘Le beau Serge,’ this Chabrol film recasts Jean-Claude Brialy and Gerard Blain in startlingly reversed roles. The film is a sly moral fable about a provincial boy who comes to live with his sophisticated bohemian cousin in Paris. Through these seeming opposites, Chabrol conjures a piercing, darkly comic character study that questions notions of good and evil, love and jealousy, and success in the modern world. From The Criterion Collection; also available on Blu-ray.
- ‘Set Up’: (Direct to DVD) An uneventful heist film about three friends who steal some diamonds, then turn on each other when one of them decides to take the goods and run. Stars Curtis Jackson, Bruce Willis (as a mob boss that one of the robbers turns to for revenge), Ryan Phillippe, Jena Dewan, Randy Couture and James Remar. Also available on Blu-ray.