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article imageReview: New on DVD for November 25 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 25, 2014 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a focus on a popular cartoon’s most human character; the lyrics to one of the year’s most admired soundtracks; and an exceptional series about getting old.
About Alex (DVD)
Seven college friends reunite over a three-day weekend after one of them has an emotional breakdown. When the friends get together to keep an eye on Alex (Jason Ritter), the weekend that ensues will renew old crushes and resentments, shine light on bad decisions, and ultimately push friendships and relationships to the brink as the group tries to speculate when the simple life of their college years turned so muddy and complex.
A one-line description of this film is it is an updated version of the ‘80s classic, The Big Chill. An extension to that would read that it is an inferior narrative with less popular music and characters. This is what the film may have been like if the original Alex had lived and they had Facebook to provide a more enhanced false sense of intimacy. The similarities between the films are a disadvantage to the newer picture because it’s impossible to recreate the specialness of the original and any attempt is doomed to appear substandard. Moreover, the self-involvement of the characters when they’re supposedly gathered to support a depressed friend makes them all unlikeable. The actors portray these personalities flawlessly, but the scripted individuals are far from it.
Special features include: a making-of featurette; “Alex’s House”; “Dressing the Characters”; “Stunt Night”; and “The Script.” (levelFILM)
Adventure Time: Finn the Human (DVD)
Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
“Finn the Human.” You know the world of Adventure Time is pretty unique when you have to point out someone is “human.” The 16 episodes include Jake the Dog, a banana man, Bubblegum Princess, Bird Man, a royal family of flames, and a cute king and his legion of cuties.
The collection is a selection of episodes from four seasons so there is no continuity, save for the multi-episode story arc. The main noticeable break is sometimes Finn has his sword, Scarlet, and in others the enchanted grass sword, as well as his varied hair length. The Bird Man story that ends up relating back to the spank-happy goblin king is amusing, as is Jake’s total corruption by money. Even though the DVD is named after him, there’s still an episode of that focuses entirely on Jake – or at least a part of him. Knowing these compilations don’t have much appeal for fans who already own each season, the distributor cleverly packages it with a collectible item – in this case, a fairly accurate reproduction of Finn’s backpack.
There are no special features. (Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
The Bruce Lee Premiere Collection (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
This box set includes four of the films that would make Bruce Lee one of the most important artists ever to grace the screen.
The Big Boss: A young man sworn to an oath of non-violence works with his cousins in an ice factory where they mysteriously begin to disappear.
Fist of Fury: A young man seeks vengeance for the death of his teacher.
Game of Death: A martial arts movie star must fake his death to find the people who are trying to kill him.
The Way of the Dragon: A man visits his relatives at their restaurant in Italy and has to help them defend against brutal gangsters harassing them.
Bruce Lee’s acting career spanned nearly 30 years, even though he died at the age of 32 of health complications. Nonetheless, he had a significant impact on kung fu films and would influence a number of future martial arts stars. These movies were produced near the end of his too-short life and one was even created after his death from archive footage. Fist of Fury is the most traditional picture, which also delivers a strong political statement about Chinese and Japanese relations. Conversely, The Way of the Dragon is a bit of a comedy in comparison save for the multi-racial thugs threatening his friends. This film also features a long-haired Chuck Norris in his second film. Each movie has at least one English dub as well as subtitles — but don’t watch these together as they don’t match up in the slightest. And the voices are not nearly as bad as some of the sound effects. Unfortunately none of the special features really measure up to what you hope would accompany films of this importance.
Special features include: commentary by Hong Kong film expert Mike Leeder; deleted scenes; alternate openings and endings; “Return to Pak Chong: The Big Boss Revisited”; “Remembering Fist of Fury”; “Game of Death Revisited”; interviews with Tung Wai, Gene Lebell, Yuen Wah, Sammo Hung, Simon Yam And Wong Jing; outtakes and bloopers; still galleries; and theatrical trailers and TV spots. (Shout Factory)
Frozen Sing-Along Edition (DVD)
Disney Home Entertainment
Anna (Kristen Bell) sets off on an epic journey — teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and a snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) — to find her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. And now you can also follow the lyrics of the award-winning music with a bouncing snowflake.
In spite of the familiarity of the tried-and-true formula, this is a stellar film with beautiful castles of ice and stone (inspired by Quebec's Hôtel de Glace) and characters full of personality that audiences are excited to follow. Of course one of the picture’s most attractive elements is its great soundtrack of original music, including Oscar best song, "Let it Go." Therefore a sing-along version of the movie that will help everyone learn the complete and correct lyrics to all the songs in the film is one more must-have item for fans and collectors. Upon its release, Anna and Elsa's tale was an instant classic and the music was a major contributor to that status.
Special features include: “Breaking the Ice”; and Mickey Mouse short, “Get a Horse!” (Disney Home Entertainment)
Garfield Holiday Collection (DVD)
Anderson Digital
“A Garfield Christmas”: Garfield, Jon, and Odie go to Jon's grandmother's house for Christmas, where Garfield finds a present for Grandma.
“A Garfield Thanksgiving”: Finds Jon with a love interest — a veterinarian who orders Garfield on a diet — and then comes for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Garfield Halloween Adventure”: Finds the portly hero and airhead-sidekick Odie the dog scrounging through owner Jon's attic to find perfect costumes, then encountering ghosts and ghoulies that seem a tad authentic.
“Garfield on the Town”: Garfield escapes from the car on a trip to the vet and finds the place where he grew up.
“Garfield in Paradise”: The Garfield gang is in Hawaii with a 1957 Chevy.
Many are likely familiar with Garfield’s famous adage, “I hate Mondays,” but there was so much more to his sarcastic, food-centric personality. The holidays are a perfect way to get to know the big orange cat. Though he generally acts tough and uncaring, each episode ends with a touching gesture from the career cynic. At Halloween, he drags Odie out trick or treating with him because it means double the candy, but a series of frightening experiences scares some of the selfishness out of him. For Christmas, Garfield bonds with the one member of Jon’s family he doesn’t think is crazy. And in a non-holiday episode, he accidentally revisits the place of his birth and discovers the difference between his genetic family and his chosen one.
Special features include: “The House That Garfield Built – A Visit with Jim Davis”; Garfield Living Large trailer; and image gallery. (Anderson Digital)
Getting On: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray & Digital copy)
HBO Home Entertainment
At the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of the Mount Palms Hospital in Long Beach, California, the staff attends to the needs of female patients who are often “getting on” in years, while dealing with the challenges of a healthcare bureaucracy in need of an overhaul. As they attempt to serve their charges under less-than-ideal circumstances, the lives of this ragtag crew are complicated by conflicting agendas, both professional and personal.
With only six episodes, the inaugural season is barely half the length of most series but it still manages to stand with the best of them. By choosing not to begin with any prolonged setup or drawn-out character introductions, the show wastes no time getting to the heart of each of the main personalities. It’s often nurses vs. doctors as the former’s proximity to the patients in contrast to the latter’s detached oversight causes a number of conflicts. There isn’t a single part that appears to be played for a laugh; instead, it’s simply the everyday occurrences of life and the setting that are funny — even if they’re not supposed to be. Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein and Niecy Nash are excellent, and while it’s unlikely anything will change in the upcoming season, it’s still one to look forward to.
Special features include: deleted scenes; and gag reel. (HBO Home Entertainment)
M Squad: The Complete Series (DVD)
Shout Factory
Lt. Frank Ballinger (Lee Marvin) is a no-nonsense Chicago plainclothes cop in the elite M-Squad Division. The Squad's (M-for Murder) task is to root out organized crime and corruption in Americas Second City.
This series is as traditional a gumshoe and noir narrative as you can get. Ballinger’s voiceover sets up each episode and the case is a standalone story solved at the end of 30 minutes. Like the best and most memorable detectives, he isn’t afraid of his city’s underbelly or getting his hands dirty. But he’s also not crooked and despises anyone who profits illegally. In his suit and hat, Ballinger looks like he was lifted directly from a ‘30s detective serial. The cases range from murder to robbery to fraud, and the perpetrator can be of either sex. But regardless of the crime, Ballinger uses his head when trying to apprehend the felon with the fewest possible casualties.
Special features include: bonus disc including a sampling of some of Marvin’s television work from the 1950s and 1960s: Wagon Train - The Jose Morales Story (1960); Checkmate - Jungle Castle (1961); The Virginian - It Tolls for Thee (1962); and Lee Marvin Presents Lawbreaker - Pittsburgh (1963). (Shout Factory)
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