Robot Chicken: Season OneWarner Home Video
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)
While on a recent business trip, I caught a couple of minutes of this Cartoon Network show in my hotel room at something like 2 a.m. The sketch had a bunch of stop-motion-animation action figures in a Lord of the Rings spoof, and a Ron Jeremy doll saved the day by jousting an oncoming bad guy with his huge member. It was late at night, and I thought I was hallucinating.
Last week, this DVD came in the mail, and I watched the whole damn season in two days. Seth Green and company have put together a genius show that skewers pop culture, and not just the obvious stuff. Yes, they rank on hot current celebs like Britney Spears and Scarlett Johansson, but they also dig deep for stuff like Battlestar Galactica (the first show), He-Man and the Smurfs. All of it done with action figures and clay.
Is it childish? Hell, yeah. Is it funny? Hell, yeah. My personal favorite skit would be a tooth-fairy sketch, where the winged one visits a little boy in the night, only to get involved in a violent domestic dispute. Other classics would be the show's stabs at blooper programs (the host commits suicide at the end of each segment) and an incredibly funny sequence where cartoon villains like Lex Luthor and Skeletor get caught in traffic.
Green, who co-produces and writes for the show, provides many voices as well. Guest stars include Johansson, the late Don Knotts, Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Ashton Kutcher and Conan O'Brien (as a pizza delivery guy). Green claims to have landed the likes of Corey Haim and Corey Feldman for the second season, so that should be a good one.
If you've never watched television or collected dolls, this show probably isn't for you. If the thought of Captain Kirk getting his balls caught in Enterprise doors, followed by Spock hunched over with laughter, appeals to you, then dig in. This is one of the funniest shows on television.
Special Features: Green and his cohorts provide plenty of commentaries, often pointing out how their show has to be softened and censored. Some deleted scenes are actually funnier than the stuff that made it to the show. Citizen Spears is a pretty funny concept, where Britney Spears is the focus of a Citizen Kane parody (Green thought it was too long). There's also some fun behind-the-scenes footage.
A History of ViolenceNew Line Home Video
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)
One of last year's finest films, and director David Cronenberg's best movie. This big-screen adaptation of the graphic novel stars Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall, a small-town diner owner with a mysterious past and an ability to wreak major havoc with a coffee pot.
While Cronenberg doesn't shy away from his trademark gore in his film (there are some rather grisly deaths), he focuses primarily on the fact that all humans have secrets, and Tom's is a doozy. Maria Bello's work as Stall's stunned wife was deserving of an Oscar nomination, as was Mortensen's turn as Stall. Alas, they were both passed over. However, William Hurt did get a nod for playing Tom's Philadelphian brother, a great over-the-top role for the normally laid-back actor.
One of the more unique family dramas.
Special Features: One of the best single-disc DVDs I have ever seen. Intelligent, detailed behind-the-scenes documentaries not only discuss the meaning of the film but do a great job of showing the working atmosphere on the set (looks like the crew had a great time). A deleted scene, one in which Stall has a nightmare where he blows away the milky-eyed character played by Ed Harris, is easily good enough to be in the film. There's also a brief comparison of the American and European versions of the film, a Cronenberg commentary and more. On a bad note, the cover art is terrible, and it makes the film look like a direct-to-video cheapie. That's acceptable when the disc is this good.
The Ice HarvestUniversal Home Video
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)
Director Harold Ramis, normally a director of light fare like Caddyshack, takes a dark and heavy turn with this tale of a lawyer (John Cusack) and his buddy (Billy Bob Thornton) stealing money from a mob hothead (Randy Quaid). Well-acted, surprisingly violent and well-shot, the film is proof that Ramis is capable of more than screwing around; this is easily his best work since Groundhog Day. Thornton is a big standout as a questionable sort of guy with a wife he can't stand and an ability to be totally untrustworthy. Cusack is his usual solid self, a nice mixture of solemnity and humor.
Special Features: A pretty good disc. An alternate ending and outtakes are worth viewing, as are the behind-the-scenes documentaries. Ramis sits down for one of his entertaining commentaries.