Funny People (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 8.5
(OUT OF 10)
While this film failed to set the box office afire, it still counts as the best Adam Sandler film in years, and contains both his and Seth Rogen's best screen work yet. Sandler plays George, a famous standup comedian and actor who finds out that he's sick, so he tries to make peace with oncoming death. He hires an up-and-comer (Rogen) to write jokes for him and be his assistant.
That's the first part of the movie. The second part involves a surprise regarding George's health and a trip to see his ex-girlfriend Laura (Leslie Mann). Director Judd Apatow jams a lot into his 146-minute running time, and most of it is good and often very funny. Apatow mainstays like Jonah Hill and Apatow's adorable children have parts, and Eric Bana kills as Laura's husband.
This is one of the funnier movies about fame and its pitfalls, while also being perhaps the best (fictional) movie ever made about standup comedians. Rogen and Sandler do real standup for the film, and while I've seen Sandler doing this sort of thing before, I had never seen Rogen. He's good!
I'm probably quite alone on this thought, but I think Rogen delivered one of the best supporting-actor performances this year. I'm not saying it's quite Oscar-worthy, but he definitely shows some major acting chops.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Unquestionably, this is one of the most packed Blu-Rays of the year. You get an excellent commentary from Apatow, Sandler and Rogen, and that's just the beginning. There's archive footage of Sandler's real standup routines from the late-'80s and '90s, and video of Rogen's first standup act at the age of 13, before his voice changed. (The bastard was hilarious right out of the gate!) You get five episodes of the fake Jason Schwartzman sitcom Yo, Teach!, more moments from the hilarious fake Sandler films (love the "baby man" movie) and tons of deleted and extended scenes. Much of the deleted stuff, including a hilarious sequence with Sarah Silverman, was good enough to make the movie.
WARNER ARCHIVE (AVAILABLE ONLY AT WARNERARCHIVE.COM)
SPECIAL FEATURES YOU GET NUTHIN'!
DVD GEEK FACTOR 5.5
(OUT OF 10)
I remember the critical slamming this movie took when it came out in 1980. People didn't like hearing Gilda Radner saying dirty words, and the R rating shocked some. Because I was 12 at the time, a Radner concert film wasn't a high priority, and I never saw the thing.
Thanks to the Warner Archive Collection, the film has finally made it to DVD. Radner did a summer-long stint on Broadway, and director Mike Nichols put a film together featuring the Saturday Night Live goddess and her many characters. Roseanne Roseannadanna, Judy Miller, Lisa Loopner and Emily Litella all have moments in the show, and some of them are typically funny.
Radner's comedy could be a little shrill at times, and the writing for her stage show wasn't nearly as good as her best SNL work. Also, I was never a fan of Father Guido Sarducci, who gets stage time while Radner changes clothes backstage. And while I like Paul Shaffer just fine on David Letterman, he isn't the funniest stage actor.
Regardless, it's a nice thing to finally see Gilda's big night, and it's worth your while if you consider yourself a fan. Her little song about cursing at animals is cute, and Emily Litella's chalkboard lecture is a winner. Gilda Live is not the greatest comedy-concert film ever made, but it's still great to see it.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The purpose of Warner Archive films is to get movies absent from DVD onto the format. There are no special features on these releases.
Wings of Desire (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 9
(OUT OF 10)
Wim Wenders blew my mind when I first saw this film in 1987. Bruno Ganz delivers one of my all-time-favorite performances as a trench-coat-wearing angel watching over mortals in Berlin as he yearns for a chance to be human.
Few movies have ever looked better, and Criterion's new Blu-Ray edition accentuates that fact. Wenders used both black-and-white and color to get his story across, and the way it comes off, for me, is the very definition of "art film." It is a masterpiece.
Peter Falk plays himself, doing a film role in Berlin and making an interesting revelation. Solveig Dommartin is one of the most beautiful people to ever grace a screen as Marion the trapeze artist. She is the main reason for Ganz's desire to become mortal—and who can blame him?
This one was Americanized with Nicolas Cage in 1998 (City of Angels, which actually wasn't bad) and sequelized by Wenders himself with Faraway, So Close! in 1993.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary from Wenders, deleted scenes, outtakes and documentaries, done in the usual awesome Criterion style.