DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: HAPPY CHRISTMAS (Paramount)
Writer/producer/director Joe Swanberg’s engaging yuletide comedy is a smart, lighthearted character study with an appealing cast. First and foremost there’s Anna Kendrick as Jenny, spending the holidays with big brother Jeff (Swanberg), his author wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and their toddler (Swanberg’s adorable real-life son Jude). Jenny likes to party (a lot), but has little thought toward the consequences.This eventually causes problems in the household, but Jeff and Kelly do realize that they’ve unknowingly become overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and maybe some occasional misbehavior isn’t such a bad thing.Swanberg creates a very relaxed structure with long takes and long stretches of largely improvised dialogue. Everyone’s good, including Mark Webber as pot-dealing babysitter Kevin, and Lena Dunham as Jenny’s best friend Carson, who knows when the party’s over. The highlight is Jenny and Carson’s brainstorming session with Kelly about her next novel, which is so funny it’s continued through the end credits. Rated R.
“CSI”: THE FOURTEENTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Ted Danson, Elisabeth Shue and George Eads are back on the case in all 22 episodes from the 2013-2014 season of the award-winning CBS crime series. The six-DVD collection, replete with special features (including the commemoration of the series’ 300 th episode), retails for $64.99.
FOREV (Mance Media): Writer/directors Molly Green and James Leffler’s awardwinning feature debut stars Matt Mider and Saturday Night Live’s Noël Wells as a couple who get engaged on their first date, a six-hour drive through the desert to pick up his sister (Amanda Bauer) from college. Wells, Mider and Bauer also contributed to the screenplay. The DVD retails for $14.99; the Blu-ray for $19.99.
“GETTING ON”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO): Alex Borstein, Mel Rodriguez, Niecy Nash and Laurie Metcalf star in this HBO comedy series about the staff and patients at a California health-care facility that caters mostly to elderly women. Guest stars include Harry Dean Stanton, Molly Shannon, Daniel Stern and Irma P. Hall. A collection of all six episodes from the inaugural 2013 season (plus special features) retails for $29.98 (DVD) and $39.98 (Blu-ray).
HOME (Entertainment One): Writer/ producer/director Jono Oliver’s awardwinning debut feature stars executive producer Gbenga Akinnagbe as a mentally ill man trying to live on his own. Joe Morton, Tawny Cypress, James McDaniel, Victor Williams and UNCSA graduate Danny Hoch also appears. It’s occasionally mawkish but well-intentioned and well-acted, particularly by Akinnagbe.
I AM ALI (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Clare Lewin’s PG-rated documentary examines the life and legacy of the inimitable, indomitable Muhammad Ali. The DVD retails for $19.98; the Blu-ray for $26.98.
“IMPRACTICAL JOKERS”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (truTV/ Warner Home Video): A DVD collection ($24.98 retail) of all 28 episodes from the 2013 season of the truTV reality comedy series in which real-life friends Joe Gatto, Brian (“Q”) Quinn, Sal Vulcano and James (“Murr”) Murray challenge each other to outrageous stunts and hijinks.
“THE MENTALIST”: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): Simon Baker returns as criminologist Patrick Jane — closing in on serial killer Red John, who murdered his family — in all 22 episodes from the 2013-2014 season of the award-winning CBS mystery series, co-starring Robin Tunney, Tim Kang, Owain Yeoman and Amanda Righetti. The five-DVD boxed set retails for $59.98.
MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney): Jon Hamm stars in this fact-based sports saga as a desperate agent who institutes a program recruiting potential baseball pitchers from cricket players in India. Picturesque but predictable, mild and overlong — though not without its incidental pleasures, including a friendly cast: Alan Arkin, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma, Pitobash, Aasif Mandvi, Darshan Jariwala, Tzi Ma and Bill Paxton. Rated PG.
A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Director/producer/co-screenwriter and leading man Seth MacFarlane takes aim at the Wild West in this bawdy, scattershot send-up that benefits from an energetic cast: Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi and Amanda Seyfried. It’s not Blazing Saddles (1973), but it’s not bad. The DVD retails for $29.98; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated R.
PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE (Disney): This PG-rated sequel to 2013’s animated feature was already well into production when Planes opened to disappointing critical and so-so box-office reception, and continues the story of the heroic plane Dusty (voiced again by Dane Cook) when he joins an elite fire and rescue squadron. So that’s where the title comes from! Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Cedric the Entertainer and Brad Garrett also encore vocally and joined this time by Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, Julie Bowen, Erik Estrada, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Wes Studi, Fred Willard and Regina King. The DVD retails for $29.99; the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99.
“POWER RANGERS MEGAFORCE: ROBO KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS” (LionsGate): As this DVD ($14.98 retail) implies, the “Power Rangers” celebrate the holidays, too.
“RENO 911!” (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount): A collector’sedition DVD boxed set ($46.99 retail) of all 88 episodes — plus bonus features — from the entire 2003-2009 run of the popular, award-winning Comedy Central series spoofing police documentary shows, created by and starring Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney and Thomas Lennon. Guest stars include Danny DeVito (also an executive producer), Zach Galifianakis, Jonah Hill, Cheryl Hines, Chelsea Handler, Lou Ferrigno, Paul Rudd, Seth Green, Rainn Wilson and many others.
“THE SOPRANOS”: THE COM- PLETE SERIES (HBO): One of the most acclaimed TV series of its time — and all time — makes its Blu-ray debut in a boxed set ($279.98 retail) containing all 86 episodes from all six seasons (1999- 2007), plus extensive bonus features, of the Emmy-winning HBO series created by David Chase and starring three-time Emmy winners James Gandolfini as New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano and Edie Falco as his wife Carmella.
“SPARTACUS”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Anchor Bay): The title tells all in this collection of all 39 episodes from the entire 2010-2013 run of the awardwinning Starz Original series dramatizing the life of the legendary gladiator who defied the Roman Empire. The title character is played by Andy Whitfield, who died of lymphoma after the first season, and was succeeded by Liam McIntyre in the remaining episodes. The DVD boxed set retails for $119.98; the Blu-ray boxed set for $149.99. Both contain extensive special features.
“STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERA- TION”: SEASON SEVEN BLU-RAY (CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount): The title tells all in this six-disc collection ($130 retail) of all 25 episodes (plus bonus features) from the 1993-1994 season of the top-rated, award-winning syndicated sci-fi series spun off — 20 years later! — from creator Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek, detailing the further adventures of the Starship Enterprise in the 24 th century. In this, its final season, the series earned 10 Emmy nominations (winning for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Visual Effects and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing), including one for Outstanding Drama Series. CBS/ Paramount is also releasing the final episode All Good Things … as an individual Blu-ray ($28.28 retail). !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.