DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: TOPSY-TURVY (The Criterion Collection)
Writer/director Mike Leigh’s most buoyant and charming film, this marvelous 1999 comedy depicts the creation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1885 opera The Mikado.
Their most recent production Princess Ida a financial disappointment, WS Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) and Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) are compelled to write a new opera, yet they can’t agree on a topic and are weary of their partnership, despite their past successes. Sullivan in particular wants to tackle more “serious” work.
Broadbent and Corduner are terrific sparring partners, as Topsy-Turvy both salutes and satirizes the world of theater and the creative spirit affectionately and believably, yet never insultingly.
The film won Oscars for Best Makeup and Best Costume Design, with additional nominations for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Leigh’s originally screenplay. It was, unfortunately, a financial disappointment, despite considerable critical favor.
The two-disc special-edition DVD retails for $29.95, the two-disc special-edition Blu-ray for $39.95. Criterion is also releasing director Victor Schertzinger’s 1939 Technicolor musical The Mikado, featuring the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. Rated R.
THE ALAN BENNETT COLLECTION FEATURING AN ENGLISHMAN ABROAD (BBC Worldwide): A four-DVD boxed set ($59.98 retail) of British television films penned by the acclaimed playwright Alan Bennett, including director John Schlesinger’s award-winning 1983 adaptation of An Englishman Abroad starring Alan Bates and Coral Browne (as herself); The Insurance Man starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Franz Kafka, A Question of Attribution starring James Fox and Sir Anthony Blunt and Prunella Scales as Elizabeth II, 102 Boulevard Haussman starring Bates (as Marcel Proust) and Janet McTeer, and more.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A 60th anniversary special edition of the animated Disney classic, featuring the voices of Kathryn Beaumount (as Alice), Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn and Sterling Holloway and based on Lewis Carroll’s classic tale. The score earned an Oscar nomination. Special features include archival footage, deleted scenes, documentaries and more. The DVD/ Blu-ray combo retails for $39.99. Rated G.
BURLESQUE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): It’s the old bump-and-grind, clumsily contemporized with all the clichés intact by writer/director Steven Antin, as small-town Iowa girl Christina Aguilera (in her big-screen bow) finds success, love and fame in a Los Angeles burlesque club, owned by Cher, and named “Burlesque” (how original!). A few campy laughs, and the girls look great, but this goes on way too long and is way too self-indulgent. Also on hand: Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming (wasted in a weak riff on his Cabaret emcee role), Peter Gallagher, Cam Gigandet, Glynn Turman, Eric Dane and James Brolin. Aguilera, also billed as the executive music producer, celebrated her big-screen bow by dumping her husband, taking up with a younger boyfriend, getting arrested for public intoxication and then joining Twitter. Hey, it beats making movies like this (and watching them). Rated PG-13.
“CULT MOVIES TV” (Alpha New Cinema): Eight episodes ($7.98 retail) from the selfexplanatory 1999 cable series hosted by Michael Copner and Buddy Barnett, in which they interviewed such pop-culture paragons as Forrest J. Ackerman, director Jack Hill, makeup artist Verne Langdon, and such actors as John La Zar, Titus Moody and Playboy Playmateturned-’50s scream queen Yvette Vickers.
DISCARDED LOVERS (Alpha Home Entertainment): A Hollywood whodunit from 1932, as starlet Natalie Moorhead meets an untimely end. Suspects include Jason Robards Sr., Russell Hopton, Roy D’Arcy, and Robert Frazer (also seen that year in White Zombie). A little stilted, but livened up in the second half by Fred Kelsey’s bumbling cop.
KELLY OF THE SECRET SERVICE (Alpha Home Entertainment): Lloyd Hughes plays the title role in this 1936 programmer from prolific B-movie producer Sam Katzman, hot on the trail of industrial spies who will stop at nothing, including murder, to obtain a new secret weapon.
“LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD”: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR (BBC Worldwide): A two-DVD boxed set ($34.98 retail) of all six episodes from the 2011 (and final) season of the award-winning BBC series based on the best-selling autobiographical novels by Flora Thompson, dramatizing the lives and loves of the residents of Lark Rise and Candleford, small villages in late 19th century England, as seen through the eyes of an ambitious young postmistress (Olivia Hallinan) — a character based on Thompson herself. BBC Worldwide is also releasing the self-explanatory “Lark Rise to Candleford: The Complete Collection,” a 14-DVD boxed set containing all 40 episodes, which retails for $179.98.
THE RAWHIDE TERROR (Alpha Home Entertainment): Vigilante justice comes under fire in this routine 1935 B-Western featuring Art Mix and Edmund Cobb. Reportedly begun as a serial and then edited into a feature, which may explain a slipshod narrative.
RIDIN’ THE LONE TRAIL (Alpha Home Entertainment): Bob Steele goes undercover to investigate a rash of stagecoach robberies in this unsurprising but competent 1937 Western, directed by the prolific Sam Newfield.
“TREME”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): A collection of all 10 episodes from the premiere 2010 season of the critically acclaimed HBO series set in New Orleans following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The ensemble cast includes John Goodman, Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Rob Brown, Steve Zahn and recent Oscar winner Melissa Leo. Two Emmy nominations including Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Agnieszka Holland). The DVD boxed set retails for $59.99, the Blu-ray boxed set for $79.98.
TRON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): The original 1982 sci-fi favorite starring Jeff Bridges as a computer hacker sucked into a digital netherworld of his own creation, newly reissued as a two-disc DVD ($29.99 retail) or a DVD/blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail). Originally a box-office disappointment, the inevitable cult following kept it alive, prompting Disney to make a sequel (see below). This one’s better, even if the then-revolutionary visual effects now seem dated. Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Sound. Rated PG.
TRON: LEGACY (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Jeff Bridges returns, in a dual role no less, in this long-overdue sequel to the 1982 cult favorite, in which Garrett Hedlund plunges into the digital netherworld created by his father and now corrupted by power. Spectacular visual effects are compromised by a talky, unnecessarily mythos-heavy second act. Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Editing. Available as a singledisc DVD ($29.99 retail), a DVD/blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), a four-disc 3-D combo pack ($49.99 retail), or a five-disc combo including a Blu-ray of the original film ($79.99 retail). Rated PG.
“UFC” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The toughest, roughest Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts are included in the latest DVD sets (each retailing for $19.98): “UFC 122” features the middleweight bout between Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami; “UFC 123” pits Quinton “Rampage” Jackson against Lyoto Machida. Anchor Bay is also releasing the selfexplanatory “UFC: Best of 2010,” which retails on DVD for $19.98 and Blu-ray for $29.99.
YOU AGAIN (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A thin, obvious comedy with Kristen Bell as a young executive who attends her brother’s wedding -- unaware that his betrothed (Odette Yustman) was the girl who made her life hell in high school. Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis add a bit of sparkle in support, while Betty White trots out her by-now patented “nutty grandma” routine. Bell continues to be unimpressive in comedy roles. Also on hand: Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Patrick Duffy, Reginald Veljohnson, Cloris Leachman and Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson. Rated PG.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger