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'Funny People'

Also: 'Angels & Demons,' 'Four Christmases,' 'Gomorrah' and more

November 22, 2009|By Noel Murray
  • Director Judd Apatow and cast of "Funny People"
Director Judd Apatow and cast of "Funny People" (Tracy Bennett / Universal…)

Funny People

Universal, $29.98/$34.98; Blu-ray, $39.98

"Funny People" writer-director Judd Apatow might have tested his core audience a little too much with his story of a self-hating comedian (played by Adam Sandler) who gets diagnosed with cancer and asks for help from a fawning young stand-up (played by Seth Rogen). But Apatow and company don't spare the dirty jokes either, and there's something admirably uncompromising about their willingness to push for truth over likability. The special-edition DVD and Blu-ray surround the movie with complementary special features, such as hilarious deleted and alternate scenes, archival footage from Apatow and Sandler's early days, a riotous commentary track by the principals and extended glimpses at the fake movies, sitcoms and stand-up performances that fill out the background of the film. It's a remarkable set, which ought to prompt some who shrugged off "Funny People" this summer to reevaluate this heartfelt, personal film.

Angels & Demons

Sony, $28.96/$36.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Tom Hanks returns as Dan Brown's symbologist hero Robert Langdon in "Angels & Demons," director Ron Howard's international hit sequel to "The Da Vinci Code." As with its predecessor, "Angels & Demons" follows Professor Langdon as he attempts to interpret clues buried in ancient texts and artworks to thwart a plot hatched by a secret society. And as with "The Da Vinci Code," the new movie renders a thrilling idea in a fairly dry way. The double-disc special edition DVD includes an extended version of the movie, plus featurettes that cover nearly every aspect of the production. The Blu-ray adds special interactive features and games.

Four Christmases

New Line, $28.98 ; Blu-ray, $35.99

The holiday comedy "Four Christmases" stars Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon as a young couple forced to spend Christmas day with, in succession, each of their four divorced parents and their attendant families. That's a clever idea for a movie, and the cast (which also includes Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen, among others) is top-flight, but the film lacks the ring of truth that makes a Christmas movie a classic. It's more forced and manic than universal. The DVD and Blu-ray are fairly blah as well, with only a few deleted scenes and a handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes as extras.

Gomorrah

Criterion, $39.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Italian director Matteo Garrone's "Gomorrah" is a sprawling neo-realist portrait of modern Neapolitan organized crime and how it stains every aspect of the community. This is a doggedly unglamorous movie, eschewing any conventional notion of colorful bad guy "characters" in favor of presenting gangsters as self-involved, impersonal thugs. It can be chaotic and confusing, but it paints a memorable portrait of a Naples consisting of crumbling slums and burned-out buildings, connected by a network of bridges and secret tunnels. Criterion's DVD and Blu-ray editions of "Gomorrah" are typically decked-out, featuring an hourlong making-of documentary, 10 minutes of deleted scenes and lengthy interviews with Garrone and his cast.

Shorts

Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Prolific DIY auteur Robert Rodriguez continues to cultivate the kiddie market with "Shorts," an inventive live-action comedy about what happens to an assortment of suburban kids when they gain possession of a wish-granting rock. Rodriguez divides the movie into stand-alone episodes that tell the story from different perspectives, and though "Shorts" is too effects-heavy and slapstick-y, it's far from routine -- and that's rare for a movie aimed at children. The DVD comes with Rodriguez's usual "10-Minute Film School" and "10-Minute Cooking School" features; the Blu-ray throws in more info about Rodriguez's hands-on working methods.

And . . .

Hogan's Heroes

The Komplete Series, Kommandant's Kollection

Paramount, $179.99

The Sopranos

The Complete First Season

HBO Blu-ray, $69.98

All titles available Tuesday.

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