On DVD/Blu-ray this week: Once of the most beloved classics of cinema, on Blu-ray for the first time; Jennifer Westfeldt’s hilarious and insightful directorial debut; Abel Ferrara’s most acclaimed film in years; the latest from feel-good auteur Lasse Hallstrom; and a heady trip back to the Beat generation.
#1. “Singin’ in the Rain” (60th Anniversary Collector’s Edition)
When “The Artist” came out late last year, critics were quick to point out the film’s undeniable references to the 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain.” Now with the Blu-ray debut of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s masterpiece (timed in honor of the film’s 60th anniversary), you can compare and contrast the two in high definition glory. Talk about a perfect date night.
Set in the days of Hollywood’s transition from silent films to ‘talkies’ (just like “The Artist”), “Singin’ in the Rain” chronicles the lives of three actors (Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor) as they navigate that journey.
Go HERE for our interview with Kelly’s widow, film historian Patrica Ward Kelly, who is keeping Kelly’s legacy alive.
Extras: Die-hard fans rejoice — included is over four (!) hours of bonus content, along with a 48-page hardcover production book with exclusive memos and photos and a custom 40″ diameter umbrella (of course). The extras include audio commentary featuring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann and Rudy Behlmer; the new documentary on “Singin’ in the Rain: Musicals Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM”; outtakes; a stills gallery; the film’s trailer and much more.
#2. “Friends With Kids”
“Kissing Jessica Stein” co-scribe and star Jennifer Westfeldt is back with another New York-centric romantic comedy, “Friends With Kids.” This time she directed the film in addition to writing and acting in it. Westfeldt and Adam Scott play a pair of single Manhattanites who decide to have a kid together, despite not being romantically attached. Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd and Westfedt’s longtime partner Jon Hamm are the friends who don’t know what to make of the idea. And complications ensue when Westfeldt’s character falls for the soon-to-be father to her child.
Go HERE for our interview with Westfeldt.
Extras: An audio commentary featuring Westfeldt; deleted scenes; a hilarious gag reel; and a featurette on the making of the movie.
#3. “4:44 Last Days on Earth”
Bad-boy filmmaker Abel Ferrara (“Bad Lieutenant”) returns to the New York streets for the first time in a decade with “4:44 Last Days on Earth.” Like “Melancholia,” the film imagines the end of the world as we know it — and if you thought Lars von Trier’s vision was understated, just wait till you see Ferrara’s. Willem Dafoe stars alongside the director’s real-life girlfriend Shanyn Leigh as a couple who spend their final hours hanging around their roomy loft in the Lower East Side. “Likely Ferrara’s most personal work,” Eric Kohn wrote in his review of the film, “it’s also ironically the most life-affirming in a career defined by anger and grime. Ferrara has gone soft without selling out.”
Extras: Unfortunately, a trailer is all you’ll find.
#4. “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
In the latest feel-good dramedy from Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat”), “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” Emily Blunt plays Harriet, assistant to a sheik who wants to bring salmon fishing to the desert. To make the sheik’s dreams become a reality, Harriet is paired with Britain’s leading fisheries expert, Fred (Ewan McGregor). Complications ensue when Fred, a married man, falls for Harriet. The two leads make for a charming and dynamic pair (it’s a wonder that this marks their first time onscreen together), but a hilarious Kristin Scott Thomas steals the film as as the prime minister’s press secretary.
Extras: “The Making of Salmon Fishing In the Yemen” featurette that runs a little over 13 minutes with interviews and behind-the-scenes clips; and a three-minute conversation with Paul Torday, author of the book the film is based off.
#5. “The Beat Hotel”
Take a trip back in time via “The Beat Hotel,” Alex Govenar’s feature documentary that tracks the evolution of the infamous Beat Hotel, the epicenter of Beat writing, that produced some of the most important works of the Beat generation. Run by Madame Rachou, the hotel attracted the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs and Ian Somerville, all of whom left their mark on the institution.
Extras: Two short films (“Harold Chapman on His Photography” and “The Dreamachine”); Elliot Rudie drawings; and a deleted scene featuring William S. Burroughs and Ian Sommerville.