By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire February 15, 2011 at 5:49AM
This week on DVD and Blu-ray the American public education system is put under a microscope, Woody Allens returns to London and "Last Tango in Paris" dances into Hi-Def.
This Week's Top Pick:
"Waiting for 'Superman'" Delves Into Our Public Education System's Failings
The Deal: Academy Award-winning filmmaker and producer Davis Guggenheim likes hot button topics. His last documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” dealt with the debate surrounding global warming. His similarly alarming new documentary, “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” explores the current state of public education in America.
In "Superman," Guggenheim follows the lives of five kids competing for admission to a charter school, where they will undoubtedly receive a better education that the one they are getting. Although they all come from diverse backgrounds, the kids each share a singular dream of succeeding in life and tapping into their full potential.
"Full of refreshingly honest insights and some powerfully upsetting statistics, the film seems angry and critical, but never hopeless," wrote criticWIRE contributor Scott Weinberg in his review of the film for Moviefone's Cinematical. "We'd like to think that every kid in America has his own fair shot at a strong education ... but we know they don't. Not really. Movies like Waiting for Superman would like to change that."
Extras: Four additional teacher/student stories; the mini-doc “Changing the Odds” which looks at some innovative programs that are changing public education; a filmed conversation with Guggenheim; and most importantly, an update on what changes have taken place in the public educational system since the making of the film. For John Legend fans, be sure to check out the making of the film’s song, “Shine,” sung by the R&B superstar. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Other Hot Picks:
"Last Tango in Paris" Dances Onto Blu-ray
The Deal: Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial X-rated 1972 romance "Last Tango in Paris" finally makes its way onto Blu-ray this week in a souped up transfer. Starring a middle-aged Marlon Brando, "Tango" tracks a torrid affair between a recent American widower and an engaged young Parisian woman (Maria Schneider).
Extras: Not much in the way of goodies, except for the film's original theatrical trailer. Available on Blu-ray.
Woody Allen's Latest London Set Comedy, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"
The Deal: Woody Allen's latest London set romp features an all star cast typical for an Allen comedy (in this case: Anthony Hopkins, Freida Pinto, Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Gemma Jones, Josh Brolin and the hilarious Lucy Punch). The rollicking plot centers on the damage Alfi (Hopkins) causes after he leaves his wife (Jones) for a prostitute (Punch).
Extras: Typical to Allen's previous releases, there's not much in the way of supplements -- the film's theatrical trailers and an ad for the film's soundtrack. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Venice Award Winner "Women Without Men"
The Deal: Winner of the Silver Lion for Best Director at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, Shirin Neshat's "Women Without Men" is set against's the tumultuous backdrop of Iran's 1953 CIA-backed coup d'etat to tell the stories of four women struggling to find independence. The film's visually transfixing look should come as no surprise -- Neshat is a celebrated Iranian visual artist who currently resides in New York. Available on DVD
Beat Poet "William S. Burroughs" Profiled in a Doc
The Deal: Hailed as the godfather of the beat generation, American icon William S. Burroughs, is probably best known for penning one of the last books to be banned by the U.S. government, "Naked Lunch." Burroughs is the subject of this documentary by Chicago-based filmmaker Yony Leyser. The film features never before seen footage of Burroughs, as well as exclusive interviews with John Waters, Laurie Anderson, Peter Weller, David Cronenberg, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and many more.
Extras: Deleted scenes featuring Burrough's art; home movies featuring Patti Smith, Steve Buscemi, Allen Ginsberg and others; "Rub out the Word" - a music video featuring Burroughs reading "The Last Words of Hassan Sabbah;" Q&A with director Leyser at BFI London Film Festival; and much more. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.