Mar 23, 2010

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Prisoners, Goats And Spies Like Us

OK, I jumped the gun last Tuesday when I included the 2009 AMC miniseries remake of The Prisoner among last week's new releases.  It actually comes out today, from Warner Home Video.  You can read more about it in last week's post (or read my original review of the miniseries here), but I will say that the physical DVD has a lot in common with the miniseries itself: it sure looks nice.  The case (a three disc flipper the size of a single DVD), the slipcase (classy!), the booklet and even the discs themselves are all very well designed.  If you're at all like me and you still respond to tangible, old-school media, if you're quick to judge a book by it's cover, this release is satisfying on those counts.  As for the content, well, you know... you can dress up a cow, but she'll still be a cow.  Is that the saying?  I do find myself enjoying dipping into it more than when it first aired, though, and taking pleasure in the purely aesthetic side of the undertaking.  The story is just as infuriating as ever, and just as inferior to Patrick McGoohan's brilliant original.  I'll have a full review soon.

The other spy release of note this week comes from Anchor Bay: The Men Who Stare at Goats, available on DVD and Blu-ray.  The directing debut of George Clooney's producing partner Grant Heslov (better known as an actor, whose spy credits include True Lies), this enjoyable comedy inspired by true events follows the U.S. Army's attempts to create a squad of "psychic spies."  Or "Jedi warriors," as Clooney's character insists on being called by Ewan McGregor's journalist, happily banking on McGregor's own extra-textual Jedi status for a laugh. Extras on both versions include "Goats Declassified: The Real Men of the First Earth Battalion" (about the actual "psychic spies"), "Project 'Hollywood': A Classified Report from the Set" (a making-of featurette), two audio commentaries (one by Heslov and one by Jon Ronson, author of the book upon which the film is based), deleted scenes, character bios, and the dreaded but ubiquitous "Digital Copy of the Film."  (Seriously!  Who's going to watch The Men Who Stare at Goats on their damn iPhone?) Except for the latter, that sounds like an intriguing assortment of extras.  The film will definitely make you wonder what parts are actually true, so hopefully one of those documentaries goes into that.  It's not a great film, but it sure is a lot of fun, and Clooney and Jeff Bridges are both excellent.

This came out a few weeks ago, but it was such a stealthy release that I missed it.  Those who consider it an Eighties comedy classic and those who consider it a guilty pleasure alike have long clamored for a widescreen release of Spies Like Us, but dozens of repackagings and re-releases (including various double features and multi-film configurations) on DVD yielded only the same murky fullscreen transfer.  Now, however, it is finally available in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio... on Blu-ray! The very silly John Landis-directed Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd Cold War spy farce (featuring director Sam Raimi in a small role) is paired with the Chase vehicle Funny Farm (co-starring a very young Sarah Michelle Gellar) as a Warner Bros. Comedy Double Feature disc.  Unfortunately, it's kind of hard to find, as it's a Best Buy exclusive in the United States.  Furthermore, it seems to be only available in stores, and not through their website.  And not all stores.  But hunt around, check your local Best Buy, and act fast!  These Best Buy exclusives have a way of disappearing quickly.  Luckily, you can pay a little more to buy from industrious private sellers on Amazon, and it can be ordered new from the Canadian Amazon, as it's not a Best Buy exclusive north of the border.


Delmo said...

I would get Spies Like Us if it were on regular DVD. Maybe Warner will make it available as an Archive title.

Tanner said...

Yeah, it sucks when companies put things on Blu-ray only, and Warner is the worst offender in that category. Again and again, they put bonus features exclusively on Blu-ray these days, as with The Informant or next week's Sherlock Holmes. Leaving people without BD players in the lurch.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if this widescreen transfer of Spies Like Us DOES end up on DVD eventually. Since they have the transfer now, why not use it? They reissue that title so often that maybe the widescreen version will turn up on the next "4 Film Favorites" or "Comedy Double Feature" or whatever triple feature disc they put it on... Here's hoping!