Laserblast: Almighty DVDs

There’s a Biblical Noah’s flood of DVDs washing ashore this week, led by EVAN ALMIGHTY. Despite less than stellar reviews, the follow-up to BRUCE ALMIGHTY turned a pretty penny at the box office, even without Jim Carrey back in a starring role. The film arrives on home video shelves in a variety of versions: Widescreen DVD (pictured), Full Screen DVD, and HD DVD. Extras include some deleted scenes and film flubs. There is a feature about the animals seen in the film and on the construction of the ark, plus a “match the animal pairs” game.
Read about the rest of this week’s DVD releases below the fold.

Another light-hearted film arriving on disc this week is SURF’S UP, a computer-animated comedy about a penguin surfing championship. Penguins have been overdone on the big screen lately (they were in MARCH OF THE PENGUINS and HAPPY FEET; they even show up in GOOD LUCK CHUCK), but this film is different, thanks to the faux documentary format. On disc, you have your choice of Widescreen Special Edition, Full-screen Special Edition, Blue-ray, and UMD for PSP. Bonus features include an audio commentary with the producer and directors; lost scenes with optional introductions, music videos, galleries, some featurettes examining the voice sessions and storyboards, etc., plus two short subjects.
 As almighty popular as the EVAN DVD might be, the really good news for horror fans this week is the release of 28 WEEKS LATER. Although this sequel was a box office disappointment in theatres, it has its defenders, so here is your second chance to see whether it lives up to 28 DAY LATER. You can choose between a Widescreen Edition, a Full Screen edition, a Blu-ray disc, or a two-pack of the original and the sequel.
This week’s other new horror release fared even less well in theatres. Starring Lucy Liu (CHARLIE’S ANGELS), RISE – BLOOD HUNTER rolled out onto a handful of screens a few months ago in a less than nationwide release (Los Angeles, for example, was not fortunate [?] enough to be included.) In any case, that was enough for the DVD to offer up both a theatrical cut DVD and an unrated version that bills itself as containing footage to intense for theatres. Unmentioned is the fact that most of the footage was not seen in any theatre at all.
So much for new stuff. Now we get into the Golden Oldies. POLTERGEIST (which screened in several theatres last Thursday in honor of its 25th birthday) gets the 25th Anniversary Edition treatment on DVD. Personally, I always found the film to be tremendously overrated, but lots of folks seem to love it for some reason. Anyway, the new disc falls down as an anniversary edition, offering only a single two-part featurette that discusses poltergeist phenomena but not the film itself. One would think that after two-and-a-half decades, it would be possible to come up with more than that.
Fox offers the Fox Horror Classics box set, which includes THE LODGER, HANGOVER SQUARE, and THE UNDYING MONSTER. The first two star heavy-weight actor Laird Craigar as a psycho-killer in atmospheric settings; the third is Fox’s attempt to do a werewolf movie. All three are  highly regarded, but the first two are real classics, and they have never before been officially available on DVD in the U.S. THE LODGER tells of the mysterious title character (played by Craigar) who turns out to be Jack the Ripper. HANGOVER SQUARE is an unofficial follow-up, casting Craigar as a killer who remains sane until a particular sound triggers his uncontrollable mania.
ROBOCOP and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS arrive on Blu-ray this week. So does TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, which also hits shelves on DVD and HD DVD. The Complete Series Collection of STARGATE SG-1 lands in a huge box set that should excite fans and collectors.
For silent movie fans there is an Ultimate Edition DVD of the 1923 version of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, starring Man of a Thousand Faces Lon Chaney. It’s not really a horror film, but the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral was retroactively incorporated into the pantheon of movie monsters after Chaney starred in the more terrifying PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in 1925.
That’s not the only silent title this week; there is also a new Kino DVD of THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927). This was previously available from Image Entertainment as a “Special Edition DVD,” which is quite nice but now out of print. The image quality of Kino’s transfer is supposed to be brighter, with less grain. The film itself is the great grand-daddy of thrillers about haunted houses that turn out not to be haunted. It gets off to a great, visually impressive start that still amazes even after all these decades (including eerie tracking shots and point-of-view camera angles lurking down dark corridors); then it settles into a conventional narrative, dictated by the play on which it is based.
THE CAT AND THE CANARY DVD is also available as part of the American Silent Horror Collection, a five-disc set that boxes together DVDs for THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, THE PENALTY, DR. JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, and KINDOM OF SHADOWS.
These are only some highlights of this week’s DVD releases. You can find them and more below…

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