The Ladykillers (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 6.5
(OUT OF 10)
Alec Guinness delivers a great performance as the eccentric Professor Marcus, plotter of a bank robbery gone horribly wrong.
When Marcus and his crew (including Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers) show up at the home of the Old Lady (Katie Johnson), they do so under the pretense that they are classical musicians looking for a place to live and practice. While a classical record plays in their rented room (to fool the Old Lady), the men plot a bank robbery and make her an unknowing accomplice. Then things fall apart, and they end up picking each other off in a darkly comic style.
Guinness, with fake teeth, googly eyes and wiry hair, was never better than he was in this role. It's also fun to see Sellers and Lom sharing the screen before they would again team up in the Pink Panther movies.
The movie goes for laughs, but it's actually quite sinister in its tone. By the time Lom and Guinness square off at the end, it's downright nasty.
The Coen brothers remade The Ladykillers, and I must admit that I preferred the remake. I know I'm in the minority here, but Tom Hanks killed me in the main role, and I loved how trash barges replaced trains as dead-body receptacles.
SPECIAL FEATURES: You'll see the word "Ealing" a lot on the box for this one. Ealing is the British studio where the film was originally produced. There's an audio commentary from Ealing expert Phil Kemp, as well as a documentary on the studio. A quick introduction from Terry Gilliam and a documentary about restoring the film are also included.
Goodfellas: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 9
(OUT OF 10)
One of the greatest films ever made, Martin Scorsese's gangster epic is now 20 years old, and it remains a masterpiece. Say all you want about the majesty of the Godfather films, but Scorsese topped them all with the true story of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta).
This movie had a grand scope, Joe Pesci before he became annoying and Robert De Niro at the top of his game. Also at the top of his game was Scorsese, who put one of history's best tracking shots on film here, adding to the great story and performances.
Pesci won an Oscar for playing the hotheaded Tommy, and he deserved it. He would never rise to such heights again, and history has proven that he probably should've retired when this one wrapped.
I remember when I first saw this film in the theater. I thought to myself that few films in the future would have a chance of topping this. Scorsese has made great films since (and, I would argue, better films before, with Raging Bull and Taxi Driver), but he hasn't done better than this in the past two decades. However, he was beaten out by Kevin Costner for all but Pesci's Oscar when Dances With Wolves managed to hypnotize and dupe everybody.
Let it be said that nobody has ever used music better than what Scorsese did with classic rock tracks this time out. When "Layla" plays as the camera tours all the dead mobsters left in De Niro's wake, it's high art.
SPECIAL FEATURES: This is the second Blu-ray release for the film, and it retains a lot of the special features from a prior DVD release. There are commentaries with Scorsese, cast and crew, and one with Henry Hill, which is quite unbelievable. You also get three documentaries on the film, and a separate DVD disc containing a documentary on gangster films and some classic gangster cartoons.
SPECIAL FEATURES B+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 7
(OUT OF 10)
Last year was a banner year for Woody Harrelson. He got himself an Oscar nomination for The Messenger, and he headlined this commercial hit about searching for Twinkies during a zombie plague.
Harrelson stars as Tallahassee, a man who is perfectly OK with the zombie plague, because it gives him chances to kill ghouls and take long drives. Along the way, he picks up a nebbish college student (Jesse Eisenberg) who has also managed to survive the plague, in a very OCD way. In their travels, they pick up a couple of sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) along the way to a fairly routine amusement-park finale.
Before the film gets a little clichéd, it is very funny and gory. It stands alongside Shaun of the Dead as one of the better horror comedies of recent years. It also features one of cinema's all-time-coolest cameos, and if anybody tells you who it is before you see the film, punch them in the face.
SPECIAL FEATURES: You get a great commentary with Harrelson, Eisenberg and crew. You also get deleted scenes and making-of documentaries. The Blu-ray has an exclusive picture-in-picture, behind-the-scenes track.