The Cabin in the Woods It was a topsy-turvy kind of year in the film-crit world. The only evidence one needs is the recent, overwhelmingly positive reception to the remake of Judge Dredd. But a look back at the Summer of Whedon uncovers the heart of the trend: Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon's The Avengers not only devoured everything in its box-office path, but the superhero flick consistently ranks among Rotten Tomatoes' top critical favorites of the year. (At press time, it sits at a comfy 92 percent positive.) It's no anomaly. Whedon, along with director and co-writer Drew Goddard (Cloverfield), threw things out of paternalistic whack with another film this year, this critically adored slasher flick (90 percent positive at press time) in which a group of attractive teens encounter sex, murder and Mermen at a cabin secretly controlled by, well, paternalistic manipulators. Of course, there's a twist, and no, it shouldn't be ruined beforehand. But besides the long-awaited "pause" feature on this snazzy, Ultraviolet-equipped set, the audio commentary by Whedon and Goddard is giddily wistful (the pair wrote it over a hotel weekend) and extras that show off the cabin's detail – that coffee mug! – make this one certified fresh. (available now)
Special Features: audio commentary, featurettes, Q&A
Chico & Rita As loosely structured and intoxicatingly romantic as the classic jazz pervading its soundtrack, Chico & Rita, a surprise Oscar nominee this year for Best Animated Feature, is a simple love story (a composer and a singer make a great pair, become
successful, are torn apart by fame but are inextricably intertwined by music and emotion) writ majestic by its florid, often steamy style. On Blu-ray, the sights and sounds of 1940s Cuba extend as deeply as Rita's eyes, colliding with the narrative fire of co-director Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque). It's slightly slow-going, and the white subtitles are infuriatingly hard to follow, but the best compliment to the filmmakers' efforts is that after a while that really doesn't matter. Words are hardly needed, anyway. (available now)
Special Features: audio commentary, featurette
Joseph Campbell: Mythos: The Complete Series Sure, his teachings have been used, abused, exploited and left for dead by every screenwriter who's ever heard George Lucas, a former student of Campbell's, touting the mythologist's greatness (I'm no exception, believe me) but Campbell, who died in 1987 at age 83, did more than invent the modern hero's journey; he brought the many varied (but not that varied, an inconvenient truth that itself has been co-opted by the celestially obsessed) heroes' journeys of all regions and all eras to breathing life with his oratorical beauty. This set is a full 15 hours of Campbell enrapturing students, filmed during his final years. It isn't just a must-own; it should be beamed to the farthest reaches of outer space and memorialized for all time. Too much to ask? (available now)
Special Features: 12-page viewer's guide
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