Editor’s Notes: Storks, Department Q Trilogy, Sitting Pretty, Coney Island, Rebel Pope, Woman’s World, The Grinder: The Complete First Season, & New Girl: The Complete Fifth Season are out on their respective formats Tuesday December 20th.
Storks (Warner Home Video) is an animated film whose premise is that storks no longer deliver babies. Now they deliver packages for global retail giant cornerstone.com, a thinly disguised version of online retailer Amazon. Junior (voice of Andy Samberg), the company’s top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when the Baby Factory is accidentally activated on his watch, producing a sweet, adorable — and entirely unauthorized — baby girl. Desperate to deliver this bundle before the boss gets wise, Junior and his friend Tulip (Katie Crown), the only human on Stork Mountain, race to make their first-ever baby drop, in a wild journey.
The plot is silly but the film has its charms, including some cool slapstick and an energetic vocal performance by Samberg, who really amps up excitement where the story falls short. Themes of friendship and the meaning of family balance the gags and frenetic action sequences. Though the film is geared to kids, there’s a lot about parenthood and responsibility that may go over the heads of young viewers.
Storks borrows elements from other animated pictures, blending them together in an attempt to create memorable characters. Unfortunately, Junior and his pals don’t make the kind of impression that leads to animation stardom.
Other voice talent is provided by Kensey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Keegan-Michael Key, and Danny Trejo.
Bonus content on the 3-disc 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack includes the animated short “Storks: Guide to Your New Baby,” deleted scenes, outtakes, commentary by directors, “The Master,” a LEGO Ninjango short, and a music video for Jason Derulo’s song, “Kiss the Sky.” A digital HD copy is included. Other editions available include the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack and the single-disc DVD.
Department Q Trilogy
Department Q Trilogy (IFC Films), based on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s international bestsellers, features maverick detective Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas). Having botched an assignment, Morck is demoted to Department Q, a basement office that handles cold cases. With his new partner, Assad (Fares Fares), and secretary, Rose (Johanne Louise Schmidt), the moody Morck digs into shocking unsolved mysteries including the kidnapping of a high-ranking government official, a brutal prep school murder, and a bloody message from two children presumed dead.
The DVD contains three stories. In The Keeper of Lost Causes, the two partners take on their first case: Merete (Sonja Richter) is a politician who has disappeared in a presumed suicide. A series of flashbacks intercut with the investigation unravels the prime theory of her disappearance.
The Absent One finds Morck and Assad investigating the deaths of a brother and sister whose supposed killer confessed immediately after the crimes. Flashbacks show a girl (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) who falls for the wrong boy, and the awful path she soon takes.
A Conspiracy of Faith, the darkest of the trilogy, is about a swimmer who finds a note, written in blood, in an old bottle. The message, from a boy being held captive, leads Morck and Assad to a reclusive religious sect that harbors a serial killer (Pal Sverre Hagen). While the other stories are as much about Morck as about the mystery, this one is dominated by action, mostly due to a different director and an increased budget.
Though the stories are not unique, they benefit from the tension between the two mismatched partners.
Bonus extra on the widescreen DVD release include featureless and a trailer. In Danish, with English subtitles.
Sitting Pretty (Fox Cinema Archives) is a comedy about suburban couple Tacey and Harry King (Maureen O’Hara, Robert Young), who need a babysitter for their three sons. Tacey puts an ad in the newspaper for a live-in babysitter and gets a reply from Lynn Belvedere. Tacey arranges for an interview at the house and is surprised to see that Lynn Belvedere (Clifton Webb) is a man — not just any man, but an eccentric genius with wide experience in various fields. Mr. Belvedere manages to bring calm to the household and works wonders with the children. Things go awry, however, when local gossip Clarence Appleton (Richard Haydn) spreads rumors that Belvedere and Tacey are carrying on an affair.
A show business adage is that children and animals will always upstage an actor. Nothing could be further from that in Sitting Pretty. Mr. Webb handily steals every scene he’s in with a supercilious, no-nonsense attitude that undermines popular thinking on child rearing. He’s the textbook curmudgeon, fully expecting the boys to adhere to his rules, regulations, and time schedules. Of course, the laughs come from the frequent clashes between his theories and actual practice. Eventually, Mr. Belvedere shows that he doesn’t have the cold heart his demeanor suggests.
By the time he made this picture, Webb was a veteran of show business. He worked as a professional ballroom dancer, appeared in several operettas, starred on Broadway, made short films for the Vitaphone Corporation, and returned to movies in 1944’s Laura, for which he received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He starred as John Philip Sousa in Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) and appeared in The Razor’s Edge, Three Coins in the Fountain, Woman’s World, and The Man Who Never Was. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Sitting Pretty.
There are no bonus features on the unrated DVD release.
Coney Island (Fox Cinema Archives) stars Betty Grable and takes place at the turn of the last century. Smooth-talking Eddie Johnson (George Montgomery) talks his way into a job at friend and rival Joe Rocco’s (Cesar Romero) Coney Island night spot. Eddie meets the club’s star attraction and Joe’s love interest, Kate Farley (Betty Grable), a rough-around-the-edges singer who loves flashy clothes. Eddie and Kate argue as he tries to soften her image, and she eventually becomes the main attraction in Coney Island. They fall in love, but Joe tries to sabotage their wedding plans. Songs include Cuddle Up a Little Closer, Beautiful Coney Island, Miss Lulu From Louisville, Old Demon Rum, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, The Darktown Strutters’ Ball, and Pretty Baby.
Betty Grable was a huge star in the 1940s. Most of her films followed a traditional backstage musical plot. Though her singing and dancing never won her the stature of the top-notch performers, her lovely looks and bubbly personality came across on screen and she became extremely popular. Technicolor was especially kind to her, as she photographed beautifully in vivid color. According to exhibitors’ rankings, between 1941 and 1952, Betty Grable was among the top 20 stars in the country.
Also starring in the cast: Charles Winninger and Phil Silvers. Hermes Pan is credited with the choreography and Walter Lang directed. “Coney Island” was among the ten top-grossing films of 1943.
There are no bonus features on the unrated DVD release.
Rebel Pope (National Geographic) is a biographical overview of Pope Francis, whose interesting backstory is explored in detail. Often using dramatic recreations of events, the documentary traces his rise to power within the Catholic Church. His radical views both stirred controversy in some circles and characterized him as a Pope for the modern era.
Through friends and biographers, the program depicts Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s study of chemistry, his call to the priesthood, and his role during a period of social and political turmoil in Argentina that culminated in the kidnapping and torture of two of his more revolutionary priests.
The show suggests that while the young Bergoglio was a Church authoritarian lecturing fellow Jesuits on the virtue of obedience, his personal experiences in Argentina led him to renounce much of traditional dogma, transforming him into a more enlightened, empathetic cleric who questioned, rethought, and reformed his opinions about the place of the Church in a vastly changing world.
The widescreen DVD release has no bonus features.
Woman’s World (Fox Cinema Archives) focuses on Ernest Gifford (Clifton Webb), chairman of a large automobile company, who has to fill the position of general manager and believes that an executive’s wife is crucial to her husband’s success. Three couples — Jerry and Carol (Van Heflin, Arlene Dahl), Sid and Elizabeth (Fred McMurray, Lauren Bacall), and Bill and Katie (Cornel Wilde, June Allyson) — are brought to New York so Gifford can size them up and decide who is the best fit for the job.
The film explores each of the three couples, with particular focus on the wives. Each couple has its own problems, and each of the husbands has admirable qualities and negative aspects. Gifford, like God, sits in judgment as he watches their interaction and gets to know the wives.
Twentieth Century-Fox production head Darryl F. Zanuck hired Jean Negulesco to direct the CinemaScope film after he had recently directed two very popular pictures for the studio — How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and Thee Coins in the Fountain (1954) — and approved the highest budget ever for a Twentieth Century-Fox modern drama.
The film is very much a product of its era. The script makes clear how a family’s income and social life are directly dependent on the husband’s employment. One couple’s marriage has suffered because of the amount of time he spends at work. Another is simply unsuited for the demands of the job. The third is dominated by a woman who will push boundaries to put her husband in an advantageous position.
There are no bonus features on the widescreen Technicolor DVD release.
The Grinder: The Complete First Season
“The Grinder: The Complete First Season” (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment) stars Rob Lowe (“The West Wing,” “Parks and Recreation”) as TV star Dean Sanderson, whose series — “The Grinder,” about a lawyer who wins cases through cunning, surprise revelations, and pure showmanship — has just been cancelled. Moving back to his hometown, he soon inserts himself into every aspect of his brother Stewart’s (Fred Savage, “The Wonder Years”) life. Stewart is a real-life attorney, competent but lacking the flair and charisma that Dean has by the carload.
Dean’s unbridled points of view often conflict with Stewart’s. Dean hangs out at the law firm, headed by their father, Dean, Sr. (William Defoe), and offers his opinion on cases based on their similarity to his TV scripts. Comically, Dean’s instincts often prove better than Stewart’s methodical preparation.
Lowe is very funny as a frequently overbearing yet always likable family member upsetting routines and altering how things are done at the firm. His ideas sound harebrained but often click, making Dean a valued asset to the firm and refocusing the spotlight from Stewart to himself. The on-screen chemistry between Lowe and Savage allows for lots of brotherly repartee, good-natured put-downs, and frustrations. Though the episodes stretch believability, the show is geared to elicit laughs, not to be a factual portrayal of the legal profession.
Supporting characters include the stone-faced Claire (Natalie Morales), a new associate at the law firm who resists Dean’s romantic advances, Todd (Steve Little), an attorney who’s not the sharpest tack in the pack and is one of Dean’s biggest fans, and Debbie, Stewart’s wife, who often has to serve as unofficial therapist to handle Stewart’s complaints about Dean.
The 3-disc DVD release includes all 22 widescreen episodes of the show’s premiere season. There are no bonus features.
New Girl: The Complete Fifth Season
New Girl: The Complete Fifth Season (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment) continues to show the characters moving toward becoming responsible adults. Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) remain broken up. At the end of Season 4, Winston (Lamorne Morris) got a job as a police officer, Nick made a heavy financial investment in the gang’s favorite bar, and Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and CeCe (Hannah Simone) became engaged.
One of the key problems of a sitcom after its first couple of years is having the characters change to keep the show fresh while retaining the qualities that drew an audience in the first place. It’s a tough job, since viewers have so many choices these days. Though the fifth season’s episodes deal with a few life-altering story arcs, comedy is still a prime ingredient.
To accommodate Zooey Deschanel’s pregnancy this season, she is often seen behind objects, sitting down, and in close-ups. In the first episode, for example, the writers had Jess break her leg so she could be seated most of the time. When it became too difficult to hide Deschanel’s pregnancy, she was written out of a few episodes.
All 22 widescreen episodes of Season 5, which originally aired from January to May, 2016, are contained in the 3-disc DVD release. There are no bonus features.