Editor’s Notes: Ballers: The Complete Second Season, Gimme Danger, Pinocchio, & Masterminds are out on their respective formats Tuesday January 31st.
Ballers: The Complete Second Season (HBO Home Entertainment) is a comedy/drama series that looks at the lifestyles and real-life problems of former and current football players in Miami, Florida. The show stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Spencer Strasmore and delves into the often extravagant, high-stakes world of pro-football.
In Season 2, things get more competitive and complicated for retired football star turned financial manager Spencer. As the lines between professional and personal blur in his pursuit of lasting success and glory, he must face demons from the past when he goes head-to-head with the biggest business manager on the scene. Meanwhile, Spencer’s closest friends and clients struggle to find their footing. A humbled Ricky (John David Washington, former pro-football player) explores his options as a free agent, while getting to know the father who left him behind. Charles (Omar Miller) tries to balance a new baby and his future in the game, and Vernon (Donovan Carter) deals with the consequences of his life off the field.
Returning to assist Spencer juggle lucrative deals and big personalities are his outrageous business partner, Joe (Rob Corddry), pragmatic agent Jason (Troy Garity), and girlfriend/sports reporter Tracy (Arielle Kebbel). Second season episodes deal with Spencer implementing plans for revenge against nemesis Andre Allen; an injured Vernon facing a moral dilemma that could impact his career; Jason heading to the Everglades to woo a new client; and Charles adjusting to his new position in the front office.
The language on the show is strong, with frequent four-letter words bandied about and demeaning terms for women used. There are also frequent sex scenes with mostly female nudity. Specific teams, stadiums and brands are shown and mentioned. Material items, such as luxury cars and palatial houses are depicted as evidence of success. Violent football clashes are shown in slow motion to accentuate the brutality of the game. Men brawl and shout racial slurs as if their prowess on the field and fame entitles them to act boorishly.
All 10 widescreen episodes of Season 2 are contained in the 2-disc Blu-ray releases. Bonus extras include 10 “Inside the Episode” segments featuring interviews with executive producer Evan Reilly and star Dwayne Johnson. A digital HD copy is included. Season 2 is also available in a DVD edition.
Gimme Danger (Sony Home Entertainment) is a documentary by director Jim Jarmusch that chronicles the rise and decline in popularity of The Stooges, the late 60s/early 70s rock band whose on-stage antics helped to inspire the rise of a new form of music. The Stooges emerged from Ann Arbor, Michigan amid a countercultural revolution. Their powerful and aggressive style of rock’n’ roll made a significant impression in the popular music world of the period. Blending rock, R & B and free jazz, the band planted the seeds for what would be called punk and alternative rock in the decades that followed.
The man at the center of The Stooges is James Osterberg, Jr., known professionally as Iggy Pop, lead singer and songwriter. His bandmates were Dave Alexander (bass), brothers Ron and Scott Asheton (guitar and drums, respectively), and James Williamson (guitar).The only member of the group to go on to a solo career, Iggy is seen in interviews gleefully recalling the band’s genesis and difficult navigation of the music business. The industry simply didn’t “get” The Stooges, though they developed a loyal following and continued to perform in venues that grew in size along with their audiences.
Jarmusch is obviously a fan of the band and rock music in general. He was a featured musician with a number of bands and has written essays about influential bands; even his title is sort of an homage to the 1970 Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter. The director follows typical rock documentary format, including archival performance footage, excerpts of the band’s greatest hits, comments from outsiders, clips of Iggy playing drums for a pre-Stooges band, reflections by band members, comments on the relationship between Iggy and David Bowie, and intercut shots of pop culture of the period. He also incorporates animation for visual variety.
Fans of Iggy Pop will, of course, enjoy this film, but Jarmusch keeps his focus on the band and doesn’t get sidetracked with Iggy’s solo career. The movie is about the group, and it’s told in affectionate, often bittersweet fashion. Fans of rock music in general will enjoy looking back at an era that spawned the proto-punk movement.
There are no bonus features on the widescreen DVD release.
Pinocchio (Disney), based on the book by Carlo Collodi, tells the story of wood carver Geppetto’s beloved puppet who embarks on an exciting quest, along with faithful pal Jiminy Cricket, that tests his bravery, loyalty and honesty — all virtues he must learn to fulfill his heart’s desire: to become a real boy. Pinocchio was produced in response to the overwhelming response to Disney’s first feature-length animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Early drafts of the film were based on the novel, but Walt Disney wasn’t happy with the results and ordered the project rethought. This led to the expansion of the character of the cricket into Jiminy Cricket, voiced by Cliff Edwards.
The movie is filled with great sequences — Pinocchio starring in Stromboli’s caravan show, the Blue Fairy bringing Pinocchio to life, the nightmarish sights and sounds of Pleasure Island, Pinocchio’s nose growing whenever he tells a lie, and Geppetto trapped in the belly of Monster the whale. The animation is lush and every frame is a work of art. But the movie is also highly entertaining as well, since Disney (the man) always put story before everything else. He felt that if the story didn’t resonate with viewers, everyone’s efforts would be in vain.
Pinocchio, originally released in 1940, was re-released in 1945, 1954, 1962, 1971, 1978, 1984, and 1992. It was released on home video for the first time in 1985. The song “When You Wish Upon a Star” — sung by Jiminy Cricket — won the Academy Award for Best Song.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray Signature Edition include “Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island;” Walt Disney himself discussing the making of “Pinocchio” through archival recordings and interviews; a feature about the production of a new music video of “When You Wish Upon a Star;” the 1927 cartoon “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit,” and several bonus extras from previous home entertainment releases including deleted scenes, sing-alongs, storyboards, and theatrical trailers.
Masterminds (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment) is a caper comedy loosely based on an the 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery that took place in Charlotte, North Carolina and became known as the “hillbilly heist” because of the participants’ less-than-methodical planning. Armored car driver David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), with the assistance of former co-worker and crush Kelly Cambbell (Kristen Wiig) and her friend, Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson), steals close to $17 million from the vault where it’s temporarily stored. As the inside man and logical suspect, Ghantt flees to Mexico while Kelly and Steve continue their lives as normal. Steve, however, hires a hit man (Jason Sudekis) to do away with Ghantt, thus permanently dissolving the partnership.
One of Lorne Michaels less successful feature films incorporating members of his “SNL” cast, Masterminds is surprisingly short on laughs, despite plenty of opportunities to milk chuckles from the ineptness of the criminals. Several of the gags are telegraphed well before they’re played out on screen, and others are merely lame misfires. The entire film has the look of a hastily cobbled together effort, and the actors — with the exception of Ms. Wiig — founder while doing their best to elicit laughs. Wiig underplays and nails most of her comic scenes proving that, even in a comedy, less is sometimes more. The usually hysterical Kate McKinnon as Ghantt’s pushy fiancee Jandice and Leslie Jones as an FBI agent fail to pep up the proceedings.
The only bonus extra on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack is the featurette “The Imperfect Crime,” an account of the actual Loomis Fargo robbery as told by the real David Ghantt, FBI agents Mark Rozzi and John Wydra, and others.