January 20, 2010

Big Fan

Also this week: Boogie Nights/Magnolia, Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, Kingdom of the Spiders, Star Trek The Original Series

Highlight of the Week

Big Fan (VSC) The King of Queens meets The King of Comedy in The Wrestler scribe Robert D. Siegel’s filmmaking debut, which goes beyond type to achieve something tonally distinctive and one-of-a-kind fascinating. As a character actor, Patton Oswalt has always been an amusing, down-to-earth dude. Not here. You could call his performance darkly comedic but, like the film, it’s a slow, severe burn. Oswalt plays a New York Giants–worshipping slacker who gets his ass handed to him by his sports hero, and things only get more weirdly intense from there. Extras: co-star Kevin Corrigan’s “Big Fan” encounter with Mr. De Niro, Siegel and Oswalt interview, outtakes, more. 

Also Available
Boogie Nights and Magnolia (Alliance) One of these is arguably the greatest film of the ’90s, while the other is, well, the most arguable film of the ’90s. I’m writing, respectively, of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Altmanian epics Boogie Nights and Magnolia, out on Blu-ray this week. Both films! Same day! Bonus features from their double-disc standard-def releases are included here, and nothing more. Still, with top-shelf extras like “The John C. Reilly Files,” we don’t need no stinkin’ new extras, the film-like transfers alone are upgrade-worthy.

Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening (Paramount) 2009 was a pivotal year for stand-up comic-turned-prime-time-TV-actor-turned feature-film-bit-player Aziz Ansari, who proved to be a very funny person in Judd Apatow’s blundering Funny People and NBC’s now-superb Parks and Recreation. In addition to providing the best extra on the Funny People DVD — a segment on alter comic persona RAAAAAAAANY (with eight A’s) — the material on this debut stand-up release confirms he’s no one-year wonder. Extras: 30 minutes of more jokes.

Kingdom of the Spiders
 (Shout! Factory) Q: What 1977 film featured William Shatner and thousands of killer tarantulas? A: The film you’re reading about right now! Canada’s own James T. Kirk starred in this entirely watchable sci-fi flick that plays like some bizarre fusion of The Birds, Jaws, Night of the Living Dead and, for you eco-horror buffs out there, 1972’s Frogs. Shatner plays it cool as a small town veterinarian who teams up with a nifty posse (enter Woody Strode) to unearth the secret behind an alarming tarantula epidemic. Deadly cobwebs ensue. Extras: commentary, new Shatner interview, spider wrangler featurette, more.

Star Trek The Original Series: Season 3 (Paramount) Continuing the theme of Shatner and outer space: the final lap of Star Trek’s 1966-69 run arrives in glossy Blu. Despite containing some hilarious blemishes (see camp-tastic season starter, “Spock’s Brain”), a purchase remains vital for ardent Trekkies. CBS has again performed digital tweaks to the dated effects, but we still get the option to enjoy either incarnation. You cheapo purists can sleep soundly. Extras: extended episode, oodles of featurettes.