December 1, 2010

The Ultimate Summer

Also this week: Fantasia, Shaolin Mantis, Parks and Recreation: Season 2

Highlight of the Week
The Ultimate Summer (Monterey Media) Those not looking forward to a winter wonderland can retreat to the chilled-out Eden that is Bruce Brown’s 1966 surfin’ safari, The Endless Summer. Brown’s macro-budget documentary trails two young dudes traveling the globe’s most beautiful and remote reaches in search of “the perfect wave.” Having aged 44 years, the Big Kahuna of sports docs remains as spectacular as ever thanks to its goofball enthusiasm, crunchy soundtrack and epic footage, which is newly re-mastered here. The Ultimate Summer collection also features a treasure trove of Brown’s surf-centric docs, semi-narratives and compilations, culminating with 1992’s Endless Summer 2. Though the set is mainly extra-less, more behind-the-scenes sweetness can be located on the separately released (a small bummer, I suppose) Endless Summer two-disc set, which contains new and nostalgic goodies like a lengthy look back, artwork galore, bios and more.
Also Available
Fantasia + Fantasia 2000 (Disney) Fantasia is rarely cited as the be-all-end-all of Disney’s early animated features, and hits a few rough patches throughout its robust running time. But, as far as being the most ambitious and downright bonkers enterprise the studio has ever embarked on, it remains second to none. Credit goes to Walt Disney himself for his groundbreaking marriage of classical pieces with traditional and abstract animation, which would turn kids on to timeless music, adults on to mature animation and, later, hippies on to family-friendly psychedelia. Fifty-nine years after Fantasia, Disney Studios tried to recreate that magic with Fantasia 2000, a less awe-inspiring venture that’s still faithful companion to the original. Disney predictably gives us a stellar high-def reissue featuring all kinds of classy extras like commentaries, studio tours and a feature-length doc on the colliding careers of Walt Disney and Salvador Dali, whose unfinished concept was completed post-mortem in 2003 and is also on hand.
Shaolin Mantis (Alliance) What do you do when your in-laws kill your wife and her mother? You obviously invent an ingenious fighting style inspired by an insect. That’s precisely what occurs in this late-’70s Shaw Brothers kinda-classic by renowned martial arts director/choreographer Lau Kar Leung. Though the film starts off relatively slow, if only by Shaw Bros. standards, things really get cooking midway, and the latter half of the film is non-stop action of the highest calibre. Like most of these Dragon Dynasty re-releases (which recently gave usThe 5 Deadly Venoms and 8 Diagram Pole Fighter), the only extras provided are rock solid a/v and the option between original Mandarin and goofy English dubs.
Parks & Recreation: Season 2 (Universal) Viewers who made it through the series’ “meh” first season were rewarded with a thoroughly upgraded second lap that, once it got settled in, blew the pants off Dunder Mifflin’s mockumentary mould. The ensemble cast — led by SNL alum Amy Poehler — is top-notch, with strong performances from Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt and the always incredible Nick Offerman as Parks and Rec director Ron Swanson (a.k.a. covert jazz musician Duke Silver). While season three has been put on the backburner until January, this DVD is stacked with enough extras to tide us over for the home stretch. We get select commentaries, behind-the-scenes shenanigans and webisodes.