The concept is sick: Kids kill each other in a dystopia where 12 districts lottery off their “tributes” to compete in a brutal war of child-on-child violence, rigged traps and cartoonish freaks. That doesn’t make box-office beast The Hunger Games an easy watch, but done right with a solid cast of young up-and-comers – including Josh Hutcherson of The Kids Are All Right – and a script that closely resembles the novel, it’s certainly an intriguing one that serves as part-satire, part-cautionary tale. The franchise’s first film is a nail-biting sucker punch that’s intensely laid out over two hours-plus as Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss Everdeen, impresses with her steely brand of kick-ass and empathetic sweetness. The not-gay actor Stanley Tucci camps it up as an outrageous talk-show host who seemingly takes skin tips from George Hamilton. Hungry for more? The two-disc Blu-ray should leave you fairly full with over three hours of extra stuff, including a talk with director Gary Ross and an eight-part documentary.
In an interview with Andrew Haigh on the Criterion Collection release of his second feature film, Weekend, the director insists he’s not keen on having his British indie be classified as just a “gay movie.” He has a point: The film is so wonderful – absolutely one of the best of 2011 – that it can stand alongside some of the greatest love stories ever made. Two young men wake up to each other after hooking up the night before at a club, then find themselves sharing intimate conversation that reveals a much deeper connection than either expected. But here’s the catch: One of them is moving to the U.S. in a couple days. Haigh’s sweet slice-of-life film – featuring breakout roles from Chris New and Tom Cullen – is an emotionally affecting observation on our casual but life-changing encounters. Its insights into relationships, and the subtle approach used to examine them, are revelations that speak universally. Bonus highlights include 30 minutes of interviews with the actors and director on making Weekend, plus two of Haigh’s shorts and a conversation about the sex scenes. Don’t go a weekend without this one.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
If you’ve seen Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (and what good gay hasn’t?), you’ve probably never looked at Post-its the same. The 1997 girl-comedy is every high school underdog’s feel-good film: Two longtime chums (the hilarious duo of Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino, whose characters vow to become lesbian if they’re unmarried by 30) attend their reunion with a bunch of fibs and bad fashion to out-fab their former classmates. Alan Cumming and Janeane Garofalo make funny cameos as two other outcasts who return to show up their frenemies, but this is ultimately Romy and Michele’s show – a timeless female-buddy cult classic with camp, heart and quotables. Good thing this 15th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition can stand on its own, because there’s nothing in the way of extras, except a lame production featurette. We know mono is, like, the best diet ever, but Romy and Michele deserve something bigger.
Revenge: The Complete First Season
The daytime soap opera might have one life to live, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for prime-time debauchery and enough drama to give Mary J. Blige a heart attack. Who’s creating it? Queer conning hustlers, backstabbing best friends and one ruthless woman out for, well, revenge. Welcome to the crack cocaine of TV dramas – a breakout hit from ABC, starring Emily VanCamp and Madeleine Stowe, that’s a throwback to Dynasty and pretty much anything else with cattiness, hot guys, murder and gay sex bribes. The gist: VanCamp’s character, Emily Thorne, returns to The Hamptons to ruin the lives of those who wrongfully imprisoned her father years ago, including Stowe’s Queen Victoria. Besides the addictive first 22-episode season, the set is full of special features: a look into crafty bisexual Nolan Ross, a breakdown of Emily and Victoria’s rivalry and something called “Femme Fatale Fashion.” That’s for you – the gays. You’re welcome.
The water was a scary place long before Piranha 3DD. Steven Spielberg’s shark-attack original, despite rip-offs and several less-impressive sequels, has as much bite now as it did 37 years ago when the story about a great white terrorizing a seaside community became a worldwide phenomenon. And if any movie deserves a pretty revamp, it’s this classic: Now on Blu-ray, Jaws doesn’t just look and sound better than ever – fully restored with a like-new image and audio overhaul – but gets an impressive array of cool special features. Never-before-seen interview footage of the cast and crew is assembled for a new docu on The Impact and Legacy of Jaws. Also included are deleted scenes and outtakes, a two-hour making-of and an intriguing look at the Jaws makeover. (Clearly, the process would’ve been less laborsome with a drag queen doing the touch-ups.)