By: Chris Azzopardi*/Special to TRT—
FOR THE NOSTALGIA
Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series
For queers of every kind, Pee-wee’s Playhouse was a place to hang without feeling weird about being weird. Subverting heteronormativity with its groundbreaking portrayal of a wildly cartoonish man-boy in a bow tie, actor Paul Reubens’ iconic ’80s character smiled and winked at gay culture (Pee-wee once “married” a fruit bowl), and he had a diverse cast of friends who made every kid feel like they fit in. There was Tito, his buff, shirtless, hot-pants-wearing “Playhouse Lifeguard,” and Jambi the Genie—because everyone knows a gossip queen. Beyond the characters, kids tuned in for the “secret word,” the catchphrases (“I know you are, but what am I?!”), the zippy Cyndi Lauper-sung opening and that inimitable Pee-wee giggle. Before Reubens brings his alter ego back to the big screen, as he recently announced, the entire Emmy-winning series—all five seasons of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, spanning eight discs—lands on Blu-ray with over four hours of wonderfully wacky features. Explore the production design, delight in Playhouse fandom, and get reacquainted with the Pee-wee performers who would forever change childhood.
Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition
Elsa may be able to turn nothingness into fabulous ice castles with the fling of a finger, but Sleeping Beauty… she… she… yeah, so maybe Sleeping Beauty got the short end of the fairies’ sticks. But now, Aurora is getting some much-deserved respect as Disney awakens her from the vault. One of Walt’s oft-overlooked underdogs—Aurora was always second to Snow White and Cinderella and Ariel and Belle and Jasmine—finally rises from the shadows of her Disney sisters for this dolled-up Diamond Edition, which includes deleted scenes and the bonus “The Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains.” Yup, sorry, girls; she woke up like this.
Halloween: The Complete Collection (Deluxe Edition)
The Halloween franchise has had so many reincarnations—and John Carpenter’s original is such timeless cinema—it’s hard to remember when the bludgeoning began. It was 36 years ago when the classic slasher saga first introduced the freakiness that is Michael Myers and made a star out of Jamie Lee Curtis, who played the resilient Myers’ sister, Laurie Strode, and put up a good fight all the way through 2002’s Resurrection (the film was a hot mess and starred Busta Rhymes, so she probably didn’t fight that hard). Other people didn’t stand a chance against the masked maniac (RIP Joseph Gordon-Levitt and your pretty face). Over the years, from 1978 to 2009, nine films—and the bizarrely Michael-less Season of the Witch—have emancipated the unburnable, unstabbable, unshootable, unstoppable Myers to work his knife on Tyra Banks, Michelle Williams, even comedy king Paul Rudd, who’d probably like to forget Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers as much as the rest of us. Undeniably fierce, however, is Curtis’ comeback in H2O, a reliably creepy anniversary affair that’s arguably the best of the sequels. From Starz/Anchor Bay, the 10-film franchise, including Rob Zombie’s divisive reboots, is together at last on 14 Blu-ray discs (one DVD) with a spate of whatnots: endless hours of special features, a new commentary track with Curtis on H2O and the never-before-released producer’s cut of Halloween 6.
(BOOB) TUBE FAVES
True Blood: The Complete Series
After leaving the funeral business behind and burying Six Feet Under well, six feet under, creator Alan Ball was desperate to sink his teeth into something less grave. True Blood was a breather for Ball. He would use the show as a platform for timely cultural commentary on the LGBT landscape, equal rights, violence against gays and the quest for identity and build those issues into an insatiable glut of blood, boobs and butts. You couldn’t turn away, and you likely didn’t—the show, which launched in 2008, lasted for seven sexy seasons. So, as if that nude standoff between Eric and Alcide—or the shower fantasy, or the time Eric seduced Talbot, or every shirtless Joe Manganiello scene—isn’t already preserved in all the horny fibers of your head, you now have the power to deploy freeze-frame on 33 discs of vamp camp, Blu-ray beefcake (hi-def abs!) and ample extras. Supplements are season-centric, with faux commercials and episode-specific commentaries. If you make it all the way through the final season’s candid, 15-minute long farewell feature, “True Death: The Final Days On Set,” you’ll know more than you ever cared to about one of TV’s bloodiest, boobiest shows.
Look at just about any legit “TV That Changed Our Lives” list and there’s The Sopranos, HBO’s celebrated series that has become so part of the pop-culture zeitgeist you can’t say you haven’t seen it without hanging your head in shame. Because even those who’ve been sleeping since 1999, when the show premiered to overwhelming and enduring praise, know this gritty crime drama is about an Italian-American family of mobsters, and that the great, late James Gandolfini created a TV icon. Effortlessly transcending his fictional role, Gandolfini was Tony Soprano. As head of the Soprano household, and in addition to his complicated relationship with his wife (a terrifically memorable Edie Falco), he finds himself at odds trying to maintain dual roles as family man and ass-kicker. The Sopranos had a successful 86-episode run through 2007, fetching gobs of awards, rebranding HBO as a destination for original, cutting-edge drama and, years later, still carrying a legacy indicative of its cultural influence. And, for all its alpha-male machismo, it was queer-inclusive: In season 2, we meet Vito Spatafore, a gay gangster. This boxed set marks the Blu-ray debut of The Sopranos, and commemorating this hi-def experience is “Defining a Television Landmark,” a new in-depth featurette on the show’s transformative effect on TV.
The Audrey Hepburn Collection
Screen legend Audrey Hepburn was spirited, charming and beautiful, and every scene moment—particularly during the height of her film career in the mid-20th century – brought infinite joy to all those hopeless romantics basking in her glow. That divinity (and smile) radiates through these three romantic gems culled for a special Blu-ray set: Sabrina, a warmhearted, Cinderella-hued romance where two men pine for the titular character, played by Hepburn; Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the winsome classic that inspired generations of college women to turn their dorms into NYC-inspired, ’60s-centric pads; and Funny Face, the posh 1957 musical that delightfully pairs the actress with Fred Astaire. Even if there are no new extras—they’re carryovers from a previous DVD release—the films look as ravishing as Hepburn herself.
The fear-triggered horrors of fatherhood have never quite seen anything like Eraserhead, birthed from the freakish sensibilities of David Lynch and popular among midnight-movie crowds. Turning heads within the cult circuit since 1977, the Mulholland Drive surrealist’s full-length debut feature descends into the twisted mind of a young man, Henry (Jack Nance), suddenly faced with not just any child but one that appears to have fought its way out of Sigourney Weaver’s stomach. Are we hanging in Henry’s subconscious the whole time? That ugly baby can’t be real, right? Who knows. This is Lynch doing what he does best: working your mind and haunting your thoughts. Finally, Eraserhead is resurrected on Blu-ray thanks to Criterion Collection’s meticulous rendering of the film’s striking black-and-white aesthetics. Included among the extensive extras are new restorations of six shorts directed by Lynch, an illustrated booklet, and archival interviews and footage dating back to the film’s original release.
FOR A LAUGH
Next Jump Street, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum will inevitably tie the knot, adopt babies and inspire a whole world of bros to become LGBT activists. How could they not? 22 Jump Street is so gay the only thing gayer would be if they made their penises kiss. In this sequel to the original reboot, doofus duo Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are college-bound and facing the challenges of bromance, sassy roommates (please cast Jillian Bell in everything) and words (Jenko confuses “carte blanche” for “Cate Blanchett”—easy mistake). With a seriously funny couple’s-therapy session, a Harvey Milk namedrop and Tatum teaching gay lingo, 22 Jump Street is just two cowboy hats away from being the gayest movie of 2014. Their love affair sustains throughout the special features, which, among them, are a fun, irreverent commentary; the film’s “Dramatic Interpretation”; and “Janning and Chonah,” a look at the actors’ bromantic chemistry.
Here’s an early Christmas gift, and it’s already unwrapped: Zac Efron’s ripped, frequently shirtless body in Neighbors, a comedy about a frat (led by Efron and a butt-baring Dave Franco) whose hard-party shenanigans drive their quiet neighbors to react in ridiculous ways. The married couple—Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne—go to awkwardly desperate measures to coax the raucous brats into curbing the noise so they can put their baby boy down. Buffoonery unravels. Robotic boners happen. And stay through the credits to see said tot emulate each cast member, some in drag (the kid does an impressive Lisa Kudrow). Fun with prosthetic penises—based on Efron’s “real cast molding,” according to Christopher Mintz-Plasse – can be found on the bonus feature “On the Set With…”
Suddenly single, Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is just your average dumpee, self-medicating with wine and casual sex. But when a drunken night of hanky-panky leads to bigger breasts, which leads to a check-up at Planned Parenthood, she finds herself preggers. It’s not your everyday setup for a rom-com, even though it is one (a very cute one, at that), but therein lies its allure: It’s a refreshing spin on a tried-and-true formula. With former SNL-er Slate taking lead (this needs to be a thing more often, FYI), even a pro-lifer couldn’t resist the adorable, empathy-inducing candor she brings to Donna. But, also, who doesn’t like a good vagina joke? The 2009 short film that inspired the full-length, a commentary and a making-of are among the extras.
*Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.