The Frankenweenie (Buena Vista, 1/8) Blu-ray features a great behind the scenes documentary that introduces the London location of the production with some amazing tilt-shift and time-lapse photography effects. “We wanted to shoot the doc in a way that emphasized the magic of the film,” producer Allison Abbate tells Free Press Houston in a phone interview. Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie unwinds via stop motion animation, a process that can take a “week to produce two seconds of footage. There might be as many as 30 first units shooting on any given day,” says Abbate. Early credits with Burton, like artistic coordinator on The Nightmare Before Christmas led to her present position and Abbate’s credits read like a who’s who of animation for the last several years: Space Jam, Iron Giant, Corpse Bride, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Looney Tunes Back In Action. About shooting Frankenweenie in England (where Burton lives) Abbate notes, “There a font of talent here, the universities here teach these kinds of skills.”
Additional extras include an original short of Sparky, the titular canine, battling flying saucers, as well as Burton’s original 1984 short, which is a live-action version of the Frankenweenie saga. Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall play the parents with Barret Oliver (the kid from Never Ending Story) as the boy and a teenage Sophia Coppola.
Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden (Anchor Bay, 1/8) is cut from the same bolt of cloth as the upcoming Zero Dark Thirty only as a B-movie. Think low budget sets and special effects. CIA and Seal training scenes abound and the raid proves taunt and exciting action in a war movie kind of way. Having seen ZDT, I can attest that the plot points of the raid are virtually identical except with a greater emphasis on the Pakistan jets that were scrambled and then radioed to stand down by our own military.
Also there’s a sequence of the Seals on a mission in Afghanistan where they’re wearing helmets with video cameras so everyone at the command post is watching an ongoing firefight. John Stockwell directs.
Two-Lane Blacktop (Criterion Collection, 1/8) rolls out in a Blu-ray update of Criterion’s 2007 DVD release of Monty Hellman’s masterful road movie, which morphs into a cross-country car race between a monster ’55 Chevy and a then new GTO. Voluminous extras inform the viewer of the production history and how Universal all but buried the 1971 release. The film starred musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson in addition to Laurie Byrd and Warren Oates and has belatedly achieved its deserved cult status. One extra follows Hellman and a van full of his students in the present day as they trace the path of the film as far as Needles, California. Another extra reunites Hellman and Taylor after not seeing each other in 35 years. There’s a friendly reunion even though it’s clear that some of the events, like Joni Mitchell visiting the set in New Mexico, Taylor doesn’t want to get into. An accompanying booklet includes a Rolling Stone magazine article written at the time of the film’s brief release that employs a kind of free flowing imagery style and really sums up the carefree but professional attitude on the set.
Also to put on your short list: Cosmopolis (Entertainment One, 1/1) offers a behind the scenes making of doc that actually runs a few minutes longer than the film itself in addition to a perceptive commentary track by director David Cronenberg. Spanish helmer Jaume Balaguero of [Rec] renown gives us the psycho thriller Sleep Tight (Dark Sky Films, 1/8). The documentary that was lensed throughout 25 countries, Samsara (MPI, 1/8) looks absolutely brilliant in a Blu-ray transfer that more than does justice to its 70mm photography.
- Michael Bergeron