Julie & Julia — I’ve gotta be upfront here. I hate this movie, and all the drama did was convince me of two things: That Meryl Streep is a bad actress when she tries to do funny voices, and that both the film’s subjects, TV cook and author Julia Child and blogger Julie Powell, lived boring lives. That said, everyone I know who’s female and/or into cooking is all about this film, and for those who are similarly disposed, this is a solid disc, either on DVD or Blu-ray. The biggest advantages of the latter are that you get to see sublime food concoctions tempt you in high-definition, and it lets you access recipes to dishes you see in the movie. Both versions include commentary with director Nora Ephron and a behind-the-scenes with stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, and the Blu-ray also adds cooking lessons and a look at Childs’ Smithsonian-housed kitchen.
Disney’s holiday kiddie lineup — Two of the Disney Channel’s best computer-animated shows for the preschool set get DVD double-episode specials. Neither “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey’s Choo-Choo Express” and “Handy Manny’s Motorcycle Adventure” disappoint. Both lack the “Barney” factor and are surprisingly watchable on multiple viewings, an absolute requirement for parents who’d rather not go more insane than they already are. Both discs include bonus episodes of their respective shows.
Also out is “Mickey’s Magical Christmas,” the hand-drawn retrospective/cash-in on Disney’s past. The setup has Mickey and basically every Disney character you can think of snowed in for the holiday, telling Christmas tales that act as flashbacks, including “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker.” The cutaways in between shows are surreal acid trips, with a bizarre applause tracks accompanying mediocrely drawn versions of Belle and the Beast, Jafar, Simba and other characters who don’t belong together taking part in bizarre comedy routines. “Magical Christmas” is the only one I’d recommend non-parents check out, just because of how freaking weird it is.
The Prisoner — Forget the recent AMC remake, this 1967-68 miniseries is one of the finest pieces of television ever created. Patrick McGoohan stars as Number Six, a secret agent who is imprisoned in a seemingly idyllic village with sinister Orwellian surveillance methods, including a freaky, giant translucent ball that chases Six down whenever he thinks he’s about to escape. Released on DVD and Blu-ray, on which I reviewed the set, the show looks stunning in its surreal, 1960s glory. Extras include a feature-length documentary about the show’s creation, an alternate version of the pilot, commentaries on several episodes and countless other behind-the-scenes trinkets.
Public Enemies — You don’t hear this John Dillinger biopic come up in Oscar talk, which makes me think not enough tastemakers caught Johnny Depp‘s brilliant performance as the notorious Depression-era bank robber. Director Michael Mann keeps the action sizzling, and his washed-out, retro look helps set the mood for the run-and-gun thrill ride. Mann’s commentary track leads off an impressive slew of extras, which include some quick-hitters about the shooting locations and Dillinger’s past. The Blu-ray lets you use an iPhone or iPod touch as a remote.
Also out this week:
Better Off Ted: Season 1 — ABC’s office-set sit-com stars Jay Harrington, Portia de Rossi and Andre Anders in a corporate satire. No extras.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — The movie adaptations of J.K. Rowlings‘ books continues in their mediocrity. Extras include deleted scenes and a look at the Harry Potter theme park going up in Florida.
Lost: Season 5 — I’m embarrassed to say I’ve still never seen an episode of this, which is more a cultural phenomenon than TV drama. Out on Blu-ray as well as DVD, this is the way I’ll check it out when I get around to it. Extras: Featurettes on how to decipher hieropglyphics and an introduction to the physics of time travel. As usual, the Blu-ray looks better and has more special features.
Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book “Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel” is available on Amazon.