South Park: Season 14 – While other long-running animated satires such as The Simpsons have long been in decline, South Park rolls along with every bit as much spark as it started out with. Kicking off with a stinging satire of the Tiger Woods adultery fiasco, the latest season is packed with wince-inducing belly laughs. Extras include deleted scenes, a bonus episode and commentary from mad geniuses Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Blu-ray – Terry Gilliam’s manic 1998 adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s seminal book has aged well, with fine performances by Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro, neither of whom seems to have aged all that much in the past 14 years. Depending on your tastes, Gilliam (12 Monkeys, Brazil) is either a genius or an overindulgent freakazoid, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas does little to bridge the gap, riding Thompson’s prose for one wild, ridiculous interlude after another. As is expected in a Criterion release, the extras are voluminous: Three commentary tracks, deleted scenes and sundry background trinkets that fans of Thompson, Gilliam and Depp will eat up.
Gulliver’s Travels – You go into this Jack Black vehicle expecting a soulless, cynical kiddie flick, and that’s exactly what you get. The always-energetic Black does all he can to make the film palatable, and he succeeds in drawing a few chuckles as a travel journalist who is adopted by miniscule Lilliputans, but the movie feels at least twice as long as it should be. Amanda Peet, in the romantic interest role, has so little chemistry with Black that the presence of the forced love story is funnier than anything in the film. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo overthrows with extras, including deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes docs and a worthless game.
Jolene – A sultry exploitation film centered around a dynamic performance from the underused megatalent Jessica Chastain, the drama spins a sad, brutal tale of an eternally lost young woman who bounces from one abusive relationship to the next. Hypnotic storytelling and sharp supporting performances from Dermot Mulroney, Michael Vartan and Chazz Palminteri as the heroine’s lovers make the movie memorable. Director commentary, cast interviews and bloopers fill out the disc.
Human Planet – The BBC geniuses who delivered the stunning Planet Earth and Life miniseries deliver yet another gorgeous, moving spectacle. Human Planet focuses on people and their struggles to survive in various elements. Think March of the Penguins, only with more scenery changes and no Morgan Freeman. The series is best enjoyed a bit at a time, paced out over a week or so.