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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Spoof > Satire > Suburbs > Horror > Relationships > Mumblecore > Adultery > French > The 'Burbs (1988/Universal/Arrow U.K. Region B Import Blu-ray)/Finding Joy (2012/Inception DVD)/French Affairs (2014/Cinema Libre DVD)/What If (2013/CBS Films/Sony DVD)

The 'Burbs (1988/Universal/Arrow U.K. Region B Import Blu-ray)/Finding Joy (2012/Inception DVD)/French Affairs (2014/Cinema Libre DVD)/What If (2013/CBS Films/Sony DVD)

Picture: B-/C/C/C Sound: B-/C+/C+/C+ Extras: C+/C-/C-/C- Films: C

PLEASE NOTE: The 'Burbs Import Region B Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Arrow U.K., can only play on Blu-ray players that can play Region B locked discs and can be ordered from the link below.

Here's four comedy releases that show how lightweight comedy can never be more than lite at best...

Joe Dante's The 'Burbs (1989) is part of a cycle of comedies Hollywood put Tom Hanks in that did not sell or particularly work, with the case here being the film tries to criticize the idea of the suburbs while still celebrating its banality somewhat and trying to inoculate the audience to the idea of its worst sides and therefore, the beginning of the Reagan Era in the peak year for bad films celebrating it. There are two versions of the film in this release, but Dante's choices are only so much better and not enough to save the film or argue it is lost in intent.

The split of the good family versus weird/odd/'bad' family is milked for all the humor it could offer, but despite performances that try to make this work from supporting cast members including Carrie Fisher, Wendy Schall, Corey Feldman, Bruce Dern, Dick Miller, Robert Picardo, Courtney Gains, Nicky Katt, Henry Gibson and Gale Gordon. That is not to say this does not have some interesting or good moments, but they are sparse like just about all Dante films and some of this has aged in ways no one would have expected when they were making it. Now you can see both versions for yourself and decide.

Extras include a collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kenneth J. Souza, author of Scared Silly: The Films of Joe Dante and an article looking at the collaborations of Joe Dante and composer Jerry Goldsmith, illustrated with original archive stills and posters, reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys for the non-Steelbook version, while the Blu-ray adds an Isolated Music and Effects Soundtrack, a new audio commentary with writer Dana Olsen, moderated by author Calum Waddell, There Goes the Neighbourhood: The Making of The 'Burbs - a new feature-length documentary including interviews with Dante, actors Corey Feldman, Courtney Gains and Wendy Schaal, director of photography Robert M. Stevens and production designer James H. Spencer, the original Workprint cut of the film transferred from Director Joe Dante's personal copy of the film, on home video for the very first time with deleted and alternate scenes, A Tale of Two 'Burbs video featurette comparing the differences between the Workprint and Theatrical cuts of the film, with optional audio commentary from Dante, Alternate Ending, presented in HD for the very first time and the Original Theatrical Trailer in HD.

Carlo De Rosa's Finding Joy (2012) could have also been better, but it is everything we have seen in indie comedies with little new to offer as Kyle (Josh Cooke) looses his job and that is accompanied by more and more bad news in semi-mumblecore comedy where if he can just get together with Joy (Liane Balaban) he'll find... joy? Or he'll yawn all the time like I did. Barry Bostwick and a scene-stealing Lainie Kazan also show up, but nothing can save this long, long 96 minutes that too often seems on automatic pilot. See for yourself if you don't believe me.

A trailer is the only extra.

Pierre-Loup Rajoy's French Affairs (2014) is as flat, but more pretentious and thinks it is more than it is as a therapist starts to have an affair with the husband of a client (a big no-no, of course), causing conflict with her own son (who himself decides to get involved with a hooker!?!) in a script that tries to juggle all of this and thinks it has panache. However, it is a mess that is not totally believable and never really takes seriously all the lines of decency crossed throughout. To say there is a lack of ironic distance is an understatement. Oh well...

A trailer is the only extra.

Last and as least is Michael Dowse's What If (2013), a predictable meet-cute comedy that also runs on and on with Daniel Radcliffe trying to move away from Harry Potter films with flat results. He drops out of medical school only to meet the attractive Chantry (Zoe Kazan) with advice (not necessarily good) from friend and encourager Allan (Adam Driver from HBO's Girls and the new Star Wars sequel) playing to type. This plays like a bad TV movie with some good actors and nice locale shots, but its quickly forgotten and all can do better. Not if is more like it.

Two featurettes (Opposites Attract and the badly named Blurred Lines) have some overlap and are the only extras.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the main transfer of 'Burbs can show the age of the film stock and materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and as good as it will likely ever look. It was never a visual knockout and we get some good shots here, but this is not stunning by any means. It is the best performer on the list as the anamorphically enhanced DVDs are all softer than expected HD-shoots, with Affairs at 1.85 X 1 image and the others two 2.35 X 1. Blu-ray versions would likely yield better performance as all three have some good shots.

Burbs is also the sonic winner, originally a Dolby A-type analog theatrical film release, the sound is here in PCM 2.0 Stereo, even though it is limited in fidelity somewhat and is joke/dialogue-based. Still, it is not bad for its age and has Pro Logic-like surrounds via its original sound format release. As for the DVDs, What and Joy are here in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1, but those mixes are not very strong, so the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Affairs can compete with ease. Since they are all joke and dialogue-based, lossless presentations would only help so much here.

You can order the expanded 'Burbs Blu-ray (if your player can handle Region B Blu-rays) by going to this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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