Pick of the Week:
Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory)
Freaks and Geeks has had an unexpected afterlife since not quite lasting a full season on NBC in 1999 and 2000. Once the go-to example of a canceled-too-soon classic, it’s since revealed itself as ground zero for 21st century comedy talent. Created by Paul Feig and executive produced by Judd Apatow, its stars include James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr and others.
But even if everyone involved faded into obscurity after its last episode, Freaks and Geeks would still stand as a major accomplishment. It’s a flawless rendering of what it was like to come of age in a particular time and place — inspired by Feig’s early ’80s Michigan upbringing — but also of what it’s like to be a teenager at any time, with all the accompanying identity crises, triumphs, and humiliations. In its low-key style and willingness to let character development drive the show, it was a bit ahead of its time. And while it’s a shame that we didn’t get more episodes, the 18 warm, unflinching episodes we did get are infinitely rewatchable.
Freaks and Geeks has been on home video a couple of times before, once as a standard box set with a generous selection of extras and once in a deluxe “Yearbook Edition” with even more. This new Blu-ray set combines all of the previous features and presents all the episodes in remastered form, and in both their original aspect ratios and in a widescreen cut. It’s as essential as TV viewing gets, as good as you remember it being. Maybe even better. (And if you haven’t seen this show, here’s a good chance to correct that oversight.)
A Brighter Summer Day (Criterion)
In the West, Taiwanese director Edward Yang’s reputation rests largely on one film, 2000’s Yi Yi. A sprawling family story set in Taipei as the 20th century gave way to the 21st, it’s a masterpiece of the sort that makes it kind of puzzling his other films haven’t been easier. Happily, that’s starting to change via Criterion’s new edition of A Brighter Summer Day, Yang’s epic-in-length film about a murder in the early ’60. It comes accompanied by a feature-length look at the New Taiwan Cinema movement that gave rise to Yang (who died in 2007), Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Tsai Ming-liang and others.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (Lionsgate)
It felt like enthusiasm for this post-apocalyptic, YA series drained away a bit with each entry, didn’t it? Splitting the last, and least, of the books that inspired it probably didn’t help. Maybe watching it as one long movie would help? Now’s your chance to find out.
Daddy’s Home (Paramount)
Though it didn’t get quite as much attention as that other Christmas release, the one with Star Wars in the title, this Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy quietly became a hit. If anything, it seems like the kind of comedy whose audience will only get bigger as it plays on the small screen.
Disturbing Behavior (Scream Factory)
Take a trip back to the late-’90s with this horror film starring a babyfaced James Marsden and Katie Holmes, whose move from TV to films was still something of a big deal at the time. David Nutter, better known then and now for his TV work, directs a Stepford Wives-inspired story about some too-perfect high school kids that doesn’t quite work.
The Trip (Olive Films)
For an even stranger, deeper journey back in time, this is the movie to watch: A 1967 Roger Corman-directed, Peter Fonda-starring film that attempts to simulate the experience of LSD, then a relatively new drug just coming into vogue. Corman throws in every psychedelic filmmaking trick he can think of while Fonda plays the part of a first time acid-user to the hilt. It’s part exploitation film cashing in on the latest pharmaceutical fad, part earnest exploration of the pros and cons and expanding your consciousness with chemicals, and all time capsule of late-’60s Los Angeles. It’s a fascinating film, one of the best Corman made as a director, in which capacity he often doesn’t get enough credit for pushing boundaries.