There's only one major theatrical film slated for release on DVD this week and it's a real sleeper: '3 Idiots,' a smashing Bollywood comedy about the antics of three college students in a prestigious engineering university in India. The film revolves around the flashbacks of two of the young men -- 10 years after graduation -- as they go on a quest to find their missing friend -- who's wisdom and rebellious ways changed their lives for the better. '3 Idiots' -- with a lame title and lacking an ad campaign that could make it into a crossover hit -- is engaging, funny and moving. And, for what it's worth, it's the highest-grossing Indian comedy of all time. Also due this week: the DVD version of TCM's 'Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood' and the long-awaited Blu-ray debut of Alejandro Jodorowsky's 'El Topo.' Read on.
What It's About: This Bollywood comedy somehow got overlooked by the mainstream film review press in the states and it's a real shame. There's an infectious, devil-may-care boyishness about this story that follows the college antics of three young men working their way through one of India's most prestigious engineering universities. Frahan (Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman Joshi), led by the rambunctious outsider, free-thinking rebel and super brain Rancho (Aamir Khan), proceed to turn things upside down for the other students -- and the arch-conservative dean, dubbed "Virus" -- as they play prank after prank and continually test the limits of the strict Indian social system. The film begins with Frahan and Raju going on a quest to find their missing friend 10 years after graduation, and the film is told in flashbacks. Throw in some colorful singing and dancing routines and here's one delightful, enjoyable outing.
It's Kinda Like: 'Animal House' meets 'Dead Poets Society' via 'Slumdog Millionaire'
What We Say: On the surface '3 Idiots' plays out as a college comedy about three undergrads getting into trouble with a stoic, conservative administration. But the laughs go deeper, striking at the conformity of the Indian social system that forces students to go into fields of learning not for that which suits them, but because that is what their parents expect of them -- kind of the educational/employment version of an arranged marriage. Rancho's attacks on rote memorization can only remind one of some U.S. films in the 60 and 70s that cast a jaundiced eye at America's educational system. We have only two gripes with the film: It's title makes it seem like it's an Indian version of 'Dumb & Dumber,' but that is so far from the truth it's painful -- its title and poster art may have scared off viewers. The other: its two-and-a-half-plus hours running time needed to be shortened. Otherwise, this definitely is a gold-star outing. Aamir Khan has been a superstar in India for more than two decades -- he's in his mid-forties -- and '3 Idiots' -- 'Ghajini' -- became the highest grossing Indian comedy of all time.
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Watch the 'Zoobie Doobie' sequence from '3 Idiots'
This is the massive seven-episode original documentary on Hollywood from Turner Classic Movies, narrated by Christopher Plummer, that aired on TCM in November. Surprisingly, there's no comprehensive documentary on the history of film akin to the massive 'Civil War' and 'Jazz' projects that Ken Burns has created, and though this documentary has as its focus the moguls who created Hollywood, it's the nearest thing we'll get to a comprehensive look at the history of the world's greatest entertainment medium. The American movie business began as peepshows in storefronts and warehouses at the beginning of the 20th century and grew into a near-mythical art form to create drama, laughter and adventure literally bigger than life. Each one-hour segment focuses on a different era of American movie history, from the invention of the first pictures to the cutting-edge films of the 1960s. Each installment features clips and interviews with historians and major Hollywood figures: "Peepshow Pioneers" (1889-1907), "The Birth of Hollywood" (1907-1920), "The Dream Merchants" (1920-1928), "Brother, Can You Spare a Dream?" (1929-1941), "Warriors and Peacemakers" (1941-1950), "Attack of the Small Screens" (1950-1960), "Fade Out, Fade In" (1960-1969). The three-disc set sells for $39.92.
'Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood'
'Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood'
• Extras: Limited edition book with 40 pages of vintage photographs and insight about the people, power, and periods that created Hollywood.
Blu-ray debut: 'El Topo' and 'Holy Mountain'
'El Topo,' first released theatrically in 1969, made Jodorowsky a household name with the counterculture crowd of the early 1970s, and provided the template for "Midnight Movie Madness," screening seven nights a week at midnight for seven straight months at the Elgin Cinema in New York.
'El Topo' conflates classic American Western and avant-garde European sensibilities with Zen Buddhism and the Bible as master gunfighter and mystic El Topo (played by writer-director Jodorowsky) attempts to defeat four sharp-shooting rivals on a bizarre path to allegorical self-awareness and resurrection. When it was screened at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, riots broke out in response to Jodorowsky's flood of sacrilegious imagery and existential symbolism.
'The Holy Mountain' (1973) was Jodorowsky's high budget follow-up, and took his psychedelic allegorical mastery to another level. It chronicles a quest for enlightenment, pitting illusion against the truth as The Alchemist, played by the director, assembles a group of people from all walks of life to ascend the Holy Mountain to displace the immortal gods who secretly rule the universe.
Other New April 26 DVD Releases:
'Blow Out' (1981): Brian De Palma's paranoia thriller about American politics, starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen and John Lithgow. A Criterion Collection Blu-ray debut.
Watch the trailer for 'Blow Out'
'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' (1998): Director Terry Gilliam and an all-star cast headlined by Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro show no mercy in adapting Hunter S. Thompson's legendary dissection of the American way of life to the screen. A Criterion Collection Blu-ray debut.
'Jolene': Jessica Chastain, Dermot Mulroney, Chazz Palminteri, Rupert Friend, Michael Vartan and Denise Richards star in this road picture about a teenage orphan who spends 10 years traveling cross-country experiencing life, love and heartbreak. Based on E.L. Doctorow's story, "Jolene: A Life."
'Muay Thai Giant' (2008 -- Thailand): Action-comedy about a gentle giant on vacation in Pattaya who's mugged and robbed of all his possessions, including his passport. Taken in by two sisters, the young man eats some somtum at the girls' mother's restaurant and turns into a martial arts monster; the girls decide to use him to bring down the local crime lord.
'One Way to Valhalla': A volatile, working-class gearhead, who sees himself trapped in a world with few possibilities -- his car is impounded and he has to ride a bicycle to work -- suffers a head injury in an accident, causing his personality to take some strange turns.
'Blood Out': A small town sheriff retires his badge to avenge his brother's murder, but finds himself tempted into the criminal lifestyle by a beautiful killer in this gritty crime thriller. Luke Goss, AnnaLynne McCord, Val Kilmer, Vinnie Jones and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson co-star.
Check out other new April 26 DVD releases at OnVideo.
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