This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Veronica Mars, The Art of the Steal …

This week: You bought it, you got it – the return of 'Veronica Mars.' Plus, the 40th anniversary of 'Blazing Saddles' and a big week for '80s comedies.

VERONICA MARS truly is a game-changer – a movie not just made strictly for fans of the TV show, but funded by them as well. Originally hoping to seek $2 million on Kickstarter to make the film possible, star Kristen Bell and producer Rob Thomas instead received a jaw-dropping $5.7 million. Fans were rewarded with a film totally in sync with the show, retaining the snappy dialogue and most all of the cast. Nine years after leaving Neptune, Veronica is swayed back to help out old flame Logan who has been accused of killing his pop star girlfriend. It’s basically a whole season condensed into 107 minutes, and for fans that miss this show dearly, it’s over way too quick. Expect another Kickstarter-funded sequel to be announced any day now.

► Niagara Falls-born director Jonathan Sobol showed some chops with the abrasive comedy ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Endings,’ and he gets another killer cast together for THE ART OF THE STEAL. Kurt Russell is a motorcycle daredevil fresh out of prison convinced into one last heist with his dirtbag brother (Matt Dillon) Aiming to steal a priceless book, it leads to a way riskier scheme. Jay Baruchul, Terrence Stamp and Jason Jones co-star.

► After the League of Shadows is attacked, Talia Al Ghul takes her 10-year-old son to stay with his real dad, Bruce Wayne. That’s right, he’s the SON OF BATMAN. The 20th DC Universe Original Movie is based on the Grant Morrison penned storyline ‘Batman and Son’ from 2006, a sequel-of-sorts to the classic ‘Batman: Son of the Demon’ (even though it’s an Elseworlds tale). Giancarlo Esposito – Gus from ‘Breaking Bad’ – provides the voice of Ra’s Al Ghul, while Jason O’Mara returns to voice Batman.

► In light of the Donald Sterling mess, how awesome is the timing of a BLAZING SADDLES 40th anniversary edition? Mel Brooks’ greatest flick (because ‘Young Frankenstein’ doesn’t have farts) is like a time capsule of things virtually unfilmable today – a comedy about hardcore racism. But beyond its shock value, this is still a brilliantly written send-up of westerns and the movie biz itself, with astoundingly funny performances from Harvey Korman, Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder. Bonus stuff includes Brooks discussing the film’s cultural impact, a cast reunion documentary, and a 1975 television pilot called Black Bart inspired by the movie.

► When ABC cancelled LAVERNE & SHIRLEY in 1983, it was still the 25th top-ranked show on TV with an average rating of 17.8 – a figure it would kill for today. It was a painful end for what was once TV’s #1 show, with Cindy Williams leaving after the second episode and Penny Williams gamely carrying the load for 20 more. By this point, even Michael McKean was rarely seen, so the show was basically Laverne & Squiggy. This is how ugly it gets when a show sticks around one season too long. Though the Star Wars crowd may be interested in the episode Carrie Fisher guest stars as a Playboy Bunny. The entire series also comes out today.

► Lord, the ‘70s were rough on Godzilla. The decade that saw Jet Jaguar and Megalon got off to a freaky start with GODZILLA vs. THE SMOG MONSTER, which was a throwback of sorts in that it had an environmental message…but that’s about all it has in common with the first (or any) flick of the franchise. With funky music, animated montages and Godzilla discovering jet propulsion, it’s no wonder Big G’s creator Tomoyuki Tanaka thought this film ruined his character. The fact even this wasn’t rock bottom for Godzilla tells you how far back he has come.

► Though Jackie Gleason had been doing THE HONEYMOONERS sketches for three years on his own CBS show, it didn’t become a stand-alone series until 1955. It only lasted one year, and would become known as the ‘Classic 39’ episodes. It’s not hyperbole – pretty much every episode here is TV history, setting the template for sitcoms. All of them have been remastered for their blu-ray debut. Extras include the 1984 60 Minutes profile on Jackie Gleason, and both the 35th and 50th anniversary specials.

► At last, Bernie Lomax comes to blu-ray! I still can’t pinpoint why WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S has endured as an ‘80s classic, but endure it has. Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman won some fluke lottery with this passable but unremarkable comedy about two insurance company employees maintaining the illusion their scumbag boss is still alive during a beach house party. This movie cannot be 25 years old already. I refuse to believe it.

Also out this week:





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