The Original and Definitive Dogme '95: Celebration, The Idiots, Mifune and The King Is Alive

Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinternerg's Dogme '95 was a film movement we may need even more now in the age of "superhero fatigue" than we did in 1995, but thankfully it's legacy can still live on; and even though the officiators are no longer judging and certifying Dogme films, there's no reason why anyone can't make a film adhering to the rules today.  The idea essentially was to strip away the artifice and the spectacle of modern filmmaking, and push filmmakers to again focus on the story and heart of a movie.  Shooting must be done on location, the sound must never be produced apart from the images, the film must contain no artificial action (such as murders and weapons), etc.  The suggestion was never that all films should become Dogme films; and the stripped down aesthetic was perhaps lured into too many amateur and aspiring filmmakers as opposed to the sort of industry veterans it was more intended to inspire.  But the movement persisted for nearly a decade and saw the creation of several dozen films from all around the world.  And these are the first four, released individually (mostly in the US) and as a fancy boxed set called the Dogme Kollektion in Denmark.
Dogme #1: Vinterberg's Celebration (originally Festen) is still my favorite of all the Dogme films (though admittedly I missed a lot of the later ones).  There's a massive family reunion for Helge, but no one can understand why his eldest son Christian is acting completely out of control... except his sister or who shares his dark secret.  It becomes a dark, brutal struggle between the rest of the extended family to stay together and Christian to reveal the truth.  It's based on an original screenplay, but has since been adapted to stage on Broadway and around the world, where it's fame, particularly in London, may have since eclipsed the original film.  But The Celebration is powerful, and still holds up as a fascinating, low-fi watch you can't tear your eyes away from.

Universal/ Focus Features released this Stateside in 2004, with a straight-forward barebones edition that I immediately replaced with 2005's Danish box set from Zentropa Films.
2004 Universal DVD on top; 2005 Zentropa DVD below.
So this was shot on standard definition, old DV tape camcorders, and shakily handheld at that.  So it's a bit absurd to fuss over image quality.  Still, the Zentropa disc does have a sliver or two of extra picture and slightly warmer colors.  More importantly, though, the English subtitles aren't just forced but burnt into the picture on Universal's DVD, whereas they are optional/ removable on the Danish disc, which also offers the alternate language options of Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.  So it's already the preferable edition, but the reasons will be much more compelling and overwhelming as we look at the extras.
The US DVD has the trailer on it.  The Zentropa has the trailer, several deleted scenes including an alternate ending, audio commentary by the director (and yes, all the extras are English friendly, by the way), an hour-long documentary on screenwriter Mogens Rukov, an on-camera interview with Vinterberg where he explains that this is all based on a supposedly true story told over the radio by a mental patient and a half-hour retrospective documentary with the cast and crew.  And that's just on the main Celebration DVD.  The Zentropa bonus disc includes a 25-minute behind-the-scenes documentary made during the filming of The Celebration, and a whole bunch of additional deleted scenes (one of which is over 15 minutes long), with optional commentary by the director.  I mean, just the deleted scenes alone would have made this an essential upgrade for me, but this is a packed special edition. 
Dogme #2: Everyone associates Dogme '95 with Lars von Trier, naturally; but he's actually only made one Dogme film, The Idiots.  I wouldn't hold it up as one of his better films or one of the best Dogme films, but it's certainly worth seeing once, at least.  It certainly doesn't have the most likeable characters, as a collective of young adults perform a sort of communal social experiment where they pretend to be mentally handicapped to reap any benefit society will bestow upon them while reveling in the discomfort they 'cause the local community.  Still, one woman is taken in by the strangely therapeutic side of their "spassing" and "channeling their inner idiot" and decides to join them.  But how long can they really maintain the lifestyle?

The Idiots garnered a lot of controversy, not only for the many offensive things you can imagine would pop up reading the above description, but also for frank sex and lots of full frontal nudity.  As such, it's the only early Dogme film not to have been released in the US.  So us film fans naturally imported the 2000 UK disc by Tartan.  But again, I was all too happy to replace it in 2005.
2000 Tartan DVD on top; 2005 Zentropa DVD below.
The Tartan disc is frankly puzzling.  Not only are the colors quite different (possibly the result of the filters used on the film behind Trier's back and against Dogme rules that they later had stripped off) and the subtitles once again burnt onto the picture, but Tartan letterboxed it.  Another one of the Dogme rules is that the film be in traditional Academy ratio and film-stock (yes, most Dogme films were shot digitally, but they all had to be transferred to final 35mm prints... despite appearances, Dogme '95 was really not a game for aspiring, amateur filmmakers).  So this is clearly the wrong aspect ratio, and in this case, a particular violation.  And all it does is lose picture information, cropping it to a very unusual 1.63:1.  On top of that, the DVD's non-anamorphic.  So yeah, I can't imagine what the folks at Tartan were thinking, with the Zentropa disc being a serious upgrade in just about every way.
And of course, that includes extras.  The Tartan disc just had an interlaced trailer and a stills gallery.  Yeah, it claims an interview with Trier on the back of the case, but that's just a short text-only thing.  The Zentropa disc, of course, comes through for real.  We get the trailer, audio commentary by Trier and several deleted scenes including an alternate credits sequence.  And most compellingly, we get the feature-length documentary, The Humiliated, about the creation of The Idiots, which might actually be more a more important film than The Idiots itself.  And again, that's just the main Idiots DVD.  The bonus disc has a bunch more: a half-hour retrospective documentary, a featurette on the color filters controversy I mentioned earlier, a 20-minute interview with Trier, and an "Idiots All Stars" music video.
Dogme #3: Mifune.  Admittedly, when I first saw Mifune (a.k.a. Mifine's Last Song), I didn't like it.  It felt really pandering, like some Hollywood schmaltz, and it kind of is.  It's about two brothers, one of whom is mentally handicapped, who are left to run a farm when their father dies.  And the other brother keeps the other brother's spirits up by pretending to be a samurai named Mifune (named after Toshiro Mifune, from all the Kurosawa films), who he convinces lives on the farm with them.  But on later viewings, I have to say the story of the prostitute and her young brother, who move in with them, is actually fairly affecting.  If it's Hollywood-style schmaltz, it's at least good schmaltz.  The film is well acted and the director makes things work more than they should, which is especially impressive given the strict Dogme limitations.  He couldn't exactly lather on a sentimental soundtrack, for example.

Columbia Tri-Star released this one in the US, but again, this Zentropa set crushes it.
We gain some ground and we lose some.  The subtitles are happily not burnt onto the Columbia Tri-Star DVD, but the colors are as off as ever (overly green this time) and now we've got a serious interlacing problem.  Admittedly, the digital nature of these Dogme film gives a little interlacing to each of them; but the US DVD clearly has a problem, which the Zentropa disc fixes. It also reveals a little more picture along the sides.  And the Zentropa image has more detail, which is awkwardly smoothed away from the Columbia effort.

On the other hand, this is the first Dogme DVD that had some solid special features the first time around.  Or at least one big one: audio commentary by the director.  It also has the trailer and some bonus trailers.  Well, the Zentropa disc carries the commentary and trailer over, but also adds a lot more.  There's also a bunch of deleted scenes, with optional commentary, a 45-minute documentary called On the Road With Mifune, about promoting the film, taking it to film festivals, etc, a half-hour 'making of' doc and a 20-minute retrospective.
Dogme #4: The first three Dogme films got bigger commercial receptions, but you can feel that The King Is Alive is in some ways a bigger movie, with higher picture quality and American stars including David Bradley, Brion James and Jennifer Jason Leigh near the peak of her fame.  It's the story of a busload of international tourists who break down in the heart of an African dessert, and with little hope of rescue or escape, keep their sanity by putting on a performance of King Lear while they await the inevitable.  This is the darkest, most nihilistic Dogme yet, which is saying something considering Lars von Trier had already made one.

MGM released this DVD in 2002, but does it stand up to the Zentropa re-release?  Guess.
Picture quality-wise, it may be the closest approximation yet, but MGM's DVD has an interlacing problem that Zentropa fixes.  Zentropa also finds a sliver more picture along all four sides.  They also might have a smidgen more detail, but it's very close.  Really, the interlacing is the only significant distinction.  ...Until you get to the extras, of course.  The MGM DVD only has the trailer, but Zentropa has the trailer, commentary by the director and a 23-minute retrospective.

So the Dogme box-set blows all other international releases of the first four films away.  But wait, that's not even all!  Discs #4 and 5 also have a wealth of documentaries and shorts about the Dogme movement itself.  The King Is Alive's disc also includes three featurettes called The Birth of Dogma 95, Marketing Dogma and The Inheritance After Dogma (yes, all spelled with a's instead of e's), which range from 15-35 minutes each.  They consist of on-camera interviews with all the directors and producers looking back on their experiences.  Then the bonus disc has more documentaries on Dogme, this time collected from other countries.  There's a silly one called Wag the Dogma, where the director chases after Trier and other Dogme heads for interviews and turns the rules into a country song.  There's a more serious, hour-long doc called Freedogme, a featurette about Trier's DoP, Anthony Dod Mantle, and a short featurette about Dogme films playing at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals.

And finally, the short documentary Lars From 1-10, which Warner Bros had released on a few short film compilations previously, is included here as well.  I was happy to be able to sell my Shorts 07: Utopia DVD when I got this set.  🙂  Oh, and there's a 16-page booklet with notes by Peter Schepelern, which yes, is in English, too.
So this is easily the definitive release for each of these films, and a must-have box for fans of Trier and co. or anyone interested in the Dogme '95 movement in general.  Considering these films were all shot on standard definition mini-DV tapes, I don't imagine there's any point in holding out for a blu-ray or anything either.  Of course, back in 2005, I was able to order this set new from a number of sources.  Now, in 2017, I was googling around and the Dogme Kollektion seems pretty scarce.  But I only spent a minute or two on it; if you put in a little more effort you might find a better deal.  For my part, I can tell you that it'll be worth it.

Controversial Blus: Argento and Fulci's Wax Mask, Finally! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Yay!  I can finally cross another of the few remaining non-anamorphic titles in my collection of the list.  One 7 Movies has just released Sergio Stivaletti's Wax Mask on blu-ray!  This is my first One 7 Movies disc, and to be honest, I wasn't sure how much faith I had in this outfit.  I wouldn't have been at all surprised to find out this disc was an upconvert of the old Image DVD.  I still would've taken it, though, just because it would at least fix the anamorphic issue - that's how desperate I was.  But I might as well tell you now, since the following screenshot's about to give it away anyway: this is actually a brand new, attractive HD transfer!
So 1997's Wax Mask was a pretty well-hyped late-era Italian horror title.  After a bit of a rivalry, even if it was mostly made up by/ for the press, maestros Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci were finally going to collaborate on a film together!  But tragically, Fulci didn't live to see it through.  So instead long time special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti stepped in to make his director's debut.  Fulci still gets a writing credit, though, Argento still produced, and the production values are surprisingly high for a '97 Italian horror title that wound up going essentially direct-to-video in most markets.  It's not a masterpiece; it gets pretty silly at points and it has a very bad and very 90s case of the Unfortunate CGIs.  But if you can get past its weaknesses, its strengths are pretty compelling.
Wax Mask has kind of a dual spirit to it, which is probably an intentional result of the combined styles of Argento and Fulci.  On the one hand, it's a lush, romantic throw-back to classic horror: a veritable remake of early Hollywood wax museum terrors The Mystery Of the Wax Museum, House of Wax, with similar ambitions to Argento's Phantom of the Opera and Dracula (although a league above those two movies!).  It's a period piece with fantastic locations, impressive costumes and a complex mystery plot.  But it's also happy to go to extremes with very modern, gruesome kills and effects heavy thrills.  It's sad that this film really dives headfirst into the early CGI movement with some very obvious, tacky sequences, because apart from those, the practical special effects are plentiful and look great.  This film looks and sounds beautiful, and you can tell they really threw in to not just make a respectable horror flick but a truly great movie.  This makes the boner missteps even bigger tragedies, but if you can come this with even a portion of an open mind, there's still so much showmanship on display here that viewers should have a blast.
So, for years and years, we pretty much just had Image's 2000 Euroshock Collection DVD of this title to work with.  It was widescreen, but barebones, non-anamorphic and looking pretty grubby by modern standards.  There were similar DVDs in other markets, but none were anamorphic, some were fullscreen, and all were barebones.  That's why this movie has sat on my short list of titles I've been desperate to replace (Marat/ Sade and Happiness, sadly, are still on it).  So I jumped on the pre-order as soon as I heard this blu-ray was coming, and I'm super glad I've got it now... despite some imperfections.
2000 Image DVD on top; 2017 One 7 blu-ray below.
Look at that!  You can't help but notice what a huge upgrade that is right off the bat.  It's a whole different viewing experience compared to the old DVD.  One Seven's 1.78:1 framing seems to recover a sliver of extra picture compared to the DVD's 1.74:1 picture, too.  But, some of those details look a little too sharp.  And look at the crazy autopsy tunnel shot a little further up the page, what are those edge halos all around the pipes and stuff?  It looks like Unsharpen Mask as been used heavily on the picture, giving the film an unnatural edge to its details... not in every shot, but a lot.  It's not that offensive; I've certainly seen worse, but you certainly notice it, and you feel all the more disappointed because it would've looked better if they just didn't deliberately mess with it. 
More curious is the audio.  We're given two strong 5.1 mixes - both the English and Italian tracks, plus lossy versions of the stereo and 5.1 mixes in each language (yes, that's six audio tracks total).  But at a couple small points in the English audio tracks (and yes, all three; I checked) the audio reverts to Italian.  Just for a couple lines and it doesn't prevent you from following the story, but it's distracting and weird.  Especially weird because the Image DVD has the English dub for those moments, so it's not like those bits were never dubbed with the rest of the picture or anything.

And to add to the frustration, there are no subtitle options!  Therefore, the Italian audio options are useless for non-Italian speakers.  Now admittedly, both dubs are equally mediocre.  They both feature a lot of flat readings, and even for the opening scenes set in 19th century Paris, nobody bothers to attempt French accents for any of the characters.  So if you're disappointed by the English dub, I can at least assure you're not missing much better on the Italian side.  But it's pretty stupid - or more accurately cheap - not to have subtitles here.
At least One Seven comes through in the extras department.  Nothing massive, but a little good stuff at least.  Image's old DVD had nothing but a stills gallery.  That's gone and I don't miss it.  In its stead, One Seven gives us two collections of edited behind-the-scenes video footage.  The first runs a solid 23 minutes, and gives us a glimpse of filming nearly every sequence in the movie.  Then there's a second one, 13 minute one that focuses more specifically on the creation of the special effects.  We learn that Dario Argento was often on-set and hands on, and that Tom Savini contributed his head to this film(!).  We see some pretty impressive set pieces and clearly expensive camerawork, and the featurettes are judiciously edited, moving from one scene to the next at a rapid pace, so it's never boring.  Subtitles for some of the incidental conversations would've been nice, but still, these are cool to have.
So yeah, this isn't a five star, perfect little blu-ray.  It's overly processed and light on care (like subtitles).  But it's a very fun movie and by far the best way to view it.  You could try holding out for someone like Arrow to really do it justice in another market, I suppose.  But considering the neglect Wax Mask's been shown on home video all these years prior, I wouldn't expect any fancy special editions anytime soon.  Just like the movie, the blu-ray doesn't need to be impeccable to be thoroughly enjoyed.

Vestron Finally Shows Our Parents Some Love (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I remember first seeing the ads for Parents when first came out as a kid.  I didn't see it in theaters, but finally caught it on cable.  Back then, I was pretty disappointed, because I only knew Randy Quaid from movies like Vacation and was expecting this to be more of an overt comedy.  Sure, I could tell from the campaign that it had its dark, twisted side; but I was till imagining something like The 'Burbs or even Hysterical.  But as an adult, I appreciate that Parents, while it has some genuinely funny moments and could certainly be classified as a dark comedy, is more of a dramatically and artistically substantive piece as well, with more in common with Blue Velvet than Saturday the 14th.  So it's not a title I sought out in its early days on DVD, now the film feels like an absolute essential for my collection.  And happily Vestron has my back with a fancy new blu-ray.
Our hero is a little boy living in an idyllic 50's suburbia who only has one thing to fear: his parents.  And don't get smart with me and tell me that's two things.  His parents, as a collective unit, are one thing; and it is played to perfection by Quaid and Mary Beth HurtSandy Dennis is also excellent as a school psychologist with no idea what she's walking into, as we explore the darkness that brews underneath our supposed post-war utopia.  Not only does actor Bob Balaban (Gosford Park, Tex the Passive Aggressive Gunslinger) prove himself a capable director in getting strong performances even out of his child actors, but fills the flick with striking visuals and an immense amount of atmosphere for such an innocuous environment.  The production design is also immaculate, and particularly impressive for such a low budget feature.
Parents was originally released through Artisan/ Pioneer as a barebones, fullscreen DVD in 1999.  But in 2006, Lions Gate quietly repackaged it in a double bill with 1990's Fear, which actually upgraded it to a proper, widescreen presentation.  That widescreen transfer resurfaced in 2015's Horror Collection 6 Movie Pack, where it was still barebones of course.  But now in 2017, Vestron Video has included it in their blu-ray line, not only bringing it to HD, but loading it with special features.  Let's have a look!
So, the first thing you'll notice is, well... I'm not sure what the first thing you'll notice is, because the blu is an improvement in so many ways.  Clarifying contrast, brighter colors and much clearer detail - you can actually make out all the little bricks in the wall of the second shot!  It doesn't help the DVD's case any that it has a serious interlacing problem, which the blu of course cleans up.  And the framing's also been adjusted from a slightly off 1.76:1 to a more intentional 1.85:1.  Taken on its own, the blu's grain resolution might still be a little soft, but it's a massive upgrade.

All previous DVDs have had the stereo 2.0 mix, but the blu has it in DTS-HD, and as usual with Vestron, they're giving the film subtitles for the first time ever.
It's a couple decades late, but Parents finally has a special edition.  Previously, the only extras this film ever had was the trailer on the original full-screen DVD.  But Vestron and Red Shirt, as always, have killed it.  First, we get an audio commentary by Bob Balaban and producer Bonnie Palef, who both remember the stories behind the film very well.  Screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne history with the film goes back even further, though, and he has a lot of light to shed in his on-camera interview.  Did you know this was almost Todd Solondz's first mainstream feature?  That actually would've made a lot of sense.  Anyway, we also get another one of Red Shirt's patented "isolated score" tracks, where the first half is an interview with composer Jonathan Elias, and the second half is the soundtrack album.  They also scored on-camera interviews with Mary Beth Hurt, the unique perspective of "decorative consultant" Yolando Cuomo and DoP Robin Vidgeon.  There's also an extensive stills gallery, the trailer and two goofy radio spots.  And once again, Vestron presents it in an attractive, shiny slipcover.
Man, I've said roughly the same thing before, but this Vestron line is the most exciting things to happen to horror fans in a long time.  All these long-shelved titles finally getting their due.  I mean, the fact that this was in one of those Horror Collection sets was a good indicator, but otherwise I never would've guessed we'd see a title like Parents get this treatment in 2017 - not that it doesn't deserve it.  They've already got a set of all the Wishmaster films coming up next, but I can't wait to see what they announce after that.

The Nicole Holofcener Library (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparisons)

Today I thought we'd take a look at the video disc catalog of one of my favorite filmmakers, Nicole Holofcener.  She started under Woody Allen (as a PA on Hannah and Her Sisters and apprentice editor for A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy), and her body of work isn't that large yet, but she's been making features since 1996.  She also directs a lot of television (Orange Is the New Black, Sex & the City, Six Feet Under, Parks & Rec, etc), but I've seen some of it and read several interviews where she confirms my feelings that she really disappears into her TV work.  So the episodes she works on don't really feel like little Holofcener films, but just one more entry in the series.  So seek them out if you're a fan of those shows she works on, but I'm going to be focusing on her films as writer and director.  So the line-up above is pretty much the ideal Holofcener collection to date, though there are other editions of most of those titles, which we'll get into.  And she did also write the screenplay for one film she didn't direct, Amy Berg's Every Secret Thing, which I've already covered in depth here.
Walking and Talking is Holofcener's first film and it feels that way.  It's got that vibe of the early Kevin Smith and Spike Lee era, like a young and low budget preening to show off their cleverness.  It's also more of a straight forward rom-com than most of her later work that grew out of being just genre fair.  Still, it's got a lot of great writing and a terrific cast, including Holofcener regular Catherine Keener, Kevin Corrigan, Anne Heche (who, despite having a reputation as maybe being a celebrity first and an actor second, is actually pretty good in this) and Liev Schreiber.  It's just that this film is more schitcky.  For example, Heche's character playing a student therapist and basically each of her patients is a bit.  We've actually got Vincent Pastore telling her he sees a little red devil, like in the cartoons.  It's like the equivalent of the wacky neighbor in a sitcom or a pleasant couple encountering a crazy waiter in a sketch show.  But the more naturalistic moments, like Keener's character struggling to accept change or the subplot of their cat getting cancer really work.  So overall, Walking and Talking is definitely worth having in your collection, but if you've never seen a Holofcener film before, I'd say pick another one to start with and then come back for this.
Miramax released this on DVD through Buena Vista back in 2002, with a disc looking not too different from their 1997 laserdisc.  It's widescreen, and at least it's anamorphic; but looking at it today, it definitely looks soft and, well... like an old DVD.  It's actually slightly window-boxed, but only a little around the sides, like they might've been guarding against overscan.  Or maybe I'm giving them too much credit.  Either way, it's weird and shouldn't be there.  The DVD is long out of print now anyway; and in 2011, Miramax reissued it with a new, ugly cover, this time through Echo Bridge [right].  I wasn't actually expecting anything, but in the back of my mind I was hoping for a little upgrade.  Maybe a new transfer had been struck from an HD television master or something.  But I rented it, and here are the results:
2002 Buena Vista DVD on top; 2011 Echo Bridge DVD below.  ...I think.
It's essentially the same disc.  I mean, it has a new label on it; but the menu and everything are identical, and yeah, it's the same old transfer, encoded with the same ol' window-boxing and everything.  It's also barebones, without the trailer or anything; just a couple of bonus trailers and a Miramax commercial.  The Buena Vista came with an insert while the Echo Bridge disc does not.  Both versions also provide two audio tracks: a basic stereo mix and a French dub, plus optional subtitles.  Things could be worse; it could be interlaced and non-anamorphic.  But it's just kinda cheap and a disappointment for fans.
Holofcener's work really matured with her second film, Lovely and Amazing, going from a quirky and entertaining little indie comedy to real film art that's still funny and entertaining.  Everything that worked about the first movie is here, including Keener as another character unable to deal with change in her life, though this time she's got some great new layers.  And everything that fell a little flat has been replaced by killer new material.  This film does overtly deal with feminine body and beauty issues, but where most films today (including some current Oscar nominees, cough cough) would come off patronizing and lame, this film handles in a brilliant and honest way.  The drama is also more affecting, where the previous film only really managed to make you feel that way about the cat.  This time you're really pulled into the intertwined stories of Keener, Emily Mortimer, Brenda Blythe and child actress Raven Goodwin, who actually won a lot of awards for this at the time.  I'm sure DVD Exotica regulars will also get a kick out of seeing Phantasm 2's James Le Gros in a fairly sizable role, not to mention a young Jake Gyllenhaal.
Lovely and Amazing was put out as a new release by Lions Gate in 2002, just a few months after Walking and Talking, but looking substantially better.  Still standard def, of course, but better compressed, and no weird window-boxing.  The film's 1.78:1 this time, contrast is a little stronger and the colors are more natural.  This was reissued in 2003 as part of Lions Gate's gimmicky Signature Series (according to Todd Solondz, they didn't even use the filmmaker's real signatures on the covers), but like all of those releases, they're the exact same discs.  So it doesn't matter which one you buy.  The audio is in 5.1, and includes optional English and Spanish subtitles.
And this release is no fancy special edition, but we do get something this time, and at least somebody put in a little effort.  The primary special features are four, very short featurettes (about 2-4 minutes each).  They're all on-camera interviews edited together, thankfully without clips of the film, considering how short they are, and they do manage to bring in most of the cast as well as Nicole herself.  We also get the trailer this time, plus one of the least exciting easter eggs of all time: a bonus trailer for an unrelated rom-com.  No insert this time, except for a Lions Gate catalog.  Really minimal stuff, but for us starved fans, at least it's not nothing.
Next up is Friends With Money, which was possibly her highest profile film - I mean, look at that screenshot; it's in 'scope for gosh sakes - but I think gets a bit of a bad rap.  Jennifer Aniston is one of the stars, and this came out when she was right at her peak, and audiences had very set expectations of what a Jennifer Aniston comedy was.  So I think some people were a little underwhelmed to receive a more grounded Holofcener film instead of more ribald date movie.  But taken as it is, it's pretty great.  The cast is spot on.  Aniston is suited for Holofcener's style, and alongside Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and of course Catherine Keener, all of Holofcener manages to shine through whatever Sony may've mandated for this production.
2006 Sony DVD widescreen on top; fullscreen below.
Consequently, the 2006 Sony DVD is also Holofcener's only real special edition.  I mean look, they even give us a choice of viewing ratios: 2.35:1 and 1.32:1.  Obviously the prior is correct; but the latter gives us a peek behind the mattes, at least ...as well as chopping off some of the sides, of course.  For standard def, the picture looks pretty great, and is pretty representative of the top of the line in 2006, you know, considering there's a lot of handheld camerawork.  The audio is in 5.1, with an optional French dub, plus optional English and French subtitles.
And we get a healthy dose of extras.  Admittedly, no awesome two-hour documentary, but we do get Nicole Holofcener's only audio commentary (along with producer Anthony Bregman), an eleven minute making-of, and two featurettes: one looking at the Los Angeles premiere and the other a promotional talking heads piece.  That's probably the most they could squeeze onto a single-sided disc anyway, considering they gave us two versions of the film.  There's no trailer, which is a little surprising since they threw in a whopping eleven bonus trailers, but it's still the most satisfying special edition in the library.  Oh and the insert's just an ad for other Sony DVDs.
And now that we reach the new films, we finally get them in HD!  Please Give is a film that came and went pretty much under the radar.  Despite being back in 'scope with more Sony money, I'm not sure anybody even noticed besides her loyal fanbase, which is a shame because it's so good.  I feel like we're watching Catherine Keener grow up with us in these films like Daniel Radcliffe in the Harry Potter films.  Here she's married to Oliver Platt and concerned with her looming mortality because she lives a high quality of life seemingly at the expense of everyone around her.  We've got another terrific ensemble, with strong performances by Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet as sisters and The Dick Van Dyke Show's Ann Morgan Guilbert playing their grandmother.
2010 Sony DVD on top; 2010 Sony blu-ray below.
So like I said, we're still in 2.35:1.  The HD obviously trumps the DVD, with a cleaner, less smudgy look.  But it's still soft and I'm noticing some edge enhancement halos (it's on the DVD, too).  Unfortunately, somebody at Sony had some bad ideas about "fixing" the picture up and wound up doing some harm.  Apparently, this was shot in 16mm, so perhaps a lot of effort went into making it look like a more typical, modern film.  It's no disaster, but the softness is disappointing.  The audio's in 5.1, in DTS-HD on the blu, and also includes a French dub plus English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Special features are minimal but not non-existent.  We get your standard 'making of' featurette, a brief Q&A with the director, a couple quick outtakes and the trailer.  And there's a bunch of bonus trailers.
Finally we come to her most recent film to date.  This one seemed to sit on a shelf for a little while, but wound up getting a lot of exposure when star James Gandofini died and this was his last picture.  Thankfully, Holofcener's Enough Said was a good enough film to stand up to that additional scrutiny.  It actually feels like a return, in a way, to Walking and Talking.  It's more of a traditional rom-com, and even stars a female lead who initially rejects her love interest for being physically unattractive.  I've never heard her say so or anything, but I sort of imagine Holofcener decided to take a second pass at her first film and update it with her more mature sensibilities.  Probably not, but if she did, it certainly worked.  I remember the trailer ham-fistedly edited some of the jokes, but the final film's quite good, while still being a lot more light-hearted than the last couple movies.  Having excellent co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Toni Collette and of course Catherine Keener, of course, really helps.  There might be a little less dramatic heft or meat on its bones; but it's still expertly made and charming.  Again, it's like Walking and Talking for grown-ups.
2014 Sony DVD on top; 2014 Sony blu-ray below.
And we're back to 1.85:1.  Happily, this has none of the issues we saw with Please Give.  It looks super crisp.  Even the DVD is a testament to how a first class transfer can shine through even in standard definition, and outshine some blus with weaker source masters to pull from.  Perhaps being a digital film (Holofcener's first, though she probably got some previous experience with the medium on television), where it had to pass through less processes to wind up on our home video discs, helped eliminate any hurtful alterations.  The audio is in 5.1 DTS-HD, with a French and Spanish dub, plus optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.
As far as extras, again we get a few little things.  There's about six minutes of outtakes, and five tiny featurettes, averaging 3-4 minutes apiece.  And unlike some others, these are heavy on clips from the film, and a few interview soundbites even repeat, so you have to sift to find tiny nuggets here.  Still, I highly prefer that over nothing.  The trailer's also on hand, and this release does come in a slipcover.  Oh, and interestingly, the outtakes (but not the other stuff) are a blu-ray exclusive; they're not on the DVD release.  I wonder how many people made the jump from DVDs to blu just for them?
So that's her entire catalog so far.  She's already filming her next film, The Land of Steady Habits, but apparently it's for Netflix, so we may have a long, annoying wait for any kind of physical release. In the meantime, you know what I'd love?  For Criterion to pick up her early DVD-only releases, restore them in 2 or 4k, and release them as an awesome trilogy set, like they did with Whit Stillman and Wallace Shawn.  Or even just the first two if Sony is difficult about licensing Friends With Money.  Fresh transfers, substantive extras with Holofcener and some of her great cast members, maybe even a retrospective documentary on her career, and throw in her still unreleased short film Angry.  That would be incredible.  And if they hustle, it could coincide with the release of her next film.  But in the meantime, this is what's out there.