DVDs & Blu-rays: The Universal's 100th Anniversary Edition

Universal Studios is reaching into its vaults and releasing new editions of many of its popular titles on DVD/Blu-ray through the year. Today's releases are an especially varied bunch, from 1933's

Duck Soup

with the Marx Brothers to the 2010

Despicable Me


Let's start with Duck Soup, a gem that shows the Marx Brothers at their best, including the classic mirror scene between Groucho and Harpo. Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, president/dictator of the tiny bankrupt country Freedonia. Margaret Dumont plays the rich and rather clueless Mrs. Teasdale, a favorite target for Firefly. Harpo and Chico play Pinky and Chicolini, respectively (if not quite respectfully), a pair of hapless spies. Zeppo appears as Bob Roland, Firefly's straightman assistant (his last appearance with his brothers).

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Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau star in the 1963 classic Charade, directed by Stanley Donen. It's a thriller with a touch of comedy and a bit of romance. Grant plays Peter Joshua (at least that's one of the names he uses as the action progresses), a seemingly good guy trying to help the newly widowed Reggie (Hepburn). Her husband's been murdered and a gang of thugs are after her to retrieve a large amount of money he left her. Trouble is she doesn't know where the money is and neither do they. Walter Matthau appears as a CIA agent (maybe), with James Coburn and George Kennedy as the tough guys after the missing money.

Highlights of the film include Grant's impromptu shower -- with his suit on. Another is a cat-and-mouse chase through the dark streets of Paris, during which Hepburn is caught between Grant and Matthau, with each claiming the other is the bad guy. Not knowing who she can trust, Hepburn has nowhere to turn. There's a sweet, charming movement late in the film when a man who discovers what everyone's looking for calmly returns it to Reggie. "At least they were mine for a few moments, that is enough," he says.

Despicable Me

is one of the most recent titles among the Universal's 100th Anniversary releases. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, the computer-animated 3D comedy features Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), a super-villain who plans to steal the Moon; the Great Pyramid of Giza has already been stolen and so Gru has to up the ante. He enlists the help of three little orphan girls (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher) to help him steal a ray gun from his arch enemy, but he's torn between his super-sneaky plans and his growing affection for the girls. (Those cute orphan girls will do it every time.)

Other Universal's 100th Anniversary releases hitting the shelves today are The Deer Hunter with Robert De Niro and John Savage, The Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, Meet the Parents with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro and The Jerk with Steve Martin.

Universal has also packaged some movies into mini-collections, such as Classic Monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon) and '80s Comedies (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.)

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