Thursday, 28 June 2001
On the Block: Our latest rankings of DVD auctions at eBay are in, and the ultra-rare 1997 THX Theatrical Trailers demo DVD soared to the top of the list with a $410.00 close with reportedly less than 1,000 of these discs in existence, auctions for them can be intermittent, but they tend to lead the pack when one is up for grabs. Criterion titles such as Salo, The Killer, and The 400 Blows continue to perform reliably (no surprise there), but sneaking in to the top five is the out-of-print concert disc Harry Chapin: The Book of Chapin from Intersound, which saw a fierce bidding war drive its top close up to $203.50. Also new this time around is the 1995 A&E miniseries Pride and Prejudice, which is fast becoming a popular auction item since it recently fell out of print, earning $127.50 for one lucky seller, while the hard-to-find Green Hornet: Vol. 1 was good for $91.99 in its first appearance on our list. However, we can't help but question the $93.00 hammer-price for Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Vol. 2 including the television episodes "Revenge," "Breakdown," "Wet Saturday" and "Mr. Blanchard's Secret," the disc is only available in Universal's "Best of Hitchcock Vol. 1," but that item contains an additional seven Hitch films on DVD and retails on the Internet for less than $160.00. It would seem this particular bidder didn't want to fork out another $67 for seven more discs but we're sure the math makes sense to somebody, if not us.
Here's the highest recent closing prices of rare and out-of-print DVDs from online auctions at eBay:
Quotable: "There are no sure things in the entertainment industry, but this comes close. I've been telling anybody who would listen that this will be our biggest live-action film ever."
Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, in a memo sent
"Though the core businesses are still basically strong, to say the least, this is not a happy time in the vaunted Mouse House. Indeed, Disney's problems point up a pivotal lesson for media mega-companies as they continue to engulf and devour smaller rivals. It is fine to talk about the glories of synergy and cross-promotion, but the success of these corporate leviathans, just as for the free-standing studios and networks of old, is still dependent on Big Ideas. Without the giant hits and the giant talents that generate them, there is nothing to cross-promote. Could it be possible that the corporate titans are so enamored of their sheer heft that they've become oblivious to the basic forces that fueled their growth?"
Peter Bart, writing this week in Variety.
"A governmental role in defining 'acceptable' entertainment is an indirect form of censorship. There are better, more workable and more tolerant solutions. The threat of civil penalties is an extreme reaction to a problem whose solution lies in voluntary self-regulation by the creative industries action these industries have successfully undertaken and continue to improve upon."
William Baldwin, president of the Creative Coalition,
"We didn't know exactly what to expect, but we felt strongly that our best chance was to release it in the summer, against many studios' prefabbed blockbusters.... By late last week, we were expecting it might get into the 30s opening weekend. I think as other people saw the tracking, they didn't believe it. They certainly didn't see this coming."
Universal Pictures vice chairman Marc Shmuger,
"I read a lot of quotes and I wonder, 'Who in the world would say this about that movie?' Nobody is surprised when Hollywood lies, they lie all the time. They tell us their movies are great and they stink.... If anything, I think it will enhance what I do because I'm a real person."
ABC-TV film critic Joel Siegel, on the recent spate
"We have no experience with how the product affects extraterrestrials."
A Procter & Gamble spokesperson, addressing the
Coming Attractions: We have plenty more new DVD reviews on the way, including a preview of Columbia TriStar's two-disc Snatch. This also will be the last weekend to enter this month's totally free DVD contest for a box-set of Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection, so be sure to visit our contest page if you haven't yet, and don't forget to take our monthly DVD poll while you're there. We'll be back Monday to announce the winner, and we'll have a new contest up and running as well.
Have a great weekend.
Wednesday, 27 June 2001
It's not exactly new news, but this is a question that pops up regularly in the mailbag, especially as a number of Universal films previously on DVD from Image Entertainment have vanished without a trace. Well not quite without a trace, actually. In 1998 Universal Studios Home Video licensed 50 of their film properties to Image for DVD release under a three-year deal, after which time the titles would revert to Universal. That contract is set to expire this year (if it hasn't already), but last November Universal filed a lawsuit against Image after a series of price drops on the DVD titles. Image claimed that they had adjusted the prices in a responsible manner, and in response to market forces. But Universal reportedly argued that it was a violation of the agreement, and at this point the suit is still pending in California.
As Image pulled their Universal titles soon after the suit, all of these DVDs have disappeared, and some are very notable, not least of which being five Marx Brothers classics Animal Crackers, The Cocoanuts, Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, and Monkey Business. Also disappearing are both the Dolby Digital and DTS editions of Dances with Wolves, along with such favorites as Fahrenheit 451, Double Indemnity, Sixteen Candles, Midnight Run, and Slaughterhouse Five. However, Universal certainly didn't send Image all of their A-list stuff, and a good deal of the remainder is not so high on folks' DVD wish-lists (unless you're dying to own the pilot episode of "Quantum Leap," that is.)
It's hard to say what things would look like this year without the dispute between Universal and Image were Universal to reclaim the titles, we still would have a slew of OOP Image discs until new Universal versions arrived. But it's also conceivable that Universal would have renewed part or all of the agreement (they have a similar one with GoodTimes Home Video), meaning a large chunk of these 50 titles might still be on the shelves for some time yet. But as it stands, Universal probably will prioritize re-releases of the more obvious items. We thought the source-print on Image's Double Indemnity needed a lot of work, and this is a classic film that could use a little more care in presentation. We would be very surprised if Dances with Wolves didn't re-appear on DVD in the ultra-long 237-minute cut (seamless branching with the theatrical cut would be preferable though.) Sixteen Candles would be an obvious addition to a future John Hughes collection. But we're not so sure about others, at least over the short-term. Does François Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 have a broad enough appeal to make it into the Universal DVD schedule? Or George Roy Hill's Slaughterhouse Five? Or anything from the Marx Brothers?
We're hoping that everything will return, and that Universal will make needed improvements with their re-releases the studio has been coming up with some excellent DVDs lately. Then again, we aren't about to knock anybody who bought those Marx Brothers titles at the last minute (because, er we did.)
Somewhere between slim and none, Erik. And that's a shame, because a lot of folks, us included, would enjoy a big box of Coen classics on DVD. But box-sets are normally one-studio affairs with the proprietary studio developing the package and then gobbling up the profits, and the Coens have not been one-studio filmmakers over these many years. Certainly, there are exceptions to single-studio boxes Warner Home Video has done an excellent job of obtaining licenses from other vendors (notably Columbia TriStar, Buena Vista, and Artisan) to release The Oliver Stone Collection and the recent Stanley Kubrick Collection. But in both of these instances, Warner owned the lion's share of the product. And in both instances, it's plausible that Warner asked MGM to license their Kubrick and Stone titles for the sets, with MGM declining. (MGM has since released their own SEs of Stone's Platoon and Salvador, while their discs of Kubrick's Paths of Glory, The Killing, and Killer's Kiss have been in circulation since 1999. None of these have ever appeared in Warner DVD box-sets.)
Where does that leave the Coens? Warner Home Video only controls one Coen Brothers film, The Hudsucker Proxy, released on DVD in May 1999. And with that one property in a catalog of eight (or more) titles, it's very, very unlikely that Warner will ever use their clout to slap together a box similar to their Kubrick and Stone packages. Furthermore, it doesn't look like any other studio really has enough stake in the matter to bother. Fox has released Raising Arizona, and they have the rights to the unreleased Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing. Buena Vista has released the most recent Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?. USA Films owns one DVD title, The Big Lebowski. And Universal will release Blood Simple on Sept. 11. As for MGM, they acquired Fargo from the 1996 PolyGram Filmed Entertainment liquidation (via Universal), and it appears to us they also have the rights to 1985's Crimewave, which was written by Joel and Ethan Coen and directed by Sam Raimi (however, it appears none of the three were happy with the final product and have disowned it for various reasons). Crimewave was on VHS from Embassy a long time back, but all home video editions are now out of print.
The good news? If Fox gets off their duff and releases Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing in the next year, all of the (notable) Coen Brothers films will be on DVD, and it's unlikely any future projects will be allowed to languish on crummy old videotapes. But as for a DVD "collection" of some sort or another, we would expect nothing more than the three Fox titles in a small slipcase at some point in the future, possibly with extra features.
Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Ken Crane's DVDPlanet.com. Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:
Tuesday, 26 June 2001
In the Works: There's not a lot of new stuff to announce today, but some of it sure packs a punch. Here's this week's new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and DVDPlanet.com, and additional staff reports:
On the Street: After a long wait, fans of Kevin Smith can pick up the excellent two-disc Dogma: Special Edition this morning, out from Columbia TriStar, and it's loaded with all sorts of goodies, including two commentary tracks and 100 minutes of deleted scenes. Equally appealing to fans of classic "Britcoms" is Warner's five-disc box of the entire Blackadder series, starring Rowan Atkinson and friends. Buena Vista's Unbreakable is sure to gain a lot of attention this week, while we're very fond of the indie drama You Can Count on Me, now in release from Paramount. And for those of you who enjoyed Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, the original 1989 British miniseries Traffik is now on disc from Acorn Media. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 25 June 2001
Disc of the Week: DVD enthusiasts are known to salivate on cue at the prospect of slipping the latest action extravaganza into their player's eager tray, cranking up the volume knob on their two-foot-high DTS-ready receiver, and submitting their frenzied neurons to the merciless assault of crisply rendered bright lights and large sounds. What could be more exciting? Well, that or perhaps a quiet slice-of-life drama set in a small town, where the only action is emotional, and the only carnage is the silent toll of self-destruction. No matter how detailed or creative the CGI effects, nor how dazzling or preposterous the stunt work, the fact is that summer blockbusters will always fall short of the rare, perfectly realized sleeper hit that zeroes in on human nature with impeccable incision, humor, and honesty. Director Kenneth Lonergan has made one of those films.
Lonergan's You Can Count on Me (2000) begins with a car wreck. It is sudden and off-screen, and it makes orphans of young Sammy and Terry, who, into their adulthood, continue to deal with the shocking and life-shaking loss of their parents. As an adult, Sammy (Laura Linney) has tamed her irresponsible inclinations through necessity as a single mother she must look out for her bright and sensitive son, Rudy (Rory Culkin). Sammy's brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo), with no such anchor, drifts aimlessly and hopelessly from town to town, courting trouble and scraping with the law. With his young girlfriend "in a bad way," Terry returns to his hometown of Scottsville simply to borrow money from his sister, but Sammy convinces him to stay, eager to reconnect with her one family member and desperate for her son to know his uncle and feel the influence of an adult male. If only Terry were an adult he is still essentially the same mopey, confused child who lost his parents, prone to juvenile outbursts and thoughtless self-destruction. Such goes a long way toward aggravating Sammy's intense need to worry, both for her brother and his affectionate recklessness with her boy. Terry's presence also stirs Sammy's wild side, and soon she is engaged in her own bout of emotional confusion.
If the plot summary sounds deathly serious, consider writer-director Lonergan's previous film credits as scribe for Analyze This and (yes) The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. You Can Count on Me's dialogue crackles with wit and wry observation, even during its most poignant moments, and the chemistry between cast members is as genuine and warm and rough-edged as that of any real family or small-town community. Linney, who was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance (and won several smaller, smarter awards, as did Lonergan and the film as a whole), heads a cast of startling breakthrough performances, each of which, no matter how antagonistic, invites themselves into the viewer's heart. Sammy initially appears as a grounded figure of responsibility, but as the film progresses, Linney beautifully reveals just how tough a struggle it is for her to maintain her sanity and favor her best impulses while many others lurk beneath. Ruffalo's Terry is an endearing, frustrating sad-sack, so plainly in need of an authority figure, but nonetheless bristling at the prospect of accountability. Culkin, in his major debut (he previously played "young" Richie Rich in his brother Macauley's 1994 star vehicle), is a terrific talent, and he builds an unbelievable rapport with the adult actors. You Can Count on Me also features another hilarious, excellent indie turn by Matthew Broderick as Sammy's difficult new boss. For Linney, Ruffalo and Culkin, the only fear is that they deliver such vivid personal performances that it may be difficult to ever accept them in future films as other characters. It's a testament to the cast and to Lonergan's astounding dexterity as a debutante director that You Can Count on Me manages to nimbly dance from laughter to tears in a quick turn and yet never succumb to the deathtraps of slapstick or maudlin preciousness. After the high-profile, over-hyped blockbusters of recent years have faded into obscurity, this small film will remain memorable.
Oddly for a recent film but understandable for a low-budget indie the anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) on Paramount's new DVD release of You Can Count on Me features some unfortunate wear carried over from the source print, with minor flecks and scratches occasionally popping up, especially during the opening titles. However, the audio is quite solid in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Lonergan provides an amusing, candid, educational commentary in which he discusses in depth his approach to the material and its realization (while bemoaning the artificiality he despises in studio films). The track would make a fine stand-alone lecture to beginning directors who care to mine something valuable out of their material. You Can Count on Me is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Industry pundits everywhere were caught by surprise over the weekend as Universal's The Fast and the Furious sped to the top of the box-office chart with a $41.6 million first-weekend pop. The street-racing flick, starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster, was widely expected to open with perhaps half that number, but Universal moved the opening date from spring to summer after positive test-screenings, and it looks Universal vice-chairman Marc Shmuger wasn't kidding when he claimed it would be "a flat-out phenomenon.'' Next weekend will reveal what kind of legs the picture has with summer moviegoers, but The Fast and the Furious had more than enough juice to leave Fox's Dr. Dolittle 2 in the dust, as the Eddie Murphy vehicle garnered $26.7 million in its opening frame. But the folks at Fox aren't complaining it's the strongest opening for the studio this year. Both new arrivals sent last week's winner, Paramount's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, tumbling to third place with $20.2 million a steep drop-off (58%), but enough to push its total to $84.2 million in ten days.
In continuing release, DreamWorks' Shrek remains the big dog on the block with a $215.8 million cume after six weeks, while Universal's The Mummy Returns is bearing down on $200 million and Buena Vista's Pearl Harbor now has $172.1 million to its credit. But if Pearl Harbor has been a financial disappointment for The Mouse House (it cost roughly $140 million), Atlantis: The Lost Empire fell to fourth place in its second wide weekend, where it now stands with $44.3 million overall. Off the charts altogether is Miramax's Bridget Jones's Diary, after a successful 10 week run and nearly $70 million a DVD announcement from Miramax can't be far behind.
Not hard to predict what will top the chart next week, as Steven Spielberg's A.I. goes wide this Friday. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Mark Bourne has posted an extensive look at the new two-disc special edition of Kevin Smith's Dogma, out tomorrow from Columbia TriStar, while new stuff this week from the rest of the team includes The Fugitive: Special Edition, Best in Show, Save the Last Dance, Proof of Life, State and Main, The Pledge, Obsession, Charlotte's Web, You Can Count on Me, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Cash Crop, Panic, and by popular demand Dude, Where's My Car?. It's all under the New Reviews menu on the left-hand side of the front page, or use our nifty search engine to scan our entire DVD database.
Back tomorrow with this week's street discs.
Thursday, 21 June 2001
Coming Attractions: We have lots more new DVD reviews on the way, including the two-disc special edition of Kevin Smith's Dogma and one of the greatest cinematic works to grace the silver screen the lyrical, haunting neo-expressionist masterpiece Dude, Where's My Car? See ya Monday.
Commentary Clips: "(Jack) Nicholson's one of the actors who can say the word 'fuck' better than just about anybody else, except maybe (Robert) DeNiro. It's pretty close, though, between the two of them.... Nicholson is obviously one of the greatest actors of all time. He's in the pantheon along with Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart and all the great actors. And one of the things that he did for us was that he set a tone for all the other actors, a lot of younger actors in the film, that we were coming to work and doing our jobs there was a tremendous respect for the material. We had wonderful material to work with, and actors don't often get to say great words like in this film. And Nicholson respected that, and he sent that message to the other actors, and I think it had definitely a positive effect on the rest of the cast."
* * *
"Here we have (Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise) fighting tooth and nail to hang on to his youth and his irresponsible behavior, and not wanting to face who he really is and be a man. And you've got Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore), who's pulling him as he goes kicking and screaming into manhood. And that's really what drew me to this project. You have somebody who's facing the burden of a famous father, living in the shadow of a famous father, a father who has accomplished a tremendous amount in this case in the law and a young man who is wrestling with who he is in relationship to his father and becoming his own man. And to me that's the core of this film."
Director Rob Reiner,
Quotable: "I appreciate my friend Jack Valenti's passion for the First Amendment and the MPAA ratings system. But it appears from Jack's recent criticism of my work that his love is blinding him to reality."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), in a letter to
"Ms. Stone has not requested a meeting with the senator. There's been a lot of staff interest in the meeting, but without insulting Ms. Stone, I won't touch that one with a 20-foot pole."
Erik Smulson, spokesman for Republican-turned-
"I would speculate that Stanley (Kubrick) would have made and told much the same story I told because I based my screenplay on a 90-page treatment Stanley had prepared from all of his own ideas.... If Mr. Kubrick were alive today, I'd be sending him a fax about how much I loved the movie he just directed called A.I., and that I felt lucky to be in the audience experiencing his movie."
Steven Spielberg, whose A.I. opens on
"It is still too early to say how my wife will influence my life. But I do already know that it's sometimes hard work living with her.... My wife has great acting talent, but she also has a headstrong personality. A director would have to guide her in the right direction."
Director Guy Ritchie, discussing the small nuances
"I remember it was in a class. But I don't know what it was."
Japanese high school senior Naotaka Tominaga, 18,
"Be humble and stay humble. I spent years playing in bar bands, watching and learning my craft that was my university."
Big-hair '80s rocker and sometime movie-actor
Wednesday, 20 June 2001
'Menace' goes digital: As an addendum to yesterday's DVD news, Fox announced Tuesday after months of rumors that 1999's Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace will arrive on DVD this Oct. 16. The two-disc set will be chock-full of extra features, including a commentary from George Lucas and others, and full details can be found on the official Star Wars website. We're still far more enthusiastic about Paramount's Godfather DVD set, also due to arrive in October, but the announcement is sure to make Star Wars fans happy, and it also indicates that Episodes 4-6 probably will arrive on DVD before 2006, as previously stated by George Lucas (we're laying odds that at least one more title, possibly Episode 4, will appear in 2002).
Mailbag: Wednesday is the day we get to our reader mail here at The DVD Journal, and while we aren't able to personally respond to all of your letters, we'd like to let you know that we read everything we get. Here's a few reader comments from this week:
Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death (1946) is already on DVD, Joseph in fact, it was released in October 1998 in Region 2 by Carlton Entertainment, and it includes an interview with cinematographer Jack Cardiff and short biographies. If you have a code-free player, that's the one to get.
As for a Region 1 release, things aren't nearly as simple. A Matter of Life and Death, starring David Niven and Kim Hunter, was originally released in the U.S. as Stairway to Heaven, and the North American rights are held by Sony/Columbia TriStar. Unfortunately, not only does CTHE not have any DVD release on their foreseeable schedule, but the film has never appeared on Laserdisc in the U.S., and Columbia's VHS edition is out of print. Furthermore, being a Columbia title, we think it's unlikely that the studio would license the film to Criterion. For starters, Columbia takes pride in their own special editions of classic films (including Frank Capra's It Happened One Night and Lost Horizon), which are similar to Criterion's lauded special editions in both presentation and extra content. Also, we're wracking our brains to think of any Columbia titles that have been licensed to Criterion for DVD release, and we can't think of any. Buena Vista and Universal have been more willing to use Criterion as a DVD partner, but Columbia has been happy to go their own way, and titles like Taxi Driver that previously were Criterion lasers have since been reissued as Columbia TriStar DVDs (and without Criterion's supplements, either).
But, if the folks at Columbia notice how much attention Criterion has gotten with their Powell and Pressburger discs, maybe just maybe they'll release Stairway to Heaven as one of their "Columbia Classics" series. Re-releasing it with its UK theatrical title A Matter of Life and Death would be a nice touch, as the directors sharply disagreed with the U.S. branding altered because studio execs at Universal believed Americans would not want to see a film with "death" in the title. We'd be overjoyed to see Columbia rival Criterion with a Powell & Pressburger classic like this one (and yes, that's a two-ton hint to our friends at Sony).
There is nothing distinctive about the DVD release of A Clockwork Orange due on Sept. 11, at least not in terms of the film presentation itself. The set is being marketed by Creative Design Art under license from Warner, and in addition to the remastered Clockwork Orange disc that recently arrived in Warner's re-issued Stanley Kubrick Collection, extras in the box will include the CD soundtrack, a commemorative booklet, a 35mm film Senitype, and an offer to get a free movie poster. The same assortment of goodies has been compiled for a box-set release of Full Metal Jacket, also on Sept. 11. We are also told the boxes have been created with the full cooperation of both Warner and the Kubrick Estate (and that Kubrick himself had personally selected the Senitype for the Full Metal Jacket collection).
Creative Design Art has already released a similar box of the restored 2001: A Space Odyssey, also with the CD soundtrack (the 1996 reissue), a booklet, and a Senitype. We also have heard that more extensive Kubrick boxes are in the works this fall from CDA, with 2001 planned to include all of the above, eight lobby cards, and the entire screenplay (with extra-special limited editions signed by Arthur C. Clarke), while A Clockwork Orange will add the screenplay and early concept art. But it appears that these will be the only Kubrick titles arriving from CDA in the foreseeable future (more info can be found at the Creative Design Art website).
As for the value, it's all in the eye of the beholder. We've noticed that many DVD fans are most interested in the disc itself and the quality of the film presentation. It also seems, from our perspective, that a lot more DVD collectors especially those who have been around since the early days are generally dismissive of almost all extra content on DVDs (yes content-junkies, these sniffy "Just gimme the frickin' movie" DVD consumers are a growing breed.) That said, there's certainly nothing wrong with enjoying tangible treats, and if you're looking for a gift for a DVD collector you know, the Creative Design Art packages offer a bit extra in the way of presentation. Your editor might not buy one for himself, but he'd happily hand out a few at Christmas (DVD "sniffs" excluded, of course).
We're not sure if this will be the last chance to tape a cheapo of this engaging documentary, which is only available on DVD in Warner's spendy Kubrick box-set, but we have heard that Cinemax is the only channel that has been given permission to show it, and just for this month. If you get "Skinemax" through your cable or satellite provider, it could be now or never.
Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Ken Crane's DVDPlanet.com. Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:
Tuesday, 19 June 2001
On the Street: MGM owns the board this morning with a slate of classic DVDs, including The Apartment, The Barefoot Contessa, Kiss Me Deadly, The Lion In Winter, The Misfits, Sweet Smell of Success, and the re-issued Tom Jones. We have a trio of new Criterion releases today as well, with All That Heaven Allows, Cries and Whispers, and Written on the Wind. Not to be missed by David Mamet fans is New Line's State and Main, while new from Warner are Proof of Life and The Pledge. And for those who like family classics, the endearing Charlotte's Web is out now from Paramount. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 18 June 2001
Disc of the Week: What was the first film noir? "Discovered" by French cinema critics who noticed a bleak pessimism in American films after World War II, the matter is of some debate. Some say Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944) was the first of the form, an irredeemable account of two illicit lovers who hatch a murder plot to collect insurance money. A remarkable, disturbing picture today as it was then, it was considered practically "unfilmable" for eight years because of the Hays Code before Wilder found a way to make it work. But some film historians point to an earlier event, John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941), with its twisting tale of a two-bit private detective and a femme fatale who get mixed up with thugs and crooks hunting down a priceless statuette. Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour (1945) is likewise noteworthy, if only for the fact that it embodies all of the noir hallmarks but came out of the B-film system, where it was shot in five days for just $20,000. Perhaps no American film genre has sparked as much critical analysis and debate, and the discussion is far from over. We can't know what was the first noir, nor can we firmly establish the greatest. But in some ways Robert Aldrich's 1955 Kiss Me Deadly is more monumental than any. This one's the noir to end 'em all.
Based on the novel by Mickey Spillane, Ralph Meeker stars as L.A. gumshoe Mike Hammer, who is forced to stop his car on a dark highway one night when a panicked woman (Cloris Leachman) blocks the road. Discovering that the woman, who calls herself Christina, has escaped from a mental institution, Hammer has the opportunity to turn her over to the cops, but he doesn't possibly sensing that she's been kidnapped (as she claims), but more likely because there may be something in it for him. But before Hammer can do anything the pair are abducted by a mysterious gang, who interrogate the duo and then send them over a cliff in Hammer's car. He barely survives, but he won't cooperate with the cops not as long as he thinks there's an angle to be played. "There's gotta be a pitch," Hammer insists. "She must be connected with somethin' big." Using his own connections including girlfriend Velda (Maxine Cooper) and local auto mechanic Nick (Nick Dennis), Hammer tracks down Christina's previous apartment and her old roommate (Gaby Rodgers). Learning of a few suspicious deaths related to the case, Hammer tries to shake down a local mobster. But while the trail looks hot, Hammer and the audience cannot possibly guess where all the clues will lead.
Kiss Me Deadly has remained a noir favorite over the years, thanks in part to Aldrich's riveting direction. All of the details that make films noir so compelling are front-and-center, with urban nighttime settings, low-key lighting, and disorienting angles shot from high, low, or simply off-kilter. Meeker's performance is central to the film like all noir anti-heroes, he's smooth on the surface, with a sportscar, a well-furnished bachelor pad, sharp suits, and the sort of swagger that attracts dames. But he's not to be trusted any more than the villains. We watch him not because we admire him, but simply because we know he's as likely to cause trouble as get into it, and during the course of the story it's clear he has no problem smacking anybody who gets in his way or taking up with women when his girl Velda isn't around (and he asks Velda to date divorced men he's investigating as well). But Kiss Me Deadly perhaps is most unique in its use of modern technology as instruments of dehumanization Hammer never answers his phone, but instead screens calls with an answering machine; automobiles are not just everyday modes of transportation, but used repeatedly as murder weapons; a secret key is hid not under a mat or in a flowerpot, but someplace far more sinister. Like its noir inheritor L.A. Confidential (1997), Kiss Me Deadly sees Los Angeles as a technological paradise, a "city of the future," but at the same time questions what sort of future such a society will provide. In this case, the film's conclusion is not merely pessimistic, nor fatalistic. Rather, it borders on the apocalyptic.
MGM's new DVD release of Kiss Me Deadly features a good letterboxed transfer (1.66:1) from an attractive black-and-white source print that looks fine for its age, with plenty of low-contrast detail. Audio is in the original mono (Dolby 2.0), and on board are two conclusions. The feature presentation includes a "restored" ending, which offers about a minute of extra footage but contains a bit more thematic texture, while the abridged ending which has been on most home-video presentations to date is offered as a supplement. It is one of the most notable film finales in the noir genre, and both conclusions (and possibly different implications) will generate discussion among the picture's most ardent fans (and our pal Glenn Erickson, who played a part in the restoration, has written a SPOILER-filled account, which can be found here). Kiss Me Deadly is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Critics? Lara Croft don't need no stinkin' critics! The past three days at the American box office proved yet again that nobody in Hollywood cares how good a movie is only how well it's marketed. And thanks to a popular video game and Angelina Jolie's extra-large jumblies, Paramount's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider soared to the top of the heap with a testosterone-trembling $48.2 million and this despite the fact that the film earned some of the most unanimously negative reviews of the year. No matter. Tomb Raider is the largest debut for a film with a female lead, the second-best opening ever for Paramount (behind Mission: Impossible 2), and the fourth-best opening for a June film from any studio. Such being the case, Disney's animated Atlantis: The Lost Empire was left floating in Ms. Croft's wake, with a comparatively modest $20.4 million opening weekend (and mixed reviews).
In continuing release, DreamWorks' Shrek has the best legs, currently holding third place on the chart after five weeks and a $197.2 million cume, while Buena Vista's Pearl Harbor has cleaned up $160 million after its first month. Recent arrivals are showing modest declines, including Warner's Swordfish, DreamWorks' Evolution, and Fox's Moulin Rouge. And off the charts after an unforgettable 13-week run is Newmarket's Memento we're counting on a great DVD from Columbia TriStar in September.
Eddie Murphy's back on the big screen this Friday to milk a few more laughs (and bucks) with Dr. Dolittle 2, while Vin Diesel and friends can be found in The Fast and the Furious. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: D.K. Holm has posted a look at Criterion's L'avventura, while Greg Dorr revisited Platoon over the weekend, now released as a special edition from MGM. New reviews from the rest of the team this morning include O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Apartment, Big Deal on Madonna Street: The Criterion Collection, The Misfits, Sweet Smell of Success, The Lion in Winter, Diary of a Chambermaid: The Criterion Collection, Marty, Kiss Me Deadly, All the King's Men, The Madness of King George, Meltdown, and both The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan. It's all fresh under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, while our nifty search engine leads to even more stuff in our DVD database.
We'll be back tomorrow with the rundown on this week's street discs.
Thursday, 14 June 2001
Coming Attractions: We're off to spin a fresh stack of DVDs, and new reviews on the way include The Apartment, The Lion in Winter, and more stuff from Criterion. In the meantime, if you haven't entered our totally free DVD contest for a box-set of Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection, be sure to visit our contest page if you get the chance, and don't forget to take our monthly DVD poll while you're there. See ya Monday.
Kurt Russell: (laughter)
Carpenter: ...to do a few of these (kung fu) moves. (laughter)
Russell: We talked about that, we said "Now does he know this stuff? Nah, he's a cowboy. He's just a swinger and he's not in their league."
Carpenter: And that's probably what...
Russell: I think that's what people enjoy about that character.
Carpenter: ...they love it or they don't love it. They say "Where is it? I've come to see Kurt Russell..."
Russell: "He's not doing anything!" (laughter)
Carpenter: "...and what's he doing here?" But that was the commitment we made to it, and it was actually in the script. I mean that was the script...
Russell: That was the script they bought! (laughter)
Carpenter: ...that they bought, they offered to both you and I. And I thought maybe they (Fox) I think they saw a different movie.
Carpenter: I believe they did.
Russell: I'll never forget this though, this was I remember when we did the junket for this. I had never been on a movie up until that point, and have never been on one since then, where so many of the junket guys y'know, the critics and the reporters I'll bet 80 percent of them said to me "So how does it feel to know that when this comes out it's going to be the biggest movie of the year?" (laughter) Y'know, "Ah gee, we did our best, and it was fun, and it's different...." And I remember the audience screening numbers were huge! They were 97 percent or something, they were absolutely surefire, massive hit.
Carpenter: Oh they had it. Oh yeah.
Russell: And then I kept waiting to see ads and things...
Russell: ...and it just didn't happen. And I was like "Well what happened here?" (more laughter) Oh god....
Carpenter: Well it was weird. That was the summer of Aliens.
Russell: Yeah. And it just goes to show you never know what a film's gonna do, no matter what the numbers are on it beforehand. I think they're actually a lot better with that today.
Carpenter: D'ya think?
Russell: I think they're so accurate now, and marketing has become don't you think marketing has become "the game"?
Carpenter: They do, they're really good at that now. They figure out where the audience is and go for it and target it. They're a little bit smarter than they were in those days.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell,
Quotable: "We know we have missed details. We have rearranged times. We have altered geography and in so doing we have shrunken history by making history fit onto our screens and to our purpose. We know that our collection of moving pictures may look to be the complete story of these men. It is not..... It is a question of taste and my personal taste, as a cinema-goer and a filmmaker, would be to try to get as high a degree of accuracy as possible."
Tom Hanks, recently defending Hollywood's not-
"Artisan cannot and will not condone exhibitors who make their own decisions to alter our product. If they book an Artisan picture, we expect them to play it in its entirety."
Artisan publicity executive Paul Pflug, after the
"I'll make it real simple I'm a 36-C. In the (video) game, she's a double-D. In the movie, she's a D. We split the difference. (In the movie she) is much more athletic, and she has smaller breasts. But she's still Lara Croft, so there."
Angelina Jolie, on her gravity-defying persona in
"We're all going to watch very carefully. The math seems a little screwed up."
An unidentified theater executive speaking to
"(A website) would involve what I'm doing now and what's going on and how to get in touch with me, because I was getting a lot of mail at my house a lot of fan mail at my house and some fan sent me a letter with the last six addresses that I have lived in the letter."
Swordfish co-star Don Cheadle on his reasons
"It's L.A. I was just taking a meeting.''
San Francisco Chronicle Editor (and husband
Wednesday, 13 June 2001
Of all the details on Paramount's upcoming Godfather DVD Collection that has surprised most folks (including us) is the fact that The Godfather Part II will be spread across two discs. As it's well known that a dual-layered DVD (i.e. SS-DL, or DVD-9) can hold roughly four hours of video, it stands to reason that one disc would handle Part II's three-hour 20-minute running time. That said, the disc will include a commentary track from director Francis Ford Coppola, which means an additional audio stream and that requires more data. The Godfather Part II is also the longest of the three discs (The Godfather clocks in at two hours 55 minutes, while Part III is two hours 50 minutes). Our best guess is that Paramount's production folks decided that the amount of video compression required for The Godfather Part II with the commentary track would be unacceptable on a single DVD-9, and thus the feature would simply require two discs for a proper, artifact-free presentation. Conspiracy theories can be fun, but really, it's clear that Paramount has spent a lot of time preparing this set, knowing that DVD fans would demand nothing but the best. The inconvenience of splitting Part II across two platters sounds to us less like price gouging and more of a quality necessity.
But, perhaps, questions remain. Were Paramount to deliver The Godfather Part II on a dual-sided, single-layered disc (DS-SL, or DVD-10), it's likely they could achieve an acceptable level of quality, as "flipper" format can hold roughly four-and-a-half hours of video. But that would mean sacrificing the cover artwork on the disc, and try getting that past any marketing department. Additionally, we are told the "Godfather Bonus Materials Disc" will contain get this three hours and 20 minutes of various footage, which is the same running length of The Godfather Part II. But again, we're willing to give Paramount the benefit of the doubt and conclude Part II was split for purposes of quality (either that or they know five matching discs look pretty damn cool in a DVD carousel.)
Aside from the two-disc Godfather Part II, we also have heard a few comments from readers about the price of The Godfather DVD Collection specifically, that it's too high. Paramount did not provide a Suggested Retail Price (SRP), but rather a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP), which is $74.95. As such, we've noticed some online retailers listing their retail prices around $105.00 with pre-order prices less than $80.00 (including our friends at DVDPlanet.com). That means even if The Godfather Part II was a single disc the three features and one bonus disc will cost roughly $20 a pop for those who buy early. Given that Paramount tacks a $29.99 SRP on the majority of their DVD releases (around $25 on the street), The Godfather DVD Collection is cheaper than most stuff from the studio no matter how we slice it. And it's The Godfather. 'Nuff said.
As we post rankings every few weeks on eBay auctions for rare and out-of-print DVDs, this is a question we've gotten a lot lately or at least since the British Film Institute released a DVD edition of Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) in Region 2 about two months ago. Not having a copy of the new BFI disc, we really haven't been able to offer anybody an authoritative answer. Until today, that is:
So imagine my (sort of) delight to find it was being issued in the UK uncut, in widescreen and in its correct language with a few extras. "Ha!" I thought; "Being a DVD addict in the UK has finally paid off!"
And then I got the disc.
It was horribly soft, taken from a truly terrible, washed-out, grainy and damaged print (possibly the same one that did the rounds at various cinemas when it was re-released last year) and just plain awful. The incredible photography and lush sets just weren't done justice (plus the film is almost entirely medium and long shots, so there was no detail whatsoever).
So I went to a UK DVD site and placed an ad asking to buy the Criterion Salò. A few days later, I parted with £120.00 ($175.00 US) and got my disc in excellent condition with all the inserts and packaging intact.
I am thrilled to have this release. It is light years ahead of the UK BFI disc, though not perfect. The print is in rough shape at times, and it is slightly dark, but it's crisp and colorful most of the time. The subtitles can be turned on or off (on the BFI disc, the subtitles are burned into the print) and it is just so good to have such a rare and unappreciated film in such quality. I don't think I'll watch it again for quite a while it is truly disgusting stuff but it is sitting there on my shelf, and having, like Jason (from last week's letters) with his first printing of Seven Samurai, such a rare disc of a film you truly think of as outstanding, just makes you feel all warm inside.
Well, Salò certainly has never made any of us feel "all warm inside" under any circumstances Jon, but to each his own, and congratulations on your purchase. Thanks for writing.
Bye for now.
Tuesday, 12 June 2001
On the Street: The heavy release schedules of the past few weeks are nearly over, but while this morning's street list is short, it packs a whammy Warner's nine-disc "Stanley Kubrick Collection," with improved audio and restored video on most titles, as well as Columbia TriStar's recently released Dr. Strangelove: Special Edition and the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. We do not expect Warner to revisit their Kubrick properties at any time in the foreseeable future, so for Kubrick fans, this is the item to have. However, for those who don't want to lay out the cash for the entire box (and can live without the documentary), all of the titles are for sale individually. Fox's two-disc Cast Away is also a solid release this week, with a feature-packed second disc, while Buena Vista is on the board with the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
And before you buy that Kubrick set: DVD Journal reader Michael A. dropped us a note late night: "Just thought you might be interested in posting this tidbit Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures will be airing in its entirety Tuesday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m. on Cinemax. Why buy an entire box set for a single disc when we already have all the others? I'm just gonna tape this baby and add it to the collection."
Sounds like a plan.
Monday, 11 June 2001
Disc of the Week: Of all the things that are known about Stanley Kubrick (1928 - 1999), perhaps the most telling are two lifelong passions he discovered as a young man chess and photography. With the 20th century at a close, there can be no doubt that Kubrick will rank among the very greatest of its cineastes Welles, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, and Ford being a few others in the same, small category partly because he was able to craft films outside of the Hollywood system and its many meddlings, and partly because, like his peers, he maintained a consistent vision throughout just as there was nothing quite like a Hitchcock film, there was nothing remotely like a Kubrick film, and unlike Hitchcock, Kubrick didn't have a lot of people trying to copy him either. But with Kubrick, imitation was difficult anyway. Unable to bear repetition, he changed genres the way others change camera lenses: the war film, the caper film, the Hollywood epic, comedy, sci-fi, exploitation, costume drama, horror Kubrick touched on each of these, but rarely more than once in a career that spanned nearly 50 years but produced a mere 13 feature films. Kubrick's working pace resembled a chess-match, where every nuance of every move (and therefore every nuance of every move thereafter) must be examined, re-examined, and tested before a commitment can be made. Driving the work was the photographer in the director's chair, an artist obsessed with getting the right shot, and knowing (as photojournalists do) that getting the right shot means taking hundreds. Or thousands. With Stanley Kubrick's death in 1999, many have observed that his lifelong career in the film industry gave the world a precious few films, and we are tempted to wonder how things would be had he worked at the rapid pace of Ford or Hitchcock. But what's important to remember is Kubrick's working methods are what made his few films the utter masterpieces that they are. Among the greatest of 20th century directors, he arguably will be remembered as the most unique.
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, a documentary produced and directed by Jan Harlan in collaboration with the Kubrick Estate, offers a generous tour of Kubrick's life and work, with footage from all of his films and interviews with family members, friends, colleagues, and admirers. As it was overseen by Kubrick's widow Christiane, the film doesn't needlessly scrutinize Kubrick's private life (which, by all accounts, was rather ordinary), but rather it is both a defense of the often-misunderstood director and a celebration of his life's output. But it also offers candid insights into the man and the artist, with childhood photographs and home video shot by his father (wherein the young Stanley very much resembles his older self, with his characteristic jet-black hair and penetrating eyes). Early photos from Kubrick's career as a young photojournalist for Look magazine demonstrate his impressive, intuitive gifts for light and composition, and particularly of two subjects that appealed to him: jazz musicians and boxers. Such efforts led to Kubrick's first short film, the self-financed 1951 documentary "Day of the Fight," with boxer Walter Cartier. After RKO bought the film and screened it in New York, Kubrick quit Look at the mere age of 21 to pursue film directing full-time, leading to two more short documentaries and his first feature film, Fear and Desire (1953). And while Kubrick was not happy with his first feature effort (he eventually withdrew it), the '50s showed his was a talent of great promise, thanks to Killer's Kiss (1955), The Killing (1956), and the antiwar Paths of Glory (1957). But frustrations with Spartacus (1960) caused Kubrick to quit America altogether, and the Bronx-born director who at heart would remain a New Yorker all his life settled in England, where he would remain for nearly four decades. From that point, A Life in Pictures surveys Kubrick's mature films, with comments and insights from such actors, associates, and fellow directors as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Sydney Pollack, Alan Parker, Woody Allen, Paul Mazursky, Tony Palmer, Alex Cox, Jack Nicholson, Woody Allen, Peter Ustinov, Malcolm McDowell, Leon Vitali, Matthew Modine, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, and many, many others. Several comments are filled with expected praise, but many interesting stories are told as well, particularly Malcolm McDowell, recounting his turbulent relationship with The Master, and Steven Spielberg, noting how he first came to be involved in A.I..
A joy to watch for its entire 2:22 running time, A Life in Pictures also serves to remind us of Stanley Kubrick's most vital themes, and in particular the essential contradictions of human nature. Always a genre-hopper, Kubrick nonetheless was fascinated with antiheroes in fact, as the documentary compresses Kubrick's output to a reasonable feature-length, it's clear we are in the presence of cinema's most famous rogues' gallery. Good and Evil may exist in the Kubrickian universe, but often they go hand-in-hand, or are embodied in the same individual: The respectable Prof. Humbert Humbert and his pedophile obsessions in Lolita; the buffoonish, incompetent world leaders and politicians entrusted with the fate of the Earth in Dr. Strangelove; the similarly entrusted HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, who dooms the crew he is supposed to protect; A Clockwork Orange's small-time hoodlum Alex and his suffering at the hands of a paranoid socialist government; Barry Lyndon, soldier and gentleman to the world around him, but an amoral social climber at heart; and family man Jack Torrance in The Shining, where the undead spirits of a shuttered skiing resort tear at the fragile fabric of the family unit. Indeed, the moral contradictions that have dominated so much of Kubrick's work even become a throwaway gag in Full Metal Jacket, when Joker (Matthew Modine) explains to an Army officer that the peace button on his lapel and "Born to Kill" scrawled on his helmet is meant to suggest "The duality of man the Jungian thing, sir."
A worthy addition to any Kubrick fan's DVD collection, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures is available only in Warner's new re-release of the nine-disc "Stanley Kubrick Collection." There is no word if it will be released as an individual title, but historically speaking few "bonus" DVDs ever are. If you own just a few Kubrick films on DVD, or are willing to upgrade to Warner's "2000 digital remasters" of Kubrick films, the box-set isn't cheap, but it offers the best presentation of Kubrick's post-1960 films yet to arrive on home video. Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures and The Stanley Kubrick Collection are on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Despite a monster $75 million opening weekend, Buena Vista's Pearl Harbor has been dispatched from the top of the box-office in just two weeks, thanks to Warner's high-tech thriller Swordfish, starring John Travolta, Halle Berry, and Hugh Jackman, which claimed $18.4 million in receipts. Also new over the weekend, but not opening nearly as strongly, was DreamWorks' sci-fi comedy Evolution, which garnered $13.2 million (thanks in part to some popular trailers and TV spots). Both Swordfish and Evolution received mixed reviews from the critics.
In continuing release, the battle between Buena Vista's Pearl Harbor and DreamWorks' Shrek is all but decided, as Shrek lost far less audience over the weekend and leaped past Harbor to hold second place. And with a $176.6 cume, Shrek is on track to becoming one of the highest-grossing animated films ever. Pearl Harbor, dropping precipitously from first to third, has earned $144.1 million to date a little more than its reported budget, which means the spendy film will turn a profit (but whether it will pass the magic $200 million mark is now in question). Hanging around in their second wide weeks are Sony's The Animal ($35.8 m) and Fox's Moulin Rouge ($27.5 m), while Sony's A Knight's Tale and Dreamworks' Bridget Jones's Diary look to be at the end of their runs. Off the charts is Along Came a Spider, but the pre-summer doldrums were good to Morgan Freeman the picture will have a roughly $73 million finish after 10 weeks.
Two more summer heavyweights arrive in theaters this Friday Paramount's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider starring Taco Bell pinup girl Angelina Jolie, and Disney's animated Atlantis: The Lost Empire, with the voices of Michael J. Fox and James Garner. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Alexandra DuPont has posted her take on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, while Greg Dorr looked at The Shining and Mark Bourne has a reassessment of 2001: A Space Odyssey, both part of Warner's re-issued "Stanley Kubrick Collection." New from the team this week are the remaining remasters in the Kubrick box Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, and Lolita along with Cast Away, The Yards, Hope and Glory, Something Wild, The Sons of Katie Elder, Love Potion #9, Brooklyn Babylon, Tell Me No Lies, and a pair of schlock-shockers, The Thing with Two Heads and Village of the Giants. Everything has been added to our New Reviews menu here on the left-hand side of the front page, or scan our handy search engine right above it for even more DVD write-ups.
We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.
Thursday, 7 June 2001
Coming Attractions: We'll be spending the weekend digging through Warner's updated Stanley Kubrick Collection, along with Columbia TriStar's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We'll see ya Monday with all the fresh stuff. Have a great weekend, gang.
Jerry Zucker: "Well, actually, when we did the rehearsal, I just remember that it was sexy enough that it embarrassed Patrick (Swayze) and Demi (Moore) a little bit, when they were doing it. You know, just like when you're rehearsing a love scene or something like that. And they both had all their clothes on, you know, maybe they had old clothes and short-sleeved shirts or whatever, not to get too messed up, but it was still, even then, there was something about it that was sensual."
Rubin: "In the original version of the script, there was a scene that followed this, which had the two of them going from this to making love in the living room on the floor, and we cut the scene because we realized this worked so well, that this was all that was really needed. And one of the questions I've often seen in articles that have come since is how come, when they are dancing, they are now clean? And, in fact, that was dealt with in the scene that's been cut out."
* * *
Zucker: "Nicole Kidman was in Australia at the time shooting Dead Calm, and she went into a studio and shot a tape of her reading several scenes (from Ghost) with another actor, and it was a crude tape, as all these things are, but she was really good. And I remember we all said 'Hey, wait a minute we have to consider this here,' because it was really a terrific reading. But, you know, in the end we felt that ... Demi was more of a known entity at that time, that Nicole Kidman was just starting."
Rubin: "I have a feeling that that reading she did for us made its way to Paramount and made its way to the forces that be there, and that she ended up in Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise as a result and, clearly, a lot of other things came from that reading."
Zucker: "Wait a minute, so we're responsible for her marriage to Tom?"
Rubin: "That's exactly right. She doesn't fully understand that, but we take full credit."
Director Jerry Zucker and
Quotable: "I believe that we are only touching the tip of the iceberg. The format is generally unknown in America and in many parts of the world. So we have a lot to do in terms of educating consumers."
Eddie Ezekiel, a partner in VCDGallery.com, on
"Whether or not he shot down one or two planes, or no planes at all, he was a brave and honorable man who risked his life for his fellow sailors and his country."
Pearl Harbor producer Jerry Bruckheimer, responding
"Yeah, I'm done with (The X-Files) TV show. I don't think it's fair to me or the fans.... I think to bring back Mulder's character peripherally is not fair to the character that I feel a lot of affinity for. I feel like the fans respect Mulder as the center consciousness of the show. And to have him come back like Superman's dad or whatever it just feels cheap to me."
David Duchovny, saying goodbye this week to
"There just isn't enough material, and a lot of the best performers are in my age group. I don't think of myself as being of advanced years. I think of the others as children and I am a woman."
Anne Archer, 53, on the difficulties of being a
"I don't like people always talking about Jackie Chan the action star. I want to be an actor. An actor has a life that goes on forever."
Jackie Chan, recently indicating to the press that
"In this hyper-ethnically-conscious age of ours, a Mexican American like Anthony Quinn seems an anomaly. His New York Times obituary quotes film historian David Thomson cleverly noting that Quinn was cast in parts in which he 'dutifully let every Paramount white man slug him' during his early career. But Quinn never seemed bitter about his early typecasting as an Indian renegade or a Mexican outlaw.... In fact, Quinn's talent was as big and imposing as his physical presence. And he gave all of us, not just his fellow Mexican Americans, someone whose skills and grace we will admire long after he's gone."
Linda Chavez, remembering Anthony Quinn in
Wednesday, 6 June 2001
While a lot of DVD fans would be plenty happier if every last DVD came in a standard case (and the Amaray keep-case tends to be the most popular of these), for some reason the studios keep cranking out their special-edition DVDs in unusual packages, and for that we can thank the grease on the wheels of capitalism marketing. While the vast majority of DVDs arrive in either the standard keep-case or snap-case, the fact is that consumer interest is enhanced when top-tier titles have a distinctive look. After all, DVDs are tangible consumer products, not just slabs of binary information, and sales can increase when some extra-special titles are given a unique design that deviates from the norm.
But this has caused frustration on the part of many DVD junkies, particularly those who complain that 1) non-standard packaging doesn't always fit in consumer DVD storage units, which are tailored for the keep-case/snap-case dimensions; and 2) distinct packages often are not as durable, and the enclosure cannot be replaced if there is a broken disc-clasp or other wear-and-tear damage. Part of the first issue has been addressed with the introduction of the dual-DVD slimline keep-case, which holds two discs in the standard dimensions of a single-DVD keeper with a hinged interior seat (we think the first of these was Buena Vista's From Dusk to Dawn: Special Edition, but the most popular so far has been DreamWorks' Gladiator package). But despite the introduction of the slimline keeper (which we like, a lot), some studios will continue with their non-traditional designs. Both Fox (Fight Club, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and New Line (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Se7en) are fond of the dual-DVD digipak with the paperboard slip-case, and Fox even released their X-Men disc in a single-DVD digipak with slip-case. Artisan's Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition features a tin slip-case with a metallic finish. Another design for larger collections that seems to be gaining ground is the seven-disc digipak w/ slip-case, which can be found with all of Fox's X-Files TV series releases, as well as the Cosmos: Collector's Edition package. And when standard keep-cases are used for multi-disc sets, the slip-case can be semi-transparent, such as Buena Vista's Toy Story: Ultimate Toy Box and Criterion's Brazil, which only enhances their appearance on retailers' shelves (and that Toy Story box, in fact, has two slip-cases a semi-transparent one over silver-finished paperboard).
But, to our minds, the studio that has put out the most unusual (and most controversial) SE packages is Columbia TriStar. The matte-black Men in Black: Limited Edition has two digipak seats in an oversized interior, while The Bridge on the River Kwai: Limited Edition comes in a similar hard-shell fold-out, and their Lawrence of Arabia: Limited Edition is enclosed in a hard-bound canvas cover with a book-spine, making it look like a small novel. All of these packages are attractive and fairly durable, but the recently released Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Collector's Edition set is yet another deviation from the norm. The thin cardboard slip-case encloses a two-fold digipak, with the first fold opening horizontally (to reveal liner notes), while the second fold lifts vertically (to reveal the two DVDs in transparent digipak seats). It's a daring design, unlike any other DVD on the market, but a lot of people have complained that it's far too flimsy and will not stand up to much handling before the edges become slightly worn or frayed particularly when sliding the interior package in and out of the enclosure. We agree. While aesthetically interesting, we would have preferred to see CE3K in a Men in Black or Lawrence of Arabia-style box. It would still look unusual and attract consumers, but it also would inspire more confidence long after the product has been bought.
All that said, we'll go on the record we love unusual DVD packages. While we can appreciate the collector's desire to own and catalog DVDs in standard-sized cases, we think DVDs should be about having some fun too, and when a movie we've been looking forward to arrives in something other than the same-old same-old, handling the package and admiring its design offers a little bit of extra adrenaline before we pop the discs in the carousel. There may be a few packages here and there that don't quite pass muster, but we can live with that Columbia's CE3K is still a marvelous set, even if we have to handle it with extra care.
Our best info Craig is that, while shooting the "Judge Not" documentary, Kevin Smith and company reportedly said some pretty unflattering things about Disney, reflecting the bad blood that resulted between Smith and The Mouse House after they refused to distribute Dogma theatrically (Disney subsidiary Miramax, who originally were slated to release the film, sent the package to Lions Gate for theatrical distribution, while Columbia TriStar picked up the home-video deal). Several reports indicate that Disney requested that the documentary be dropped from the DVD, and that Columbia TriStar agreed to do this (after, we've heard, Smith refused to edit the comments).
The good news for Kevin Smith fans if there is any here is that Smith owns the "Judge Not" documentary, and he has vowed that fans will see it some day, perhaps as a download from his website. However, when it will materialize on DVD in one form or another is anybody's guess. In the meantime, Dogma: Special Edition streets on June 26.
We agree with you, Jason that five-minute restoration demo is not worth the sort of money Criterion's first edition of Seven Samurai gets on eBay, and we are consistently surprised to see how high the bidding can go. But it's great to hear from somebody who has paid out the bucks to get it, and in particular why they paid so much to get it. Thanks for getting in touch.
All good info, but if the rumors we are hearing are true, we all will know plenty more about The Godfather on DVD next week, as Mr. Coppola and Paramount Home Video are planning a big press conference in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Monday, complete with an Italian-American street festival. Any guess what that could be about?Stay tuned....
Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Ken Crane's DVDPlanet.com. Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:
Tuesday, 5 June 2001
On the Street: We all know today marks the arrival of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on DVD (our own Ms. DuPont is spinning her copy now), but don't be fooled there's lots of good stuff out today, making it the third week in a row that could potentially bankrupt pathetic DVD junkies like yourselves. In addition to Crouching Tiger, Columbia TriStar also has released the 1949 Oscar-winner All The King's Men, along with The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan, while Woody Allen fans will find MGM's The Woody Allen Collection: Vol. 2 hard to ignore, as it contains some of his best mature films from the late '80s and early '90s, including the brilliant Crimes and Misdemeanors. MGM also has classic horror in store with three Roger Corman shockers The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, all with entertaining commentary tracks from Corman himself. And MGM's not done yet the special edition of Oliver Stone's Platoon restores the features of the original DVD from Artisan (then Live), while Salvador: Special Edition is entirely new. Criterion has three titles on the shelves this morning, including Mario Monicelli's crime-caper Big Deal on Madonna Street, while Paramount's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a splendid release for John Ford fans. And for those of you missed it the first time around (or will grit your teeth and buy it again), Warner's The Fugitive: Special Edition is sure to be a top-seller. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Bye for now.
Monday, 4 June 2001
And the winner is: Blake Kunisch of San Diego, Calif., wins the free X-Files: Season Three box-set from our May contest. Congrats, Blake!
Our totally free DVD contest for the month of June is up and running, and we have a box-set of Fox's Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection up for grabs. Be sure to drop by our contest page to send us your entry, and don't forget to take our monthly DVD poll while you're there.
Disc of the Week: While John Ford ventured into several film genres during his 56-year career, he will always be remembered for the western. He almost single-handedly reinvented and revitalized the genre with 1939's Stagecoach, and later classics such as My Darling Clementine (1946) and The Searchers (1956) were perfect vehicles for the Fordian hero the resourceful, rugged individualist who provides order in a chaotic world, often protecting families and communities from destructive forces. Arriving in 1962, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was one of Ford's last films, and it is widely considered to be one of his best. But it is unusual. It lacks the epic sweep that marked so much of his previous work. In fact, most of the story is confined to interior settings, and for a "western" it has precious little action, instead focusing on a handful of people in one small town at a crucial crossroads in American history. The Fordian values community, honor, courage remain intact, but Ford may never have been more elegiac, or more introspective, than in this modest allegory. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is about everything that made John Ford great, but it also is about the closing of the Western frontier.
Jimmy Stewart stars in Valance as Ransom "Ranse" Stoddard, a U.S. Senator who returns to the little western town of Shinbone at the turn of the century, where he started his political career many years earlier. The local press has no idea why he's there, but Ranse eventually reveals that it's for the funeral of an old friend, which then leads Ranse to recall his early days as a tenderfoot lawyer. And thus he tells the story (or legend) of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance": Moving to the frontier from back east, Ranse is held up during a stagecoach robbery by sadistic bandit Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) and horsewhipped mercilessly. Badly hurt, Ranse is brought into Shinbone by rough-and-tumble cowboy Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), and he soon finds room and board in the local restaurant, earning his living as kitchen-help. Ranse is looked after, and even pitied, by Tom's girlfriend Hallie (Vera Miles), but he cannot forget the beating, and he vows to bring Valance to justice. "I don't want to kill him," he tells Tom. "I want to put him in jail." But Tom thinks Ranse's high-minded ways are out of step with his surroundings. "Out here, a man solves his own problems," he says, hinting that the only way to stop Valance is to gun him down. Tom continues to prepare his home for his bride-to-be Hallie, but Ranse doesn't take his advice, instead opening a law office and a school, and eventually taking the side of area homesteaders and their political campaign for statehood all the while unsure how to deal with Valance and his ceaseless harassment of the townsfolk.
For a film that is unapologetically about the formation and sustenance of civil democracy in a land that only understands brute force, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, unsurprisingly, contains small, instructive moments. Among the folks who attend Ranse's new school are young Mexican children, as well as Tom's black ranch-hand Pompey (Woody Strode), who attempts to recite the Declaration of Independence (Ranse coaches him through the line "all men are created equal"). In a later moment, Tom loses his temper with the local tavern owner when Pompey is refused a drink. And Ranse speaks eloquently about the plight of homesteaders, and how statehood will defend their rights against cattle interests. But Valance isn't merely about the idealistic promise of America; in fact, its two protagonists, while embodying different philosophies of social rule, are equally flawed. For all of his lofty ideals, Ranse Stoddard is both proud and headstrong it's hard to tell if he wants to see Liberty Valance behind bars because of his lawless acts, or simply if it's because he's been publicly humiliated by the bandit (he later warns Tom that "Nobody fights my battles!"), and by the film's conclusion it's clear that Ranse has been willing to build his political career on the stuff of legend. He is, in fact, a master politician. In the same vein, Tom Doniphon while on the surface a traditional Fordian male is entirely self-centered. He and Valance almost draw guns on each other, but Tom does not stand up to him because Valance is a criminal; rather, the outlaw ruined his steak dinner. In fact, throughout most of the story Tom advises restraint, claiming that anybody who crosses Valance will get killed. For Tom, the frontier begins and ends on his property, which he will defend if necessary. And while both men participate in the central act of the film, the shooting of Liberty Valance, by the time it's over it is clear what has been gained, and what is lost. The ideal of order of government, democracy, progress has transformed the West. It is finally Ranse's country, where he can craft laws for its people and live in peace. But this very same order has done away with the Tom Doniphans of the world, the cowboys who defined the West and defined so many John Ford films.
Paramount's new DVD release of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a strong black-and-white source-print, and while the disc only offers the theatrical trailer as an extra feature, it does include a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, along with the original monaural audio. Essential viewing for Ford admirers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Buena Vista's Pearl Harbor remained in the top spot at the box office for the second week in a row, adding another $30 million over the weekend to push its total to $119.3 million in just 10 days. DreamWorks' Shrek has also done stellar business, with $28.4 million in its third frame, and a monster $148.6 million cume. Both films managed to keep new arrivals out the top position, with Sony's The Animal earning $19.8 million, Fox's Moulin Rouge with $14.8 million (after two weeks of limited runs in New York and L.A.), and MGM's What's the Worst that can Happen? with $13.2 million.
In continuing release, Universal's The Mummy Returns is still doing well after five weeks and $181 million, while Miramax's Bridget Jones's Diary has cleared $65 million, and Sony's A Knight's Tale is poised to break $50 million very soon. But off the charts and on its way to DVD prep is Dimension's Spy Kids here's hoping the $105 million finish will bring us a feature-packed disc.
John Travolta and Hugh Jackman hit the big screen this Friday in the high-tech thriller Swordfish, while David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, and Julianne Moore star in the sci-fi comedy Evolution. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: D.K. Holm has posted a new review of Criterion's The Scarlet Empress, while Dawn Taylor has taken a look at MGM's Salvador: Special Edition. Fresh stuff from the rest of the team this week includes all five films in the second "Woody Allen Collection," Alice, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors, September, and Shadows and Fog, and three Roger Corman classics, The Fall of House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. Rounding out the list are a few hits and misses, including The Hidden Fortress: The Criterion Collection, That Thing You Do!, Playtime: The Criterion Collection, Donovan's Reef, Bachelor Party, Two Girls and a Guy, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The House of Mirth, and Into Thin Air: Death on Everest. Everything's been added under the New Reviews menu here on the front page more than 1,000 additional reviews can be found with our nifty search engine.
Back tomorrow with the street discs.