Thursday, 31 Oct. 2002
On the Block: Our latest round of DVD auction rankings at eBay is in, and Criterion's ultra-rare Salo continues to dominate the chart, racking up some astronomical closes one lucky seller moved a sealed copy this month for $932.05. Trailing far behind in second place is a relative newcomer, Paramount's unreleased The History of Beavis and Butt-Head, which had a top close of $345.00. New to the chart is a "Golden Snitch" edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the limited-edition boxed-set from Region 2 includes the two-disc DVD edition and several extra goodies, and one buyer thought it was worth $255.00. Our Criterion regulars are here, including The Killer ($300.55), The 400 Blows ($229.00), and Hard Boiled ($109.99), while the first edition of Seven Samurai returned to the chart ($172.50) and M. Hulot's Holiday is currently the most popular of the OOP Jacques Tati discs ($118.99). After getting an official street date, the Thirty-Odd Foot of Grunts concert DVD Texas slipped from its previous highs, but it still managed a $177.50 hammer-price. The European-only THX Ultimate Demo Disc is also losing steam, but closing up to $299.00 means it's still not cheap. How much do people love The Commitments? Enough to drive an auction for Fox's bare-bones DVD up to $177.50. The news for Marx Brothers fans isn't much better there's no word when Universal will release new DVD editions, giving the OOP Image box $152.50 under the gavel.
Here's the highest recent closing prices of rare and out-of-print DVDs from online auctions at eBay:
Quotable: "People go to car races to watch the crashes. It's the same reason they watch Jackass. In every interview, in warnings on the TV show and the movie, we stress 'Don't try this at home.' It's unfortunate when kids get hurt, but I wish parents would monitor what their kids are doing and watching. It's common sense, really."
Jackass: The Movie star Johnny Knoxville,
"If you can be in love with fictional characters, I'm in love with Clarice Starling. And I was really heartbroken to see what became of her during that passage of her life in Hannibal. I have a funny feeling that Tom Harris may feel like our culture has become so corrupt that someone with Clarice's qualities is doomed to fall from grace. There was no way I could go along on that journey."
Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan
Ewan McGregor, in London's The Guardian.
"Well, it's not easy to just pull up your life and move to Europe. It's something that I have at times considered, but it's not an easy thing to give up your home and your language. I would happily come and make movies in Rome, or Paris, or London, or Berlin if I had an idea that worked in those places, but it's having the idea that's difficult.... My wife likes to come to all these places in Europe. Whatever makes her happy makes me happy, so I'll do that."
Woody Allen, speaking to reporters in Rome.
"I thought when I shot that (sex-video clip), it was going to be all right. Well, it wasn't. So I either had to cut it or blot it out. I thought it was important that the viewer knows that Bob (Crane) wasn't shooting cheesecake. He was shooting hardcore close-ups. Of course, in the European print, we can very cheaply unblur the image.... (The MPAA board members) talk about thrusts a lot. From what I could ascertain, about two thrusts is the max."
Paul Schrader, on his upcoming film
Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Spider-Man, Babylon 5: Season One, and more. This also will be the last weekend to enter this month's totally free DVD contest for a copy of Unforgiven: 10th Anniversary Edition, 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 next week to announce the winner, and we'll have a new contest up and running as well.
See ya Monday.
Wednesday, 30 Oct. 2002
You certainly are not alone, Michael Richard Harris will be missed by millions of film fans worldwide, many of whom doubtless will be digging up a few old favorites this week. The popular actor, born in Limerick, Ireland, in 1930, originally settled on a different career in his youth, hoping to be a professional Rugby player, but despite his skill he left the sport after a severe case of tuberculosis. Turning to the theater, Harris studied to become a director, but he found greater opportunities on the London stage as an actor, where he built a reputation in the 1950s and gained the attention of critics and filmmakers. After several on-screen supporting roles , Harris earned his breakout with his first starring turn in Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life (1963), where he portrayed an aspiring Rugby player it immediately ranked him among the foremost actors of Britain's "New Cinema," including Albert Finney, Michael Caine, and Tom Courtenay, while critics compared his work on the stage to Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton. A filmed version of the stage production Camelot featuring one of his career's signature roles as King Arthur arrived in 1967.
However, Harris's film career languished in the '70s and '80s, in part because of poor script choices, and also because of his hard-drinking, wild-living ways (Harris, O'Toole, and Burton were a notorious trio of drinking mates in their day). His comeback would not begin until 1990's The Field, which earned him an Oscar nomination, and he continued through the decade with several high-profile supporting parts that re-established his celebrity, in pictures such as Patriot Games (1992), Unforgiven (1992), Gladiator (2000), and The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). Ironically, he might become best remembered for a role he didn't want that of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise. He had not read the popular books, and only took the job at the request of his granddaughter.
Thankfully and in part because Harris appeared in a handful of popular films over the past decade there are a number of discs out there to put together a nice retrospective weekend, in particular Gladiator, Patriot Games, The Field, Unforgiven, The Guns of Navarone, Camelot, Harry Potter, and Robin and Marian. As for A Man Called Horse, the 1970 western was a surprise hit for the actor, and it managed to deliver two sequels. Independently produced outside of the studio system, it appears that VHS editions have been released by both Fox and Paramount. However, Man Called Horse was a Panavision shoot, which means the proper aspect ratio is 2.35:1, and we are unaware of any letterboxed videotapes, nor could we find any information on a Laserdisc release. At the moment it looks like this one's in Paramount's hands, but don't hold us to it.
As for Cry, the Beloved Country, the Apartheid drama marks one of Harris's high points in his later career, starring opposite James Earl Jones in a tale of two South African men who must come to terms with the culture that separates them. A remake of the 1951 picture of the same name by Zoltan Korda starring Sidney Poitier and Canada Lee, and based on the novel by Alan Paton the 1995 film was an international production, with Miramax earning home-video rights in the U.S. Their videotape is in print, although it does not appear there was a Laserdisc release.
Of course, those are just two Richard Harris pictures that are MIA on DVD. Fans this week will doubtless come up with their own personal favorites that they're still waiting on. As for us, we admit that John Derek's 1981 Tarzan, The Ape Man, starring then-wife Bo Derek, is an unwatchable slab of crap but we'd probably watch it again. Harris gets totally bonkers, Bo gets in the buff, and we'll get our own beer. It will be up to the folks at Warner to satiate our guilty desires.
To be accurate, the film you are referring to is actually "Le Ballon Rouge," but of course, to generations of kids who sat through their share of 16mm films in public-school classrooms, "The Red Balloon" has become an indelible title, and a memorable film. At least in America, that is. The 1956 picture by still-photographer and short-subject specialist Albert Lamorisse won a grand prize at Cannes with its story of a young garçon and a mysterious balloon that follows him around Paris's Montmarte district, but it never was fully embraced by French critics, particularly with the rise of the New Wave directors a few years hence. However, "Le Ballon Rouge" also won an Academy Award, and it was destined to be endlessly shown in darkened American classrooms on rickety projectors (the mystical, magical experience was hardly a fair way to prepare us for high school, where we had to endure such 16mm classics as "Signal 30").
Perhaps "The Red Balloon" is still shown in elementary schools we have no idea. But the good news is that you don't have to re-enroll just to catch a screening, because the film is currently on VHS from Home Vision Entertainment, who also released a Laserdisc a few years back (reportedly under the Criterion folio). With a videotape in print, don't rule out a DVD from Criterion someday, especially as a double-feature with Lamorisse's 1952 "White Mane" another one of his popular shorts that did double-feature duty on the Laserdisc and a second VHS release as well.
Top of the Pops: You picked 'em here's the most-accessed reviews on The DVD Journal over the past week. Click the links to read our reviews of these discs and remember, we keep annoying Internet advertising to a minimum on The DVD Journal thanks to our readers who use our links to buy new DVDs at Ken Crane's DVDPlanet.com.
Tuesday, 29 Oct. 2002
On the Street: The hottest DVD of the week isn't even out today Columbia TriStar's two-disc Spider-Man: Special Edition has been given a special Friday street date, so you'll be looking for it then. As for this morning, Paramount's got a couple of good ones on the shelves with the nuclear thriller The Sum of All Fears starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman, as well as the excellent television drama The Day Reagan Was Shot. Of course, Halloween is just around the corner, and Warner's hoping you'll pick up the silly Eight-Legged Freaks, while Columbia has a few thrills from the way-back machine with 1961's Mysterious Island. Sci-fi fans can pick up a hefty 11-disc set of Farscape: The Complete First Season, while miniseries on the board from A&E include The Lost World and Shaka Zulu. And if you're doing your holiday shopping early, keep your eyes open for the Creative Design gift-sets of Citizen Kane and The Prince and the Showgirl. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 28 Oct. 2002
Disc of the Week: Jules Verne, like Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, has proven himself one of Hollywood's most reliable screenwriters long after his death. Verne's fantasy/adventure novels, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, have inspired cinematic treatments both blockbuster and bizarre for more than a century beginning with George Méliès' 1902 silent short "A Trip to the Moon," through at least five incarnations of 20,000 Leagues, to TV's recent The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne and a new version of Around the World in 80 Days, starring Jackie Chan, slated for 2003. In a sort-of sequel to 20,000 Leagues, Verne brought back Captain Nemo in 1874's The Mysterious Island, and screenwriters from Hollywood to Soviet Russia have repeatedly (albeit loosely) dipped into its fantastical fathoms. Prized among collectors of movie rarities is a 1929 version starring Lionel Barrymore. However, the most fondly remembered version premiered in 1961 a spectacle-rich Brobdingnagian monsterfest showcasing the stop-motion animation work of Ray Harryhausen.
Taking the predictable liberties with Verne's novel, this Mysterious Island is a lavish production directed by Cy Endfield, who's most distinguished as the writer-director of Zulu (1964). A band of Union soldiers (led by Michael Craig) from the American Civil War escape a Confederate prison in an observation balloon. A fierce storm sends the fugitives over ocean waters for days, eventually marooning them on an unknown island. The castaways quickly discover that the island is inhabited and that they're being watched. Bigger mysteries begin when they're forced to battle a gigantic crab large enough to grasp a man in its foreclaws. Fortune sees to it that they are joined by two shipwrecked Englishwomen, haughty Joan Greenwood and winsome Beth Rogan (who's soon clad in a buckskin minidress). Run-ins with a giant bee, a prehistoric "chicken" as big as a horse, and a pirate ship destroyed by unseen defenses further prove that something strange is in charge here. Evidence in a cave points to notorious Capt. Nemo, an idealist/terrorist whose submarine, the Nautilus, vanished without a trace eight years before. And indeed, after the functioning Nautilus is discovered in a flooded cavern, it's clear that the island is the refuge of the infamous Nemo (Herbert Lom) his experiments with genetics are responsible for the island's outsized fauna, an attempt to provide greater food sources for a warring world fraught with starvation. However, Nemo's redemption is soon cut short by a volcano that places the captain and the castaways in peril.
The hallmark of Mysterious Island, of course, is Ray Harryhausen, who by 1961 was riding high on the success of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. For young viewers who grew up watching Mysterious Island's frequent local TV airings on weekend afternoons throughout the '70s and '80s, the stop-motion model effects (and Beth Rogan's diminished costume) are among the most durable of screen memories. The rodeo-rustling of the dino-bird, the hero and heroine honeycombed by that magnificent giant bee, and especially the crab battle remain such favorite Harryhausen moments that the CGI whizzes behind 2002's Attack of the Clones and Spy Kids II gave their films deliberate homages to key scenes here. As is typical in a Harryhausen feature, the action scenes lift up an otherwise routine and episodic movie. Not to mention that some matte paintings and effects (such as the volcano explosion, the remains of an Atlantean civilization, and a monster-truck-sized cephalopod) have aged better in our memories than here in pixels. Still, those formerly young viewers, now parents themselves, who give those memories a new digital spin will find their nostalgia rewarded. Plus, Joan Greenwood's regally unflappable Lady Mary Fairchild proves again (as in The Man in the White Suit and The Importance of Being Earnest) that her voice distills Victoria's Empire to the creamy consistency of warm butterscotch pudding. Herbert Lom's reformed Nemo is well turned. And while it's true that Verne's book didn't have a giant dino-bird, it also didn't boast Bernard Herrmann's terrific score.
Columbia TriStar's new DVD release of Mysterious Island is a gotta-have-it addition to their "Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection." However, aficionados are forewarned that it underscores both the benefits and the perils of the medium. While this dual-layer disc's new digital remastering yields a fine anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), its crisp resolution really brings out the flaws in the source material, particularly the process shots required for the "Super Dynamation" and matte effects. The crab battle and other showpieces suddenly go softer, grainier, and messier than shots surrounding them. It's a consequence of the vintage optical printing that sandwiched layer upon layer of film footage together, so one can argue that it's forgivable. But. It's a shame that no restorative buff-and-polish was applied to those components that are, really, the reason we want the disc in the first place. Generally, the film's colors, contrast, and detail are fine, though some fading, scratches, and wear can be seen throughout. Herrmann's score is well served by the limited but clean monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. As for supplements, a new nine-minute retrospective delivers Harryhausen guiding us through a photo album of the movie's natal stages. (That giant crab? It was a real crab hollowed out and animated.) A photo gallery contains Mysterious Island concept sketches, stills, and promo art. Also here and familiar from other discs in the series are the excellent documentaries "The Ray Harryhausen Chronicles" and "This is Dynamation." Mysterious Island is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Continuing the trend of turning lightweight TV fare into theatrical films, Paramount's Jackass: The Movie hit American cineplexes over the weekend, and the MTV series' die-hard fans sent it to the top of the chart with $22.7 million. The win edged out last week's winner, DreamWorks' thriller The Ring, which nonetheless had a strong second frame, adding $18.8 million to a nearly $40 million gross. Arriving in third was Warner Bros. horror film Ghost Ship starring Julianna Margulies, Gabriel Byrne, and Isaiah Washington, which garnered $11.7 million. Universal's The Truth About Charlie, starring Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton and directed by Jonathan Demme, was released in just 752 locations and scraped up $2.3 million. Jackass earned mixed reviews from critics, The Truth About Charlie skewed negative, and Ghost Ship earned poor notices.
In continuing release, Buena Vista's Sweet Home Alabama crossed the century mark mid-week and currently holds fourth place with $107.2 million so far, while Universal's Red Dragon is slipping among its horror-film competitors, dropping to sixth place with $84.9 million after its first month. Sony's Punch-Drunk Love, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Adam Sandler, showed a lot of promise in its first wide weekend, using less than 500 screens to muster $3.5 million. But falling away is Buena Vista's Tuck Everlasting, which has earned just $14 million in three weeks. And two debut films from last weekend Abandon and Formula 51 are already headed to DVD prep.
New films arriving in theaters this Friday include I Spy starring Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy, and The Santa Clause 2 with Tim Allen. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Dawn Taylor has posted a new review of Criterion's Down by Law, while new spins from the rest of the team this week include The Sum of All Fears, Eight-Legged Freaks, Sorority Boys, Italian for Beginners, The Day Reagan Was Shot, Mysterious Island, and The Specialist: Portrait of a Modern Criminal. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, while our DVD reviews database features more than 1,800 additional write-ups.
Back tomorrow with the street discs.
Thursday, 24 Oct. 2002
Coming Attractions: We're already headed back to the screening room to tear the plastic off a new stack of DVDs, and reviews on the way include The Sum of All Fears, Eight-Legged Freaks, and more. We'll see ya next Monday have a great weekend.
Quotable: "Boundless egotism has long characterized those drawn to the film industry, and an abrasive style, not to say boorishness, has been typical of its powerful figures since Louis B. Mayer's day. But insiders say the tendency to blow off anyone not part of your own private movie has gotten worse, and it's more widespread. From showing up late to business meetings or not at all for social engagements, to not returning calls, Hollywood etiquette is all about reminding others that you are more important than they are. The practice of canceling a lunch or a dinner date when a better invitation comes along is so common it is known as B.B.D., for Bigger Better Dealing."
The New York Times' Hilary de Vries
"We tried to accurately portray Milan's tournament reality. Before the team got to the state finals they had not competed against one black player. (An unfortunate legacy of the KKK influence in Indiana.) They played two games on Saturday, not the one game that we dramatized. The afternoon game was against an all-black team, Indianapolis' Crispus Attucks, starring a spectacular sophomore named Oscar Robertson. After vanquishing Attucks, a team that went on to win back-to-back state championships the following two years, Milan played South Bend Central in the evening final. Central was a team with about eight whites and four blacks. Because we were combining the two teams, we decided to make the fictional team more black than white. Additionally, we cast the coach of the '55-'56 Attucks team (Ray Crowe) as the team's coach and one of his players (Bailey Robertson, Oscar's brother) as an assistant. We felt it was an homage to that legendary team."
Screenwriter/producer Angelo Pizzo, denying that
Former U.S. Marine Harvey Keitel, in Details
"I've slept with too many women, I've done too many drugs, and I've been to too many parties."
George Clooney, on why he has no plans to seek
"The world of celebrity has gone mad. It is very scary, because it happens when you are on a tightrope. You are up there, trying to make a part happen, when (another actor) starts being difficult. This is not good. The whole thing is about trusting each other, as if we are in an orchestra trying to create good harmonies. But I am not going to name names. They know who they are."
Wednesday, 23 Oct. 2002
Good point, Ethan The Mission is one of those films that we'd expect to be on DVD by this point, but it isn't in North America. Then again, The Mission is one of those films that should have been so much more than it turned out to be in all regards. Just have a look at the starting lineup: Producer David Puttnam had seen some big Oscar nights in previous years with Midnight Express (1978), Chariots of Fire (1981), and The Killing Fields (1984). Director Roland Joffé made his theatrical debut with The Killing Fields, and one had to hope The Mission would be just as powerful. Of course, any film is only as strong as its script, and writer Robert Bolt's reputation preceded him as the scenarist on Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Man for All Seasons (1966). Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons were signed to play the lead roles, with location shooting in South America. Throw in cinematography by Chris Menges and a score by Ennio Morricone, and you'd think Puttnam would have rented a U-Haul to get his team's Oscar hardware out of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Unfortunately, such was not the case. Unlike Puttnam's previous Oscar contenders, critics did not unanimously fall in love with The Mission. Neither did audiences, as the film grossed just $17.2 million during its theatrical run. It did win both the Palm d'Or and the Technical Grand Prize at Cannes, but despite its seven Academy Award nods, only Menges took home gold for Best Cinematography (in Britain, the film was nominated for 11 BAFTAs, winning three).
The story-pitch seems compelling enough Irons stars as a Jesuit who builds a mission in the Amazon wilderness, while De Niro portrays a slave trader who is plagued by guilt and decides to become a missionary, and both soon find themselves in the midst of a colonial war. Then again, a lot of critics seemed to have problems with the film's overall execution rather than its pedigree. In any event, if The Mission's reputation is to be resurrected, it will have to be on DVD. Roland Joffé has already recorded a commentary track on The Killing Fields for Warner, and he's a splendid raconteur, clearly one of the better directors out there when it comes to getting behind the microphone. Jeremy Irons also is no stranger to commentaries, having recorded a track for Criterion's Dead Ringers, as well as reading novel excerpts on Criterion's The Red Shoes. And even though Robert De Niro has spent the past several years making second-rate Hollywood comedies (oh, Bobby, what happened?), he's also turned up on commentaries here and there. Getting these three on record would build the foundation for a good special-edition release.
The Mission is currently in print on VHS from Warner Home Video, but that little fact can be misleading. Warner Bros. acted as the theatrical distributor for The Mission in 1986, and thereafter picked up a home-video arrangement, but the studio did not finance the original production. Instead, three British firms were listed as producers, and it appears that the film may still be controlled by David Puttnam. Along with the VHS, Warner has delivered two Laserdisc editions a 1987 CLV release offers a 1.33:1 transfer, while the 1992 CAV item is letterboxed at 2.35:1.
However, it's possible Warner has no rights to a DVD release in North America. They certainly don't in Europe a Region 2 DVD is already on the street from the EuroVision label (see inset), with production company Goldcrest apparently listed as the film's proprietor. Pressed in Germany, this platter might be an acceptable item for those of you who are code-free and PAL-compliant. Then again, with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the transfer falls short of The Mission's OAR, which was 2.35:1 (J-D-C Scope).
If Warner has the necessary rights to release The Mission in Region 1, that could be a good thing particularly considering how well they handled The Killing Fields on disc. If not, it's possible that they could renew their home-video deal, paving the way for a DVD. But our guess is that David Puttnam still has a say over when The Mission will go digital on these shores, and we're hoping he will use the opportunity to the fullest.
All we can say Ian is that if you want to get your hands on a copy of Hellzapoppin on home video, you'll have to look around first. The film is a genuine rarity, although it's not without its fans. Perhaps part of the problem lies in the picture's essential obscurity Chic Johnson and Ole Olson never were major movie stars, but they were the toast of vaudeville for years, eventually taking their comic antics to Broadway. Folks in California certainly tried to capture their madcap comedy on film, but a series of movies they starred in for Warner and Republic in the '30s failed to catch fire. Back in New York, their manic revue Hellzapoppin ran on the Great White Way for three years, leading up to Universal's film adaptation in 1941. And this time it worked, giving the duo their only solid movie hit. However, the stage was were Johnson & Olson were at their best, and where they would always earn the most fame.
Universal owns the film Hellzapoppin, and it appears the rights have never been in dispute. Nonetheless, Universal hasn't bothered too much with this small catalog property over the years we can find no evidence of any VHS or Laserdisc release in North America. Folks in Europe have had it a little better, because (for some reason) Universal did release a PAL videotape in Germany, although this is now out of print. Unofficial videos can be found on eBay, but if you're there look for a code-free Australian DVD from a company called Avenue One (see inset) it's the only DVD we've seen, and also likely an unofficial version.
Prefer to try your luck? Hellzapoppin does appear on TV from time to time. If you get the chance to roll tape on it, snap off that little plastic tab when you're done.
Top of the Pops: You picked 'em here's the most-accessed reviews on The DVD Journal over the past week. Click the links to read our reviews of these discs and remember, there are no pop-up ads anywhere on The DVD Journal thanks to our readers who use our links to buy new DVDs at Ken Crane's DVDPlanet.com. We intend to keep it that way.
Bye for now.
Tuesday, 22 Oct. 2002
On the Street: The DVD street is a busy place this week, most notably because of Universal's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, a title that's arrived in three separate packages with two versions of the movie apiece after all the confusion over the specs, let's hope fans like what they get. Criterion has a pair of favorites on the chart this week, Powell & Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law, while Republic and Artisan have delivered a trio of classics, High Noon, The Quiet Man, and Rio Grande. You Trekkies have another two-disc set to pick up this week with Paramount's Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Special Edition. Fans of Adam Sandler will want to spin Columbia TriStar's Mr. Deeds. And MGM has two notables on the shelves the unrated version of Y Tu Mamá Tambié and the return of seven James Bond titles to disc. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 21 Oct. 2002
Disc of the Week: John Ford's 1950 Rio Grande is best known as the third and final entry in his "U.S. Cavalry Trilogy," which makes it sound a little more purposeful than it actually was. In fact, Ford never had planned a "trilogy" of any sort, but his desire to shoot The Quiet Man a pet project in development for several years meant he needed some creative financing. Republic Pictures agreed to get behind The Quiet Man, which would star John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and Victor McLaglen, but the director and his trio of actors first had to deliver a profitable black-and-white western. Adapted from a short story in The Saturday Evening Post by James Warner Bellah, Ford may have had reservations about making another cavalry movie. Nonetheless, he also had directed a number of literary adaptations before the war (How Green Was My Valley, The Grapes of Wrath), and with a new decade upon him became convinced that the western genre would deliver his most profitable films. With that in mind, Ford and his production company set out for Moab, Utah, to shoot Rio Grande (originally titled Rio Bravo). Some film historians consider it a "throwaway" project. Then again, John Ford working with lightweight material is still John Ford, and his final look at the U.S. Cavalry contains several thematic elements that defined the director over his long career.
John Wayne stars in Rio Grande as U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kirby York, a Civil War veteran who now patrols the U.S./Mexico border, a location frequently under Apache siege. Kirby has made the Army his life, most keenly illustrated by his separation from his wife Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara) and son Jeff (Claude Jarman Jr.), whom he has not seen in fifteen years. However, the past soon invades Kirby's dusty, war-torn life when Kathleen writes him to let him know Jeff was expelled from West Point for failing mathematics. She expected that the young man would simply attend a different school to continue his education, but before long the former officer's candidate enlists, turning up as a buck private at his estranged father's post. Kirby makes it clear to his son that he will receive no special treatment. However, matters grow worse when Kathleen decides to visit the remote Army post, where she hopes to purchase back her son's enlistment for the price of $100 and her husband's official signature.
Being thematically less complex than either Fort Apache or She Wore a Yellow Ribbon John Ford's two prior cavalry pictures Rio Grande is nonetheless largely entertaining, and it would be a good viewing choice for folks who are not familiar with Ford's movies of the era. Ford always constructed his westerns around traditional American values, in particular honor, courage, and personal sacrifice ideal themes for his near-mythic adventure tales. Rio Grande builds upon these values by adding a family unit to the plot certainly, many of Ford's movies concern families, but here we are presented with just three people, estranged, on the outskirts of the American frontier, and in the midst of the Apache Wars. As usual, Ford gets the most power from the smallest moments, as when Kirby, after brashly dismissing Jeff from his tent, secretly measures the boy's height against the canvas. Rio Grande also was the first of five screen pairings between John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, and it's particularly delightful knowing they would appear in The Quiet Man just two years later, and in completely different roles. Ford's retinue of supporting actors is on hand of course, led by Victor McLaglen as the garrulous Sgt. Maj. Quincannon, while Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. provide comic relief as a pair of laid-back southern boys who are master horsemen (by the way, the dangerous Roman-riding sequence actually was done by the two after three weeks of training). Rio Grande probably has more music than just about any John Ford film, with generous contributions from The Sons of the Pioneers, while a few actors also deliver a fun rendition of Dale Evans' "San Antone." The story eventually leads to an action-filled sequence as the soldiers must rescue four kidnapped children, but Ford couldn't resist a final poetic touch he selected the somber, downbeat ending, rather than the original screenplay's final notes of reconciliation.
Republic/Artisan's new DVD release of Rio Grande, which replaces the original Artisan disc, features a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1) from a clean, rich black-and-white source-print, with audio in the original mono (DD 1.0) or an "enhanced" Dolby Digital 3.0 track that delivers a wider soundstage. Features are generous, and include a full-length commentary from Maureen O'Hara, who is full of recollections about Ford, Duke, and others. Also here is the featurette "The Making of Rio Grande" hosted by Leonard Maltin (20 min.), the featurette "Along the Rio Grande" with comments from O'Hara, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., and others (18 min.), and promo spots for Republic's western titles on DVD. Rio Grande: Collector's Edition is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Halloween is less than two weeks away, which means a few frights can be found on the big screen DreamWorks' thriller The Ring starring Naomi Watts debuted in first place over the weekend with $15 million, displacing recent champ Red Dragon, which fell to third place with $8.7 million and a $77.8 million total after three weeks. Arriving further down the chart was Paramount's Abandon starring Katie Holmes, which could only scare up $5.3 million, while Sony's Formula 51 starring Samuel L. Jackson had a slender $2.9 million break. The Ring received mixed-to-positive notices, while most critics did not recommend Abandon or Formula 51.
In continuing release, Buena Vista's Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon is looking solid, holding on to second place for the third week in a row and adding $9.6 million to a $98.5 million gross. Fox Searchlight's Brown Sugar is also performing well, remaining in the top five in its second frame with $18.5 million so far. And while DreamWorks' The Tuxedo isn't Rush Hour, the action flick has garnered $43.1 million after one month. Slipping away fast is critics' favorite White Oleander with just $3.2 million for Warner in its second weekend. Headed for the cheap theaters is New Line's Barbershop, which will finish near $70 million, guaranteeing a sequel and a special-edition DVD. And where's Sony's Swept Away starring Madonna? After flatlining in limited release, it won't be getting any additional venues, making it a $10 million art film/vanity project for director Guy Ritchie and his new wife. Can't wait for the commentary track on that one.
Arriving in cineplexes this Friday is Jonathan Demme's Charade remake The Truth About Charlie starring Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton, as well as the horror flick Ghost Ship with Julianna Margulies and Gabriel Byrne, and MTV's Jackass: The Movie. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: D.K. Holm has posted a sneak-preview of Criterion's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, while Greg Dorr recently looked at Republic/Artisan's High Noon: Collector's Edition, and Mark Bourne spun Paramount's two-disc Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Special Edition. New reviews from the rest of the gang this week include Y Tu Mamá También, Jason X: Platinum Series, Mr. Deeds, Scotland PA, The Quiet Man: Collector's Edition, Rio Grande: Collector's Edition, and Wes Craven Presents: Don't Look Down. It's all fresh under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, or use our search engine to scan our entire DVD reviews database.
We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.
Thursday, 17 Oct. 2002
Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Criterion's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and more. In the meantime, if you haven't entered our totally free DVD contest for a copy of Unforgiven: 10th Anniversary Edition, 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.
Have a great weekend gang back on Monday.
Quotable: "We received a huge response from fans who adore E.T. and wanted to own both versions of the film but weren't planning to buy the Ultimate Collector's Gift Set."
Universal Studios Home Video president Craig
"It's a public hanging by the critics, an assassination. Give the girl a break already! Stop being so mean! I can't believe the level of rage being directed against her. It's a sad state that these critics are taking such joy in it."
Madonna's spokesperson Liz Rosenberg, on the
Russell Crowe, in The New York Times.
"Someday, what I'd really love to (direct) is a film of Paradise Lost, though I'd have no idea of how to do it. When I read Milton as a kid, it seemed like the greatest piece of science fiction ever written. The story made total sense to me: I mean, there's the Devil and all he's really trying to do is get back home. But whenever I've mentioned the idea about adapting it to the screen, people look at me crosseyed. And right now, the devil is the kind of thing you don't bring up in America."
Tim Roth, in London's The Guardian.
"She asked me to explain my movie to her. And I said, 'Well it's all about my family and they're right there.' And the whole family went, 'Whoo!' and waved and she smiled and waved back.... She said, 'Well, you know Phil is Greek.' She asked how big my family was and I said I have 27 cousins, and she said 'I have 23.'"
My Big Fat Greek Wedding writer/star Nia
Wednesday, 16 Oct. 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 couple of reader comments from this week:
25 x 5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones was released on VHS by CBS Music Video in 1989. It's an excellent documentary on the Stones, except for the rush-job on everything post-Mick Jones era. However, my copy is dead dead dead, thanks to the cheap tape they used to fit the whole 130 minutes on one cassette. (Couldn't they have just lopped off the lame "Rock and a Hard Place" video?)
I'm 99% sure the Stones own this film, so I can't imagine any rights issues associated with it. But unless they are going to add to it, or make a new retrospective, what could be holding this title up? I have noticed the Stones have always ignored their films (at least the ones they apparently own). And I don't care if Let's Spend the Night Together ever makes it to DVD. But a few important titles such as 25 x 5 are not to be found anywhere. What's the story?
Good point, Chad with The Beatles' return to DVD on Miramax's A Hard Day's Night and the long-expected DVD release of The Beatles Anthology possibly on the horizon, it's clear that there's no lack of consumer interest in boomer-generation rock-and-roll. The Who are also preparing their definitive documentary The Kids Are Alright for a remastered DVD release, which is in the queue at Pioneer. Which only begs the question if the three greatest British rock bands of the '60s and beyond were The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, why haven't we seen any decent DVD product over the past several years from Mick, Keith, & Co.?
Ironically, while The Beatles and The Who appear to maintain an active interest in their film/video holdings, the Rolling Stones probably have released more actual home-video product than either. Still getting airplay and touring these many years later, Mick Jagger for one has never been shy about earning a few quid, and we've seen a small stack of Stones offerings on VHS. The titles Rolling On and Video Rewind currently are out of print, and while it appears Bridges to Babylon is tough to find on tape, the DVD is still available. Also on VHS (but not DVD) is The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus, a TV special the Stones produced in 1968 but held back from home video until 1996. Any of these can be found on eBay for reasonable cash as well.
But look for The Rolling Stones on DVD and the only significant title in print is Criterion's Gimme Shelter a documentary not owned not by the Stones. Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, it certainly is one of the most powerful cinematic statements ever made about rock-and-roll and its consequences, and one suspects that if Mick Jagger actually had control over it he might prefer it never found its way to DVD. It's a must-own disc for anybody interested in the band or the era, and far outclasses two Stones DVDs that are out of print at this time, Live at the Max and Voodoo Lounge.
But none of these titles really are retrospective documentaries in the vein of The Beatles Anthology or The Kids Are Alright. To the best of our knowledge, the only time such a project has been mounted with full cooperation of The Rolling Stones is the one on your dilapidated videotape 25 x 5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones, a 1989 television film directed by Nigel Finch and co-produced by Lorne Michaels and Andrew Solt. Mick, Keith, Ron Wood, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman (before he left the band) lend their comments, along with archival interviews from original guitarist Brian Jones and his replacement Mick Taylor (the lesser-known Stone who contributed between 1969 and 1973). 25 x 5 is full of archival concert footage as well, including early shots on "Ready, Steady, Go," "Shindig," and "The Ed Sullivan Show," footage from the "Rock and Roll Circus", and snippets from various concert films, most of them hard to find nowadays (Gimme Shelter excluded). It's a Stones-lover's treasure trove, and while the band is still hard at work, nobody can say if they will ever attempt another project like this again. What's more, snobby Stones fans might even have the temerity to suggest that the band hasn't done anything interesting enough since the mid-'80s to bother. (After all, what was the last truly good Stones album Tattoo You?)
We agree it's likely that the Rolling Stones have a controlling interest in, or outright ownership of, 25 x 5 we certainly don't think Mick and Keith would talk on camera for a film they didn't have a stake in, and both The Beatles and The Who are proprietors of their flagship documentaries. But that doesn't preclude the possibly of certain rights issues, particularly in regard to all of the television and concert footage. However, even if that is the case, at this time we're more inclined to believe that the band simply doesn't have enough interest in the film to usher it on to DVD, or that a re-release would not be profitable enough to bother. For the moment, the VHS tape can be found on eBay, where it closes in the street-retail range.
And for you serious collectors out there, we have a few more tempting carrots to dangle:
And then there's Cocksucker Blues. The documentary by Robert Frank follows the Stones on their post-Altamont tour of America in 1972. It has never been released in its original form, and by all accounts that's because of the Stones themselves. With concert footage captured in color, the rest of the documentary is a black-and-white affair told in verité style the band parties and gets inebriated, and Keith even lobs a television out of a hotel window, but much of the footage concerns the group doing what all touring groups simply do in the end: kill time between concerts. Some viewers have found it fascinating, others boring. In any event, the Stones didn't care for the finished project. Reportedly it is sealed under court order and cannot be screened unless the director is present. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones (1973), a concert film directed by Rollin Binzer, later utilized footage from the 1972 Fort Worth and Houston concerts and did get a theatrical release (of course, this has never been released on home-video either).
Still reading? It's off to eBay then, where DVD copies of Cocksucker Blues and Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones turn up from time to time. You are free to speculate on their respective provenances and risk your cash on their overall qualities.
(And don't bother using the word "cocksucker" in your search-phrase, 'cause that won't get you anywhere. Not on eBay at least.)
Just FYI, I went ahead and bought the Brazilian release on eBay, for $16.50 (plus around $9 shipping from Sau Paulo). It arrived last week, and I watched it on Saturday night. I still have no idea if it was officially licensed or simply a bootleg, but I'm glad I have it. I'd only seen it on VHS previously, so this was my first viewing in widescreen, and that alone was worth the purchase. The print itself looks very good, and I have to believe there was some work involved to get it looking so nice. Whether it's up to the standards of Criterion, I'm not sure, and the credits were left with a scratchy, "old movie" look. The extras are minimal: a story synopsis (in Portuguese only), plus bios of Fellini and Mastroianni, also in Portuguese only. The subtitles are erratic in translation and grammar and somewhat distracting as a result; they must have been done by someone with a limited grasp of English. The (not infrequent) instances of English spoken in the film are also subtitled.
Nevertheless, for La Dolce Vita fans, it's a good place-holder for the collection until Criterion acts.
Thanks for writing back Tim enjoy that disc!
Top of the Pops: You picked 'em here's the most-accessed reviews on The DVD Journal over the past week. Click the links to read our reviews of these discs and remember, there are no pop-up ads anywhere on The DVD Journal thanks to our readers who use our links to buy new DVDs at Ken Crane's DVDPlanet.com. Thanks for pitching in.
See ya later.
Tuesday, 15 Oct. 2002
On the Street: Warner stands tall on the street-list this week with Christopher Nolan's Insomnia, which offers not only a great film starring the inimitable Al Pacino, but a one-on-one interview between the director and his star, as well as a commentary track presented in the order of the shooting script (wow, innovative DVD content how 'bout that?) MGM is on the board with John Woo's underrated Windtalkers starring Nicolas Cage, while their catalog dump this time around includes such titles as Exodus, Casino Royale, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming , and The World of Henry Orient. Those looking for a lightweight romance might want to spin Fox's Life or Something Like It starring Angelina Jolie and Edward Burns we also thought Fox's The Rats was an acceptable B-grade horror flick. Goofy comedy can be found with Buena Vista's Sorority Boys, while Stalker and All Monsters Attack! are ready to order from Image. And you TV junkies have another big one this week, the six-disc Law and Order: The First Year. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 14 Oct. 2002
Disc of the Week: Sometimes called the "dime-store Dostoyevsky," influential pulp novelist Jim Thompson had an unerring talent for letting his readers inside the minds of his characters characters who were often paranoid, conflicted, and usually had deeply Freudian mommy issues. The public's hunger for pulp crime in the 1950s was good to Thompson, who wrote 16 books in that decade, starting with 1952's intensely creepy The Killer Inside Me, a hard-boiled first-person account of a pathological killer (which was transformed into a tepid 1976 film starring Stacy Keach) and ending with The Getaway in 1959. Like many successful novelists, Thompson found work toiling behind-the-scenes on Hollywood scripts, most notably for Stanley Kubrick on The Killing and Paths of Glory. A sheriff's son from Oklahoma, Thompson never was a Hollywood bigshot. However, according to Robert Polito's excellent 1995 biography of Thompson, Savage Art, the writer "loved the idea of Hollywood, especially the old Hollywood that endured around such vintage establishments as Musso & Frank's Grill. But he never understood the workings of the film industry, never would be mistaken for an insider." He worked on TV series for awhile in the '60s ("Dr. Kildare," "Combat!") and saw big-screen adaptations of his novel The Getaway in addition to The Killer Inside Me. But the real swell of interest came after his death in 1977, with the '80s and '90s seeing adaptations of his books Pop. 1280, Kill-Off, A Swell-Looking Babe (adapted as Hit Me), After Dark, My Sweet, and a re-make of The Getaway. The best of the bunch is The Grifters (1990), adapted by crime writer Donald E. Westlake, produced by Martin Scorsese, and directed by Stephen Frears.
This dazzling piece of stylized, modern film noir follows three "grifters" (i.e., con artists) embroiled in an ill-fated and creepy love triangle. John Cusack is at his best as Roy Dillon, a small-time conman who nickel-and-dimes his way around town pulling $20-bill switches on bartenders. Dillon is torn between two women: Myra Langtry (Annette Bening), a sticky-sexy grifter who's a lot harder and colder than Roy realizes, and his mother, Lily (Anjelica Huston), a lifelong grifter who had Roy at 14 and abandoned him. Both women want Roy's talents and his love and when they meet in Roy's hospital room after he runs afoul of a potential con, the claws come out. Myra and Lily are savvier than Roy and they have much more at stake than him, leaving the poor, dumb sucker outclassed on both sides. Torn between his attraction to Myra, his intense Oedipal attachment to Lily, and his desire for independence, Roy's predicament becomes increasingly tense and complex, leading to a brutal and surprising conclusion.
A dark, twisted, powerful film, The Grifters wins on every level whip-smart noir writing by Westlake ("He's so crooked he could eat soup with a corkscrew"), assured direction by Frears, and phenomenal acting by all involved. Cusack is compelling, playing Roy as a weak-willed kid acting the grown-up, burning with more ambition than talent and unable to escape his mother's towering shadow. Bening's Myra is both alluring and revolting, a genuine monster who seems sweet and vulnerable but lacks any sort of conscience. The powerhouse here, though, is Huston. She makes Lily surprisingly sympathetic, hateful as she is; she genuinely seems to love Roy and regret their past, even as she deliberately stirs up both his deep-seated hatred for her and their perverse sexual attraction, all in the name of getting what she wants. It's a subtly nuanced performance, and perhaps the best work of her career. Frears colors in the rest of his noir storybook with character actors such as Pat Hingle, J.T. Walsh, Henry Jones, and Charles Napier, giving The Grifters the feel of a timeless classic. It's an amazing film, with every detail pointing to the tragic, inevitable conclusion as the web of consequences closes in on Cusack's hero/victim.
Buena Vista's new DVD release of The Grifters part of Miramax's "Collector's Series" imprint replaces an earlier, bare-bones HBO disc. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is very good with a sharp Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. On board is a terrific, chatty commentary track with Frears, Westlake, Cusack, and Huston, "The Making of The Grifters" behind-the-scenes featurette showcasing an exceptionally frazzled-looking Frears (16 min.), "The Jim Thompson Story" featuring biographer Polito and screenwriter Westlake (8 min.), and production and publicity stills. The Grifters: Collector's Series is on the street now.
Box Office: A wide slate of new films arrived in cineplexes over the weekend, but none could remove Hannibal Lecter from the top spot Universal's Red Dragon starring Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton racked up $17.6 million in its second weekend to retain first place, pushing its 10-day total to $63.2 million. Buena Vista's Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon was also solid, holding down second with $14.1 million and a three-week gross of $85 million. The strongest debut came from Fox Searchlight's Brown Sugar starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan, which landed in third place with $11.5 million, while Fox's action-flick The Transporter wound up in fourth with $9.1 million. Placing further down the chart were White Oleander ($5.6m), Tuck Everlasting ($5.5m), Knockaround Guys ($5.0m,), and The Rules of Attraction ($2.4m). Of all new films, White Oleander and Brown Sugar received the best reviews from critics.
In continuing release, My Big Fat Greek Wedding marked another milestone by crossing its 26th weekend in theaters IFC Films' slow-burn hit has been playing for six solid months and holds a blistering $158.3 million gross for a movie that only had a $5 million budget. DreamWorks' The Tuxedo starring Jackie Chan did well among the newcomers, falling to sixth place with a $37 million cume. And while MGM's Barbershop may be slipping away, its $65 million total is music to New Line's ears. Meanwhile, on the way to DVD prep is M. Night Shyamalan's Signs, which will finish above $225 million for Buena Vista.
New films debuting nationwide this Friday include the thriller Abandon with Benjamin Bratt and Katie Holmes, Formula 51 starring Samuel L. Jackson, and The Ring with Naomi Watts. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: D.K. Holm has posted a sneak-preview of Warner's Insomnia, while Greg Dorr recently looked at Disney's two-disc Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition. New stuff from the rest of the gang this week includes Windtalkers, Casino Royale, Life or Something Like It, Flashdance, The Rats, Germany Year Zero, Footloose, The Grifters: Collector's Series, and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Everything's been added to the New Reviews menu here on the front page you can find even more DVD reviews with our handy search engine right above it.
We'll be back tomorrow with the rundown on this week's street discs.
Thursday, 10 Oct. 2002
Coming Attractions: Another fresh stack of DVDs awaits us in the screening room, and new reviews on the way include Insomnia, Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition, and more. We'll see ya Monday have a great weekend.
Quotable: "I did not say I support a war with Iraq. I was asked a question about (Minority Report) and its subject matter which deals with stopping murders before they can be committed. It led to a question as to whether or not there was a parallel with Iraq. I replied that the film is science fiction and Iraq is a reality. I do not have access to information that only the President has which might cause me to take a different position. In any case, it was never my intention to give an endorsement of any kind."
Steven Spielberg, in a statement denying reports
"I despise (President Bush) and his entire administration not only because of its international policy, but also the national. It makes me feel ashamed to come from the United States it's humiliating."
Jessica Lange at the San Sebastian Film Festival
Paul Thomas Anderson, on his latest film Punch-
"Alec as a person was almost invisible. He was like one of those dolls which I remember from when I was a kid, on which you would hang different things to make them a soldier, or a pilot..... The diffident, the introvert side of him is something that's been slightly questioned. Was he doing a Greta Garbo, telling the world he wanted to be alone but wanting to be a star? No. Alec was self-effacing, and that was genuine. But he was an extremely difficult person to know. There is a kind of loneliness in his performances, which is him in life. I very much doubt even if his wife really knew him. I got fairly close to him, but I didn't really know him. Nobody did."
Director Ronald Neame, recalling Alec Guinness
Wednesday, 9 Oct. 2002
We agree, Adam Alain Resnais may not be as well known as Steven Spielberg to American audiences, but he was one of the founding directors of the French New Wave, and he has built an interesting body of work over several decades. A few of his more notable films are already on DVD, including Last Year at Marienbad (1961), La Guerre est finie (1966), Stavisky (1974), and Mon Oncle d'amerique (1980). But the fact that 1959's Hiroshima, Mon Amour is nowhere in sight is a bit puzzling.
While the French New Wave may be notable for the directors such as Françios Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Claude Chabrol who transitioned from careers as working film critics (for Cahiers du cinéma) to shooting their own highly influential, low-budget pictures, Resnais was making short movies and documentaries years before the New Wave arrived, as well as working as a cinematographer and editor on other projects. However, his first 35mm film was Hiroshima, Mon Amour, a challenging examination of love and loss that was shot on location both in France and Japan. And it was with this picture that Resnais firmly established himself in the New Wave camp, with a non-standard narrative and rapid jump-cutting to convey a richly textured story (from a script by Marguerite Duras). Along with The 400 Blows (1959) and Breathless (1959), it is one of the most important French films of the era.
At the moment Hiroshima, Mon Amour is not a lost film four separate companies had a hand in the original production, and Home Vision Entertainment currently has a VHS in release in North America (see inset). That's good news, because Home Vision has a strong track record of bringing world cinema to DVD, and they also distribute The Criterion Collection. We are not aware of any Laserdisc release of Hiroshima, Mon Amour, and for some folks that videotape might be a good choice. In the meantime, we are hoping there are no barriers to Home Vision getting a DVD on the street with acceptable source materials, and possibly a few extras.
Thanks a bunch Al we knew someday as adults we'd actually have to do the math we swore in high school we'd never need.
There is virtually no way that anyone can say with any real authority how many movies have been produced since the dawn of motion pictures, or in fact just what would constitute a "movie" under strict definitions. Therefore, we will turn to the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), a wonderful source of collective Internet research. For several years the IMDb's staff has been compiling data on movies submitted by the site's users or in other words, a whole lot of people contribute info, and the staff sorts it all out.
Currently, the IMDb lists 251,216 films that have been released theatrically worldwide, with an additional 18,997 direct-to-video movies, 30,832 made-for-TV movies, and 2,807 miniseries giving us an initial total of 303,852 potential DVD titles.
But it's important to note that many, many silent films that are now lost are listed in the IMDb, based on whatever information is available. It's been estimated that as much as 80% of all silents (all on combustible nitrate stock) were allowed to decompose or were intentionally destroyed by studios. At the risk of mixing sources, "The Complete Index to World Film since 1895" CD-ROM also lists over 300,000 entries, and it claims that 100,179 are silents. We then could roughly extract 80,000 titles from the IMDB database and be left with 223,852 titles (unfortunately, we could not find specific data on silent films on the IMDb itself).
The IMDb also tracks a "DVD Details" page for each title that has a corresponding DVD release at the moment this is 10,944 discs. A little quick math and something between four and five percent of all cataloged movie titles that could be on DVD currently are on DVD.
And to our regret, that 95% of dark matter still includes The African Queen, The Rules of the Game, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, King Kong, Blow Up, The Magnificent Ambersons, Bringing Up Baby, and too many more to ponder.
Top of the Pops: You picked 'em here's the most-accessed reviews on The DVD Journal over the past week. Click the links to read our reviews of these discs and remember, we keep annoying Internet advertising to a minimum on The DVD Journal thanks to our readers who use our links to buy new DVDs at Ken Crane's DVDPlanet.com. Thanks for helping us keep the pop-ups down.
Bye for now.
Tuesday, 8 Oct. 2002
On the Street: If your bank account has taken a hit over the past week or two, this may be the week to give your DVD budget a break. Then again, it's likely everybody will find at least one or two things worth their time. Buena Vista's lineup today includes the "Platinum Edition" release of Beauty and the Beast, a two-disc set with a limited run, while catalog items include Alive and Billy Bathgate. Paramount's getting all of their major John Travolta properties out the door this week as well, including Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy, and Staying Alive, and those of you in the mood for an '80s rewind won't want to miss Flashdance and Footloose (we won't tell anybody you spun 'em promise). Jennifer Lopez's latest movie, Enough, is out from Columbia TriStar, as well as Christopher Guest's Tinseltown spoof The Big Picture, while New Line's pre-Halloween offerings include Jason X: Platinum Series and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Serious anime fans and newcomers alike should give the powerful Grave of the Fireflies a look. And getting an unusual Friday street date this week is Warner's live-action Scooby-Doo. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 7 Oct. 2002
And the winner is: Alden Clement of Reserve, La., wins the free Outer Limits DVD set from our September contest. Congrats, Alden!
Our totally free DVD contest for the month of October is up and running, and we have a copy of Warner's Unforgiven: 10th Anniversary Edition 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: Anime has become such a geeks-only niche genre that it's hard for novices to know where to start. For every film by Hayao Miyazaki or crossover efforts like Metropolis and Akira, there are plenty that will just as easily alienate the curious. And unsuspecting parents looking for something cute would be horrified if they stumbled over a title like UrotsukidUji: The Legend of the Overfiend. Even as Japanese animation becomes more and more influential in our popular culture (one need not look too much further than The Powerpuff Girls), it's not always easy to classify. In part this is because modern American animation, as exemplified by Disney's films, achieves a sort of transcendent beauty in its falseness, and only occasionally do our American pictures hope to be thought-provoking (as in Richard Linklater's pretentious Waking Life). Anime, on the other hand, can be more than talking tigers and faux-philosophy and Isao Takahata's 1988 Grave of the Fireflies is a good example of the form at its best. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, the movie is an emotionally rounded work that illustrates the effect that war has on children it's as gripping as a live action film, if not more so.
Beginning with his death, Seita (voiced in Japanese by Tsutomu Tatsumi and in English by J. Robert Spencer) tells of his demise. As World War II is drawing to a close and with his father in the Navy, Seita lives with his mom (Yoshiko Shinohara/Veronica Taylor) and sister Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi/Rhoda Chrosite) in the small Japanese port town Kobe. But his childhood comes to an abrupt end when bombing runs leave their home in ruins, and his mother fatally covered in burns. Knowing his mother's fate but keeping it from his younger sister, Seita travels with Setsuko to see a distant aunt who takes them both in. But she's not happy to have the two children, and she doesn't treat them as kindly as she does her tenants. However, Seita is a strong-willed boy, and soon he abandons his aunt's lodgings, taking Setsuko with him into the countryside, where they live off what little money they have and steal anything else. For a while the two siblings play as children do, but Seita can't look after all of their needs. And before long the situation goes from bad to worse.
A powerful document about children as overlooked casualties of war, what's most obvious while watching Grave of the Fireflies is that it had to be animated it would be too difficult, or too false, or too cloying to tell the story with child actors. But thanks to the animation, viewers can grasp the truths of Takahata's film without being alienated by the subject-matter. Furthermore, the animation doesn't only act as a buffer during the movie's harsher moments, but it also reveals beauty, even in the worst of situations (the bombing of Kobe is especially gorgeous, as the firebombs look like fireflies). The film is filled with many of these beautiful scenes the sort that audiences have become accustomed to in animated films but here they're burdened with a quiet sense of mourning. In the picture's centerpiece, Seita and Setsuko capture a large amount of fireflies to fill their tent, and the two are playfully illuminated. But by the next morning Setsuko must bury the dead fireflies, when she reveals to Seita that she knows their mother is dead. Grave of the Fireflies uses these short strokes and details of life as its foundation, and as Roger Ebert points out in his interview on the DVD, its the type of film that belongs more to the Neo-realist school than any animated genre. In fact, both the influence of postwar Italian directors, as well as humanist Japanese filmmakers such as Kon Ichikawa and Masaki Kobayashi, contribute to this masterful piece of antiwar cinema.
Central Park Media's new two-disc Collector's Series release of Grave of Fireflies presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), and thankfully it's a stunning transfer. The Dolby 2.0 stereo audio is available in both dubbed English and the original Japanese (with optional English subtitles). Also included on Disc One is the entire film shown via the director's storyboards, as well as eight bonus trailers. Disc Two features an interview with Roger Ebert, who has long been a supporter of the film and has screened it at one of his "forgotten film festivals" (12 min.); an interview with director Isao Takahata (18 min.); a Japanese promo for the film (6 min.); and a featurette on the picture's historical background with authors Theodore F. Cook and Haruki Taya Cook (12 min.). Also on board are a comparison between the locations used in the film and their real counterparts, a featurette on the restoration, bonus storyboards, the U.S. and Japanese trailers, biographies for both Takahana and author Nosaka, and eight more bonus trailers. Grave of the Fireflies: Collector's Series is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: The busy autumn theatrical slate was launched over the weekend, and Universal's Red Dragon led the way the latest Hannibal Lecter film (starring Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton, and based on the first book in the series) took in $37.5 million over the past three days, giving it the best opening of any film in October. As expected, Artisan's Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie had a smaller debut, with the animated family picture earning $6.5 million. And Buena Vista's Moonlight Mile starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Susan Sarandon found its way into the top ten in its second week, adding $2 million to a $2.4 million total. Red Dragon, Jonah, and Moonlight Mile all earned mixed-to-positive reviews from critics.
In continuing release, last week's winner Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon had a strong second frame, garnering $21.6 million and pushing its 10-day total to $65.6 million. DreamWorks' The Tuxedo with Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt also held strong, dropping to third place with $28.1 million so far. MGM's semi-controversial Barbershop has cracked $60 million after one month, but nonetheless slipped behind IFC Films' My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which refuses to leave the top five and now holds a $147.9 million cume. In the meantime, Paramount's The Four Feathers is fading away with just $15.5 million after three weeks. And off the charts is a trio of late-summer non-starters Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Stealing Harvard, and Trapped all failed to impress critics or draw crowds.
Six films will go wide this weekend, including White Oleander starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Knockaround Guys with Vin Diesel and Seth Green, Brown Sugar starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan, campus satire The Rules of Attraction, action flick The Transporter, and teen romance Tuck Everlasting. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Greg Dorr has posted a new review of Paramount's Saturday Night Fever: 25th Anniversary Edition, while Mark Bourne recently looked at Warner's two-disc Singin' in the Rain: 50th Anniversary Edition. New reviews this week from the rest of the gang include Scooby-Doo, Enough, Urban Cowboy, The Big Picture, Staying Alive, Little Nikita, Johnson County War, Joyride, Grave of the Fireflies: Collector's Series, and the double-feature Missing in Action 2: The Beginning/ Braddock: Missing in Action III. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page or use our search engine to rewind into some DVD reviews from months past.
Back tomorrow with the street discs.
Thursday, 3 Oct. 2002
On the Block: Our latest round of DVD auction rankings at eBay is in, and after recent challenges from newcomers, Criterion's Salo has firmly reclaimed the top spot on the chart with one sealed copy taking $865.32 after a blistering 17-bid session. Coming in further behind were the limited-issue Texas concert DVD from Russell Crowe's Thirty-Odd Foot of Grunts ($455.00), as well as last month's winner, The THX Ultimate Demo Disc ($359.00), which mostly is being offered from European sellers. New to the chart is Paramount's The History of Beavis and Butt-Head, which was pulled from the release schedule, but not before a few retail copies got out the door one of which cleared $300.00 for one lucky seller in a quick "Buy It Now" auction. Our Criterion regulars are still here of course, including The Killer ($240.50), The 400 Blows ($229.00), and This Is Spinal Tap ($149.99), and the recently OOP M. Hulot's Holiday managed to earn $132.52. Of course, just because a DVD has been re-issued doesn't mean the original has lost value with collectors Godfrey Reggio's private release of Koyaanisqatsi scored $182.00, while the MPI edition of A Hard Day's Night took in a fab $137.50. And if you're a Buffy fan, one notable rarity still ain't cheap the single-episode Once More, With Feeling DVD had a fang-tastic $250.00 hammer-price this time around.
Here's the highest recent closing prices of rare and out-of-print DVDs from online auctions at eBay:
Reader talkback: A few readers got in touch with us yesterday to fill in some Mailbag details:
Thanks James after following up with Image Entertainment, we also note that Ruscico is producing and promoting their DVD titles in Region 1, with Image acting as the retail distributor. Like Stalker, this War and Peace can be considered a Ruscico release.
FYI, for Ebay bidders, the print isn't the best.
Thanks guys for taking the time to write.
Quotable: "Showbiz people don't know what to make of George 'Dubya' Bush after two years. The reason is that the Bush White House is the antithesis of showbiz. There are no grandiose state dinners, no glitzy commemorations. The Bush White House resembles the Bush ranch: It's arid. Dubya rarely runs movies. Unlike Ronald Reagan, he doesn't hang with movie stars. Unlike Bill Clinton, he doesn't covet the company of studio or network chiefs.... (Bush) makes speeches about defending our free society, but doesn't demonstrate much interest in that society. That explains why the emails are starting to fly and why the Hollywood 'chatter' is proliferating along with the terrorist 'chatter.' War may be in the Bushies' script, but Hollywood wants script approval."
Daily Variety editor Peter Bart
Francis Ford Coppola, speaking to London's The
"When we made the film and then watched it for the first time, these 20 minutes were in the film. But it was being released at the time when MTV was hitting the airwaves. To expect an audience to sit for over three hours and watch a period film about classical music, we just thought we better cut anything that doesn't push the plot forward. This just brings the movie back to where we originally had it."
Milos Forman, speaking at the theatrical debut
"We admire him in a secret way. He represents the unspeakable part of ourselves, the fantasy, desires and dark areas of our lives that are slightly unacceptable to us, but actually healthy, if only we acknowledge them. Perhaps, we'd like to be as daredevil as him. But admiring him doesn't mean we're deeply disturbed, sick people. It means that we're human."
Anthony Hopkins, who plays the role of Hannibal
"I'd like to (travel into space), I don't want to pay $24 million. I'd rather be invited to go."
Pilot and NASA buff Tom Cruise
Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Saturday Night Fever, Scooby Doo and more. This also will be the last weekend to enter this month's totally free DVD contest for a copy of The Outer Limits, 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.
Enjoy the weekend we're back on Monday.
Wednesday, 2 Oct. 2002
To be certain, "The Running Jumping Standing Still Film" can be seen on Miramax's new two-disc release of A Hard Day's Night the only problem is that only a few portions are shown during an interview with director Richard Lester, rather than the entire 11-minute short. And considering that this particular Beatles DVD was a long time in the making, perhaps it's a bit puzzling why the film could not be included in its entirety.
As for any suspected rights issues associated with the 1959 short, there appear to be virtually none. There was no production company, no crew, and no budget. And for that matter, no script either. As legend has it, Peter Sellers who first became famous as a radio star in Britain on "The Goon Show" purchased a 16mm movie camera (another legend says it was Goons cohort Spike Milligan who bought the new toy). Richard Lester was good friends with the troupe and had directed their television specials. Thus, he was recruited behind the camera as Sellers, Milligan, and Leo McKern proceeded to improvise several slapstick vignettes, which Lester later edited and scored. As a pure experiment, it was never meant for any public release.
However, "Running, Jumping" didn't stay still either. Like the original "South Park" short (an Internet sensation before the television show was green-lighted), the Goons' movie-making lark had a few private showings, and eventually it was sent to an American film festival. No doubt to everyone's surprise, it later was nominated for an Oscar in 1960 in the Best Short Subject category.
The Internet Movie Database does not list any single person or party as the film's owner, but it's likely Richard Lester has some say with the property. Furthermore, if there was a rights issue associated with "Running, Jumping" not appearing on Miramax's DVD, then those few brief clips would be absent too. Instead, it appears that Miramax originally intended to include the short in its entirety, but such did not materialize. To make matters more confusing, several eBay auctions offering the new two-disc set quote early release info (apparently from Miramax) that says the short is on board which means some folks will be surprised when they can't find it on any of the menus.
Therefore, if the entire "Running, Jumping, and Standing Still Film" is what you must have, you'll be looking elsewhere. We are not aware of any home-video item with just the short itself, but it's likely it has turned up from time to time on several VHS anthologies. The original DVD release of A Hard Day's Night from MPI Home Video (see inset) also has "Running, Jumping" as a supplement. Unfortunately, the DVD is still trading for big money on eBay closing well above $100 and we don't expect the price to drop all that much in coming months. For starters, it includes extra features that are not on the Miramax edition, including the Goons' short, newsreels, and restoration info. It also has the original monaural soundtrack with discrete stereo for the featured songs. We noted in our review that we thought Miramax's new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix was enjoyable but let it be known that many fans do not appreciate surround mixes when it comes to the Beatles' music. The MPI disc will remain collectible for some time yet.
Which leaves just two more options: Criterion's 1987 Laserdisc release of A Hard Day's Night includes "Running, Jumping," and for audio purists it will make a nice alternative to Miramax's DVD. But if you're just looking for the Goons' short, hunt on eBay for the "Special Edition" MPI videotape of A Hard Day's Night. This also has "Running, Jumping" tacked on to the end, and at the moment it's closing at reasonable bids.
Interestingly, the cover they've reproduced shows a Ruscico release. Ruscico (Russian Cinema Council, www.ruscico.com/about_eng.php) is a rather ill-defined Russian company that, with other countries involved, produces video and DVD editions of Russian films for limited international release. Maybe Image has licensed to distribute their stuff. If so, it looks like they've got other goodies either planned or released that Image should put out there.
I am hoping that Kultur will release the Russian language version with English subtitles. Currently, on VHS, they offer both the dubbed and Russian versions. U.S. audiences saw the dubbed version on the screen and on television in the '70s, and the dubbing was abysmal, especially in the case of Natasha, who ended up sounding like an over-miked Sandra Dee. The Russian-language version also dispenses with the laborious introductory sequences (designed to ease American audiences into the complex array of characters) that open both parts of the dubbed edit, and thus may gain a little footage from the original cut.
In any case, the DVDs can only improve the visuals, which suffer badly on tape but no one can expect miracles. Bondarchuk's achievement lay mostly in his being able to carry out Selznick-like directives in his visualizing of remarkably literal (but extremely moving) equivalents to many sequences from a seemingly unfilmable book. The casting is flawless, especially in Bondarchuk's Pierre, even though the director looks about 20 years too old for the part. But as a director, Bondarchuk was no David Lean, nor did he have state-of-the-art technology available to him. In spite of some massive spectacle i.e., the battle scenes this film seemed a roughshod affair even when it was in the theaters. I forgave it its technical limitations immediately and fell in love with it. But because of these technical limitations, it hasn't fared well on VHS and needs a lot of care in its transfer to disc.
Thanks for the input Gordon. We don't have any official information yet from Image Entertainment on their DVD release of War and Peace, and at last check the title had not been added to their DVD database. But it appears to be on the way, which is good news for the film's fans.
We will note for the record that (according to IMDb.com), there are three known cuts of Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace the American version (360 min.), the Russian quartet of films (403 min.), and a further "Director's Cut" (507 min.). Kultur's DVD apparently will be the American cut, although they claim it will have the original Russian audio with English subtitles. Image's DVD will run 403 min. At this point it doesn't look like either vendor has access to the 507 min. version.
Finally, to make things really tricky, Kultur's three-disc set is scheduled to arrive on Nov. 26. Image's four-disc box is expected on Dec. 3. And another War and Peace will arrive on Dec. 3 the 1956 version directed by King Vidor.
Top of the Pops: You picked 'em here's the most-accessed reviews on The DVD Journal over the past week. Click the links to read our reviews of these discs and remember, we keep annoying Internet advertising to a minimum on The DVD Journal thanks to our readers who use our links to buy new DVDs at Ken Crane's DVDPlanet.com. Thanks for pitching in.
See ya later.
Tuesday, 1 Oct. 2002
On the Street: Universal has an odd pair of titles on the street this morning The Scorpion King starring The Rock is sure to be a big seller, although were hoping folks also give Christophe Gans' unusual Brotherhood of the Wolf a spin. Meanwhile, Columbia TriStar is serving up a classic thriller with William Wyler's The Collector starring Terrence Stamp and Samantha Eggar. But beyond that, it's all library stuff from Warner today, and they have a lot. Golden Age classics include Auntie Mame, The Shop Around the Corner, and The Thin Man, while Hammer horror can be had with The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula. A few back-catalog items from Clint Eastwood are here as well, including A Perfect World, Firefox, and Heartbreak Ridge, and at least a few hosers are going to buy the Bob and Doug MacKenzie saga Strange Brew. And one thing this morning is pretty hard to miss in addition to all of the above, Warner has no less than nine new Dr. Who platters on the shelves this week. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment: