News and Commentary: November 2002

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Tuesday, 26 Nov. 2002

In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

  • We've been hearing for some time that Fox has been planning a special-edition release of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the good news is that a street-date has been confirmed. Along with a new transfer, features will include a commentary from director Robert Wise (who will be joined by Nicolas Meyer), a "making-of" documentary, stills, trailers, a newsreel, and a restoration comparison. But wait, there's more — also on the slate is Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1981 Quest for Fire (aka "La guerre du feu"), which will sport several still-galleries and a commentary from director Annaud and actors Ron Pearlman and Rae Dawn Chong. And if that isn't enough, the 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth starring James Mason and Pat Boone is set to go digital as well with a restored print in the original CinemaScope aspect ratio. All three are here on March 4.

  • Sam Mendes' Road to Perdition now has a street-date from DreamWorks, and we can look forward to a commentary from Mendes, deleted scenes, and a "making-of" doc. The Oscars aren't that far away — this one's timed to arrive on Feb. 25.

  • It's still playing in theaters around the country, but it appears home-video just can't wait — HBO will deliver IMC Films' My Big Fat Greek Wedding on Feb. 11, and we can look forward to a commentary from writer/star Nia Vardalos, co-star John Corbett, and director Joel Zwick, as well as deleted scenes.

  • Holy f*#king s%it — is Ozzy Osbourne ready for DVD? Apparently so, according to Buena Vista, who will release The Osbournes: The First Season on March 4. Expect all ten episodes as well as cast interviews, commentary tracks, a blooper reel ("To Oz for TV"), a bingo game, and an "Ozzy Translator." Both censored and uncensored versions will arrive on March 4 in spiffy two-disc sets.

  • Finally, upcoming catalog titles from Universal include The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, CB4: The Movie, American Me, North Shore, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar — all on Jan. 7.

On the Street: The long Thanksgiving Day weekend is nearly here, which means a lot of us have new DVDs to pick up for the holiday break. At the top of our list are two from Paramount, Sunset Boulevard and Roman Holiday, both presented with attractive digital restorations. Those of you looking for some all-ages fun will want to get Fox's two-disc Ice Age, and Columbia TriStar's Men in Black II is sure to move a few copies. If you're looking forward to Steven Soderbergh's remake of Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky's original is here from Criterion. And those of you planning to burn up a lot of time between now and next Sunday can get A&E's The Complete Jeeves and Wooster or Upstairs, Downstairs: The Complete Series. Even better is the BBC's History of Britain, which recently aired on The History Channel. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 34th Ryder Cup
  • Amy's O: Special Edition
  • Angela: Special Edition
  • Black Out: White Knuckle Extreme
  • Captain Fracasse
  • The Complete Jeeves and Wooster (8-disc set)
  • Curse of the Queerwolf: Special Edition
  • Depeche Mode: The Videos 86-98
  • Fast Food Fast Women
  • History of Britain: The Complete Collection (5-disc set)
  • Hollywood Hot Wheels
  • I Love Budapest
  • I Spit On Your Grave: The Millennium Edition
  • Ice Age (2-disc set)
  • Little Otik
  • Love and a Bullet
  • Lovely and Amazing: Special Edition
  • The Mahabharata
  • Mauvaise Graine
  • Medea
  • Men in Black II: Special Edition (2-disc set) (widescreen)
  • Men in Black II: Special Edition (2-disc set) (full-frame)
  • MTV Yoga
  • Roman Holiday
  • One Take
  • Overnight Sensation: Special Edition
  • A Polish Vampire in Burbank: Special Edition
  • The Price of Milk: Special Edition
  • Une Ravissante Idiote
  • Romance and Rejection
  • The Saint Set #7: Volume 13 & 14
  • See the Sea
  • Shafted!: Special Edition
  • Shoeshine
  • Solaris: The Criterion Collection
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • The Transformers: Season #2 (4-disc set)
  • Undisputed
  • Upstairs, Downstairs: The Complete Series (20-disc set)
  • Velasquez: The Painter of Painters
  • War and Peace (3-disc set) (1968)
  • When in Rome
  • World Series 2002: Major League Baseball

— Ed.

Monday, 25 Nov. 2002

boxcoverDisc of the Week: It's hardly official, but it's not a secret either — most years, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress goes to "the new girl." Both the Academy and the moviegoing public loves to fall in love, and Oscar's history is loaded with statuettes for the year's most promising actress. Unfortunately, far too often these award-winners never live up to their initial promise, subject to early success and a bit of knee-jerk infatuation, but soon brushed aside like a high-school crush. Audrey Hepburn, however, was always in a different category. For her first film, 1953's Roman Holiday, she snared the Best Actress hardware, even though she was virtually unknown before the movie's debut. But the numerous accolades she received were not without merit. The daughter of an English businessman and a Dutch socialite, Hepburn's cosmopolitan charm was no fake, nor the unusual sadness that always seemed to linger beneath the surface of her unusual beauty. Living under the German occupation of Holland during World War II, she witnessed Nazi atrocities and supported the local underground. After the war she moved to London, where she studied dance and modeling. She had bit parts in eight films before Roman Holiday, none substantial, and her first big break actually came on the stage in the Broadway production of Gigi. When director William Wyler chose her to be his star in Roman Holiday, everybody involved seem to know a legend was in the making. The Paramount lot buzzed with excitement as Edith Head began fitting her for costumes. And, entirely unusual for the day's studio-driven industry, she was billed above the film's title alongside Gregory Peck. Reportedly this was at Peck's insistence — the popular leading man knew he was about to get completely upstaged.

Roman Holiday then serves as a perfect introduction to the inimitable Ms. Hepburn, who stars as Ann, the ruling princess of a European country who is on a goodwill tour of the continent, but dislikes everything about her position and the constraints it puts on her. Nearly suffering a nervous breakdown in Rome and injected with sedatives, the downhearted royal makes an unusual bid for freedom, sneaking out of her hotel and wandering the city at night. But soon she's overcome by the sedatives and sleep, only to be found by American journalist Joe Bradley (Peck), who reluctantly takes her back to his lodgings, unaware of her identity. But after he learns that Princess Ann is actually in his care — and getting his boss to promise him $5,000 for an exclusive interview — Joe recruits his photographer buddy Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert) to help him show the wayward royal the town, and dig up a story the young, sheltered girl doesn't even know exists.

Roman Holiday was a mainstream success upon its much-ballyhooed 1953 debut, but it was a far more unusual project behind the scenes. For starters, the film's starlet was completely unknown to the public, and Paramount took a substantial risk in hoping to make Audrey Hepburn an overnight sensation (a task the actress managed with ease). Director William Wyler was an Academy Award winner, but his reputation was built primarily upon literary and theatrical adaptations, and not romantic comedies — pictures such as The Little Foxes, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Wuthering Heights were far removed from this lighthearted bit of European romance. Like Wyler, Gregory Peck was not known for light romances either, and he was selected for the part of Joe Bradley only after Cary Grant turned down the role. The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) — preparing to serve time in jail and in need of cash for his family, Trumbo wrote it quickly and earned $50,000, while writer Ian McLellan Hunter agreed to take credit in his place. And the decision to shoot entirely in Rome was an added expense — not to mention the fact that location shooting, at that time, was still a novelty for the American film industry. But the gambles paid off, with some added support. Eddie Albert is almost unrecognizable with wavy hair and a beard, but he provides good comic relief as the photographer who insists on calling the princess "Smitty." And throughout, Edith Head's costumes flatter Hepburn's winsome figure in everything from casual clothes to elaborate gowns. Taking some inspiration from Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, Roman Holiday is one of Hollywood's classic tales of star-crossed lovers, and one that would forever establish a young actress among the Tinseltown elite. Because of this one film and a heartfelt central performance, Audrey Hepburn would always seem to be a royal figure, both to her fellow actors and to her adoring public.

Paramount's new DVD release of Roman Holiday offers a crisp full-frame (1.33:1) transfer from digitally restored materials, making the film appear as pristine as it may have on its premiere night, with only a couple of brief glitches in the source material. The clean, solid monaural audio is delivered in Dolby Digital 2.0, and features are generous. Most enjoyable is the 25-min. documentary "Remembering Roman Holiday," with retrospective comments from Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert, and others. Also here is "Restoring Roman Holiday" (7 min.), which looks at the digital processes that went into getting the film ready for a DVD release. The featurette "Edith Head: The Paramount Years" (13 min.), four photo galleries, and three trailers round out the supplements. And for those of you interested in just how far Paramount was willing to go with a digital restoration, watch the opening credits closely — nearly 50 years later, Dalton Trumbo is credited with the film's story for the first time. Roman Holiday is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: Britain's top secret agent and best boy wizard had a box-office face-off over the weekend, and 007 came out on top — MGM's Die Another Day starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry nabbed the number-one spot on the chart with $47 million, which was the best raw-dollar opening for any James Bond film. Warner's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets slipped to second place after last week's win, but with a still-solid $42.3 million 10-day gross. All other films paled behind the top two, including two new arrivals — New Line's Friday After Next starring Ice Cube and Mike Epps snared a respectable $13 million, while Buena Vista's The Emperor's Club with Kevin Kline managed just $4 million. Die Another Day and The Emperor's Club earned mixed notices, while most critics skewed negative on Friday After Next.

Notably, the top four films on this week's chart are sequels or franchise titles — slipping to fourth place was Buena Vista's The Santa Clause 2 starring Tim Allen, which has cleared $95 million after one month. Universal's 8 Mile starring Eminem is also crowding the century mark with $97.6 million after three weekends, and DreamWorks' The Ring is doing steady business with a $110.9 million gross. Notably, Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven is hanging around the lower end of the chart, but it's received some of the best reviews of any film this year. Meanwhile, Buena Vista's Sweet Home Alabama is off the board and already on the DVD schedule (Feb. 4) — it will finish theatrically above $120 million.

Thanksgiving week is already upon us, and films due to go wide this Wednesday include Steven Soderbergh's Solaris starring George Clooney, the animated Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights, the action flick Extreme Ops, Disney's Treasure Planet, and Wes Craven Presents: They. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Die Another Day (MGM)
    $47,000,000 ($47,000,000 through 1 week)
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Warner Bros.)
    $42,370,000 ($148,502,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Friday After Next (New Line)
    $13,063,000 ($13,063,000 through 1 week)
  4. The Santa Clause 2 (Buena Vista)
    $10,300,000 ($95,000,000 through 4 weeks)
  5. 8 Mile (Universal)
    $8,724,000 ($97,683,000 through 3 weeks)
  6. The Ring (DreamWorks SKG)
    $7,600,000 ($110,900,000 through 6 weeks)
  7. The Emperor's Club (Buena Vista)
    $4,065,000 ($4,065,000 through 1 week)
  8. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (IFC Films)
    $3,807,398 ($204,670,564 through 32 weeks)
  9. Half Past Dead (Sony/Screen Gems)
    $3,300,000 ($12,676,000 through 2 weeks)
  10. Frida (Miramax)
    $2,400,000 ($12,100,000 through 5 weeks)
  11. Far From Heaven (Focus)
    $1,651,000 ($3,224,000 through 3 weeks)
  12. Jackass: The Movie (Paramount)
    $1,650,000 ($62,100,000 through 5 weeks)

On the Board: D.K. Holm has posted a sneak-preview of Paramount's Sunset Boulevard, while Betsy Bozdech is on the board with Fox's two-disc Ice Age: Special Edition. New stuff this week from everyone else includes Men in Black II: Special Edition, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, My So-Called Life: The Complete Series, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Angela, Heroic Trio, Roman Holiday, and Another You. 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 rundown on this week's street discs.

— Ed.

Wednesday, 20 Nov. 2002

Lights Out: Your humble DVD Journal editor has not enjoyed many vacations over the past four years, so there will be a few shorter news weeks between here and the remainder of 2002 — in part to get some much-needed rest, but also to get a type-rating in the website's spankin' new Gulfstream G150 (it's a bitch, but somebody has to fly it). We'll see ya soon.

boxcoverTop 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:

  1. Glengarry Glen Ross: Special Edition
  2. Stalker
  3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition
  4. Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  5. The Best Arbuckle Keaton Collection
  6. The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
  7. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: Collector's Edition
  8. Bad Company
  9. Juwanna Mann
  10. 13 Conversations About One Thing

— Ed.

Tuesday, 19 Nov. 2002

In the Works: We have just a few new disc announcements this morning, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

  • Fox has a couple of recent titles on the way — Brown Sugar starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan arrives on Feb. 11 with a commentary from director Rick Famuyiwa, deleted scenes, and a couple of music vids. Also on the slate is The Banger Sisters starring Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon, with a commentary from writer/director Bob Dolman and an HBO featurette (Jan. 28).

  • Folks who can't get enough Trek on TV have another big box to save up for — Deep Space Nine: Season One will offer each episode across six discs, as well as several featurettes. It streets on Feb. 25, and Paramount plans to have the entire series in release by the end of 2003. Meanwhile, it's back to the catalog for a few more Elvis classics (if we can call them "classics") — Girls, Girls, Girls, Fun in Acapulco, and Easy Come, Easy Go arrive on Jan. 7.

  • Coming up from Warner are a quartet of films in time for Valentine's Day. George Stevens' 1935 Alice Adams, starring Katharine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray, will offer a commentary from George Stevens Jr., excerpts from the documentary George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey, and an essay on Hepburn during her RKO years. George Roy Hill's 1979 A Little Romance, starring Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane, will include "A Conversation with Diane Lane" and stills. Breaking Up with Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek gets a commentary from director Robert Greenwald and deleted footage. And Dogfight, starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, will sport a commentary from director Nancy Savoca and producer Richard Guay. They're all here on Jan. 7.

  • Watch for a couple of Humphrey Bogart catalog items in the chute at Columbia TriStar — 1956's The Harder They Fall and 1951's Sirocco arrive on Jan. 21, where they will be joined by two recent pictures, Mad Love and World Traveler.

On the Street: It's been a long wait, but fans of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross can finally get the title on DVD this week, thanks to Artisan's splendid two-disc set. However, if you're looking for less talk and more action, Buena Vista's Reign of Fire is a fun bit of monster-movie mayhem. Family fare this morning includes DreamWorks' Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron in separate widescreen and pan-and-scan editions, and Columbia TriStar has a couple of independent films on the shelves, John Sayles' Sunshine State and Jill Sprecher's 13 Conversations About One Thing. And there's a pair of notable comedy titles on the chart today as well — Margaret Cho: Notorious C.H.O. and Robin Williams: Live on Broadway. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 13 Conversations About One Thing
  • American Rap Stars
  • The American Soldier
  • Another You
  • Berkeley in the Sixties
  • Brother
  • Call Girl
  • Carolina Skeletons
  • The Cirque du Soleil Gift Set Collection (3-disc set)
  • A Cruel Romance: Special Edition
  • Dangerous Invitations
  • Dark Tides
  • Dauria
  • Diva's Christmas Carol
  • Elling
  • Esther Kahn
  • Father of a Soldier
  • Getting Gotti
  • Glengarry Glen Ross (2-disc set)
  • Grand Tour: Disaster in Time
  • The Heroic Trio
  • Hit
  • Ice-T and SMG: The Repossession Live
  • Invasion
  • James Taylor: Pull Over
  • Juvenile and UTP: Live from St. Louis
  • Juwanna Mann
  • The Kids in the Hall: Tour of Duty
  • The King is Alive
  • Korn: Live
  • Lap Dancer
  • The Last Seduction
  • The Last Seduction 2
  • Lonely Affair of the Heart
  • Making Contact
  • Margaret Cho: Notorious C.H.O.
  • More Than the Music Live: Stand and Testify
  • My Science Project
  • Nijinsky: The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky
  • The Noah's Ark Principle
  • Oblivion
  • Off Season
  • On the Streets of L.A.
  • Passions
  • Peculiarities of the National Fishing
  • Pirates of the XXth Century
  • Placebo Effect
  • R Xmas
  • Racing Game
  • Red Sneakers
  • Reign of Fire
  • Rhapsody
  • Rio Das Mortes
  • Robin Williams: Live on Broadway
  • Roswell: The U.F.O. Cover-Up
  • Shacked Up
  • Shot At Glory
  • Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (widescreen)
  • Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (pan-and-scan)
  • Subspecies: The Awakening
  • Sunshine State
  • Sweet Bird of Youth
  • Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts: Texas
  • Tropical Tease
  • Victory (1995)
  • Virgil Bliss: Special Edition

— Ed.

Monday, 18 Nov. 2002

boxcoverDisc of the Week: The story of comedian Margaret Cho's life to date has been a uniquely American tale of success — then failure — then success again, against enormous odds. Growing up chubby, Korean, and unpopular, she wanted desperately to be a performer but knew how narrow her options were: "I would dream that maybe someday I could be an extra on M*A*S*H!" Cho started doing stand-up at age 16, but was told by agents, photographers, and casting directors that she was "too Asian." Or sometimes that she wasn't Asian enough. She was advised by her manager to lose weight in an effort to minimize the roundness of her face. But being funny and driven, she pursued her dream anyway, and her successful stand-up career led to a TV sitcom when she was 23. "All-American Girl" was hailed as "groundbreaking" for Asian actors, even as the cast became progressively more Caucasian each week. At the insistence of the network and her own agents, Cho enlisted a trainer and a diet doctor, started taking diet pills, and lost 30 pounds in two weeks — and then checked into the hospital with kidney failure. Having publicly wrestled with these demons in the stand-up act I'm the One That I Want, a more actualized Cho moved on to cover a different subject altogether in Notorious C.H.O. — sex.

No longer dwelling on the past, Cho took her Notorious C.H.O. show to 37 cities, closing with a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall. Shot during her stop in Seattle, in this concert film the comic goes beyond "working blue" to the point of graphic intensity. Depending on your own personal comfort level, Cho's vivid descriptions of her first colonic, her first trip to a BDSM sex club, and other events will inspire either utter horror, shocked giggles, or — if you're truly jaded — a been-there-done-that yawn. The film begins with audience members arriving at the concert, an amusing interview with Cho's parents, and Cho musing on the vagaries of fame. But the heart of the movie is Cho on-stage, stripped down to the most basic elements of stand-up — a comic, a microphone, and couple of bottles of water. The pace of the 90-minute performance is unhurried, and director Lorene Machado's camerawork is serviceable if uninspired. But the comedy is solid, even if it's not the sort of yuckfest you can enjoy with grandma. A lengthy discussion of oral sex devolves from the messiness of the act into a mind-bending deconstruction as if it were something one might order from a menu; Cho's bit about her lover forgetting to return a porn tape turns into an imitation of the Korean video store clerk chiding Cho for having "beaver-fever"; and her exploration of that trip to the SM club ends with her description of herself hanging in a sling, surrounded by folks with whips, and unzipping the mouth of her leather hood to state, "You know ... this is so not me."

Notorious C.H.O. is significant among comedy concert films not so much for its humorous content but simply because it exists at all. Cho is a woman... and Korean... and proudly voluptuous, refusing to starve herself any longer to attempt fashion-model anorexia. That she's producing successful films with herself as the star would be amazing enough. But add to that the jaw-droppingly graphic nature of her material: This unskinny Asian woman is talking about sex, bondage, porn, and everything else one could imagine. She's not making safe jokes about such acts in the abstract, either — instead, she's recounting her own experiences, and without shame. Aware of how raunchy her material is, Cho occasionally strays too far into preachiness — when she lectures that gay people should be allowed to get married and that oppressed minorities need to have more self-esteem, she knows that it's a guaranteed applause-getter from her heavily gay/bi/trans/female/ethnic minority audience. But still, watching Cho develop into a comedic powerhouse is a treat, and there's an element of Lenny Bruce in this performance, both in the edgy choice of material and in the repetition and cadence she uses in some of her bits. Margaret Cho is developing into an important voice in the realm of stand-up comedy, and she's doing it by sharing the raw material of her own life with her audience. And she's damn funny, too.

Wellspring Home Video's new DVD release of Notorious C.H.O. is a nice little package, offering an adequate presentation of the theatrical release. Shot on video, the picture is dark, occasionally murky, and far from crisp; the lighting in Seattle's Paramount Theater was hardly ideal for filming, and it doesn't look like director Machado had much more in mind than to simply record the performance for posterity, and as cheaply as possible. However, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is terrific. Extras include a commentary track by Cho, the twist being that she does the commentary as her mother — if you're one of the many, many people who falls off the couch in convulsive fits of laughter when Cho does her mom, this track's for you. Also on board is "Grocery Store," an animated short written and directed by Cho that was shown with the film during its theatrical run; a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette; a short promo; "deleted scenes" (unused interview footage with Cho's parents); trailers; and a filmography. Notorious C.H.O. is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: Most box-office pundits predicted that the second Harry Potter movie would not perform as strongly as its predecessor, but the latest installment hardly paled in comparison — Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets had a three-day break of $87.6 million in North America, making it the third-best raw-dollar debut in history, just behind Spider-Man ($114.8 m) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ($90.3 m). The movie also opened in international markets, and according to Warner Bros. the worldwide receipts were about $142 million over the weekend. Only one other new film arrived on Friday, Sony's Half Past Dead, which managed $8.2 million. Chamber of Secrets received mostly positive notices, while Half Past Dead was dead on arrival with critics.

In continuing release, last week's winner 8 Mile starring Eminem slipped to second place as expected, adding $21.3 million to Universal's $86.4 million 10-day total. Festive moviegoers also are keeping Buena Vista's The Santa Clause 2 on the charts, where it's holding third place after three weeks and $82.5 million so far — a hit for Tim Allen after a few box-office clangers. DreamWorks' The Ring has cleared the century, and the thriller is still going strong with $101.6 million after five weeks. And folks are still checking out Michael Moore's controversial documentary Bowling For Columbine, which has managed a respectable $8.8 million in limited venues. Meanwhile, on the way to DVD prep is Warner's thriller Ghost Ship, which will finish just shy of $30 million.

Bond is back this Friday in the latest 007 flick, Die Another Day, along with The Emperor's Club starring Kevin Kline and Friday After Next with Ice Cube and Mike Epps. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Warner Bros.)
    $87,690,000 ($87,690,000 through 1 week)
  2. 8 Mile (Universal)
    $21,328,000 ($86,425,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. The Santa Clause 2 (Buena Vista)
    $15,100,000 ($82,500,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. The Ring (DreamWorks)
    $11,000,000 ($101,600,000 through 5 weeks)
  5. Half Past Dead (Sony/Screen Gems)
    $8,200,000 ($8,200,000 through 1 week)
  6. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (IFC Films)
    $4,712,626 ($199,573,532 through 31 weeks)
  7. Jackass: The Movie (Paramount)
    $4,030,000 ($59,533,000 through 4 weeks)
  8. I Spy (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $4,000,000 ($30,920,000 through 3 weeks)
  9. Frida (Miramax)
    $2,890,000 ($8,637,172 through 4 weeks)
  10. Sweet Home Alabama (Buena Vista)
    $2,400,000 ($122,000,000 through 8 weeks)
  11. Bowling For Columbine (MGM/UA)
    $1,350,000 ($8,880,000 through 6 weeks)
  12. Femme Fatale (Warner Bros.)
    $1,270,000 ($5,710,000 through 2 weeks)

On the Board: D.K. Holm has posted a new review of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, while Greg Dorr looked at the new two-disc Glengarry Glen Ross: Special Edition and Mark Bourne dug through Image Entertainment's The Best Arbuckle Keaton Collection. New reviews this week from the rest of the gang include The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), Juwanna Mann, Reign of Fire, Bad Company, Sunshine State, Margaret Cho: Notorious C.H.O., and 13 Conversations About One Thing. 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.

— Ed.

Thursday, 14 Nov. 2002
Weekend Dispatch

Coming Attractions: It's time to dim the lights in the screening room for another weekend of DVD spins, and new reviews on the way include Glengarry Glen Ross and more. In the meantime, if you haven't entered our totally free DVD contest for a copy of The Sum of all Fears, 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.

Enjoy the weekend. We'll see ya Monday.

Quotable: "Making movies is never going to be a risk-free business. In recent years studio chieftains have extolled franchise movies the way 1999-era stock analysts used to puff up dot-com IPOs. Sequels were the showbiz equivalent of easy money, providing a soothing predictability to a notoriously topsy-turvy business. Even the vocabulary changed — studio tycoons began talking about movies as if they were part of a stock portfolio. Asked last year about Warner Bros.' studio-wide efforts to launch dozens of different franchises, Chairman Barry Meyer enthused, 'We're looking to extend these properties over multiple platforms' — now there's a phrase to get moviegoers' hearts pumping.... Hollywood has become relentlessly brand-conscious at precisely the time when Madison Avenue has discovered that young consumers have less brand loyalty than ever before. Exploiting a brand is fine if you're promoting family fare like Harry Potter or Shrek (parents live for the arrival of a reassuring brand), but it carries increasingly less weight with teens. Today's most effective advertising sells attitude, not brand."

Los Angeles Times film critic Patrick Goldstein

"We have a job in Afghanistan we haven't finished. We have (fewer) troops in Afghanistan at this moment than we had in Kosovo. There's no clear victory in Afghanistan. There's a clear victory in Iraq in about 11 days. I think the (military) can pull it off. And President Bush knows it.... If we did what he is talking about doing, we'd go down a road from which we would never recover and which would start a chain reaction around the world. I live in the hope that it won't happen."

Slices off his fingertips in Se7en

— Kevin Spacey, in the New York Daily News.

"I realize that many have disparaged the Winona trial (where else but in Beverly Hills could you have an entire trial devoted to shopping?), but it's pointed up some issues worthy of scrutiny. For example: Why can't celebrities remember those three magic words: 'Just say yes.' Think of all the trouble and expense Winona would have saved had she said, 'Yes, I did it, I'm sorry, and I'm going into rehab.' Public response surely would have been positive. She might have spent a weekend in shopping rehab — probably locked in a Wal-Mart — and it would have ended there. Instead, she stands convicted of grand theft."

Daily Variety Editor Peter Bart

"It's way beyond everyone's expectations. I was thinking maybe $35 million, and a few on the high end were thinking it might go as high as $40 million.... You had a top director in Curtis Hanson, an Oscar-winning producer in Brian Grazer, and you had Eminem doing a good job as an actor. But the bottom line is, it's a good movie. It proves that if you have a good movie, a pop star in the lead role is not the kiss of death."

— Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations,
on the $54 million debut of 8 Mile

"Even when he lost his virginity, he wasn't this happy."

— Matt Damon, on Ben Affleck's engagement to
Jennifer Lopez.

— Ed.

Wednesday, 13 Nov. 2002

Mailbag: It's time to clean out some of the reader mail here at The DVD Journal:

  • Prospero's Books was my introduction to director Peter Greenaway, and though I've seen many of his films since, it remains my favorite. It's an acquired taste, admittedly — the first time I saw the film, half the audience left in the middle while those who remained stood and cheered at the end. With its dense, overlapping imagery, frequent use of multiple split-screens, and propulsive Michael Nyman score, Prospero's Books would seem to be a natural for DVD. Unfortunately, so far all I've been able to find is a sadly inadequate pan-and-scan VHS release. Will it see a DVD release in Region 1 (or any region, for that matter) soon?

    — Lee

    There's hardly anything original about adapting Shakespeare for the cinema — it's been done every year virtually since motion pictures were invented. The same cannot be said for Peter Greenaway. The maverick Welsh director works well outside of the major-studio system with small-budgeted films that allow him to pursue his fascination with art, language, and images — if not necessarily stories and plot arcs.

    When the legendary John Gielgud, then in his mid-80s, decided that he wanted to appear in a filmed version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, the stage veteran probably could have recruited just about any British director he wanted for the task. However, he chose the unconventional Greenaway, who started his career as a painter and film editor before directing nearly 20 short films in the '70s and '80s. His first feature, The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), met with critical success, but a later picture would earn him international fame and controversy. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) stunned audiences with a hearty dose of sex, violence, and food, and it's likely Greenaway could have transformed his newfound notoriety into a Hollywood career. Instead he remained in Europe, just recently relocating from Wales to Holland. He's consistently directed a new movie every year or two, although they only make it to the art-house circuit in the U.S.

    boxcoverAs for Prospero's Books, the film split critics upon its arrival in 1991. Some, such as Roger Ebert, insisted it not be evaluated in terms of traditional cinema, but merely appreciated on its own ambitious merits. However, many others found the picture incomprehensible. Utilizing the main premise of The Tempest, Gielgud plays Prospero, the Italian Duke exiled to a remote island with just his daughter and a portion of his grand library. However, Greenaway is far less concerned with Shakespeare's tale than with his main character and the books he adores — Prospero serves as his own narrator, and Greenaway works triple-time to unveil his volumes, utilizing a blend of film and high-definition video to layer pages and images in a marvelous pastiche, all accompanied by Gielgud's magnificent oratory. Much like Godfrey Reggio's documentary Koyaanisqatsi, either you'll be enthralled by the visual riches in Prospero's Books or you'll soon tire of the director's caprices.

    It probably isn't surprising that most of Peter Greenaway's output has yet to arrive on DVD in Region 1 — of his 27 feature films to date, just six are in release (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, The Draughtsman's Contract, The Pillow Book, A Zed & Two Noughts, 8 1/2 Women, and Lumiere and Company). And the fact that many independent films in Europe are the result of complicated financing arrangements means that home-video rights can get divvied up around the globe, and sometimes are hard to trace. Prospero's Books had no less than 11 firms behind it. A Laserdisc was released in 1993 by Image Entertainment, but with a full-frame transfer it fails to do justice to Greenaway's complex 1.78:1 compositions. The VHS you mention also is a full-frame item. Reports indicate that it's not out-of-print at the moment, strictly speaking, but it's likely the vendor (Allied Artists Entertainment) simply is not producing any additional units at this time (, for one, currently is asking $39.95 for a copy). Thankfully, eBay is a better option for those so inclined, where used tapes close for less than $10.

    And we hate to say it, especially to Greenaway fans — but low closes and dead auctions on eBay means Prospero's Books simply does not have a lot of popular appeal at the moment. We're hoping we'll see a DVD release soon, either from AAE or perhaps Miramax, who acted as the U.S. theatrical distributor and perhaps could obtain the DVD rights. We know it hurts, but hang on to that videotape for now — or hope that the British vendor, 4 Front Video, gets their own platter on the Region 2 street soon.


  • I once saw an apocalyptic film on American Movie Classics called The Night the World Exploded and for some reason I loved it. Is there any information about it being released on DVD?

    — Matt

    It's always interesting to us when a film pops up on American Movie Classics that seems to stand no chance of getting a DVD release in the near future, but still gets a television screening. Of course, there are two different economic models driving such events. Getting a film shown on late-night cable requires little more than the proprietary studio delivering a telecine transfer to the broadcaster, and then sending along a bill. Producing DVDs, on the other hand, costs money. Programming, designing, minting, packaging, marketing — and in a marketplace that's getting more and more crowded by the year. For this reason, if there's an obscure movie you like, it's always a good bet to tape a cheapo when it's on TV. Such could be its only medium for years to come.

    As for The Night the World Exploded (1957), it definitely qualifies as an obscure sci-fi flick. We aren't sure if it's ever turned up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 for a few grins, but it appears to have been a typical dollop of drive-in fare from the '50s. Starring Kathryn Grant (who married Bing Crosby that year) and William Leslie, the story concerns scientists who are trying to discern the properties of a combustible new element that is rising from the earth's core and threatens to rupture the planet. Running just 64 minutes and using stock footage for several sequences, it was shockingly ignored come Oscar-time.

    Sony/Columbia TriStar likely owns the rights to The Night the World Exploded, as it was a Columbia film and does not appear to be subject to any rights issues. But the studio has never released the title on home video, in any format (to the best of our research). If you don't get the chance to roll tape when it shows up again on AMC, try looking around eBay for some VHS editions that (cough, cough) aren't from Columbia.

    boxcoverTop 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 We actually like you. Really.

    1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition
    2. Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones
    3. Spider-Man: Special Edition
    4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: Collector's Edition
    5. Babylon 5: Season One
    6. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five
    7. The X-Files: Season Six
    8. Angel and the Badman
    9. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
    10. The Sum of All Fears


    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 12 Nov. 2002

    In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

    • Coming up from Criterion is a solid double-feature of The Killers. Robert Siodmak's 1946 adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway short story will feature a new transfer, a music and effects track, the "Screen Director's Playhouse" 1949 radio adaptation, production and publicity stills, and a 1972 essay by Paul Schrader. But wait — there's more! Also on board will be Don Siegel's 1964 The Killers, which will also sport a new transfer, along with production and publicity stills, production correspondence, and cast notes. The two-disc set is here on Jan. 28.

    • The recent hit Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon is already on the schedule from Buena Vista, with an intro, commentary, and additional comments from director Andy Tennant, eight deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a music vid. Get it on Feb. 4.

    • Folks have been asking us about this one since TV packages started arriving on DVD by the truckload — NYPD Blue: Season One is on the way from Fox — count on commentaries and featurettes (no word yet if David Caruso will be on board). It's here March 4. Also in the pipe is something folks in Region 2 have had for a while — Angel: Season One will come with commentaries from series creator Joss Whedon and crew members, featurettes, and other goodies (Feb. 11).

    • Headed our way from MGM in February is another substantial catalog dump — streeting on Feb. 4 will be a slew of Charles Bronson films, including 10 to Midnight, Assassination, Messenger of Death, Mr. Majestyk, and Murphy's Law. Also here on Feb. 4 will be the Bill Murray comedy Larger Than Life, Road House starring Patrick Swayze, the 1987 No Man's Land with Charlie Sheen, A Prayer for the Dying, Kintje: Forbidden Subjects, and the Australian family film Joey. And then following on Feb. 18 will be a comedy cavalcade — Bank Shot, Basic Training, How to Beat the High Cost of Living, Life Stinks, The Meteor Man, Mr. North, and Waiting for the Light.

    • Andrew Niccol's latest picture, the box-office clunker Simone starring Al Pacino, will arrive from New Line on Jan. 21 — expect both Dolby Digital and DTS tracks, a pair of featurettes, and the screenplay as DVD-ROM content.

    • Another box-office clod, Serving Sara starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley, is in prep at Paramount — features will include a yack-track with director Reginald Hudlin, deleted scenes, and a featurette (Jan. 28).

    • And we're not done with the summer stinkos just yet — FearDotCom, starring Stephen Dorff and Natascha McElhone, arrives from Warner on Jan. 14, and the feature-set will offer a commentary from director William Malone, a featurette, stills, and a deleted scene.

    On the Street: Welcome to Clash of the Titans Tuesday, as two highly anticipated DVD sets are on the street today — Fox's two-disc Episode II: Attack of the Clones and New Line's mammoth four-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Special Extended Version. We're betting that Clones will do better business, if only because Rings had a previous DVD release this year. In any event, one would suspect the rest of the studios would steer clear of Nov. 12, 2002, although there are a few other items to be had. Criterion's on the board with the three-disc The Complete Monterey Pop Festival, while other concert DVDs include Universal's Jimi Hendrix: Live at the Isle of Wight and Pioneer's Live At Knebworth: Parts #1-3. Buena Vista's trying to elbow their way into the pack with Bad Company and the 2002 remake of The Importance of Being Earnest, while Image has a trio for your upcoming B-movie parties, Beast of Blood, Brain of Blood, and Blood of the Vampires. If that's not enough, throw in Warner's four-disc Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection. Or go for the total gross-out — South Park: The Complete First Season is on the street in a three-disc box. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • All Thumbs: The Complete Collection: Special Edition
    • Armed and Dangerous
    • Bad Company
    • Bling Bling
    • Brain of Blood: Special Edition
    • Ciao! Manhattan
    • City of Lost Souls
    • Cold Steel
    • The Complete Monterey Pop Festival: The Criterion Collection (3-disc set)
    • The Cranberries: Stars: The Best of Videos 1992-2002
    • Elton John: Live in Barcelona
    • Firesign Theatre: Weirdly Cool
    • Fruit of the Vine
    • The Godthumb: Special Edition
    • The Hooked Generation/ The Psychedelic Priest: Special Edition
    • I Love You Too
    • The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
    • Jimi Hendrix: Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight
    • Live At Knebworth: Parts #1-3
    • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Special Extended Version (4-disc set)
    • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Special Extended Version: Gift Set (4-disc set)
    • Mapp and Lucia: Series #1
    • The Monkees: Live Summer Tour
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection (4-disc set)
    • Phish: Live in Vegas
    • South Park: The Complete First Season (3-disc set)
    • Spider's Web
    • Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2-disc set) (widescreen)
    • Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2-disc set) (full-frame)
    • Tobacco Roody/ Southern Comforts: Special Edition
    • Under Hellgate Bridge
    • What To Do in Case of Fire
    • Winnie The Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year

    — Ed.

    Monday, 11 Nov. 2002

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: What's always on the bottom of the barrel when it comes to DVDs? What supplement seems to be the most commonly touted, and often the least appealing? That's right — trailers. Then again, the DVD format's most basic add-on (along with such exciting extras as "scene-selection" and "animated menus") has its devotees. In fact, we know plenty of people who will happily burn up 10 or 15 minutes in a DVD trailer gallery, eager to see what they've missed, or perhaps to glean a few insights on how these slick three-minute advertisements are constructed. If you're the sort of person who hates running late to the cineplex because you'll "miss the trailers," such could be you. We only ask you brave souls to consider this: watching a DVD that is nothing but trailers. Sixty of them, actually, clocking in at two hours even. Think you can take it? If so, get a lot of beer, because here's the catch — they're all trailers from monster movies. Old monster movies. Bad monster movies. You have been warned.

    Actually, the DVD in question is All Monsters Attack!, a trailer compilation gathered together by film historian David Kalat. The author of A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series and The Strange Case of Doctor Mabuse, Kalat has been published in various film journals worldwide. So why did he create All Monsters Attack? Perhaps because he wanted to archive a few curiosities from moviehouse history, or because he simply loves monster movies, or because he's a bit daft. Perhaps a bit of all three. All we know is that — if monster movies are your thing — All Monsters Attack! is a potent injection of creature-features from the past. They're all here — urban commandos King Kong, Godzilla, Mighty Joe Young, Rodan, Mothra, and The Blob. Cult titles like Them! and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Best of all is the more-obscure stuff. "Yog, Monster from Space" is a large, puffy, squid-like creature who appears to float above the ground, and also speaks perfectly when not shrieking ("You are powerless against me!"). "The Killer Shrews" pretty obviously are dogs wearing costumes to make them look like overgrown rodents, which scares everybody silly even though they run around like energetic cocker spaniels. The "Monster from Green Hell" is more or less a housefly the size of a Ford Expedition that's terrorizing folks on the African plains. With 60 trailers on the disc, such examples only scratch the surface of absurdity.

    Clearly, All Monsters Attack! is chock-full of creamy-cheese goodness — but the genre B-films touted within are for specialized tastes, nonetheless. Ardent fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 probably will recognize a lot of the featured titles, while those less familiar with drive-in fare from decades past may be in for a few surprises. Perhaps all of us simply can wonder how on earth some of these movies got made in the first place. It certainly helps to shoot with a low budget and actors sent directly from central casting — any production that makes more than it cost is a success, after all. Still, be prepared to witness acting on par with your local high school's drama department, directors who can't begin to imagine where to put a camera or how to move it, and lots of anonymous people wrestling in silly costumes (it would seem MST3K wasn't just a welcome TV show, but an inevitable one as well). More interesting is the language of theatrical trailers themselves, and how it has evolved over the years. Are today's trailers more sophisticated? Maybe — the editing is slicker and swifter, and there is far less blatant product-pitching. Then again, today's trailers have their own characteristics, not least of which being that voice-over artist Don La Fontaine is heard in most of them ("In a world...", "Only one man..."). All Monsters Attack! is a wonderful grab-bag of bygone cinematic expressions — the announcer's voice always promises we'll be terrified and thrilled, but in the same sort of way we might be promised that a new sportscar will attract women or a particular brand of toothpaste will whiten teeth. And it would be unthinkable today to see Tom Cruise's face covered up by garish headlines during a spot ("The Star Of Minority Report, Back In His BEST FILM YET!"). Fifty years ago, it would be unthinkable not throw those words up there at all.

    All Day Entertainment's new All Monsters Attack! DVD, distributed by Image Entertainment, offers a clean transfer of the various enclosed trailers, with the monaural audio in Dolby Digital 2.0. The quality of the source-material varies quite a bit, as should be expected from this sort of historical compilation. All trailers are chapter-indexed, and supplements include "making-of" featurettes for The Land That Time Forgot and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, the nuclear-safety short "Operation Plumbbob," and the animated short "Megamorphosis" (think Godzilla meets Franz Kafka). All Monsters Attack! is on the street now.

    Box Office: Eminem's solid fan-base was out in force over the weekend — the Detroit rapper's first film, 8 Mile, dominated the box-office with a spectacular $54.4 million three-day break. The win not only put Slim Shady on the Hollywood map, but it also was the second-best raw-dollar opening of any R-rated film in history (just behind Hannibal with $58 million) and the fifth-best debut of 2002. The weekend's only other new film, Warner's Femme Fatale starring Antonio Banderas and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, was dismal by comparison, only managing $2.8 million for ninth place. 8 Mile received several positive reviews, giving director Curtis Hanson another in his string of critical wins (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys); Femme Fatale earned mixed-to-negative notices.

    In continuing release, last week's winner The Santa Clause 2 starring Tim Allen slipped down a notch to second place, garnering a solid $24.8 million frame and $60.1 million to date for Buena Vista. DreamWorks' The Ring is also a hot performer, holding down third place after one month and an $86.1 million gross. Critics hated Sony's I Spy, but the comic-combo of Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson is selling tickets anyway — with $9 million in its second weekend, it now stands at $24.6 million Films in semi-limited release can be found towards the bottom of the list, including Punch-Drunk Love, Frida, and Bowling For Columbine. And headed for a DVD near you is Universal's Red Dragon, which will finish around $90 million.

    There's no mystery about what film will be atop next week's chart, as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets opens on Friday — only one title will dare to counter-program the boy wizard, Half Past Dead starring Morris Chestnut, Steven Segal, Ja Rule, and Kurupt. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. 8 Mile (Universal)
      $54,464,000 ($54,464,000 through 1 week)
    2. The Santa Clause 2 (Buena Vista)
      $24,800,000 ($60,100,000 through 2 weeks)
    3. The Ring (DreamWorks SKG)
      $16,000,000 ($86,100,000 through 4 weeks)
    4. I Spy (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $9,000,000 ($24,678,000 through 2 weeks)
    5. Jackass: The Movie (Paramount)
      $7,200,000 ($53,319,000 through 3 weeks)
    6. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (IFC Films)
      $5,752,101 ($192,755,261 through 30 weeks)
    7. Sweet Home Alabama (Buena Vista)
      $3,800,000 ($118,600,000 through 7 weeks)
    8. Ghost Ship (Warner Bros.)
      $3,160,000 ($26,174,000 through 3 weeks)
    9. Femme Fatale (Warner Bros.)
      $2,830,000 ($3,485,000 through 1 week)
    10. Punch-Drunk Love (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $2,600,000 ($14,600,000 through 5 weeks)
    11. Frida (Miramax)
      $2,571,000 ($4,323,700 through 3 weeks)
    12. Bowling For Columbine (MGM/UA)
      $1,650,000 ($6,874,000 through 5 weeks)

    On the Board: Alexandra DuPont has posted a sneak preview of Fox's two-disc Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones, while Dawn Taylor recent dug through New Line's four-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition. New reviews this week from the rest of the team include E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: Collector's Edition, Angel and the Badman, The Marquis De Sade's Justine, All Monsters Attack!, and three titles from Image's "Blood Collection" — Beast of Blood, Brain of Blood, and Blood of the Vampires. 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.

    Back tomorrow with this week's street discs.

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 7 Nov. 2002
    Weekend Dispatch

    boxcoverReader talkback: A couple of readers got in touch with us yesterday with follow-ups to the weekly mailbag:

  • Hi guys. Just a quick FYI on Gangster No. 1. The Canadian release was created by TVA Films, who hold the Canadian rights. Yes, the same people who brought out Brotherhood of the Wolf Collector's Edition and the Ginger Snaps CE. Columbia TriStar just distributed this title on our behalf. Hope this is of interest.

    — Howard Rabkin
    JV Media ( A Lions Gate - TVA Joint Venture)

  • Hello — Le Samourai's DVD rights are owned by New Yorker. I spoke with them today and was told it is one of their most-requested DVDs that is MIA, and there is a strong possibility to see it released in 2003.

    — James

    Thanks guys for taking the time to write.

    Quotable: "It has not been a good year for the Hollywood star, and the casualties of a crumbling system are everywhere. Harrison Ford has followed three previous clunkers (Random Hearts, 6 Days 7 Nights, Sabrina) with the $100m box-office disaster K-19: The Widowmaker (only $35m returns so far). Bruce Willis has crashed and burned twice this year with the contrived action-comedy Bandits and the soggy PoW flick Hart's War. John Travolta is slowly slipping back into oblivion after the triple failure of Battlefield Earth, Domestic Disturbance and the inane screwball caper Lucky Numbers. And one-time Oscar winner Nicolas Cage's Windtalkers and Family Man were simply dead dogs.... To add insult to injury, the top-grossing movies of the year so far have mostly been effects-filled franchises like Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Scorpion King and Scooby-Doo, all movies conspicuously bereft of star presence, all sequel-friendly films that are themselves their own 'star'. In short, we are witnessing nothing less than a seismic shift in the topography of the Hollywood star system."

    — Film critic Kevin Maher, writing in London's
    The Observer.

    "I wasn't approached about replacing Richard (Harris) and it also wasn't true that the role in the first film only went to Richard after I turned it down. I was never asked, and I don't know where these rumors have come from, but I find it all a bit distasteful so soon after his death. The only thing that is sure is that I will be in both of the next two Lord of the Rings movies, and I am considering three of four other interesting roles."

    — Christopher Lee, denying reports that he will take
    on the role of Professor Albus Dumbledore in
    the Harry Potter series.

    "The marriage existed because it was two people in love. It's that simple.... They've said I'm gay, they've said everyone's gay. I personally don't believe in doing huge lawsuits about that stuff. Tom does. That's what he wants to do, that's what he's going to do. You do not tell Tom what to do. That's it. Simple. He is a force to be reckoned with. I have a different approach. I don't file lawsuits because I really don't care. Honestly, people have said everything under the sun. I just want to do my work, raise my kids, and hopefully find somebody who I can share my life with again."

    Actually was born in the U.S.A.

    — Nicole Kidman, in Vanity Fair.

    "Did you see The Fast and the Furious? Did you see XXX? If you had to choose a franchise, which would you choose? You can't do every franchise. I think that you have to be selective. Part of the thing in ensuring you don't get caught up in just being this mono-type actor is having to say 'no' at times, and turning some stuff down. It was a lot of money, but you have to stay true to whatever you're doing."

    — Vin Diesel, who declined a $20 million offer to
    appear in The Fast and the Furious 2.

    "I do feel she is more of a martyr — a media martyr — and I would think that there will be more support for her personally now that she seems to be the victim. People have been looking for things to make a statement about. It was kind of like a floodgate opened with people expressing themselves."

    — Los Angeles boutique owner Billy Tsangares,
    creator of the "Free Winona" t-shirt.

    Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Episode II: Attack of the Clones and more. Have a great weekend gang — back on Monday.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 6 Nov. 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:

  • I was wondering if you knew when there might be a possible release in Region 1 of Jean-Pierre Melville's superb Le Samourai. I know that the DVD has been released in France but I was wondering if possibly Criterion could be releasing it in 2003. It would certainly make a great disc.

    — Wayne

    For a director as influential as Jean-Pierre Melville, it's unfortunate that he's so underrepresented on DVD in North America — he may not be a household name, but the auteur was a major influence on the French New Wave, and he continues to have an impact with budding young directors everywhere who cut their teeth on obscure video rentals.

    Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach in 1917, Melville (who adopted his nom de plume from the American novelist) was fond of movies from a very young age, but his attempts to build a career were stilted early on — there were few opportunities for him in the French film industry, and he served with the British during World War II. After the war he founded his own low-budget studio and financed his own pictures. Early successes included 1947's Le silence de la Mer and 1949's Les enfants terribles. His first gangster picture was the 1955 Bob le flambeur, and the genre would cement his legacy with later hard-boiled crime movies such as Le Doulos (1961) and Le Cercle rouge (1970).

    boxcoverBut Melville's most famous film arrived in 1967. Le Samourai stars Alain Delon as a ruthless assassin, Costello, who stays one step ahead of the police and fellow crooks while plotting his last job — he also gets mixed up with a nightclub pianist (Cathy Rosier) along the way. The picture is widely regarded as Melville's best, and among the very finest of the gangster genre in any language. Growing up on American films, Melville always had a fascination with crime movies, and in particular the notion of honor among thieves, a recurring theme in his work. Here, Costello is not a character as much as a force, ready to act but intent on divorcing himself from his emotions. The part would have echoes in Luc Besson's Leon (aka The Professional) and John Woo's The Killer is considered a loose remake. In fact, Costello's detached, vulnerable psyche has been an influence on practically every American crime film of the past decade. With a legacy like that, it's a shame there is no DVD in sight.

    Like most of Melville's later films, Le Samourai was financed by a consortium of production companies — such arrangements mean that the home-video rights on this continent are the result of licensing deals (which, it need not be said, can come and go without warning). Melville made 13 films before his death in 1973, and at the moment we are aware of just two on DVD in Region 1. Bob le flambeur is currently on the street from Criterion in an attractive package, while the director's last film, Un Flic (1972), is currently available from Anchor Bay. As for Le Samourai, a VHS edition is on the street from New Yorker, which may indicate that the vendor also holds the DVD rights in North America. At least one Laserdisc has been released, from Encore, but apparently it's a PAL-formatted item intended for Japan and/or Europe (at a reported 101 minutes, it clocks a bit longer than the VHS's 95 min.).

    As for that French DVD, you are correct that one exists, released last year by TF1 Vidéo. However, it appears that it's gone out of print in a short space of time. You eBay hunters may be able to snap up a copy from a foreign seller. Or check the auctions for a Japanese VCD edition — it's a fairly common item at the moment, and closing for less than $20.


  • I picked up Gangster No. 1 several months ago here in Canada, and it was released by Columbia TriStar, as opposed to the new one from MGM. It contains all the features mentioned in this new release, except there are more deleted scenes, notably a torture scene deemed unsuitable for the film. The scenes also have commentary. Now is this just a matter of a DVD being released in Canada as a different version or with differing features (like Good Will Hunting or Ginger Snaps), or have I got a collectable?

    — James

    Thanks dropping us a line James — we had no idea a separate version of Paul McGuigan's Gangster No. 1 was in release up north, but it appears the copy you have (from Columbia TriStar) streeted way back on Jan. 22 of this year, while MGM's special edition arrived just last month. No less than eight separate companies were involved in the picture's financing, including BSkyB and FilmFour, which means the theatrical distribution and home-video rights got sliced and diced. As for "collectible," the Canadian release is far from it. But it could be considered a touch more valuable to collectors, as Columbia decided to add a few extra bits for Canadian fans — perhaps including something MGM thought U.S. viewers would be too squeamish to take.

    *          *          *

    Mailbag follow-up: Thanks to several readers last week who wrote in over the past week to let us know that both Cry, the Beloved Country and A Man Called Horse were released on Laserdisc during the mid-'90s, and both in letterboxed editions.

    boxcoverTop 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 We are pop-up free and proud of it.

    1. Spider-Man: Special Edition
    2. Babylon 5: Season One
    3. The Sum of All Fears
    4. Down by Law: The Criterion Collection
    5. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five
    6. Eight-Legged Freaks
    7. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
    8. Houseboat
    9. The X-Files: Season Six
    10. The Powerpuff Girls Movie

    See ya later.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 5 Nov. 2002

    In the Works: It's time to get a look at a few new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

    • On the way from Criterion is another Terry Gilliam disc licensed from Universal. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, will arrive in a two-disc set, and features will include both DTS and Dolby Digital, a commentary from Gilliam, a second track from Johnny, Benicio, and producer Laila Nabulsi, a behind-the-scenes BBC documentary, deleted scenes, lots of stills, and even an interview with Hunter S. Thompson (audio only). It's here on Jan. 28. Also arriving from Criterion are a trio of older films — Ernst Lubitsch's 1932 Trouble in Paradise will get a commentary from film historian Scott Eyman, the 1917 Lubitsch short "The Merry Jail," a 1940 radio program, and an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich. Jean-Luc Godard's 1964 Band à Part (a big Tarantino influence) will include interviews with star Anna Karina and cinematographer Raoul Coutard, behind-the-scenes footage, and a short film by Agnés Varda. Finally, Julien Duvivier's 1937 gangster drama Pépé le Moko will offer an interview with the director, documentary excerpts, and a film comparison. All three street on Jan. 21.

    • On deck from Columbia TriStar is Hal Ashby's 1975 Shampoo, starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, and Lee Grant — unfortunately, Beatty will avoid the commentary mic, as usual, and the disc will be bone-stock (Jan. 21). Also on the board is 1983's Educating Rita starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters (Jan. 7), which will be another long-requested title to arrive without features. (C'mon, no Michael Caine commentary? When is this guy not available? Did anybody try cash in a brown paper bag?) Meanwhile, more recent fare from Columbia includes the recent thriller Trapped, starring Kevin Bacon and Charlize Theron, which will get a commentary from director Luis Mandoki and scenarist Greg Iles, an alternate ending, featurettes, and deleted scenes (Dec. 24).

    • MGM is giving some extra attention to this year's Brit comedy 24 Hour Party People, directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Steve Coogan — the send-up of the Manchester music scene will sport a commentary from Coogan and producer Andrew Eaton, another yack-track from Factory Records chief Tony Wilson, a pair of featurettes, and stills (Jan. 21).

    • Finally, getting spanked straight to DVD is the recent action-disaster Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever — critics hated it, audiences ignored it, and Warner will get the high-octane hijinks starring Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu on the street Dec. 17 with an HBO featurette.

    On the Street: It's a modest street-list this week, with one undeniable standout — Hitchcock fans have been waiting forever, and Paramount finally has released To Catch a Thief in a pleasant special edition, along with another Cary Grant classic, Houseboat, co-starring Sophia Loren. On the slate from Warner is Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and The Powerpuff Girls Movie, while Columbia TriStar has released this year's The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, and New Line has delivered John Waters' Hairspray as a stand-alone disc. MGM has several world cinema titles on the shelves, including Spetters, The Decameron, My Father's Glory, My Mother's Castle, and the 1991 version of Madame Bovary. But the real feast this week is for TV fans — among the many box-sets to arrive are Babylon 5: Season One, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five, The X-Files: Season Six, and the miniseries Band of Brothers. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • All Monsters Attack!
    • Babylon 5: The Complete First Season (6-disc set)
    • Band of Brothers (6-disc set)
    • Barenaked Ladies: Barelaked Nadies
    • Beast of Blood
    • David Bowie: Best of Bowie
    • Blood of the Vampires
    • Conversation with an Alien
    • Counsellor at Law
    • The Cult: Live Cult: Music Without Fear
    • Curb Dogs: Freestyle #1
    • Curb Dogs: Freestyle #2
    • The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
    • The Dead Zone (2002)
    • Death Factory
    • The Decameron
    • Directed By William Wyler/ The Love Trap
    • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (widescreen)
    • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (pan-and-scan)
    • Dog Soldiers: Special Edition
    • Eric Clapton: One More Car, One More Rider
    • Eugenie: The Story of Her Journey into Perversion
    • Felicity: Season One
    • Fingers
    • Fraternity
    • Garage: The Collection
    • David Gilmour: In Concert
    • Glenn Lewis: Live
    • The Good Fairy
    • A Great Wall is a Great Wall
    • Hairspray: Special Edition
    • Hawk the Slayer
    • Honeybee
    • Houseboat
    • How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Special Edition (2-disc set)
    • Legion of the Dead
    • Madame Bovary (1991)
    • Making The Misfits
    • Marquis De Sade's Justine
    • Melissa Etheridge: Live... and Alone: Deluxe Edition
    • Miguel Bose: Los Videos
    • My Father's Glory
    • My Mother's Castle
    • My So Called Life Box Set (5-disc set)
    • National Geographic: Lost Subs: Disaster at Sea
    • Once and Again: Season One
    • P.O.D.: Still Payin' Dues
    • The Piano Teacher (unrated version)
    • The Piano Teacher (R-rated version)
    • The Powerpuff Girls Movie
    • Pumpkin
    • Reign in Darkness
    • Return to the Blue Lagoon
    • Spetters
    • SpongeBob SquarePants: Sea Stories
    • Sports Night: The Complete Series
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five (7-disc set)
    • To Catch a Thief
    • Too Beautiful for You
    • Toy Soldiers
    • Voodoo Tailz
    • Tha Westside
    • The X-Files: Season Six
    • Widespread Panic: The Earth Will Swallow You: Special Edition

    — Ed.

    Monday, 4 Nov. 2002

    And the winner is: Bob Shemkovitz of Meriden, Conn., wins the free Unforgiven: 10th Anniversary Edition DVD from our October contest. Congrats, Bob!

    Our totally free DVD contest for the month of November is up and running, and we have a copy of Paramount's The Sum of All Fears 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.

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Perhaps directors should take working vacations more often. Alfred Hitchcock, for one, was fond of traveling, but rarely allowed business to mix with pleasure. Working as a young director in Britain's film industry, Hitch, wife Alma, and daughter Patricia often visited France and Switzerland for brief respites — getting Hitch to take a film crew along was an altogether different task, and he normally preferred to labor in the confined, controlled settings of a studio's soundstages and back-lots. But by the mid-'50s Hitch was ready to shoot To Catch a Thief, a film property he had owned for several years, and location work on the French Riviera was put on the schedule. Such would not be the only aberration in the Master's oeuvre. Prior to 1955, Hitchcock had delivered a series of dark, thematically complex films — Rear Window, Dial 'M' For Murder, Strangers on a Train, Notorious, et. al. — that relied on protagonists who were spiritually or morally corrupted to some degree, and thus were complicit in the dramatic events that enveloped them. One practically has to go all the way back to 1938's The Lady Vanishes to find a pure cinematic lark — a picture that exists merely to excite and enthrall the audience. To Catch a Thief was "lightweight material" (by the director's own admission), but it was a welcome diversion when it arrived. And despite the glitz and the glamour of its French setting, it nonetheless ranks among the most emblematic of Hitchcock's films.

    Adapted by John Michael Hayes from the novel by David Dodge, To Catch a Thief concerns American expatriate John Robie, a former circus acrobat who became a master jewel thief in France before World War II, but later joined the French Resistance and earned a parole for his wartime efforts. Living in retirement on France's Mediterranean coast, Robie (aka "The Cat") enjoys his spacious villa and serene lifestyle — until a series of jewel thefts strike the region's upper classes, each one bearing the mark of The Cat himself. Keeping one step ahead of the police, who plan to hold him for questioning, Robie starts nosing around his old Resistance colleagues, hoping to uncover which one of them has launched the vendetta. Meeting up with a British insurance agent (John Williams), Robie also obtains a list of homes the burglar may hit next, leading to his striking up a friendship with wealthy American Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Frances (Grace Kelly). Posing as a lumber baron from Oregon, Robie intends to be nearby when the Stevens jewels are stolen — what he can't suspect is that the beautiful Frances knows a few things about Robie as well, and the thrill-seeking girl has set her own cat-trap.

    Put simply, To Catch a Thief is what the best of Hollywood movies are all about. And in this instance, it didn't hurt that Hitchcock shot this champagne-soaked romantic adventure with one of the best teams he had ever assembled. Foremost among these was scenarist John Michael Hayes, who wrote four films for Hitchcock and arguably provided the director with his wittiest dialogue — here, each scene crackles with lively ripostes and double-entendres. Judging by the trailer, the Côte d'Azur settings are what drew crowds, and the lush scenery was captured by cinematographer Robert Burks, who won an Oscar for the picture. Lyn Murray's score smartly underplays every scene, lending to the film's suspenseful atmosphere. Legendary costume designer Edith Head handled the wardrobe, and in particular the many outfits that flatter Grace Kelly's persona (and without doubt delighted Hitchcock). As for Kelly, this would be her third and final movie with Hitch before retiring from the film industry, and in it she defined the "Hitchcock Blonde," icy-cool on the exterior, but passionate and sexually agressive after she's trapped her prey. Cary Grant, another of Hitch's favorite actors, also got a definitive role with a script varied enough to utilize his skills at comedy, action, and just looking smolderingly handsome in the dark. But despite its "lightweight" status, To Catch a Thief often is dismissed too easily by Hitchcockian scholars — it's pure entertainment through and through, but nonetheless loaded with the director's signature touches. An innocent man eludes the police, meals figure prominently, and the finale involves a bit of height-induced suspense. Above all, the title itself is a play on two of Hitch's favorite themes: sex and theft. If Robie is the thief set "to catch a thief," then Frances is set upon catching a thief as well (Robie), using her sexual allure to absorb his identity for her own purposes — something the mysterious new "Cat" is doing after dark. Such identity-shifting leitmotifs would recur in Vertigo, Psycho, and Marnie — in this instance, it's a fun opportunity to see Hitch playing the piece with a softer touch.

    Paramount's new DVD release of To Catch a Thief is a wonderful item for Hitchcock collectors, offering an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) of the VistaVision film and the original monaural audio in Dolby Digital 2.0. While not perfect, the print looks excellent, retaining the striking colors in cinematographer Burks' bright palette. The audio is likewise crisp and clear. Supplements include the featurette "Writing and Casting To Catch a Thief" (9 min.) and "Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch a Thief: An Appreciation" (7 min.), both featuring comments from daughter Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell and others. (Best anecdote: One of Hitch's granddaughters got him to secretly co-author a paper on one of his movies for her college film course — they earned a 'C'.) Also included is the retrospective documentary "Edith Head: The Paramount Years" (13 min.), as well as the original theatrical trailer. To Catch a Thief is on the street tomorrow.

    Box Office: After starring in a handful of box-office disappointments in recent years, Tim Allen landed atop the chart over the weekend with Buena Vista's The Santa Clause 2 — despite the fact that the film arrived in theaters just one day after Halloween, festive moviegoers gave it a $29 million debut. The weekend's other new arrival, Sony's I Spy starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson, had a modest break by comparison, garnering just $14 million and landing in third place. But I Spy had no problem bettering last week's winner, Paramount's Jackass: The Movie, which fell from first to fourth with a $13.1 million frame. The Santa Clause 2 earned mixed notices, while I Spy was widely panned.

    In continuing release, DreamWorks' thriller The Ring is showing some legs by holding on to second place in its third weekend and $64.9 million to date. Buena Vista's Sweet Home Alabama has also been a strong performer, racking up $113.5 million after six weeks. Playing in less theaters is Sony's Punch-Drunk Love, which stands at $11 million so far for director Paul Thomas Anderson, and MGM's Bowling For Columbine, directed by Michael Moore, has popped up on the chart with a $4.6 million cume. Meanwhile, DreamWorks' The Tuxedo starring Jackie Chan is headed for the cheap theaters, where it will finish around $50 million.

    New films arriving in cineplexes this Friday include Curtis Hanson's 8 Mile starring Eminem, as well as the thriller Femme Fatale with Antonio Banderas and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. The Santa Clause 2 (Buena Vista)
      $29,000,000 ($29,000,000 through 1 week)
    2. The Ring (DreamWorks SKG)
      $18,500,000 ($64,900,000 through 3 weeks)
    3. I Spy (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $14,000,000 ($14,000,000 through 1 week)
    4. Jackass: The Movie (Paramount)
      $13,100,000 ($42,492,000 through 2 weeks)
    5. Ghost Ship (Warner Bros.)
      $6,570,000 ($21,265,000 through 2 weeks)
    6. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (IFC Films)
      $5,621,020 ($185,242,847 through 29 weeks)
    7. Sweet Home Alabama (Buena Vista)
      $4,600,000 ($113,500,000 through 6 weeks)
    8. Punch-Drunk Love (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $4,200,000 ($11,058,000 through 4 weeks)
    9. Red Dragon (Universal)
      $2,660,000 ($88,979,000 through 5 weeks)
    10. Brown Sugar (Fox Searchlight)
      $1,700,000 ($24,619,000 through 4 weeks)
    11. Bowling For Columbine (MGM/UA)
      $1,650,000 ($4,627,000 through 4 weeks)
    12. Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie (Artisan)
      $1,500,000 ($21,600,000 through 5 weeks)

    On the Board: Damon Houx has posted a new review of Columbia TriStar's two-disc Spider-Man: Special Edition, while new stuff this week from the rest of the team includes Babylon 5: Season One, The Powerpuff Girls Movie, The X-Files: Season Six, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Gangster No. 1, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Houseboat, Fingers, To Catch a Thief, and Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five. 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.

    We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.

    — Ed.

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