Tuesday, 28 Jan. 2003
On the Street: The street-list this week is so shallow you could barely wade one big toe in it which isn't so bad if you're saving your budget for some heftier stuff down the road. Out from Paramount is Serving Sara starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley, while Fox has The Banger Sisters with Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon on the street. Columbia has released The Master of Disguise starring Dana Carvey, and their catalog casserole features such curiosities as Band of the Hand, Blood Crime, and Piranha II: The Spawning. Family fare from Warner includes a series of Free Willy and Dennis the Menace movies. But if you're looking for something a little more highbrow, we will gladly recommend the recent documentaries Smothered and Baadassss Cinema, new from IFC and Docurama. Here's this morning's somewhat notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 27 Jan. 2003
Disc of the Week: Though it aired on the Independent Film Channel in 2002, Isaac Julien's documentary Baadassss Cinema seems prescient. As the picture was getting exposure, Jesse Jackson began complaining about Tim Story's Barbershop, asking the filmmakers to censor a scene in which Jackson and other prominent black leaders are mocked. The call for voluntary censorship may have made Jackson seem a bit out of touch, but in watching Julien's documentary one learns that the reverend was one of the most vocal quibblers against the new black cinema back in the mid-'70s. Or, as it became dubbed by its (pointedly black) critics, "Blaxploitation." As Julien's documentary notes, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
But that's only one interesting piece of information that can be gleaned from this thoroughly engaging film about the still-controversial genre of Blaxploitation. The documentary begins by illustrating where America and the civil-rights movement were at the end of the '60s, but more importantly it also examines the state of Hollywood's film industry. Fundamentally, the studios were sinking money into bum projects, and it took a shoddy little independent film to reveal that an entire niche market had been ignored. That film was 1971's Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song, and with its success came movies like Shaft, Superfly and Foxy Brown. These pictures were intensely profitable for the studios and helped lift their sagging box-office receipts, but they also made stars out of people like Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Gloria Hendry, and Richard Roundtree. However, while some of the scripts addressed genuine social problems, most Blaxploitation flicks were violent, cartoonish, and notable for their flamboyant costumes, funky soundtracks, and far-out hairstyles. And the more that got produced, the further the quality fell. The genre was criticized for "exploiting" black audiences, while the studios found other projects that caught the public's interest. By 1975, Blaxploitation started to disappear, leaving many of these previously hot actors in a lurch. And though the heydays are gone, there have been some sporadic attempts at re-igniting that heat, most noticeably Larry Cohen's Original Gangsters, which brought Williamson, Grier, Roundtree, Jim Brown, and Ron O'Neal back to the big screen, as well as Quentin Tarantino's 1997 Jackie Brown, starring Pam Grier.
Filled with movie clips and current interviews with actors and film historians, the undercurrent of Baadassss Cinema is also the mark of the genre itself controversy. Regarding the seminal Sweet Sweetback, many of the interviewees agree it was a great and important movie (including director Melvin Van Peebles), but then director Julien presents Bell Hooks, who argues that the film is exploitative. However, it is Hooks who defends Jackie Brown, while critics Elvis Mitchell and Armond White take issue with Tarantino's use of the word "nigger." Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson then defend those choices. Throughout, the documentary explores how the mainstream film industry regarded Blaxploitation titles as illegitimate children, while the black community suffered from the many depictions of pimps, pushers, and thieves as (anti)heroes. Most impressive is how Julien covers so much material in his 56-minute running-time, although there are a few prominent omissions and no-shows; The Mack is only mentioned for the wardrobe, while Rudy Ray Moore (Dolemite) is completely ignored, as are films like the more tranquil Cooley High or the retro-themed I'm Gonna Git you Sucka!. Perhaps one could forgive the oversights then again, one of the main interviewees is Afreni Shakur (the mother of Tupac), whose principal reason for being there, it appears, is that her son was a Blaxploitation fan. That noted, the director does a good job of balancing the genre's value to Hollywood and to the community that embraced it, while acknowledging its inherent limitations as well.
IFC and Docudrama present Baadassss Cinema in a good letterboxed transfer (1.85:1, not anamorphic) with audio in Dolby 2.0 stereo. And if the hour-long running time seems a bit slender, it easily supplemented by four extended interviews featuring Gloria Hendry, Quentin Tarantino, Pam Grier, and Fred Williamson. Though some of what is said in these extended interviews made the final cut, it's nice to see these four talk at length (and sometimes lose their trains of thought). Most interesting is the interview with Fred Williamson, wherein he says that Jackie Brown is just a poor imitation of a '70s movie. Baadassss Cinema is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: You might like it when Super Bowl weekend rolls around, but movie studios sure don't only one new film debuted last Friday, Sony's horror flick Darkness Falls, which managed to land in the top spot despite a modest $12.5 million break. Last week's winner, Warner's kiddie comedy Kangaroo Jack, dropped to second place, adding $11.9 million to its $35.4 million gross (which means Kangaroo Jack 2 is only that much more likely). Meanwhile, adding screens over the weekend was Miramax's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind starring Sam Rockwell and directed by George Clooney the Chuck Barris biopic raked in $6 million. Critics gave Darkness Falls a paddling, while Confessions has earned largely positive notices.
In continuing release, Miramax's Chicago is doing splendid business in less than 600 locations nationwide, holding down third place on the chart with $40 million after five weeks. Also playing well is Fox's comedy Just Married, which has garnered $44 million and remains in the top five. In semi-limited release, Paramount's The Hours is hovering around $14 million and continues to earn Oscar buzz. And still hanging around is The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which is a $300+ million windfall for New Line. But getting knocked off the chart after a dismal debut is MGM's comedy A Guy Thing, which didn't clear $10 million before falling out of sight.
Arriving in theaters this Friday is The Recruit starring Al Pacino and Colin Farrell, Biker Boyz with Laurence Fishburne, and the thriller Final Destination 2. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: New reviews from the team this week include Serving Sara, Tadpole, Band of the Hand, Dinner Rush, The Banger Sisters, Piranha II: The Spawning, Sugar Hill, I See a Dark Stranger, Baadassss Cinema, Smothered, and Blood Crime. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, while our DVD reviews database features more than 1,900 additional write-ups.
Back tomorrow with this week's street discs.
Tuesday, 21 Jan. 2003
On the Street: It's a good day for catalog collectors, in particular folks looking for something out of the ordinary. Anchor Bay is on the board with The Peter Sellers Collection featuring six British films from the actor's lengthy career. Also from overseas is Home Vision's Victim starring Dirk Bogarde, as well as the '40s thriller I See a Dark Stranger. Columbia has yet another Bogart title on the street with 1951's Sirocco, in addition to Shampoo starring Warren Beatty and the recent drama World Traveler. Mainstream stuff this week includes Universal's The Bourne Identity starring Matt Damon. More British comedy can be found in recent Manchester-scene satire 24 Hour Party People, out from MGM. And New Line has the latest from writer/director Andrew Niccol on the shelves with S1møne, starring Al Pacino. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 20 Jan. 2003
Disc of the Week: Nearly every key film from the so-called "Second Golden Age of Cinema," beginning with Bonnie and Clyde in 1967 and ending with Raging Bull in 1980, contained an implicit and often, for the first time in mainstream Hollywood, explicit threat of violence. The turbulent culture of the Vietnam/Watergate/Carter years was echoed onscreen by mafia dynasties, man-eating sharks, killing sprees, desperate self-destructions, hellish wars, and new surge of political activism calling attention in graphic detail to previously turbid social injustices. One of the many reasons that Shampoo (1975) is one of the very best films of that era is that it features none of these elements, and is yet more socially relevant to more viewers than any of its more sensational counterparts.
Ostensibly a comedy of matters sexual, Shampoo stars Warren Beatty as George, a coveted L.A. hairdresser who spends almost 24 hours-a-day hustling to the needs of a whirlwind of insecure women. When he isn't making them look beautiful with his fabulous hairstyles, he's making them feel beautiful with his prodigious gift for sleeping around. Particularly difficult to balance are the demands of Felicia (Lee Grant), the neglected wife of powerful business man and political financier Lester (Jack Warden); old flame Jackie (Julie Christie), now Lester's mistress; and Jill (Goldie Hawn), George's sweet girlfriend. Hopelessly scattered by these three most demanding and unsatisfiable relationships, George vainly aspires to open his own boutique, despite being incapable of approaching any one thing with an appropriate level of commitment or seriousness.
Although George shuffles frantically between heads and beds all the while looking as if he's just been thwacked upon the head with a giant feather pillow Shampoo never veers solely into comfortable farce. Written with charm and wit by Robert Towne (his follow-up to Chinatown) and Beatty (who was famous for his own philandering) and directed by Hal Ashby (coming off The Last Detail), Shampoo is set during the fall of 1969 smack between the Manson family murders and the presidential election of Richard Nixon depicted here as the beginning of the end of the free love era, and George is its elegiac icon. Unable to support any of his women emotionally, nor the one he truly loves financially, George's free-loving ways are so generous that can't even satisfy them (or himself) sexually before being pulled away to another rendezvous. The one aspect Shampoo does share in common with the other films of its generation is a refusal of the pat Hollywood resolution, preferring instead an honest assessment of the deflating constraints of irresponsibly spent freedom.
Columbia TriStar has released a bare-bones DVD of Shampoo, in a good 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer (with a full-screen option) and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. The lack of extras is disappointing Warren Beatty doesn't record DVD commentaries (at this time, at least), and director Ashby died in 1988. But anyone who wants some background on the film can obtain Peter Biskind's excellent book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls for all the dirt on Beatty and Towne's tempestuous relationship, as well as Ashby's idiosyncratic work habits. Shampoo is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Warner's family film Kangaroo Jack leaped to the top of the box-office chart over the weekend, easily grossing $17.6 million with no other kiddie titles on the board. Arriving in second place was Sony's National Security starring Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn, which was good for $15.7 million. The weekend's only other new arrival, MGM's A Guy Thing, debuted in seventh place with $7.1 million. But none of it mattered much to critics, who were generally unkind to the weekend's trio of comedies.
In continuing release, last week's winner Just Married slipped to third place for Fox, adding $12.4 million to a $34 million total. New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers remains solid after five weeks, adding $11.3 million to a shattering gross of nearly $300 million so far. Miramax's Chicago is performing well, now holding $27.7 million after a month in semi-limited release. And new to the chart is Paramount's critically acclaimed The Hours starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore, which added screens and took in $4.7 million. Meanwhile, off to the cheap theaters is Warner's romantic comedy Two Weeks notice, which will close out just above $80 million.
Chicago will expand to more theaters this Friday, while the only new arrival will be the horror film Darkness Falls. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Dawn Taylor has posted a sneak preview of Universal's The Bourne Identity: Collector's Edition, while Mark Bourne recently dug through Criterion's massive The Complete Monterey Pop Festival. New stuff from the rest of the team this week includes S1møne, Blue Crush, World Traveler, Dead Reckoning, Victim, The Harder They Fall, Shampoo, and Python II. 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 with the rundown on this week's street discs.
Tuesday, 14 Jan. 2003
On the Street: We're suckers for classics around here, and sometimes it seems quality catalog titles don't come around as often as they used to. Thankfully, Fox has three great re-issues on the street this morning, all part of their new "Fox Studio Classics" line All About Eve, How Green Was My Valley, and Gentlemen's Agreement. Fans of classic Disney also have a few catalog items to look for, including The Absent-Minded Professor, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit. New releases from Universal today include About a Boy, starring Hugh Grant, the teen surf drama Blue Crush, and the comedy Undercover Brother, while New Line is on the board with Above the Rim and Bullet. Folks looking for a few frights can check out Warner's Fear dot com although we'd rather spin the Humphrey Bogart classic Dead Reckoning. And two recent PBS documentaries are on the shelves this week as well, Ansel Adams and The Donner Party. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 13 Jan. 2003
Disc of the Week: How fresh the films of the French nouvelle vague remain. After nearly 50 years, Truffaut's Jules and Jim, Godard's Breathless, Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, and early films by Malle, Chabrol, and Vadim, still engage. Yet we forget today how controversial these pictures were at the time, pushing the limits of sexuality on the screen and dividing audiences between worshipers and detractors, thanks to unglamorous, naturalistic photography and disjunctive narrative techniques. And, outside of Resnais, no New Wave director was both as revered and reviled as Jean-Luc Godard. The scion of a well-to-do Protestant Swiss family with roots in medicine and banking, Godard had a pampered childhood and a troubled youth, even spending time in a mental ward thanks to his vagrant ways, which included thievery. He took an interest in film when he fell in with the Cahiers du Cinéma crowd, and he became a writer-critic-filmmaker along with Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, and others. In just a few years, from 1954 to 1964, Godard wrote, starred in, and/or directed 19 films, culminating with Bande à Part, known in the U.S. as Band of Outsiders.
Bande à Part is widely considered by many, including Wheeler Winston Dixon in his fine book on Godard, to be "not one of the directors major works." You'd get an argument about that from others, however, including Quentin Tarantino, who named one of his production companies after the film, if for no other reason than that the plot of Bande à Part resonates with QT's affection for young-loves-on-the-run tales. The film concerns Odile (Godard's then-wife Anna Karina) and her two friends from language school, Franz (Sami Frey) and Arthur (Claude Brasseur). The trio contrive to rob a rich lodger in Odile's aunt's estate. Odile and the romantic Franz (after Kafka) have only just met, but once the more-feral Arthur (after Rimbaud) gets a load of her, he proclaims his intention to take her for himself. And in fact she complies, even going along with Arthur and Franz's flimsy scheme. Unfortunately, Arthur's criminal family finds out about the heist and wants a share.
Band of Outsiders is Godard's version of a '50s teenploitation film (though the cast is a little old for that). It's Albert Zugsmith territory, rather than noir. It's a world of sportscars, cafés (standing in for soda fountains), demanding teachers, rebellious students, and snappily dressed youngsters trying to grow up too fast. But the film also can be viewed as Godard's competitive response to Truffaut's Jules and Jim, another story about two guys both in love with the same girl. With her tendency to wear pleated skirts and sweaters and don male attire (Franz's hat), Karina is Godard's more-accessible Jeanne Moreau. A Lennon to Truffaut's McCartney, Godard was the hard-edged, contrary, contradictory warbler of people's minds, while Truffaut aspired to please with his soft tales of love and children. Made a year after Godard's more commercially conventional, high-gloss Contempt, Bande à Part is a return to the "style" of Breathless and the early films of the New Wave: Hit the streets of Paris with some black-and-white film and a clutch of interesting actors and handful of quotes from French literature and see what happens.
The Criterion Collection, in its 174th release, has done a thoughtful job with Band of Outsiders. Given to releasing its directorial treats in pairs, this disc bookends Godard's Contempt (spine #171). From its menu, which shows the trio doing the Madison dance from Chapter 12, to a pair of trailers separated by half a decade, the disc is a delight and a fine celebration of Godard's strangely cogitating cinema. The new full-frame transfer (1.33:1) is admirably clean after some digital restoration, under the supervision of cinematographer Raoul Coutard. The monaural track (DD 1.0) also has been digitally corrected. Meanwhile, the solid package of supplements includes a "Visual Glossary" (17:58), which consists of 31 annotations to the film cataloging the in-jokes and literary and cinematic references many to novelist Raymond Queneau, but others to American pop culture, such as the partnerless Madison line-dance, whereas the famous Louvre tour in Chapter 28 also is tracked to antecedents in American cinema. "Godard 1964" (5:16) is an excerpt from the TV special La nouvelle vague par elle-même by André S. Labarth, and it contains some rare behind-the-scenes footage of the Band of Outsiders shoot. There are two appealing and informative video interviews, the first with Anna Karina (18:26), who made seven films with Godard, the second with Raoul Coutard (11:01), who shot 15 of Godard's films. Another novelty is "Les Fiancés du Pont MacDonald" (2:54), the faux silent film-with-the-film from Agnes Varda's 1962 Cleo from 5 to 7. In it, we see Godard (sometimes without his trademark dark glasses), Karina, Frey, Eddie Constantine, and other members of the French New Wave clique. Also on hand is Godard's original trailer for the film (1:52), plus the American trailer (2:10) for the 2001 Rialto re-release, which is mostly the same but for some added text. A 16-page booklet contains an essay Joshua Clover, excerpts from Godard's original press notes, an interview with Godard from 1964, chapter titles, transfer information, credits. Band of Outsiders: The Criterion Collection is on the street now.
Box Office: Only one new film arrived in American cineplexes over the weekend, Fox's romantic comedy Just Married starring Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy, which managed to displace New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers after a three-week run in first place. Meanwhile, three films in limited release expanded to more screens and earned spots on the chart Fox Searchlight's Antwone Fisher (directed by Denzel Washington) added $3.8 million to a $10.4 million total, Sony's Adaptation gained $2.9 million, and Paramount's Narc garnered $2.7 million in new theaters. Just Married took a beating from the critics, but Fisher, Adaptation, and Narc have received generally positive reviews.
In continuing release, The Two Towers no longer holds the top position, but it easily has the highest cume on the chart with a blistering $283.6 million after just one month. Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can is now well over the century with $119.5 million. And New Line's About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson is a small film making strides, holding down fifth place with $21.4 million so far. Meanwhile, dueling romantic comedies Two Weeks Notice and Maid in Manhattan are still tracking similar numbers in the $80 million range. And off for an inevitable special-edition DVD later this year is Warner's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which cleared more than $250 million during its domestic run.
Expanding to new theaters this Friday is Paramount's The Hours, while new movies include the comedies A Guy Thing starring Julia Stiles and Jason Lee, National Security with Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn, and Kangaroo Jack. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Damon Houx has posted a new review of Criterion's Trouble in Paradise, while fresh stuff from the rest of the gang this week includes Signs: Vista Series, Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat, The Shield: Season One, Band of Outsiders: The Criterion Collection, Gentleman's Agreement: Fox Studio Classics, All About Eve: Fox Studio Classics, Much Ado About Nothing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Three, Pépé le Moko: The Criterion Collection, How Green Was My Valley: Fox Studio Classics, Fear dot com, and Who is Cletis Tout?. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, while our DVD reviews database features more than 1,900 additional write-ups.
We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.
Tuesday, 7 Jan. 2003
On the Street: Criterion fans who've been out-of-touch for the past few weeks (and haven't we all) may be surprised to find three new discs on the street this morning Trouble in Paradise, Band à Part, and Pépé le Moko all had their street dates move up to Jan. 7 from later dates this month. Also new is the latest in Buena Vista's "Vista Series," Signs, while out from Fox is The Good Girl starring Jennifer Aniston. MGM's catalog dump this month includes a re-issue of Kenneth Branagh's 1993 Much Ado About Nothing. Much raunchier laughs can be had in the latest live concert from Martin Lawrence, Runteldat. And if you're in the mood to catch up on TV, new offerings are out from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oz, and The Shield. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
A Note to our Readers: Your editor reluctantly still finds himself tasked to a couple of external projects, which means our current news schedule will have to remain in place for the time being. However, the team is still here to work on DVD reviews and stats, and we are looking at several new opportunities to expand this humble enterprise. In the meantime, thanks for stickin' around.
Monday, 6 Jan. 2003
Disc of the Week: As independent filmmaking's good-natured lowbrow auteur behind Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma and other popular pings on the popcult radar, Kevin Smith is well known for his personal interactive rapport with his fans. For legions of largely suburban teens and twenty-somethings, he's their rumpled creative-class hero who rose from their ranks to give mainstream Hollywood a wedgie with his cheerfully vulgar and unselfconsciously verbal New Jersey series, better known as the five "Jay & Silent Bob" movies drawn from his own life experiences. Clerks and Mallrats remain cultural touchstones for teens who strive to achieve, at least vicariously, their own state of slacker nirvana. Smith and his movies jumped up a level in content and craft with Chasing Amy, which he made for $250,000. Its open-spirited up-frontness about sexuality and relationships helped it earn a standing ovation at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, then to find a place on several critics' Top 10 lists for the year (Quentin Tarantino listed it as his favorite of '97). In Dogma ('99), Smith worked through some thorny questions from his devout Catholic upbringing in a raucously funny yet ultimately intelligent and tender theological bull session (it also inspired traincars of sight-unseen hate mail, including some death threats). Finally, 2001's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back closed the lid on that phase of Smith's work by being a bow to his fans and a middle-finger-flip toward the juvenile fanboyism that so often passes for discourse on the Internet. And that's something else Smith is familiar with first-hand. His production company's Web site, viewaskew.com, is an online news zine, garage sale, and smoky barroom with a bulletin board that's belly-to-butt crowded with Smithophiles who laud and debate and quote from his movies like a moshpit full of deviant sidewalk evangelists. They're a raunchy bunch, but their devotion to all things KS is plain.
Now fans of this writer/director/raconteur have the next best thing to the man himself dropping by for beers and smokes. An Evening with Kevin Smith is both a university lecture series and an improv comic concert tour. Recorded in 2001 at Cornell, Clark College, the University of Wyoming, Indiana University, and Kent State, the footage is briskly edited to just under four hours. Clad in his signature hooded sweatshirt with baggy shorts or jeans, Smith stands before vast auditoriums that are packed to the rafters with hyper-enthusiastic audiences. No matter if the questioner at the mike is wacked out or decked in a homegrown Jay & Silent Bob outfit, so genial is Smith's relationship with his fans that he goes with it when someone stands to ask him out for a post-show beer, bong, or blowjob (these throngs aren't here for a Film Studies lecture). During these unscripted Q&A dialogues he's exactly what we expect and want him to be laid-back, loquacious, profane, candid, acerbic, by turns cocksure and insecure, self-effacing, at times shockingly intimate, and pound-the-table funny. He maintains an affable charm even when telling blunt tales of sex (such as his oh-so-painful first date with his eventual wife), clarifying his deep-rooted Catholic faith (which didn't preclude joining the protesters incognito at Dogma's opening), and dishing dirt on pals/actors such as Ben Affleck (Smith tricked Affleck into making room in his schedule to shoot the forthcoming Jersey Girl, his next qualitative jump). Onstage shenanigans include an appearance by Jason "Jay" Mewes, who pours himself bonelessly into a nearby chair and remains unflappable even when propositioned by a lovelorn male fan. We get the goods on their friendship's history and how close Jay and Mewes' really are. Although Smith is now a family man in his thirties who has grown past the films that have made him nearly famous, each of his View Askew New Jersey outings gets good talk-time, from the amount of leeway he gives his actors to the brouhaha over Dogma. He deflects a young lesbian's issues with Chasing Amy by pointing out that she viewed the movie with blinders on, and that desire to get folks to remove unnecessary blind spots seems to be at the core Smith's more mature work so far.
Other highlights include the legendary Superman Reborn fiasco, an object lesson in Hollywood corporate cluelessness arising from his stint scripting the aborted Tim Burton Superman movie. Smith encapsulates Hollywood's "fail upward" ethic in hairdresser-turned-producer Jon Peters, who envisioned a ridiculously re-imagined Man of Steel in a movie showcasing battling polar bears, a gay-sounding robot, and (most insistently) "a giant spider." Director Burton and songster Prince are also among the artistes kevsmacked by hilarious anecdotes of Smith's experiences moving in arenas far from his native New Jersey. Sometimes the Beavis & Butthead contingent in the audiences grows tiresome, but Smith keeps it all moving with cordial, potty-mouthed aplomb. He displays throughout this unblushing and unpretentious late-night gabfest that his forthright openness and his pious thoughts about God are of a piece with impromptu porn tapes and his mastery of dick-and-fart jokes. An Evening with Kevin Smith may be aimed solely at the fans, for whom it's an essential addition to the canon, and it may not be about professing college lectern erudition. But even if you aren't a True Believer, because the dude is so darn likable it's all good snoogans.
As a DVD, Columbia's new two-disc set offers up exceptional 1.78:1 anamorphic video and DD 2.0 stereo audio. Even the main menu is fun let it hang a while. Also on tap are nine Easter Eggs, plus four trailers including Smith's Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters and Marvels and Dogma. Subtitles in English, French, Spanish. Dual-disc digipak in a paperboard slipcase. An Evening with Kevin Smith is on the street now
Box Office: New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers landed atop the box-office chart for the third weekend in a row, taking $25.6 million from more than 3,600 venues the win was not as dramatic as the film's last two weekend takes, but nonetheless added to a stellar $261.6 million total so far. There were no new films in wide release in this frame, but two potential Oscar-contenders expanded from limited release New Line's About Schmidt wound up in the fifth spot, adding $8.7 million to its $12.2 million total, while Miramax's Chicago arrived in ninth place, tacking $5 million onto a $9.2 million gross. Critics have lavished praise on both About Schmidt and Chicago.
In continuing release, Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio held down second place in its second weekend with $21.3 million, and it's already nearing the century mark in just 10 days. Two romantic comedies, Two Weeks Notice and Maid in Manhattan, remain in the top five with grosses around the $70 million mark. Doing less business is Miramax's Gangs of New York, directed by Martin Scorsese, which has yet to break $50 million after three weeks. Meanwhile, Warner's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is nearing the end of its run, while MGM's Die Another Day will finish as the highest-grossing Bond film ever with more than $150 million to its credit.
New in theaters this weekend is the comedy Just Married starring Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: J. Jordan Burke has posted a new review of Columbia TriStar's XXX: Special Edition, while new stuff from the rest of the team this week includes Barbershop: Special Edition, The Good Girl, Blood Work, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Seven, Fun in Acapulco, Girls! Girls! Girls!, An Evening with Kevin Smith, and Wendigo. 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.