News and Commentary: January 2003

Back to News Index

Back to Main Page

Tuesday, 28 Jan. 2003

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

  • The boy wizard is back, and he'll be arriving on DVD a little earlier this year — Warner's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will street on Friday, April 11 in a two-disc set loaded with features. Count on 19 additional/extended scenes; self-guided tours of the movie's locations; interviews with cast members Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and others; an interview with author J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves; a visit to Lockhart's class; and tons of DVD-ROM games. Warner also has three classic musicals on the sched, Kiss Me Kate, Les Girls, and Silk Stockings, all on April 22.
  • Our friends at MGM continue to have the most aggressive catalog schedule in the business, and the month of April will be packed. Comedies due to arrive on April 1 include Checking Out, The Couch Trip, Fatal Instinct, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, Married to It, Memories of Me, The Missionary, A Private Function, Privates on Parade, Popi, Palookaville, The Perez Family, Sibling Rivalry, and Undercover Blues. Due on April 15 will be several music titles, including Absolute Beginners, Beat Street, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, A Chorus Line, Lambada: The Forbidden Dance, Rappin', Roadie, and Salsa. And get ready for some trippy double-features on April 15 with Angel Unchained/Cycle Savages, Cry of the Banshee/Murders in the Rue Morgue, Invisible Invaders/Seventh Planet, Muscle Beach Party/Ski Patrol, and Psych-Out/The Trip.
  • Universal is prepping Jonathan Demme's little-seen Charade remake The Truth About Charlie starring Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton — look for a commentary from Demme, deleted scenes, and a featurette (April 1). Also in the pipe is last year's Empire starring John Leguizamo and Denise Richards, which will sport a commentary, a behind-the-scenes short, deleted scenes, and premiere footage, while a separate Spanish-language disc is expected to offer additional supplements (March 18).
  • Some under-the-radar titles are on the way from Columbia TriStar — streeting on March 18 will be The Man from Elysian Fields with Andy Garcia, Mick Jagger, Julianna Margulies, and James Coburn, and the disc will feature a commentary from Garcia, director George Hickenlooper, and scenarist Phillip Jayson Lasker. Also look for Rachel Leigh Cook, Christopher McDonald, and Maximillian Schell in the thriller The Eighteenth Angel from director David Seltzer, as well as the Humphrey Bogart noir classic In a Lonely Place, both on March 18. And then on March 25 we can expect the romantic comedy I'm With Lucy starring Monica Potter and 1950's The Howards of Virginia with Cary Grant.
  • Finally, Anchor Bay's two-disc "Limited Edition" of Army of Darkness has been a high-closing out-of-print disc on eBay for years, but it appears yet another DVD release of the Sam Raimi film will become the new definitive item — AOD: The Boomstick Edition will feature the original cut of the film, the extended cut, commentary from Raimi and star Bruce Campbell, a featurette, deleted scenes, and more. It's here on March 4.

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 and Image Entertainment:

  • Baadassss Cinema
  • The Banger Sisters
  • Band of the Hand
  • Bear in the Big Blue House: Heroes of Woodland Valley
  • Blood Crime
  • Dennis the Menace
  • Dennis the Menace Strikes Again
  • Dragon Tales: Easy As 1, 2, 3
  • Forbidden Homework
  • Free Willy: 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home
  • Free Willy 3: The Rescue
  • The Foreigner
  • Heater
  • Louder than Bombs
  • Manhunt
  • The Master of Disguise
  • Mike Hammer: Song Bird
  • Mostly Martha
  • Never Again
  • Pennies from Heaven
  • Piranha II: The Spawning
  • The Real World You Never Saw: Las Vegas
  • Rugrats: Mysteries
  • Serving Sara
  • Smothered
  • The Sound of Jazz
  • SpongeBob Squarepants: Tales From The Deep

— Ed.

Monday, 27 Jan. 2003

boxcoverDisc 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:

  1. Darkness Falls (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $12,500,000 ($12,500,000 through 1 week)
  2. Kangaroo Jack (Warner Bros.)
    $11,930,000 ($35,494,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Chicago (Miramax)
    $8,452,000 ($40,599,601 through 5 weeks)
  4. Just Married (Fox)
    $7,470,000 ($44,340,577 through 3 weeks)
  5. National Security (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $7,400,000 ($26,132,000 through 2 weeks)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line)
    $6,900,000 ($309,110,000 through 6 weeks)
  7. Catch Me If You Can (DreamWorks SKG)
    $6,600,000 ($145,100,000 through 5 weeks)
  8. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (Miramax)
    $6,002,000 ($6,501,624 through 4 weeks)
  9. About Schmidt (New Line)
    $5,525,000 ($37,888,000 through 7 weeks)
  10. The Hours (Paramount)
    $4,000,000 ($13,934,000 through 5 weeks)
  11. A Guy Thing (MGM)
    $3,300,000 ($12,238,000 through 2 weeks)
  12. Gangs of New York (Miramax)
    $2,864,000 ($65,477,470 through 6 weeks)

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.

— Ed.

Tuesday, 21 Jan. 2003

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

  • Universal will unleash the latest incarnation of Hannibal Lecter on DVD in three separate editions — Red Dragon will arrive with commentary from director Brett Ratner and scenarist Ted Tally, deleted scenes, notes, a featurette on Anthony Hopkins, and profiles of real-life serial killers. Get it in either anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) or pan-and-scan versions, or fork out the cash for the widescreen two-disc set, which will also feature Ratner's video production diary, a film-school short from the director, storyboards, and two more featurettes. It's all here on April 1.
  • Getting special-edition prep from Columbia TriStar is Paul Schrader's Bob Crane biopic Auto Focus starring Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe, which wasn't seen by many in theaters but could get a second chance on DVD. Look for three commentary tracks featuring Schrader, Kinnear, Dafoe, producers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, and scenarist Michael Gerbosi, five deleted scenes with commentary from Schrader, and two featurettes (March 18). Also on the board is the recent romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes, which will get rushed to disc with no notable supplements (March 25).
  • The folks at Paramount have decided some of you love MTV's "Jackass" enough that they should give the "Special Collector's Edition" treatment to last year's Jackass: The Movie — count on a yack-track from star Johnny Knoxville, director Jeff Tremaine, and cinematographer Dimitry Elyashkevich; a group commentary from the cast; a "making-of" featurette; outtakes; music vids; artwork; and notes (March 25). But wait, there's more! Also in the pipe is Tom Green: Subway Monkey Hour, which features Mr. Green traveling around Japan with a camcorder (March 25). Also in store is CSI: The Complete First Season, a six-disc set with all 23 episodes (March 25), Stephen Gaghan's thriller Abandon starring Katie Holmes and Benjamin Bratt (March 18), and the romantic comedy Just a Kiss (March 18).
  • Up from Fox is The X-Files: The Complete Seventh Season, which will arrive on May 13 with selected commentaries from series creator Chris Carter and star Gillian Anderson, deleted scenes, and various other goodies. And the next announced title in the "Fox Studio Classics" line will be the 1955 Love is a Many-Splendored Thing starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones, which will feature commentaries, archive newsreels, and more (May 6).
  • Finally, if you have any DVD editions of Disney's Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (either two-disc, Pixar three-pack, or the "Ultimate Toy Box"), you may want to hang on to them, as the series is reportedly headed for moratorium after April 15.

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 and Image Entertainment:

  • 24 Hour Party People
  • 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure
  • The Bourne Identity (widescreen)
  • The Bourne Identity (pan-and-scan)
  • Carlton-Browne of the F.O.
  • Dinner Rush
  • La Femme Infidele (The Unfaithful Wife) (1969)
  • The Harder They Fall
  • Heavens Above!
  • Hoffman
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • I See a Dark Stranger
  • I'm Alright Jack
  • Inspector Gadget 2
  • Mad Love
  • Murder by Decree
  • Mysterious Object at Noon
  • The Peter Sellers Collection (6-disc set)
  • Python 2
  • Shampoo
  • Simone
  • Sirocco
  • The Smallest Show on Earth
  • Snow Queen
  • Tadpole
  • Two of Us
  • Two Way Stretch
  • Victim
  • World Traveler

— Ed.

Monday, 20 Jan. 2003

boxcoverDisc 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:

  1. Kangaroo Jack (Warner Bros.)
    $17,675,000 ($17,675,000 through 1 week)
  2. National Security (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $15,700,000 ($15,700,000 through 1 week)
  3. Just Married (Fox)
    $12,450,000 ($34,000,000 through 2 weeks)
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line)
    $11,375,000 ($298,993,000 through 5 weeks)
  5. Catch Me If You Can (DreamWorks SKG)
    $11,300,000 ($135,000,000 through 4 weeks)
  6. Chicago (Miramax)
    $8,000,000 ($27,700,000 through 4 weeks)
  7. A Guy Thing (MGM)
    $7,100,000 ($7,100,000 through 1 week)
  8. About Schmidt (New Line)
    $6,275,000 ($30,142,000 through 6 weeks)
  9. The Hours (Paramount)
    $4,725,000 ($7,415,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. Two Weeks Notice (Warner Bros.)
    $4,100,000 ($85,085,000 through 5 weeks)
  11. Gangs of New York (Miramax)
    $4,100,000 ($61,000,000 through 5 weeks)
  12. Maid in Manhattan (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $3,100,000 ($88,356,000 through 6 weeks)

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.

— Ed.

Tuesday, 14 Jan. 2003

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

  • A lot of folks have been asking for this one for a long time, and (finally) Buena Vista will release Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy, Red, White, and Blue in a three-disc set. Red will feature a commentary with actress Irene Jacob, producer Marin Karmitz, and others, as well as six featurettes; White will offer comments from Karmitz, actress Julie Delpy, and editor Jacques Witta, and six featurettes; and Blue will have comments from Karmitz, Witta, actress Juliette Binoche, and five featurettes. The set is due on March 4. Also watch for David Twohy's submarine thriller Below with a commentary from the director, as well as Brad Silberling's Moonlight Mile starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Susan Sarandon (both March 11).

  • Catalog titles are on the way from Columbia TriStar, not least of which being Frank Capra's 1938 You Can't Take It With You starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Lionel Barrymore (Feb. 18). Also in the pipe is the sublime 1937 screwball comedy The Awful Truth starring Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, and Ralph Bellamy (March 11), and arriving on home video for the first time will be 1944's Once Upon a Time starring Cary Grant (Feb. 25). And look for seven more "Superbit" releases on March 4 — Legends of the Fall, Seven Years in Tibet, From Here to Eternity, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Heavy Metal, and Das Boot: The Director's Cut.

  • New from Criterion will be Sam Peckinpah's 1971 Straw Dogs starring Dustin Hoffman, which will street in the unrated version, and features will include a commentary from film historian Stephen Prince, video interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and an isolated score. Also look for the video collection by Brakhage, offering 26 short works by avant garde filmmaker by Stan Brakhage. Both are here on March 25.

  • Last year's popular thriller The Ring is due to arrive from DreamWorks on March 4, where it will be joined by a separate release of the 1998 Japanese original Ringu. However, the new film won't be getting the special-edition treatment at this time — expect a featurette, trailers, and notes.

  • New Line is getting ready to add Ice Cube's latest film, Friday After Next, to its "infinifilm" series — both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio will be on board, as well as two commentary tracks from cast and crew, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a fact track, several featurettes, music vids, and more. Get it on March 25.

  • On deck from Warner is Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale starring Antonio Banderas and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, which will sport a pair of featurettes, a look behind the scenes, a montage exploration, and trailers (March 25).

  • Finally, four catalog titles are due from Universal on April 1 — The Andromeda Strain, Continental Divide, Fahrenheit 451, and Legal Eagles.

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 and Image Entertainment:

  • About a Boy (widescreen)
  • About a Boy (pan-and-scan)
  • Above the Rim
  • The Absent-Minded Professor
  • All About Eve: Fox Studio Classics
  • Ansel Adams
  • The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again
  • Blue Crush (widescreen)
  • Blue Crush (full-frame)
  • Bullet
  • Changi
  • The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes
  • Dead Reckoning
  • The Donner Party
  • The Devil at 4 0'Clock
  • Ethan Frome
  • FearDotCom
  • Gentleman's Agreement: Fox Studio Classics
  • Gus
  • The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit
  • How Green Was My Valley: Fox Studio Classics
  • Joe and Max
  • Journey of August King
  • Krush Groove
  • The Moon Spinners
  • Our Song
  • Prison Song
  • Summer Fling
  • Talkin' Dirty After Dark
  • Tangled
  • Undercover Brother (widescreen)
  • Undercover Brother (full-frame)
  • The Valley Between

— Ed.

Monday, 13 Jan. 2003

boxcoverDisc 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:

  1. Just Married (Fox)
    $18,000,000 ($18,000,000 through 1 week)
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line)
    $14,950,000 ($283,616,000 through 4 weeks)
  3. Catch Me If You Can (DreamWorks SKG)
    $14,800,000 ($119,500,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. Two Weeks Notice (Warner Bros.)
    $6,700,000 ($78,860,000 through 4 weeks)
  5. About Schmidt (New Line)
    $6,250,000 ($21,440,000 through 5 weeks)
  6. Chicago (Miramax)
    $5,600,000 ($17,080,364 through 3 weeks)
  7. Maid in Manhattan (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $5,000,000 ($83,706,000 through 5 weeks)
  8. Gangs of New York (Miramax)
    $5,000,000 ($55,095,938 through 4 weeks)
  9. Antwone Fisher (Fox Searchlight)
    $3,800,000 ($10,452,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. Adaptation (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $2,900,000 ($9,450,000 through 6 weeks)
  11. Drumline (Fox)
    $2,850,000 ($51,406,000 through 5 weeks)
  12. Narc (Paramount)
    $2,735,000 ($3,085,000 through 4 weeks)

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.

— Ed.

Tuesday, 7 Jan. 2003

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

  • On the way from Columbia TriStar is last year's I Spy starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson, which will include a commentary from director Betty Thomas and four featurettes (March 11). Another recent comedy, Stealing Harvard starring Jason Lee and Tom Green, will offer deleted scenes (Feb. 18). Somewhat more promising are a series of art-house and catalog titles, including 1995's Living in Oblivion starring Steve Buscemi, Dermot Mulroney, and Catherine Keener, with a commentary from writer/director Tom DiCillo and deleted scenes (Feb. 11), the 1997 drama Bliss with Terence Stamp and Sheryl Lee (Feb. 11), and the critically lauded Arctic epic The Fast Runner (Feb. 11). Also watch for bare-bones releases of John Casavettes' 1980 Gloria and George Stevens' 1942 Talk of the Town starring Cary Grant, both on Feb. 25.

  • Arriving from our friends at Criterion is Lasse Hallstrom's 1985 My Life as a Dog with a new transfer approved by the director, Hallstrom's short film "Shall We Go To My Place or Your Place or Each Go Home Alone?", a new interview with the director, "Reflections on My Life as a Dog" by Kurt Vonnegut, and the theatrical trailer. Also on the slate is Robert Bresson's 1945 revenge tale Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne. Both street on March 11.

  • MGM is getting back on the musical bandwagon with a re-issue of Robert Wise's 1961 West Side Story in a new two-disc set. Along with an anamorphic transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, we can look forward to the documentary "West Side Memories," storyboards, and archive materials, as well as an enclosed scrapbook and screenplay in a gift-box (SRP $39.95).

  • Coming up from Warner is last year's White Oleander starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, and Robin Wright Penn, which will street in separate anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame editions. Look for a commentary from director Peter Kosminsky, producer John Wells, and novelist Janet Fitch, deleted scenes, and two featurettes (March 11). Also in the pipe is the recent thriller Ghost Ship with Julianna Margulies and Gabriel Byrne, which will be packed with such items as additional footage, a behind-the-scenes doc, three featurettes, and a music vid (March 28). Warner will also re-issue two well-known catalog items — 1989's Driving Miss Daisy will offer a commentary from director Bruce Beresford and others, featurettes, and stills (Feb. 4), while 1985's The Color Purple will have a new documentary on board (Feb. 18).

  • Finally, three baseball movies are coming out of Paramount's vault — Bang the Drum Slowly, Fear Strikes Out, and Talent for the Game, all on March 4.

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 and Image Entertainment:

  • Alice Adams
  • The American Friend
  • American Me
  • Aufzeichnungen zu Kleidern und Staedten
  • Band à Part: The Criterion Collection
  • Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
  • Breaking Up
  • Brother John
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Three (4-disc set)
  • C.B. 4: The Movie
  • Dogfight
  • Easy Come, Easy Go
  • Fun in Acapulco
  • Girls! Girls! Girls!
  • Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder
  • The Good Girl
  • Imitation of Life
  • Last Supper
  • Lightning Over Water
  • A Little Romance
  • Making Mr. Right
  • Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (widescreen)
  • Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (full-frame)
  • Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
  • Music from Another Room
  • Mystery Date
  • North Shore
  • Oz: Season Two (3-disc set)
  • Pépé le Moko: The Criterion Collection
  • Secret Admirer
  • Secret Ballot
  • The Shield: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Signs: Vista Series
  • Stephen King's The Shining (2-disc set) (1997)
  • The String Cheese Incident: Waiting for the Snow to Fall
  • Summer Lovers
  • To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
  • Der Totmacher
  • Trouble in Paradise: The Criterion Collection
  • True Love
  • Tune In Tomorrow
  • Who is Cletis Tout?
  • The Woman in Red

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.

— Ed.

Monday, 6 Jan. 2003

boxcoverDisc 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,, 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:

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line)
    $25,650,000 ($261,664,000 through 3 weeks)
  2. Catch Me If You Can (DreamWorks SKG)
    $21,300,000 ($97,600,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Two Weeks Notice (Warner Bros.)
    $11,615,000 ($69,299,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. Maid in Manhattan (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $9,000,000 ($76,707,000 through 4 weeks)
  5. About Schmidt (New Line)
    $8,750,000 ($12,245,000 through 4 weeks)
  6. Gangs of New York (Miramax)
    $7,400,000 ($47,154,882 through 3 weeks)
  7. Drumline (Fox)
    $5,600,000 ($47,836,000 through 4 weeks)
  8. The Wild Thornberrys Movie (Paramount)
    $5,500,000 ($31,516,000 through 3 weeks)
  9. Chicago (Miramax)
    $5,016,000 ($9,292,595 through 2 weeks)
  10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Warner Bros.)
    $4,545,000 ($251,990,000 through 8 weeks)
  11. The Hot Chick (Buena Vista)
    $3,600,000 ($29,800,000 through 4 weeks)
  12. Die Another Day (MGM)
    $3,000,000 ($153,823,000 through 7 weeks)

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.

— Ed.

Return to top of page