Tuesday, 25 Feb. 2003
On the Street: DreamWorks is on the board this week with three separate editions of Road to Perdition, which streets today in both widescreen and pan-and-scan boxes, in addition to a widescreen edition with DTS audio. Also new from DreamWorks' is The Tuxedo starring Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Criterion has an interesting double-feature out with the once-notorious I Am Curious films, while other art-house fare from Home Vision includes Drôle de Drame, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, and La Vallée. Columbia TriStar has a pair of classics out as well with George Stevens' The Talk of the Town and John Cassavetes' Gloria, while Otto Preminger's The Cardinal is a two-disc SE from Warner. Star Trek fans can start a whole new collection this week with the arrival of Paramount's first Deep Space Nine box. And if you're shopping for a friend (or just yourself), the latest Creative Design gift boxes include Amadeus, Ocean's Eleven, and Superman. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 24 Feb. 2003
Disc of the Week: Try as he might, Cary Grant could not avoid typecasting. The Bristol-born Englishman arrived in New York City in 1920 as part of a British comedy troupe, and a few years later he embarked on a film career in California which at first led to modest roles in Paramount features. However, as legend has it, the handsome Grant was "discovered" by Mae West, who saw him on a movie set one day and told her director "If he can talk, hire him." Grant was immediately cast opposite West in 1933's She Done Him Wrong, and it was to him that she uttered the immortal movie line "Why dontcha come up sometime and see me." Born Archibald Leach, the actor Cary Grant spent a lifetime pondering the distance he felt from his own screen persona and in particular the many roles that cast him as the attractive leading man. Without question, he was a talented dramatic actor who also had a gift for light comedy, but one only has to look at the resume to understand Cary Grant the Hollywood commodity: In films such as His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, Arsenic and Old Lace, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, An Affair to Remember, North By Northwest, and Charade, Grant is the smoldering single man, somewhat elusive to women, and usually a bit of a scoundrel. But Grant occasionally looked for films that would cast him against type, such as None But the Lonely Heart and Father Goose. He always had a special affection for these projects, and his finest bit of improbable casting came in George Stevens' 1942 The Talk of the Town, one of the great romantic comedies of the golden era.
Grant stars as Leopold Dilg, a mill laborer in a small New England town who discovers one day that he's a hunted man. A notorious rabble-rouser, Dilg had been protesting working conditions at the local woolen mill for years. But after it's destroyed by an arsonist and a man dies in the fire, the innocent Dilg is fingered by the authorities as the prime suspect. With an injured leg that won't let him flee very far, Dilg takes refuge in a rustic rental house owned by old friend Nora Shelley (Jean Arthur). However, the day Dilg arrives is also the day Nora is expecting Prof. Michael Lightcap (Ronald Colman), a Supreme Court nominee who is looking for a quiet respite to finish writing a book. Dilg attempts to hide out in the attic, but soon after he's introduced to Lightcap as "Joseph" the gardener, and before long the two men form a friendship around a series of theoretical debates concerning the nature of law Lightcap believes that the legal system only has use when it's applied in a cold, dispassionate matter, while Dilg insists that the law exists only to support the powerful, and that there are times when it's appropriate to take matters into one's own hands. It's after Dilg is exposed and finds himself once again on the run that both men are forced to examine the validity of their ideals.
A cinematic admixture of genres, The Talk of the Town could be faulted for trying to be too many things at once a whodunit, a comedy of mistaken identity, a romantic tale with a love triangle, and a social commentary on the relationship between laws and justice, the story utilizes a handful of separate plotlines and several tone-shifts. But somehow it does work, and wonderfully. Certainly, Frank Capra's films from this era were also skillful blends of comedy and drama, and one could say that The Talk of the Town is the best Capra film the director never made (particularly with its three leads, who all appeared in Capra pictures over the years). But the man at the helm was George Stevens, one of the most renowned perfectionists of the studio era, a cinematographer who eventually became his own producer and refused to make movies on a hurried schedule. Here, he directs with quiet expertise, capturing a complex story about three people that primarily takes place in one house and an exterior garden. Despite the confined setting, Stevens' camera remains fluid and always arrives at dynamic compositions. Along with the script, the casting is another fundamental reason for the film's success (despite the fact that the two lead actors who debate the merits of American law have unmistakable British accents). Ronald Colman started out in silent films, but his mellifluous voice made him a major star after the arrival of sound, and his refined charm helps us accept the idea that Cary Grant is a common laborer. Grant apparently enjoyed playing the upstart opposite a polished gentleman (as evidenced in The Bishop's Wife, when he chose to trade roles with David Niven), and one soon gets the feeling that "Archibald Leach" should actually appear on the title-card. Between the two is Jean Arthur, who enlivened so many Capra movies (particularly opposite Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper), and her ongoing frustration with her two houseguests gives the film its levity. Thankfully, The Talk of the Town does not shy away from the social climate of its day it was released in 1942, but it's clearly a product of Depression-era filmmaking and its concern for class distinctions. With Grant as the fervent liberal with his heart on his sleeve, and Colman as the solemn conservative who has lost touch with his youth, it's a story that has just as much relevance to some of today's political debates especially when both men discover that neither position is entirely defensible.
Columbia TriStar's new DVD release of The Talk of the Town features a clean transfer in the original full-frame ratio (1.33:1) with monaural audio in Dolby Digital 2.0. Extras? Not on this one, unfortunately. But it's more than capable of standing on its own merits and is well worth a place in any film buff's personal collection. The Talk of the Town is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Fox's Daredevil starring Ben Affleck took a 53% tumble from its $44 million debut last weekend, but it still managed to hold off all challengers to retain the top spot on the box-office chart, adding $18.9 million to a $70 million 10-day gross. It was a disappointing weekend for a quartet of new films, although the DreamWorks comedy Old School starring Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and Luke Wilson, managed to reach second place with $17.5 million, going head-to-head with Daredevil for the young-male demographic. Appearing further down the list was Universal's The Life of David Gale starring Kevin Spacey, which managed $7.1 million, while Warner's Civil War epic Gods and Generals drummed up $4.7 million, and MGM's cop drama Deep Blue managed just $3.7 million in wide release. Both Old School and Dark Blue earned mixed notices, while most critics dismissed Gale and Generals outright.
In continuing release, the rom-com How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days continues to perform well, holding on to third place in its third weekend with a $64.9 million total. The kiddie-crowd managed to keep Buena Vista's Jungle Book 2 in the top five, and Miramax's Chicago is doing rock-steady business, adding $8.5 million to a $94.3 million cume. Meanwhile, both Shanghai Knights and The Recruit are slipping away with $44 million apiece. And we can say goodbye to Kangaroo Jack, at least for now its surprise $60 million finish means we're bound to get both a packed DVD and a sequel.
New in theaters this Friday is Cradle 2 the Grave starring Jet Li and DMX. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Mark Bourne has posted a new review of Fox's limited edition of Sunrise, while new stuff from the rest of the team this week includes Tuck Everlasting, Full Frontal, Knockaround Guys, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Season One, All or Nothing, The Tuxedo, Gloria, The Talk of the Town, and the Keaton and Arbuckle shorts The Cook and Other Treasures. We'll be back tomorrow with the rundown on this week's street discs.
Tuesday, 18 Feb. 2003
On the Street: Two new titles are on the shelves this morning from Criterion, a double-feature of The Killers and a two-disc special edition of Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Also not to be missed is the long-awaited Kino release of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which features a restoration that literally has been years and years in the making. New from Buena Vista is last year's fantasy film Tuck Everlasting, as well as Cinema Paradiso: The New Version, while little-seen treats can be had with Fox's One Hour Photo, Paramount's The Four Feathers, and New Line's The Sleeping Dictionary. And the latest in a long line of double-dips comes from Artisan today with a new special edition of Stargate. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 17 Feb. 2003
Disc of the Week: Watch a substantial amount of stand-up comedy, and you'll soon realize that there's a very fine line between funny and scary. The same manic energy that gives many of the best comics their edge think Jim Carrey, Andy Kaufman, Sam Kinison, and, of course, Robin Williams often seems just one or two responsive audiences away from degenerating into frantic desperation. That deep-seated need to please, to be appreciated and in the spotlight, can produce peerless performers... or, for those lacking a constructive outlet, something a lot darker. Perhaps because of that risk, many comics seem compelled to explore the dark-side dynamic, gleefully tapping into their inner psychos on the big screen. Carrey did it memorably in The Cable Guy, and in 2002, Williams did it in both Insomnia and, indelibly, in One Hour Photo. A character study masquerading as a chilling psychological thriller, the latter offers the hirsute funny man one of his best roles to date and the chance to prove that even when he's not "on," he's still on.
Williams steps into a sterile, washed-out existence to play One Hour Photo's central character, Seymour "Sy the Photo Guy" Parrish the reigning king of the photo-processing counter at the Savmart mega-drugstore. Lonely and unnoticed in his personal life, Sy takes an inordinate amount of pride in his work, treating each of the prints he makes as a minor work of art. He lives vicariously through his customers, particularly the Yorkin family: mom Nina, (Connie Nielsen), dad Will (Alias eye-candy Michael Vartan), and their son Jake (Dylan Smith). Entranced by 10 years' worth of the Yorkins' happy snapshots, Sy imagines their life as a Norman Rockwell-like ideal; they have all the love, fulfillment, and togetherness he's always wanted and has never had. As his fantasies get out of hand, Sy's interest in the Yorkins becomes an obsession and when he discovers a crack in their cheerful façade, his heart breaks. Unfortunately, his feelings of betrayal lead to anger and resentment, which is when the film gets really creepy....
In crafting Sy's decline into madness, writer/director Mark Romanek, a music-video veteran, proves equally adept at structuring a larger, more complex story. The way he doles out bits and pieces of information about both Sy and the Yorkins, slowly building up to the film's big revelations, is a lesson in suspense; like M. Night Shyamalan, Romanek knows that the smallest, most mundane props and details can offer the biggest shocks and inspire the greatest fear. The audience doesn't decide that Sy is scary because they're told he is they just gradually realize that anyone so hungry for recognition and significance who goes home to a hamster futilely sprinting on its wheel is bound to go postal sooner or later (and then they see the photo wall, but that's something else entirely...). Credit should go to Williams for making Sy's transition into lunacy an almost sympathetic event. For most of the movie, Sy isn't nearly as threatening as he is pathetic; Williams prevents him from becoming truly pitiable by allowing the audience well-timed glimpses of his character's inner delusions. But most notably, as Sy, Williams successfully does something he's never really been able to accomplish before: He disappears. And not just because his dyed-blond hair and pale skin blend into the carefully stylized (and wonderfully ominous) sets; Williams becomes Sy, letting the photo clerk's quiet desperation and determination subdue the motor-mouthed mania he's known for. Yes, the erstwhile Mork has done plenty of other serious roles, but he's never quite made us forget his inner Morkness before. For that alone, One Hour Photo would be worth watching; the fact that it's a thoroughly chilling modern thriller is like getting a second set of prints for free.
Almost as nice is Fox's DVD treatment of the film; the anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is beautiful and lends to the movie's stark palette, while the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio showcases Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek's spooky score nicely, and the extras list is fairly meaty. Highlights include a low-key, informative commentary track with Romanek and Williams, two "making-of' featurettes (one from Cinemax, the other part of the Sundance "Anatomy of a Scene" series), Romanek and Williams' appearance on "The Charlie Rose Show," trailers, and TV spots. One Hour Photo is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: To no one's surprise, Fox's latest superhero movie Daredevil opened at the top of the box-office chart the Valentine's Day debut scored $43.5 million for star Ben Affleck, making it the second-best opening of any February movie behind $58 million for Hannibal in 2001. Also new in theaters was Disney's animated The Jungle Book 2, which arrived in fourth place with $11.9 million. Critics were mixed on Daredevil, while JB2 earned several negative notices.
In continuing release, last week's winner How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson slipped to second place, but with a strong $19 million weekend, pushing its ten-day cume to $47.7 million. Thirteen Oscar nominations means that Miramax's Chicago is still humming along, crossing $80 million in eight weeks. Buena Vista's Shanghai Knights charmed a lot of critics, but it dropped to fifth place in its second weekend with $34.6 million so far. And Paramount's The Hours can be found at the bottom of the deck despite the Oscar nods it's still in semi-limited release, where it's taken in $25.9 million over the past two months. Meanwhile, on the fast track to DVD prep is DreamWorks' Biker Boyz, which hit the skids before reaching $20 million.
Plenty of new films will go wide this Friday, including Dark Blue starring Kurt Russell and Ving Rhames, Gods and Generals featuring Robert Duvall, The Life of David Gale starring Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet, and Old School with Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and Luke Wilson. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Greg Dorr has posted a sneak-preview of Criterion's double-feature of The Killers, while Mark Bourne is on the board with a look at Criterion's restored Beauty and the Beast. New stuff this week from the rest of the gang includes Stealing Harvard, The Four Feathers, City by the Sea, Stargate: Ultimate Edition, The Sleeping Dictionary, I'll Do Anything, One Hour Photo, and Mostly Martha. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page.
We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.
Tuesday, 11 Feb. 2003
On the Street: If you've been saving your pennies over the past few weeks waiting for a disc-positive Tuesday, this one just might be it. Fox gets things going with the new two-disc release of X-Men 1.5, and the studio also has the romantic comedy Brown Sugar and the six-disc Angel: Season One on the shelves. Criterion's re-release of Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast in a restored edition will be a sight for sore eyes. Fresh from Buena Vista is Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams: Collector's Series, as well as Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal. It's awfully hard to miss the arrival of My Big Fat Greek Wedding on DVD after its $230 million theatrical run. Meanwhile, Columbia TriStar's list today includes The Fast Runner, Living in Oblivion, Wasabi, and Swept Away. Neil LaBute's Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart is on the board from Universal. And fans of the silents can look for the Keaton/Arbuckle collection The Cook and Other Treasures, fresh from the folks at Image. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Reader talkback: Thanks to a few folks yesterday who dropped us a line to let us know that The Fast Runner has been released on DVD in Canada by Alliance Atlantis, and in a spiffy two-disc set. For those looking to sample this unique movie, the Columbia TriStar DVD released Stateside is more than adequate, but serious fans might want to visit a few Canadian e-tailers to learn what's available up north.
Monday, 10 Feb. 2003
Disc of the Week: So you bought yourself a digital video camera, know a few actors, and maybe can get your hands on some funding. You're thinking of shooting an indie and perhaps launching a production company. No small task but then again, you aren't Zacharias Kunuk. One of the founders of Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc., Kunuk and his colleagues established their company in order to preserve Inuit culture and language, educate people on Inuit history, and stimulate the economy of the Igloolik/Nunavut regions of Arctic Canada, which have been long-burdened by both high unemployment and suicide rates. Igloolik Isuma has been successful since its inception, founding a television centre, a dramatic workshop, and producing local television programming, short films, and the 1994 Canadian miniseries Nunavut. A full-length theatrical film must have seemed inevitable, and became realized with Atanarjuat, which was released in most venues as The Fast Runner. The first film ever scripted and shot entirely in the Aboriginal Inuktitut language, it was one of the most discussed art-house releases of 2002, and for good reason a mythic story from another era, it also conveys a timeless drama that reinforces the universality of our shared human condition.
Adapted from an intricate Inuit folk-tale that stretches back as far as 1,000 years, The Fast Runner concerns three clans in a primitive Igloolik camp. At the story's outset, a shaman visits the village and places a curse upon the people tribal leader Kumaglak is murdered, while another elder is banished. The ceremonial leader's necklace is then awarded to Kumaglak's son Sauri, who uses his newfound power to humiliate rival Tulimaq. Jumping ahead a few decades, Tulimaq's two sons have become grown men: Amaqjuaq (Pakkak Innushuk) is known as the "The Strong One," while the younger Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq) is "The Fast Runner," and both men harbor a rivalry with Sauri's son Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq). And the rivalry is palpable beautiful young Atuat (Sylvia Ivalu) has been promised to Oki, but she is in love with Atanarjuat, forcing both men to face each other in a traditional tribal battle to win the woman's hand. Atanarjuat prevails, and later he takes a second wife, Puja (Lucy Tulugarjuk), who is Oki's sister. Stung by Atanarjuat's two marriages, Oki plans a murderous revenge, which drives Atanarjuat away from Igloolik for several months. He is assumed dead, but the loyal Atuat waits for her husband, hoping someday he will return and restore order to the cursed community.
The Fast Runner is an enormously challenging film to absorb, but at the same time a richly rewarding experience. It should be noted that it asks an investment from the viewer that is unlike most American films at first it's not easy to understand the nature of the curse that the shaman has placed upon the camp, and for most viewers it will take time to understand the characters' familial relationships with each other. The movie also proceeds at a methodical pace, content to tell its story, but also taking the time to examine the daily life of the Inuit they hunt, fish, follow caribou herds, build igloos, light fires, and occasionally share themselves through songs. We see how they skin their prey and prepare food, and witness the brutal way they can treat unruly dogs (animal lovers have been warned). It all lends to a richness of the overall experience, if not always the efficiency of a film that clocks in just under three hours. But The Fast Runner will be worth the effort for those who are willing to enjoy a change of pace: For a production that's clearly meant to educate viewers on Intuit culture, it's wonderfully free of Hollywood's taste for political correctness taking place well before Inuit contact with white people (anywhere from 200 to 2,000 years ago, depending on whom you ask), this is not a story of Aboriginal oppression, but instead an inclusive, universal drama. The realism is unflinching, from gutted animals to bloody corpses to illicit late-night sex in a seal-skin tent. The plot has all of the tension and energy of a great cultural myth, and enough homicide and patricide to make Shakespeare blush. And perhaps above all, The Fast Runner transports us to another time and place, lulling us into believing that we are watching real people who somehow survive and procreate and sustain families and communities and a culture in the most inhospitable region on earth. The Fast Runner simply is unlike any other film ever made.
Columbia TriStar's new DVD release of The Fast Runner features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) of the movie's digital Betacam source. Shooting on DV wasn't just an economic choice for director Zacharias Kunuk traditional film cameras are notoriously difficult to operate in sub-freezing temperatures, and this digital source was transferred to 35mm for theatrical viewing. However, on this DVD, The Fast Runner clearly has a videotape quality with a high sheen and no hint of film grain whatsoever. At first one might wish to see some classic 35mm images, particularly with the many stunning, barren landscapes captured in the movie. But the video source does have a verité appeal, which lends to the building drama. Unfortunately the DVD has nothing in the way of extras a few shots of the actors and crew during the closing credits gives one the idea of just how difficult this production must have been, and, for whatever reason, it's grossly unfortunate that Columbia could not get some value-add on this disc. However, for those wanting to know more about the film, Igloolik Isuma has an informative website at www.atanarjuat.com. The Fast Runner is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Three new films arrived in American cineplexes over the weekend, and yet another rom-com wound up in first place Paramount's How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson took in a three-day gross of $24.1 million, easily beating runner-up Shanghai Knights starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, which still managed a respectable $19.7 million for Buena Vista. Charting a little further down the list was the comedy Deliver Us from Eva with L.L. Cool J and Gabrielle Union, which snagged $7 million for Focus Features. Knights earned many positive reviews from critics, while notices were mixed for 10 Days and Eva.
In continuing release, Miramax finally expanded their critical darling Chicago to more theaters, allowing it to reach third place its highest ranking so far and push its total to $63.7 million. Last week's winner, The Recruit starring Al Pacino and Colin Farrell, dropped to the fourth spot, adding $9.5 million to a $30.1 million cume. Slipping a bit further was DreamWorks' Biker Boyz, which managed just $4 million in its second weekend and eighth place on the chart. Meanwhile, the lack of kids' features out there has been a boon to Warner's Kangaroo Jack, which has cleared $50 million after one month. And on the way to a cheap theater near you is DreamWorks' Catch Me If You Can, which heads for the exits with more than $150 million.
New movies arriving on screens this Friday include Daredevil starring Ben Affleck, as well as The Jungle Book 2 featuring the voices of Haley Joel Osment and John Goodman. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Damon Houx has posted a sneak preview of Fox's X-Men 1.5 (with additional comments from Alexandra DuPont), while new reviews this week from the rest of the team include My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Living in Oblivion, Sweet Home Alabama, Brown Sugar, Angel: Season One, Bliss, Wasabi, Predator 2, Glory Daze, The Fast Runner, and Swept Away. It's all fresh under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.
We'll be back tomorrow with news on this week's street discs.
Tuesday, 4 Feb. 2003
On the Street: MGM is topping our charts this morning with two excellent DVDs on the street, both featuring Susan Sarandon indie fave Igby Goes Down starring Kieran Culkin, and a new special edition of Ridley Scott's Thelma and Louise, while this month's catalog dump from the Lion includes Road House, Larger Than Life, and such Chuck Bronson potboilers as Assassination, Mr. Majestyk, and Murphy's Law. Fresh from Buena Vista is the popular comedy Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon, while Fox has some classic romance on the board with 1957's An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. And just in time for Oscar season is a new release of Driving Miss Daisy, out from Warner. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 3 Feb. 2003
Disc of the Week: A decade ago, who'd have guessed that the new millennium's "It Culkin" would turn out to be Kieran? Back then, big brother Macaulay was the cute-as-a-button towhead everyone loved in Home Alone, and Kieran was just one of the many interchangeable siblings the Culkin parents shepherded around Hollywood. But fast forward a few years, and while Mac is scrambling for a comeback in Party Monster and recovering from a failed marriage at the ripe old age of 22, Kieran is continuing to prove that he's the Culkin with the real goods. Even in small parts in Steve Martin's two Father of the Bride movies, Culkin's clear-eyed pragmatism shone through, and in The Cider House Rules he deftly played the orphaned Buster, a stoic character who had to learn how to protect himself against the world's cruelty. In other words, he'd already honed just the characteristics he'd need to play Igby Slocumb.
Indie fave Igby Goes Down is the Catcher in the Rye-esque story of a wealthy, cynical teenager (Culkin) who doesn't defy authority so much as consistently prove he has no use for it nor it for him. Like J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Igby is fed up with the phony people around him, from his venomous, high-strung mother Mimi (Susan Sarandon in all her glory) to his rich, hypocritical godfather D.H. (Jeff Goldblum). He learns nothing from the series of schools he's forced to attend (and subsequently escapes), and he looks at the world with one eyebrow permanently raised. But although he's old before his time in many ways, at heart Igby is also a scared kid longing for stability and affection. After he ditches his latest educational institution and sets up camp in a Manhattan artist's loft, he finds the latter, at least temporarily, in the form of sharp-tongued college student Sookie Saperstein (Claire Danes). But even their bohemian idyll can't stave off Igby's family forever (besides his mother, there's his rigidly perfect brother Oliver, played with cold acuity by Ryan Phillippe). Before Igby can really become his own person, he has to face Mimi, as well as the living ghost of his father, Jason (Bill Pullman), an intelligent, sophisticated man who disintegrated in the face of mental illness when Igby was a child.
Not exactly the stuff of comedy, on the face of it. But thanks to writer/director Burr Steers' sharp script and Culkin's cynically nonchalant performance, Igby Goes Down is laced with dark, witty humor and plenty of pointed zingers. ("His creation was an act of animosity," Mimi says of her black-sheep son at one point. "Why shouldn't his life be one?") Steers' characters may speak with the kind of verbal dexterity only found on screen (and in Aaron Sorkin's TV shows), but the words they use as they fight to find genuine feelings and connections in a world obsessed with superficiality are worth listening to. And while the film deals with the sort of tony Upper East Side existence most of us can't exactly relate to, because of the way he sees the world and expresses himself, Igby is never at risk of being dismissed as a poor little rich boy. As Igby, Culkin is both carefully detached and impetuously passionate sort of a cross between Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr.'s characters in Wonder Boys. And he holds his own, even amidst stellar supporting turns by Sarandon, Goldblum, Danes, and Amanda Peet (as the self-destructive resident of the aforementioned artist's loft), anchoring the movie with the kind of vivid, heartbreaking performance his big brother could only dream of. It isn't a perfect film Steers occasionally indulges in a bit of quirkiness for quirkiness' sake but Culkin delivers the perfect Igby.
MGM's new DVD release of Igby Goes Down offers a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) that vividly portrays both the crisp wistfulness of a Manhattan autumn and the carefree breeziness of a Hamptons summer. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio never falters, while other options include French and Spanish 2.0 Surround tracks and English, French, and Spanish subtitles. The features list is healthy for a smaller film in addition to a 16-min. "making-of" featurette (which, thanks to the folks involved, is a bit more compelling than the average talking-head-fest), there's an Igby trailer, a bevy of MGM trailers, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery (40+ stills), a conversational (if not exactly scintillating) commentary by Culkin and Steers, and a 10-min. deleted scenes reel. That last extra is probably the most interesting the cut sequences offer more insights into the story's major characters and put some of the film's moments into better context. Igby Goes Down is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Three new films arrived in North American cineplexes over the weekend and snared the top three spots on the chart but the battle for first place was a close one. Buena Vista's The Recruit starring Al Pacino and Colin Farrell took the week's honors with a $16.5 million break, giving the studio its first win in three months and Pacino's first number-one movie in three years. Arriving in second place with $16.2 million was New Line's Final Destination 2, which capitalized on the success of the original film, while DreamWorks' Biker Boyz more or less The Fast and the Furious on motorcycles was good for $10.1 million. All three new arrivals earned mixed-to-negative reviews from critics.
In continuing release, last week's winner Darkness Falls slipped to fifth place with a $22 million total for Sony, while Warner's Kangaroo Jack is doing well with the kiddies, adding $9 million to a $45 million gross. Still in semi-limited release, Miramax's Chicago has broken $50 million, and it's certain to garner some Oscar nominations later this month. Meanwhile, DreamWorks' Catch Me If You Can is starting to fade with a $151 million tally. And on the way to DVD prep is Miramax's Gangs of New York, which will close in the $70 million neighborhood.
Arriving in theaters this Friday are Shanghai Knights starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, and Deliver Us from Eva starring LL Cool J and Gabrielle Union. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Dawn Taylor has posted a sneak preview of MGM's new special edition release of Thelma and Louise, while new reviews this week from the rest of the gang include Formula 51, The Master of Disguise, An Affair to Remember: Fox Studio Classics, Pursued, The Magic Christian, Igby Goes Down, and Copacabana. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page.
We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.