Tuesday, 27 Jan. 2004
On the Street: It's a good-looking street Tuesday out there, leading off with Fantoma's new release of Francis Ford Coppola's much-maligned and overlooked One From the Heart, which will get a second chance at life on DVD. Classic Trek fans can now wrap up Paramount's long-running two-disc special editions with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. New from Columbia TriStar is Radio starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ed Harris, while catalog items include Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidora: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack and Dilbert: The Complete Series. New from Fox is the Merchant-Ivory romantic comedy Le Divorce, while indie hit Thirteen is not to be overlooked. Buena Vista's Alice and Wonderland returns this morning in a two-disc special edition, and keep an eye out for the new release of Hoffa starring Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito, which has arrived with virtually no publicity. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 26 Jan. 2004
Disc of the Week: If Apocalypse Now was Francis Coppola's breakdown, One from the Heart was his rehab a soundstage-bound scaling back in response to the Philippines-marooned mayhem (so unnervingly documented in George Hickenlooper's Hearts of Darkness) that nearly ended his career. But for all of the scarring that Apocalypse inflicted on Coppola's psyche, he hadn't been sufficiently humbled for his tyrannical tendencies (after all, the picture was a critical and box-office success); ergo, rather than reflect on the personal defects that might've been in large part responsible for such a brutal shoot, he rather hubristically landed on the notion that it was the lack of control that nearly ran that film aground. In other words, get Coppola in a position where he can play God, and all would go swimmingly. His dominion would be a huge chunk of then-dormant Los Angeles studio real estate which he would rechristen Zoetrope Studios. Nostalgic for the old studio system in which on- and off-screen talent was nurtured in-house, Coppola's aspirations went beyond a one-film respite from the rigors of Apocalypse Now; with Zoetrope, he would create an artist's utopia, replete with an apprentice program wherein teenagers would be able to rub shoulders with and learn from such master craftsman as Michael Powell and Gene Kelly. But the crown jewel of the operation was to be the development of the "Electronic Cinema," which would allow directors, calling the shots from a high-tech Airstream trailer called "The Silverfish," to essentially edit a film as they shot. Such forward-looking notions not only attracted top-flight talent, it also instilled in its employees a cheerful sense of pride as they pushed the medium's envelope alongside one of the industry's few bona fide geniuses. All that remained was to get the studio up-and-running with its first string of hits, which, as envisioned by Coppola, would be churned out at a rate of one per month.
That "string" would begin and end with One from the Heart (1982), a murkily-conceived, (sort-of) musical romance depicting the tumultuous break-up and make-up between Vegas mechanic Hank (Frederic Forrest) and his travel agent girlfriend Frannie (Teri Garr). Initially intended to be shot in the style of vintage television theater an odd idea, that, considering the appeal of those productions came from their being performed live Coppola was immediately forced into a compromise by technical limitations (a reel of film only runs for ten minutes), though he was still able to implement his cherished marriage of old-school stagecraft with state-of-the-art Hollywood wizardry. Beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro, and enhanced by a tactile, lived-in production design from Dean Tavoularis, the film is a lush, artifice-embracing, eye-popping homage to the soundstage musicals of the '30s and '40s, with sets bleeding into one another through the ingenious use of scrims, and lighting being controlled in-shot by the cinematographer through a light board. As for the story, the plot-spurring rift occurs as Hank and Frannie celebrate their five-year anniversary on (what else?) Independence Day. Hank presents Frannie with the deed to their house, while she gives him a pair of tickets to Bora Bora. Both gifts are selfishly representative of the giver's wishes, leading both to realize how much they've grown apart and, as this discovery gives way to outright squabbling, how tired they are of each other. Clinching their split is the revelation that they've both engaged in minor infidelities, the last straw that propels them into the artificially lit Las Vegas night, where they both hook up with dream paramours who provide them a break in routine. But while Hank's batteries are effectively recharged by his dalliance with impossibly beautiful showgirl Leila (Nastassja Kinski), Frannie falls in deeper with the worldy, ultra-suave Ray (Raul Julia), who offers to take her to Bora Bora.
There is less going on in One from the Heart than in even the most facile Busby Berkley extravaganza, but Armyan Bernstein's gossamer narrative is suffused with a boozy, worn-down soul by the music of Tom Waits. Sung for the most part as a Greek chorus by the songwriter and Crystal Gayle, these songs are heart-meltingly romantic, and they more than make up for the main characters' blatant boringness. Hank and Frannie are the people in the margins the passionate-but-inarticulate couple quarreling in public over matters of extreme insignificance. Though undeniably human, they'd hardly be the stuff of a glitzy movie musical without the assistance of tramp troubadour Waits, who ennobles Hank's lunk-headed jealousy with songs like "The Wages of Love" and "You Can't Unring a Bell." No one gets misguided romanticism like Waits, and his sumptuously arranged score goes a long way toward smoothing over the film's many rough edges. But there's something oddly right about the film's damaged state; in many ways, its lack of polish makes it more endearing. Sometimes, it's the compromised visions that prove more lovable than the masterpieces. In fact, even the film's most hobbling deficiency, the miscasting of Frederic Forrest, winds up working in its favor his bewildered stumbling through the musical numbers just makes Hank that much more likable. When Hank's life is literally lit up by Frannie's return at the end of the film, it's the best kind of movie magic. But it's also the last time a Coppola film would be so transporting. As deeply felt as any picture in his career, the public's rejection of this gift (perhaps as self serving as those given by Hank and Frannie at the beginning of the film) destroyed the director's studio dream. Thus, the film's happy ending takes on an added poignancy when one realizes that, in its moment of reunion, Coppola's muse never came home. Apocalypse Now might've killed his nerve, but this one broke his heart.
Fantoma presents One from the Heart in its original Academy Scope with a full-frame transfer (1.33:1) that does justice to Storaro's exquisite cinematography. Meanwhile, the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio allows Waits ever-wounded warbling to soar. The extras on this fantastic two-disc set are as fascinating as the film itself, starting with a nice feature-length commentary from Coppola, on which he candidly acknowledges his many missteps while fondly recalling the heady, if all too brief, days of Zoetrope Studios. He also discusses the changes he's made to the film for this release, including a re-sequencing of the central dance number between Julia and Garr that follows the original suggestion of Gene Kelly. As usual, Coppola is more hopeful than regretful, noting that, while they couldn't film it all in one take back in 1982, they could certainly pull it off now with the advent of digital filmmaking. The second disc comprises several entertaining documentaries "The Dream Studio" (28 min.), "Tom Waits and the Music of One from the Heart" (14 min.), "The Making of One from the Heart" (24 min.), and "The Electronic Cinema" (9 min.) all which offer an intriguing peek into the Zoetrope folly while praising Coppola's prescience. Also on board are a batch of deleted scenes (some with optional commentary), alternate recordings of Waits' songs, videotaped rehearsals and press conferences, a music video, a stop-motion demo, a collection of trade paper articles, theatrical trailers, and a photo gallery. One from the Heart is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: The North American box office got punk'd over the weekend by none other than Ashton Kutcher New Line's thriller The Butterfly Effect outperformed the pundits by hauling in $17.1 million, bolstered in part by Kutcher's growing celebrity and his unusual turn in a dramatic role. Arriving in third place was DreamWorks' comedy Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! starring Kate Bosworth, which managed $7.5 million. Critics were mixed on Hamilton, while reviews for Butterfly skewed mixed-to-negative.
In continuing release, last week's winner Along Came Polly starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston slipped to second place, adding $16.6 million to a 10-day $53.5 million total. Sony's Big Fish is still doing well, holding down fourth place in its third week of wide release, and with $49.1 million in the bag. And New Line's The Lord of the Rings continues to draw fans, adding $6.8 million to its monstrous $337.8 million domestic haul. Oscar nominations arrive tomorrow morning, and Miramax's Cold Mountain remains an early favorite it now stands at $72.9 million overall. And off to DVD prep is Paycheck starring the newly single Ben Affleck its $50 million finish should take out some of the sting.
New films arriving on screens this Friday include The Big Bounce with Owen Wilson and Morgan Freeman, The Perfect Score starring Scarlett Johansson, and the hip-hop drama You Got Served. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Mark Bourne has posted a sneak-preview of Paramount's two-disc Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, while Dawn Taylor recently dug through Palm Pictures' The Work of Director Michel Gondry. New reviews this week from the rest of the team include Radio, The Simple Life, Le Divorce, Thirteen, Grind, The Accidental Tourist, Lucía Lucía, Buffalo Soldiers, Dilbert: The Complete Series, One From the Heart, and Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidora: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. Everything's been added to the New Reviews menu here on the front page.
Back tomorrow with the street discs.
Tuesday, 20 Jan. 2004
On the Street: One DVD stands high above the rest on this morning's street-list Criterion's two-disc The Rules of the Game brings Jean Renoir's 1939 masterpiece to the small platter for the first time, and it's a must-own for film buffs everywhere. Fans of the western genre may find themselves pleasantly surprised by Buena Vista's two-disc Open Range, which features a comprehensive production documentary narrated by director Kevin Costner. Horror fans can get Lions Gate's Cabin Fever, Columbia has Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico on the shelves, while catalog items from Warner include The Accidental Tourist and Swing Shift. And TV fans are more than welcome to get a look at The Simple Life, featuring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie misbehavin' in Arkansas. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 19 Jan. 2004
Disc of the Week: Some movies open to jeers, hisses, and boos. Perhaps even today, some movies are so bad that people will throw food and drinks at the screen. When Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game premiered in Paris in 1939, fistfights erupted and somebody tried to burn down the theater. Sound like a movie-myth? Actually, Renoir was there when it happened, and he was so distressed by the audience's hostility that he cut his original 94-min. version down by 13 minutes. It still wasn't good enough the class-conscious satire was widely derided by critics and moviegoers alike, and within one month the French government banned it, calling it "demoralizing." France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940 and the Third Reich tried to destroy all existing prints making it a rare topic of concord between the two governments. After the original negative was destroyed by allied bombing during World War II, it looked as if Rules would become all but lost and for most, it already was forgotten. But a restoration effort was launched in 1958, utilizing the few prints in existence, in addition to some unscreened material. This version turned out to be 12 minutes longer than the 1939 premiere length, with only one scene missing (a brief comic aside the director has described as inconsequential). In 1959, The Rules of the Game was introduced to a new generation of filmgoers with a special screening at the Venice Film Festival, where it played to a packed theater and was widely praised. Renoir only had one word to describe that event: "Payback."
The Rules of the Game opens as French aviator André Jurieux (Roland Toutain) lands his plane at Paris's famous Le Bourget airfield. He's completed the fastest Atlantic crossing on record, but once he realizes Christine de la Cheyniest (Nora Gregor) is not among the mob of admirers, he's angry and heartbroken. Austrian singer Christine is married to French nobleman Robert de la Cheyniest, but Jurieux's love for her inspired his daring feat, and his friend Octave (director Renoir) realizes he's on the brink of suicide. Octave thus asks Christine to invite Jurieux to her husband's upcoming "Bete d'Coliniere" at their country estate, which she does despite her husband's concerns. The Marquis, after all, adores his wife, but he's also caught up in a love affair with Geneviève (Mila Parély), which he's hoping to end. Meanwhile, Christine's maidservant Lisette (Paulette Dubost) is content to work for her madame in the La Cheyniest home in Paris, taking various lovers while her husband Schumacher (Gaston Modot) works as the game warden at the country house. Lisette arrives with Christine for the Bete d'Coliniere, but she's indifferent to her husband's demands that they leave their employers. And when local poacher Marceau (Julien Carette) manages to earn a position as a domestic in the La Cheyniest manor, he soon woos Lisette, leading Schumacher to threaten the man's life.
"The awful thing about life is this," Octave says in The Rules of the Game "everyone has their reasons." In a script full of memorable epigrams, this one (spoken by the writer/director) is perhaps the most notable. For Renoir, Rules functions as a satire on the haute bourgeoisie, but throughout his multi-character story, he refuses to fully embrace his players, nor will he completely condemn them. The plot, like the banality of everyday life itself, doesn't concern well-meaning people who find themselves in conflict with fierce antagonists or seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but instead is a detached examination of how people often find themselves at odds simply because they are so self-involved. And in Rules, no person's "reasons" are nobler than another's. It is this shortsighted, occasionally manic self-absorption that serves Renoir's jab at the landed upper classes. The director had previously made his mark with Grand Illusion (1938), but where that film concerned honor among men in a World War I prison camp, Rules arrived in the wake of the Munich Pact, which ceded territory to Hitler but ultimately would fail to appease him. Europe's apparent indifference is reflected by Renoir's insular class one can't imagine any of them surviving a week of trench warfare to defend their nation, but (in the film's most famous sequence) they gladly shoot rabbits and fowl for their own amusement. The Marquis obsessively collects musical instruments and music-boxes, leading one to realize his Austrian wife is simply his most prized songbird. Aviator Jurieux believes he somehow can break the "rules" of this intransigent society by performing a heroic feat that makes him an international celebrity, but that sort of fame has little effect on the revelers at the Bete d'Coliniere, who treat him as either a curiosity or an impediment. And as the story of scheming lovers swings from drawing-room drama to boisterous farce to somber tragedy, Renoir keeps his focus on the sexual hunt. The joyless pursuit of game during the day, followed by the reckless pursuit of romance at night, culminates in one final moment that marks not only the human costs of jealous love, but the cultural costs of moral seclusion among a fading gentry.
Criterion's two-disc DVD release of The Rules of the Game features a good transfer (1.33:1 OAR) from a restored print and monaural audio (DD 1.0). The black-and-white image is not perfect, but for a film reconstructed without the original negative, it's very watachable; the French audio does present its challenges, with tones that shade somewhat high, but again, it's reasonably intelligible for French speakers, and the digital English subtitles are legible on the print. Supplements on Disc One include an introduction from Jean Renoir filmed a few years after the 1959 restoration (6 min.), a commentary track from the 1989 Laserdisc release featuring Peter Bogdanovich reading from the work of Renoir scholar Alexander Sesonske, a look at the shooting script, a comparison of the 81-min. and 106-min. versions (12 min.), and an analysis of two scenes. Disc Two includes a 1966 episode from the French television series "Cineastes de notre temps" produced by Jacques Rivette (31 min.), an episode from a 1993 BBC documentary on Renoir (60 min.), a video essay on the film's history by cinema historian Chris Faulkner (8 min.), a 1959 interview with film restorers Jacuqes Durand and Jean Gaborit (10 min.), a collection of retrospective interviews, and textual tributes from several directors and critics. The Rules of the Game: The Criterion Collection is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: Last week's adjusted numbers gave New Line's The Lord of the Rings the top spot on the box-office chart for the fourth week running, but now it's finally been toppled Universal's comedy Along Came Polly starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston took in $27.6 million to handily best all competition, while Warner's motorcycle flick Torque starring Ice Cube wound up in third place with $10.2 million. One other debut this week, Disney's TV spinoff Teacher's Pet, failed to reach the chart. Surprisingly, many critics were kind to Pet, while Polly and Torque earned mixed-to-negative notices.
In continuing release, Tim Burton's Big Fish starring Ewan McGregor continues to be the film worth talking about, adding $10.4 million to $37.9 million overall, while Return of the King is still selling tickets with $10.2 million for the frame and $326.7 million in just five weeks. Fox's Cheaper by the Dozen rounds out the top five with a one-month total of $111.9 million. Sony's Something's Gotta Give starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton has crossed into triple digits with $100.9 million, and Warner's The Last Samurai has joined the century club with $101.9 million, taking seven sessions to get there. Dropping fast is Warner's Mandy Moore project Chasing Liberty, which didn't snap $10 million after two weekends. And off to DVD prep is Universal's Peter Pan, which will clear $40 million.
New films arriving in cineplexes this weekend include the thriller The Butterfly Effect starring Ashton Kutcher, Renny Harlin's Mindhunters, and the romantic comedy Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Lots of new reviews from the gang this week, including Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Open Range, Freddy vs. Jason: Platinum Series, Underworld, Lost in Space: Season One, It Should Happen to You, Superfly, My Lucky Stars, Nil by Mouth, A Piece of the Action, In the Line of Duty 4, Eastern Condors, Who's the Man?, Blackmail Is My Life, The Rules of the Game: The Criterion Collection, and Uptown Saturday Night. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page.
We'll be back tomorrow with the rundown on this week's street discs.
Tuesday, 13 Jan. 2004
On the Street: The first half of 2004 already is shaping up to be a strong year for DVD releases, but this week's street list probably offers a bit of a breather for most folks. New Line's Freddy vs. Jason streets today in a two-disc Platinum Series, while new from Universal is Johnny English starring Rowan Atkinson and both unrated and theatrical editions of the steamy drama Swimming Pool. And fans of classic '70s cinema can pick up three from Warner Superfly, A Piece of the Action, and Uptown Saturday Night. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 12 Jan. 2004
Disc of the Week: First things first: Kiyoshi Kurosawa is of no relation to surname-sharing Akira in fact, their cinema (though quite obviously Japanese) has very little in common. If one were to draw a parallel to another director, this Kurosawa most closely resembles shock-auteur Takashi Miike (Visitor Q, Ichi The Killer). Both got their start in the 1980s working in the Japanese direct-to-video film-market (affectionately known as "V-Cinema," it's not the ghetto that its American antecedent is) only to blossom into feature-length filmmakers with bents towards genre pictures. For Kurosawa, the main focus has been horror films, although he's dabbled in comedies and yakuza pictures. And for a horror genre specialist, he's been taken quite seriously: Bright Future (2003) was nominated for Cannes' Golden Palm, and Pulse (2001) may get remade stateside in the wake of The Ring's success. But the director's first taste of niche fame came back in 1997 with Cure, which received American theatrical distribution in 2001 after touring the festival circuit. From the film, it's easy to see why Kurosawa has earned so much attention he works within the familiar tropes of his genre, but he is able to freshen up its most clichéd elements. Cure is a movie about a cop chasing a serial killer, and it's hard to get less original than that premise. But while still using some of the thriller genre's most shopworn elements, Kurosawa's spin takes it in entirely new, and creepy, directions.
The film starts with Kenichi Takabe (Kurosawa regular Koji Yakusho) investigating an anomalous group of serial killings in which seemingly normal people murder whomever they're with by carving a red "X" in their chest (and, by doing so, severing their carotid arteries). The killers admit their crime, but they don't know why they've killed their victims, who range from strangers to loved ones. Kenichi figures that another person might be using some sort of hypnotism to convince these people to kill, but the police force's psychologist, Makoto (Tsuyoshi Ujiki), tells him that no person can be hypnotized to do something that is outside of their personal moral code. And while Kenichi tries to find the killer, he's is also burdened by his wife Fumie's (Anna Nakagawa) deteriorating mental condition; she has memory problems that cause her to black out and get lost. The story cross-cuts Kenichi's investigation with a nameless man (Masato Hagiwara) who obviously is hypnotizing people with a cigarette lighter, engaging them to commit these crimes. The stranger is able to get close to his targets by presenting himself as a severe amnesiac, which robs him of his name. After he jumps off a building from no apparent reason, he's taken to a police hut and a doctor's office, where eventually his new victims lead Kenichi. It turns out that the hypnotist sees a strange parallel between cop and killer, and he also sees a parallel between himself and this police officer.
Cops chasing serial killers has been done to death in the wake of Se7en. And if that's a shame, at least it's a decided pleasure to see a filmmaker who takes a film like Cure in an entirely new direction. With the inclusion of the borderline-supernatural mesmerism, the film posits a fascinating question: Is murder an act that's outside of most "normal" people's moral boundaries, or are most people not killers because they would fear the consequences of their actions? That's only one element of Kurosawa's ingeniously crafted thriller he's a director who understands that, with genre pictures, tone is almost more important than story, and composing Cure with a combination of framing and ambient noise makes it the sort of picture that lingers in memory as does the best of his work (Cure is the director's first film to receive an official DVD release in Region 1, although his other movies are popular gray-market bootlegs). It's not easy to elucidate, but there is something in Cure 's cinematography that's unsettling. The film also benefits from the wonderful Koji Yakusho, who has worked steadily with Kurosawa but probably is best known to American audiences for his appearance in the crossover hit Shall We Dance; he also gave a career-defining performance in Shinji Aoyama's Eureka. His Kenichi carries a grim, world-wearied visage, which adds the right sort of solemnity to this spectacular policier.
Home Vision Entertainment presents Cure in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio, and the transfer looks in fine shape. The main supplement is a candid interview with Kiyoshi Kurosawa (20 min.), wherein he talks about the making of the film and his approach to the story's horror elements originally he was intrigued by interviews of people who lived next-door to murderers and often will say "He was such a nice, quiet young man." A filmography for Kurosawa and the film's American trailer also are included, along with liner notes by Tom Mes, author of Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike and co-creator of midnighteye.com, one of the best websites around for keeping up with Japanese cinema. Cure is on the street now.
Box Office: New Line's The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King got knocked off its lofty perch after three weeks of dominating the chart, and it was none other than Tim Burton who did it Sony's Big Fish starring Ewan McGregor captured the pole-position in its first week of wide release with $14.5 million, giving it $24 million to date. The win barely edged out LOTR's $14.1 million for the frame, although it now has a staggering one-month total of $312 million. (Of note, New Line is disputing Sony's Sunday afternoon estimates, and it's possible these numbers will shift by Monday night.) Two other titles debuted over the weekend, although to little result Miramax's comedy My Baby's Daddy took sixth place with $7.8 million, while the Mandy Moore vehicle Chasing Liberty took seventh with $6 million. Big Fish has earned plenty of plaudits from the critics, while Baby and Liberty were widely dismissed.
In continuing release, Fox's comedy Cheaper by the Dozen is holding down third place, cracking the century in just three weeks with $101.3 million. Sony's Something's Gotta Give also has posted good numbers with $92.9 million after five weeks. And Miramax's Oscar-contender Cold Mountain rounds off the top-five with $55.3 million to its credit. Also still doing well is Paramount's Paycheck starring a post-Gigli Ben Affleck, racking up $46.4 million so far. And Warner's The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise is flirting with triple-digits, holding down $97.1 million. Off to DVD prep is Miramax's Bad Santa the dark comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton was a surprise hit for the studio, and will finish in the $60 million range.
New films arriving in theaters this weekend include Along Came Polly starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston, Torque with Ice Cube, and the animated Teacher's Pet. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Mr. Beaks has posted his review of Criterion's two-disc release of Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru, while new spins this week from the rest of the team include Seabiscuit, Uptown Girls, The Shield: Season Two, A Brief Vacation, Dawson's Creek: Season Two, Born to Be Bad, If You Were Young: Rage, Cure, and Duel to the Death. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.
Back tomorrow with the street discs.
Tuesday, 6 Jan. 2004
On the Street: Classics lead our street-list this week, staring with five welcome DVD editions from Warner Days of Wine and Roses, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Where the Boys Are, and The Wind and the Lion. Fox also has a renowned western on the board today with John Ford's My Darling Clementine, as well as several Cary Grant titles, including I Was a Male War Bride and People Will Talk. Criterion collector's can look for the new two-disc edition of Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru, while mainstream releases include Underworld, Babylon 5: Season Four, and The Shield: Season Two. And those of you who didn't want to fork out for Fox's Alien Quadrilogy can now get the series in individual two-disc sets. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of DVDPlanet.com and Image Entertainment:
Monday, 5 Jan. 2004
Disc of the Week: What really happened at the O.K. Corral? There's no lack of historical texts concerning the infamous 1881 shootout in Tombstone, Ariz., between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday against the Clanton clan and the McLaury brothers. But for most Americans, the history of the Old West does not reside in history books, but rather on celluloid. In fact, our very perception of history on the American frontier has been so colored by Hollywood that, were we actually transported back in time, it would bear little resemblance to our expectations. Filmmakers in the 20th century appropriated the dust-blown communities of the desert southwest to create visions of America that were as much contemporary as they were historical endorsements of manifest destiny, progress, and cultural supremacy, and often embodied by the most indelible of American icons, the lone hero. It comes as no surprise that legendary lawman Wyatt Earp has figured prominently in Hollywood lore. Since his earliest film appearance (in Fox's 1939 Frontier Marshal), the historical figure has appeared in nearly 30 films and been played by more than two dozen actors. John Sturges's 1957 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas has remained a popular favorite over the years, and Sturges followed it up with a sequel a decade later, Hour of the Gun. The 1993 Tombstone starring Kurt Russell has developed a cult following, while Kevin Costner's 1994 Wyatt Earp was an extensive biopic, although at the expense of some folks' patience. All of these titles have succeeded with varying degrees of entertainment value and historical accuracy. But none have achieved the poetic elegance of one of the earliest Wyatt Earp films, John Ford's 1946 My Darling Clementine.
Henry Fonda stars as the famous U.S. marshal, who has abandoned his lawman's career in Dodge City and set out on a cattle drive to California with his three brothers. Just outside the town of Tombstone, Earp meets local cattleman Clanton (Walter Brennan), who offers to buy his herd. Earp refuses, and sets off with two of his brothers for Tombstone in order to get a much-needed shave. But once in town, Earp discovers it's a lawless community run by an ineffective mayor and spineless lawmen. As soon as a drunk Indian starts shooting up a saloon, it's clear that Earp is the only man around who has the nerve to go inside and clobber the guy. But he refuses the marshal's job until he discovers his herd has been rustled and his youngest brother shot dead. It's not long after that Earp tangles with local gambler Doc Holliday (Victor Mature), while the young, pretty Clementine Carter (Cathy Downs) catches his eye, and wins his affection. But Earp never loses sight of his goal to find the men who killed his brother. At first, evidence held by Holliday's girl Chihuahua (Linda Darnell) seems to implicate the doctor, but soon it's apparent the Clantons are behind the deed, leading to a day in American history that has now transcended into myth.
For such a beloved western, it's not hard to suspect that My Darling Clementine was just as influenced by the postwar climate as the era's most famous film genre, film noir. Ford's Clementine was only his second picture after taking a five-year break during the war (shooting documentaries for the American government), and despite its attractive blend of action and resolve, it retains a somber, almost defeated tone throughout. The tale of Tombstone has always retained its appeal thanks to two archetypes: The relentless, justice-driven Wyatt Earp, and the sad, alcoholic, doomed Doc Holliday. Despite bearing no resemblance to the historical figure (who was blond and slender), hefty Victor Mature conveys the appropriate blend of menace and volatility that has overtaken the doctor's deep-rooted Southern nobility. But in Clementine, even Wyatt Earp seems to bear psychological scars it isn't altruism that causes him to hogtie the drunk Indian and eventually take on the job of marshal, but instead deeply personal, selfish reasons, in part rooted in vengeance. He is considered to be the leader of the community, but he exists strangely outside of it. In one of the most iconic of all Fordian scenes, the city's church-raising dance, Earp is reluctant to attend, and he dances with Clementine after a great deal of hesitation. And it's no accident that Fonda among the day's most beloved leading men wears black throughout most of the movie, looking more like a screen villain than a champion of Fordian values. After the shootout, order has been restored, and Earp quietly leaves Tombstone. There is no fanfare, no sendoff only Clementine bids him goodbye, and Ford entrusts her, not Earp, to embody his optimistic view of the American frontier.
Fox's new DVD release of My Darling Clementine, part of the "Fox Studio Classics" imprint, features a solid transfer (1.33:1 OAR) from a restored black-and-white source-print that's nearly pristine, with good low-contrast details and hardly any collateral wear throughout, while the monaural audio is provided on a DD 2.0 track. Supplements on Side A include a commentary from film historian Scott Eyman and Wyatt Earp III, as well as the original theatrical trailer. Side B contains an exceptional bonus for the movie's fans, the "pre-release" cut maintained by the UCLA Film and Television Archive this version runs about six minutes longer than the theatrical cut and includes additional scenes and an alternate score. The featurette "What is the Pre-Release Version?" (41 min.), narrated by film preservationist Robert Gitt, compares the two existing cuts, while a stills gallery rounds out the feature-set. My Darling Clementine: Fox Studio Classics is on the street tomorrow.
Box Office: New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King continued its holiday-season juggernaut at North American movie theaters over the first weekend of 2004, holding the top spot on the chart with $30.7 million for the session and a blistering $291.9 million in three weeks. The studio will have a nice spreadsheet to examine on Monday morning as well, with a worldwide gross to date of $677 million, which places it ahead of returns for The Two Towers. All told, international totals for all three films in the series could reach $3 billion and that doesn't include DVD sales. Ch-ching!
No new films arrived in theaters over the weekend in wide release, but Fox's Cheaper by the Dozen starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt had a strong second frame, adding $21.8 million to an $86 million 10-day cume. Sony's Something's Gotta Give has had a good month, holding down third place with $81.6 million in the bank. Miramax's Oscar-favorite Cold Mountain is in the fourth position with $43.8 million after a second weekend. And Paramount's Paycheck rounds out the top five with $38.8 million so far. Warner's Last Samurai is currently flirting with triple-digits, racking up $90.1 million over the past five weeks. And on the way to the cheap theaters is Buena Vista's The Haunted Mansion, which will close well above $70 million.
New films arriving on screens this weekend include Chasing Liberty starring Mandy Moore and My Baby's Daddy with Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson. and Michael Imperioli. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:
On the Board: Mark Bourne has posted a sneak-preview of Warner's double-feature Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931/1941), while Scott Anderson recently looked at Paramount's Northfork. New reviews this week from the rest of the gang include S.W.A.T.: Special Edition, Alex & Emma, Jeepers Creepers 2, Anything Else, The Medallion, The Order, Babylon 5: Season Four, The Postman Always Rings Twice, L'Auberge Espagnole, I Was a Male War Bride, People Will Talk, Where the Boys Are, Heart of Dragon, Days of Wine and Roses, I Capture the Castle, The Wind and the Lion, My Darling Clementine: Fox Studio Classics, and The Emperor Jones. It's all fresh under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.
We'll be back tomorrow with the rundown on this week's street discs.