News and Commentary: June 2004

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Tuesday, 29 June 2004

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

  • New from Warner is a special-edition reissue of The Shawshank Redemption, among the most beloved of recent American films — expect a commentary from director Frank Darabont, two behind-the-scenes spots, a pair of featurettes, two episodes of "The Charlie Rose Show," the film-festival spoof short "The Sharktank Redemption," stills, storyboards, and a trailer. Also arriving will be a "Deluxe Limited Edition" with all of the above as well as a CD soundtrack and a production book by film scholar Mark Kermode (SRP $44.99). Both street on Oct. 5, and the theatrical film will return to theaters for a limited engagement two weeks before the DVD streets. Also on the slate is this year's thriller Taking Lives starring Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke, which will arrive in an unrated director's cut with an anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), while the R-rated theatrical version will only appear in a pan-and-scan edition (Aug. 17). And a new release of Babylon 5: The Movies will collect the telefilms "The Gathering," "In The Beginning," "Thirdspace," "River of Souls," and "A Call to Arms" in a five-disc package (Aug. 17).

  • Paramount's October sched is thicker than a bowl of Texas chili. Oct. 5 will see a special-edition reissue of Brian DePalma's 1987 The Untouchables, as well as movie-only re-issues of The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III and the children's films All I Want for Christmas and Black Beauty. A special edition of the original The Nutty Professor starring Jerry Lewis will street on Oct. 12, along with other Lewis titles (some with Dean Martin) such as The Bellboy, Cinderfella, The Delicate Delinquent, The Disorderly Orderly, The Errand Boy, The Family Jewels, The Ladies' Man, The Patsy, and The Stooge. It's all sci-fi on Oct. 19 with a special edition of 1998's summer spectacular Deep Impact and catalog items Conquest of Space, D.A.R.Y.L., Explorers, and Fire in the Sky. And wrapping it up on Oct. 26 will be Brain Donors, Jimmy Hollywood, and The Thing Called Love.

  • Fresh from theaters is Fox's Man On Fire starring Denzel Washington — expect a track from screenwriter Brian Helgeland (Sept. 14).

  • And finally, Columbia TriStar's got a catalog dump set for the end of August with a special edition of Candyman: Special Edition, Bon Voyage, Past Midnight (Aug. 17), Boa Vs. Python, Lilith, Lord Jim, a special edition of Raising Victor Vargas (Aug. 24), Ike: Countdown to D-Day, Physical Evidence, Relentless, and Relentless 2: Dead On (Aug. 31).

On the Street: Hidden among the many special-interest titles that cover our street-list this week are a few gems, in particular Warner's special-edition re-issue of Mel Brooks' 1974 classic Blazing Saddles, while MGM goes for a different sort of political incorrectness with Barbershop 2: Back in Business. Paramount's offerings this morning include the 1960 classic The World of Suzie Wong and the recent teen drama The Perfect Score. Miramax has a two-disc Collector's Edition of The English Patient under wrap. And there's TV titles galore, including new sets of South Park, CSI Miami, Dawson's Creek, Wonder Woman, and childhood favorites The Land of the Lost, and the animated Spider-Man. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 3 Way
  • Amazon: IMAX (2-disc set)
  • And the Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story
  • Barbershop 2: Back in Business
  • Blazing Saddles: 30th Anniversary Edition
  • Channel X
  • The Cheetah Girls
  • CSI Miami: Season One (6-disc set)
  • Dawson's Creek: Season Three (4-disc set)
  • Deathdream
  • Die Mommie Die!
  • The Discoverers (2-disc set)
  • Dolphins (2-disc set)
  • Dracula: Dead and Loving It
  • Dream Theater: Images And Words: Live In Tokyo/5 Years in a Livetime
  • The Driller Killer
  • The English Patient: Collector's Series (2-disc set)
  • Fancy Pants
  • Flesh and Lace/Passion in Hot Hollows
  • Galaxie 500: Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste (1987-1991) (2-disc set)
  • Garfield As Himself
  • G.I. Joe: Season One: Part One (4-disc set)
  • Here Comes the Groom/Just For You
  • The John Entwistle Band: Live
  • Journey into Amazing Caves (2-disc set)
  • Knight Club
  • The Land of the Lost: Season One (3-disc set)
  • The Living Sea (2-disc set)
  • The Magic of Flight (2-disc set)
  • No Small Affair
  • The Perfect Score
  • Postmark Paradise
  • Rebels and Redcoats: How Britain Lost America (PBS)
  • Ron White: They Call Me Tater Salad
  • Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator
  • Sin in the Suburbs/The Swap and How They Make It
  • South Park: Season Four (3-disc set)
  • Speed: IMAX (2-disc set)
  • Spider-Man: The 1967 Classic Collection (6-disc set)
  • Stardust
  • Stormchasers (2-disc set)
  • Three Blind Mice
  • To the Limit (2-disc set)
  • Uncle Sam
  • Who Slew Simon Thaddeus Mulberry Pew?
  • Wonder Woman: Season One (3-disc set)
  • The World of Suzie Wong
  • You Got Served: Take It to the Streets

— Ed.

Monday, 28 June 2004

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Chalk up Blazing Saddles as only a lampoon of Hollywood westerns and you miss the point by a Texas mile. After its release in 1974, Mel Brooks' R-rated lowbrow "Night at the Horse Opera" became a surprise box-office hit. But comedy, like porn and Picassos, is a fundamentally subjective experience, so critical reaction to this mishmash of rapid-fire gags, Mad magazine naughtiness, outrageous anachronisms, and disjointed styles was predictably mixed. It was regarded as either a rude jumble of sophomoric Borscht Belt shtick stretched to the point of ripping its seams over the film's mod hipster frame, or else a liberating splash of rules-breaking social satire that beat the tar out of Hollywood formulas while simultaneously overturning everyday conventions of racial bigotry, sex, and things you were or were not "supposed" to see or hear on a screen. It was either unashamedly sophomoric or cleverly subversive. The brilliance of Mel Brooks was that Blazing Saddles embodied both and all of these things. The casual vulgarity, racial epithets, and pants-dropping silliness are spread like the very best butter over the more serious business of iconoclastically upturning expectations and tropes, especially some shibboleths found not just in old-fashioned cowboy movies. Not that Brooks sought to make a "message film." After all, we still get the famous campfire beans-and-farts scene, which is about nothing more than being the first beans-and-farts scene in cinema history. Still, it's fair to say that Blazing Saddles broke ground as well as wind.

Although the film's plot is at best a secondary concern, it twists the nipples of every Wild West genre staple in the book. Clevon Little stars as Bart, a black railroad-worker who is used by villainous Hedley — "not Hedy" — Lamarr (Harvey Korman) and the buffoonish state governor (Brooks, who also appears as a Yiddish Indian Chief), in a dastardly land-snatch scheme. The bad guys, abetted by Slim Pickens as an oafish henchman and, at first, Madeline Kahn's Teutonic femme fatale Lili Von Shtupp, appoint Bart the new sheriff of bandit-besieged Rock Ridge. Their purpose is to so offend the little frontier town's "white, God-fearing" squares (all named Johnson) that they'll abandon the territory to the new railroad Lamarr plans to build through it. For a while the plan works, with Bart confronted with every manner of bigotry from words to gun barrels. Bart, though, has more smarts than everyone else in town put together. Teaming with a washed-up gunslinger, the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), he sets out to prove himself, save the town, and defeat those who would "stamp out runaway decency in the West." Everyone onscreen is in fine form and steps into their roles with a sense of fun that keeps Blazing Saddles brisk and sharp. Little and Wilder in particular spark up terrific chemistry. Highlights are plenty, with some (such as the farting scene) having achieved legendary status. Madeline Kahn's note-perfect parody of Marlene Dietrich earned her a second consecutive Academy Award nomination. In its final fifteen minutes, the narrative (such as it is) comes totally unglued from even its own reality, and becomes so anarchic and "meta" that Blazing Saddles could be the American cousin of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which debuted the following year.

Besides the flatulence and coarse language, Blazing Saddles lights the fuses of other cherry bombs and tosses them into our laps with "faggot" jokes, Jewish jokes, and jokes built on certain black male stereotypes ("It's twue, it's twue!"). We get gags at the expense of religious piety, Kahn's uproarious cabaret number about her well-worn nether region ("the dirtiest song I ever wrote," reports Brooks), and a hundred verbal or visual in-jokes that run the gamut from witty to just plain dumb. What keeps the potentially offensive from being genuinely offensive is that Cleavon Little's Bart is never played as a victim. This intelligent, good-looking, well-spoken black man knows exactly how to play off the asinine white crackers that surround him. Blazing Saddles hosed down moviegoers with such audacity that it became a permission slip for other comics and filmmakers who came afterward, from the brothers Zucker and Farrelly to Saturday Night Live and beyond. For three decades its popularity has remained sturdy, manifesting a fan following that may have earned Blazing Saddles the prize for Most Quotable Movie Ever. As Brooks puts it, "It's still paying for my beans."

Warner Home Video puts Blazing Saddles back on the shelves with a 30th Anniversary Special Edition that handily replaces the inferior DVD that's been out since 1997. This new release gives us a great-looking print — clean and sharp and vivid — transferred with improved definition and in its 2.35:1 (anamorphic) ratio. Occasionally a little spottiness is a reminder that we have print from 1974 here, but overall we get a first-rate restoration that delivers the goods. The sound arrives in an able-bodied DD 5.1 remix. Starting the extras, instead of the advertised "Scene-Specific Commentary" we get Brooks' audio essay from the previous DVD edition. It's about 52 minutes long and runs so independent of the movie that it works better with the picture turned off. Brooks is chatty and relaxed and full of praise for his cast and staff, with fond memories of the production process from his earliest introduction to the script to the finished movie's first screening. New stuff starts with Back in the Saddle, a nostalgic featurette with members of the cast and production team reminiscing about their experiences making the film. Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn, a short piece from Lifetime Television, eulogizes the actress, who died in 1999. TV Pilot: Black Bart is the 1975 pilot episode for a failed network TV series based on Blazing Saddles. Lou Gossett Jr. stars in this dreadful attempt to milk a cash cow. Additional Scenes strings together outtakes and scenes that had their audio redubbed or reshot for the bowdlerized "edited for TV" version of Blazing Saddles. The original theatrical trailer brings up the rear. Blazing Saddles: 30th Anniversary Edition is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: The underdogs continue to win at the box office — this time around it's Michael Moore, whose anti-war documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 took in $21.8 million for Lions Gate over the past three days, and the film secured the win despite playing on less than 900 screens nationwide (approximately one-fourth of all other debuts last week). Arriving in second place, the Wayans Brothers' White Chicks snagged $19.6 million for Sony, with $27.1 million since last Wednesday, while New Line's tearjerker The Notebook wound up in fifth place with $13 million, and Universal's Two Brothers, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, landed in ninth with $6.2 million. Critics praised Fahrenheit and Brothers, while The Notebook earned mixed notices. And despite the funny trailers, White Chicks was widely thumped.

In continuing release, Fox's Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story slipped to third place, but with a very positive $18.5 million for its second frame, bouncing it up to $67.1 million after 10 days. DreamWorks' The Terminal starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones continues to arrive in the ballers' wake, taking in $13.9 million for a $41.8 million cume. Warner's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is starting to lag, although it's now over $211 million, while DreamWorks' Shrek is about to join the super-elite $400 million club. Hoping to show some signs of recovery is Buena Vista's big-budget Around the World in 80 Days, which has cobbled together $18.2 million so far. And off to DVD prep is Universal's The Chronicles of Riddick, which will fall short of $50 million.

Only one film goes wide this week, Spider-Man 2, which reaches cineplexes on Wednesday, while The Clearing starring Robert Redford and Willem Dafoe, Before Sunset with Ethan Hawke and July Deply , and De-Lovely starring Kevin Kline will have limited releases on Friday. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Fahrenheit 9/11 (Lions Gate)
    $21,800,000 ($21,958,000 through 1 week)
  2. White Chicks (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $19,600,000 ($27,103,000 through 1 week)
  3. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (Fox)
    $18,500,000 ($67,170,726 through 2 weeks)
  4. The Terminal (DreamWorks SKG)
    $13,900,000 ($41,800,000 through 2 weeks)
  5. The Notebook (New Line)
    $13,025,000 ($13,025,000 through 1 week)
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Bros.)
    $11,420,000 ($211,710,000 through 4 weeks)
  7. Shrek 2 (DreamWorks SKG)
    $10,500,000 ($397,100,000 through 6 weeks)
  8. Garfield (Fox)
    $7,000,000 ($55,770,278 through 3 weeks)
  9. Two Brothers (Universal)
    $6,200,000 ($6,200,000 through 1 week)
  10. The Stepford Wives (Paramount)
    $5,200,000 ($49,005,000 through 3 weeks)
  11. Around the World in 80 Days (Buena Vista)
    $4,258,000 ($18,265,000 through 2 weeks)
  12. The Day After Tomorrow (Fox)
    $4,250,000 ($175,121,408 through 5 weeks)

On the Board: Mark Bourne waxes at further length this week on the virtues of Blazing Saddles, while new spins from the rest of the team include Barbershop 2: Back in Business, South Park: Season Four, The Perfect Score, The World of Suzie Wong, Dawson's Creek: Season Three, No Small Affair, Die Mommie Die!, Three Blind Mice, 3 Way, and You Got Served: Take It to the Streets. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

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

— Ed.

Tuesday, 22 June 2004

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

  • Those of you who found yourselves more than a little frustrated that Paramount released the original Star Trek series on several two-episode discs, and then created lavish box-sets for subsequent series, can look forward to (finally!) Star Trek: The Complete First Season, an eight-disc box-set due on Aug. 31 — all 29 episodes of the 1966-67 season will be on board, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround audio, five featurettes, text commentary on four episodes by Michael and Denise Okuda, episode teasers, a photo log, and Easter eggs. Arriving on Sept. 21 will be this year's hit comedy Mean Girls starring Lindsay Lohan, which will include commentary from director Mark S. Waters and scenarist/costar Tina Fey, deleted scenes, and featurettes. Heading up the August slate will be Lateline: The Complete Series starring Al Franken in a three-disc set (Aug. 17), the telefilm Judas (Aug. 24), the documentary Trekkies 2, and I Love Lucy: Season Two (both Aug. 31). Meanwhile, the September sched is packed, starting with a two-disc Star Trek: Generations: Special Edition, Eddie Murphy: Raw, Murder on the Orient Express, and Whispers in the Dark (Sept. 7), a five-disc (and awkwardly titled) Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan: The Ultimate Edition DVD Collection, Orca: The Killer Whale, Bug, Body Parts, and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (Sept. 14), and finally a new special edition of 1984's can't-help-but-love-it Footloose starring Kevin Bacon (Sept. 28).

  • Getting a second chance on DVD after a disappointing run at the box-office is Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman's critical darling Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind starring Jim Carrey — at this point Universal hasn't finalized the supplements, but we can expect both anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame editions on Sept. 28.

  • Fox's ex-porn-star rom-com The Girl Next Door starring Elisha Cuthbert and Emile Hirsch also failed to light up the box-office despite good reviews and some ardent fans, which means the studio's doing double-time on disc — both unrated and R-rated editions will reach the street with a commentary by director Luke Greenfield, and the unrated version will include a bonus track with stars Cuthbert and Hirsch, deleted scenes, stills, and bonus trailers (Aug. 24).

  • Two Disney/Buena Vista tentpole DVD releases have been finalized for release this fall — the two-disc Aladdin: Platinum Edition will sport two filmmakers' commentaries, a "making-of" documentary, deleted scenes, and a wealth of goodies and games on the second disc (Oct. 5), while Mulan: Special Edition also will get a pair of platters with a commentary from the filmmakers, deleted scenes, music videos, an alternate ending, storyboards, and lots, lots more (Oct. 26).

  • Finally, New Line is bringing UPN's The Twilight Zone: The Television Series to DVD on Sept. 7 in a six-disc set — all 43 episodes will be included with introductions by Forrest Whittaker.

On the Street: It's a light list this week, but Criterion leads the way with three new releases: a double-feature of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths from directors Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir, Jean Luc-Godard's musical frolic A Woman is a Woman, and Pier Paolo Pasolini's Mamma Roma. Meanwhile, suspense fans can check out Columbia TriStar's Secret Window starring Johnny Depp and John Turturro, as well as Larry Blamire's schlock-spoof The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, while Buena Vista/Miramax launches what's certain to become a holiday classic with Bad Santa and Badder Santa: The Unrated Version starring and extraordinarily profane, intoxicated, incontinent Billy Bob Thornton. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Bad Santa
  • Badder Santa: The Unrated Version
  • Beginning
  • Biggles: Adventures in Time
  • Freeloaders
  • Goodbye Bruce Lee
  • The Joe Schmo Show: Season One Uncensored! (3-disc set)
  • Level 13: Around the World
  • The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story
  • Lonesome Dove: The Series (5-disc set)
  • The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
  • The Lower Depths: The Criterion Collection
  • Mamma Roma: The Criterion Collection
  • Night Patrol
  • Reno 911: Season One (2-disc set)
  • Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster
  • Secret Window
  • Songwriter
  • Union Blue Project
  • Vans Warped Tour
  • A Woman is a Woman: The Criterion Collection

— Ed.

Monday, 21 June 2004

boxcoverDisc of the Week: In a barely standing ghetto, a microcosm of poor people are just getting by enough to survive in their bastardized society. Held in check by a greedy landlord and his conniving wife, the community is populated by a strange collection of cast-offs: There's a character who used to be a part of the bourgeois but fell into poverty and is content with it; there's a prostitute who clings to her love stories that she insists happened to her, even though the name of her lover keeps changing; there's an actor whose insides have been damaged by excessive drinking, but clings to hope of getting cleaned up; there's a tinker whose invalid wife is slowing slipping away; and — most pressingly — there's a thief who swears to give up his trade for the landlord's wife's sister, but the landlord's wife won't let him go unless the thief kills her husband. This was the stage set by Russian writer Maxim Gorky in his play The Lower Depths (which was first produced in 1902), and his work attracted two masters to adapt it to the big screen: Jean Renoir and Akira Kurosawa. The Criterion Collection's release of both films in a double-disc set allows for a rare chance to compare and contrast two of the cinema's greatest directors adapting the same work. Through this double-feature, one can see how the main themes and concerns of their directors affect how both adapt the play.

Renoir's The Lower Depths (in French, Les Bas-fonds) was made in 1936 and has long been considered one of the director's minor efforts. Yet with Renoir, a minor effort is generally equal or better than the vast majority of any other director's major projects. It also is notable because this was the first time Renoir worked with frequent collaborator Jean Gabin, and their partnership blossoms on screen. Gabin plays Pepel, the thief, and through Gabin's charisma he becomes the main character of this ensemble piece. He's most often paired with the Baron (Louis Jouvet), whom Pepel set out to rob, only to find the Baron penniless on his last night at his estate before he's evicted; the Baron has frittered away his saving due to his gambling addiction, and he follows Pepel to the lower depths. Yet for the Baron, he finds that in his quest to hit bottom, he's actually more content with nothing. The robbery and the odd friendship between the thief and the Baron is Renoir's main revision of the play in this loose adaptation — the other main change is that Renoir finds more redemption in Pepel's love story than either Gorky or Kurosawa. Though Renoir still peppers his tale with a sense of poverty's bleakness, his version brims with the humanity and the love of people that marks his best work, along with his deft skills behind the camera. What makes his Depths rewarding is that it reveals his wit and sense of humor more than his next series of films (1937's Grand Illusion, 1938's La Bete Humaine and La Marseillaise, culminating with 1939's The Rules of the Game, arguably his best). Alexander Sesonske suggests in his included essay that this lightness may have been pressed onto Renoir; external pressures due to the coming of World War II may have forced his hand. Regardless, Renoir's playful sweetness has a sense of melancholy to it, which gives the film the sort of Renoir touch that makes it a minor masterpiece.

Nonetheless, the major work on this DVD release belongs to Akira Kurosawa. His Lower Depths (in Japanese Donzoko) is more directly derived from the source material; though there is a great deal of overlap, Renoir's version opened the piece to include more of the outside world, while Kurosawa clamps down on the ghetto setting and never leaves it, populating the soundtrack with the oppressive sound of wind that keeps the people of the lower depths trapped in their hovels. In a telling move — though this version is more of an ensemble piece than Renoir's — the heart of the film belongs to the traveling pilgrim character played by Bokuzen Hidari, who espouses Kurosawa's Existential Humanist ethos throughout. His character is the one who tries to see the good in everyone in the group, and who suggests how the choices people make and what they believe in are the most important element of life. The film features Kurosawa's greatest star, Toshiro Mifune, as the thief Sutekichi, but because he's such an attention-grabbing presence, his screen-time is minimized to keep him from overwhelming the whole. Still, Mifune delivers a powerhouse performance. Indeed, much of the film's drama rests upon his relationship with the landlord's wife Osugi (Isuzu Yamada) and her sister Okayo (Kyoko Kagawa). Sutekichi plans to leave the criminal life for Okayo, but his old relationship with Osugi hangs over their plans, leading the film to its desperate final act. The claustrophobic setting (there's a vague feeling of watching a prison film) creates a different tension than the Renoir version, and it gives the characters a greater sense of desperation and loss. These feelings are mixed with some (mostly black) humor, but — as Kurosawa shows — he is unflinching in the bleakness of these characters' existences while still acknowledging their humanity. As even Renoir admitted, Kurosawa's adaptation is the better of the two.

The new Criterion Collection release of The Lower Depths presents both films in their original aspect ratios (1.33:1) and in 1.0 mono French (for Renoir's) and Japanese (for Kurosawa's) with optional English subtitles. The transfer for the Renoir film suffers the most obvious flaws — there is some early shaking on the picture, which looks more like a problem of the digital transfer than the film itself. And while both suffer minor print-damage throughout, they showcase how both directors used depth of focus to give their main settings a sense of space. Unlike Criterion's similar double feature for The Killers, this is not a definite set of an adaptation: A version of it was made in Russia in 1952 (under the play's original Russian title, Na dne), and there is no mention of this adaptation or any studies of Gorky's play. That said, it does offer numerous film-specific supplements. Renoir's film is on the first disc, and with it comes an introduction by Renoir (6 min.) — similar to the introductions he's provided for Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game — where he reminisces on the making of the film. Since the included essay seems to suggest this is a minor work, perhaps it's best to view the inclusion of the film as a supplement to the Kurosawa title. The second disc features Kurosawa's effort alongside an audio commentary by renowned Japanese cinema scholar Donald Richie — who is eloquent, if a touch too dry. Disc Two also includes The Lower Depths chapter of the Japanese TV show "Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful To Create" (33 min.), and cast biographies by Stephen Prince. The Lower Depths: The Criterion Collection is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: It's only fitting that a movie about underdogs should come out on top — Fox's Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn took the top spot at the weekend box-office with a $30 million bow, handily beating DreamWorks' The Terminal starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and directed by Steven Spielberg, which delivered a disappointing-by-comparison $18.7 million debut. However, taking a beating was Disney's Around the World in 80 Days starring Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan, which landing in ninth place with $6.8 million for the weekend. With a reported $110 million budget, 80 Days marks the second major flop of the year for the Disney studio, coming just weeks after The Alamo. Critics were mixed-to-positive on Dodgeball and The Terminal, while 80 Days earned mixed-to-negative notices.

In continuing release, Warner's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban continues to rack up the moola, adding $17.4 million to its $190.3 million tally after just three weeks, while DreamWorks' Shrek 2 is now a gargantuan hit with $378.3 million in the pot after five frames. Rounding off the top five is Fox's Garfield, which added a respectable $11 million to a $42 million cume. Universal's The Chronicles of Riddick starring Vin Diesel isn't shaping up to the summer hit it was hoped to be, falling to seventh place in its second weekend with $41.4 million to date. However, Fox's The Day After Tomorrow will take money to the bank, now with $166.7 million after one month. Meanwhile, off to DVD prep is Universal's Van Helsing, which will near $120 million before it's through.

New in theaters on Wednesday is White Chicks starring Marlon and Shawn Wayans, while Friday debuts include Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Notebook. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (Fox)
    $30,000,000 ($30,000,000 through 1 week)
  2. The Terminal (DreamWorks SKG)
    $18,700,000 ($18,700,000 through 1 week)
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Bros.)
    $17,410,000 ($190,308,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. Shrek 2 (DreamWorks SKG)
    $13,600,000 ($378,300,000 through 5 weeks)
  5. Garfield (Fox)
    $11,000,000 ($42,016,766 through 2 weeks)
  6. The Stepford Wives (Paramount)
    $9,200,000 ($39,454,000 through 2 weeks)
  7. The Chronicles of Riddick (Universal)
    $8,300,000 ($41,400,000 through 2 weeks)
  8. The Day After Tomorrow (Fox)
    $7,550,000 ($166,756,167 through 4 weeks)
  9. Around the World in 80 Days (Buena Vista)
    $6,833,000 ($9,619,000 through 1 week)
  10. Troy (Warner Bros.)
    $1,710,000 ($128,963,000 through 6 weeks)
  11. Raising Helen (Buena Vista)
    $1,308,000 ($34,635,000 through 4 weeks)
  12. Saved! (United Artists)
    $1,300,000 ($6,575,000 through 4 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the review team include Secret Window, 50 First Dates, Badder Santa: The Unrated Version, A Woman is a Woman: The Criterion Collection, Night and Day, Das Boot: The Original Uncut Version, Mamma Roma: The Criterion Collection, The Wedding Banquet, Prick Up Your Ears, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, The Lower Depths: The Criterion Collection, and Tarzan, the Ape Man. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

Tuesday, 15 June 2004

In the Works: Grag that coffee — here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

  • Alfred Hitchcock collectors have reason to celebrate this morning — Warner will release all of their remaining Hitchcock catalog titles this summer with a lineup that includes Dial M for Murder, Foreign Correspondent, Suspicion, The Wrong Man, Stage Fright, I Confess, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, each with a new documentary on board. Also getting a revisit is Hitchcock's classic Strangers on a Train, which will return in a two-disc special edition with the 1951 theatrical version and the "preview" version discovered in 1991 (no word however if this actually is the British theatrical edit available on Warner's original DVD release — if not, the single-disc edition will still retain some value). Also included will be a commentary with Peter Bogdanovich, Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stephano, novelist Patricia Highsmith, and Hitchcock scholar Andrew Wilson. M. Night Shyamalan will host an "appreciation" of the film, while a new documentary will feature star Farley Granger, Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell, and others. All titles will be available separately or in a ten-disc Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection, which will include Warner's previously issued North by Northwest in the sleeve (SRP $99.92). It's all here on Sept. 7, and Hitch fans will note that all of his sound-era pictures will have been issued on DVD at that point, with one exception — the 1944 Lifeboat starring Tallulah Bankhead, which is the only Hitchcock title owned by Fox.

  • And hey gang, Warner's not done yet — the 1984 sack full of Minneapolis funk Purple Rain starring His Purpleness will get a "20th Anniversary" two-disc re-issue on Aug. 24. The original DVD release was full-frame only, but this new edition will restore the 1.85:1 matting and include Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, while features on board include a commentary from director Albert Magnoli, producer Robert Cavallo, and d.p. Donald E. Thorin, seven music vids, three featurettes, and more. And also getting the same street date will be DVD debuts of Prince's Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge. Also watch for two new TV releases, Without a Trace: Season One (Sept. 7) and The Wire: Season One (Sept. 21).

  • Up from Paramount is this year's Twisted starring Ashley Judd and Sam Jackson, which will include a commentary from director Philip Kaufman, two featurettes, and a deleted scene (Aug. 31), while the little-seen thriller The Reckoning is due on Aug. 3. Catalog items on the slate include The Black Orchid, Broadway Bill, Come Back Little Sheba, The Country Girl, Desire Under the Elms, Riding High, The Rose Tattoo, and The White Dawn, while TV treats on the way include Touched by an Angel: Season One, Survivor All Stars: Season One, and (yes!) South Park: The Passion of the Jew (all Aug. 31).

  • Disney's box-office belly-flop The Alamo starring Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton gets another shot from Buena Vista at winning some fans, with a Sept. 28 release on the sched — count on a track from director John Lee Hancock, three featurettes, and deleted scenes. Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl starring Ben Affleck also is on the way, this one with a yack-track featuring Smith and Affleck (no J.Lo?), a featurette, and deleted scenes (Sept. 14).

  • Universal will release this year's remake of Dawn of the Dead in both unrated and R-rated editions, and both of those will be available in either anamorphic (2.35:1) or pan-and-scan transfers — a filmmakers' commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, and few surprises will round out the disc (Oct. 5).

  • This year's middling romantic comedy The Laws of Attraction starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore will arrive from New Line with deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and script-to-screen as DVD-ROM content. Also watch for the little-seen Highwaymen starring Jim Caviezel (both Aug. 24).

  • The latest title to arrive under Fox's "Studio Classics" folio will be 1964's Zorba the Greek, which will offer a commentary by director Michael Cacoyannis, the "A&E Biography" installment on star Anthony Quinn, newsreels, and an alternate opening sequence (Aug. 3).

  • Finally, while no dates have been finalized, Image Entertainment and Paul Reubens have announced a comprehensive release of the cult TV series Pee-Wee's Playhouse — all 45 episodes of the show (including six never before seen) will arrive in two separate volumes later this year, along with a "Pee-Wee's Christmas Special" disc, and Ruebens says he will follow up next year with a limited-edition DVD package featuring the complete series, commentaries, and much, much more.

On the Street: The street list isn't all that long this week, but there's plenty of under-the-radar titles to pick from. Top of our list is MGM's Touching the Void, while also new from the Lion are catalog releases of Prick Up Your Ears and The Wedding Banquet. Sundance favorite The Station Agent is new from Miramax, while mainstream laughs can be found with Columbia TriStar's 50 First Dates, and David Mamet fans can look for his latest from Warner, Spartan starring Val Kilmer. Out from Paramount is the documentary Tupac: Resurrection and 1975's The Stepford Wives. And TV titles this time around include The Simpsons: Season Four, Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season Two, and Dead Like Me: Season One. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 50 First Dates (widescreen)
  • 50 First Dates (pan-and-scan)
  • The Belly of an Architect
  • Beverly Hills 90210: The Pilot Episode
  • Black Hawk Down: Superbit (2-disc set)
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season Two (2-disc set)
  • Dead Like Me: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Going to Hell
  • Hangman's Knot
  • Macy Gray: A Day in the Life
  • The Man Show: Season Two (6-disc set)
  • Moulin Rouge (1952)
  • My Dear Secretary
  • Nip/Tuck: Season One (5-disc set)
  • Prick Up Your Ears
  • The Raggedy Rawney
  • The Simpsons: Season Four (4-disc set)
  • Spartan
  • The Station Agent
  • The Stepford Wives (1975)
  • Teacher's Pet
  • To End All Wars
  • Touching the Void
  • Tupac: Resurrection
  • We Know Where You Live
  • The Wedding Banquet (Hsi yen)
  • The Wild Party
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Season Four (10-disc set)

— Ed.

Monday, 14 June 2004

boxcoverDisc of the Week: For mountaineers, Nepal's Mount Everest will always be a key summit in a career of climbing — with an elevation of nearly 30,000 feet, it's the highest peak in the world, and with obstacles and weather that can turn treacherous. However, Everest's nearest neighbor, K2 — which is less than 1,000 feet lower — often ranks as the world's most dangerous peak, with just one hundred successful ascents and a 50% fatality rate. It's figures like these that call to true adventurers. And peaks that have never been scaled can be even more tempting. In 1985, two British climbers — Joe Simpson and Simon Yates — set off for Peru to tackle the west face of a 21,000 foot behemoth known as Siula Grande. While several attempts had been made, none at that time were successful. For Simpson and Yates (then just 25 and 21 years old), Siula Grande's reputation should have served as a warning — at that point, the two climbing companions had scaled several peaks in the Alps, but this would be their first trip to the Andes. Adding further risk to the challenge, the duo decided to make the attempt in "Alpine style," not bothering to set rope-lines or create camps with supplies, but simply hacking their way up the mountain's face with axes, ropes, and rucksacks. After encountering a storm that held them in place for one night, the climb was successful. But 80% of all climbing accidents happen on descent, and Simpson and Yates' return from Siula Grande has since become a matter of legend — and controversy — in mountaineering lore.

Based on the book by Joe Simpson, director Kevin MacDonald's Touching the Void (2003) is an ambitious documentary that attempts to recreate Simpson and Yates' week on Siula Grande. And Simpson's first-hand account was written not for the sake of an adventure tale, but merely in defense of his climbing partner. In fact, the mountaineer only expected a few thousand climbers to read it and was surprised when it sold one million copies. What Simpson didn't take into account was the reading public's appetite for harrowing life-and-death dramas drawn from true events — it was on the descent from Siula Grande that Simpson, in a freak accident, fell and shattered his right leg with such force that his tibia was driven into his femur, splitting it above the kneecap. In a climb of this magnitude, Simpson realized that his life was all but over and he was doomed to die in the Andes. But Yates selflessly attempted a one-man rescue mission, laboriously sliding his injured partner down the mountain's face with the aid of two 150-foot ropes. It was only after Simpson fell over the side of an ice-ledge, and Yates' precarious footing became compromised, that he did the unthinkable — cutting the rope, he chose to save his own life in the face of dying alongside the badly injured Simpson. Upon returning to England, Yates endured such fierce criticism from the climbing community that Simpson felt bound to defend his partner by writing Touching the Void. But it was Simpson's odyssey of survival and escape within the mountain's crevasses that made the book an international best-seller.

Touching the Void was bound to become a motion picture, but there was some question as to just what sort of film it should be. Without question, re-creating the ascent and return from Siula Grande would present its own set of technical problems. Furthermore, there would be little opportunity for dialogue with just two main characters who are separated for the second half of the story. But director MacDonald's quasi-documentary solution is inspired — getting Simpson and Yates on camera 17 years later, he captured their recollections, with further details added by base-camp companion Richard Hawking (a non-climber). This narrative is then bolstered by a cinematic re-creation of events, using actors and professional climbers to illustrate high-risk mountaineering with the sort of accuracy to make even casual viewers' palms sweat. For some close-up, detailed sequences, Alpine slopes doubled for Andean peaks. But MacDonald also insisted that the production utilize as much of Siula Grande as possible — with a five-person film crew, a small expedition force, and 70 donkeys carrying six tons of film gear, the filmmakers made the week-long journey from Lima, Peru, to Simpson and Yates' 1985 base-camp, filming many of the sequences along the mountain's lower slopes, glacier bed, and rock-strewn bottom. Simpson, Yates, and Hawking also were invited to join the expedition, none having been back since their traumatic ordeal nearly two decades earlier. The two climbers agreed to do some stand-in work (doubling for the actors who doubled for them), but their reactions to Siula Grande — included on this DVD's supplements — form a compelling, equally dramatic coda to a story that's been recreated with painstaking detail.

MGM's new DVD release of Touching the Void offers a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include "The Making of Touching the Void" (22 min.), with comments from director Kevin MacDonald and a behind-the-scenes look at the film crew in the Andes. "Return to Siula Grande" (22 min.) includes some footage also found in the "making-of" spot, but is more fascinating — Simpson claims to be uninterested in revisiting to Peru, but upon returning to the original campsite he's overwhelmed with emotions he struggles to contain, and he later confides in his video diary a barely concealed contempt for the film crew and an anathema toward re-living his own life-and-death struggle on camera. Meanwhile, Yates insists that Siula Grande was just one of his many climbing adventures, that he and Simpson are not particularly close friends, and that he's agreed to come to Peru primarily because it's a vacation paid for by the film's producers (camp companion Hawking later offers a perceptive insight into Yates' reputation as the climber who "cut the rope," and how the story of Siula Grande continues to haunt him). "What Happened Next" (9 min.) includes comments from all three on the journey from Siula Grande to Lima, and then London, and the theatrical trailer is on board in addition to an MGM trailer gallery. Touching the Void is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: A string of new summer titles headlined the weekend box-office, but the boy wizard beat all challengers — Warner's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban took in $35 million during its second frame to hold the top spot, pushing its 10-day cume to $158.1 million. DreamWorks' The Chronicles of Riddick starring Vin Diesel took in $24.6 million for second place, but it was closely followed by Paramount's The Stepford Wives with $22.2 million and Fox's Garfield with $21.6 million. Nonetheless, all three new titles skewed mixed-to-negative with critics.

In continuing release, DreamWorks' Shrek 2 has slipped to third place after one month, now with a colossal $354 million in the bag. Fox's disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow took in $14.5 million, and now stands at $153.1 million overall. And Buena Vista's Raising Helen has done $31.4 million in business over the past three weeks. Warner's Troy isn't delivering the blockbuster numbers it hoped for, with just $125.6 million. But Paramount's Mean Girls still looks pretty with an $81.3 million purse. And off to DVD prep is Man on Fire starring Denzel Washington, which will clear $75 million.

New on screens this Friday is Around the World in 80 Days starring Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Bros.)
    $35,070,000 ($158,135,000 through 2 weeks)
  2. The Chronicles of Riddick (Universal)
    $24,600,000 ($24,600,000 through 1 week)
  3. Shrek 2 (DreamWorks SKG)
    $24,000,000 ($354,000,000 through 4 weeks)
  4. The Stepford Wives (Paramount)
    $22,200,000 ($22,200,000 through 1 week)
  5. Garfield (Fox)
    $21,675,000 ($21,675,000 through 1 week)
  6. The Day After Tomorrow (Fox)
    $14,550,000 ($153,156,588 through 3 weeks)
  7. Raising Helen (Buena Vista)
    $3,821,000 ($31,400,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. Troy (Warner Bros.)
    $3,465,000 ($125,652,000 through 5 weeks)
  9. Saved! (United Artists)
    $2,550,000 ($3,732,000 through 3 weeks)
  10. Mean Girls (Paramount)
    $1,500,000 ($81,318,000 through 7 weeks)
  11. Van Helsing (Universal)
    $1,142,570 ($116,938,110 through 6 weeks)
  12. Soul Plane (MGM)
    $944,000 ($13,020,000 through 3 weeks)

On the Board: An interruption in mail service meant we didn't get all of our screeners to the staff last week, but new reviews on the slate this morning include Spartan, Tupac: Resurrection, The Simpsons: Season Four, The Station Agent, Touching the Void, and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes. It's all fresh under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

Tuesday, 8 June 2004

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

  • Getting a home-video window much longer than the standard five months is New Line's holiday mega-hit Elf, which will return for the next silly season on Nov. 16 in a two-disc "infinifilm" special edition. Expect yack-tracks from star Will Ferrell and director John Favreau, deleted and alternate scenes, soundtrack cues, nine featurettes, a fact-track as subtitles, DVD-ROM content including stills and script-to-screen, and lots of games, including a bit of karaoke.

  • When MGM sends us a Pet Rock in the mail, it can only mean one thing — this year's Walking Tall starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is on the way, and we can look forward to a rock-track from Johnson, a second commentary with director Kevin Bray, d.p. Glenn MacPherson, and editor Robert Ivison, three deleted scenes, an alternate ending, the featurette "Fight the Good Fight," stills, and outtakes (Sept. 28). Coming out of the vault will be Stanley Kramer's 1961 Judgment at Nuremberg with interviews featuring stars Abby Mann and Maximilian Schell, a script reading by Mann, the featurette "A Tribute to Stanley Kramer," stills, and the theatrical trailer (Sept. 7). A two-disc release of the 1980 miniseries The Martian Chronicles starring Rock Hudson will feature an additional 20 minutes of footage, while other Sept. 7 catalog items include The Burning Bed, Gotham, and Moving Target. And also arriving for September will be David Lean's first eight films — Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, In Which We Serve, Madeleine, Oliver Twist, The Passionate Friends, and This Happy Breed — available separately or in an eight-disc "David Lean Collection" (SRP $99.96).

  • Moving fast from theaters to DVD is the rom-com 13 Going on 30 starring Jennifer Garner, which gets an Aug. 3 street-date from Columbia TriStar with two commentaries, a pair of featurettes, music videos, and no less than 18 deleted scenes. Arriving on Aug. 3 will be Tiptoes, Significant Others: The Series, and The Complete Gidget Collection, while Aug. 10 titles include Good Bye, Lenin!, Heaven is a Playground, and Crossroads (con Macchio, sans Britney).

  • Disney's animated Home on the Range is on deck for DVD with deleted scenes, a "making-of" spot, stills, and games for the kids — get it on Sept. 14.

  • This year's box-office disappointment Envy starring Ben Stiller and Jack Black arrives from Universal on Aug. 10, and with barely anything in the way of extras. However, TV fans have a lot more to look forward to, including The Munsters: Season One, Night Gallery: Season One, The Apprentice: Season One (Aug. 24), Columbo: Season One, Law & Order: Season Fourteen, Law & Order Special Victims Unit: Season Five, and Law & Order Criminal Intent: Season Three (Sept. 7).

  • And it's nothing but chop-sockey from Fox today with five Hong Kong classics with oddly translated English titles — Battle Creek Brawl, Iron Fisted Monk, Knockabout, Mr. Vampire, and The Postman Fights Back street on Sept 7.

On the Street: One classic film and another that's destined to be lead off our street-list this week — Luchino Visconti's 1963 The Leopard starring Burt Lancaster gets its first U.S. home-video debut today from The Criterion Collection in a lavish three-disc set, while Fernando Meirelles' Brazilian gangster epic City of God, new from Buena Vista/Miramax, is certain to become a DVD classic that's watched again and again. Along Came Polly is new from Universal, who also have dipped into the vault for re-issues of Field of Dreams and Reality Bites, while Warner's Tarzan-theme today includes a set of Johnny Weissmuller classics, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, and the notoriously awful Tarzan, the Ape Man starring Richard Harris and Bo Derek. Folks who missed it in theaters will want to check out Warner's Mystic River. And catalog items from Paramount this morning include Goodbye, Columbus and The President's Analyst. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • The A-Team: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Along Came Polly (widescreen)
  • Along Came Polly (full-frame)
  • The Bunker
  • Carolina
  • City of God
  • Countess Dracula's Orgy of Blood
  • The Creeping Flesh
  • Crosby Stills & Nash: Acoustic
  • Crosby Stills & Nash: Daylight Again
  • The Dame Edna Experience: Series One (2-disc set)
  • The Day of the Locust
  • Earth vs. The Radiators: The First 25
  • Fangoria Blood Drive
  • Field of Dreams: 15th Anniversary Edition (widescreen) (2-disc set)
  • Field of Dreams: 15th Anniversary Edition (full-frame) (2-disc set)
  • Gamera: Return of the Giant Monsters
  • Goodbye, Columbus
  • Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes
  • In July
  • Just Shoot Me: Seasons One and Two (4-disc set)
  • The Leopard: The Criterion Collection (3-disc set)
  • Love Letters
  • The Man from Colorado
  • M*A*S*H: Season Six (3-disc set)
  • Mystic River: Special Edition (3-disc set) (widescreen)
  • Mystic River (widescreen)
  • Mystic River (pan-and-scan)
  • The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story
  • Phantoms of Death: Triple Feature
  • The President's Analyst
  • Quantum Leap: Season One (3-disc set)
  • Reality Bites: 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Robocop: Special Edition
  • Robocop 2
  • Robocop 3
  • Robocop Trilogy (3-disc set)
  • The Roger Donaldson Collection
  • SCTV Network/90: Vol. 1 (5-disc set)
  • Six Feet Under: Season Two (5-disc set)
  • The Tarzan Collection starring Johnny Weissmuller (4-disc set)
  • Tarzan, the Ape Man
  • Tour of Duty: Season One
  • Who's the Boss?: Season One (3-disc set)

— Ed.

Monday, 7 June 2004

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Rio de Janero is the only city in the world where the poorest residents have the best views. The favelas — the common name for the city's slum districts — first appeared in the 1920s, due to a rapid influx of rural poor into the growing urban area. With no money or resources to speak of, immigrants built Rio's first shantytown on the Morro da Favela hillside, and before long the settlement approached 1,000 dwellings. Today, there are more than 600 favela neighborhoods in Rio, all without proper zoning or utilities, and entirely free of both rent and building inspection — one shack can be started as little more than a clay hut, and then built up over time with wood, brick, and sheet metal. Notorious for crime, drug trafficking, malnourishment, and disease, the favelas became enough of a social headache that the local government decided in the '60s to create an alternative: the Cidade de Deus, on the outskirts of Rio. Here, on relatively flat land away from Rio's tourist centers, small purpose-built homes lined unpaved streets, and anyone picked up by the police and identified as unemployed or homeless could be relocated to the dust-covered neighborhood. But there still wasn't any electricity or plumbing, at first. As with the hillside favelas, dangerous butane gas in portable canisters was a primary source of energy. And before long the notorious drug trade that had created a low-grade civil war between the police and the hillside gangs soon found its way into the Cidade. In attempting to create an alternative to the favelas, the government did little more than expand crime and poverty to a new location, and to a new generation of Brazilian youth.

Based on true events, Fernando Meirelles' City of God (2002) recounts the surge in gang violence in the Cidade de Deus from the 1960s through the 1970s, starting with a group of three street-level hoodlums. Shaggy, Clipper, and Goose — known as "The Tender Trio" — are three boys on the edge of adulthood, living in the City of God with little hope of a future beyond the slums. They resort to hold-ups and petty thievery, sharing their proceeds with the settlement's young boys, who view the Tender Trio as heroes. But as crooks with more bravado than brains, the Trio's luck eventually runs out. By the '70s, Shaggy's younger brother Benny (Phellipe Haagensen) becomes a gangland icon in his own right, ruling with a benevolent hand over the City of God's drug trade. However, his boyhood friend Little Dice has rechristened himself Little Zé (Leandro Firmino), and where Benny chooses to be kind, Zé is inherently cruel. Meanwhile, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), younger brother of Goose, has chosen to steer clear of gangland activity, remaining on good terms with Benny while pursuing his interest in amateur photography. But when a turf war erupts between Little Zé and rival dealer Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele), Benny tries to broker a peace, with disastrous consequences. And when a full-scale gang war erupts between the City's rival factions, modest bus conductor Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge) finds himself and his family in Little Zé's crosshairs, causing the former Army marksman to join forces with Carrot. Meanwhile, Rocket tries to stay out of the fray, but his ability to maneuver through the Cidade as a photographer gets the attention of a Rio newsroom, who will pay well for his photos.

With a 2002 premiere at Cannes, City of God traveled the festival circuit for more than a year, earning a limited theatrical release in the U.S. during 2003. A slow-burn hit, it has since won several awards, and even garnered four Oscar nominations for Directing, Editing, Writing, and Cinematography, competing not as a foreign film but instead in the major categories. And perhaps pigeonholing City of God as a "foreign" film would be unfair, with its many connotations. The film is subtitled, but that doesn't mean that it's ponderous or overly intellectual. It isn't a socially conscious film everyone "should" see. And it certainly isn't dull. Drawing from a variety of influences ranging from New Wave to New Hollywood, Meirelles and co-director Kátia Lund tackle an epic, often violent story with an energetic grasp of cinema's language, and in particular the screen's ability to render brutality poetic. Shot entirely on location in the back-streets of Rio (a decision Meirelles reportedly said he came to regret because of its sheer difficulty), a cast of non-actors was recruited for the film, many of them longtime residents of the Cidade. As the thoughtful, intelligent Rocket, Alexandre Rodrigues offers a look at a young person who believes there is a way out of the slum. He is the story's core and its conscience, although fellow unknown Leandro Firmino delivers the film's most chilling performance as the laughing, sociopathic Little Zé — a thug who understands that one can only rule by the gun after one has established a climate of terror and fear in which to wield it. As with life in the favelas, Meirelles does not shy away from violence — as a gangster movie, this picture easily rivals body-counts found in The Godfather and Scarface. However, as with the works of Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie (whose influences can be seen here), The City of God is a picture of clever tone-shifts between harrowing drama and surprising comic touches, and one that eventually offers hope for the residents of Rio's most deeply entrenched shantytowns.

Buena Vista's new DVD release of City of God features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.851) from a pristine source-print, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in Portuguese with English, French, and Spanish subtitles. Supplements include the 1997 documentary "News from a Personal War" (56 min.), which investigates the drug trade in the favelas of Rio from the point of view of dealers, residents, and the police. City of God is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: It took a megastar to knock DreamWorks' big green ogre off the top of the box-office chart — and Warner had one handy. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban easily claimed honors over the weekend with a $92.6 million debut, beating the totals of every other film on the chart combined. It was the best opening for a Harry Potter title yet, and looks to become the second-best three-day total ever, behind Spider-Man's $114 million in 2002. The win dropped Shrek 2 into second place, where it's scared up a blistering $313.6 million in just three sessions. Critics showered Prisoner of Azkaban with near-unanimous praise.

In continuing release, Fox's disaster-flick The Day After Tomorrow has slipped to third, where it managed $28.1 million for the frame and $128.7 million overall. Buena Vista's Raising Helen is hoping to counter-program the cacophony, adding $6.6 million to a reasonable $24.1 million after 10 days. And rounding off the top five are the boy-toys in Warner's Troy, which is losing ground but now has $119 million in booty. Paramount's Mean Girls has lots of legs, holding on to sixth place with $78.1 million after six weeks. And Universal's Van Helsing continues to sell tickets, now with $114.5 million to its credit. Dropping away is Fox's Man on Fire, which has been a $75 million hit so far for star Denzel Washington. But out the door in a hurry is Sony's Breakin' All the Rules, which didn't even clear $1 million last week and has since dropped off the face of the earth.

New reels on screens this Friday include The Chronicles of Riddick starring Vin Diesel, The Stepford Wives with Nicole Kidman, and the family flick Garfield. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Bros.)
    $92,645,000 ($92,645,000 through 1 week)
  2. Shrek 2 (DreamWorks SKG)
    $37,000,000 ($313,600,000 through 3 37weeks)
  3. The Day After Tomorrow (Fox)
    $28,150,000 ($128,759,179 through 2 weeks)
  4. Raising Helen (Buena Vista)
    $6,675,000 ($24,189,000 through 2 weeks)
  5. Troy (Warner Bros.)
    $5,740,000 ($119,053,000 through 4 weeks)
  6. Mean Girls (Paramount)
    $2,900,000 ($78,130,000 through 6 weeks)
  7. Soul Plane (MGM)
    $2,850,000 ($11,080,000 through 2 weeks)
  8. Van Helsing (Universal)
    $2,347,000 ($114,509,000 through 5 weeks)
  9. Man on Fire (Fox)
    $1,025,000 ($75,354,556 through 7 weeks)
  10. Super Size Me (IDP)
    $835,170 ($6,200,931 through 5 weeks)
  11. A Day Without a Mexican (Telvisa)
    $385,000 ($2,510,511 through 4 weeks)
  12. Saved! (UA)
    $349,000 ($931,000 through 2 weeks)

On the Board: Mr. Beaks has posted a sneak-preview of Criterion's three-disc The Leopard, while new reviews this week from the rest of the gang include Mystic River, Trainspotting: Collector's Series, The President's Analyst, Cop Land: Collector's Series, Flirting With Disaster: Collector's Series, Destination Tokyo, Goodbye Columbus, City of God, and The Creeping Flesh. Everything's been added to the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

We'll be back tomorrow with the rundown on this week's street discs.

— Ed.

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

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

  • We kick off today's news with three new titles from our friends at Criterion. Richard Linklater's 1991 Slacker will arrive with a new transfer from restored materials supervised by the director himself, and we can look forward to commentary from Linklater and colleagues, Linklater's first feature It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books with commentary, casting tapes, deleted scenes, a look at the film's 10th anniversary reunion, the trailer, stills, a history of the Austin Film Society, and more. David Cronenberg's 1983 Videodrome starring James Woods and Deborah Harry will include a new transfer from restored elements, commentaries from the director, Woods, Harry, and d.p. Mark Irwin, Cronenberg's short film "Camera," the documentary "Forging the New Flesh," the complete version of "Samurai Dreams" (seen in the film), the 1982 roundtable discussion "Fear on Film" with Cronenberg, John Carpenter, John Landis, and Mick Garris, trailers and promo items, stills, and more. Finally, Federico Fellini's 1953 I Vitelloni will include the documentary "The Making of I Vitelloni," stills, a trailer, and newsreels. It's all due on Aug. 24.

  • The Coen Brothers' latest effort, this year's The Ladykillers starring Tom Hanks, will street on Sept. 14 from Buena Vista in both anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame versions — count on a featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a "Script Scanner" on DVD-ROM.

  • Up from Warner is the surprise hit Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, which goes digital on Sept. 14 with a trio of featurettes, deleted scenes, music videos, trailers, and some games. And coming out of the vault on Aug. 24 are five family titles — the 1996 Flipper starring Elijah Wood and Paul Hogan, Flipper's New Adventure, and the Lassie classics Lassie Come Home, Son of Lassie, and The Courage of Lassie.

  • Fresh from Fox is Johnson Family Vacation, the mid-list comedy starring Cedric the Entertainer, which possibly will be remembered for outperforming Disney's $100 million flop The Alamo. Expect a commentary from Cedric and others, a featurette, and no less than 18 deleted scenes (Aug. 10). Meanwhile, Fox's hodge-podge of catalog items due on Sept. 7 include Alexander's Ragtime Band, Bonanza: Under Attack, Bootmen, King Kong Lives, The Man with One Red Shoe, Maximum Overdrive, and Working Tra$h. And two more TV boxes are on the way, Futurama: Volume 4 and Harsh Realm: The Complete Series, both on Aug. 24.

On the Street: The hits just keep comin', and this week's street-list is thick with things to buy. Topping our shopping is a new "Cary Grant Signature Collection" from Warner that includes such classics as The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, and My Favorite Wife, while also out from the vault in Fox's "Studio Classics" collection is The Snake Pit starring Olivia de Havilland. Columbia TriStar's list includes this year's Oscar-winning Monster and the Nick Bloomfield documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, as well as Robert Altman's The Company, Cliff Robertson's J.W. Coop, a new edition of Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot, and a three-disc edition of Spider-Man. Miramax is pulling out some catalog items for a revisit, including Trainspotting, Cop Land, and Flirting with Disaster, and Disney's catalog items this time around include the original Freaky Friday, Candleshoe, The Happiest Millionaire, and a Herbie The Love Bug Collection. DreamWorks has four separate versions of Eurotrip on the board, a number matched by Universal's re-issue of Pitch Black. And TV fans will want to look for Mike Nichols' Angels in America, out in a two-disc set from HBO. Here's this week's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
  • Ali: Director's Cut
  • Angels in America (2-disc set)
  • The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
  • Back to the Beach
  • The Berenstain Bears: Bears Get a Babysitter
  • Cocoon
  • Cocoon: The Return
  • A Cool Dry Place
  • Das Boot: The Original Uncut Version (2-disc set)
  • Candleshoe
  • The Cary Grant Signature Collection (5-disc set)
  • Catch That Kid
  • The City of No Limits
  • The Company
  • Cop Land: Collector's Series
  • Coupling: Season Three
  • Deja Vu
  • Destination Tokyo
  • Diana Ross: Visions of Diana Ross
  • Dora the Explorer: Super Silly Fiesta
  • The Dream Giver
  • Dream Lover
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Season One (3-disc set)
  • Emigrant
  • Eurotrip (unrated) (widescreen)
  • Eurotrip (unrated) (full-frame)
  • Eurotrip (R-rated) (full-frame)
  • Faithful
  • A Far Off Place
  • Fausto 5.0
  • Flight of the Navigator
  • Flirting With Disaster: Collector's Series
  • For Queen and Country
  • Freaky Friday (1977)
  • Funny About Love
  • Gone Dark
  • The Great White Hype
  • Gurreros
  • The Happiest Millionaire
  • Head Above Water
  • Heart Condition
  • Herbie The Love Bug Collection (4-disc set)
  • How I Got Into College
  • Joe Williams: A Song Is Born
  • J.W. Coop
  • Jumpin' Jack Flash
  • Kiss of Death
  • Little Murders
  • Lyricist Lounge: Dirty States of America
  • Map of the Human Heart
  • Marilyn Monroe: The Mortal Goddess
  • Masquerade (1988)
  • Monster
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
  • My Baby's Daddy
  • My Favorite Wife
  • National Lampoon's Senior Trip
  • NBA Dynasty Series: Chicago Bulls 1990s (4-disc set)
  • NBA Dynasty Series: L.A. Lakers Complete History (5-disc set)
  • New Blood
  • Night and Day
  • No Name on the Bullet
  • Oscar Peterson: Music in the Key of Oscar
  • Other
  • Out to Sea
  • Pelle the Conqueror
  • Perfect Strangers
  • Pitch Black: Special Edition (unrated) (widescreen)
  • Pitch Black: Special Edition (unrated) (pan-and-scan)
  • Pitch Black: Special Edition (R-rated) (widescreen)
  • Pitch Black: Special Edition (R-rated) (pan-and-scan)
  • The Plainsman
  • The Pointer Sisters: So Excited
  • Punky Brewster: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles: Trackers
  • A Saintly Switch
  • Slaughter of the Innocents
  • The Snake Pit: Fox Studio Classics
  • Special Effects
  • Spider-Man: Deluxe Edition (3-disc set)
  • Spider-Man: Superbit
  • Spider-Man: High Voltage Villains
  • Spider-Man: The Mutant Menace
  • Spider-Man: The Ultimate Face-Off
  • The Spoilers
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeGuard on Duty
  • Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
  • Summer School
  • Sunset Strip
  • The Super
  • Super Bowl XI-XX: Collector's Set (5-disc set)
  • Tai-Pan
  • Trainspotting: Collector's Series
  • Trapped in Paradise
  • Two of a Kind
  • War Arrow
  • When the Daltons Rode
  • Whispering Smith
  • Winsor McCay: The Master Edition

— Ed.

Tuesday, 1 June 2004

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Cary Grant starred opposite some of Hollywood's most beautiful women over the years — Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, and Joan Fontaine are just a few notables who basked in his cinematic glow. But perhaps none were as fetching as 18-year-old Shirley Temple, whose one turn with Grant gave the screen legend one of his most memorable comic roles. Temple would retire completely from the screen just two years after The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), and even then the apex of her career had been passed. A child star who captured the attentions of American audiences during the Great Depression, Temple actually was among the nation's top box-office draws during the decade, responsible for selling more movie tickets than any other star from the years 1936-38. She had so much natural appeal that she was selected early in her career to appear in the "Our Gang" shorts, a role her family declined after she couldn't secure top billing. She also was slated to star in The Wizard of Oz (1939), although her lack of singing skills eventually caused MGM to go with Judy Garland instead. By the '40s, Temple was no longer a bouncy, tap-dancing, golden-curled tot, making good roles harder to come by. But she did get two wonderful opportunities before departing show business — John Ford cast her in Fort Apache (1948), and she joined the ranks of Cary Grant's leading ladies.

Temple stars in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer as high-school student Susan Turner, a bright young girl whose interests and ambitions change with every passing week. Susan lives with her older sister, Margaret (Myrna Loy), a guardian who couldn't be more different — as a local judge, sensible Margaret runs a law-and-order courtroom and urges her younger sibling to set her personal goals just as rationally. But when painter Richard Nugent (Grant) speaks at Susan's high school, the young girl is immediately infatuated. Taking up pen and paper as the school newspaper's editor, she tries to interview Richard, but the artist soon learns that the teenager's older sister was the same no-nonsense judge he stood before in court that morning. Richard, it seems, is a bit of a playboy, and the night before he found himself in the midst of a scuffle at the Vampire Club, where he knocked a bouncer on the jaw. As far as Richard is concerned, he'd rather have nothing to do with the entire Turner household. But one innocent comment causes Susan to think she should visit Richard's apartment, where she will pose for him. And after a mix-up of colossal proportions, Richard finds himself in the clink for having relations with an underage girl. It's all sorted out in due course, but only after the painter is forced into a bargain he doesn't like: Judge Turner wants him to "date" Susan until her childish infatuation with him has run its course.

It's a sign of the times when the premise for a golden-age Hollywood comedy would be considered almost too dark by today's standards to be remade as a mainstream movie — the running gag of The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is nothing less than statutory rape, and it's played for laughs in a manner that raises both grins and eyebrows: "Did you invite her up there to be a model?" Richard's attorney asks. "Oh, I told that to 500 little girls!" is the artist's half-witted reply. And later, Margaret's would-be boyfriend invites Richard to a birthday party for a girl — "She's six!" he announces. What's more, a contemporary film concerning a man in his early 40s dating a high-school student might have a hard time winning audiences over in our current climate, where a sensitivity to child development has become almost paramount — and besides, Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1963) pretty much charted the outer boundaries of uncomfortable, dark humor with similar subject matter. But there is something entirely wholesome about The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. For one, Richard Nugent isn't a pederast, he's merely an artist caught up in a nightmare scenario of false accusations and low-grade blackmail. He's also Cary Grant, and one couldn't ask for a better seal of approval. Actors may display a gift for characterization and range, but movie stars hit the same pitch out of the park every time, and Grant's turn here is boilerplate Archie Leach with his classic double-takes, voluminous exasperation, and penchant for silly pratfalls (the obstacle-course race at the community picnic is vintage Cary at his best). Myrna Loy as the elder Turner sister provides support, both as Grant's foil and eventual love-interest. Temple proves that she likely could have had a substantial film career into her 20s and beyond with a youthful energy that's somehow timeless. And the penultimate scene in the nightclub is legendary — a table for two soon turns into three, five, and then seven people, all bickering at the same time until they leave, one by one, and Grant sits alone with a glass of champagne poured over his head. For screwball comedy, it's ten minutes that rivals an operatic libretto.

Warner's DVD release of The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer features a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) from a black-and-white source-print that displays some collateral wear but still looks pleasant with excellent low-contrast details, while the DD 1.0 audio is crisp and clear. Supplements include the 1949 Lux Radio Theater broadcast of The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer with Grant and Temple (60 min.), the Tex Avery animated short "Little 'Tinker" (7 min.), and a trailer gallery. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is on the street tomorrow, along with four other titles in Warner's new "Cary Grant Signature Collection" — My Favorite Wife, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Night and Day, and Destination Tokyo.

Box Office: It was the biggest-grossing Memorial Day weekend ever, and the Big Green Ogre led the way — DreamWorks' Shrek 2 refused to budge from the top spot, holding down first place for its second weekend with $92.2 million for the holiday frame, pushing its gross to $257 million in just eleven days. The win also marked Shrek 2 as the top-grossing Memorial Day title evah, beating out 1997's The Lost World: JP2, which debuted with $90 million. Arriving in second place was Fox's The Day After Tomorrow, which couldn't beat the Green Machine but still raked in $86 million. Buena Vista's Raising Helen managed $14 million for fourth place, while MGM's comedy Soul Plane scored $7 million to round off the top five. Critics were mixed on Tomorrow, while Helen and Soul Plane earned mostly negative notices.

In continuing release, Warner's summer spectacle Troy clung to third place, adding $15 million to its $109.6 million total, while Paramount's Mean Girls is still swimming along after five weeks with $6.3 for the session and $73.5 million to date. Universal's Van Helsing is starting to fade, but it's now taken in $110.2 million, and Fox's Man on Fire has $73.3 million in the bag. MGM's Saved! will expand to more theaters next week — it sneaked on to the chart with just $440,000 from 20 screens. And off to DVD prep is New York Minute, which leaves the big screen with less than $15 million.

New in theaters this Friday is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend (all figures Friday through Monday):

  1. Shrek 2 (DreamWorks SKG)
    $92,200,000 ($257,000,000 through 2 weeks)
  2. The Day After Tomorrow (Fox)
    $86,000,000 ($86,000,000 through 1 week)
  3. Troy (Warner Bros.)
    $15,000,000 ($109,659,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. Raising Helen (Buena Vista)
    $14,026,000 ($14,026,000 through 1 week)
  5. Soul Plane (MGM)
    $7,000,000 ($7,000,000 through 1 week)
  6. Mean Girls (Paramount)
    $6,300,000($73,577,000 through 5 weeks)
  7. Van Helsing (Universal)
    $6,200,000 ($110,222,000 through 4 weeks)
  8. Man on Fire (Fox)
    $2,400,000 ($73,307,091 through 6 weeks)
  9. 13 Going on 30 (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $1,100,000 ($54,509,000 through 6 weeks)
  10. Super Size Me (IDP)
    $1,000,000 ($4,886,944 through 4 weeks)
  11. Breakin' All the Rules (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $900,000 ($11,016,000 through 3 weeks)
  12. Saved! (MGM)
    $440,000 ($440,000 through 1 week)

On the Board: New reviews this week from the team include Monster, Eurotrip: Unrated Edition, My Favorite Wife, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, The Tin Drum: The Criterion Collection, The Company, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Joan of Arc, Stay Hungry, J.W. Coop, The Snake Pit: Fox Studio Classics, Summer School, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and What Price Glory. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

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