News and Commentary: November 2004

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

  • Criterion has announced their February slate with five new titles. Making its DVD debut in a two-disc set is Gus Van Sant's 1991 My Own Private Idaho, which will include a director-approved anamorphic transfer and new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Features include an "audio conversation" between Van Sant and filmmaker Todd Haynes, the new documentary "The Making of My Own Private Idaho," an interview with film critic Paul Arthur, a conversation between producer Laurie Parker and Rain Phoenix, outtakes, and the original theatrical trailer. Jules Dassin's 1949 Thieves' Highway arrives with a new, restored transfer, a commentary by film historian Alain Silver, an interview with Dassin, and an essay by film critic Michael Sragow. Dassin's 1950 Night and the City is also in the pipe, with a new transfer, a commentary by our pal (and DVD Savant) Glenn Erickson, two Dassin interviews, a BBC documentary on the blacklist, and an essay by film critic Paul Arthur. Bernardo Bertolucci's 1962 La Commare Secca will include an interview with the director and an essay by film critic David Thompson. And finally, Jean-Luc Godard and collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin's 1972 Tout Va Bien starring Jane Fonda and Yves Montand will offer a postscript from the directors, a new interview with Gorin, and new English subtitles. All are due to arrive in February, and we'll post final street-dates when we get them.

  • Universal has already announced a Feb. 1 street-date for early Oscar-favorite Ray starring Jamie Foxx — both the theatrical cut and an extended version (running 25 min. longer) will be on board, as well as uncut music performances, featurettes, and 14 deleted scenes, while a "Special Limited Edition" will span two discs with a "filmmaker's journey" spot and a 28-page photo book. Also due to arrive in separate anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame editions is this year's Thunderbirds, on Dec. 21.

  • Finally, New Line has announced Raise Your Voice starring Hilary Duff for a February release, and it will include deleted scenes with commentary, a "making-of" featurette, outtakes, an orchestra sequence, a music video, an "Interactive Menu Jam," and script-to-screen as DVD-ROM content. Arriving from the catalog are four more titles, Robert Altman's Kansas City, the TV movie Legalese, Amongst Friends, and Normal Life. All street on Feb. 15.

On the Street: It's another short street-list this week, mostly because everyone's making way for Sony's Spider-Man 2, which arrives today in four separate packages. But our Spidey-sense tells us there's more DVDs to pick up, including Buena Vista's Hero, Universal's two-disc Happy Gilmore/Billy Madison Collection, and even the long-lost Orson Welles film It's All True, which arrives from Paramount. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • The Club
  • Combat! Season Two: Mission #1
  • Combat! Season Two: Mission #2
  • Daredevil: Director's Cut
  • Elliot Smith: Olympia, Washington
  • The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen: Legendary Science Fiction (5-disc set)
  • The Happy Gilmore/Billy Madison Collection (2-disc set)
  • Hero
  • It's All True
  • Justine
  • Lost in Space: Season Two Vol. 2 (4-disc set)
  • Luther
  • Racing with the Moon
  • Samantha: An American Girl Holiday
  • Secrets of a Windmill Girl
  • Spider-Man 2: Special Edition (widescreen) (2-disc set)
  • Spider-Man 2: Special Edition (pan-and-scan) (2-disc set)
  • Spider-Man 2: Superbit (widescreen)
  • Spider-Man 2: Gift Set (widescreen) (2-disc set)
  • Tru Calling: Season One

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: It is the opening shot panning over a gurgling brook, flowing then quite effortlessly into the layers of artifice projected by a child's miniature tableaux, scored liltingly to Schumann's "Piano Quintet in E flat Major," that immediately signals how Ingmar Bergman's original five-hour television version of Fanny and Alexander (1982) will differ from the more widely seen three-hour truncation which, despite violating his original vision, nevertheless won him the warmest accolades of his already plaudit-laden career. Indeed, just as one steels themselves for a more rigorously austere rendering of perhaps the liveliest work in the filmmaker's canon, a heretofore unseen lyricism enchants the viewer. Astonishingly, the only difference between the openings of the televised and theatrical versions is that gurgling brook, but the aesthetic transformation is unmistakable; Bergman's farewell to the medium is finally flowing sans interruption by the commercial requirements of exhibitors or awards-craving distributors. What emerges is obviously a fuller work, but, aside from two static, attention-span-testing pieces of staged Shakespeare, the most surprising additions are a number of hauntingly magical passages more indelible than any single moment in the theatrical version — and this is shocking. Though it has always been known that Fanny and Alexander was a pared-down film, it never felt compromised. What a difference two restored hours makes.

Unlike its theatrical runt of a brother, the complete epic is less a bildungsroman (as author Rick Moody categorizes it in one of three essays included in this set) than a family portrait. Alexander (Bertil Guve) is still the petulantly indignant center of the tale, alternately winning and repelling one's affections throughout, but other family members are now more vibrantly drawn than before. The narrative still proceeds roughly along the same arc, except that it is now explicitly a five-act melodrama rather than an ersatz three-act collision of soaring Shakespearean sentiment and dour Ibsenian trimmings. The first three acts establish the rowdy warmth of the Ekdahl clan as they celebrate Christmas with a gluttonous feast enlivened by innumerable shots of cognac. Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) and Alexander's parents, Oscar (Allan Edwall) and Emilie (Ewa Fröling), are theatrical animals presiding over a mediocre company that appears to subsist only by the members' fierce loyalty to each other. Their grandmother, Helena (Gun Wållgren), is a no-nonsense, but hardly domineering matriarch spared a somber widow's existence through her enduring friendship with longtime family friend (and her former paramour) Isak (Erland Josephson). The most colorful characters in the extended family are the uncles, Gustav Adolf (Jarl Kulle) and Carl (Börje Ahlstedt), the former a good-hearted but helpless emotional bully of a husband to his long-suffering wife, and the latter a philandering boob who winds up impregnating Alexander's nubile young nanny, Maj (Pernilla August). The story begins to darken with the Oscar's death, leading Emilie to inexplicably renounce the stewardship of the theater company, against her husband's deathbed wishes, in favor of a doomed marriage to the stern Lutheran bishop Edward Vergerus (Jan Malmsjö), whose Calvin-bred sternness mutates into a parental cruelty inflicted on Fanny and, in particular, the defiant Alexander. The final two acts, then, concern Alexander's grotesque physical punishments, Emilie's descent into near-madness, and the Ekdahl family's touchingly incompetent scheme to extricate their loved ones from Vergerus's suffocating grasp.

It's that latter element that is largely absent in the theatrical version of Fanny and Alexander, and its inclusion in the television version whisks the film to a joyous conclusion more emotionally satisfying than any evinced in Bergman's previous efforts. What once seemed shockingly sentimental is now a wholly earned curtain call for Bergman's beautifully drawn characters, many of whom have been brought to life by members of his recurring company. It may seem strange that the director's cinematic summation would fail include his most famous players — Max Von Sydow, Liv Ullmann or Bibi Andersson — but their being cast might have overwhelmed and even confused the drama. Better then to stick with the less identifiable, or, in perhaps his most poignant touch, appeal to Swedish theatrical history with the legendary Wållgren, who would die shortly after production ceased. Bergman's adroit casting goes a long way toward making Fanny and Alexander the monumental ode to family it becomes in its uncut presentation, but he closes the remaining distance simply by lightening up a little (this may be his least oppressive work since Smiles of a Summer Night). In the past, Bergman's bringing together of, as he refers to them, his "wife" (the theater) and his "mistress" (film) has been anything but harmonious (reaching a soporific nadir with The Magic Flute), but this time the ladies get on famously. No longer telescoped, Fanny and Alexander lights off in fantastical directions both terrifying (Alexander, stunned by his own imagination, watching Death drag his scythe across Helena's wood floor) and wondrous (Isak's spoken parable spinning off into a flame-lit pageant of religious symbolism, heightened once again by Schumann), all of which is tied lovingly together with Helena reading from Strindberg's A Dream Play, thus marking the end of Bergman's final and finest triumph.

The Criterion Collection presents the televised and theatrical versions of Fanny and Alexander in excellent anamorphic transfers (1.66:1) with fine Dolby Digital 1.0 audio. At five discs, the set offers a pretty exhaustive document of the director's last full-fledged film production, which is captured in revealing, fly-on-the-wall detail by the 110-minute documentary, The Making of Fanny and Alexander. Also included are two substantive featurettes: the 1994 interview "Ingmar Bergman Bids Farewell to Film" (59 min.), and the brand-new "A Bergman Tapestry" (39 min.), which boasts illuminating recollections from surviving cast and crew. Also on board is an informative Peter Cowie commentary for the theatrical version, a collection of the video introductions by the director taped for 11 of Criterion's other Bergman releases (for whatever reason, there isn't one for Fanny and Alexander), footage of the models for the sets, costume sketches, theatrical trailers and a 35-page booklet with essays by Rick Moody, Stig Björkman, and Paul Arthur. Criterion's Fanny and Alexander DVD Collection is on the street now.

Box Office: Two movies returned to dominate the North American box-office during the five-day holiday weekend frame, while a high-profile debut failed to beat the competition. Buena Vista's National Treasure, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Nicolas Cage, claimed the top-spot for the second week in a row, adding $46.2 million to a blistering 10-day gross of $87.9 million. Also holding steady in second place was Pixar's The Incredibles, which crossed the double-century, adding $33.2 million to its one-month cume of $214.7 million. But it wasn't all smiles for Warner and Oliver Stone — while the big-budget Alexander (reported cost: $150m) starring Colin Ferrell took in $21.6 million, it only collected $13.5 million from Friday to Sunday and stumbled into sixth place. Alexander even got beat by the week's other debut title, Sony's Christmas with the Kranks starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, which garnered a surprising $32 million over five days for third place. Despite the numbers, critics heaped scorn on both Alexander and Kranks.

In continuing release, Warner's mega-expensive The Polar Express continues to chug along, adding $27.1 million to an $82.1 million gross, although the project likely won't get into the black until overseas and home-video sales are figured in. Doing nearly as well is Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which took a $23.4 million Thanksgiving boost to round out the top five with nearly $60 million. Universal's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason will thrive on DVD, and it's still doing good business after three weeks and $32.5 million in the bank. And Universal's Ray starring Jamie Foxx is bound to hang around the bottom of the list until well after the Oscar nominations, now with $65 million. But say goodbye to Seed of Chucky — Rogue Pictures' horror-comedy is off to the cheap theaters and DVD prep. We're betting it fares well in both.

New in 'plexes this Friday is Closer starring Jude Law and Julia Roberts. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. National Treasure (Buena Vista)
    $46,244,000 ($87,900,000 through 2 weeks)
  2. The Incredibles (Buena Vista/Pixar)
    $33,224,000 ($214,709,000 through 4 weeks)
  3. Christmas with the Kranks (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $32,000,000 ($32,000,000 through 1 week)
  4. The Polar Express (Warner Bros.)
    $27,170,000 ($82,175,000 through 3 weeks)
  5. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (Paramount)
    $23,400,000 ($58,636,000 through 2 weeks)
  6. Alexander (Warner Bros.)
    $21,630,000 ($21,630,000 through 1 week)
  7. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Universal)
    $9,100,000 ($32,500,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. Finding Neverland (Miramax)
    $6,350,000 ($7,803,865 through 3 weeks)
  9. Ray (Universal)
    $5,000,000 ($65,000,000 through 5 weeks)
  10. After the Sunset (New Line)
    $4,575,000 ($24,586,000 through 3 weeks)
  11. Sideways (Fox Searchlight)
    $3,455,000 ($9,828,585 through 6 weeks)
  12. The Grudge (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $2,800,000 ($107,823,000 through 6 weeks)

On the Board: Dawn Taylor has posted a sneak-preview of Miramax's Hero starring Jet Li, while new spins this week from the rest of the crew include The Chronicles of Riddick: Unrated Director's Cut, Short Cuts: The Criterion Collection, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The W.C. Fields Comedy Collection, Smallville: Season Three, Tanner on Tanner, The Loveless, Daredevil: Director's Cut, Fanny and Alexander DVD Collection: The Criterion Collection, and Smithereens. It's all fresh under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Aussie Horror Collection #2
  • Chopin: Desire for Love
  • Cloak & Dagger
  • The Cyclist (Bicycleran)
  • Dark Shadows DVD Collection 15
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (widescreen) (2-disc set)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (pan-and-scan) (2-disc set)
  • In Search of Santa
  • Oasis
  • The Ranch
  • Seinfeld: Seasons 1-2 (4-disc set)
  • Seinfeld: Season 3
  • Seinfeld: Seasons 1-3 Re-Gift Set (8-disc set)
  • Sleepover: Special Edition
  • Springtime in a Small Town (Xiao cheng zhi chun)
  • Star Wars Animated Adventures: Droids: The Pirates and the Prince/Treasures of the Hidden Planet
  • Star Wars Animated Adventures: Ewoks: The Haunted Village/Tales from the Endor Woods
  • Star Wars Ewok Adventures: Caravan of Courage/The Battle for Endor
  • Starhunter 2300: The Complete Series (6-disc set)
  • Suzanne Westenhoefer: Live from the Village
  • Tanner on Tanner
  • The Terminal: Collector's Edition (2-disc set) (widescreen)
  • The Terminal (widescreen)
  • The Terminal (full-frame)
  • A Touch of Frost: Season Four (3-disc set)
  • Trade Winds

— Ed.

Giving Thanks: The holiday season is in full swing, which means the hard-working review team at The DVD Journal has dispersed to the four corners of the continent in order to gather with loved ones, and maybe even watch movies they don't have to review later. But have no fear — the team returns on Monday, Nov. 29, with plenty of new reviews. We'll see you then.

Box Office: It looked like nothing short of an earthquake would unseat Pixar's The Incredibles from its top spot at the North American box-office, but two titles managed the job this weekend, thanks to Nicolas Cage and an animated sponge. Buena Vista's National Treasure, starring Cage and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, pulled in $35.2 million, giving the actor one of his best hits in recent years. And Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie did surprisingly well with $33.5 million. Both movies pushed The Incredibles to third place, where it added $26.7 million to a $177.8 million gross after just three weeks. Critics were favorable towards SpongeBob, while Treasure earned mixed-to-negative notices.

In continuing release, Warner's ambitious The Polar Express is not living up to its reported $270 million budget, falling to fourth place in its second frame with $15.2 million for the session and $51 million overall. Universal's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason cost much less dosh, and it now has $21.6 million in the bag. New Line's heist thriller After the Sunset had a modest weekend with $5.2 million and nearly $20 million after 10 days. And Universal's Ray starring Jamie Foxx is a certified slow-burn, taking in nearly $60 million after one month. Fright-fans have been flocking to see Sony's The Grudge, which is now into triple-digits. But off to DVD prep in a hurry is Paramount's Alfie starring Jude Law, which took in just $11 million in less than two weeks.

New in theaters this Wednesday is Oliver Stone's Alexander starring Colin Ferrell, as well as Christmas with the Kranks starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. National Treasure (Buena Vista)
    $35,298,000 ($35,298,000 through 1 week)
  2. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (Paramount)
    $33,500,000 ($33,500,000 through 1 week)
  3. The Incredibles (Buena Vista/Pixar)
    $26,790,000 ($177,822,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. The Polar Express (Warner Bros.)
    $15,215,000 ($51,010,000 through 2 weeks)
  5. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Universal)
    $10,100,000 ($21,600,000 through 2 weeks)
  6. After the Sunset (New Line)
    $5,275,000 ($19,292,000 through 2 weeks)
  7. Ray (Universal)
    $4,600,000 ($59,200,000 through 4 weeks)
  8. The Grudge (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $3,800,000 ($104,400,000 through 5 weeks)
  9. Seed of Chucky (Rogue)
    $3,136,490 ($13,354,918 through 2 weeks)
  10. Saw (Lions Gate)
    $3,000,000 ($50,500,000 through 4 weeks)
  11. Shall We Dance? (Miramax)
    $2,309,779 ($52,267,164 through 6 weeks)
  12. Sideways (Fox Searchlight)
    $1,810,000 ($6,020,244 through 5 weeks)

— Ed.

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

  • Up from Warner are a pair of welcome special editions, starting with a two-disc re-issue of Michael Mann's 1995 Heat starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro — count on a director's commentary, featurettes, and deleted scenes (Feb. 22). Also on the way is 1981's Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, which gets a long-overdue anamorphic upgrade (1.85:1) from the original disc's full-frame transfer, commentary by director Hugh Hudson, a "making-of" featurette, a reunion documentary, screen tests, nine deleted scenes, and a theatrical trailer (Feb. 1). Also on the board is The Life of Emile Zola starring Paul Muni (Feb. 1) and Season Two of The Wire (Jan. 25). And the catalog-dump on Feb. 15 includes Arthur 2: On the Rocks, Chain of Fools, Disorderlies, Fandango, The Ice Pirates, Oh, God! Book 2, Oh, God! You Devil, Other People's Money, Richie Rich, and Young Einstein.

  • Summer spectacle I, Robot starring Will Smith is due to arrive from Fox on Dec. 14 in separate anamorphic (2.35:1) and full-frame editions — look for a yack-track from director Alex Proyas and scenarist Akiva Goldsman, a behind-the-scenes spot, stills, and more. Alien vs. Predator will include two commentary , tracks, a "making-of," an alternate opening sequence, and deleted scenes (Jan. 25). And a new Donnie Darko: Director's Cut will sport commentary with writer/director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith and a production diary (Feb. 15). Fresh for the "Fox Studio Classics" folio is William Wyler's 1966 How To Steal a Million starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole (Dec. 7), while upcoming back-vault releases include Bad Girls, Class Action, Secrets and Lies, The Star Chamber, The Laughing Policeman (Feb. 1), The Agony and the Ecstasy, Francis of Assissi, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Feb. 22).

  • Columbia TriStar has announced to retailers that this year's The Forgotten starring Julianne Moore will arrive on Jan. 18, while Monster starring Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci will return on Jan. 25 in a two-disc special edition with commentary from Theron, director Patty Jenkins, and producer Clark Petersen, deleted/extended scenes, and a featurette. Upcoming catalog items include The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Jan. 11), Never Get Outta the Boat, Stella Street (Jan. 18), Bunny Lake Is Missing, and Head in the Clouds, (Jan. 25), while small-screen rewinds include Married With Children: Season Three and Soap: Season Three (Jan. 25).

  • Universal has announced to retailers that Friday Night Lights is due to arrive on Jan. 18, and the catalog-dump on March 1 includes such curios as D.C. Cab, Ghost Dad, Paradise Alley, White Palace, and Yanks. And watch for two more TV boxes — Las Vegas: Season One on Jan. 4 and Miami Vice: Season One on Feb. 8.

  • Up from Lions Gate is this year's thriller Open Water, which will include a commentary and a behind-the-scenes feature (Dec. 28), while 1992's The Crying Game returns in a Collector's Edition with a remastered anamorphic transfer, DTS and Dolby Digital audio, commentary from director Neil Jordan, an alternate ending, and two featurettes (Jan. 25).

  • Buena Vista's eclectic recent announcements include the Japanese version of Shall We Dance ("Shall we dansu?"), which will arrive in tandem with this year's remake on Feb. 1. Also new is 1995's Father of the Bride Part II (Jan. 25), the animated collections Starring Mickey, Starring Chip and Dale, Starring Donald, and Starring Goofy (Jan. 11), and TV collections Felicity Season Four, Popular: Season Two, and Sweet Valley High: Season One (March 8).

  • And finally, setting a new record for theatrical window to DVD retail just in time for Santa is DreamWorks' Surviving Christmas starring Ben Affleck, which sprinted through the cineplexes and now has been assigned a Dec. 21 street-date.

On the Street: If you're looking for a few holiday gifts to satisfy the most persnickety DVDphile in your clan, this week's as good a time as any to start shopping. New from Criterion are pair of definitive releases, with two separate versions of Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander and a two-disc edition of Robert Altman's Short Cuts. In step with the season is New Line's Elf in an "infinifilm" release, Universal's on the board with a Director's Cut of The Chronicles of Riddick, and Warner has a new Special Edition of the animated classic The Iron Giant under wraps. New from MGM is The Saddest Music in the World, while discs from Paramount include Foul Play and I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. TV titles for lost-weekenders this time around include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Commish, Smallville, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. And Warner's four-disc release of Live Aid is now the ultimate '80s rewind on DVD. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Alicia Keys: The Diary of Alicia Keys
  • The Andy Griffith Show: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Vol. 3 (2-disc set)
  • Battle Beyond the Sun/Star Pilot
  • Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Series
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Seven (6-disc set)
  • Bopha!
  • The Captivating Star of Happiness (Zvezda plenitelnogo schastya)
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Director's Cut (widescreen)
  • The Chronicles of Riddick (widescreen)
  • The Chronicles of Riddick (pan-and-scan)
  • Clive Barker Presents Saint Sinner
  • The Commish: Season One (6-disc set)
  • The Director's Label Box Set (3-disc set)
  • Elf: infinifilm (2-disc set)
  • Fanny and Alexander Box Set: The Criterion Collection (5-disc set)
  • Fanny and Alexander: The Criterion Collection (2-disc set)
  • First Snow of Winter
  • Foul Play
  • Frasier: The Complete Final Season
  • The Hebrew Hammer
  • Henry VIII
  • Hunting Drama
  • I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
  • The Iron Giant: Special Edition
  • Jimmy Neutron: Attack of the Twonkies
  • The Kids in The Hall: Season Two (4-disc set)
  • The Kong Collection: Queen Kong/Kong Island
  • Legong: Dance of the Virgins (2-disc set)
  • Live Aid (4-disc set)
  • The Lost World: Season Three
  • The Loveless
  • Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue
  • National Lampoon's Holiday Reunion
  • Nest of the Gentry
  • Pee-Wee's Playhouse: Vol. 1 (5-disc set)
  • Pee-Wee's Playhouse: Vol. 2 (5-disc set)
  • The Pickle
  • Quiet Riot '89: Live in Japan
  • Ragtime
  • Richard Pryor: I Ain't Dead Yet #*%$#@!!: Uncensored
  • Riverworld
  • The Saddest Music in the World
  • Short Cuts: The Criterion Collection (2-disc set)
  • Simple Revenge
  • Smallville: Season Three (6-disc set)
  • Smithereens
  • Snoop Dogg: The Puff Puff Pass Tour
  • Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Vol. 2 (2-disc set)
  • Teenage Cavegirl
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: "Live Aid will be more powerful in memory than in reality." Such was Bob Geldof's opinion for many years, which explains why one of the largest televised events in history was seen just once for nearly two decades. And even then, those who sat transfixed in front of TV sets around the world on July 13, 1985, still have vivid recollections of one of the decade's most prominent cultural moments. In fact, if most pop-culture archeologists are inclined to write off the '80s as the era when video mattered more than music, introducing a vapid techno-pop bridge between the glory days of FM radio in the '70s and a far more diverse musical landscape of pop, rap, and grunge in the '90s, then Live Aid may be the only thing during those ten years that actually mattered, the one thing that young people who grew up during the Reagan Era could point to and claim as theirs. But unlike Woodstock, no film was made. Unlike Lollapalooza, it would not return the following summer. Because of various legal implications, Geldof insisted that Live Aid not even be recorded for posterity, and producers of the U.S. concert in Philadelphia actually disabled all of their recording equipment during the broadcast. But while music and fashion and MTV are now irrevocably changed, the need for famine relief in Africa continues, prompting the first release of Live Aid for home viewing — and Bob Geldof can thank the folks at MTV, who recently discovered that they had saved a good portion of the American concert in their archives. Some footage still remains lost, but the majority survives. Here then, swathed in feral, foot-long mullets and bright, billowy shirts, are ten reasons to watch Live Aid, again:

  1. David Bowie and Mick Jagger: "Dancin' in the Streets" music video: Everything associated with Live Aid was done on a rushed schedule, and that includes this charity single/video slapped together by the Rolling Stones frontman and the Thin White Duke. The whole affair looks like it was shot with three crew members, a boombox, and 30 minutes of film, and it's slapdash at best. But just point a camera at these two and tell them it's for a good cause — they're willing to be good sports while bumping hips to the Motown beat. Jagger coolly swills a can of lager while Bowie prances and spins. Bowie offers a silly double-take after getting elbowed by Mick. A tandem shake of skinny white English asses is the final flourish, and while both singers have contested long-held rumors that they once were caught in bed together, one wouldn't think this video would be tendered as Exhibit A in their defense.

  2. Joan Baez, Philadelphia: Among the material — good, bad, and ugly — missing from this DVD release is Joan Baez's rendition of Tear for Fears' "Shout," which she appropriated in her set as a noble cry of protest in the '80s era. Even then, it clings to generational memories so much that one can't help but cringe just thinking of it. What does remain is her a cappella offering of "Amazing Grace" in Philadelphia, which she awkwardly urges the crowd to join her in singing. And yes, even with thousands and thousands of people held as a captive audience, it's still possible for every last one of them to hoot, fidget, and cough until the whole thing is over.

  3. Bryan Adams, Philadelphia: Bryan Adams may go down in musical history as one of the arch-practitioners of the power ballad, but at heart he's a rocker, and as he took the stage in Philly with his band, it became easy to see that he didn't care if he was playing for 50 drunks in a backwoods Canadian bar or one billion people on TV — tearing into "Kids Wanna Rock" and thrashing his vocal cords with every note, he channels the energy of every misfit underground band from MC5 to The Replacements. If the music of the '80s was decidedly non-threatening, at least Adams arrived at Live Aid with his Les Paul slung over his shoulder as if it was military-issue, giving the day one good jolt of beer-soaked rock-and-roll noise.

  4. David Bowie, London: Coasting in the wake of his multi-platinum Serious Moonlight, the Duke takes the stage in a powder-blue suit with a slapped-together backing band that includes Thomas Dolby on keyboards (although longtime guitarist Carlos Alomar is absent). Classic tunes "TVC15" and "Rebel Rebel" are rolled out to the crowd's delight, followed by a spirited run through "Modern Love" and an upbeat "Heroes." Before the final song, Bowie announces "I'd like to dedicate this song to my son, all of our children, and all the children of the world" — the sort of false sentiment that could get one arrested were it not for the fact that Bowie's words, and music, seem irreproachably sincere.

  5. Paul McCartney, London: That The Beatles would not be reuniting in 1985 was a foregone conclusion, and the same could be said that Paul McCartney would happily take the stage in front of the world's largest TV audience and belt out "Let It Be" with a white grand piano. One of the sturdiest chestnuts in the Northern Songs catalog, it's been played so often that even ardent Beatles fans tire of it. But in the moment, McCartney still makes it sound fresh. Joining an improvised chorus alongside him are Bowie, Geldof, Pete Townshend, and Alison Moyet, who stumble through and giggle a bit, taking some of the sting out of Paul's eternal earnestness.

  6. Queen, London: Most of Queen's career was marked by the video age, but the band was never better than they were live, thanks almost entirely to frontman Freddie Mercury. The group opens with an obligatory (and unfinished) nod to "Bohemian Rhapsody," but the standout moment of their five-song set is "Radio Gaga," during which Mercury — clad in his distinctive jeans and wife-beater undershirt, a studded leather strap cinched to one bicep — prances across the stage and proves that it always was his favorite place in the world to be. The crowd loves him, so much so that nearly 100,000 people clap their hands in time to the chorus, high above their heads. In this moment, Freddie Mercury is the coolest man on the planet.

  7. U2, Philadelphia: If everyone has a high-school yearbook photo that induces fashion-victim trauma with every revisit, then Bono's is Live Aid. Cresting on the success of The Unforgettable Fire, the Philly concert offers a look at the megaband in their ascendancy, before the spiritual inquiry of The Joshua Tree and the leather-clad Eurocool of Achtung! Baby. This is the U2 of yore, still built out of spare parts and overtones of Irish militancy. Bono's mullet is fluffy and perfectly coifed, and he marches and twirls around the stage in a cavalry jacket, bolo, leather pants, and high-heeled riding boots he might have borrowed from Prince. Nonetheless, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" sounds as urgent as ever. Later, the band stretches out the instrumental portion of "Bad" while Bono urges the security team fetch a young girl from the crowd so he can dance slowly with her and, presumably, make her weep merely by being in his most awesome presence.

  8. The Who, London: The greatest working band in history performed four songs at Wembley, but a blown generator meant that two — "Pinball Wizard" and "My Generation" — would never make it to the airwaves. What does survive are "Love, Reign O'er Me" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," and arguably only the final song really matters. Reunited a few years after their ostensible retirement, they blast through the number with the same energy that marked it both in 1971 and during its finest rendition ever, the soundstage set for the 1978 documentary The Kids Are Alright. Even today, Roger Daltrey's last words — "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" — still mean something.

  9. Bob Dylan, Philadelphia: Just as it was inevitable that Paul McCartney would close out the London show, Bob Dylan was the musical legend who would conclude Live Aid in the New World, and he's joined for his acoustic set by Keith Richards and Ron Wood, who gamely play tag-along on guitars while Dylan warbles thorough "Blowin' in the Wind." It's the last act before USA for Africa takes the stage for the finale, and when Dylan, Richards, and Wood wrap up, they're offered a warm greeting by… Lionel Richie, who, in the process of entering the gravitational field of three supercooled rock legends, instantly becomes the most unhip person in television history.

  10. Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, Philadelphia: The Stones did not play at Live Aid, although Jagger, Richards, and Wood were in Philly on the day. Jagger opted to go solo with his backing band, and even while one wishes the historic moment could have been marked by Mick's rooster-steps and Keith's Telecaster sways, Jagger stills demonstrates that some Stones are better than none at all. His forgettable single "Just Another Night" is followed by an electric rendition of the Stones classic "Miss You," and later he's joined by Tina Turner for the even more-forgettable "State of Shock" and a good rip at "It's Only Rock and Roll." At one point, Mick sheds Tina of her leather miniskirt, revealing those famous legs and proving that true professionals know how to avoid wardrobe malfunctions. Moments earlier, the Stones' strutter had stripped off his oversized shirt — forcing one to consider that Bob Geldof should feed the world, but somebody should remember to feed Mick Jagger too.

Warner Home Video's four-disc release of Live Aid features a good full-frame transfer (1.33:1) from source-materials of varying quality, although everything in the collection is pleasant and watchable. Audio is available in the original stereo, as well as both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 upgrades. Supplements on Disc One include a BBC report on the famine in Ethiopia, as well as the music videos for Band Aid and USA for Africa. Extras on Disc Four include additional performances by INXS, B.B. King, Ashford & Simpson and Teddy Pendergrass, Run DMC, Cliff Richard, and others; the Bowie/Jagger video for "Dancin' in the Streets," and the documentary "Food and Trucks and Rock 'n' Roll." Live Aid is on the street tomorrow, and all proceeds will be used to contribute to the Band Aid Trust in Africa.

Box Office: Four new movies arrived in North American cineplexes over the weekend, but none could displace Pixar's The Incredibles, which handily beat the competition in its second frame with $51 million, pushing its ten-day cume to a blockbuster $144 million. Arriving in the second spot was Warner's The Polar Express, which managed a respectable $30.8 million over a five-day debut, but still has a ways to go before it makes up its reported $270 million production and marketing budget. New Line's caper flick After the Sunset starring Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek took third place with $11.5 million, which met expectations, while Universal's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason starring Renée Zellweger landed in fourth with $8.9 million, and Rogue Pictures' Seed of Chucky satisfied slasher fans with $8.7 million. Critics were mixed on Polar Express, while Sunset, Bridget, and Chucky all skewed mixed-to-negative.

In continuing release, Universal's Ray starring Jamie Foxx couldn't compete with the onslaught of new movies, but it held its own in sixth place with $8.4 for the session and $52.5 million overall. Sony's The Grudge also is doing solid business with $7.1 million over the weekend and nearly triple-figures after one month. Both Lions Gate's Saw and Miramax's Shall We Dance? are creeping up on the half-million mark. But doing far less well is Paramount's Alfie starring Jude Law, which has slipped to tenth place in its second week with just $11.1 million to show for it. And off to the cheap theaters is Paramount's Team America: World Police, which very likely will exceed its $30 million theatrical gross in DVD sales.

New films on screens this Friday include National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage, as well as The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Incredibles (Buena Vista/Pixar)
    $51,049,000 ($144,053,000 through 2 weeks)
  2. The Polar Express (Warner Bros.)
    $23,530,000 ($30,836,000 through 1 week)
  3. After the Sunset (New Line)
    $11,500,000 ($11,500,000 through 1 week)
  4. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Universal)
    $8,900,000 ($8,900,000 through 1 week)
  5. Seed of Chucky (Rogue)
    $8,767,455 ($8,767,455 through 1 week)
  6. Ray (Universal)
    $8,400,000 ($52,500,000 through 3 weeks)
  7. The Grudge (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $7,100,000 ($99,338,000 through 4 weeks)
  8. Saw (Lions Gate)
    $6,400,000 ($45,700,000 through 3 weeks)
  9. Shall We Dance? (Miramax)
    $4,082,331 ($48,728,611 through 5 weeks)
  10. Alfie (Paramount)
    $2,775,000 ($11,137,000 through 2 weeks)
  11. Shark Tale (DreamWorks SKG)
    $2,100,000 ($157,600,000 through 7 weeks)
  12. Sideways (Fox Searchlight)
    $1,400,000 ($3,736,528 through 4 weeks)

On the Board: Mark Bourne has posted his review of Universal's The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection, while new spins this week from the rest of the gang include Elf: infinifilm, The Iron Giant: Special Edition, The Saddest Music in the World, The Clearing, Foul Play, Kingdom Hospital: The Complete Series, The China Syndrome: Special Edition, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, Ragtime, Live Aid, and The Hebrew Hammer. 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.

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

  • The folks at Columbia TriStar have a pair of Luc Besson titles ready for new dips as two-disc sets — The Fifth Element: Ultimate Edition will include a trio of featurettes and a "factoid track," while Lèon: The Professional: Deluxe Edition will offer a 10-year reunion spot and featurettes on stars Jean Reno and Natalie Portman (both Jan. 11). Also on the slate is this year's Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (Dec. 21) and a pair of catalog titles featuring Rutger Hauer, Blind Fury and Omega Doom (both Dec. 28).

  • Arriving from Universal after what's seemed to be an interminable delay is Trey Parker and Matt Stone's 1997 porn spoof Orgazmo in what's bound to be a fairly nonsensical special edition, while getting a double-rip is 1998's Half-Baked, now in a "Fully Baked Edition (both Feb. 15). Much more promising is a new release of 1980's Where the Buffalo Roam starring Bill Murray, and (yes!) Preston Sturges's 1942 The Palm Beach Story starring Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea (both Feb. 1).

  • This year's comedy Without a Paddle starring Seth Green and Matthew Lillard will arrive from Paramount in separate anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame editions, both with a yack-track from director Steven Brill, a second track with the director and cast, 13 deleted scenes with commentary, and a featurette (Jan. 11). Also arriving in the new year is the little-seen Mean Creek starring Rory Culkin, which will include a commentary from director Jacob Estes and crew (Jan. 25). Catalog titles on Jan. 18 include The Matchmaker, Carrie, and A New Kind of Love, while Ken Burns' Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson is set for Jan. 11 to coincide with the PBS premiere. Also watch for music docs Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story (both Jan. 25), and TV boxes include CSI Miami: Season Two (Jan. 4), MacGyver: Season One (Jan. 25), and a massive Star Trek Voyager: Seasons 1-7 in a 47-disc set (Dec. 21).

  • MGM has pushed their long-awaited two-disc special edition of Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull back to Feb. 8, where it's now joined by a single-disc release of the film and a four-disc Martin Scorsese Film Collection that also includes Boxcar Bertha, The Last Waltz, and New York, New York. And keeping with the week's sporting theme, also new on Feb. 8 will be such catalog items as Rocky Marciano, Body and Soul (1981), Body and Soul (1998), Dempsey, Monkey on My Back, Our Winning Season, That Championship Season (1999), and Winners Take All.

  • Finally, the folks at Image have four notable catalog items on the way before the end of the year with 1932's A Farewell to Arms starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes (Dec. 7), William A. Wellman's 1937 A Star Is Born with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March (Dec. 7), the 1947 version of Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra starring Rosalind Russell and Michael Redgrave (Dec. 14), and the 1957 television rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella with Julie Andrews (Dec. 14).

On the Street: It's a short street-list this week, but you still can get plenty of early holiday shopping done from it. New from Universal are two sets of catalog titles featuring The Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields, while Warner has a four-disc edition of Gone With the Wind and the DVD debut of Before Sunset on the shelves. Paramount leads off with this year's remake of The Stepford Wives, and catalog items this time around include Ace High, Arrowhead, and The Naked Jungle. Fresh from Buena Vista is a double-dip of the popular Bridget Jones's Diary. And TV collections for lost-weekend spins include The L Word, Star Trek Voyager, and Friends. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Ace High
  • Alan King: Inside the Comedy Mind
  • Arrowhead
  • Before Sunset
  • Bridget Jones's Diary: Collector's Edition
  • The Clearing
  • A Day without a Mexican
  • Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival
  • Falling from Grace
  • Friends: Season Eight (4-disc set)
  • Gone with the Wind: Special Edition (4-disc set)
  • The Hillside Strangler (unrated)
  • Hillside Strangler (R-rated)
  • I Drink Your Blood
  • Kavanagh Q.C.: Set One (2-disc set)
  • The L Word: Season One (5-disc set)
  • Laffapalooza! #4
  • Last Train from Gun Hill
  • Lost Junction
  • The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (6-disc set)
  • The Naked Jungle
  • Parting Shots
  • Rick
  • Star Trek Voyager: Season Five
  • The Stepford Wives: Special Edition (widescreen) (2004)
  • The Stepford Wives: Special Edition (full-frame) (2004)
  • Suspicious River
  • The W.C. Fields Comedy Collection (5-disc set)

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: "If we cannot get artistry and clarity," declared David O. Selznick midway through production on Gone With the Wind (1939), "let's forget about artistry." So they did, and so a classic, perhaps the most beloved Hollywood film ever made, was born. Indeed, clarity is everything in Selznick's nearly four-hour adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's equally beloved novel because it is close to the only thing that keeps it from collapse. Artlessly scurrying from one scene to the next, this production, so fervently anticipated by the American public that they essentially forced en masse the casting of Clark Gable as the charismatic Charleston rogue, Rhett Butler, had many captains — George Cukor, Victor Fleming (the credited director), and, by virtue of his evocative production design, William Cameron Menzies — and one dictator, Selznick, who was more perfectionist than auteur. The sensitive Cukor would be fired for his slow, exacting pace that knocked the picture well behind schedule, while the macho taskmaster Fleming would be forced to take a temporary leave of absence due to exhaustion. But the cameras rarely stopped rolling, which is the triumph of Selznick, who would never more indelibly leave his mark on any of his productions. Gone With the Wind is an epic with its chest puffed out, cocky with a gambler's moxie, and unafraid of failure. The novel, the production, and the film it spawned typify so much about America's can-do mentality that its status as the quintessential American movie was practically manifest — despite its frenetic aesthetic and infuriating racial politics (toned down heavily from the novel). Or maybe that's just another troubling part of the bargain.

As with so many undisputed American classics — e.g. The Godfather, Citizen Kane and Casablanca — the protagonist of Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O'Hara (a justifiably iconic performance by Vivien Leigh), is an anti-hero — in this case, a cunningly selfish creature preoccupied with her own advancement and affluence at the expense of her family and friends. But while she is driven by her transforming determination to "never go hungry again," even if she has to commit all manner of sin to ensure this, Scarlett is primarily fixed on winning the hand of her lifelong flame, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). Ashley, however, chooses instead to marry his cousin Melanie (Olivia de Havilland), who is the antithesis of Scarlett — generous and kind-hearted to a fault. Indignant, the desirable Scarlett impulsively runs through a succession of cuckolds who have the unfortunate habit of getting killed soon after the vows are exchanged (marrying Scarlett, it seems, is as perilous as drumming for Spinal Tap), but none of these men truly enthrall her. Only the profligate lothario Rhett Butler stands a chance at challenging the obstinate southern belle, for he is the scoundrel she richly deserves. Adroitly courting favor with both the Yankee conquerors and his fellow Confederates, Rhett is a supreme schemer with an admirable sentimental streak. Whether it's saving Scarlett's life as Atlanta burns spectacularly to the ground, or rescuing Ashley after a shantytown roust gets broken up by Union soldiers, Rhett has the heart that Scarlett lacks, although he also is quite capable of sinking to her base level of emotional cruelty. This capacity burrows to a particularly nasty low point in the infamous "rape" scene, where, against her wishes, Rhett gives Scarlett the rowdy roll in the hay she so badly needs. Rhett's unforgivable transgression is sparked by his frustration at Scarlett's stubborn pining away for Ashley, which is the overriding goal that drives the narrative forward. It is also her hamartia; a defect that will lead to her eventual spiritual ruin belied by her final, shallow self-assuagement that "tomorrow is another day".

If Scarlett is devastated at the end of Gone With the Wind, the fact that she apparently has been shaken of her obsession with Ashley Wilkes in favor of winning back the true love of her life is meant to give audiences a measure of hope as they stream out of the theater sobbing into their handkerchiefs. For Americans scraping out of the Great Depression, yet facing an uncertain future with war breaking out in Europe, this message, along with Scarlett's "gumption," as Mitchell called it, was tremendously reassuring, particularly for women who would soon be heading off to work while their husbands enlisted to save the world from Fascism. This explains how an entire country could fall so madly in love with the film even as its heroine behaved so dishonorably. Perseverance isn't pretty, but it is essential, and Reconstruction offered a heightened picture of survival under desperate circumstances. The extent to which this describes the behind-the-scenes turmoil also explains how the film achieves greatness in spite of its many rough edges. Visually, it's inconsistent and sometimes shoddy, occasionally succumbing to the aforementioned "artistry" in awkward half-measures, as in the dreamlike, silhouetted birthing of Melanie's child that's ridiculously ostentatious when placed against the rest of the picture's blunt visual style. And the narrative, slavish to the novel so as not to upset the legion of demanding fans for whom it could be argued the film was made in the first place, barrels forward with such furious momentum that one is often entertained without being terribly captivated. Still, the damn thing works. It's an ode to audaciousness forged in the very spirit it celebrates — easy to nitpick, but impossible to resist.

Warner presents Gone With the Wind in a remarkably gorgeous full-frame transfer (1.33:1) that, like the studio's recent Technicolor releases on DVD, is utterly eye-popping. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is crisp; Atlanta has never blazed with such aural texture. This four disc "Collector's Edition" is packed with supplements, beginning with a literally exhaustive feature-length commentary by the always engaging Rudy Behlmer. Moving over to Disc Three, "The Making of a Legend" (123 min.), is, even at its generous length, only a primer into the intrigue of the picture's contentious production. "Restoring a Legend" (17 min.) explores the film's digital clean-up, while "The Old South" (11 min.), is a vintage (and racially insensitive) short directed by Fred Zinnemann to better explain the movie's milieu. Disc Four boasts "Melanie Remembers" (37 min.), featuring the still-lucid Olivia de Havilland doing just that, while "Gable: The King Remembered" (65 min.) and "Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond" (46 min.) dig further into the background of the actors immortalized by their respective characters. Also included are two newsreels reporting the 1939 and 1961 Atlanta premieres, the prologue scroll from the international release, bios for the supporting cast, snippets from the foreign language versions, and five theatrical trailers. Gone with the Wind: Collector's Edition is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: To no one's surprise, Pixar's The Incredibles dominated the North American box-office over the weekend, but how incredible was it? The animated film's $70.6 million three-day break exceeded all other grosses in the top ten combined. The win just edged out Finding Nemo's $70.3 million debut to become the best Pixar opening yet, and it also marked the best three-day opening of any film released by Disney. Coming in a disappointing fifth was Paramount's Alfie starring Jude Law, which generated just $6.5 million for the frame. Critics unanimously praised The Incredibles, while Alfie earned mixed notices.

In continuing release, Universal's Oscar-buzzing Ray starring Jamie Foxx held on to second place, adding $13.8 million to a 10-day tally of $39.8 million, while Sony's The Grudge has more than made up its modest budget with $89.5 million after three sessions. Lions Gate's Saw also is coming back with good numbers in fourth place, with $35.7 million after its second weekend. DreamWorks' Shark Tale will outrun The Incredibles for a short time, holding down $154.1 million in chum, but it's bound to be overtaken soon. And doing solid business in late trading are Universal's Friday Night Lights with $57.3 million and Buena Vista's Ladder 49 with $69.9 million so far. But off to DVD prep is New Line's Birth starring Nicole Kidman, which didn't manage $2 million last week and has now dropped out of sight.

New in cineplexes this Wednesday is the animated The Polar Express with Tom Hanks, while Friday sees the arrival of After the Sunset starring Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek, as well as Seed of Chucky. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Incredibles (Buena Vista/Pixar)
    $70,678,000 ($70,678,000 through 1 week)
  2. Ray (Universal)
    $13,800,000 ($39,800,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. The Grudge (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $13,500,000 ($89,580,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. Saw (Lions Gate)
    $11,400,000 ($35,701,242 through 2 weeks)
  5. Alfie (Paramount)
    $6,500,000 ($6,500,000 through 1 week)
  6. Shall We Dance? (Miramax)
    $5,650,141 ($42,130,425 through 4 weeks)
  7. Shark Tale (DreamWorks SKG)
    $4,600,000 ($154,100,000 through 6 weeks)
  8. Friday Night Lights (Universal)
    $3,000,000 ($57,300,000 through 5 weeks)
  9. Ladder 49 (Buena Vista)
    $2,625,000 ($69,932,000 through 6 weeks)
  10. Team America: World Police (Paramount)
    $1,855,000 ($30,456,000 through 4 weeks)
  11. Surviving Christmas (DreamWorks SKG)
    $1,300,000 ($10,300,000 through 3 weeks)
  12. Taxi (Fox)
    $1,225,000 ($34,631,994 through 5 weeks)

On the Board: Dawn Taylor has posted a review of Warner's The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Vol. Two, while new spins this week from the rest of the team include The Stepford Wives, Before Sunset, Bridget Jones's Diary: Collector's Edition, Dazed and Confused: Flashback Edition, Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Special Edition, The More the Merrier, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Special Edition, Ace High, Renegade, The Naked Jungle, Falling from Grace, Gone with the Wind: Collector's Edition, and Killer Nun. It's all fresh under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with this week's street discs.

— Ed.

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

  • Up from Warner is a treat for catalog fans — a "Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection" from the vault with six titles new to DVD. William A. Wellman's 1931 The Public Enemy starring James Cagney will include a commentary by film historian Robert Sklar and the featurette "Beer and Blood: Enemies of the Public." Cagney also stars in 1949's White Heat, directed by Raoul Walsh, which will include a commentary by film historian Drew Casper and the featurette "Top of the World." Cagney and Pat O'Brien team up in 1938's Angels With Dirty Faces, directed by Michael Curtiz, which will offer a commentary by film historian Dana Polan and the featurette "Whaddya Hear? Whaddya Say?" The 1930 classic Little Caesar starring Edward G. Robinson will include a track from film historian Richard B. Jewell and the featurette "Little Caesar: End of Rico, Beginning of the Antihero." The Petrified Forest features a breakout performance by Humphrey Bogart, who co-stars with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis, and extras will include a commentary by Bogart biographer Eric Lax, a radio adaptation starring Bogart, Tyrone Power, and Joan Bennett, and the featurette "Menace in the Desert." And finally, Raoul Walsh's 1939 The Roaring Twenties starring Cagney and Bogart will include a commentary by film historian Lincoln Hurst and a featurette. All six titles will also sport "Warner Night at the Movies" collections with newsreels and shorts, hosted by Leonard Maltin. They're all on the street Jan. 25. Also new from Warner is a two-disc release of Spike Lee's 1992 Malcolm X starring Denzel Washington, which will offer a director's commentary, two new documentaries, deleted scenes, and the 1972 documentary Malcolm X (Feb. 8). And TV titles on the sched include Gilligan's Island: Season Two (Jan. 11), King Fu: Season Two (Jan. 18), and The Dukes of Hazzard: Season Two (Jan. 25).

  • Criterion's January slate has five new titles. Akira Kurosawa's 1980 Kagemusha will arrive in a two-disc set with a new, restored transfer, a commentary by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince, a 40-min. documentary, new interviews with Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, a look at the director's paintings and sketches, and a booklet with new essays (Jan. 18). Jacques Becker's 1952 Casque d'Or will offer a commentary by film historian Peter Cowie, a vintage interview with star Simone Signoret, a new interview with actor Serge Reggiani, and rare on-set footage (Jan. 18). Jean Gabin's 1954 Touchez Pas au Grisbi will offer interviews with Lino Ventura and Daniel Cauchy and composer Jean Wiener, as well as the original trailer (Jan. 18). And Seijun Suzuki's 1966 Fighting Elegy and 1963 Youth of the Beast will include theatrical trailers and new essays (Jan. 11).

  • Focus Features' disappointing costume drama Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon is headed for DVD, courtesy of Universal on Feb. 1 in both anamorphic (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan editions, while a new special edition of 1999's October Sky will street on Jan. 25 with Dolby Digital and DTS audio. And fresh from the catalog will be Willie Dynamite, That Man Bolt, and Bustin' Loose (all Jan. 11).

  • We're awaiting final specs, but the folks at Columbia TriStar are preparing a two-disc special edition of this year's Resident Evil: Apocalypse just in time for new year's, and it will be joined on the street by catalog titles Cyber Bandits and Venus Rising (all Dec. 28).

  • Headed for DVD in a big hurry is Fox's First Daughter starring Katie Holmes, which reaches the small screens on Jan 25, while TV boxes in February include Wonderfalls: The Complete Series (Feb. 1), Murder One: Season One (Feb. 8), Angel: Season Five (Feb. 15), and The Shield: Season Three (Feb. 22).

  • And that isn't the only title on the way to the small platter in record time — Buena Vista has already announced a Feb. 1 street-date for Shall We Dance starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon, while the baseball comedy Mr 3000 starring Bernie Mac gets the same street-date. And catalog treats on the way in January include Franco Zeferelli's 1996 Jane Eyre, The Last Kiss, She's So Lovely, Torrents of Spring (all Jan. 4), Billy Bathgate, and The Journey of August King (both Jan. 25).

On the Street: There are some monstrously big titles on the shelves this week, but you can't get the biggest of the bunch today — DreamWorks' Shrek 2 gets a special Friday street-date, and it's still bound to be the week's biggest seller. New from Paramount is the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series, while Warner's gone back to the archives for Vol. Two of The Looney Tunes Golden Collection. Columbia TriStar has now released Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove three times on DVD, although the extra features on the two-disc "40th Anniversary Special Edition" make it worth the upgrade for ardent fans, while also new is an "Anniversary Edition" of Philadelphia and, from the vault, Robert Altman's California Split and George Stevens' The More the Merrier. Buena Vista's hoping Around the World in 80 Days with Jackie Chan gets a second shot in home viewing, while New Line's offerings this time around include Proof starring Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe, Gus Van Sant's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and The Rapture. Universal's double-dipped a couple of bong-rips with new editions of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Dazed and Confused, and Buena Vista's done one better with a three-disc edition of Pirates of the Caribbean. Titles lurking under the radar this week include A Home at the End of the World and Three Coins in the Fountain. And ready for TV spins are new boxes of Northern Exposure and The West Wing. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Ali G Indahouse
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Babes in Toyland
  • California Split
  • Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within
  • Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within/Varekai
  • Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba
  • Comfort and Joy
  • Dazed and Confused: Flashback Edition (widescreen)
  • Dazed and Confused: Flashback Edition (full-frame)
  • Dr. Strangelove: 40th Anniversary Special Edition (2-disc set)
  • Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
  • Facing Windows (La finestra di fronte)
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Collector's Edition (widescreen)
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Collector's Edition (full-frame)
  • Fate
  • Festival Express (2-disc set)
  • Ghetto Freaks/Way Out: Special Edition
  • The Grissom Gang
  • The High Commissioner (Nobody Runs Forever)
  • The History of Iron Maiden: Part 1: The Early Days (2-disc set)
  • A Home at the End of the World (2004)
  • Ike & Tina Turner: Live In '71
  • The Last Ride
  • Last Rites
  • The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Vol. Two (4-disc set)
  • The Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection: Vol. Two (2-disc set)
  • The More the Merrier
  • Mulholland Falls
  • Northern Exposure: Season Two (2-disc set)
  • Othello (1990)
  • Philadelphia: Anniversary Edition (2-disc set)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Special Edition (3-disc set)
  • Proof (1991)
  • The Rapture
  • Rebellious
  • Renegade
  • Shrek 2 (widescreen) (2-disc set) (Nov. 5)
  • Shrek 2 (full-screen) (2-disc set) (Nov. 5)
  • Shrek: The Story So Far (4-disc set) (Nov. 5)
  • The Simple Life 2
  • The Simpsons Christmas 2
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge for Hire
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Two (8-disc set)
  • Three Coins in the Fountain: Fox Studio Classics
  • Too Close For Comfort: Season One
  • Toto 25th Anniversary: Live in Amsterdam
  • Traffic: The Miniseries
  • The West Wing: Season Three (4-disc set)
  • Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?
  • Zapata

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: If formative events count for anything, two altered Warren Miller's life at a young age. As a boy growing up in his native Hollywood, Calif., he delivered newspapers for pocket money — one of his customers was Walt Disney, a filmmaker who embodied both a visionary spirit and financial success while flaunting industry conventions. And when he was 12, Miller traded a pair of roller skates and $2 for a pair of pine skis, initiating his lifelong passion for alpine sport. By 1947 he had relocated to Sun Valley, Idaho, where he lived in a trailer while pursuing skiing full-time. He began giving instruction, and before long he was teaching two Bell & Howell executives, whom he convinced to lend him a camera. That loan and a $500 budget produced 1947's Deep and Light, the first Warren Miller ski film. Since that time, Miller (now semi-retired) founded Warren Miller Entertainment, a multi-million-dollar business that has, among other things, produced a new ski movie every year (with no less than 54 in the filmography as of 2004). The annual arrival of Miller's films, which roadshow across the country, herald the beginning of the ski season for deep-powder junkies, who queue up to catch the latest in extreme-sports filmmaking. But are Warren Miller movies essentially the same, year in and year out? In some ways, yes — the montage of travelogue, humor, and pulse-pounding vertical action is narrated by Miller in his characteristic, low-key manner, marked by his sarcastic wit, tongue-in-cheek chauvinism, and pet phrases after wipeouts, such as "You want your skis? Go get 'em," and "Shut up and get up." But Warren Miller movies have evolved over the decades, as have filmmaking styles, snowsports, and ski-resort fashions. What hasn't changed is Miller's carpe diem ethos. "If you wait until next year to do it," he likes to say, "you'll be one year older."

The 53rd Warren Miller film, Journey (2003), holds to the filmmaker's established template, following not just certain events within the skiing world, but also its gradual development. As usual, Miller's filmmaking team travels the globe in search of skiing locations, known and unknown. At the Heavenly resort alongside Lake Tahoe's south shore, ski icon and mogul-master Glen Plake insists that Californians aren't just a bunch of beach bums, although his colorful 18-inch mohawk gives new meaning to the term west-coast style. A two-week drive leads the team to Portillo, Chile, where an isolated mountain hotel at 10,000 feet marks the gateway to Andean peaks covered with snow in the middle of July. The quartet of extreme skiers who travel to Chamonix, France, to rip up some terrifying Alpine terrain are all over 40 — a typical nod by Miller to illustrate that you're never too old to push the limits, even when that means skiing a 4,000-foot chute with a 50-deg. pitch. Even more extreme is Cordova, Alaska, where a trio of snowriders are heli'ed on to some of the largest peaks in North America — there's no easy way down, and it becomes that much worse for one skier when he's forced to outrun an avalanche caused by his own traverse. For skiers, Warren Miller films such as Journey offer a variety of delights, from sheer rushes of adrenaline to observing the subtle form of world-class athletes at the peak of their sport. But even non-skiers can enjoy a Warren Miller movie, and for many of the same reasons. Miller's humor is always sharp, while the overseas locales are intriguing. And no matter what the genre, the cinematography is unrivaled, both for its composition and our simple "how did they get that shot?" bewilderment. In a Warren Miller picture, green-screens simply don't exist.

Shout! Factory's Warren Miller's Journey Through the Decades box-set includes 2003's Journey as well as three other titles, selected to reflect the Warren Miller filmmaking style over the years. Ski a la Carte (1978) is the clearest time-capsule of the bunch — Miller returns to his old stomping ground of Sun Valley, Idaho, where a young Mariel Hemingway joins a quartet of skiers on the steep powder of Baldy. A trip to Greece reveals that the country's resorts aren't as sophisticated as those in North America (such as California's massive Squaw Valley), but there's still plenty of terrain to cut up. The fashions everywhere are decidedly colorful, and folks even ski with hats that have pom-poms. Meanwhile, Miller can't resist referencing Star Wars, he visits a resort's discotheque, and in the pre-snowboard era he finds a bunch of kids skiing on their skateboards, to which they've lashed plastic skids. Steep & Deep (1985) introduces a more contemporary ski-era — the terrain is more frightening than the ski-clothes, and along with a return to Sun Valley and visits to Colorado, British Columbia, and New Zealand, we meet the legendary Scott Schmidt. If Miller's films before the '80s were primarily travelogues, Schmidt became the movie star he was looking for. The founder of "extreme skiing," it was Schmidt who was willing to enter triple-black terrain while Miller's cameras were rolling, giving his movies an entirely new dimension while turning the cliff-diving skier into a living legend. Schmidt would appear in eight Warren Miller titles, causing fans around the world to drop their jaws and mumble "ho... ly... sh#t" with each new jump. Endless Winter (1995) fully introduces snowboards into the mix of Miller's snowriders, memorably opening as four daring souls are awakened by a helicopter before sunrise to be ferried to a remote Canadian peak, skis and boards in the cargo hold. Famous resorts on the itinerary include Whistler and Jackson Hole, while overseas destinations include Austria, Bolivia, and Japan. The final location, Valdez, Alaska, includes some of Miller's finest footage ever as four riders descend from a mountain that appears to rest on the remotest corner of the earth.

Shout! Factory's Warren Miller's Journey Through the Ages box-set includes all four titles on separate discs. The full-frame transfers (1.33:1 OAR) are uniformly good, taken from source-prints that exhibit varying degrees of age. Audio is in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround on Journey, which also has two featurettes, while the remaining titles have Dolby 2.0 stereo tracks. The audio is pleasant, with the exception of Steep & Deep, where it would seem the mix either amplified the music too much or didn't raise Miller's narration to the proper level — at times, Miller's voice collapses under the weight of the music. In addition to the films, the three catalog titles include four featurettes apiece, available on a supplemental menu or as "on-the-fly" content during the feature presentations. Warren Miller's Journey Through the Decades is on the street now.

Box Office: Everybody's talking about Jamie Foxx's performance in Universal's Ray, but the Halloween weekend went to Sony's The Grudge starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, which held on to the top spot for the second week in a row at the North American box-office, adding $22.4 million to a healthy $71.6 million 10-day cume. Ray had a strong debut in second place with $20.1 million, while Lions Gate's Saw hoped to capitalize on All Hallows Eve, taking in $17.4 million for third place. Also new was New Line's Birth starring Nicole Kidman, which debuted outside of the top-ten in limited locations with just $1.7 million. Critics praised Ray and were mixed on Saw, while Birth skewed mixed-to-negative.

In continuing release, DreamWorks' Shark Tale is turning into a monster hit, holding down a top-five spot in its fifth week with $147.4 million overall, while Miramax's Shall We Dance starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez is looking to be a midlist success, banking $33.9 million after three frames. Universal's Friday Night Lights starring Billy Bob Thornton is over the $50 million mark after one month, and Buena Vista's Ladder 49 has done $66 million worth of business in five sessions. Don't expect Paramount's Team America: World Police to be a breakout hit, although it's racked up $27.2 million to date. And off to DVD prep is New Line's Raise Your Voice starring Hilary Duff, which barely cracked $10 million before heading for the cheap seats.

New films in cineplexes this Friday include Pixar's The Incredibles and Alfie starring Jude Law. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Grudge (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $22,400,000 ($71,267,000 through 2 weeks)
  2. Ray (Universal)
    $20,100,000 ($20,100,000 through 1 week)
  3. Saw (Lions Gate)
    $17,400,000 ($17,400,000 through 1 week)
  4. Shark Tale (DreamWorks SKG)
    $8,000,000 ($147,400,000 through 5 weeks)
  5. Shall We Dance? (Miramax)
    $6,285,321 ($33,939,477 through 3 weeks)
  6. Friday Night Lights (Universal)
    $4,100,000 ($52,990,000 through 4 weeks)
  7. Ladder 49 (Buena Vista)
    $3,330,000 ($66,198,000 through 5 weeks)
  8. Team America: World Police (Paramount)
    $3,100,000 ($27,261,000 through 3 weeks)
  9. Surviving Christmas (DreamWorks SKG)
    $2,600,000 ($8,100,000 through 2 weeks)
  10. Taxi (Fox)
    $2,150,000 ($32,744,215 through 4 weeks)
  11. Birth (New Line)
    $1,700,000 ($1,700,000 through 1 week)
  12. The Forgotten (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $1,650,000 ($64,490,000 through 6 weeks)
  13. I Heart Huckabees (Fox Searchlight)
    $1,650,000 ($8,385,094 through 5 weeks)

On the Board: Mark Bourne has posted a look at Columbia TriStar's new "40th Anniversary" edition of Dr. Strangelove, while new spins this week from the rest of the team include Dawn of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut, Around the World in 80 Days, Mulan: Special Edition, Star Trek: The Original Series: Season Two, The OC: Season One, California Split, A Home at the End of the World, Proof , Mulholland Falls, The Rapture, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Warren Miller's Journey Through the Decades, and Mark of the Devil. Everything's been added to the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

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