News and Commentary: March 2005

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

  • The beat goes on at Warner Home Video, who continue to serve up catalog treats week after week. Arriving in June will be The Bette Davis Collection, which will include the DVD debut of 1944's Mr. Skeffington, co-starring Claude Rains, in the original 147-min. cut with a commentary by director Vincent Sherman and a new documentary "Mr. Skeffington: A Picture of Strength." Also new to disc will be 1952's The Star co-starring Sterling Hayden and Natalie Wood, also with a new featurette. Getting a remaster from restored elements will be a second DVD release of 1939's Dark Victory, with commentary from film scholars James Ursini and Paul Clinton and a featurette. And rounding out the box will be the current DVD releases of The Letter and Now Voyager. It's here on June 14.

  • But what's Bette without Joan? Keen on the infamous rivalry between two legendary actresses, also in prep at Warner is The Joan Crawford Collection, featuring the DVD debut of 1950's The Damned Don't Cry with a commentary from director Vincent Sherman and a featurette, while also new on digital will be 1947's Possessed with commentary by film historian Drew Casper and a featurette, as well as Jean Negulesco's 1946 Humoresque with a look at the film's music. And added to the box for the June 14 street-date will be current DVDs Mildred Pierce and The Women.

  • And the gang at Warner isn't done just yet — due in July is The Film Noir Classic Collection: Vol. Two. Watch for Robert Wise's 1947 Born to Kill with commentary by film historian Eddie Muller and archival cuts from director Wise; Fritz Lang's 1952 Clash by Night starring Barbara Stanwyck, with commentary from Peter Bogdanovich and audio cuts from Lang; Edward Dmytryk's 1947 Crossfire starring Robert Mitchum, Robert Young, and Robert Ryan, with commentary from film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini and (yes) older contributions from Dmytryk; 1945's Dillinger starring Lawrence Tierney, with commentary by filmmaker John Milius and contributions from writer Philip Yordan; and Richard Fleischer's 1952 The Narrow Margin with commentary from William Friedkin and older contributions by Fleischer. And finally (try not to make audible celebration noises while reading at work, please) John Boorman's 1967 Point Blank starring a seriously badass Lee Marvin will offer a track from John Boorman and Steven Soderbergh, as well as two vintage featurettes. It's all copacetic on July 5.

  • After that worthy list of catalog items, does anyone care about TV releases? If you do, up from Warner on June 7 will be Wonder Woman: Season Three and Lois & Clark: Season One, while La Femme Nikita: Season Three streets on June 28. Meanwhile, A Very Long Engagement has been kicked back to July 12.

  • The good folks at MGM have announced to retailers that this year's Be Cool starring John Travolta and Uma Thurman will arrive in separate anamorphic and full-frame editions on June 7, while also arriving on the same day will be three catalog titles featuring Peter Sellers, The Naked Truth, Never Let Go, and What's New Pussycat?. Low-profile titles include Fascination, Loch Ness, and the animated Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, while the "Midnite Movies" folio will street the schlockoriffic double-features The Mini-Skirt Mob/Chrome and Hot Leather and Morons from Outer Space/Alien from L.A., both on June 7.

  • After Warner recently announced its "Essential Steve McQueen" box for May 31, New Line has followed up with the first season of the 1958 TV series Wanted: Dead Or Alive starring the King of Cool, which will arrive across four discs on June 7, including the documentary Life in the Fast Lane and several additional features. Also watch for John Waters' A Dirty Shame, as well as catalog items Carried Away and For Roseannna (all June 14).

  • Finally, Columbia TriStar will street this year's low-budget horror hit Boogeyman on May 31 with several featurettes, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and more. Back-catalog items on the way include The Big Town starring Matt Dillon and Diane Lane (May 24), as well as Raoul Walsh's 1953 Gun Fury starring Rock Hudson, Guy Green's 1963 Diamond Head with Charlton Heston and Yvette Mimieux, and Sam Peckinpah's 1965 Major Dundee starring Heston, Richard Harris, and James Coburn (all May 31).

On the Street: The street-list is worth a look this time around, starting with Criterion's two-disc release of Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha, while mainstream platters on the board include New Line's After the Sunset and Vera Drake, as well as Columbia TriStar's Closer. Fans of Ron Howard will be picking up Universal's "10th Anniversary" re-release of Apollo 13, although we suspect more than a few folks will be looking for Trey Parker's Orgazmo: Unrated Special Edition (also from Universal), as well as Troma's The Toxic Avenger: 21st Anniversary Edition. Out of the vault from Paramount are Blue Chips and Lady in a Cage, while conspiracy-minded TV watchers can inspect Fox's The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series and Image's The Twilight Zone: Season Two. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • After the Sunset: Platinum Series
  • America's Next Top Model: Cycle One (2-disc set)
  • Apollo 13: 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Astro Boy: The Complete Series (5-disc set)
  • A Bell from Hell (La Campana del infierno)
  • Blue Chips
  • Boohbah: Hot Dog
  • Bring on the Night
  • Closer
  • Combat: Season Three: Operation 1 (4-disc set)
  • Combat: Season Three: Operation 2 (4-disc set)
  • Crimson Rivers: Angels of the Apocalypse: Special Edition
  • Cyberchase: The Snelfu Snafu
  • Dark Shadows DVD Collection 17
  • Dream Jets
  • Hustle
  • Islands in the Stream
  • Kagemusha: The Criterion Collection
  • Lady in a Cage
  • Letter to the President
  • The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series (3-disc set)
  • Murder She Wrote: Season One
  • National Lampoon's Gold Diggers
  • Orgazmo: Unrated Special Edition
  • Remedy
  • Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino
  • Salon Kitty
  • A Tale of Two Sisters (Janghwa, Hongryeon) (2-disc set)
  • The Toxic Avenger: 21st Anniversary Edition (2-disc set)
  • The Twilight Zone: Season Two (6-disc set)
  • Vera Drake
  • I Vitelloni
  • The Wall
  • The Wind in the Willows: Series One (2-disc set)
  • World Poker Tour: Season Two

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Riding high on his international status as one of cinema's greatest directors, in the late 1970s Akira Kurosawa was nonetheless having trouble getting financing in his home country. Following box-office failures — most notably 1970's Dodes'ka-den , which was scathingly denounced by critics to the point that the director attempted suicide — Kurosawa was considered so unbankable that he made 1974's Dersu Urzala in Soviet Russia. Figuring he might never be able to tell the story of Kagemusha (1980) on film, he then picked up a brush and, using his skilled talents as an artist, told the tale through a series of paintings. Partly on the basis of these works, the 70-year-old Kurosawa secured two financial backers who knew a little something about the difficulties of producing epic movies — longtime Kurosawa fans Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. However, in typical Hollywood fashion, once their idol had completed his film, the two American directors then told Kurosawa that he had to cut 20 minutes, claiming that Western audiences would find it too unwieldy. Kagemusha turned out to be a commercial success — although that was only of limited help to the director, who still had to go to French investors to fund his next picture, Ran.

In Kagemusha, the director returned to feudal Japan in the late 1500s and the world of the samurai, telling the story of a powerful warlord, Shingen, head of the Takeda clan, who's killed in battle. His dying wish is that his dynasty and his drive to unify Japan continue — so a thief (Tatsuya Nakadai) who bears a remarkable resemblance to the warlord is brought in to impersonate him. The "kagemusha" — his "double" or "shadow" — will serve as Shingen's stand-in for three years, much to the displeasure of the warlord's son, Katsuyori (Hagiwara Kenichi). After fulfilling his role intermittently, the kagemusha learns of the warlord's death and refuses to go on with the ruse, saying that his promise was only to Shingen, not to his retainers. But, after some thought, he changes his mind — and slowly becomes the man he's impersonating, leading his clan against their enemies and eventually fulfilling his, and his lord's, destiny.

Having been so painstakingly imagined in paintings years earlier, Kagemusha is gloriously, meticulously shot, with a highly stylized visual sense that makes the film seem almost to be a dress rehearsal for Ran. Battle scenes are enormous, colorful, and awe-inspiring in their scope, while the more intimate, personal scenes are occasionally claustrophobic in their intensity — as with Ran, Kurosawa's King Lear adaptation, there's a Shakespearean element to the complex drawing-room political machinations behind the scenes. Having made samurai pictures for much of his career, it's an older, wiser Kurosawa who returns to the theme in Kagemusha, exploring the validity of the samurai code and the belief systems that drive men to seek power and go to war. The power of Shingen's dynasty can only be held together by an illusion; if the kagemusha fails in his task and is unmasked, then all will become chaos. But is a man standing in for a warlord, fulfilling the warlord's wishes, the same thing? At 70, unable to gain respect in his home country and having once tried to kill himself, it's possible that the film's cynical view of power and illusion reflects Kurosawa's feelings about his own career at that point — but despite any concerns he may have had about the public's reception to it, the director's love of filmmaking is still apparent here. Kagemusha is an epic work with breathtaking cinematography, gorgeous art direction, and huge, exciting battles. Although perhaps not quite as magnificent as Ran, it's still one of the master's finest works.

Finally presented to Western audiences in its complete, three-hour running time, the Criterion Collection's two-disc Kagemusha DVD release is stunning. Presented in a solid anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), the new, restored high-def digital transfer is virtually flawless — sharp, amazingly clean, with rich, bright colors and seemingly perfect contrast. It looks phenomenal, even better than many new releases of current films. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (in Japanese, with newly translated English subtitles) is equally good, whether capturing the quiet tones of hushed conversation or the thundering hoofbeats of riders on horseback. Disc One features an interesting, info-packed commentary track by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince, which offers a wealth of information on the making of the film and observations on Kurosawa's entire body of work, plus the American and Japanese theatrical trailers. Disc Two offers three featurettes — "Helping a Master: Coppola, Lucas, and Kagemusha," which is a new video interview with Lucas and Coppola (19 min.); "Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful To Create," a "making-of" television documentary from the Toho Masterworks Series focusing primarily on Kurosawa's later films (41 min.); and "Image: Kurosawa's Continuity," a fascinating video showing the process that brought Kurosawa's paintings and sketches to the screen (43 min.). There's also a storyboard-to-film feature, three commercials shot for Suntory Whiskey on the Kagemusha set featuring Kurosawa and Coppola, and an extensive booklet featuring paintings from the film plus essays by Darrell Davis and Peter Grilli. Kagemusha: The Criterion Collection is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: Two new arrivals at the weekend box-office took the top two spots on the chart, with Bernie Mac the big winner. Mac and costar Ashton Kutcher landed in the top spot with Sony's Guess Who, an update of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, which racked up $21 million. The win easily beat out Warner's Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous starring Sandra Bullock, which was good for $17.6 million since its Thursday debut. Guess Who earned mixed reviews from critics, while Congeniality was widely dismissed.

In continuing release, last week's winner The Ring Two notched down to third place, where it added $13.8 million to a solid 10-day gross of $58 million. Fox's Robots is faring just as well, with $13 million for the frame and $87.3 million after three sessions. And Disney's The Pacifier starring Vin Diesel is starting to look sequel-bound, now with $86.2 million in the bag after one month. Sony's Hitch starring Will Smith continues its juggernaut, holding down sixth place after seven weeks and $166.5 million so far, but Disney's Ice Princess will have to reach a lot of its tween audience on home video, taking in just $3.7 million in its second weekend. MGM's Be Cool has slipped past the $50 million mark. And off to the small screens is Lions Gate's Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which will clear $50 before it's done.

New on screens this Wednesday is Beauty Shop starring Queen Latifah, while Friday sees the debut of Sin City with Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Guess Who (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $21,000,000 ($21,000,000 through 1 week)
  2. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (Warner Bros.)
    $14,510,000 ($17,610,000 through 1 week)
  3. The Ring Two (DreamWorks SKG)
    $13,800,000 ($58,085,000 through 2 weeks)
  4. Robots (Fox)
    $13,000,000 ($87,356,000 through 3 weeks)
  5. The Pacifier (Disney)
    $8,541,000 ($86,287,000 through 4 weeks)
  6. Hitch (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $4,300,000 ($166,459,000 through 7 weeks)
  7. Hostage (Miramax)
    $4,111,000 ($26,175,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. Ice Princess (Disney)
    $3,702,000 ($13,312,000 through 2 weeks)
  9. Be Cool (MGM)
    $2,850,000 ($52,383,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)
    $2,610,000 ($94,160,000 through 15 weeks)
  11. The Upside of Anger (New Line)
    $1,250,000 ($4,015,000 through 3 weeks)
  12. Constantine (Warner Bros.)
    $1,215,000 ($72,660,000 through 6 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the team include Closer, After the Sunset: Platinum Series, Orgazmo: Unrated Special Edition, Fat Albert, High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story, Union Square, Kagemusha: The Criterion Collection, and Lady in a Cage. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page.

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

— Ed.

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

  • Lots of good stuff is on deck today from Warner Home Video, starting with a two-disc release of Martin Scorsese's The Aviator — expect a commentary from Scorsese on the first platter, while the second will sport a deleted scene, the documentary "A Life Without Limits: The Making of The Aviator," the History Channel doc "Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes," as well as featurettes "The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviation History," "The Visual Effects of The Aviator," "The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," looks at the makeup, costumes, and cinematography, and score, "An evening with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alan Alda," a panel discussion with Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Hughes' widow Terry Moore, and stills. It's here on May 24.

  • Getting rolled out from Warner just one week later will be The Essential Steve McQueen Collection, which will feature a new two-disc SE of Peter Yates' 1968 Bullitt with a commentary from Yates and two documentaries, "The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing" and "Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool," as well as a vintage featurette and theatrical trailer. Making their digital debuts in the set will be The Cincinnati Kid (with a commentary by Norman Jewison and a second track with the hosts of "Celebrity Poker Showdown"), Never So Few, and Tom Horn, while reissued in the box will be Papillon and The Getaway (with two commentary tracks, one a "virtual" montage with McQueen, Ali MacGraw, and Sam Peckinpah). It's all cool… on May 31.

  • And the gang at Warner isn't done just yet — Samuel Fuller's 1980 The Big Red One gets double-dipped in a new "Reconstruction" edition — the double-wide set will include 50 minutes of restored footage, commentary by restoration supervisor Richard Schickel, alternate scenes, the new documentary "The Real Glory: Reconstructing The Big One," the additional doc "The Men Who Make the Movies: Samuel Fuller," an "Anatomy of a Scene" segment, the vintage War Department film "The Fighting First," vintage promo materials, the 2004 trailer, and stills. The disc will arrive in Warner's World War II Collection: Battlefront Europe, which also will offer the DVD debut of 1965's Battle of the Bulge starring Henry Fonda — expect a new transfer from restored elements and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, the documentary "The Filming of Battle of the Bulge," and vintage featurettes. Rounding out the box will be re-issues of The Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare, and Battleground. It's on the street May 3.

  • Two new titles have been added to Fox's promising "Fox Film Noir" imprint — Edmund Goulding's 1947 Nightmare Alley starring Tyrone Power and William Keighley's 1948 The Street With No Name arrive on June 7, while Sam Fuller's 1956 House of Bamboo — originally slated for the first wave that arrived earlier this month — has been pushed back to June 7 as well. Catalog titles street by the bucketload on the same day as well, including All the Right Moves, The Driver, The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, Julia, Kiss Me Goodbye, The Man Who Never Was, Pit Fighter, The Secret Agent, Unfaithfully Yours, Vital Signs, Worth Winning, and the return of 1998's Great Expectations.

  • It didn't have all that much attitude, but Ice Cube's kid-friendly comedy Are We There Yet? racked up the Benjamins, and Columbia TriStar has announced to retailers it will arrive on May 24. Also set to street is a Richard Pryor Standup Comedy Double Feature featuring Live on the Sunset Strip and Here and Now (May 24), as well as Christopher Reeve's The Brooke Ellison Story (May 24) and Seinfeld: Season Four (May 17).

  • Getting a new SE dip on April 26 from Buena Vista is Garry Marshall's 1988 Beaches starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey — Marshall will contribute a chick-track, while other extras include outtakes, Hershey's screen-test, a segment from AFI's "100 Songs with Bette Midler," and the music video for some song that apparently is quite popular at weddings… (we didn't even have to say it, but it'll be stuck in your head for the next hour or so anyway). Meanwhile, this year's family-friendly Pooh's Heffalump Movie arrives on May 24 with plenty of extras for the kids.

  • And finally, for those that didn't pay the juice to get Paramount's massive Godfather Trilogy box-set, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III are now slated to arrive in stand-alone editions on May 24.

On the Street: New and old titles fill out the street-list this week — including Oscar contenders Finding Neverland from Buena Vista/Miramax and Being Julia from Columbia TriStar, while new from Universal is Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Fox is fresh with Bill Cosby's live-action Fat Albert. But some catalog items are not to be missed this time around, including MGM's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and Electra Glide in Blue, Columbia's Stand By Me: Deluxe Edition, and Image Entertainment's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead in a two-disc set with new interviews. And for those looking for small-screen fun, it's hard to beat Fox's The Pretender: Season One and Star Wars: Clone Wars: Vol. 1. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Art Heist
  • Bad Girls from Valley High
  • Batman and Robin: Serial Collection (2-disc set)
  • Being Julia
  • The Best of the New Scooby-Doo Movies (4-disc set)
  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (widescreen)
  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (pan-and-scan)
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
  • Crack House
  • Crossplot
  • Distant
  • Dora the Explorer: Big Sister Dora
  • Electra Glide in Blue
  • Eye of the Tiger
  • Face of Terror
  • Fat Albert
  • The Final Cut
  • Finding Neverland
  • Firewalker
  • The Flintstones: Season Three (4-disc set)
  • The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries: Season One (2-disc set)
  • Kojak: Season One
  • Krakatoa East of Java
  • Mickey and the Beanstalk
  • Mickey's Around the World in 80 Days
  • Not on the Lips (Pas sur la bouche)
  • Paradise
  • Pimp My Ride: Season One (3-disc set)
  • Player To Be Named Later
  • The Pretender: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Red Lights (Feux rouges)
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)
  • Stand By Me: Deluxe Edition
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars: Vol. 1
  • Undercover Kids
  • Union Square
  • Volcano High

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Director Sam Peckinpah was fascinated by machismo, and everything that surrounds it — the codes of honor, the sexuality, the violence. And, like the work of a lot of great artists, his films aren't willing to make compromises. Peckinpah's cinema causes such visceral reactions that some don't want to intellectualize it or can't think about it without reducing the director to the level of a filthy voyeur. The lynchpin scene of this "Peckinpah as pig" thesis can be seen in his 1974 film Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. In it, Bennie (Warren Oates) and Elita (Isela Vega) stop to camp for a night when two armed motorcyclists decide to take them prisoners of their whims. The leader, Paco (Kris Kristopherson), takes Elita away to have his way with her in a protracted sequence featuring slapping and the threat of rape. But the sticky wicket for many is that Paco gives pause to his notions of rape only to have Elita walk over to him, say "please don't," and then kisses him. There are many ways to take the scene: maybe she's turned on, maybe she's doing it to survive — even the DVD commentators aren't sure of how to read it — but the bottom line with all of Peckinpah's art is that he reveals grays where many viewers would be more comfortable seeing black and white. And yet it's not an artist's obligation to hold the audience's hand; Peckinpah was a provocateur, and the important distinction to make is that he's an observer of human nature who enjoys not necessarily the thing itself, but dealing with moments of violence that provoke complicated emotions (for the characters and audience). But this element was damning for him because it was his second sequence that dealt with uneasy sexual assaults (following 1971's Straw Dogs), and he was branded a misogynist. If one can watch controversial content without judging the author as someone who enjoys it, then Peckinpah leaves a lot to chew on. And though Alfredo Garcia might not be Peckinpah's best film, it's surely his most personal, and most revealing.

Garcia's machinations begin when El Jefe (Emilo Fernadez, best know as Gen. Mapache in The Wild Bunch) screams "Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" when it's revealed that Garcia got his daughter pregnant. With many men in Mexico on the hunt for him, two contract hitmen (Gig Young and Robert Webber) run into Bennie at the hole-in-the-wall bar where he plays piano. Bennie plays big shot and says he knows where to find Garcia, and he's told that all that's wanted is the uppermost element of his dead body. Taking the hitmen's deal, Bennie actually does know where to find Alfredo — his girlfriend Elita recently spent three days with Garcia and shortly thereafter got into a fatal car accident. Thus begins Bennie's quest to find Garcia's body and to remove the head to get the money he thinks will keep him and Elita in the high life. The two hit the road, and at first their trip is peaceful and romantic as both talk about settling down and getting married. But it goes sour when they are accosted by the bikers, which leads to a violent showdown. It gets even worse when they finally get to the body, where at the moment of victory Bennie is knocked out and Elita is killed by bounty hunters. Born again from Alfredo's grave, Bennie becomes a suicidal avenging angel mowing down anyone who keeps him from his reward. Now carrying Garcia's severed head — who becomes his traveling companion and confidant — in the end even the reward money loses its meaning.

In many of Peckinpah's films there's the sense of gunslinger qua filmmaker, a put-upon individual attempting to retain his identity while asked to whore himself out, trying to compromise as little as possible, but knowing that his final goal is, and will be, compromised. Here, Warren Oates's Bennie is the most nakedly modeled on the director, and he's the quintessential Peckinpah lead, besides being one of the great character actors in cinema. With his beaten down face and rough physique, he looks as though he smells of cheap booze and unfiltered cigarettes — a perfect Peckinpah surrogate. But for a director's alter-ego, there is no romanticism for the character or his actions, and Bennie is put through the ringer. In Peckinpah's deconstruction of machismo and violence, one of the most important elements is the role of (and fear of) impotence. Garcia, his victim, is also his doppelganger — they shared the same woman, and their fates are intertwined. One senses that his desire to get the head has to do with one-upping the man who slept with his fiancée (and gave them both crabs), but once he is finally able to prove his manliness through violence, it seals his fate; this desire ultimately leads to the destruction of his relationship and his life. Unfortunately, Alfredo Garcia was Peckinpah's last "complete" film (everything after was recut or compromised), and the loss is felt. The director spent the next decade struggling to work and losing his battle with alcohol and drug addiction, dying of a stroke in 1984. But when Peckinpah was on, he was one of the greatest filmmakers to ever wield a camera. This was his great last gasp of greatness.

MGM presents Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia in a stunning remastered anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The film was shot by Alex Phillips Jr. (who also shot 1984's Romancing the Stone) and has never looked better, including the well done day-for-night photography. Because the opening sequence features Spanish with English subtitles, there are four subtitle tracks (along with English, French and Spanish). Extras are limited to an audio commentary and the trailer. The commentary is by Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons (who appears in the film), and David Weddle, and it's moderated by Nick Redman, all of whom appeared on the commentaries for Junior Bonner and The Osterman Weekend. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: To nobody's surprise, DreamWorks' The Ring Two conquered the North American box-office over the weekend — the sequel to the hit horror flick, starring Naomi Watts and directed by Hideo Nakata, racked up $36 million, far outdistancing the original's $15 million debut. The weekend's only other new arrival, Disney's Ice Princess starring Michelle Trachtenberg, found its way into fourth place with $7 million worth of tween ticket-sales, falling short of expectations. Princess earned mixed reviews, while Ring Two skewed mixed-to-negative with critics.

In continuing release, Fox's Robots notched down to second place, adding $21.8 million to a strong $66.8 million 10-day gross, while Disney's The Pacifier marked three family films in the top five, with $12.5 million for the frame and $72.2 million overall. And still racking up numbers is Sony's comedy hit Hitch starring Will Smith, which has been good for nearly $160 million after six weekends. MGM's Be Cool starring John Travolta and Uma Thurman hasn't done quite as well, but its $47.2 million cume after three weeks is solid, while Miramax's Hostage starring Bruce Willis is already on the fade in seventh place with $19.3 million in two sessions. Still getting the numbers is Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winner Million Dollar Baby, which looks to clear triple-digits before it's done. And off to DVD prep is Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, which has now topped $100 million.

New on screens this Thursday is Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous starring Sandra Bullock, while the comedy Guess Who with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher rolls out on Friday. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Ring Two (DreamWorks SKG)
    $36,000,000 ($36,000,000 through 1 week)
  2. Robots (Fox)
    $21,825,000 ($66,867,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. The Pacifier (Disney)
    $12,542,000 ($72,283,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. Ice Princess (Disney)
    $7,013,000 ($7,013,000 through 1 week)
  5. Hitch (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $6,600,000 ($159,445,000 through 6 weeks)
  6. Be Cool (MGM)
    $5,800,000 ($47,203,000 through 3 weeks)
  7. Hostage (Miramax)
    $5,797,000 ($19,311,000 through 2 weeks)
  8. Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)
    $4,080,000 ($90,002,000 through 14 weeks)
  9. Diary of a Mad Black Woman (Lions Gate)
    $2,500,000 ($47,765,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. Constantine (Warner Bros.)
    $2,300,000 ($70,357,000 through 5 weeks)
  11. The Upside of Anger (New Line)
    $1,938,000 ($2,214,000 through 2 weeks)
  12. Man of the House (Revolution)
    $975,000 ($18,146,000 through 4 weeks)

On the Board: Dawn Taylor has posted a sneak-preview of Buena Vista/Miramax's Finding Neverland, while Mark Bourne recently spun Image Entertainment's two-disc Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. New reviews this week from the rest of the gang include Being Julia, Stand By Me: Deluxe Edition, Star Wars: Clone Wars: Vol. 1, The Pretender: Season One, La Femme Nikita: Season Two, Come and Get It, Art Heist, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones. All can be found under the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

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

  • The folks at Buena Vista have announced to retailers that the classic Disney animation Cinderella will be their next "Platinum Edition" release — due on Oct. 4, fans can expect a full two-disc set packed with the usual array of behind-the-scenes features. Also on the slate is the straight-to-video Lilo & Stitch 2 (Aug. 30), as well as catalog items The Boatniks and Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus (both Aug. 2). And they won't be here for a while yet, but TV fans can look forward to two new boxes, Lost: Season One (Sept. 6) and Desperate Housewives: Season One (Sept. 20).

  • Up from Warner is Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement starring Audrey Tautou — specs are not yet available, but we are told to count on a two-disc set this May 24. Coming out of the vault will be St. Ives, Viva Knievel!, and Year of the Dragon, all on May 31, while the TV listings include The Dukes of Hazzard: Season Three (May 31), The Sopranos: Season Five, The Thorn Birds: Complete Collector's Edition, and The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years (all June 7).

  • Up from Columbia TriStar is the Danish cannibalism comedy The Green Butchers from director Anders Thomas Jensen on May 17, while last year's The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, and Joseph Fiennes streets a week earlier on May 10.

  • Alejandro Amenábar's Oscar-winning The Sea Inside starring Javier Bardem arrives from New Line on May 17 — count on a commentary from the writer-director, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and deleted scenes.

  • Ain't nothin' but TV from the folks at Universal this time around — watch for Airwolf: Season One, Baa Baa Black Sheep: Vol. 1, Behind the Camera: Charlie's Angels Unauthorized Story (all May 24), Dragnet 1967: Season One, Father of the Pride: The Complete Series (both June 7), and Northern Exposure: Season Three (June 14).

  • Finally, two Criterion Collection titles have been pushed back on the sched — Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films will now street on April 26, while the long awaited Jules and Jim arrives on May 31.

On the Street: The street-list is chock-full of good stuff this morning, which means we think more than a few folks will getting out a credit card before the day's through. Up from Warner is yet another spectacular genre collection, "Broadway to Hollywood: Classic Musicals," which includes The Band Wagon, Bells Are Ringing, Brigadoon, Easter Parade, and Finian's Rainbow. Not about to be left behind, Fox debuts three new "Fox Film Noir" titles this week with Call Northside 777, Laura, and Panic in the Streets. And Criterion has a trio under wraps today as well with L'Eclisse, Sword of Doom, and Young Törless. Paramount's ongoing saga of two-disc Trek releases continues with a Special Edition of Star Trek: First Contact, while Jude Law can be seen in last year's remake of Alfie. Also on deck are Warner's Miss Congeniality: Deluxe Edition, Fox's What the Bleep Do We Know!?, and Rhino's End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones. Sound like enough to choose from? Don't forget a little movie called The Incredibles from an out-of-the-way studio called Pixar. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Alfie (widescreen) (2004)
  • Alfie (pan-and-scan) (2004)
  • Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction
  • Arrowsmith
  • As Time Goes By: Series Seven
  • Baby for Sale
  • The Band Wagon (2-disc set)
  • Being Ron Jeremy
  • Bells Are Ringing
  • The Best of Mr. Ed: Vol. 2
  • Brigadoon
  • Broadway to Hollywood: Classic Musicals Collection (7-disc set)
  • Call Northside 777
  • Come and Get It
  • Dead Birds
  • Dead End
  • Deep Crimson (Profundo Carmesi)
  • End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
  • Easter Parade (2-disc set)
  • L'Eclisse: The Criterion Collection (2-disc set)
  • Enchantment
  • The Gospel of John (2-disc set)
  • La Femme Nikita: Season Two (6-disc set)
  • Finian's Rainbow
  • Green Acres: Season Two
  • Hellcab
  • High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story
  • Hogan's Heroes: Season One (5-disc set)
  • House of Bamboo
  • The Incredibles (widescreen) (2-disc set)
  • The Incredibles (full-screen) (2-disc set)
  • Laura
  • Miss Congeniality: Deluxe Edition
  • NASCAR - The IMAX Experience
  • New Suit
  • Panic in the Streets
  • Red Dwarf: Series Five
  • Red Dwarf: Series Six
  • Star Trek: First Contact: Special Edition (2-disc set)
  • Starsky & Hutch: Season Three (5-disc set)
  • Strange Frequency 2
  • Sword of Doom: The Criterion Collection
  • Waydowntown
  • We Live Again
  • What the Bleep Do We Know!?
  • Young Törless: The Criterion Collection

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: On top of being one of the best musicals ever made, 1953's The Band Wagon has the benefit of appearing prescient. In it, a Broadway musical is taken over by famous actor-director-producer Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), who turns the original pitch of a silly little musical revue staring Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) into a fire-and-brimstone musical staging of Faust. As shown in a three-shot still montage of the show's premiere (one of the film's many famous sequences), this very serious approach lays a goose egg. Around the time of the picture's release, the musical genre was evolving, and though director Vincent Minnelli would have a hand in some of the more serious genre efforts — including his Oscar-winning An American in Paris (1951) and Gigi (1958) — shortly after Wagon began the run of widescreen Rodgers & Hammerstein adaptations that led to a string of expensive and disastrous late-'60s musicals that killed the genre. These movies eschewed dance numbers for stars like Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin pathetically warbling their way through tepid ballads (fortunately, some performers were redubbed). Pretense and portentousness drove audiences away, and that's the exact sort of serious-mindedness that almost ruins the production in The Band Wagon. Those larger efforts — though some have their merits — abandon the simple pleasure of watching song-and-dance hoofers do their thing, and that's exactly what this classic offers in spades. When it mattered most, it's too bad that Hollywood didn't look at The Band Wagon a bit more closely.

The movie follows Fred Astaire as Tony Martin — a character loosely based on Astaire himself — who comes to New York to be in a Broadway show after losing his way in Hollywood. The play is by his friends Lester and Lily Marton (Oscar Levant and Nanette Faberay, modeled on screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green), who then take the script to Jeffrey Cordova (Buchanan, fashioned on Jose Ferrer, but with a dash of the film's director). His brilliant plan is to hire ballet dancer Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse, whose singing voice was dubbed by India Allen) and her boyfriend-choreographer Paul Byrd (James Mitchell). Of course Cordova's meddling turns the production into a disaster, and Tony then takes the helm to rein it back to its fun slight self. Such leads to classic numbers like "Triplets," wherein Astaire, Buchanan, and Fabray perform as babies (and dance on their knees), and to the final big number, "Girl Hunt," the long-revered musical mystery noir ballet. And, of course, the initially bickering pair of Tony and Gabrielle find they are attracted to each other — when Paul leaves the show after their initial failure, temptation ensues.

Few filmmakers understood how to shoot a musical number as well as Vincent Minnelli. In the opening song-and-dance number "Shoeshine," Astaire walks into a set-bound street arcade where the act of getting a shoeshine leads him into an impromptu number around the nickel attractions. Minnelli's camera sweeps about and lets Astaire display his boundless talent without unnecessary edits. By keeping the camera active and involved, but never hiding the grace and agility that made Astaire a star, Minnelli captures an elegance of movement that's been lost to time (especially when compared to the modern antecedents). Though the pairing of Astaire with Ginger Rogers is more renowned in film history, Cyd Charisse was an equally capable partner (they also worked together in Silk Stockings four years later), and her dancing skills are just as exquisite. But with her dark hair and Amazonian appeal, Charisse had a more tempting sexuality than Rogers ever did. Nonetheless, their partnership elicited questions; much is made of Tony Hunter's fears that she's too tall for him, and this joke was based on Astaire's off-screen concerns (it turns out they were of about equal height). Yet this blending in of real life sets the tone for the whole story, which plays things loose and funny — something easy to do with a comic ace like Oscar Levant. In its lightness, The Band Wagon is a classic. Perhaps it's because the genre was often (at its best) lighthearted and ebullient, but it's also because the picture understands that, in making a great musical, the production should have as little pretense as possible. And after all, this is the movie that made the song "That's Entertainment" famous.

Warner Home Video presents The Band Wagon in a two-disc Special Edition with a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (for purists, the original 1.0 soundtrack also is included). A stunning Technicolor production, the film has been restored, and it now looks better than it ever has on home video. The first disc comes with an amusing commentary track with the director's daughter Liza Minnelli, joined by her friend and film scholar Michael Feinstein. Also included on the first disc is a Fred Astaire trailer gallery offering selections for The Band Wagon and seven other titles. Supplements on Disc Two include "Get Aboard!: The Band Wagon" (37 min.), which features Liza Minnelli, Nanette Fabray, Jonathan Schwartz, (son of songwriter Arthur Schwartz), Cyd Charisse, James Mitchell, Ava Astaire McKenzie (Fred's daughter), and vintage interviews with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and choreographer Michael Kidd. "The Men Who Make the Movies: Vincent Minnelli" (58 min.) is a 1973 documentary on Minnelli directed by Richard Schickel that features an on-camera interview with the director, and it's narrated by Cliff Robertson. Also included is the Vitaphone short "Jack Buchanan with The Glee Quartet" (6 min.), the deleted number "Two Faced Woman" (4 min.), and a selection of dailies (8 min.) that mostly cover the "Two Faced Woman" number. The Band Wagon: Special Edition is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: Fox's animated Robots soared to the top of the pre-spring break box-office chart, racking up $36.5 million and easily outdistancing the week's other new debut, Hostage starring Bruce Willis. The Miramax release found its way into fourth place with a $9.8 million break. Critics were mixed-to-positive on Robots, while reviews for Hostage skewed mixed-to-negative.

In continuing release, Disney's The Pacifier starring Vin Diesel notched down to second place, adding a better-than-expected $18 million to a 10-day cume of $54.3m million. Meanwhile, MGM's Be Cool with John Travolta and Uma Thurman dropped into third, where it's now racked up $38.4 million. Sony's Hitch starring Will Smith is on track to becoming one of the highest-grossing comedies of the year, just now cresting the $150 million mark, while Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby has been steady in the midlist for several weeks, now with $83 million to its credit. Warner's Constantine starring Keanu Reeves isn't the mega-smash they were hoping for, although it's managed $66.3 million in its first month. And already off to DVD prep is Fox Searchlight's Sideways, which will finish around $70 million.

New films on screens this Friday include The Ring 2 starring Naomi Watts, as well as the teen drama Ice Princess. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Robots (Fox)
    $36,500,000 ($36,500,000 through 1 week)
  2. The Pacifier (Disney)
    $18,060,000 ($54,386,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Be Cool (MGM)
    $10,300,000 ($38,426,000 through 2 weeks)
  4. Hostage (Miramax)
    $9,837,000 ($9,837,000 through 1 week)
  5. Hitch (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $8,700,000 ($149,754,000 through 5 weeks)
  6. Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)
    $5,075,000 ($83,976,000 through 13 weeks)
  7. Diary of a Mad Black Woman (Lions Gate)
    $5,000,000 ($44,143,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. Constantine (Warner Bros.)
    $3,655,000 ($66,335,000 through 4 weeks)
  9. Man of the House (Revolution)
    $1,800,000 ($16,553,000 through 3 weeks)
  10. Cursed (Dimension)
    $1,560,000 ($17,754,000 through 3 weeks)
  11. The Aviator (Miramax)
    $1,361,000 ($99,063,000 through 13 weeks)
  12. Because of Winn-Dixie (Fox)
    $1,350,000 ($28,933,000 through 4 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the team include The Incredibles, Star Trek: First Contact: Special Edition, Alfie, Easter Parade: Special Edition, Lightning in a Bottle, Sword of Doom: The Criterion Collection, L'Eclisse: The Criterion Collection, Brigadoon, Panic in the Streets, Laura, Bells Are Ringing, Finian's Rainbow, Call Northside 777, The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch, The Band Wagon: Special Edition, and What the Bleep Do We Know!?. Everything's been added to the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

In the Works: Just a few new disc announcements this week, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

  • Paramount has announced to retailers that the next Star Trek SE, Star Trek: Insurrection, will arrive on June 7, where it will be joined by The Machinist, featuring a much-discussed performance by Christian Bale. Catalog westerns on the slate include Blue, Johnny Reno (both May 17), Branded, Chuka, The Far Horizons, and Heller in Pink Tights (all June 7). And TV boxes on the board include Cheers: Season Five, Clarissa Explains It All: Season One (both May 17), The Andy Griffith Show: Season Two (May 24), Frasier: Season Five, and MacGyver: Season Two (both June 7).

  • It didn't fare well with critics or moviegoers, but New Line's Son of The Mask nonetheless earns a Platinum Series release on May 17 with the usual assortment of commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and concept art. Giving it something of a boost at retail will be a double-dip of 1994's The Mask starring Jim Carrey, which will offer a new anamorphic transfer, DTS and Dolby Digital audio, commentaries, featurettes, and puh-lenty more.

  • Finally, fans of the short-lived, much-loved TV series Moonlighting can look forward to its DVD debut, thanks to Lions GateSeasons One & Two street in one package on May 31.

On the Street: After a busy couple of months, we actually have a short shopping list this week — Buena Vista has Ladder 49 starring Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta on the shelves, while MGM is rolling out a new Collector's Edition of Hoosiers as well as catalog titles Charly and Stella Dallas. Besides that, there's lots of TV to choose from, including new collections of Friends, Felicity, Popular, and Columbo. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Bob Dylan World Tours 1966-1974
  • Bright Future (Akarui mirai)
  • Charly
  • Columbo: Season Two (4-disc set)
  • Crusade: The Life of Billy Graham: PBS
  • Diana: Her True Story
  • Dolls
  • Felicity Season Four (6-disc set)
  • Friends: Season Nine (4-disc set)
  • Hillz
  • Hoosiers: Special Edition
  • Jin: The Making of a Rap Star
  • Koma
  • Ladder 49 (widescreen)
  • Ladder 49 (full-frame)
  • Lightning in a Bottle
  • Moloch
  • Popular: Season Two (6-disc set)
  • The Question of God: Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis: PBS
  • The Rat Pack Sings: Frank, Sammy & Dean
  • The Ring: Collector's Set (2-disc set)
  • Saved By The Bell: The New Class: Season Two (2-disc set)
  • Stella Dallas
  • Sweet Valley High: Season One (3-disc set)
  • Terminal Force/Ring Around the World (1990)
  • The Thief and the Cobbler (Arabian Night) (1995)
  • Unlikely Heroes
  • VeggieTales: Duke and the Great Pie War
  • Woman Thou Art Loosed
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Season Six (10-disc set)

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: It happens twice in Ernst Lubitsch's Nazi-mocking burlesque, To Be or Not to Be. Carole Lombard — playing a Polish stage actress plotting against the Gestapo amid the rubble of occupied Warsaw — puts a comic spin on a line of dialogue by lilting her delivery up as if her voice was preparing to pop a champagne cork, then with a smile she stops and says — pop! — "Goodbye!" Conversation ended. Surprised, we blink, then laugh as if our bubbly came served in a dribble glass. For such a throwaway bit, it's a marvelous dollop of performance and timing, a jazzy grace note from a pro having a good time. Being Carole Lombard, she can't help but be lovely and sexy. Her character, in fact, depends on it to keep the Nazis from crushing the underground Polish resistance. But from her first pop! she's also disarming and approachable in a way that helps us believe that Mrs. Clark Gable is, in the film, married to Jack Benny. No one could have known during production that her jaunty "Goodbye" would imbue To Be or Not to Be with extra poignancy. Three weeks after production wrapped, while returning home from a war-bond sales tour, her plane crashed into a mountain near Las Vegas, killing everyone on board. That her death added a tragic subtext to Lubitsch's farcical comedy seems appropriate (mordantly so, granted). When To Be or Not to Be premiered in 1942, the great German ex-patriate director was lambasted for the "bad taste" of framing a knockabout lampoon within the deadly serious tragedy of the Nazis' invasion of Poland. "To say it is callous and macabre is understating the case ... one has the strange feeling that Mr. Lubitsch is a Nero, fiddling while Rome burns," said Crowther in The New York Times. Like Chaplin before him in The Great Dictator, Lubitsch aimed a wet raspberry in Der Führer's face. This time, though, America had finally joined the war, and the public mood helped audiences miss the point of Lubitsch's "fiddling."

Casting Jack Benny as Polish prima donna Josef Tura must have felt like typecasting to the film's original audiences. Benny worked for decades off his refined reputation as a ham, and one of Lubitsch's jokes has a German officer setting the tone early by declaring, "What he did to Shakespeare we are doing to Poland." Tura and his wife Maria (Lombard) were the stars of Warsaw's preeminent theater troupe before the tanks blasted in and closed down their anti-Nazi play, Gestapo. Now they perform safe Shakespeare, with Tura obsessing over a young man who, night after night, sees their Hamlet but walks out every time Tura begins the "To be or not to be" soliloquy. The man is a handsome Polish bomber flyboy (Robert Stack) in love with Maria. She's swooning in return as well ("What a husband doesn't know won't hurt his wife"), and his nightly exit is to meet her in her dressing room, where he impresses her with the size of his bombing load. Because he's also working for the underground, his lovestruck delusions pull Maria, and then Josef, into a spy-thriller scheme. So that she can prevent the names of the local resistance fighters from being delivered to the Gestapo, Maria must allow herself to be seduced by traitorous Prof. Siletsky (Stanley Ridges). And even though Tura wonders if his wife is slicing off an extra portion of Polish sausage on the side, he sees where his larger priorities lie and employs his, and his troupe's, acting skills to impersonate the nasty Nazis and intercept the documents that could crush the resistance beneath a thousand jackboots.

To Be or Not to Be has some points of contact with Casablanca, which came out the same year. Here the chief Nazi antagonist goes to Sig Rumann, whose hapless colonel trying to ferret out the underground leaders is a boob even less threatening than the Nazi mug he later mustache-twirled against the Marx Brothers. But for all its freedom-fighting similarities, Lubitsch's film has at least as much in common with Warner Brothers' anti-Nazi propaganda cartoons that started in '42 with "The Ducktators." Lubitsch's Nazis are straight out of the newspaper caricatures, hilariously snapping to "Heil Hitler!" at the drop of any potentially misconstrued remark. If "the Lubitsch touch" can be defined as his ability to harmonize different emotional pitches with an apparently effortless style and wit, we can see it here, for example, when the comedy doesn't pull back from the plight of its Jewish characters. Now only a spear-carrier, Greenberg (Felix Bressart) dreams of playing Shylock, and ultimately gives literally the performance of his life by stalling a squad of Nazi goons with the "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" speech. One of his Jewish colleagues, meanwhile, finally gets to do his impersonation of Hitler, "just a man with a little mustache," to outwit the brown-shirts. The screenplay, or else the editing, is missing some connective tissue, presumably in favor of pacing, so the film is pretty ragged and uneven. But the dialogue bubbles nicely — Siletsky: "Shall we drink to a blitzkrieg?" Maria: "I prefer a slow encirclement" — and today comes with an extra snap in our era when "controversy" gets focus-grouped out of major studio comedies. (Siletsky: "You're quite famous in London, Colonel. They call you Concentration Camp Ehrhardt." Tura, in disguise: "Yes, yes. We do the concentrating and the Poles do the camping.") Benny and especially Lombard are delightful, and are surrounded by first-rate second-tier plays. Today, hindsight supports To Be or Not to Be as one of Lubitsch's best films, even if for the rest of his career he remembered the critical and commercial thumping that greeted his seltzer-bottle mockery. It's not The Shop Around the Corner or Trouble in Paradise, perhaps, but it's a Lubitsch film and it's about something. It still works as a rip-the-Reich comedy unmatched in its audacity until Mel Brooks' The Producers, which captured its spirit better than Brooks' own remake in '83. And while it's also remembered as Lombard's last film, it's good to know that she considered it the happiest experience of her career.

For 20 years Lubitsch was one of Hollywood's most popular and admired producer-directors. Because he is criminally underappreciated these days, any new release of a Lubitsch film is worth some celebration. So it's a shame that To Be or Not to Be is treated as the awkward stepchild in Warner Home Video’s "Classic Comedy Collection," where it did not receive the red-carpet treatment given to its more well-known box mates. The image quality is good enough, meaning that it arrives with a low-contrast, somewhat too-bright, slightly faded source print. Overall the print is clean; just expect visible wear to mar a few scenes. The DD 1.0 audio is perfectly okay. For extras, we get a couple of pieces of marginalia not directly related to the film. Buy Savings Bonds: A Patriotic Drama (1:33) stars Benny and child star Carolyn Lee in a "buy bonds" promo that plays on Benny's skin-flint rep. More substantial is the 1930 MGM comedy short starring Benny, The Rounder (20 mins.), which does little more than warm over old vaudeville drunk acts, although it's good to see Benny in a role other than his familiar TV and radio persona. To Be or Not To Be is on the street now.

Box Office: In the battle between Hollywood tough guys, Vin Diesel edged out John Travolta — and he was babysitting. Disney's The Pacifier starring the former xXx star and a pack of kids took first place at the North American box office over the weekend with a $30.2 million break, edging out Travolta in the Get Shorty sequel Be Cool, which collared the second spot with $23.5 million. Arriving in tenth place was Sundance picture The Jacket starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley, which took in $2.7 million in semi-limited release. Jacket earned mixed reviews, while critics were mixed-to-negative on Pacifier and Cool.

In continuing release, last week's winner Diary of a Mad Black Woman notched into fourth place, adding $12 million to a solid $38 million 10-day cume, but Sony's Hitch starring Will Smith has better legs, holding down the third spot after one month with $138.3 million in the bag. The big winner at last week's Oscars, Warner's Million Dollar Baby, didn't get the expected post-ceremony boost, but it held steady with $8.5 million for the frame to round out the top five. Fellow Oscar contenders The Aviator and Sideways slipped out of the top ten with little fanfare, but with solid overall grosses. Meanwhile, Warner's Constantine starring Keanu Reeves has cleared $60 million after three sessions and Fox's Because of Winn-Dixie is bearing down on $30 million. Meanwhile, off to DVD prep in a hurry is another tough-guy babysitter flick, Are We There Yet? starring Ice Cube, which got the bump from Vin after racking up $75 million.

New films on screens this Friday include Hostage starring Bruce Willis and the animated feature Robots. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Pacifier (Buena Vista)
    $30,222,000 ($30,222,000 through 1 week)
  2. Be Cool (MGM)
    $23,500,000 ($23,500,000 through 1 week)
  3. Hitch (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $12,500,000 ($138,386,000 through 4 weeks)
  4. Diary of a Mad Black Woman (Lions Gate)
    $12,000,000 ($38,052,000 through 2 weeks)
  5. Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)
    $8,505,000 ($76,970,000 through 12 weeks)
  6. Constantine (Warner Bros.)
    $6,005,000 ($60,531,000 through 3 weeks)
  7. Cursed (Dimension)
    $3,882,000 ($15,296,000 through 2 weeks)
  8. Man of the House (Revolution)
    $3,500,000 ($13,976,000 through 2 weeks)
  9. Because of Winn-Dixie (Fox)
    $3,450,000 ($27,028,000 through 3 weeks)
  10. The Jacket (Warner Independent)
    $2,700,000 ($2,700,000 through 1 week)
  11. The Aviator (Miramax)
    $2,343,000 ($97,056,000 through 12 weeks)
  12. Sideways (Fox Searchlight)
    $2,200,000 ($66,291,000 through 20 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the team include Flight of the Phoenix, Ladder 49, Hoosiers: Collector's Edition, Dinner at Eight, Stella Dallas, Raise Your Voice, To Be or Not To Be, and The Greatest American Hero: Season One. It's all fresh under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, or use our search engine to scan our entire DVD reviews database.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

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

  • Up from Criterion are three new titles — the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams will make its DVD debut in a well-rounded edition with commentaries from featured basketball players Arthur Agee and William Gates, as well as filmmakers Peter Gilbert, Steve James, and Frederick Marx, segments from "Siskel & Ebert" and their reviews of the film, a music video, and trailers (May 10). Documentarian Les Blank's 1982 Burden of Dreams — which chronicles the five-year production of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo — will offer a new transfer from restored elements, commentary from Blank, Herzog, and sound recordist Maureen Gosling, the short film "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe," a new interview with Herzog, deleted scenes, and a stills gallery (May 10). Finally, Luis Buñuel's 1974 The Phantom of Liberty will include a new transfer from restored elements, an introduction by screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, and the theatrical trailer (May 24).

  • The folks at Universal are rolling out the mega-smash-and-then-some Meet the Fockers in anamorphic and full-frame editions on April 19 — count on the usual slate of commentaries, featurettes, and outtakes. Meanwhile, both Assault on Precinct 13 and In Good Company are set to street on May 10, while retailers have been informed to expect a special edition of Martin Scorsese's 1995 Casino on June 14.

  • Ain't nothin' but heavy metal from Columbia TriStar, who will release the first two seasons of American Chopper and the first two seasons of Monster Garage on May 3, where they'll be joined by Motorcycle Mania 3: Jesse James Rides Again. Those in the mood for more mellow tones can look for Dawson's Creek: Season Five and The Partridge Family: Season One on May 3 as well.

  • Finally, the catalog grab-bag for May from Anchor Bay includes Entity, Turk 182! (both May 3), Class of 1984, Quicksilver Highway, and The Stone Boy (all May 17).

On the Street: The beat goes on at Warner Home Video, and this week they've got classics to spare — making its DVD debut is the long-awaited release of Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby, while George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story returns in a special-edition package. Also new in the "Classic Comedies Collection" are Dinner at Eight, Libeled Lady, Stage Door, and To Be or Not To Be. Up from Criterion are Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho and Jean Renoir's The River, while Fox has Flight of the Phoenix and Incident at Loch Ness on the board, and Paramount's going for laughs with The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and South Park: Season Five. However, the week's top-seller is likely to be another classic, Disney's Bambi, which goes digital for the first time this week. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Bambi: Platinum Edition (2-disc set)
  • The Brady Bunch: Season One
  • Bringing Up Baby: Special Edition (2-disc set)
  • Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed
  • The Warner Classic Comedies Collection (8-disc set)
  • Craig David: Live in Costa Rica: Music in High Places
  • D.C. Cab
  • Dinner at Eight
  • Doubles
  • Emilienne: Special Edition
  • The Exorcist: The Beginning
  • Flight of the Phoenix (2004)
  • French & Saunders: Back With a Vengeance
  • French & Saunders: On the Rocks
  • Ghost Dad
  • In the Weeds
  • Incident at Loch Ness
  • The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives
  • Libeled Lady
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy
  • Lost in Space: Season Three Vol. 1 (4-disc set)
  • The Man Who Skied Down Everest
  • My Own Private Idaho: The Criterion Collection
  • NFL Super Bowl XXXIX Champions
  • Paradise Alley
  • The Philadelphia Story: Special Edition (2-disc set)
  • Piccadilly
  • Rameses: Wrath of God or Man?: Discovery Channel
  • The River: The Criterion Collection
  • The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch
  • SCTV: Vol. 3 (5-disc set)
  • The Seagull's Laughter (Mávahlátur)
  • South Park: Season Five (3-disc set)
  • The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (widescreen)
  • The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (full-frame)
  • Stage Door
  • To Be or Not To Be
  • Toulouse Lautrec and Montmarte
  • West Is West
  • White Palace
  • Wonder Woman: Season Two
  • Yanks

— Ed.

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