News and Commentary: May 2005

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boxcoverDisc of the Week: "It's a good thing James Dean died when he did," Humphrey Bogart once said. "If he'd lived, he'd never have been able to live up to the publicity." It's a comment that history is inclined to drop in a dustbin somewhere near Frank Sinatra's opinion that rock and roll was just a "fad," although Bogie's trite dismissal of Dean, before he became a legend, raises an interesting point. He photographed well; he even encapsulated the stifled rage of postwar youth. But just how good of an actor was he? Unlike Dean, Marlon Brando had the opportunity to mature on screen, eventually transforming the light and heat of Stanley Kowalski into the deeply human, spiritually wounded Don Corleone. Those who followed in Dean's wake, including Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, also were afforded roles later in life that fleshed out their angry-young-men personas with richer, more nuanced details. These actors, finally, were allowed to play complex men. Yet James Dean remains trapped in history — confined by his three major film roles, which spanned a Hollywood career that lasted a mere 16 months. Perhaps his early death contributed to an unwarranted legacy. Elia Kazan — no duffer at assessing talent — contrasted him with Brando, noting "Marlon had excellent technique. Dean had no technique to speak of. On (East of Eden), Jimmy would either get the scene right immediately — that was ninety-five percent of the time — or he couldn't get it at all." In fact, Kazan was not drawn to the unknown Dean upon first meeting him, considering him an irritable bore. But after sending the young actor to see novelist John Steinbeck, who took a similar assessment, they agreed to cast the Indiana native in Eden, simply because they were convinced, above all else, that he was Cal.

Based on Steinbeck's novel, Dean stars in East of Eden (1954) as Caleb 'Cal' Trask, a young man in Salinas, Calif., who harbors an ill-concealed resentment toward his father Adam (Raymond Massey) and older brother Aron (Richard Davalos). At the story's outset, the brooding Cal appears oddly fixated on Aron's relationship with his fiancée Abra (Julie Harris). Meanwhile, he seems more hostile than indifferent to his father's latest business venture, which involves buying an icehouse to ship frozen lettuce by railcar. After unleashing his unspoken rage by demolishing numerous blocks of ice, Cal once again finds himself at odds with his stern father — Cal's only assessment of his own character is that he's simply "bad," while Aron is "good." He even holds a secret that lends his theory credibility: He's discovered that his long-absent mother (Jo Van Fleet) is actually a madam at a bawdy house in the coastal town of Monterey, something neither Adam nor Aron know. Eventually comforted by the realization that she, too, is "bad," Cal forms a tenuous peace with his father and lends a hand in the family's new business venture. But after the railcars are struck by disaster, Cal borrows $5,000 from his mother to invest in bean futures. The outbreak of World War I causes the crop's value to skyrocket, and yet despite Cal's best intentions, his naive attempt to finally buy his father's love and approval brings about tragic results.

John Steinbeck's multileveled novel East of Eden surveys a western United States that finds itself at a crossroads in history, with technology transforming the landscape via automobiles and large-scale farming, while headlines hover upon distant battles in Europe that the nation seems assured to join. The story itself is deeply archetypal as well, concerned with a father and two feuding brothers (as indicated by the title's reference to Genesis 4:16). However, in the hands of director Elia Kazan and scenarist Paul Osborn (with unaccredited contributions by Steinbeck himself), Eden becomes one of the seminal Hollywood films of the 1950s. Cal's feuding with his brother Aron is still a fundamental plot arc, in addition to his deep, unarticulated attachment to his future sister-in-law Abra. But now, abridged from the printed page and painted on a colorful widescreen canvas, Steinbeck's story comes across as a slow-burning lament for shattered relationships between parents and their children — a theme that found resonance in the growing "generation gap" that crept into postwar urban families. Dean would reprise his inimitable brooding twice more in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, but it's not hard to argue that his first leading role was his most transcendent. From the very moment he utters his first words ("You want me?"), we are introduced not only to a naturalistic acting style that audiences were only beginning to absorb from the new crop of Method stars, but also an awkward, lanky youth who just as often cants his body at crooked angles and looks away as he will engage those around him. From first scene to last, Dean's performance is captivating — and the passive-aggressive conflict between Cal and his father Adam is enhanced by Kazan, who occasionally tilts his CinemaScope compositions to heighten dramatic tension (and later, puts the angle in dizzying motion while an angry Cal argues with his father while astride a tree-swing). As the story draws to a close and Cal believes he has lost his father's love forever, Dean punctuates the loss with a howling, childlike embrace of the older man — a raw moment that remains among the film's most memorable. Perhaps Kazan was right about James Dean. Like Elvis Presley, his finest years may have been destined to exist in a brief and dazzling youth. But even if he was fated to struggle through an inconsistent acting career, no one can say that James Dean is simply a pop-culture icon. Despite his short life on screen, he also remains one of Hollywood's most indelible movie stars.

Warner's two-disc DVD release of East of Eden features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) from a flawless color source-print that features barely a hint of collateral wear — after a decade-long moratorium on VHS, the title returns to home video in its finest presentation since theatrical release. Disc One includes a commentary from film critic Richard Schickel, who offers several behind-the-scenes comments, but also long moments of silence. Disc Two includes the vintage documentary "Forever James Dean" with chapter-selection (60 min.), the new featurette "East of Eden: Art in Search of Life" (19 min.), screen tests (6 min.), eight brief wardrobe tests, a deleted scenes reel (19 min.), and newsreel footage from the New York premiere (14 min.). East of Eden: Special Edition is on the street this morning.

Box Office: Two new films had monster debuts over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but neither was strong enough to knock off George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which held down the top of the box-office chart for a second frame, contributing $70.7 million to a staggering $271.1 million total in just 12 days. DreamWorks' animated Madagascar took second place with a $61 million break, while Paramount's The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler took third with an even $60 million. Critics were mixed on Madagascar, while reviews skewed mixed-to-negative for Yard.

In continuing release, New Line's Monster-in-Law starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda notched down to fourth place, adding $11 million to a $60.7 million cume, while Universal's Kicking & Screaming with Will Ferrell rounds off the top five with $44.1 million in the bag. Counterprogramming the summer films, Lions Gate's Crash has had a strong opening month with $36.1 million so far, while Universal's The Interpreter is ready to clear $70 million after six sessions. Meanwhile, stumbling out the door is Fox's big-budget Kingdom of Heaven, which generated just $2.6 million in its fourth weekend. And off to DVD prep is Sony's XXX: State of the Union with less than $30 million under wraps.

New on screens this Friday are Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe and The Lords of Dogtown. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Fox)
    $70,750,000 ($271,193,000 through 2 weeks)
  2. Madagascar (DreamWorks SKG)
    $61,000,000 ($61,000,000 through 1 week)
  3. The Longest Yard (Paramount)
    $60,000,000 ($60,000,000 through 1 week)
  4. Monster-in-Law (New Line)
    $11,075,000 ($60,730,000 through 3 weeks)
  5. Kicking & Screaming (Universal)
    $6,554,000 ($44,168,000 through 3 weeks)
  6. Crash (Lions Gate)
    $6,000,000 ($36,138,000 through 4 weeks)
  7. The Interpreter (Universal)
    $2,640,000 ($69,233,000 through 6 weeks)
  8. Unleashed (Rogue)
    $2,348,000 ($21,916,000 through 3 weeks)
  9. Kingdom of Heaven (Fox)
    $2,150,000 ($44,974,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. House of Wax (Warner Bros.)
    $1,640,000 ($29,873,000 through 4 weeks)
  11. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Touchstone)
    $826,000 ($48,645,000 through 5 weeks)
  12. Mad Hot Ballroom (Paramount)
    $460,000 ($734,000 through 3 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the team include Bullitt: Special Edition, Rebel Without a Cause: Special Edition, The Getaway, Boogeyman, The Cincinnati Kid, Man on Fire: Collector's Edition, Warlock, The Razor's Edge, East of Eden: Special Edition, and NewsRadio: Seasons 1-2. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the rundown on 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 beat goes on at Warner Home Video, who have announced a 10-disc Garbo: The Signature Collection to arrive on Sept. 6. New to DVD will be six titles — Anna Christie, Anna Karenina, Camille, Mata Hari, Ninotchka, and Queen Christina. Also new is a two-disc TCM Archives: Garbo Silents, featuring Flesh and the Devil, The Temptress, and The Mysterious Lady. Making the set much more complete is the current DVD release of Grand Hotel, and exclusive in the slipcase will be Kevin Brownlow's TCM documentary Garbo.

  • Taking in just $34.2 million at the domestic box-office against a reported $150 million budget, Oliver Stone's Alexander has a long way to go on DVD before it gets in the black. Perhaps it's not a coincidence then that Warner's "Final Cut" DVD will offer a version that's eight minutes shorter than the theatrical release's 175 min. Director Stone will offer a commentary on the Final Cut, while a second disc will include four featurettes, a trailer, and DVD-ROM content. The Theatrical Version will be released separately (with an identical bonus disc), although it will feature commentary from Alexander the Great biographer Robin Lane Fox. And to make things just a little more confusing, a single-disc version of the Final Cut will arrive in pan-and-scan, with Stone's commentary (apparently there won't be a single-disc/pan-and-scan edition of the film's Theatrical Version). It's all copacetic on Aug. 2.

  • Rounding out Warner's announcements are six catalog titles — Almost Heroes, Corvette Summer, The Gumball Rally, Hero at Large, Quick Change, and Wise Guys — all due on Aug. 30, while four Charles Dickens miniseries arrive from BBC Video on Sept. 6, Great Expectations, Hard Times, Oliver Twist, and Our Mutual Friend. Also on the sched is the Alaska documentary Oil on Ice (Aug. 9).

  • Up from Columbia TriStar is this year's animated Steamboy, which is expected to arrive on July 26 in a straightforward DVD edition and a bonus Gift Set, while coming out of the vault will be James Ivory's Slaves of New York (July 26), the Civil War miniseries Beulah Land and The Blue and the Gray (both July 26), and a Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters II Gift Set (Aug. 2).

  • New Line's digging out catalog horror this week — arriving on Aug. 30 will be Campfire Tales, Nature of the Beast, and a new double-feature release of The Hidden/The Hidden 2.

  • Finally, arriving from Buena Vista/Dimension will be this year's Sin City — retailers have been told to book it for Aug. 16, but don't expect this fairly bare-bones edition to be the movie's last word on DVD.

On the Street: Certain to shift some double-wide copies this week is Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, out today in a packed two-disc edition from Warner. Also new is the oft-derided, very profitable Are We There Yet? starring Ice Cube from Columbia TriStar. However, our friends at Fox have dumped a wheelbarrow of discs on the street, including catalog classics The Bravados, Broken Lance, Drums Along the Mohawk, A Farewell to Arms, Forty Guns, The Razor's Edge, and Warlock, Sinatra potboilers The Detective, Lady in Cement, and Tony Rome, and two-disc re-releases of The Day After Tomorrow, I Robot, and Man on Fire. Criterion's on the slate with just one this week, Luis Buñuel's surrealist The Phantom of Liberty. And TV fans have two sets to look for, Paramount's Chappelle's Show: Season Two Uncensored and Columbia's long-anticipated NewsRadio: Seasons 1-2. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Airwolf: Season One
  • The Andy Griffith Show: Season Two (5-disc set)
  • Anna and The King of Siam
  • Are We There Yet?
  • L'Argent
  • The Aviator (widescreen) (2-disc set)
  • The Aviator (pan-and-scan) (2-disc set)
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep: Vol. 1
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Vol. 3 (4-disc set)
  • The Batman: Training for Power
  • Behind the Camera: Charlie's Angels Unauthorized Story
  • The Best of Everything
  • The Big Black Comedy Show: Vol. 2
  • The Big Town
  • The Bravados
  • Brian Wilson: Smile (2-disc set)
  • Broken Lance
  • The Brooke Ellison Story
  • Buffalo Bill
  • Cathouse
  • Chappelle's Show: Season Two Uncensored
  • Combat!: Season #4: Conflict #1
  • Combat!: Season #4: Conflict #2
  • The Cosby Show: Season One (4-disc set)
  • The Day After Tomorrow: Collector's Edition (2-disc set)
  • The Detective
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series
  • Drums Along the Mohawk
  • Eddie Griffin: Voodoo Child
  • Fat Actress: Season One (2-disc set)
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • Forty Guns
  • Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme
  • Frogmen
  • Garfield Fantasies
  • The Godfather Part II (2-disc set)
  • The Godfather Part III
  • Heart o' The Hills
  • I Robot: Collector's Edition (2-disc set)
  • In Old Arizona
  • The Job: The Complete Series (4-disc set)
  • Lady in Cement
  • Law & Order: The Third Year (3-disc set)
  • Man on Fire: Collector's Edition (2-disc set)
  • M*A*S*H: Season Eight
  • NewsRadio: Seasons 1-2 (3-disc set)
  • Pooh's Heffalump Movie
  • Possessed
  • Phantom of Liberty: The Criterion Collection
  • The Razor's Edge (1946)
  • Richard Pryor Standup Comedy Double Feature (2-disc set)
  • Samurai Jack: Season Two
  • Sixteen Years of Alcohol
  • Spin
  • Suds
  • Through the Back Door (1921)
  • Tony Rome
  • Vibrations/Fluctuations/Submission
  • Volcanoes of the Deep Sea
  • Warlock

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: For Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show, the first season was well regarded and liked. Not an out-of-the-box success, it developed a following that steadily increased. And word kept growing, to the point that when Paramount released the first season on DVD, they quickly sold out their first pressing; it went on to become the best-selling television DVD of all time. But if the first season was appreciated, it was the second season that turned the show into a phenomenon. Pop culture so quickly embraced the 13 episodes of Season Two that creator and star Dave Chappelle began to publicly kvetch about people approaching him to shout the season's most overexposed (though not funniest) catch-phrase — "I'm Rick James, bitch" — even if he was with his children. Nonetheless, in television comedy, there is no greater metric of success than catch-phrases, and anyone who caught the initial run could repeat several: "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?"; "Darkness"; "Cocaine's a hell of a drug"; "The milk's gone bad!"; "Skeet Skeet Skeet!" — all reverberated through the popculturesphere. Chappelle thought he was done after his second season, but because of his show's huge following, he and writing partner Neal Brennan inked a $50 million deal for two more seasons. Originally, this third season was to start in February 2005 (with a similarly timed release of the Season Two DVD), but word leaked of creative struggles, and both the discs and the third season were postponed until May of 2005. But when that date approached, Chappelle and company blinked again; as of this writing, rumors circle the show's fate.

Chappelle's Show: Season Two begins with a sketch featuring one of Chappelle's most famous impressions, Samuel L. Jackson, and his new beer line. Coming out swinging, the first episode features such classic bits as how much cooler the world becomes in slow motion, and a racial draft in which Tiger Woods is decided to be all black, Colin Powell is made white, and the Wu Tang Clan becomes Asian. But what really launched the show was episode four, which is almost entirely "Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Story," in which Eddie Murphy's brother recounts his strained relationship with Rick James (played in flashbacks by Chappelle, and with then-current interviews of the late James). This was followed by the only other "True Hollywood Story," wherein Charlie plays Prince at basketball and loses, only to be served pancakes by the Purple One. As is the staple with sketch-comedy shows, there are recurring characters from the first season, and the best of the bunch is crack addict Tyrrone Biggums, who wins an episode of "Fear Factor" through the benefits of his addiction, while the Playa Hatas take a trip in a time machine. And the second season creates recurring bits of its own — with the most famous being Chappelle's take on rapper Lil' Jon, who mostly speaks in screeched words like "What!" "Yeah!" and "Okay!" Other episodes consist mostly of one major sketch, with the best of those being when Wayne Brady takes Chappelle's show over and then gives Dave a memorable night on the town, casting Brady as Denzel Washington's character in Training Day.

At its best, Chappelle's Show mixes social observation (usually withering) with pop-culture parodies, and with an eye towards the scatological — the humor is a constant mix of high- and lowbrow. Though some of the jokes may be a bit diluted by their overexposure, each installment is raucously funny, even if a bit was repeated by friends or coworkers before it's viewed. There are some weaker bits and jokes, but the highs here are so high that the season launched Dave Chappelle into the pantheon of great television performers. Chappelle got his start in stand-up at age 14 and made various attempts at the spotlight, with an aborted sitcom (Buddies), starring roles (Half Baked), and supporting parts (Con Air, You've Got Mail), but his breakthrough has the same quality of a young, impossibly inventive Eddie Murphy on "Saturday Night Live" circa 1982. The series also benefits from utilizing only one voice, that being Chappelle's, offering a consistency missing from most sketch-comedy formats. As an adoring public waits to see if Chappelle can meet his contract (he's commented that his newfound fame has made it to difficult to get honest feedback), he at least can rest assured that his legacy in sketch comedy is guaranteed.

Paramount presents all 13 episodes of Chappelle's Show: Season Two in full-frame transfers with Dolby 2.0 stereo audio in a three-disc set. The first disc includes the first seven episodes, with commentaries on the first four by Chappelle and writer Neal Brennan, sneak previews of other Comedy Central DVDs, and full sketches from "South Park" and "Reno 911." The second disc contains the remainder of the season and one commentary for episode 12. Disc Three offers the bulk of the supplemental material, with the first up being "Dave's Extra Stand Up" (17 min.), which consists of Chappelle doing bits for the live audience. Also included are 19 deleted scenes (71 min.) with optional commentary that runs an additional minute to allow Chappelle and Brennan to thank their crew. "Charlie Murphy's Rick James Memories" is an uncut interview with Charlie Murphy about Rick James (15 min.), while "The Rick James Extended Interview" is James's rebuttal (21 min.). "Charlie Murphy's Additional Hollywood Stories: I Want More" talks of a bleeped comic who was a friend of the Murphy clan (19 min.), while "Charlie Murphy's Additional Hollywood Stories: That's My Brother" has Charlie talking about his more famous brother Eddie and the trouble he got into in the early '80s (10 min.). Chappelle's Show: Season Two Uncensored is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: There was no doubt that George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith would top the weekend box-office chart — the only question was which records, if any, would fall. Taking in $108.5 million from Friday through Sunday, Sith failed to crack Spider-Man's $115 million three-day record. However, thanks to a $50 million debut on Thursday, the final chapter in the Star Wars saga beat out both the one-day record held by Shrek ($44.8 million) and the four-day record held by The Matrix Reloaded ($134.3 million). It also was the most successful debut of the three "prequel" titles, and while die-hard fans were expected to gush over another Lucas installment, critics gave the movie strong reviews as well.

Unfortunately, even with a mammoth debut like Revenge of the Sith, films in continuing release couldn't help the box-office chart overcome a 2005 slump compared to year-ago figures. Holding down second place was New Line's Monster-in-Law starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, which added $14.3 million to a $44.1 million gross, while Universal's Kicking & Screaming with Will Ferrell managed to add $10.5 million to a $34 million tally. Doing well as a smaller film is Lions Gate's Crash, which held down fourth place with $27.6 million. And Jet Li's Unleashed has scraped up $17.5 million over 10 days. However, it's all dismal from there south — Fox's Kingdom of Heaven, with a production budget reported well into three figures, managed just $3 million and change in receipts over its third weekend, a figure matched by Warner's House of Wax remake. Dimension's Mindhunters is heading for the cheap screens with less than $4 million. And Sony's XXX: State of the Union starring Ice Cube has generated a weak $25.5 million over one month. Count Hitchhiker's Guide and Sahara among the few that will leave with better figures.

Doing battle with Star Wars this Friday are The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler and the animated film Madagascar. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Fox)
    $108,500,000 ($158,500,000 through 1 week)
  2. Monster-in-Law (New Line)
    $14,350,000 ($44,173,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Kicking and Screaming (Universal)
    $10,531,000 ($34,006,000 through 2 weeks)
  4. Crash (Lions Gate)
    $5,500,000 ($27,603,000 through 3 weeks)
  5. Unleashed (Rogue)
    $3,841,000 ($17,567,000 through 2 weeks)
  6. Kingdom of Heaven (Fox)
    $3,350,000 ($41,031,000 through 3 weeks)
  7. House of Wax (Warner Bros.)
    $3,159,000 ($26,783,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. The Interpreter (Universal)
    $2,802,000 ($65,295,000 through 5 weeks)
  9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Touchstone)
    $2,006,000 ($46,854,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. Mindhunters (Dimension)
    $909,000 ($3,465,000 through 2 weeks)
  11. XXX: State of the Union (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $800,000 ($25,579,000 through 4 weeks)
  12. Sahara (Paramount)
    $720,000 ($65,487,000 through 7 weeks)

On the Board: D.K. Holm has posted a sneak-preview of Warner's two-disc The Aviator, while new spins from the rest of the gang this week include White Noise, Are We There Yet?, The Phantom of Liberty: The Criterion Collection, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Bravados, Forty Guns, Broken Lance, I, Robot: Collector's Edition, Chappelle's Show: Season Two Uncensored, and Joan of Arcadia: Season One. It's all under our 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:

  • Up from our friends at Warner Home Video is The Astaire & Rogers Collection: Volume One, which includes five timeless classics featuring the dance legends (and, we're happy to note, appears to be a first in a series). The 1935 Top Hat will include commentary from Astaire's daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie and film historian Larry Billman, as well as a new featurette, a vintage short with Bob Hope, and a cartoon. Swing Time, from 1936, will include a commentary from Astaire biographer John Mueller, as well as a short and a cartoon. Also from 1936, Follow the Fleet will include a new featurette, while 1937's Shall We Dance includes commentary from Kevin Cole and Hugh Martin and a featurette. Finally, 1949's The Barkleys of Broadway will include a featurette on Astaire and Rogers' MGM reunion. It's all due on Aug. 16. Also set to go are the 1999 TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, Pierce Brosnan in 1989's The Heist (both Aug. 30), and Six Feet Under: Season Four (Aug. 23).

  • Coming out of the Fox vault are Henry King's 1937 In Old Chicago starring Tyrone Power, Robert Aldrich's 1964 Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland, and Nunnally Johnson's 1956 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit with Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones, all on Aug. 9. Arriving the same day is this year's family film Because of Winn-Dixie from director Wayne Wang, while TV titles include The X-Files Mythology: Black Oil (Aug. 2), Roswell: Season Three (Aug. 9), and The Simpsons: Season Six (Aug. 16).

  • Universal will release this year's midlist rom-com The Wedding Date starring Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney on Aug. 16, while catalog offerings include One Last Dance with Patrick Swayze (Aug. 30) and the straight-to-video thriller Throttle (Aug. 2). Also watch for Sliders: Season Three (July 19), Columbo: Season Three, McCloud: Seasons 1-2, and McMillan & Wife: Season One (all Aug. 9).

  • Finally, Buena Vista has informed retailers to expect a special edition of Jim Sheridan's 1989 My Left Foot on Aug. 16. And oddly, while The Ultimate Toy Box is considered to be one of the most comprehensive DVD releases in the format's history, a Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition is now listed as a two-disc set arriving on Sept. 6.

On the Street: If the street-list isn't terribly deep this week, it's all the more reason for fans to pick up Paramount's unrated edition of Team America: World Police, which is on its way to becoming a cult classic on home video. New Line's Platinum Series re-release of The Mask starring Jim Carrey joins their new release of Son of The Mask, while Fox has a two-disc edition of Kinsey with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney on the shelves, and Michael Keaton can be seen in Universal's thriller White Noise. And fresh from the small screen are Seinfeld: Season Four and Scrubs: Season One. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Batman: Return to the Bat Cave
  • Berga: Soldiers of Another War: PBS
  • Blue
  • Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss
  • Candide
  • Cheers: Season Five (4-disc set)
  • Clarissa Explains It All: Season One (2-disc set)
  • Class of 1984
  • The Commish: The Best of Season One
  • Dance With Me Henry
  • Dinotopia: The Quest for the Ruby Sunstone
  • Escort West
  • The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks
  • Fortunes of War
  • The Golden Girls: Season Two (3-disc set)
  • The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
  • The Green Butchers (De Grønne Slagtere)
  • Hour of the Gun
  • Huey Lewis and the News: Live at 25
  • The Hunting Party
  • I'll Take Sweden
  • Infection
  • Invitation to a Gunfighter
  • It's Easier for a Camel… (Il est plus facile pour un chameau…)
  • Johnny Reno
  • Kinsey: Special Edition (2-disc set)
  • Kinsey
  • Kinsey: PBS
  • Law & Order: Season Three
  • Loving Feeling
  • Macarthur: PBS
  • The Mask: Platinum Series
  • More Dead Than Alive
  • NBA Dynasty Series: The Complete History of the Philadelphia 76ers
  • The Noose Hangs High
  • The Princess and the Pirate
  • Quicksilver Highway
  • Return With Honor: PBS
  • Sam Whiskey
  • The Secret of the Holy Grail (2-disc set)
  • Seinfeld: Season Four (4-disc set)
  • The Scalphunters
  • Sci-Fighter
  • Scrubs: Season One (4-disc set)
  • The Sea Inside (Mar adentro)
  • Silk Stalkings: The Best of Season One
  • The Simpsons: Bart Wars
  • Six Feet Under: Season Three (5-disc set)
  • Son of The Mask: Platinum Series
  • The Stone Boy
  • Team America: World Police (unrated)
  • Team America: World Police (R-rated)
  • The Thomas Crown Affair (new transfer) (1968)
  • Waterhole #3
  • War Letters: PBS
  • West Point: PBS
  • White Noise (widescreen)
  • White Noise (full-frame)
  • X-Treme Fighter

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Enveloped by the cold, decaying, concrete embrace of the inner-city, dodging drug dealers and gang members on their way to woefully under-funded schools staffed with teachers either too apathetic, too scared, or too overwhelmed by corruptive influences beyond their control to provide proper instruction, where else, pray tell, is a young African American male expected to find solace other than the playground basketball court? (Perhaps a makeshift recording studio, but that's another lament for another time.) And after decades of games played, refined, and heightened in this contentious, competitive milieu, expanding beyond the set-shot and bounce-pass to the innovation of, for example, the crossover dribble and the slam dunk, can it be considered anything but inevitable that the National Basketball Association quickly came to be dominated by individuals of color hailing specifically from the economically depressed neighborhoods of this country's major metropolises? Until 1994, insight into this man-made sociological phenomenon had been provided by several noteworthy books (most notably Rick Telender's Heaven is a Playground), but the breadth of the process, from recruitment to coaching to probable disappointment, was so shadowy and involved as to be rendered completely incomprehensible to outsiders. Hoop Dreams (1994), a four-year-plus labor of love by the documentary filmmaking team of Steve James, Peter Gilbert and Frederick Marx, changed that. Following two young prospects, Arthur Agee and William Gates, from their playground discovery to their senior years in high school, the film lays bare a system that teasingly builds up as swiftly as it ruthlessly breaks down. This might've been achievement enough, but the filmmakers' compassion and humanity ultimately gets the better of them, and their narrative, directed by the mercurial whims of the universe, becomes a living, breathing Dickensian document of urban American life that may never be surpassed.

The journey begins with a freelance scout (aka a "bush beater") plucking Agee out of a pick-up game, impressed with his quick first step, and hauling him out of his rough Garfield Park environs to the comparatively verdant Chicago suburbs where St. Joseph's, one of the city's prep basketball powerhouses, is holding a mini-camp for a bleacherful of 14-year-old might-bes. Agee and his family get a private consultation with the legendary coach Gene Pingatore, who dangles the promise of a scholarship to a top college as reward for four years of hard work before trotting out his most successful graduate and primary recruitment draw, Detroit Pistons All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, to close the deal. Despite his seductive spiel, Pingatore expresses immediate doubts about Agee's potential (he acknowledges the skill but doesn't see the confidence), while talking up the current year's freshman blue chip, Gates, who he thinks has the raw talent to make the pros in another six to eight years. Both Agee and Gates enroll at St. Joe's, but only the latter makes the varsity team. One year later, Agee is essentially discarded by Pingatore and the school due to financial hardship (both parents lose their jobs), though they scramble to assist Gates as he encounters similar obstacles. While Agee is consigned to the turmoil of an inner city public high school, where his grades and game regress, Gates flourishes, earning "next Isaiah Thomas" accolades from the top Chicago sportswriters, and (not that it matters) making the honor roll. However, as good as Gates is, he fails to take his team to the state championship in his first two years, and, tragically, misses most of his third year when he tears ligaments in one of his knees. As Gates's fortunes plummet, reaching a gut-wrenching low when he pulls up lame in front of a star-studded audience of college coaches at an annual Nike development camp for elite high school seniors, Agee's outlook suddenly improves, driving the film to a rousing and unlikely finish twice as improbable as anything John G. Avildsen ever attempted.

Subjecting Hoop Dreams to the tidiness of a plot summary is to do the film a profound disservice. Though Arthur and William are undeniably the tale's protagonists, it's the travails of their friends and family that give the story its uniquely poignant and, at times, heartbreaking texture. For instance, there's Arthur's father, Bo, who tumbles into a drug addiction so consuming that at one point he saunters off a playground basketball court to cop a fix in full view of his son and the filmmakers. Bo eventually bounces back through the salvation of the church, but even his resilience produces a number of difficult scenes, like his humbling supplication in the bursar's office at St. Joe's to free up Arthur's transcript. But it's the arc of Arthur's mother, Sheila, that lingers most indelibly; a proud woman who never cracks under the unfair misfortune heaped upon her by a callous system, her redemption, delivered via a hard earned nursing certificate, is cheering even as her achievement is celebrated in a room filled with empty folding chairs. As has been noted by several critics, the only event liable to draw crowds in the inner city is a high school basketball game, where dreams are dashed far more readily than they're realized. The film's final miracle is its end-credit epilogue informing us that Arthur and William have survived their respective disappointments and, thus far, an early grave.

The Criterion Collection presents Hoop Dreams in a fine full-screen transfer (1.33:1) with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Interestingly, for a film so generous in its running time, Criterion has opted for brevity with this release, seeking only to enhance one's viewing experience rather than broaden the context (which would be difficult given today's vastly different recruiting process that now includes scouts from the pros and the major shoe companies). Both audio commentaries, one featuring the filmmakers and the other reuniting Gates and Agee (who've stayed in touch over the years), are exemplary. The former offers some very candid self-criticism as to whether they overstepped their role as documentarians (or if they did enough as reasonably compassionate human beings), while the latter allows Arthur and William their chance to sound off on the process and reminisce (sadly, ten years later, there's additional pain to pick over). Also worthwhile is a collection of segments from "Siskel & Ebert" following their tireless advocacy from Sundance to a Best of the Decade special. A 37-page booklet offers essays by John Edgar Wideman and Alexander Wolff, a reprint of Michael Wise's 2004 Washington Post article checking in on the Agee and Gates families, and a dedication from the filmmakers. Also on board are a music video and theatrical trailers. Hoop Dreams: The Criterion Collection is on the street now.

Box Office: After 15 years away from feature motion pictures, Jane Fonda captured the top of the weekend box-office with Monster-in-Law — the romantic comedy co-starring Jennifer Lopez racked up $24 million, just beating out Will Ferrell and Robert Duvall in Universal's Kicking & Screaming, which took second place with $20.8 million. Completing the trifecta for debut films was Rogue Picture's Unleashed starring Jet Li, which landed in third with $10.5 million. However, barely notching in tenth place was Dimension's Mindhunters with Val Kilmer and LL Cool J, which managed just $2 million. Critics were mixed-to-positive on Unleashed, while Screaming and Mindhunters earned mixed-to-negative notices. Monster-in-Law was mostly dismissed.

In continuing release, Fox's Kingdom of Heaven took a precipitous fall from first to fourth place, adding $9.6 million to a relatively modest $35 million cume after two weekends. Lions Gate's Crash rounds off the top five with nearly $20 million in the bank. And Warner's House of Wax has been good for $21.6 million in two frames. Fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy have racked up $43.2 million in tickets, while Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter is over the $60 million mark. Things don't look nearly as sweet for Sony's XXX sequel starring Ice Cube, which stands at $24.4 million. And off to DVD prep is Guess Who?, which will finish around $70 million.

Just one new title goes wide this week — Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith arrives in a galaxy near you this Thursday. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Monster-in-Law (New Line)
    $24,025,000 ($24,025,000 through 1 week)
  2. Kicking & Screaming (Universal)
    $20,851,000 ($20,851,000 through 1 week)
  3. Unleashed (Rogue)
    $10,587,000 ($10,587,000 through 1 week)
  4. Kingdom of Heaven (Fox)
    $9,625,000 ($35,097,000 through 2 weeks)
  5. Crash (Lions Gate)
    $7,200,000 ($19,793,000 through 2 weeks)
  6. House of Wax (Warner Bros.)
    $6,270,000 ($21,653,000 through 2 weeks)
  7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Touchstone)
    $4,788,000 ($43,255,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. The Interpreter (Universal)
    $4,384,000 ($60,954,000 through 4 weeks)
  9. XXX: State of the Union (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $2,200,000 ($24,406,000 through 3 weeks)
  10. Mindhunters (Dimension)
    $2,003,000 ($2,003,000 through 1 week)
  11. Sahara (Paramount)
    $1,900,000 ($64,457,000 through 6 weeks)
  12. The Amityville Horror (MGM)
    $1,600,000 ($63,060,000 through 5 weeks)

On the Board: New reviews from the gang this week include Team America: World Police: Uncensored and Unrated, In Good Company, Kinsey: Special Edition, A Face in the Crowd, Gilmore Girls: Season Three, The Mask: Platinum Series, Son of The Mask: Platinum Series, Hoop Dreams: The Criterion Collection, and Dawson's Creek: Season Five. 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:

  • Up from Warner Home Video is the release of Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby co-starring Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman — separate anamorphic (2.40:1) and pan-and-scan editions will street, as well as a "Deluxe Edition" with a CD soundtrack. Expect the two-DVD set to include a roundtable with Eastwood, Swank, and Freeman hosted by James Lipton, the historical featurette "Born to Fight," a behind-the-scenes spot, and more (July 12). Retailers have been told to expect this year's Constantine starring Keanu Reeves on July 19, while the Sandra Bullock vehicle Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous streets on June 21 with deleted scenes, and also with a CD soundtrack option. Meanwhile, recent Warner TV announcements include Dallas: Season Three (Aug. 9), Kung Fu: Season Three, The OC: Season Two (both Aug. 23), and Nip/Tuck: Season Two (Aug. 30).

  • Heading for DVD in a hurry is Disney's paperback teen drama Ice Princess, which retailers have been told to expect on July 19 in both widescreen and full-frame editions.

  • Moving even quicker is this year's (alleged) comedy King's Ransom starring Anthony Anderson, which flew through theaters after it wasn't screened for critics, grossing just $3.5 million. Nonetheless, the Anthony Anderson title gets the Platinum Edition treatment from New Line with commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, a behind-the-scenes spot, and plenty more (July 26).

  • Finally, New Yorker will release Werner Herzog's Signs of Life on June 14 with a commentary from Herzog, while his Land of Silence and Darkness is expected on the same date. Following on June 28 will be Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend, which will offer commentary from film critic David Sterrit, thoughts from director Mike Figgis, an interview with cinematographer Raoul Coutard, and a trailer. Watch for Godard's For Ever Mozart on the same date as well.

On the Street: It's one of those street-weeks that's going to run up a lot of credit cards, thanks to three studios. Up from Warner is their new "Controversial Classics Collection,", a seven-disc set that includes Advise and Consent, The Americanization of Emily, Bad Day at Black Rock, Blackboard Jungle, A Face in the Crowd, Fury, and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. New from The Criterion Collection is Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, as well as the superb documentaries Burden of Dreams and Hoop Dreams. And Universal's fresh with the recent theatrical films In Good Company and Assault on Precinct 13, as well as a special edition of 12 Monkeys. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 12 Monkeys: Special Edition
  • Advise and Consent
  • Alone in the Dark
  • The Americanization of Emily
  • Assault on Precinct 13 (widescreen) (2005)
  • Assault on Precinct 13 (pan-and-scan) (2005)
  • Autopsy: Anniversary Edition
  • Bad Apple
  • Bad Day at Black Rock
  • Blackboard Jungle
  • Bliss: Season One
  • Burden of Dreams: The Criterion Collection
  • Café au Lait (Métisse)
  • Churchill: The Wilderness Years
  • Controversial Classics Collection (7-disc set)
  • The Dain Curse
  • Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines: The Complete Series
  • Devon's Ghost: Legend of the Bloody Boy
  • Donkey Skin (Peau d'ane)
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Vol. 1
  • Entourage: Season One (2-disc set)
  • Euro Fiends from Beyond the Grave
  • A Face in the Crowd
  • Fury (1936)
  • Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection
  • Ghosts of Rwanda: PBS
  • The Golden Blaze
  • Hair Show
  • Have Gun Will Travel: Season Two (6-disc set)
  • Hemingway: The Wilderness Years
  • Hoop Dreams: The Criterion Collection
  • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
  • In Good Company (widescreen)
  • In Good Company (pan-and-scan)
  • In Living Color: Season Three (3-disc set)
  • Joan of Arcadia: Season One (6-disc set)
  • Kennedy: The Wilderness Years
  • The Last Shot
  • The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: The Criterion Collection (2-disc set)
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  • Long Day's Journey Into Night
  • The Longest Yard: Lockdown Edition
  • The Merchant of Venice (2004)
  • My Favorite Martian: Season Two
  • Northern Exposure: Season Three
  • The Perils of Penelope Pitstop: The Complete Series
  • The Pornographer (Le Pornographe)
  • Quantum Leap: Season Three
  • Racing Stripes (widescreen)
  • Racing Stripes (full-frame)
  • Samaritan Girl (Samaria)
  • Treasures from the American Film Archives
  • X: Live In Los Angeles

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: The arrival of a new Wes Anderson film offers more than a brief respite from any given year's formula Hollywood titles and overhyped indie movies — by now, it's more akin to watching a Fellini or Godard picture for the first time. And not simply because the young American director compares (favorably) with his European forebears, but rather because seeing Anderson's work for the first time requires patience, attention, and a willingness to be a bit dumbfounded. He doesn't bother with the screenwriting mannerisms that make common films easily digestible, and often, the small, unnoticeable miracles his camera and his actors create aren't apparent until a second, third, or even later viewing… an odd turn of phrase, a glance, a pause — all combine to create a particular universe that is unique to Anderson's films. The University of Texas-Austin grad didn't burst onto the scene in 1996 as much as he slipped in with the loopy Bottle Rocket, which also managed to launch the acting careers of Owen and Luke Wilson. Rushmore entered and exited theaters in early 1998 with little fanfare, but later became a cult hit on home video, where fans were free to pore over its many small details. The ambitious The Royal Tenenbaums (2002) collected several of Anderson's favorite actors in a sprawling, bittersweet tale of familial dysfunction. And while The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) often finds the writer/director's characters miles from dry land, he recreates his universe once again, filling it with an ad hoc family and their half-forgotten dreams.

Bill Murray stars in The Life Aquatic as the title character, Steve Zissou, a oceanographer/adventurer/filmmaker whose career has seen better days — his longtime collaborator Esteban recently died in an attack by a "jaguar shark," and Team Zissou's latest film has come across as a disappointment. Even worse, the entirely dejected Zissou announces that he plans to return to sea on his research ship the Belafonte, in part to undertake another movie, but also to find the jaguar shark and kill it. However, Zissou's funding is threatened after his wealthy ex-wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) withdraws her support. He's continually irked by Eleanor's first husband, the more-successful oceanographer Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum). And Team Zissou is joined on their voyage by two new members — American pilot Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), who may or may not be Zissou's son, and British reporter Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), who is preparing a cover story for her magazine that the publicity-strapped Zissou needs, badly. Forced by his new financiers to take along a "bond stooge" (But Cort), Zissou sets sail for open water. Ned even backs the enterprise with $275,000 he recently inherited. But before long, a love-triangle develops between the antisocial Zissou, earnest Ned, and temperamental Jane — who happens to be five months pregnant from an illicit affair. And when Zissou rashly decides to enter unprotected waters in search of his jaguar shark, the boat is seized by pirates, who steal Ned's money, not leaving until they take one hostage.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is tale told on the ocean, but one would be hard-pressed to describe it as a seafaring adventure. Rather, Wes Anderson prefers to sublimate any milieu to his thematics — like The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson's foremost concern is with his characters and their interpersonal dynamics, and for that, Aquatic is as much about oceanography as Tenenbaums is about New York. In fact, most of the "science" in the film is bogus, simply a series of small, creative inventions. Anderson delights in continually reminding his audience that he's telling a story, from the throwaway on-screen titles ("Day 9: Towed into Port-au-Patois Harbor") to the formal, Kubrickian line-readings, to the cutaway set of the Belafonte that oddly reduces the massive vessel to an equally massive doll-house. It's a surreality that only belongs on screen, bolstered by the director's penchant for intricate, often lavish production design. As with any auteur, Anderson revisits ground he's gone over before, albeit in a new light — as with Rushmore, a young man (whose mother has died) seeks out a father figure, only to find himself locked in oedipal conflict. As with Tenenbaums, a father figure worries he's lost credibility with those who depend on him the most. The pervasive sense of melancholia is oddly offset by Anderson's love of uniforms — every one of his films to date features uniforms of some sort (here, powder-blue nautical track-suits), which always suggest a psychology of insecurity, as if clinging to a uniform implies a family that may or may not exist, or order to a universe that has, in the past, appeared fundamentally chaotic. If the uniform suggests a spiritual defeat, Murray's starring role only hints at the passion of Ahab. As with his previous appearances in Anderson's films, his dejection isn't as comic as it is utterly human — and one has to believe audiences wouldn't have accepted his Oscar-nominated ennui in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003) if Wes Anderson hadn't spotted it first.

The Criterion Collection's two-disc DVD release of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou offers a perfect anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Disc One includes an informal commentary with Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach, nine deleted scenes, and a "Starz on the Set" featurette (14 min.). Disc Two is packed to Criterion's standards, starting with "This Is an Adventure," an on-set documentary directed by Albert Maysles, Antonio Ferrera, and Matthew Prinzing (51 min.), while an additional "Intern Video Journal" was created by actor Matthew Gray Gubler (15 min.). Anderson and Baumbach are seen in an awkward interview on the Italian television program "Mondo Monda" (16 min.). Composer Mark Mothersbaugh discusses the musical direction in a new interview (19 min.). Also on board are the additional featurettes "Creating a Scene" (4 min.), "The Look Aquatic" (5 min.), "Costumes" (4 min.), "Aquatic Life" (7 min.), "Ned" (3 min.), and "Jane" (3 min.), Photos and Designs galleries, and the ten David Bowie songs performed in the film by co-star Seu Jorge — in their entirety, in Portuguese. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: The Criterion Collection is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: The summer movie season got off to an inauspicious start as Fox's Kingdom of Heaven debuted at first place with $20 million — far short of the reported $150 million budget for Ridley Scott's Crusades epic starring Orlando Bloom. Also falling short of expectations was Warner's House of Wax starring Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton, which generated $12.2 million to land in second place, while Lions Gate's drama Crash with Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, and Sandra Bullock found its way into fourth place with $9.1 million. Crash earned strong reviews, while critics were mixed-to-negative on Heaven and dismissed Wax.

In continuing release, Touchstone's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy slipped to third place, adding $9.1 million to a $35.1 million 10-day gross, while Universal's The Interpreter starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn rounds off the top five with $54.2 million after three frames. Sony's XXX: State of the Union starring Ice Cube is already on the slip, taking in just $5.4 million over its second weekend and holding down a mere $20.7 million, while Paramount's Sahara is finishing up a strong run into $60 million territory. Also waning is Fox's Fever Pitch with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, which will clear $40 million. And off to the cheap screens is Dimension's Sin City, which has bagged more than $70 million to date.

Plenty of new films go wide this Friday, including Kicking & Screaming starring Will Ferrell, Monster in Law with Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, Mindhunters starring Val Kilmer, and Unleashed with Jet Li. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Kingdom of Heaven (Fox)
    $20,000,000 ($20,000,000 through 1 week)
  2. House of Wax (Warner Bros.)
    $12,205,000 ($12,205,000 through 1 week)
  3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Touchstone)
    $9,129,000 ($35,119,000 through 2 weeks)
  4. Crash (Lions Gate)
    $9,100,000 ($9,100,000 through 1 week)
  5. The Interpreter (Universal)
    $7,500,000 ($54,082,000 through 3 weeks)
  6. XXX: State of the Union (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $5,400,000 ($20,782,000 through 2 weeks)
  7. The Amityville Horror (MGM)
    $3,150,000 ($60,111,000 through 4 weeks)
  8. Sahara (Paramount)
    $3,100,000 ($61,337,000 through 5 weeks)
  9. A Lot Like Love (Touchstone)
    $3,036,000 ($18,792,000 through 3 weeks)
  10. Fever Pitch (Fox)
    $2,000,000 ($39,021,000 through 5 weeks)
  11. Kung Fu Hustle (Sony Pictures Classics)
    $1,141,000 ($14,669,000 through 5 weeks)
  12. Guess Who (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $1,100,000 ($67,044,000 through 7 weeks)

On the Board: New reviews from the team this week include Burden of Dreams: The Criterion Collection, The Americanization of Emily, Blackboard Jungle, Fury, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Bad Day at Black Rock, Advise and Consent, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: The Criterion Collection, and The Merchant of Venice. It's all fresh 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:

  • Our friends at The Criterion Collection kick off this week's list with four new titles on the July slate. Preston Sturges's 1948 Unfaithfully Yours starring Rex Harrison will include a new transfer from restored elements, commentary from a trio of Sturges scholars, a video introduction from Terry Jones, an interview with Sturges's wife Sandy, stills, and an essay by novelist Jonathan Lethem (July 12). Luchino Visconti's 1957 adaptation of a Dostoyevsky short story, Le Notti Bianche starring Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell, will include a restored transfer, a collection of new interviews, a Dostoyevsky reading, screen-test footage, and an essay by film scholar Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (July 12). Seijun Suzuki's 1956 Story of a Prostitute will include a restored transfer, as well as new interviews with the director and others and an essay by film critic David Chute (July 26). And Suzuki's 1964 Gate of Flesh will offer a restored transfer with interviews, stills, and an essay by Asian cinema critic Chuck Stephens (July 26). Finally, while we don't have disc details, retailers have been told to expect Louis Malle's 1987 Au Revoir les Enfants under the Criterion folio on July 12.

  • New Line will release Sundance favorite The Upside of Anger starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner on July 26 — a commentary featuring Allen and director Mike Binder will be moderated by filmmaker Rod Lurie, while other features include deleted scenes with director's commentary, the featurette "Creating The Upside of Anger," and a trailer.

  • John Boorman's In My Country starring Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche is due to arrive on July 5 from Columbia TriStar, who also has a slew of catalog titles set for the same date — also watch for 1966's Georgy Girl starring Lynn Redgrave, Nadine with Kim Basinger and Jeff Bridges, Forever, Lulu with Deborah Harry and Alec Baldwin (in his big-screen debut), and Tour of Duty: Season Three.

  • Universal has finalized specs for the upcoming "30th Anniversary" edition of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, and we are assured that the two-hour documentary The Making of Jaws will be included — originally released in its entirety on Laserdisc, it was reduced to one hour for the July 2000 DVD edition. Also promised is a look at life on the movie set, a new interview with Spielberg, deleted scenes and outtakes, and a "Jaws Archive" with plenty of extras. And for serious nitpickers, it appears from the spec that the original Dolby 2.0 audio will be included as well. It's still expected on June 14. Meanwhile, retailers have been told to expect a special edition of Steve Martin's 1979 The Jerk on July 26, while The Return of the Pink Panther, originally on DVD from Artisan, will arrive from Universal on July 26 as well.

On the Street: Warner leads off this week with two new box-sets — "The World War II Collection: Battlefront Europe" includes new releases of The Big Red One: The Reconstruction and Battle of the Bulge, while "The John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection" surveys the Duke's career from Blood Alley to McQ. New from Buena Vista is the latest bit of screen-candy from Jerry Bruckheimer, National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage, while Warner has last year's The Phantom of the Opera out in a two-disc collector's edition and Disney's Pocahontas has been re-issued for its 10th anniversary. Paramount's gone into the catalog for family titles Table for Five and With Six You Get Eggroll. But the week belongs to the small screen, with TV titles that include Dawson's Creek, Everybody Loves Raymond, Gilmore Girls, I Love Lucy, King of the Hill, The Man Show, Three's Company, and Touched by an Angel. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • American Chopper: Season One
  • American Chopper: Season Two
  • American Dreamer
  • Back Roads
  • Battle of the Bulge
  • The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (2-disc set)
  • Blood Alley
  • The Carol Burnett Show: Let's Bump Up the Lights
  • The Chorus (Les Choristes)
  • Chupacabra Terror
  • Dawson's Creek: Season Five (4-disc set)
  • Earthquake – About Got Damn Time: Platinum Comedy Series
  • Enduring Love
  • Entity
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: Season Three (5-disc set)
  • Gilmore Girls: Season Three
  • Guns of Honor
  • Heart o' The Hills
  • Heidi
  • I Love Lucy: Season One (7-disc set)
  • I Love Lucy: Season Four (5-disc set)
  • In Search of the Castaways
  • The John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection (5-disc set)
  • King of the Hill: Season Four (3-disc set)
  • Knight Errant
  • Live in San Quentin: Platinum Comedy Series
  • McQ
  • The Man Show: Season Three (14-disc set)
  • Microcosmos
  • Monster Garage: Season One
  • Monster Garage: Season Two
  • Motorcycle Mania 3: Jesse James Rides Again
  • Naked City: Box Set #1
  • National Treasure (widescreen)
  • National Treasure (pan-and-scan)
  • The Other Side of the Law
  • Partridge Family: Season One (4-disc set)
  • The Phantom of the Opera: Collector's Edition (2-disc set)
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Pocahontas: 10th Anniversary Edition (2-disc set)
  • The Sandlot 2
  • The Sea Chase
  • Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior
  • Silent Tongue
  • Spaceballs: Special Edition (2-disc set)
  • Star Trek Enterprise: Season One
  • Suds
  • Summer Magic
  • Table for Five
  • Tall in the Saddle
  • That Darn Cat!
  • The Three Amigos (2001)
  • Three's Company: Season Four
  • Through the Back Door
  • Touched by an Angel: Season Two
  • The Train Robbers
  • Turk 182!
  • Vampires: The Turning
  • With Six You Get Eggroll
  • World War II Collection: Battlefront Europe (6-disc set)

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: In cinematic history, the legend of The Big Red One is almost as well known as the film itself. Until his death in 1997, director Samuel Fuller — a renowned raconteur — told of his legendary director's cut of the 1980 film, claiming it ran over four hours and was butchered by the studio, who had the temerity to add a voice-over track (written not by Fuller but by filmmaker Jim McBride) to smooth out the rough spots. As with any director's vision that's been hindered by studio bean-counters, interest in this version gained a cult following over the years; however, when financier Lorimar dissolved, it was thought lost. Then a funny thing happened: Materials from missing sequences surfaced in the form of promo reels, and then even more footage was unearthed. Critic and film documentarian Richard Schickel headed up the restoration effort, and, with guidance from the original script, he added almost 50 minutes of footage to the original theatrical film. From Schickel's perspective, this 2004 version of The Big Red One is as close to Fuller's cut as can be hoped for, and it's more than likely closer in length to what Fuller originally intended (the four-and-half-hour cut may just be how long it became in Fuller's mind). This new footage doesn't necessarily improve the original so much as expand it. allowing the stories to breathe. Already an insightful portrait of the world of war, at its extended length The Big Red One now has the scope and depth of a masterpiece.

Told episodically, the film follows The Big Red One (a famous U.S. Army battalion) as they trek from North Africa in 1942 to Germany in 1945. Led by the unnamed sergeant (played by Lee Marvin in a career zenith), it seems he has "four horsemen of the apocalypse" in four privates who manage to survive the entire war without getting so much as scratched. They are the cigar-smoking writer Zab (Robert Carradine), who's also the narrator and the obvious Fuller surrogate; the sensitive cartoonist Griff (Mark Hamill); the Italian wise-ass Vinci (Bobby Di Cicco); and the farm-boy with hemorrhoids Johnson (Kelly Ward). Along the way they travail against all sorts of skirmishes: facing Vichy soldiers who may or may not intend to engage them, going against Rommel's tanks in Africa, hunting snipers in Sicily, laying Bangalore torpedoes on the beach of Normandy during D-Day, facing a German bushwacking and a pregnant woman needing to give birth in France, storming an insane asylum in Belgium, and finally raiding a concentration camp in Germany. The boys are cocksure, except for Griff, who can't seem to stomach killing a man in his sights. For the sergeant and the others, it's a simple dichotomy: "In war we don't murder, we kill."

Sam Fuller was a reporter before he joined the army, and though 30, he didn't hesitate enlisting because he knew World War II was the story of his lifetime. His experiences led to some of his finest films (The Steel Helmet, Fixed Bayonets!, Merrill's Marauders), but The Big Red One was his dream project — the one he was itching to tell. It went through a number of false starts and nearly materialized in 1959 (with John Wayne as the sergeant), but he finally shot it in Ireland and Israel on shoestring budget almost 40 years later. And yet the film feels as if it were made only months after the event itself — Fuller's razor-sharp memory thoroughly captures and recreates the details of war. The director also had a great ally in Lee Marvin, who served in the Pacific Theater and knew that Fuller's vision was utterly genuine. It's these first-hand experiences that make The Big Red One the finest American film about World War II — everything on screen has Fuller's piercing journalist's eye: the irony of a man storming Normandy trying to keep his most prized possession (toilet paper) dry above his head, only for it to be shot out of his hand; the gallows humor that keeps the men in spirits; the sense of family and isolation the five create for themselves; and the knowledge that (as is said in the narration, retained in this reconstruction) "the only glory in war is surviving." Though the picture may offer visceral kicks, such are never the point. The Big Red One refrains from romanticizing any aspect of combat. In a one of the brief additions (one of many great addendums), during D-Day Zeb stumbles upon a dead solider, and without blinking an eye at the man's guts (which are hanging visibly from his body), he sees the dead man had a fresh cigar. He stuffs it in his mouth and moves along. It's just one brilliant observation in a film that "is fictional life based on factual death."

Warner Home Video presents The Big Red One: The Reconstruction in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras on the first disc consist of a commentary by restoration producer Richard Schickel. Disc Two features "The Real Glory: Reconstructing The Big Red One" featuring Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward, Mark Hamill, Perry Lang, Doug Werner, Ken Campbell, Joe Clark, Fuller's daughter Samantha Fuller, Richard Schickel, Reconstruction editor Bryan Mckenzie, several crew members, and period interviews with Fuller (47 min.). Also included is "The Men Who Make the Movies: Samuel Fuller," a Turner Classic Movies episode on Fuller that's directed by Schickel and narrated by Sydney Pollack (55 min.). "Anatomy of a Scene" offers two sequences and deconstructs the work done to restore them, along with some rough footage featuring Fuller's voice (18 min.). There are 17 alternate scenes with commentary by editor Bryan Mckenzie and post supervisor Brian Hamblin (32 min.), while "The Fighting First" is a war documentary about the Big Red One (12 min.). Then there's the original promo reel (30 min.) — which was the inspiration for the restoration, since it includes a number of the cut sequences — a stills gallery, two trailers along with the Restoration release trailer, and two radio spots. The Big Red One: The Reconstruction is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: A substantial fan-base with high expectations nearly assured that Touchstone's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would come out on top at the North American box-office over the weekend — the sci-fi spoof based on the book by Douglas Adams generated $21.7 million, easily beating out last week's winner The Interpreter, which slipped to second place with $14.2 million for the frame and $43.5 million overall. Meanwhile, the weekend's only other debut, Sony's XXX: State of the Union starring Ice Cube, found its way into third place with a $13.7 million break. Critics were mixed-to-positive on Hitchhiker's, while XXX was largely dismissed.

In continuing release, MGM's remake of The Amityville Horror continues to show momentum, holding down fourth place after three weeks with $55 million. Audiences also gave Paramount's Sahara a boost, which rounds off the top five with $57.1 million in the bag after one month. Touchstone's rom-com A Lot Like Love starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet is doing midlist business, adding just $5.2 million to a $14.6 million 10-day gross, while Sony's Kung Fu Hustle has wowed the critics but took in just $3.8 million in its second week of wide release. Fox's Fever Pitch with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore has tracked $36.5 million in four sessions. And off to DVD prep is MGM's Beauty Shop starring Queen Latifah, which will finish in the $35 million neighborhood.

New films in theaters this Friday include Kingdom of Heaven starring Orlando Bloom, Crash starring Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, and Matt Dillon, and House of Wax featuring Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Touchstone)
    $21,707,000 ($21,707,000 through 1 week)
  2. The Interpreter (Universal)
    $14,248,000 ($43,567,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. XXX: State of the Union (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $13,700,000 ($13,700,000 through 1 week)
  4. The Amityville Horror (MGM)
    $8,100,000 ($55,055,000 through 3 weeks)
  5. Sahara (Paramount)
    $6,000,000 ($57,177,000 through 4 weeks)
  6. A Lot Like Love (Touchstone)
    $5,221,000 ($14,698,000 through 2 weeks)
  7. Kung Fu Hustle (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $3,837,000 ($13,173,000 through 4 weeks)
  8. Fever Pitch (Fox)
    $3,750,000 ($36,535,000 through 4 weeks)
  9. Robots (Fox)
    $2,650,000 ($123,680,000 through 8 weeks)
  10. Guess Who (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $2,200,000 ($65,483,000 through 6 weeks)
  11. Sin City (Dimension)
    $2,025,000 ($70,619,000 through 5 weeks)
  12. The Pacifier (Disney)
    $1,388,000 ($108,413,000 through 9 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the gang include Meet the Fockers, National Treasure, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Blood Alley, Battle of the Bulge, The Train Robbers, McQ, The Big Red One: The Reconstruction, and An Awfully Big Adventure. 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.

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