News and Commentary: July 2005

Back to News Index

Back to Main Page

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

  • Up from Paramount is The Warriors: The Ultimate Director's Cut, which will offer a new introduction from Walter Hill, four featurettes covering the development of the 1979 film, deleted scenes, and a trailer (Oct. 4), while also in the way are a two-disc Special Collector's Edition of Star Trek: Nemesis (Oct. 4), this year's The Honeymooners, and the popular documentary Mad Hot Ballroom (both Oct. 18). Also watch for a new special edition of James Cameron's Titanic due in October as well.

  • Warner has announced their third wave of Looney Tunes DVD releases with The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Vol. 3 in a four-disc set and The Looney Tunes Movie Collection across two discs (both Oct. 25), while upcoming catalog fare includes Over the Edge starring Matt Dillon (Sept. 20), 5 Card Stud, and Last Goodbye (both Sept. 27). And the TV boxes this time around include Da Ali G Show: Season Two, Everybody Loves Raymond: Season Four (both Sept. 13), Ellen Degeneres: The Beginning/Here & Now, Veronica Mars: Season One (both Oct. 11), and Tales From the Crypt: Season Two (Oct. 25).

  • This year's skateboard drama Lords of Dogtown has a Sept. 27 street-date from Sony/Columbia TriStar — both the theatrical version and a slightly extended unrated cut will be on hand. Also streeting on the 27th will be a two-disc edition of the Oscar-winning 1968 Oliver!, while the rest of the September sched fills out with Nobody Knows (Sept. 13), It's All Gone Pete Tong, Shackles, Turtles Can Fly, and Ned and Stacey: Season One (all Sept. 20).

  • Finally, on the slate at New Line are The Bridge of San Luis Rey starring Robert De Niro and the thriller 11:14 with Hilary Swank (both Oct. 11). Somewhat less impressive on Oct. 18 are a trio of catalog releases, Chained Heat 2, Excessive Force II: Force on Force, and Felony.

On the Street: Those of you who plan to sit by your air conditioners this week have plenty of DVDs to choose from, not least of which being MGM's Errol Morris DVD Collection, which includes the documentary director's landmark film The Thin Blue Line. Out today from Criterion are a pair of Seijun Suzuki classics, Gate of Flesh and Story of a Prostitute, while we're also partial to New Line's The Upside of Anger starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner. Also new from New Line is King's Ransom starring Anthony Anderson, and Sony/Columbia TriStar is on the board with XXX: State of the Union, the animated Steamboy, and an unrated release of Not Another Teen Movie. Fans of the classics can't get more classic than Universal's The Jerk starring Steve Martin. And arriving from the small screen are new sets of 3rd Rock From the Sun, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, Remington Steele, and Star Trek Enterprise. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season One
  • The Amateur
  • America's Funniest Home Videos: Vol. 1 (4-disc set)
  • Beulah Land (2-disc set)
  • The Blue and the Gray
  • Bolero
  • The Brady Bunch: Season Two (4-disc set)
  • Brothers in Arms
  • Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 19 (4-disc set)
  • Drive Well, Sleep Carefully: On the Road with Death Cab for Cutie
  • Eating Out
  • Errol Morris DVD Collection
  • Errol Morris: First Person: The Complete Series
  • Fighting Tommy Riley
  • Gabbeh
  • Gate of Flesh: The Criterion Collection
  • Gates of Heaven
  • Gilligan's Island: Season Three (3-disc set)
  • The Jerk: Special Edition
  • Just Before Dawn
  • King's Ransom: Platinum Series
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • Maestro
  • Mary Tyler Moore: Season Two
  • Mata Hari
  • Miss Cast Away
  • Mojados: Through the Night
  • No Witness
  • Not Another Teen Movie: Unrated Extended Director's Cut
  • Remington Steele: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Rumpole of the Bailey (6-disc set)
  • School Is Cool
  • Silk Stalkings: Season Three
  • Slaves of New York
  • Star Trek Enterprise: Season Two (7-disc set)
  • A Starry Night with Simply Red
  • Starstruck (2-disc set)
  • Steamboy
  • Steamboy Gift Set
  • Story of a Prostitute: The Criterion Collection
  • The Thin Blue Line
  • The Upside of Anger
  • Vernon, Florida
  • Warm Summer Rain
  • The Whole Shebang
  • Wild Orchid 2: Blue Movie Blue
  • Wilder Days
  • Wim Wenders Collection 2 (8-disc set)
  • Xena Warrior Princess: 10th Anniversary Collection (7-disc set)
  • XXX: State of the Union (widescreen)
  • XXX: State of the Union (pan-and-scan)

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: While the American film industry may mark 2005 as a year of weak box-office returns, the fact remains that most movies are doomed to fail on the big screen. And not merely because, as some folks insist, they just aren't as good as they used to be. Instead, the studios' emphasis on immediate box-office returns, as well as their reliance upon blitzkrieg marketing strategies, means that the pulse-rate of any given cinematic product can be measured the morning after it debuts nationwide, and the hard numbers on Monday morning not only dictate the tone of the second week's marketing campaign ("America's #1 Comedy!"), but also if it will earn further support or simply flatline into second-run obscurity. For the pencil-pushers, it's not a bad strategy — at least as far as mediocre movies go. If a title earns enough money on its opening weekend alone, DVD sales often will put it in the black within a year. But it's hardly the sort of environment in which to debut sophisticated, intelligent films that defy glib categorization. And for that, if for nothing else, we can be grateful for Sundance. Before the emergence of the Summer Blockbuster in the 1970s, a slow rollout of new films was common, arriving first in larger cities, then trickling down into smaller markets, where strong reviews and word-of-mouth bolstered theatrical runs that stretched for months instead of weeks. Since the early '90s, the Sundance Film Festival (and other events) has nurtured the slow rollout when Tinseltown would not, and the string of successes that have debuted in Park City include such memorable (and profitable) hits as Sex Lies and Videotape, Heathers, Roger & Me, Reservoir Dogs, Pi, The Blair Witch Project, Memento, 28 Days Later, and Napoleon Dynamite. A good Sundance title can sustain a slow-burn in theaters and enjoy a long life on home video — and while it didn't win any festival awards, The Upside of Anger will be remembered as one of the breakout films of 2005.

Written and directed by Mike Binder, Joan Allen stars in The Upside of Anger as Terry Wolfmeyer, an upper-middle-class suburban Detroit homemaker who wakes up one day to face her worst nightmare — her husband has left home, taking with him nothing more than his wallet and the clothes on his back. Aware that he had been carrying on with his Swedish secretary, Terry tries to face reality as best she can, despite the fact that she has four daughters to raise and no clear source of future income. Hope comes in the form of longtime family friend and neighbor Denny Davies (Kevin Costner) — the retired baseball star is fronting a group of financiers who hope to acquire the Wolfmeyers' undeveloped property behind the family home, and Terry is not opposed to selling. But Denny's intentions are multifold. He's never tried to hide his affection for Terry, and while she initially resists his romantic overtures, their shared sense of midlife ennui — and barely restrained alcoholism — turn them into a pair of mismatched soulmates. In the meantime, Terry insists upon remaining a strong — often headstrong — parent, even if her relationships with her four daughters are tepid at best, and far from nurturing. College-bound Hadley (Alicia Witt) is the perfect child who disapproves of her mother's drinking, while Andy (Erika Christensen) does not plan to attend college but instead wants to enter the working world directly from high school. Emily (Keri Russell) hopes to become a professional dancer, a dream Terry discourages. And the youngest, 'Popeye' (Evan Rachel Wood), is still working out the tough details of her mid-teen years.

As the title suggests, The Upside of Anger concerns not merely the events of Terry Wolfmeyer's life in the wake of her collapsed marriage, but her emotional state as well — at turns she's witty, caustic, selfish, and yes, angry. But it's hard to tell if her bitterness stems directly from her sense of abandonment, or in fact if she's always been a controlling, abrasive personality. The issue is never settled. It's difficult to believe that she's transformed into an entirely new woman, no matter how burdened she feels by her loss. And yet one of her daughters insists that, before her father left, Terry was "sweet to everyone." As with virtually everything in Mike Binder's script, there are no pat answers, no pop psychology. Instead, the film deftly illustrates how suburban dreams can crumble under the weight of fragmentary, unstructured lives, and it does so without either the cold detachment of The Ice Storm or the easy cynicism of American Beauty. Despite its somewhat bleak subject-matter, The Upside of Anger bristles with humor and genuine, flesh-and-blood characters. Joan Allen shoulders nearly every scene and deserves a lion's share of the credit. Only a virtuoso performer can take a character who's essentially unlikable and make every moment on screen compelling. Nonetheless, the script's unusual chemistry would be nonexistent without Kevin Costner, who reveals that he's a mature leading man (his weight gain here is both noticeable and entirely fitting). Despite playing — once again — a baseball player, Anger represents a notable evolution in Costner's career, and along with Open Range (2004) should do a great deal to put such misfires as Robin Hood and Waterworld to rest. His loopy, somewhat dim earnestness collides against Allen's porcelain resolve, making for a story that can't be encapsulated by a make-or-break marketing campaign: "Drunk ex-baseball star falls for caustic divorcée." The Upside of Anger is about life lived without a script, and how even our best choices may be the very things that confine us when fate turns over the next page.

New Line's DVD release features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround options. Supplements include a chatty commentary with writer-director-costar Mike Binder, star Joan Allen, and Rod Lurie (who directed both in The Contender) — among the many behind-the-scenes details, they enjoy revealing how the entire production, set in Binder's hometown of Detroit, was shot in London. Also on board are eight deleted scenes with a "play-all" option, the featurette "Creating The Upside of Anger" (28 min.), and the theatrical trailer. The Upside of Anger is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: Four new films arrived in cineplexes over the weekend, but none could crack the top three positions on the chart, which remained unchanged from one week ago. DreamWorks' The Island starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson arrived in fourth place with a modest $12.1 million opening, while Paramount's The Bad News Bears starring Billy Bob Thornton bagged $11.5 million to reach the top five. Landing in seventh was Paramount's rap drama Hustle & Flow with $8.1 million. And the Rob Zombie horror flick The Devil's Rejects took eighth place with $7 million. Critics praised Flow, while the remaining new releases earned mixed notices.

In continuing release, Warner's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory held the top spot for the second week running, adding $28.3 million to a $114.1 million 10-day cume. New Line's raunchy Wedding Crashers was solid in second, now with $80.9 million to its credit. And Fox's Fantastic Four didn't budge from third place, where it's racked up $122.5 million. Paramount's War of the Worlds is over the double-century in just one month with $208.3 million, while Warner's Batman Begins isn't far behind with $191.1 million. Counterprogramming the summer cacophony is Warner's documentary March of the Penguins, which broke into the top ten after five weeks and $9.2 million. And off to the mother of all DVD preps is Revenge of the Sith, which will close out above $375 million.

New on screens this Friday is the romantic comedy Must Love Dogs starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, the action flick Stealth with Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, and Jamie Foxx, and the superhero saga Sky High. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Bros.)
    $28,300,000 ($114,106,000 through 2 weeks)
  2. Wedding Crashers (New Line)
    $26,200,000 ($80,901,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Fantastic Four (Fox)
    $12,275,000 ($122,560,000 through 3 weeks)
  4. The Island (DreamWorks SKG)
    $12,100,000 ($12,100,000 through 1 week)
  5. Bad News Bears (Paramount)
    $11,500,000 ($11,500,000 through 1 week)
  6. War of the Worlds (Paramount)
    $8,825,000 ($208,321,000 through 4 weeks)
  7. Hustle & Flow (Paramount)
    $8,100,000 ($8,100,000 through 1 week)
  8. The Devil's Rejects (Lions Gate)
    $7,000,000 ($7,000,000 through 1 week)
  9. Batman Begins (Warner Bros.)
    $4,730,000 ($191,108,000 through 6 weeks)
  10. March of the Penguins (Warner Bros.)
    $4,300,000 ($9,224,000 through 5 weeks)
  11. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Fox)
    $3,625,000 ($174,568,000 through 7 weeks)
  12. Herbie: Fully Loaded (Disney)
    $1,906,000 ($60,214,000 through 5 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the review team include Story of a Prostitute: The Criterion Collection, Gate of Flesh: The Criterion Collection, King's Ransom: Platinum Series, Remington Steele: Season One, The Upside of Anger, and Sealab 2021: Season Three. 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:

  • Coming up from Fox on Sept. 27 is this year's animated Robots, which gets separate anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame editions — features include DTS and Dolby Digital audio, commentary from director Chris Wedge and producer William Joyce, a second technical commentary track, the animated short "Aunt Fanny's Tour of Booty," deleted scenes, featurettes, and lots more. Coming out of the catalog will be a two-disc "Al Pacino Collection" on Oct. 18 featuring 1971's The Panic in Needle Park and 1982's Author! Author!. Also getting its first digital spin is the final MIA title from Alfred Hitchcock's sound era, 1944's Lifeboat starring Tallulah Bankhead, while 1992's Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and a double-wide unrated version of this year's Elektra street on the 18th as well. Meanwhile, arriving from the small screen are Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection (Aug. 23), Bob Newhart: Season Two (Oct. 4), Arrested Development: Season Two (Oct. 110, In Living Color: Season Four, and Point Pleasant: The Complete Series (both Oct. 25).

  • Arriving from Universal is a triple-dip of Brian De Palma's 1993 Carlito's Way starring Al Pacino and Sean Penn, in what's promised as an "Ultimate Edition" — watch for an interview with the director, deleted scenes, and new featurettes (Sept. 20). Also on the way is Law & Order: SVU: The Second Year (Sept. 27).

  • The folks at MGM (which would be Sony/Columbia TriStar after the acquisition) have catalog horror due on Sept. 20, including After Midnight, Dolls , From a Whisper to a Scream, The Howling 2: Your Sister Is a Werewolf, The House Where Evil Dwells, Lady in White, Night Visitor, and Swamp Thing. Arriving in double-feature sets are several previously released titles under the "Midnite Movies" folio, along with a few new ones — Die, Monster, Die!/The Dunwich Horror, Panic in Year Zero/The Last Man on Earth, Tales of Terror/Twice Told Tales, Voodoo Island/The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, and War Gods of the Deep/At The Earth's Core. Also on the sched for Sept. 20 is a four-disc Species Collection with the three theatrical titles and a bonus disc.

  • Finally, getting rushed to DVD by Buena Vista in time for the fall retail season is this summer's The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3-D, which streets on Sept. 20. Arriving on Oct. 25 will be Alias: Season Four.

On the Street: Hey, the weather's really nice outside! You don't want to be watching DVDs! New on the street this week is Warner's Constantine starring Keanu Reeves and Disney's Ice Princess, which is certain to sell more discs than it did movie tickets. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • America's Atomic Bomb Tests: The Collection
  • The Battle of the Atlantic
  • Charlie (2004)
  • Cleopatra 2025: The Complete Series
  • Constantine: Deluxe Edition (2-disc set)
  • Constantine
  • The Crow: Wicked Prayer
  • Dead Like Me: Season Two (4-disc set)
  • Dora the Explorer: Super Babies
  • Earth 2: The Complete Series
  • The Farewell (Abschied: Brechts letzter Sommer)
  • Ice Princess (widescreen)
  • Ice Princess (full-frame)
  • Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County: Season One
  • Lost in Space: Season Three Vol. 2
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: Vol. 1
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: Vol. 2
  • Red Serpent
  • Sliders: Season Three (4-disc set)
  • Urban Legends: Bloody Mary
  • The War of the Century

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: In 1990, a pretty-boy young actor named Johnny Depp was the reluctant heart-throb star of the Fox Television network's only hit show, "21 Jump Street," playing a baby-faced undercover cop who looked young enough to pass for a high school kid. Depp had been with the show for three seasons and, at 27, was itching for something more substantial than a short-lived teen idol career. The script for Cry-Baby, John Waters' musical homage to 1950s "juvenile delinquent" B-movies, appealed to Depp on several levels — working with notorious trash-cinema maestro Waters would throw a nice splash of acid on his sexy-cute public image, while the character of singin' and swingin' juvie bad boy Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker lampooned that image mercilessly. Meanwhile, Depp's high profile added an additional gloss to Waters' film, which was to be his first true studio picture — having broken through with his sort-of-mainstream hit Hairspray two years earlier, Waters suddenly found himself being courted by Hollywood for his next big project ("Sherry Lansing kept sending me leather jackets!" Waters recalls with a laugh in one of this DVD's features). The pairing was a nice bit of symbiosis for actor and director — with Depp on board, Waters got the sort of buzz he need to make his rockabilly musical the way he wanted, while Depp credits Waters' casting of him in Cry-Baby with his getting the lead in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990), the film that truly launched his career as a movie star.

In Waters' self-described "trash epic," Depp's "Cry-Baby" Walker is a leather-jacket hoodlum with a heart of gold, one of the high school "drapes" who are constantly at odds with the school's "squares." The year is 1954, the place (naturally) is Baltimore, and the story is straight out of the '50s angry-teen movies, with a big splash of Technicolor Elvis added to spice things up. The requisite good girl is Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane), a rich square who, a lá Sandra Dee in The Restless Years, has a hot current of repressed sexuality running under her pressed crinoline skirts. She finds herself uncontrollably drawn to the lusty rocker Cry-Baby and his rollicking, fun-loving family of hillbilly social rejects (played with typical Waters-style exaggeration by Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, Iggy Pop, and Susan Tyrell) But her ill-advised affair with Cry-Baby enrages her square boyfriend and his wholesome pals, leading to a stand-off between the town's upright parents, their pastel-clad preppie kids, and the drapes with their fast cars, loose girls, and crazy rock-and-roll music.

John Waters' love for 1950s juvenile delinquent films is deep — in Cry-Baby he nails all the clichés while adding his own touch of the grotesque, most notably through his typically bizarre casting decisions. Traci Lords has her first major non-porn role here (in the DVD's features she says she was so nervous she "tossed her Cheerios" her first day on the set), a craggy, hilarious Iggy Pop plays Cry-Baby's Uncle Belvedere, and Traci Lord's rich parents are played by Patty Hearst and David Nelson (from "Ozzie and Harriet"). As Cry-Baby's sister, Ricki Lake is both leather-clad and hugely pregnant, and the gang includes a phenomenally ugly girl named "Hatchet-Face" (Kim McGuire, cast by Waters after seeing a head shot). But as wacky and over-the-top as it is, Waters makes full use of his comparatively enormous budget — after delivering Hairspray for $2.5 million, he got $12 million for Cry-Baby — by shooting deliciously campy yet professionally acquitted rockabilly dance numbers to songs (several written by The Blasters' Dave Alvin) with titles like "High School Hell Cats" and "Please Mr. Jailer." Depp, who started out as a musician, does a fine job of lip-synching ( his vocals were recorded by James Intveld, Locane's by Rachel Sweet) and even carries off the dance sequences nicely, particularly since he's gone on record as admitting that he can't dance at all. Cry-Baby may be Waters' sweetest movie and, after Hairspray, his most accessible by mainstream standards. And, like Hairspray before it, there's talk of turning Cry-Baby into a Broadway musical, bringing hellcats, drapes, and juvenile delinquents to the legitimate stage.

Universal/Focus Features' DVD release of Cry-Baby: Director's Cut includes seven minutes of restored footage — as Waters explains on the commentary track and in the bonus featurette, he also got to remove the "bleeps" that had been required over two instances of profanity in order to satisfy MPAA requirements and get a PG-13 rating. The newly remastered, anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is excellent, very clean with brilliant, richly saturated color, and the DD 5.1 audio does a nice job with both dialogue and musical numbers. Extras include a typically amusing and insightful commentary by Waters, who enjoys his own films so much that listening to his reminisces, observations, and wandering trains of thought is an entertainment above and beyond the main feature. There's also a fun new "making-of" featurette, "It Came From Baltimore," with background on Waters' fascination with the world of the "drapes," clips from classic JV films like The Restless Years and Live Fast, Die Young, and lot of new interviews with the cast — it's an extensive feature, and hearing the details of how they shot different scenes (particularly the French-kissing party sequence) from the actors involved is hilarious. There are also seven minutes of deleted scenes, which dovetail nicely with one segment on the "Baltimore" featurette where the filmmakers discuss what was trimmed from the film, and why — the "chicken dance" fight/dance number between the drapes and the squares is especially fun. Cry-Baby: Director's Cut is on the street now.

Box Office: The box-office charts showed another strong weekend for the summer season of 2005, with Warner's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory topping the list with a $55.3 million break. Arriving in second was the weekend's other major debut, New Line's Wedding Crashers with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, which took in $32.2 million. Both titles pushed last week's winner, Fox's Fantastic Four, into third place, where it snapped up $22.7 million and pushed its 10-day cume to $100.1 million. Critics gave both new movies generally positive reviews.

In continuing release, Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds held down fourth place after three sessions with $192.1 million in the bag, while Warner's Batman Begins rounds off the top five with $182.7 million after five weekends. Fox's Mr. & Mrs. Smith is another summer title pushing the double-century mark with $168 million overall, while Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded is about to run out of gas after one month and $55.7 million in the bank. Don't count on Sony's Bewitched to add much more to its $56.8 million tally. Meanwhile, out the door in a hurry is Fox's Rebound starring Martin Lawrence, which failed to clear $12 million before dropping from sight.

New on screens this Friday are The Island starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, Bad News Bears with Billy Bob Thornton, the Rob Zombie horror flick The Devil's Rejects, and the rap movie Hustle & Flow. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Bros.)
    $55,380,000 ($55,380,000 through 1 week)
  2. Wedding Crashers (New Line)
    $32,225,000 ($32,225,000 through 1 week)
  3. Fantastic Four (Fox)
    $22,725,000 ($100,137,000 through 2 weeks)
  4. War of the Worlds (Paramount)
    $15,000,000 ($192,191,000 through 3 weeks)
  5. Batman Begins (Warner Bros.)
    $5,620,000 ($182,726,000 through 5 weeks)
  6. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Fox)
    $5,050,000 ($168,092,000 through 6 weeks)
  7. Dark Water (Touchstone)
    $4,409,000 ($18,685,000 through 2 weeks)
  8. Herbie: Fully Loaded (Disney)
    $3,355,000 ($55,702,000 through 4 weeks)
  9. Bewitched (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $2,400,000 ($56,870,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. Madagascar (DreamWorks SKG)
    $2,100,000 ($183,875,000 through 8 weeks)
  11. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Fox)
    $1,625,000 ($373,848,000 through 9 weeks)
  12. March of the Penguins (Warner)
    $1,344,000 ($3,840,000 through 4 weeks)

On the Board: New reviews this week from the team include Constantine: Deluxe Edition, Ice Princess, Unfaithfully Yours: The Criterion Collection, Land of Silence and Darkness, Cry-Baby: Director's Cut, and Mondovino. 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:

  • Our friends at The Criterion Collection have announced five new titles for September. Arriving on the 13th will be Nicolas Roeg's 1976 The Man Who Fell to Earth starring David Bowie, which upgrades the previously issued Image release across two discs with a director-approved transfer, commentary from Roeg, Bowie, and co-star Buck Henry, video interviews with co-stars Candy Clark and Rip Torn, a new interview with scenarist Paul Mayersberg, additional audio interviews with costume designer May Routh and production designer Brian Eatwell, stills and poster galleries, trailers and TV spots, and a reprint of the original Walter Tevis novel. Also streeting on the 13th is Roeg's 1980 Bad Timing, with a new interview featuring the director and producer Jeremy Thomas, an interview with star Theresa Russell, deleted scenes, stills and posters, and a trailer. Following on Sept. 20 are three more titles, including Jane Campion's 1990 An Angel at My Table with a new transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, commentary with Campion, d.p. Stuart Dryburgh, and star Kerry Fox, a "making-of" featurette, six deleted scenes, an archive interview with the film's subject Janet Frame, posters, and a trailer. Jean-Luc Godard's 1966 Masculin Féminin will include new interviews with actress Chantal Goya, cinematographer Willy Kurant, and Godard collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin and a re-release trailer. And Mike Leigh's 1993 Naked gets a two-disc edition with a commentary featuring Leigh and actors David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge, an introduction from Neil LaBute, a episode from the BBC programme "The Conversation," and a trailer.

  • On the slate from Universal is a new Collector's Edition of the Coen Brothers' 1998 The Big Lebowski in separate anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame transfers, while a Gift Set will feature cards, coasters, and a bar towel (Oct. 18). Getting a re-issue is Kevin Smith's 1995 Mallrats in a 10th Anniversary Edition with a new director's cut, a behind-the-scenes documentary, a Kevin Smith Q&A session, outtakes, and plenty more (Sept. 20). Also watch for this year's The Interpreter starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, which will offer a track from director Sydney Pollack, deleted scenes, and several featurettes (Oct. 4), Unleashed starring Jet Li, which streets in theatrical and unrated editions (Oct. 11), and Inside Deep Throat in NC-17 and R-rated editions (Sept. 20). Three single-disc re-issues are arriving on Aug. 23, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, 1991's Cape Fear, and Monty Python's the Meaning of Life. Fans of Bela Lugosi can look forward to a Bela Lugosi Collection on Sept. 6 featuring Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, The Raven, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday, although there's no word if these will be available separately. And while The Master himself would admit that not every one was a masterpiece, Universal will nonetheless street Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection on Oct. 4 in a 15-disc set.

  • The gang at Warner Home Video is rolling out another round of the 1939 Technicolor classic The Wizard of Oz, and this time it looks like a fairly definitive edition in two- and three-disc sets. Restored with Warner's "Ultra Resolution" process, Disc One will offer a brand-new transfer and DD 5.1 audio, a commentary from film historian John Fricke with selected archival audio comments from cast and crew members, a restoration featurette, a storybook read by Angela Lansbury, and a trailer gallery. Disc Two will fill out the supplements with the documentaries "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic," "Memories of Oz," "The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz," and "Because of the Wonderful Things it Does: The Legacy of Oz," on-set home movies, outtakes and deleted scenes, special-effects tests, vintage featurettes, stills, and audio archives. And for those willing to shell out for the three-disc "Collector's Edition," Disc Three will offer a variety of materials on author L. Frank Baum, including the documentary "L. Frank Baum: The Man Behind the Curtain," as well as five pre-1939 renditions of the storybook classic. It's here on Oct. 25.

  • Also due from Warner later this year is the 1951 version of Scrooge starring Alistair Sim (Sept. 27) and recent titles The Girl in the Cafe, Holy Pilgrims (both Sept. 6), and Out of Season (Oct. 4). Catalog horror on Oct. 4 includes Demon Seed, Dracula A.D. 1972, Night of the Lepus, Private Parts, and A Stranger Is Watching, while TV titles include Fresh Prince of Bel Air: Season Two and Only Fools and Horses: Series Six (Oct. 11). Meanwhile, 1976's A Star is Born has been kicked back to Dec. 6.

  • Paramount has this year's remake of The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler and Burt Reynolds on the street Sept. 20 in separate anamorphic (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan versions, while Martin Scorsese's Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home streets on the 20th in a two-disc set. Catalog titles on the way include Preston Sturges's The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Casanova's Big Night with Bob Hope, and the musical Red Garters (all Sept. 6), the westerns Branded and Chuka (both Sept. 13), Anything Goes, and We're No Angels (both Sept. 27). And the TV boxes arrive in a flurry for fall with Charmed: Season Two, Macgyver: Season Three (both Sept. 6), The Brady Bunch: Season Three, Cheers: Season Six, Frasier: Season Six (all Sept. 13), The Ren & Stimpy Show: Season Five & Some More of Four (Sept. 20), The Amazing Race: Season One, Hogan's Heroes: Season Two, SpongeBob SquarePants: Season Three, and Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Three (all Sept. 27).

  • We had a bit of an Amazon alert when we noticed something called Ace in the Hole turn up in the database — unfortunately, it isn't the 1951 Billy Wilder classic that's never been released on home video, but instead a documentary on Saddam Hussein (clever title, folks) that streets on Sept. 6 from Sony/Columbia TriStar, along with the TV miniseries Battlefield Diaries and the 1992 Italian epic Nero. Jim Caviezel can be seen in the racing film Madison on Sept. 13, while catalog westerns on the 6th include Gunslinger's Revenge, The Last Frontier, The Longest Drive, Man in the Saddle, The Marksman, Santa Fe, The Stranger Wore a Gun, and Ten Wanted Men. In the meantime, the four-disc Matt Helm Lounge has been delayed until Aug. 30.

  • Before we go, we have just four more street-dates — Monster in Law (Aug. 30), Crash (Sept. 6), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Sept. 13), and Kingdom of Heaven (Oct. 11).

On the Street: The titles are starting to pile up on the Release Calendar after August, which means we're still picking and choosing what we like best during the dog days of summer. New from Criterion are Preston Sturges's Unfaithfully Yours and Luchino Visconti's Le Notti Bianche, while Universal is on the board with a director's cut of John Waters' Cry-Baby. Up from Warner is Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement, along with Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and catalog titles featuring Gene Hackman, including Night Moves and Scarecrow. And if it all sounds a little high-minded for July, folks can always pick up Fox's new "unrated" version of Dodgeball and watch it again. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 20 Years Ago Today: The Story of Live Aid
  • The Adventurers
  • Another Time, Another Place
  • The Best of the Original Mickey Mouse Club
  • A Breath of Scandal
  • Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection (3-disc set)
  • Body
  • Bodysong
  • Cinco Amigas
  • Class Reunion
  • Confessions of an American Bride
  • Crown of the Russian Empire
  • Cry-Baby: Director's Cut
  • Dawn Anna
  • Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (unrated)
  • Dracula III: Legacy
  • Elephant Walk
  • The Elusive Avengers
  • The First Howie Mandel Special
  • The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
  • Guns, Germs and Steel: National Geographic
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: Season Six (5-disc set)
  • Hunter: Season Two
  • Illegally Yours
  • It Started in Naples
  • J.S.A.
  • Love at First Bite
  • The Magic Sword
  • Max Dugan Returns
  • MC5: Kick Out the Jams
  • Mickey Mouse Club: Britney, Justin & Christina
  • Million Dollar Baby: Deluxe Edition (2-disc set + CD)
  • Million Dollar Baby (2-disc set) (widescreen)
  • Million Dollar Baby (2-disc set) (pan-and-scan)
  • Mimino
  • Mind the Gap
  • Moving Violations
  • The Nanny: Season One
  • National Lampoon's Movie Madness
  • New Adventures of the Elusive Avengers
  • Night Moves
  • Le Notti Bianche: The Criterion Collection
  • The Party Animal
  • The Rainmaker (1956)
  • Sealab 2021: Season Three (2-disc set)
  • Scarecrow
  • Shark Week: Anatomy of a Shark Bite
  • Sinbad of the Seven Seas
  • The Stone Raft
  • Tales From the Crypt: Season One (2-disc set)
  • Teen Witch
  • Titus: Seasons 1-2 (6-disc set)
  • Twice in a Lifetime
  • Unfaithfully Yours: The Criterion Collection
  • A Very Long Engagement (2-disc set)
  • The Violent Femmes: Permanent Record: Live and Otherwise
  • Vintage Mickey
  • Weekend at Bernie's
  • Yes: Greatest Video Hits
  • Zurdo

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Luchino Visconti's career began in the 1940s, and his down to earth work grouped him as one of the main members (alongside Victoria Di Sica and Roberto Rossellini) of the Neo-Realist movement. These filmmakers created portraits of everyday life, of people from the proletariat class who struggled daily just to get by. In fact, Visconti directed the most Realist of them all, La Terra Trema (1948), which was shot on location and used non-actors to restage their lives. Like many artistic movements, the Neo-Realist sensibility could not be sustained, or perhaps the limitations of the style had to be toyed with. In any event, its three foremost directors eventually moved on to different types of films. For Visconti, this separation was first sensed in 1951's Bellissima — a comic portrait of a stage mother — but it's 1957's Le Notti Bianche ("White Nights") that's usually cited as the true break; for one thing, it was the first time he shot a film set entirely on studio sets. Nonetheless, labels can limit the artist and the art: Even with his first title, Ossessione (1943), Visconti was unofficially adapting James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. Such realist roots are evident throughout his career. Neo-Realism wasn't a dogmatic attempt to install a cinema movement, but a style born of the time and influences. What is more important is the sensibility of the filmmaker, and Visconti always focused on people, how they live, and how they die. With Le Notti Bianche, he also explored how they love.

A young man (Marcello Mastroianni) returns from a day in the country with some co-workers and finds himself wondering what to do with his evening. Taking a walk, he runs into a girl (Maria Schell) who's crying. Not knowing what to do, he feels called into action when two men on a motorcycle try to harass her. Knowing this is his moment, he defends her, and then he introduces himself. He's Mario, and he's recently moved to town and doesn't know that many people. She's Natalia, and she was returning to her stoop to wait for someone. Mario walks her home, and she says she'll see him the next night. Such begins a strange courtship. The next night Natalia tells him about the man she's waiting for: A year previously, a tenant (Jean Marias) moved in with her and her grandmother, and before long the two young people fell in love. However, he had to leave for a year for undisclosed reasons. The year is now passed, and Natalia is waiting breathlessly. Mario is unconvinced, and he asks her to write the man a letter, which he says he'll deliver (though Mario selfishly tears it up and throws it away). The next night their meeting is strained; Mario feels guilty, while Natalia has warmed to him. On their fourth and final night, they spend the evening dancing and falling in love — but the possibility of the tenant's return is never far from their minds.

Adapted from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's short story of the same name, Visconti's Le Notti Bianche is a peculiar sort of love story, a cinematic meditation on the nature of failed love and voyeurism. From the start, Mario is simply an interloper, hoping to make his way into the heart of Natalia, and he does everything he can to break the spell of her true love, from telling her the tenant won't come back to telling her that he loves her. For him, their best night out is also their last, in which he takes her out dancing and tries to make her forget the time of her planned rendezvous. For most of the picture, Visconti keeps his distance: like Mario, the film is peering into something it doesn't belong in. There is a sequence during the dance number where Visconti shoots the couple dancing through a door frame as a woman waits outside, only to have someone yell what time it is to her, which breaks Mario's spell over Natalia — his plan to keep her away is revealed. The sequence is masterful: The two begin dancing to Bill Haley's "Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)"; the story then follows Mario as he tries to keep his eye on Natalia after they are split up by other dancers. He then finds he must assert himself (albeit in a self-effacing way) by doing a spotlight dance, in which he twitters and comically jumps around. The more Mario tries to romance Natalia away from the tenant, the more romantic and fevered his dreams become. In this way, Visconti seems to be echoing a romantic fatalism best typified by 1943's Port of Shadows, although this portrait of a doomed romance feels as modern and emotionally honest as it must have when Dostoyevsky wrote it, and later when Visconti adapted it.

The Criterion Collection presents Le Notti Bianche in a solid widescreen transfer (1.66:1) from luminously restored elements, along with the original Italian audio and optional English subtitles. Shot in the studio, the cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno (who also shot Visconti's The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers) is a master class on black-and-white photography, and thankfully the film has never looked better. Included on the DVD is an unabridged reading of Dostoyevsky's short story "White Nights" (114 min.) by actor T. Ryder Smith (mostly a New York stage actor, his best known film role is as "The Trixter" in 1994's Brainscan), which also is available as an MP3 file. The featurette "Visconti's Collaborators" (17 min.) offers interviews with Rotunno, screenwriter Suso Cecchi d'Amico, costume designer Pierro Tosi, and film critics Laura Delli Colli and Lino Micciche. Also included are screen tests for Marcello Mastroianni (2 min.), Maria Schell (2 min.), and the two together (1 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Le Notti Bianche: The Criterion Collection is on the street tomorrow.

Box Office: Stuck in pre-production for no less than eleven years, Fox's The Fantastic Four lit up the weekend box-office, if not the critics, landing in first place with a solid $56 million debut. The win displaced Paramount's War of the Worlds after its stellar Fourth of July opening — the Steven Spielberg film slipped to second place, adding $31.3 million to a blistering $165.8 million 10-day cume. Also new this week was Touchstone's thriller Dark Water starring Jennifer Connelly, which took in $10.1 million for fourth place. Critics were mixed on Water, while Four earned mostly negative reviews.

In continuing release, Warner's Batman Begins continues to win fans, holding down third place after its first month with $172.1 million in the bag. Fox's Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring 'Brangelina' also has proven itself one of the summer's best titles, taking in $158.6 million in five frames. And moving up on the $50 million mark after three weekends are Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded and Sony's Bewitched. Paramount's The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler is now past $150 million. But Fox's Rebound with Martin Lawrence has been hobbled with only $2.8 million in its second frame. And off to the cheap screens is Dimension's The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, which exits with more than $35 million.

New on screens this Friday is Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp, as well as Wedding Crashers with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Fantastic Four (Fox)
    $56,000,000 ($56,000,000 through 1 week)
  2. War of the Worlds (Paramount)
    $31,300,000 ($165,809,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Batman Begins (Warner Bros.)
    $10,216,000 ($172,105,000 through 4 weeks)
  4. Dark Water (Touchstone)
    $10,127,000 ($10,127,000 through 1 week)
  5. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Fox)
    $7,850,000 ($158,647,000 through 5 weeks)
  6. Herbie: Fully Loaded (Disney)
    $6,274,000 ($48,506,000 through 3 weeks)
  7. Bewitched (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $5,500,000 ($50,851,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. Madagascar (DreamWorks SKG)
    $4,300,000 ($179,550,000 through 7 weeks)
  9. Rebound (Fox)
    $2,875,000 ($11,360,000 through 2 weeks)
  10. Star Wars: Episode II: Revenge of the Sith (Fox)
    $2,600,000 ($370,819,000 through 8 weeks)
  11. The Longest Yard (Paramount)
    $2,250,000 ($152,507,000 through 7 weeks)
  12. Cinderella Man (Universal)
    $1,850,000 ($57,114,000 through 6 weeks)

On the Board: J. Jordan Burke has posted a sneak-preview of Warner's Million Dollar Baby, while Dawn Taylor recently looked at A Very Long Engagement from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. More spins this week include Hide and Seek, Dodgeball: Unrated, Le Notti Bianche: The Criterion Collection, and Rory O'Shea Was Here. Everything's been added to the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

Back tomorrow with the street discs.

— Ed.

Box Office: Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg came out winners with Paramount's War of the Worlds at the North American box-office over the holiday weekend, while Martin Lawrence's comedy Rebound was a disappointment for Fox. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. War of the Worlds (Paramount)
    $77,600,000 ($113,282,000 through 1 week)
  2. Batman Begins (Warner Bros.)
    $18,685,000 ($154,146,000 through 3 weeks)
  3. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Fox)
    $12,700,000 ($146,058,000 through 4 weeks)
  4. Bewitched (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
    $10,800,000 ($40,306,000 through 2 weeks)
  5. Herbie: Fully Loaded (Disney)
    $10,508,000 ($36,840,000 through 2 weeks)
  6. Madagascar (DreamWorks SKG)
    $7,000,000 ($172,400,000 through 6 weeks)
  7. Rebound (Fox)
    $6,000,000 ($6,000,000 through 1 week)
  8. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Fox)
    $5,000,000 ($366,471,000 through 7 weeks)
  9. The Longest Yard (Paramount)
    $3,525,000 ($148,213,000 through 6 weeks)
  10. George A. Romero's Land of the Dead (Universal)
    $3,244,000 ($16,739,000 through 2 weeks)
  11. Cinderella Man (Universal)
    $3,011,000 ($54,329,000 through 5 weeks)
  12. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (Dimension)
    $2,051,000 ($34,853,000 through 4 weeks)

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

  • Born to Kill
  • Bride & Prejudice
  • Clash By Night
  • The Cool Surface
  • Crossfire
  • Dear Frankie
  • Dillinger
  • Fantastic Four: The Complete Animated Series (4-disc set)
  • The Film Noir Classic Collection: Vol. Two (6-disc set)
  • Forever, Lulu
  • Georgy Girl
  • Hexe
  • Hide and Seek (widescreen)
  • Hide and Seek (pan-and-scan)
  • In My Country
  • Monk: Season Three
  • Nadine
  • The Narrow Margin
  • Point Blank
  • Prozac Nation
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles: The Complete Campaigns (4-disc set)
  • Strange Bedfellows
  • Tour of Duty: Season Three
  • Twenty Bucks
  • Undeclared: The Complete Series

— Ed.

Return to top of page