News and Commentary: September 2005

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On the Street: It's about as fun as visiting the dentist, but fortunately it only happens once every few years — we're moving the site to a new server this week. In the meantime, check out the new Criterion release of The Man Who Fell to Earth, Fox's animated Robots, Paramount's catalog treat We're No Angels, Sony's Lords of Dogtown, and more. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 5 Card Stud
  • 7 Times Lucky
  • Alanis Morissette: Live in the Navajo Nation: Music in High Places
  • Amando De Ossorio: Director
  • The Amazing Race: Season One (4-disc set)
  • The Amityville Horror (widescreen)
  • The Amityville Horror (pan-and-scan)
  • Anything Goes
  • Bad Timing: The Criterion Collection
  • Basket Case
  • Beverly Hillbillies 1: Ultimate Collection
  • The Blind Dead Collection (5-disc set)
  • Bollywood Dreams
  • Boohbah: Big Windows/Snowman
  • Branded
  • Buddy Boy: Special Edition
  • Carlito's Way: Rise to Power (widescreen)
  • Carlito's Way: Rise to Power (full-frame)
  • Cher: The Farewell Tour
  • Cheyenne: TV Favorites
  • Chico and the Man: TV Favorites
  • Chuka
  • Classic Holiday Stories
  • The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus (16-disc set)
  • Creature Comforts: Season One
  • Dark Shadows DVD Collection 20
  • Descent
  • Destination Mars!
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: TV Favorites
  • Eat the Rich
  • Elvis Costello: The Right Spectacle
  • The Evil Dead 2: Book of the Dead Special Edition
  • Extra Weird Sampler
  • F-Troop: TV Favorites
  • Face
  • The Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
  • Fighter Pilots: Operation Red Flag (2-disc set)
  • The Ghost Galleon (El buque maldito)
  • Gilmore Girls: Season Four (6-disc set)
  • Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
  • Holiday Celebration With Mickey & Pals
  • Ice from the Sun
  • Ice Queen
  • India.Arie: Live in Brazil: Music in High Places
  • The King of Iron Town
  • A Knight's Tale: Extended Cut
  • Last Goodbye
  • Latinologues 2
  • Law & Order: SVU: The Second Year (3-disc set)
  • The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp: From Ellsworth to Tombstone
  • The Lords of Dogtown
  • Lucky Stiff
  • Make It Funky
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth: The Criterion Collection (2-disc set)
  • Mary Pickford: PBS
  • Maverick: TV Favorites
  • Modigliani
  • Night of the Seagulls (La noche de las gaviotas)
  • El Nominado (Nominated)
  • Oliver! (2-disc set)
  • Patsy Cline: Sweet Dreams Still: The Anthology
  • Return of the Evil Dead (El ataque de los muertos sin ojos)
  • Robots (widescreen)
  • Robots
  • Ron White: They Call Me Tater Salad
  • Rugrats: Tales from the Crib: Snow White
  • Scrooge
  • Silver Hawk (Fei ying)
  • Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun
  • Speak
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Season Three (3-disc set)
  • Stanley's Gig
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: Season Three (7-disc set)
  • Stephen King Presents Kingdom Hospital
  • Taste of Chaos
  • This Divided State
  • Thriller: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Tom & Jerry: The Magic Ring
  • Tombs of the Blind Dead (La noche del terror ciego)
  • A Touch of Frost: Seasons 7-8 (2-disc set)
  • Walk
  • We're No Angels (1955)
  • The X-Files Mythology: Colonization (4-disc set)

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Most rock stars can count their voice or stage presence as one of their most valuable assets — David Bowie's career is best captured in his eyes. Struck in a schoolyard fight as a young boy, David Robert Jones was nearly blinded. After a year of recuperation the iris of his left eye was darkened greenish-brown, while the pupil was permanently dilated; neither matched his perfectly blue right eye. Nonetheless, Bowie's eyes have always been the one immutable feature of his shape-shifting persona, featured prominently on album covers and even put to occasional thematic use (such as with his 1972 album Aladdin Sane). Perhaps then it was inevitable that David Bowie would draw the attention of Nicolas Roeg. The most avant garde director of 1970s cinema, critics have considered Roeg's films alternately confounding and groundbreaking, in part because of his disinterest in narrative conventions. But Roeg also has been attracted to performers as much as actors, making his directorial debut with Performance (1970) starring Mick Jagger. Unconcerned with genre or locale, Roeg's subsequent pictures were shot in Australia (Walkabout, 1971) and Venice (Don't Look Now, 1973). Taking up Walter Tevis's novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, Roeg's production crew arrived in the arid New Mexico desert to tell the somber story of an extraterrestrial who appears on Earth to save his dying planet. David Bowie had barely done any acting before taking the role, but Roeg wasn't alone in believing he had found the perfect alien — Bowie accepted the part without even reading the script.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) opens as its title suggests, with an interplanetary vehicle piercing the earth's atmosphere, a splashdown in a New Mexico lake, and one lone visitor walking up an isolated road to the nearest small town. He is Thomas Jerome Newton (Bowie), a pale, thin man with orange hair and an English accent, bearing a British passport. After putting together enough cash to travel to New York (by hocking several gold wedding bands), Newton hires industrial attorney Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry). The somewhat-serious Farnsworth at first finds his frail guest eccentric at best, but before long he discovers that Newton has the scientific schemas for nine basic patents, potentially worth as much as $300 million. The secretive Newton then authorizes Farnsworth as his sole representative to create World Enterprises, a global corporation with holdings in everything from camera film to auto fuel. However, Newton's central project is known only to his secluded New Mexico employees — a spacecraft that can begin secretly ferrying his own people to Earth. One of these employees, Dr. Bryce (Rip Torn), can't help but be suspicious — a former academic, he was drawn to World Enterprises simply because he found the company's radical innovations hard to believe. Having met Newton, he's even more convinced the man is unreal, or at least not human. And he's determined to prove it.

Novelist Walter Tevis loved gifted losers — his first novel, The Hustler, was adapted for the hit 1960 film starring Paul Newman, and while his follow-up The Man Who Fell to Earth seemed light-years away from the pool halls of Tevis's youth, their thematic parallels are notable. Like 'Fast' Eddie Felson, Thomas Jerome Newton is a man who must conceal the depth of his knowledge in order to achieve his goals. Both men also find solace in drink, and they have torrid relationships with women they keep at arm's length (in this case Candy Clark as Newton's wife on Earth, Mary-Lou). An English professor, Tevis filled his novel with literary references ranging from the myth of Icarus to the Rumplestiltskin fable. Screenwriter Paul Mayersberg further infused the script with more contemporary references, including The Great Gatsby, the life of Howard Hughes, and even Pete Townshend's Tommy. Throughout, Bowie appears feasibly extraterrestrial — his lank frame and androgynous features are supplemented by being "a bit out of it" (by his own admission) during the production because of his own fractured personal life (reportedly complicated by alcohol and cocaine, reflected in his songs at the time). Supporting players Henry, Torn, and Clark work well together, particularly as they age over several years into mere echoes of their former selves. If The Man Who Fell to Earth contains any flaws, there are perhaps two — moments of sex and nudity that may have marked "serious" films of the New Hollywood but seem disruptive by contemporary standards, and several small mini-montages in the story that look somewhat dated and too formalistic. Nonetheless, Roeg's previous career as a cinematographer is apparent, and if his artistic conceits can be regarded as a director emphasizing image and tone over lock-step narrative progression, they are supported by beautiful shots of New Mexico's varied landscape under broad blue skies. Bowie's fans would soon become familiar with the picture, even if they had not seen it — withdrawing into his own relative seclusion in Berlin after filming completed, his next two albums (Station to Station and Low) featured publicity stills from the movie on their covers.

Criterion's two-disc DVD release of The Man Who Fell to Earth offers a pristine anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) from a source-print that's virtually flawless, offering a rich, colorful image. The original Dolby 2.0 Stereo soundtrack is the only audio option, which is free of defects. Among the supplements, Disc One offers commentary with director Nicolas Roeg and stars David Bowie and Buck Henry, ported from the 1992 Laserdisc release. Roeg and Bowie are reflective and amusing, while Henry (recorded separately) offers several witty anecdotes and observations. Disc Two follows on with a new interview featuring screenwriter Paul Mayersberg (26 min.), a fascinating 1984 radio interview with novelist Walter Tevis (24 min.), new interviews with co-stars Rip Torn and Candy Clark (24 min.), additional interviews with production designer Brian Eatwell (24 min.) and costume designer May Routh (19 min.), four stills galleries, and a collection of trailers and promo spots. The booklet in the dual-DVD keep-case includes an essay by Graham Fuller, while the exterior slipcase packs in both the film and Walter Tevis's complete novel — perhaps the best bonus of all. The Man Who Fell to Earth: The Criterion Collection is on the street tomorrow.

One SheetBox Office: Jodie Foster returned to panic-mom mode and launched Disney/Touchstone's Flight Plan to the top of the weekend box-office chart — the thriller (with Hitchcockian echoes of The Lady Vanishes) took in $24.6 million, beating out the weekend's other contender, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Warner's stop-motion animation release expanded from just five screens last weekend to earn $20.6 million for second place. Also new was Fox Searchlight's Roll Bounce, which had a decent break with $8 million. Critics loved Bride and were mixed on Bounce, while Flightplan earned mixed-to-negative reviews

In continuing release, DreamWorks' rom-com Just Like Heaven starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo slipped to third place, adding $9.8 million to a 10-day cume of nearly $30 million, while Sony's The Exorcism of Emily Rose rounds out the top five, tripling its production budget with $62.3 million after three sessions. Starting to stumble is Lions Gates' Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Andrew Niccol, which dropped to sixth in its second frame with $4.9 million over the weekend. But still doing boffo is Universal's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which is bearing down on triple digits after six weeks. Taking a tumble is Rogue's thriller Cry_Wolf, failing to break $8 million so far. And already announced for DVD is New Line's Wedding Crashers, which heads for the cheap theaters with more than $200 million in the bag.

Expanding into semi-limited release this Friday are David Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist, while arriving in wide release are Josh Whedon's Serenity, Into the Blue starring Jessica Alba and Paul Walker, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio with Julianne Moore, and The Greatest Game Ever Played with Shia LaBeouf. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Flightplan (Disney/Touchstone)
    $24,646,000 ($24,646,000 through 1 week)
  2. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (Warner Bros.)
    $20,130,000 ($20,641,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Just Like Heaven (DreamWorks SKG)
    $9,800,000 ($29,997,000 through 2 weeks)
  4. Roll Bounce (Fox Searchlight)
    $8,000,000 ($8,000,000 through 1 week)
  5. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Sony/Screen Gems)
    $7,500,000 ($62,308,000 through 3 weeks)
  6. Lord of War (Lions Gate)
    $4,900,000 ($17,247,000 through 2 weeks)
  7. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Universal)
    $4,272,000 ($96,906,000 through 6 weeks)
  8. The Constant Gardener (Focus)
    $2,244,000 ($27,588,000 through 4 weeks)
  9. The Transporter 2 (Fox)
    $2,150,000 ($39,825,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. Cry_Wolf (Rogue)
    $2,102,000 ($7,362,000 through 2 weeks)
  11. March of the Penguins (Warner Bros.)
    $1,710,000 ($72,808,000 through 14 weeks)
  12. An Unfinished Life (Miramax)
    $1,683,000 ($5,696,000 through 3 weeks)

On the Board: New reviews this week from the team include Robots, Born Into Brothels, We're No Angels, Bad Timing: The Criterion Collection, An Angel at My Table: The Criterion Collection, The Man Who Fell to Earth: The Criterion Collection, and The Ren & Stimpy Show: Season Five & Some More of Four. 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:

  • boxcoverFinal specs are in for this year's Fantastic FourFox will street the summer hit on Dec. 6 in separate anamorphic and pan-and-scan editions, while extras on both sets include DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, a cast commentary, three deleted scenes, a "making-of" spot, behind-the-scenes video shot by the cast, a "Fox Movie Channel Presents" segment, two music videos, and a preview of X-Men 3. Also due on the 6th is the second volume of Star Wars: Clone Wars, while Rebound starring Martin Lawrence, which bounced out of theaters in a hurry, arrives on Dec. 20.

  • Get ready for the Wedding CrashersNew Line will street separate unrated and R-rated editions on Jan. 3 with a commentary from stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, two featurettes, deleted scenes, and more. Also getting unrated and R-rated platters is the L.A. gang drama Havoc (Nov. 29), while 50 Cent represents in the unrated, "unauthorized biography" Refuse to Die (Nov. 8).

  • Paramount is filling out its year-end slate — fresh from theaters are Bad News Bears starring Billy Bob Thornton (Dec. 13) and Four Brothers with Mark Wahlberg (Dec. 20). The 1976 King Kong is also listed at retailers, although at this time it does not appear to have any new special features. Getting a two-disc re-release on Dec. 13 is Peter Weir's 1981 Gallipoli starring Mel Gibson — extras have yet to be confirmed, but count on the director's participation, much like this year's re-releases of Witness and The Truman Show. Coming in under the radar are the French import Après Vous… (Nov. 8) and Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection (Nov. 22), while little-seen catalog titles include The Five Pennies (Dec. 13), Man in the Vault, Plunder of the Sun, Ring of Fear, Seven Men From Now, and Track of the Cat (all Dec. 20). And TV boxes from here to '06 include CSI Miami: Season Three (Nov. 22), CSI: Season Five (Nov. 29), Jackass. Vol. 1, MacGyver: Season Four (both Dec. 6), Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica: The Final Season (Dec. 13), and The Amazing Race: Season Seven (Dec. 20).

  • boxcoverBeating the street well before year's end is Universal's thriller The Skeleton Key starring Kate Hudson, which will include a yack-track from director Iain Softley, a quartet of featurettes, deleted scenes, and more. It's here on Nov. 15.

  • Up from Sony/Columbia TriStar is Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo starring Rob Schneider, which unleashes itself on the word on Nov. 29 (Roger Ebert smackdown be damned). Also on the sched are the New York ensemble drama Heights (Nov. 1), the straight-to-video 8mm 2 in separate unrated and R-rated cases (Nov. 22), and separate boxes of Seinfeld: Season Five and Season Six (Nov. 22).

  • Finally, retailers have been told to expect March of the Penguins from Warner Home Video on Nov. 29 — extras at this time appear to be limited to a pair of featurettes and a Looney Tunes short. Meanwhile, up from subsidiary HBO are five documentaries, all due on Jan. 3 — A Father, a Son: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood featuring Kirk and Michael Douglas, Left of the Dial with the crew of Air America, Naked World, Soldiers in the Army of God, and Twist of Faith.

On the Street: The street-list is deep this week, led off by a trio of Criterion Collection titles — Mike Leigh's Naked, Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin Féminin, and Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table. Paramount's remake of The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler is sure to move some copies, although we're partial to Martin Scorsese's epic documentary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. New from Buena Vista is the serial-killer thriller Mindhunters, the family title The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3-D, and re-releases of Scary Movie 3.5 and Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. Up from Warner is Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders: The Complete Novel. And Universal is on the slate with a reissue of Kevin Smith's Mallrats and the documentary Inside Deep Throat. Not to be missed is Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids from ThinkFilm. And TV spins this time around include Desperate Housewives: Season One and Battlestar Galactica: Season One. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3-D
  • After Midnight
  • An Angel at My Table: The Criterion Collection
  • The Barbra Streisand Collection Gift Set (5-disc set)
  • Batman: The Man Who Would Be Batman: Season One Vol. 2
  • Battlestar Galactica: Season One (2004) (5-disc set)
  • Blood for Dracula
  • Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids
  • The Cardinal
  • The Carter Family: Will the Circle Be Unbroken: PBS
  • Chick Corea: Rendezvous in New York (10-disc set)
  • Crime Story: Season One
  • Crime Story: Season Two
  • Danielle Steel's Mixed Blessings
  • Dead Women in Lingerie
  • Desperate Housewives: Season One
  • Die, Monster, Die!/The Dunwich Horror
  • Dolls
  • Dolly Dearest
  • Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood: Special Edition
  • Flesh for Frankenstein
  • From a Whisper to a Scream
  • Grimm
  • Hogan's Heroes: Season Two (5-disc set)
  • The Howling 2: Your Sister Is a Werewolf
  • The House Where Evil Dwells
  • Inside Deep Throat (NC-17)
  • Inside Deep Throat (R-rated)
  • It's All Gone Pete Tong
  • Jack O'Lantern
  • James Dean: Forever Young
  • James Dean: Sense Memories
  • Justice League: Joining Forces: Season One Vol. 2
  • Lady in White
  • Learn to Read at the Storybook Factory
  • The Longest Yard (widescreen)
  • The Longest Yard (pan-and-scan)
  • Mallrats: 10th Anniversary Edition (2-disc set)
  • Masculin Féminin: The Criterion Collection
  • Midnight
  • Mindhunters
  • Naked: The Criterion Collection (2-disc set)
  • Ned and Stacey: Season One (3-disc set)
  • New Order: Item (2-disc set)
  • Night Visitor
  • No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2-disc set)
  • The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (2-disc set)
  • Over the Edge
  • Panic in Year Zero/The Last Man on Earth
  • Pinocchio's Revenge
  • Point of Order
  • The Pretender: Season Two (4-disc set)
  • Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings
  • Razor Blade Smile
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: Season Five & Some More of Four (3-disc set)
  • Resurrected
  • Scary Movie 3.5: Special Unrated Version
  • See Arnold Run
  • Shackles
  • The Sixties: The Years that Shaped a Generation
  • Species Collection (4-disc set)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Absorbing Favorites
  • Swamp Thing
  • Tales of Terror/Twice Told Tales
  • Taboo: Season Two (4-disc set)
  • Turtles Can Fly
  • Voodoo Island/The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake
  • Voyages
  • Wallace & Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures
  • War Gods of the Deep/At The Earth's Core
  • Widow on the Hill/Lies My Mother Told Me
  • Witches of the Caribbean
  • Xtro

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: The term "rock and roll rebel" invokes perhaps a handful of names: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Frank Zappa. But a spin through Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary No Direction Home makes it clear that Bob Dylan deserves the title more than anyone else, and not simply because he was a figurehead of the 1960s anti-establishment counterculture. In fact, Dylan was a reluctant rebel. He preferred to remain enigmatic, but even a casual observer back then could see that the only thing that mattered to him was his music — a broad and lifelong passion that eventually put him in conflict not with the forces of establishment during the turbulent sixties, but with music fans themselves. Over a few short years, Dylan built his enduring reputation with such acoustic classics as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a Changin'," but almost as quickly he set aside his well-known troubadour persona, put together a backing band, plugged in a Fender Telecaster, and navigated a new aural landscape, belting out such numbers as the hard-charging "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and epic "Like a Rolling Stone." In one of the most famous and controversial incidents in modern music, Dylan debuted his new band at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival to unprecedented audience hostility — the whistles, hoots, and boos would plague his live performances for the next several months in America and Europe. But Dylan did not look back. After 1966 he took an eight-year sabbatical from live performances, but the folksy troubadour was no more.

It seems that Bob Dylan forged his career not merely from literate, evocative music, but also by defying audience expectations. Such would continue long after the sixties, both with his explicitly Christian albums of the early 1980s and even later, when many critics claimed that his songwriting gifts had faltered. Nonetheless, No Direction Home astutely confines itself to Dylan's most mercurial years, from his earliest days as a solo performer to the 1966 motorcycle accident that allowed him to retreat from the light and heat of his own celebrity. Born Robert Zimmerman, Dylan grew up in Hibbing, Minn., where he wasn't much of a rebel at all, by his account in part because there wasn't an establishment to rebel against, and also because "It was too cold to be bad." Teaching himself how to play the guitar at ten years old, Dylan showed little interest in school but was fascinated by rare folk and country records, as well as the AM radio stations from New Orleans he could listen to at night. After a brief flirtation with college (he was enrolled, but never attended classes), Dylan left Minnesota, eventually arriving in New York's Greenwich Village, where he gained attention in the "basket houses," coffee shops where singers passed baskets among patrons for money. With his youth and talent, Dylan seemed assured to land a contract with a minor label, such as Folkways or Vanguard. Amazingly, Mitch Miller signed him to the powerhouse Columbia Records, where his second album, 1963's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, made him an international sensation. But Dylan was not content to play only folk music; he was even less interested in "topical songs" or politics. And as the 1960s counterculture swirled into a tighter vortex around civil rights, free speech, and the Vietnam War, the "spokesman of his generation" turned out to be nothing of the sort, "going electric" and more esoteric with such albums as Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home.

Overflowing with music, archive films, and interviews, the foremost asset of Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home is Bob Dylan himself — a musical celebrity who has consistently resisted personal interpretation by others, Dylan's many low-key, self-effacing comments are invaluable, particularly when they run against the grain of conventional wisdom. An early radio interview with Studs Turkel is amusing and insightful, as Turkel offhandedly claims "A Hard Rain's Gonna Come" is about atomic rain ("No," Dylan interrupts, "it's a hard rain — it's a hard rain!"), and he conveys the same aloof sincerity in his later years, denying that he took his nom de plume from Dylan Thomas, unwilling to say if the Rashomon-esque events at Newport '65 were about him or something more complex, and readily admitting his disdain for the pigeonhole of "topical" songwriting. While Part One of the 3 hour, 21 min. film concentrates primarily on the folk milieu Dylan entered in the early '60s, the more energetic Part Two focuses on both Dylan's music and his combative relationship with the media, who wrote in bullet-points and on deadline. To them, Dylan was a contemporary of Joan Baez and Pete Seeger; Dylan's own heroes included Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash. Seemingly immune to the ravages of fame, Dylan's singular musical furrow was of his own making, unconcerned with the public's demands. And while easily annoyed by the press and public alike, he was content to remain an anti-polemicist, despite his adoption by political forces he may have sympathized with but never joined. Dylan's influence on John Lennon at the time was palpable, but their two careers would wildly diverge by the end of the decade, with Lennon and Yoko Ono becoming a sometimes-shrill publicity machine of the peace movement; around the same time, Dylan recorded the country album Nashville Skyline. In fact, his finest peer may not have been a contemporary at all, but Walt Whitman, who once said he wasn't interested in a poetry that would define national elections, but instead make them irrelevant.

Paramount's two-disc DVD release of No Direction Home: Bob Dylan offers a pristine full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) with source materials of varying quality due to age, although everything comes across as very presentable. Audio also is crisp and clean with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround options. Both discs include bonus chapter selection linking directly to individual song presentations, while Disc Two also features eight full-length Dylan performances, four bonus performances from other artists featured in the film, and an unused 1965 promotional spot for "Positively 4th Street." No Direction Home is on the street tomorrow.

One SheetBox Office: Supernatural titles continue to lead the post-Labor Day box-office, with DreamWorks' romantic comedy Just Like Heaven starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo debuting at the top with $16.5 million. The ghostly love story earned just enough to edge out last week's winner, Sony's low-budget The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which slipped to second place with $15.3 million for the frame and a profitable $52 million after ten days. Arriving in third was Lions Gate's Lord of War, directed by Andrew Niccol and starring Nicolas Cage, which took in $9.2 million, while Universal's thriller Cry_Wolf was good for $4.5 million, rounding off the top five. However, in a crowded field the new thriller Venom failed to chart. Critics were mixed on Heaven and War, while Wolf and Venom earned poor notices.

In continuing release, Steve Carrel and Universal's The 40-Year-Old Virgin held down fourth place, and it's certain to break triple-digits before it's through. Fox The Transporter 2 starring Jason Statham is the lone action title on the board, now in sixth place with $36.5 million to date. And Focus Features' The Constant Gardner with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz is skimming along in seventh, bearing down on $25 million. DreamWorks' Red Eye is a confirmed hit, well clear of $50 million. And Warner's March of the Penguins hasn't stopped yet with $70 million and change. But on its way to the cheap screens in a hurry is New Line's The Man starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, long gone after a $4 million debut.

New films this Friday include Flightplan starring Jodie Foster and the 1970s roller-rink saga Roll Bounce with Bow Wow. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. Just Like Heaven (DreamWorks SKG)
    $16,500,000 ($16,500,000 through 1 week)
  2. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Sony/Screen Gems)
    $15,300,000 ($52,009,000 through 2 weeks)
  3. Lord of War (Lions Gate)
    $9,200,000 ($9,200,000 through 1 week)
  4. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Universal)
    $5,847,000 ($90,606,000 through 5 weeks)
  5. Cry_Wolf (Universal)
    $4,551,000 ($4,551,000 through 1 week)
  6. The Transporter 2 (Fox)
    $4,025,000 ($36,507,000 through 3 weeks)
  7. The Constant Gardener (Focus)
    $3,695,000 ($24,366,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. Red Eye (DreamWorks SKG)
    $2,900,000 ($55,226,000 through 5 weeks)
  9. March of the Penguins (Warner Bros.)
    $2,555,000 ($70,430,000 through 13 weeks)
  10. Wedding Crashers (New Line)
    $2,525,000 ($203,618,000 through 10 weeks)
  11. An Unfinished Life (Miramax)
    $2,127,000 ($3,446,000 through 2 weeks)
  12. The Brothers Grimm (Dimension)
    $2,078,000 ($36,333,000 through 4 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the review team include The Longest Yard, To Kill a Mockingbird: Legacy Series, Mindhunters, Naked: The Criterion Collection, Mallrats: 10th Anniversary Edition, Desperate Housewives: Season One, Masculin Féminin: The Criterion Collection, Winter Solstice, Twin Sisters, No Direction Home, and Smallville: Season Four. Everything's been added to the New Reviews menu here on the front page.

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

— Ed.

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

  • Up from our friends at Warner Home Video is this year's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp — the two-disc Deluxe Edition will include eight behind-the-scenes featurettes and four "menu challenges," while single-disc editions will also street in anamorphic and pan-and-scan editions. (We also note the film is rated PG, in part due to "quirky situations.") (Nov. 8). TV is on the way as well, including Full House: Season Two, The West Wing: Season Five (both Dec. 6), The Dukes of Hazzard: Season Five, Gilmore Girls: Season Five (both Dec. 13), and ER: Season Four (Dec. 20). And for that special person on your holiday shopping list who has nothing, we gladly recommend The Warner Classics Mega Collection, which packs in 237 DVDs with a retail price somewhere around twenty Bens (Nov. 22).

  • Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds is set to go from DreamWorks and Universal — a two-disc Limited Edition will include several featurettes, while single-disc anamorphic and full-frame versions will also be under wraps (Nov. 22). Meanwhile, ABBA: The Movie was recently dropped from Warner's schedule, reportedly due to rights issues, but it's now on Universal's slate for Oct. 11. However, if that's good news, blame Isaac Newton for this bit of DVD physics — Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish has been ejected from the calendar with no new date.

  • Screaming in from theaters at nearly twice the speed of sound, Rob Cohen's Stealth is set to arrive from Sony/Columbia TriStar — no features have been announced yet, but retailers have been told to expect a two-disc set. TV and catalog releases are due in November as well, including Fantasy Island: Season One, Hard Promises, The Heavenly Kid, Love at Stake, O.C. and Stiggs, Pray TV, and Rikky and Pete. And for your holiday shopping consideration, the good people at Sony proffer a Monty Python Box Set with Monty Python and The Holy Grail, And Now For Something Completely Different, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It's all here on Nov. 15.

  • With a bare-bones DVD release already on the street, there was little doubt Buena Vista and Miramax would double-dip Sin City — an "Extended Edition" on Dec. 13 will span two discs with the theatrical version and a 23-minute-longer recut on board, as well as Dolby Digital and DTS audio tracks, commentary with Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, and Quentin Tarantino, and plenty of behind-the-scenes featurettes. December also sees the release of four Roger Corman special editions, Big Bad Mama, Death Race 2000, The Intruder, and Rock 'n' Roll High School (all Dec. 13), while Dead Poets Society and Good Morning Vietnam get new dips on Jan. 17. Also set for the 17th are catalog releases Benji the Hunted, The Devil and Max Devlin, My Dog the Thief, and Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken. And arriving on retailers' sheets is a Special Edition of Toy Story 2 on Dec. 27.

On the Street: After last Tuesday's massive DVD list, we're happy to come across a slower week — although there's still a reason or two to air out your credit card. New from Buena Vista is this year's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as well as a three-disc re-issue of Chicago. Also new from theaters is Fox's Fever Pitch starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Universal has a pair of special-editions on the board with Coal Miner's Daughter and a re-issue of Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way. Not to be outdone, Warner's returned to Ben-Hur, which warrants no less than four discs. Meanwhile, arriving under the radar from Sony is the documentary Rock School. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • Alone in the Dark: Special Edition
  • Anton Corbijn: Director's Label
  • Ben-Hur: Collector's Edition (4-disc set)
  • Black Torment
  • Bloodsuckers
  • Bloody Mallory
  • The Brady Bunch: Season Three (4-disc set)
  • Carlito's Way: Ultimate Edition
  • Cheers: Season Six (4-disc set)
  • Chicago: The Razzle Dazzle Edition (3-disc set)
  • Coal Miner's Daughter: Special Edition
  • Da Ali G Show: Season Two
  • Devil's Island Lovers
  • Doctor Detroit
  • Earthquake: Nature Unleashed
  • East of Sunset
  • Empire Falls
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: Season Four (5-disc set)
  • EXPO: Magic of the White City
  • Fever Pitch: Curse Reversed Edition (widescreen)
  • Fever Pitch (widescreen)
  • Fever Pitch (full-frame)
  • Frankenstein
  • Frasier: Season Six (4-disc set)
  • Fugitive Hunter
  • George Lopez: Why You Crying?
  • Head-On (Gegen die Wand)
  • Heartbeeps
  • Hero of Rome/Invincible Gladiator
  • The History of USC Football
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (widescreen)
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (pan-and-scan)
  • Jingle Bells
  • Jonathan Glazer: Director's Label
  • Las Vegas: Season Two: Uncut and Uncensored (3-disc set)
  • The Last Time I Committed Suicide
  • Little Angel Christmas
  • The Locker
  • Madison
  • Mark Romanek: Director's Label
  • Milwaukee, Minnesota
  • Monster of Venice
  • Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai)
  • O Christmas Tree
  • One Tree Hill: Season Two (6-disc set)
  • The Perfect Neighbor
  • Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie
  • Psycho II
  • Psycho III
  • Richard Lewis: Concerts from Hell: The Vintage Years
  • Rock School
  • SCTV 4 (6-disc set)
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters: Season One
  • Smallville: Season Four (6-disc set)
  • Stephane Sednaoui: Director's Label
  • Taxi: Season Three (4-disc set)
  • Today You Die
  • Twin Sisters (De tweeling)
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Winter Solstice

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Considering how legendary the screen pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford is in the annals of Hollywood lore, it's interesting to note that they have only appeared in two films together. And in both instances, they weren't a duo at all, but part of a trio — steered by the capable hands of director George Roy Hill. One of Hollywood's true renaissance men, Hill attended Yale and Dublin's Trinity College, where he excelled at literature and music. His studies offered a rich preparation for a life in the theater, but the outbreak of World War II sent him in an alternate direction, during which he served as a naval aviator. Starting out as an actor in the 1950s, Hill soon turned to television directing. By the mid-'60s, his feature film career was established with The World of Henry Orient (1964) starring Peter Sellers. Until his retirement in 1988 — after which he returned to Yale to teach drama — Hill revealed a taste for iconoclastic, literate material, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), and The World According to Garp (1983). Butch Cassidy remains one of his best-loved works, not only for its New Hollywood deconstruction of the western genre, but also for its marvelous, ultra-charismatic casting of Newman and Redford. Both actors would be seen together again in Hill's frame, but the three only collaborated a second time, in 1973's The Sting, which not only scooped up seven Oscars, but also reintroduced America to ragtime music and invented the "con" movie long before David Mamet or The Usual Suspects.

A tale of a tall confidence trick, The Sting begins with a quick-and-dirty one, as Depression-era Chicago grifter Johnny Hooker (Redford) and his partner Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones) swindle a man out of his wallet. What they don't realize is that they've suckered the bag-man for a large gambling operation owned by gangster Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), who immediately puts out a hit on the two thieves — it's a mob order that Luther does not escape. Bent on revenge, Hooker seeks out the legendary confidence artist Henry Gondorff (Newman). Gondorff is game, but he's clear on one point — since the swindle he has in mind will be a once-in-a-lifetime job, and Doyle Lonnegan is not a man to be crossed lightly, he'll have to be taken for all he's worth and yet never even know that he's been cleaned out, and especially by whom. The con is then put into motion, starting with a small card game on a New York-to-Chicago train and culminating in a betting parlor built specifically for the sting. But Hooker doesn't only have to worry about Lonnegan's men gunning for him — there's also a corrupt bunco cop (Charles Durning) on his trail, as well as an FBI agent (Dana Elcar) who's plotting a sting of his own.

Few motion pictures outside the musical genre utilize, let alone elevate, their score as much as The Sting. The appropriation of Scott Joplin's ragtime piano created a sensation as the film swept through American theaters and dominated the Academy Awards in early 1974, but the choice was not an obvious one. Like many writers, scenarist David S. Ward wrote to background music, but his taste at the time was the blues. An accomplished pianist, George Roy Hill's decision to use ragtime instead is an arch example of style over substance, or at least historical accuracy — Joplin's saloon compositions were the sound of America the turn of the century, not the Great Depression, but Hill subtly understood the contrapuntal, playful nature of the music suited the con film far more than the Delta blues of Robert Johnson and Son House. It wasn't the only daring choice Hill made — Paul Newman originally turned down the role of Henry Gondorff, accurately noting that it required an actor far beyond his years. But Hill believed that the Newman-Redford dynamic, and the power of dramatic suggestion, would overcome such a minor detail. Hill's cast is bolstered by standout performers in every category, including Eileen Brennan, Ray Walston, Charles Durning, and Harold Gould. But only one could compete with Redford and Newman for the screen: Robert Shaw, whose intimidating presence belied his virtuosity — in a span of ten years, he convincingly played an icy Nazi tank commander in The Battle of the Bulge, the dapper gangster Doyle Lonnegan here, and the gruff sea-dog Quint in Jaws. Shaw's legend was confirmed, as were his two co-stars. Robert Redford's career was in full ascendance by this point, and while Paul Newman would reprise his breakout role of 'Fast' Eddie Felson in The Color of Money (1986), a closer look at Martin Scorsese's film reveals he's revisiting Henry Gondorff at the same time.

Universal's two-disc DVD release of The Sting, part of their "Legacy Series," features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85;1) from a splendid source-print that reveals barely a hint of wear — it's a substantial improvement over the non-matted, full-frame transfer found on the original DVD release, while the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio soundtracks capture every note of Marvin Hamlisch's piano wonderfully (the original monaural audio is also available on a DD 2.0 track). Disc One offers the feature film, while Disc Two includes the new documentary "The Art of The Sting" (55 min.) with comments from Newman, Redford, Brennan, Durning, Walston, Hamlisch, and more, in what ultimately amounts to a sweet tribute to George Roy Hill, who died in 2002. Also on board are production notes and a re-release trailer. The Sting: Legacy Series is on the street now.

One SheetBox Office: Late summer is a traditionally slow time at the North American box-office, but Sony's The Exorcism of Emily Rose turned in surprising figures — the $20 million production, starring Tom Wilkinson, Jennifer Carpenter, and Laura Linney, took in an above-forecasted $30 million to beat the trailing five films combined and also earn the third-highest raw-dollar opening of any September title. Opening mid-list was New Line's comedy The Man starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, which took in a modest $4 million, falling short of expectations. Critics were mixed on Rose, while The Man was widely dismissed.

In continuing release, the weak box-office helped Universal's The 40-Year-Old Virgin starring Steve Carrel, which notched up to second place, adding $7.9 million to a solid $82.3 million after one month. Fox's The Transporter 2 with Jason Statham dropped two spots to third, where it now holds $30 million in the bag. And Focus Features' The Constant Gardner starring Ralph Fiennes is already earning Oscar whispers, taking fourth place with $19.1 million overall. New Line's blockbuster raunch-com Wedding Crashers remains one of 2005's best successes, crossing the double-century after nine weeks. And Paramount's Four Brothers with Mark Wahlberg took advantage of August doldrums to generate $68.2 million so far. But off to DVD prep are two flops — Disney's animated Valiant and Sony's The Cave, both failing to break $20 million.

Five new films head for cineplexes this Friday, including John Madden's Proof starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal, Andrew Niccol's Lord of War with Nicolas Cage and Ethan Hawke, the rom-com Just Like Heaven starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, and the thrillers Cry Wolf and Venom. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Sony/Screen Gems)
    $30,200,000($30,200,000 through 1 week)
  2. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Universal)
    $7,901,000($82,310,000 through 4 weeks)
  3. The Transporter 2 (Fox)
    $7,200,000($30,132,000 through 2 weeks)
  4. The Constant Gardener (Focus)
    $4,854,000($19,144,000 through 2 weeks)
  5. Red Eye (DreamWorks SKG)
    $4,600,000($51,303,000 through 4 weeks)
  6. The Man (New Line)
    $4,025,000($4,025,000 through 1 week)
  7. The Brothers Grimm (Dimension)
    $3,314,000($33,265,000 through 3 weeks)
  8. Wedding Crashers (New Line)
    $3,225,000($200,025,000 through 9 weeks)
  9. Four Brothers (Paramount)
    $2,950,000($68,275,000 through 5 weeks)
  10. March of the Penguins (Warner Bros.)
    $2,525,000($56,865,000 through 12 weeks)
  11. The Skeleton Key (Universal)
    $1,600,000($45,911,000 through 5 weeks)
  12. Underclassman (Miramax)
    $1,246,000($4,639,000 through 2 weeks)

On the Board: New reviews this week from the team include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Fever Pitch, The Deer Hunter: Legacy Series, The Innocents, Career Girls, Rock School, The Chase, Satisfaction, The Sting: Legacy Series, and The Doctor and The Devils. 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 just a few new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

  • The Criterion Collection has two more announcements this week. François Truffaut's 1960 Shoot the Piano Player will arrive on a two-disc set with a new transfer supervised by cinematographer Raoul Coutard, commentary from film historians Annette Insdorf and Peter Brunette, new interviews with stars Charles Aznavour and Marie Dubois, a 1986 interview with Truffaut, episodes of the French television programmes "Cinéastes de notre temps" and "Étoiles et toiles," and more. Special features have not been announced yet, but we've also been informed that René Clément's 1952 Forbidden Games is also on the slate — watch for both releases on Dec. 6.

  • Up from Fox are three more titles in the "Fox Film Noir" series, Dark Corner, Kiss of Death, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, all listed for Dec. 6. Last year's Garfield the Movie apparently has warranted a two-disc "Purrrfect Collector's Edition" (Dec. 6), while year-end catalog releases include Next Stop Greenwich Village, Puddle Cruiser, and Thunder and Lightning (all Dec. 13). Also watch for the small-screen boxes Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike: Love Is Hell (Oct. 4), Tru Calling: Season Two (Nov. 15), 24: Season Four (Dec. 6), M*A*S*H: Season Nine (Dec. 6), Reba: Season Two, (Dec. 13), and The Shield: Season Four (Dec. 27).

  • The folks at Sony/Columbia TriStar have a four Marlon Brando titles on the way, spanning four decades — watch for Burn! (Queimada), A Dry White Season, The Fugitive Kind, and The Missouri Breaks on Nov. 8. Also due on the same day is a two-disc reissue of 1996's Jumanji in a "Deluxe Edition," as well as The Partridge Family: Season Two, the family film Blizzard, and 1947's Bush Christmas.

On the Street: Don't worry about what the calendar says — as far as DVDs go, summer is over, which means the new releases are starting to pick up. New from Universal this week is a trio of catalog re-issues, The Deer Hunter, The Sting, and To Kill a Mockingbird, all arriving in two-disc sets. Warner's pulled out the stops with their "Garbo: The Signature Collection," a 10-disc set that includes such classics as Anna Christie, Camille, and Ninotchka. Fox has opened the catalog floodgates, offering several noir and thriller titles such as Dressed to Kill, The House on 92nd Street, House on Haunted Hill, The Innocents, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, and Whirlpool, while more recent offerings include Career Girls, The Chase, and Harry and Tonto. This year's Crash is on the shelves from Lions Gate, Buena Vista's on the slate with a 10th Anniversary Toy Story and a 15th Anniversary Pretty Woman, and TV titles this time around include Millennium and Lost. Best in our book is a classic from Preston Sturges, thanks to Paramount — 1944's The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

  • 21 Jump Street: Season Three
  • Ace in the Hole (2005)
  • Almost You
  • Anna Christie
  • Anna Karenina
  • Back from the Grave Collection (3-disc set)
  • Battlefield Diaries (3-disc set)
  • Beast Box (3-disc set)
  • The Bela Lugosi Collection (5-disc set)
  • Blood Thirsty Collection (3-disc set)
  • The Boogeyman
  • Buffalo Bill: Seasons 1-2 (2-disc set)
  • The Cabinet of Caligari
  • Camille
  • Career Girls
  • Casanova's Big Night
  • Charmed: Season Two (6-disc set)
  • The Chase
  • Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach)
  • Cirque De Soleil: Midnight Sun
  • The Coast Guard (Hae anseon)
  • Conrack
  • Crash (widescreen)
  • Crash (pan-and-scan)
  • The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing
  • Dead and Breakfast
  • The Deer Hunter: Legacy Series (2-disc set)
  • Den of Lions
  • Doogie Howser, M.D.: Season Two (4-disc set)
  • Dressed to Kill
  • The Doctor and the Devils
  • Doris Day: It's Magic
  • Fear and Trembling
  • Fraggle Rock: Season One (4-disc set)
  • Garbo: The Signature Collection (10-disc set)
  • The Girl in the Café
  • Great Expectations: BBC
  • A Guide for the Married Man
  • Gunslinger's Revenge
  • Hammer Horror Series (2-disc set)
  • Hard Times: BBC
  • Harry and Tonto
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Gift Set
  • Haven
  • Heart Like a Wheel
  • Hellraiser: Hellworld
  • Hercules
  • Holy Pilgrims (Santos peregrinos)
  • The House on 92nd Street
  • House on Haunted Hill
  • The Innocents
  • Inspector Gadget: Biggest Caper Ever
  • Killer Tomatoes Eat France!
  • Killer Tomatoes Strike Back!
  • The Last Chapter (4-disc set)
  • The Last Frontier
  • A Lawless Street
  • The Longest Drive (The Quest)
  • Lost: Season One (6-disc set)
  • Macgyver: Season Three (6-disc set)
  • A Man Called Peter
  • Man in the Saddle
  • The Marksman
  • Mata Hari
  • Millennium: The Final Season (6-disc set)
  • The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
  • Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
  • Nero
  • Ninotchka
  • Oliver Twist: BBC
  • Oliver's Twist: Season Two
  • Omen IV: The Awakening
  • Our Mutual Friend: BBC
  • Paris Is Burning
  • Prelude to Murder (Dressed to Kill)
  • Pretty Woman: 15th Anniversary Edition
  • The Prophecy: Forsaken
  • Punk: Attitude (2-disc set)
  • Queen Christina
  • Quilombo
  • Ravenous
  • Red Garters
  • Rockin' the Corps
  • Rocky & Bullwinkle: Season Three
  • Santa Fe
  • Satisfaction
  • The Second Night (La segunda noche)
  • Smile
  • SNL: Anthology: The First Five Years: '75-'80
  • Somewhere in the Night
  • Spookley: The Square Pumpkin
  • Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital: The Beginning
  • The Sting: Legacy Series (2-disc set)
  • The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953)
  • Subzero
  • TCM Archives: Garbo Silents (2-disc set)
  • Teaser/Frankie & Johnnie Were Lovers
  • Ten Wanted Men
  • Terror by Night
  • They're Watching
  • Through a Child's Eyes: September 11, 2001
  • Thunderstruck
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: Legacy Series (2-disc set)
  • Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition (2-disc set)
  • Whirlpool
  • Written in Blood

— Ed.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Of all the New Hollywood directors to arrive during the transformative years of the 1970s, only one staked his flag on the foremost principle of old-guard filmmaking: bigger is better. And by some standards, John Landis was a late arrival anyway. While the upheaval of Hollywood had paved the way for the likes of Friedkin, Coppola, Spielberg, Lucas, and De Palma, Landis didn't achieve breakout status until 1978's Animal House — which, while not delivering Academy Awards or pioneering special effects, set the tone for a new generation of raunch-coms. From there, Landis had the creative freedom to do virtually anything, and until his career was effectively hamstrung by The Twilight Zone (1983) and its on-set tragedy, his output was prolific, funny, and larger than life. Like a kid in art class who had to have the biggest canvas and buckets of paint, Landis delivered 1981's An American Werewolf in London to box-office success thanks to clever tone-shifts and stunning makeup work — he returned to similar ground by shooting Michael Jackson's memorable "Thriller" video soon thereafter. Trading Places (1983) with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy delivered an acute class-war satire, while 1985's Into the Night starring Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer blended screwball, noir, and suspense in L.A.'s neon-after-dark milieu. But it's likely Landis's most memorable achievement will be The Blues Brothers (1980), which is more than a comedy, or even a musical — twenty-five years after the fact, it's a bona fide Hollywood epic and one of the finest celebrations of American music ever put on film.

Taking cues from "Saturday Night Live," Jailhouse Rock, "Dragnet," The Keystone Cops, and the blues and soul sounds of Memphis, Chicago, and New York, The Blues Brothers begins as Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) picks up his brother 'Joliet' Jake Blues (John Belushi) from prison, where he's just been paroled after three years. One can only guess if the two will return to their life of petty crime and ongoing traffic violations — a visit to Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman), aka "The Penguin," reveals that the orphanage where the Blues boys grew up is about to be foreclosed. Prepared to raise $5,000 in matter of days, Jake determines that it's time to reassemble "the band," a rhythm-and-blues outfit so powerful it could "turn goat piss into gasoline." The problem, of course, is finding the musicians, all of whom have long given up on The Blues Brothers and their string of bad IOUs. But in short order the rhythm section is located in a local hotel lounge, while the trumpet player is the maitre d' of a French restaurant, and the guitarist and sax player work the kitchen of a downtown soul food cafe. After a few mishaps and blackmailing a local booker, a 5,000-seat hall is slated for a one-night-only performance — all that remains is for Jake and Elwood to get there on time with police, Nazis, a country band, and a female assassin hot on their trail.

If any film's status as a "classic" can be gauged by how quotable it is, then The Blues Brothers shares company with Casablanca, Dr. Strangelove, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail — simply say "I hate Illinois Nazis," "Four fried chickens and a Coke," or "We're on a mission from God" to virtually anyone you know and you might get the "It's 106 miles to Chicago…" speech in reply. The script — credited to Aykroyd and Landis, with contributions from John and Judy Belushi — hums along with deadpan dialogue, and while it often remains the movie's most memorable element, it also overshadows just how big the picture actually is. In no other film has John Landis indulged in such playful surrealism, toying with logic-defying suspension of disbelief simply because seeing, and accepting, what is not possible is why movies are magical. It's why we allow people to break out in song during musicals, or as Landis says, why you don't explain the origins of a monster-movie's giant bug. From the very moment that the Bluesmobile jumps a Chicago drawbridge, we find ourselves in the realm of comic fantasy, where the parishioners of Rev. Cleophus James' congregation leap 30 feet in the air; where Jake and Elwood survive the utter destruction of buildings and gas stations and telephone booths; where a blue-collar blues band becomes a tuxedo-clad orchestra in the blink of an eye. The movie-musical genre proves a solid foundation for such rich storytelling, filled out here not only with live performances by James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, and Ray Charles, but also with a soundtrack that samples the classic Stax catalog and Henri Mancini's "Peter Gunn Theme" retrofitted with a turbocharger. Small jokes abound throughout — two behind-the-camera legends, Frank Oz and Steve Spielberg, give Jake receipts to bookend the movie. And Landis one-ups William Friedkin by moving the movie car-chase to America's new main street, inside a shopping mall that offers, among other things, "disco pants and haircuts."

Universal's "25th Anniversary" DVD release of The Blues Brothers offers an improvement over the initial "Collector's Edition" disc, in part because it includes both John Landis's extended edition (2 hrs. 27 min.) and the original theatrical cut (2 hrs. 7 min.), which makes its DVD debut here. Both versions also arrive in anamorphic transfers (1.85:1), while Dolby Digital 5.1 is available on the Extended Cut and Dolby 2.0 Surround on the theatrical version. "Stories Behind Making The Blues Brothers" (56 min.) is the sole supplement on Side A (returning from the original release), which gathers together recollections from the film's principals. Side B includes a brief introduction by Dan Aykroyd, the featurettes "Going Rounds: A Day on The Blues Brothers Tour" (7 min.), "Transposing the Music" (15 min.), and "Remembering John" (9 min.), Production Notes, and the theatrical trailer. Both cuts also include special chapter-selection menus linking to musical highlights. The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary Edition is on the street now.

One SheetBox Office: DVD sales of The Transporter didn't hurt its sequel, as Fox's The Transporter 2 debuted over the Labor Day weekend with $20.2 million, more than double its predecessor, to take the top spot on the box-office chart. Arriving in third place in semi-limited release since last Wednesday was Focus Features' The Constant Gardener starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, which managed $12.5 million over the week. For a disappointing summer, it was the strongest Labor Day frame in recent memory, even though two other debuts flopped, with Miramax's The Underclassman stumbling into 11th place with $3.1 million and A Sound of Thunder starring Edward Burns and Ben Kingsley failing to chart with a scant $1.1 million. Underclassman and Thunder earned poor notices, while critics praised Gardener and were mixed on Transporter 2.

In continuing release, Universal's The 40-Year-Old Virgin slipped to second place after two weeks on top, adding $16.5 million to a solid $71.9 million gross. DreamWorks' thriller Red Eye also is doing solid business, holding on to fourth place with $45.3 million so far, while doing midlist work is Dimension's The Brothers Grimm starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, which has taken in $27.6 million in two sessions. New Line's Wedding Crashers still won't quit, bearing down on $200 million after two months — the same can be said for Warner's March of the Penguins, which has generated $63.4 million over 11 weeks. Count Screen Gems' The Cave as another summer disappointment, with just $11.7 million and falling. And off to DVD prep is Warner's The Dukes of Hazzard, which will clear $75 million.

New films on screens this Friday include An Unfinished Life starring Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez, and The Man with Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy. Here's the top-grossing movies at North American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Transporter 2 (Fox)
    $20,250,000 ($20,250,000 through 1 week)
  2. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Universal)
    $16,550,000 ($71,901,000 through 3 weeks)
  3. The Constant Gardener (Focus)
    $10,804,000 ($12,526,000 through 1 week)
  4. Red Eye (DreamWorks SKG)
    $9,300,000 ($45,379,000 through 3 weeks)
  5. The Brothers Grimm (Dimension)
    $7,930,000 ($27,630,000 through 2 weeks)
  6. Four Brothers (Paramount)
    $6,400,000 ($64,387,000 through 4 weeks)
  7. Wedding Crashers (New Line)
    $5,775,000 ($195,752,000 through 8 weeks)
  8. March of the Penguins (Warner Bros.)
    $5,415,000 ($63,420,000 through 11 weeks)
  9. The Skeleton Key (Universal)
    $4,054,000 ($43,790,000 through 4 weeks)
  10. The Cave (Sony/Screen Gems)
    $3,700,000 ($11,714,000 through 2 weeks)
  11. The Underclassman (Miramax)
    $3,100,000 ($3,100,000 through 1 week)
  12. Valiant (Disney)
    $3,019,000 ($16,116,000 through 3 weeks)

On the Board: New spins this week from the team include Lost: Season One, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Ringu Anthology of Terror, House on Haunted Hill, Dressed to Kill, Somewhere in the Night, The House on 92nd Street, The Cabinet of Caligari, Terror by Night, Prelude to Murder, Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition, Pretty Woman: 15th Anniversary Edition, The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary Edition, and Whirlpool. 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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