Welcome to the latest edition of The Special Edition: Coming Soon. Quite a few interesting releases this week, so I’ll get right into it.
d. John Woo
c. John Travolta, Nic Cage
release date: September 11
I had almost given up hope. One of my favorite guilty pleasures is this John Woo action flick. Everything about this movie makes me smile. Nic Cage and John Travolta are both so over the top, it is just a joy to watch. The action made me excited to see what John Woo would do next in the Hollywood system, only to be disappointed (while I enjoyed watching Mission Impossible II, it did not come close to the pleasure that this movie gave me). The movie’s plot is pretty high concept. Nic Cage is a terrorist named Castor Troy. John Travolta is government agent Sean Archer, who has been trying to capture him for years. After Troy kills Archer’s son, Archer finally corners the terrorist and after a fight, Troy ends up in a coma. Problem is, right before Troy was knocked comatose, he told Archer that he had planted a bomb. Archer undergoes a new technique, where you can remove a person’s face and place it on another person, and use a spray to change the voice to match the original person, and becomes Castor Troy. Unfortunately, when Troy wakes up he realizes what happened and forces the doctor’s to give him Archer’s face and then breaks out, under the disguise of Sean Archer. It could have been a straight to video clunker, but ended up being a stylish, great flick. And now it finally gets the special edition treatment I have been waiting for. This 10th Anniversary 2-Disc release will include an audio commentary with director John Woo, seven deleted scenes (including an alternate ending), The Light and the Dark: The Making of Face/Off documentary, a John Woo: A Life in Pictures feature, and more. HD-DVD and Blu-ray releases will also be available.
Kung Fu Hustle is a movie that is a mishmash of many different styles of movies. It is slapstick in the form of the Three Stooges. It is a martial arts epic in the form of Sanjuro. It is also a little bit like a cartoon, The Road Runner is one that is referenced here. It is a farce, but it also includes solid martial arts action and a good mix of humor and over the top comedy pratfalls. After the disappointing Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, I was not really interested in seeing Kung Fu Hustle. It was guilt by association. However, when I kept hearing this recommended by my film loving friends, I decided to give it a chance. And I was not disappointed by this one. We get a few stories here, but the main one involves a samurai who helps break the stronghold of the gangs that hold everyone under their thumbs. Side characters, such as an obnoxious landlady, an old man with a secret and a couple of men who aspire to join the “Axe Gang” keep the action and comedy moving in all the right ways. Well, The "Axe Kicking Edition" is set to be released next month and extras will include a Comedy Central interview with Stephen Chow, outtakes and bloopers, a storyboard comparison, and three behind the scenes featurettes on the costume design, production design, and Yuen Wo Ping and the fight scene choreography.
The Lookout was a commercial failure at the box office. With an estimated $16 million budget, it was gone in four weeks and only made around $4.5 million in the U.S. It was really not critically accepted either. Micah calls it generic and small-scale in his review (read here). On the other hand, Rotten Tomatoes rates it at a 88%, which is pretty damn good. It also stars one of the most exciting young actors working today in Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Well, whether it was good or not, and most say that the performances are great, this is your chance to see for yourself as it hits DVD in August. In this bank heist thriller Gordon-Levitt stars as a once-proud high school jock who, following a horrible car crash, develops short-term memory loss (think Memento). Chris works as a night-time janitor at a local bank when a group of crooks convince him to help out with their heist plans. Extras include “Behind the Mind of Chris Pratt” – A feature exploring Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of the main character, “Sequencing the Lookout” – a making-of featurette and audio commentaries by writer/director Scott Frank and director of photography Alar Kivilo.
Speaking of movies that did not fare well, The Dark Backward, originally released in 1991, received a 4.4 imdB rating and a wonderful 38% on the Rotten Tomato boards. What movie gets such horrible reviews, yet seems to deserve a Special Edition? Well, lets look at it. It stars Judd Nelson as a tortured and maligned character named Marty Malt, an out of control Bill Paxton as Marty’s repulsive, accordion-playing best friend Gus; Wayne Newton plays seedy talent agent Jackie Chrome; Lara Flynn Boyle, who plays Marty’s lovely, yet disheveled girlfriend Rosarita; James Caan, who portrays “Doctor Scurvy”; and Rob Lowe as scumbag TV exec extraordinaire Dirk Delta (thanks to Andrew from a 2004 Steady Leak letter to the Nunz). Hell, it’s a cult movie that is not even popular enough to have it’s own Wikipedia page. Directed by Adam Rifkin, the movie is a very dark comedy about Marty and Gus, who are garbage men by day while Marty is a horrible stand up comedian in an old-folks bar at night. Well, when Marty grows a third arm out of his back, talent agent Jackie Chrome sees money. Ok. The DVD comes with Cast and Crew Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, 15th Anniversary Q&A featuring Bill Paxton, Judd Nelson, Adam Rifkin and Brad Wyman, Blump’s Squeezable Documentary, ”Catch My Dreams” Clip Compilation and Cannes Promo Shorts.
The Criterion Collection has announced the release of Robinson Crusoe on Mars for this September. A 1964 release, the movie tells the tale on an American astronaut team that is forced to eject from their spaceship to the surface of Mars. Only one survives and is left alone on the planet with only a monkey named Mona. He learns to survive on the planet, with luck and along the way discovers other people on the planet, including an alien race forcing slave labor. Byron Haskin (The War of the Worlds, The Outer Limits) created a gorgeously designed world shot in vast Techniscope and blazing Technicolor. The DVD will include audio commentary featuring screenwriter Ib Melchior, actors Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, production designer Al Nozaki, Oscar-winning special effects designer and Robinson Crusoe on Mars historian Robert Skotak, and excerpts from a 1979 audio interview with director Byron Haskin, “Destination: Mars,” a new video featurette by Michael Lennick detailing the science behind Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Excerpts from Melchior’s original screenplay, a new music video for Victor Lundin’s song "Robinson Crusoe on Mars", a stills gallery of behind-the-scenes photos, production designs, and promotional material, the theatrical trailer, plus a booklet featuring a new essay by filmmaker and space historian Michael Lennick, a "Brief Yargorian Dictionary" of Melchior’s original alien dialect, and a list of facts about Mars included with his original screenplay.
CALENDAR OF UPCOMING RELEASES
BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON
BLAKE SNAKE MOAN
FOUR LAST SONGS
LA JATEE/SANS SOLEIL (CRITERION COLLECTION)
PSYCHE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Hope you found a few DVDs here that interest you. The next couple of weeks, this is the only column that will have beef. The DVD releases starting in July are pretty slim. If you have any questions or comments drop me a line at Chud1@starvingdogs.biz. I’ll see you next Monday.