As traditional gatherings take place across the country, from familial get-togethers to ritualistic sacrifice, the one thing I’ve noticed is that after the feasting has commenced, most sit down to watch some form of entertainment. Often times, it happens to be movies (although your little brother should cut down on the porn. The whole family knows why he keeps getting up from the table). This week not only has a plethora of options for you and yours, but also the promise of waiting in line for 9 hours on Friday once the Holidays sales kick in. Herded into those wavy congregations of people only makes me want to shout.
Kill the beasts!
Imagery has always been a strong point in the films of Steven Spielberg, and his own remolding of War of the Worlds (read Devin’s review) is no exception. Bodies incinerate into dust and the remaining clothes rumple downward. A bridge gets ripped to shreds at the expense of massive extravaganza, while Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) attempts to shield his son and daughter against the oncoming evils of the newly formed invasion. These are Aliens hell-bent on one thing only: the mere destruction of Earth, at all costs. Those familiar with the original, which George Pal so wondrously transformed into a special effects romp through square-jawed hero land, will find that Spielberg’s version stays more faithful to the H.G. Wells story, the one that Orson Welles used to great effect in turning all those with radios into submission. One unbroken shot has Spielberg’s camera moving in and out of Cruise’s car while he talks to his children. It’s as Hitchcockian as you can get in this ever-evolving digital world. The effect, like so many others in War of the Worlds, is jaw dropping; this is the Steven Spielberg that makes no bones about his abilities to shock and awe you with his filmic campaign. Some will be repulsed into thinking this is sensory-overload cinema, coupled with an outcome involving a main character that really is improbable. But for those willing (and able to overlook such a small item in the grand scheme), War of the Worlds is simply one of the best films of the year, a roller-coaster ride through the bowels of hell, ushered forth from one of the premiere visual artists in cinematic history. I think I might be a tad biased.
Be a couch jumpin’ Man – with: two editions, but the Limited Edition is the one that most will want to check out, since the regular one has only the trailer. The LE comes with an introduction by Spielberg, 6 features (The H. G. Wells Legacy, Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds, Characters: The Family Unit, Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens, Scoring War of the Worlds, and We Are Not Alone), the infamous Production Diaries split into two coasts (East Coast – Beginning, East Coast – Exile, West Coast – Destruction, and West Coast – War), some production notes, and some galleries. Those still holding on for a Spielberg commentary should probably abandon all hope, considering it appears as if he’s not going to share what’s inside his infamous toolbox.
Many filmmakers have claimed that Merian C. Cooper’s magnum opus has changed their lives, quite simply for the better. And for those unfortunate enough not to have seen the original King Kong (and I don’t mean the 1976 DeLaurentiis remake, which has its merits), you’ve missed out on one of the most spectacular feats ever committed to celluloid. Besides Zardoz, of course. But whereas both films featured a copiously hairy leading man, Kong contains the Eighth Wonder of the World, brought to us from driven filmmaker Carl Denham’s most ambitious desires (and his ability to catch such a large beast, although Connery is a crafty one). The stop-motion animation is astounding (credit that to chief artesian Willis H. O’Brien), as fresh today as it was yesterday. I remember when I was younger being turned into a fleshy pile of glee once our heroes, lead by the barrel-chested Jack Driscoll, entered the Jungle confines of the notorious Skull Island, a place where slithering Snakes, flying Pterodactyls, and gigantically jerky Tyrannosaurus Rexes lived without human interaction (sadly, a Spiders attacking the heroes sequence was cut at the last possible moment). Kong was, in fact, one of the first movies to ever feature a resounding full-length movie score, bringing the uplift to a variety of emotions you’ll surely feel while gaping at the spectacle on screen. Scream Queen Fay Wray was a lushly realized beauty whom any man (or beast) would fall for in seconds, even if it required you to scale to the tops of the Empire State Building to proclaim your love while swatting away a bi-plane or two. And while everything about King Kong has aged gracefully, including the somewhat cheeky acting (as a by-product of the thirties – it’s some of the most convincing, in a completely hammy way), it’s still a towering achievement of two infamous adventurers – Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack – and their undying resolve for the need to tell the thunderous tale of one of the best films ever made.
There are many editions of this film, such as the 2-disc Collector’s Edition, which is sold alone and with the King Kong Collection (additionally with Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young, described below). However, for anyone truly worth their crooked teeth, you’ll need to purchase the Collector’s Edition Tin, which looks beautiful. Check out the gorgeousness below.
In the Tin, you’ll get everything that comes along with the 2-disc CE, which means the original 1933 Film classic in Glorious Black and White, Newly Restored and Digitally Mastered, audio commentary by Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston, with Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray, famed historian Kevin Brownlow’s – I’m King Kong!: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper — 2005 documentary, a Merian C. Cooper Movies Trailer Gallery, the documentary RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World – 7 Part Documentary with Peter Jackson including (The Origins of "King Kong", Willis O’Brien and "Creation", Cameras Roll on Kong, The Eighth Wonder, A Milestone in Visual Effects, Passion, Sound and Fury, The Mystery of the Lost "Spider Pit" Sequence, and King Kong‘s Legacy), and Creation Test Footage with Commentary by Ray Harryhausen. However, this is where the Tin comes in and you’ll receive these extras: the 20-page reproduction of the original 1933 souvenir program, King Kong memorable scenes postcards, and the kicker – a vintage King Kong poster mail-in offer.
Post-script! Best Buy is selling the Tin along with Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young in an EXCLUSIVE Kong Collection available ONLY through Gordon Douglas’ THEM!. All other retailers will have the 2-disc CE ONLY (sadly, no Tin) coupled with Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young. Looks like it might be time to throw your arms across your eyes and scream for your life if you don’t have a BB store nearest you.
Kong was such a hit (rightfully so) that the original filmmakers returned once again for Son of Kong. I like saying it in a booming voice, especially if friends happen to be around. They’ll just look at you crazy. Arguably, I am, but in SON – OF – KONG, the city has slapped together a hell of a lot of lawsuits for Carl Denham (played once again by Robert Armstrong), who tucks tail and vamooses towards Malaya, where he meets the Norwegian man who sold him the original map and a young girl named Hilda. It’s only after an unfortunate series of events that Denham and Hilda find themselves returning to Skull Island to look for some lost treasure, allegedly buried there. Armed with nothing but unbridled passion, and the haunting memory of a hairy beast (the ‘thing’ under his undershirt), Denham and Hilda stumble onto 12-foot-tall Little Kong (which, oddly enough, was used to describe hairy beats lurking below, so tell your pants congratulations for me). Charming and relentless, Little Kong quickly makes friends with the lusty humans and the result is something that’s not quite as great as the original, but still worth its charms. Particular note should be paid attention to the terrific leaps made in Willis H. O’Brien’s special effects, which have quickly trumped some of those in the original, although by no means surpassed their intent.
Have something there – with: the film’s theatrical trailer.
Years before PAXTON took on Mighty Joe Young with all his might, Cooper, Schoedsack, and John Ford (yes, that towering madman of imagery) likely regaled one another on Ford’s infamous yacht with tales of fighting and scrapping while drinking themselves into a stupor. Thus came their collaboration of a towering friendly giant – that of a 10-foot tall Ape named Mr. Joseph Young. Mr. Young happens to be prowling the streets of Africa, drink in hand, looking for some ladies to complete his night when he finds himself face-to-face with Max O’Hara (played by Robert Armstrong), a hot-shot showbiz dude looking to make a quick buck. Quickly carpe diem’ing the day, O’Hara, Mr. Young, and Mr. Young’s lady-friend, Jill Young, find themselves whisked to the states. There, Young finds himself in a variety of nightclub acts, serving the people with a smile, a wink, and some hefty stinky smells. But it’s when he’s forced into a cage at night where the real trouble begins, and the result quickly has Young breaking free to the other side, paroling the streets for some much-needed RnR. Mighty Joe Young, while effortlessly charming, was also the first instance where Harryhausen did stop-motion on his first feature-length film, and since then, we’ve all been better people because of it.
Mr. Joseph Young, eh? – with: audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen, Ken Ralston and Terry Moore, 2 featurettes (Ray Harryhausen and The Chioda Brothers and Ray Harryhausen and Mighty Joe Young), and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Park Chanwook’s last film, Oldboy (read Devin’s review before getting all hopped up) was as much a lighting-bolt revelation as it was one of the better films you’re sure to see since that clip of questionable MILF material last night. But most of us were already late to the party, considering Oldboy is the second in a vengeance trilogy (the third – Sympathy for Lady Vengeance arrives in February, I believe), the first being Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (read Devin’s unrelenting tour de force of a review), which is now just being released on DVD Tuesday. Mr. Vengeance has Ryu, a deaf-mute desperately searching for a kidney replacement for his sister (he isn’t Cojo, after all), although by sheer coincidence, he keeps getting involved in dangerous situations. First he looses his own kidney to a cadre of black-market racketeers, then somehow manages to get his boss’ daughter killed (without the help of Ashton Kutcher). It’s within these horrific moments that the tale of simple, greedy revenge against the organ traders begins to take shape, with Park Chanwook using all of his amazing skills as a filmmaker fully functioning on all levels. While Oldboy might have been your first time experience such a head-wallop in terms of the power of a tale turned on its head, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance surely smashes this one down into the depths of brutality that Chanwook is well known for. Just be ready.
Extras include audio commentary with Chanwook, English subtitles, a behind-the-scenes feature, a first look at Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, some text and photo galleries, a filmography and the film’s theatrical trailer.
When I saw the trailer for The Polar Express, I immediately jumped into the "holy hell" quotient – as in "what the fuck is going on?". It was almost like staring at carnage and not being able to turn away. Surely, filmmaker Robert Zemeckis and his crew of talented artists and craftsmen were able to fully get the whole human body (from emotions to wispy hair to the hundreds of billions of intricate movements) down pat, however, that doesn’t mean my brain has to compute it as real. It looked like a duck and talked like a duck, but it ain’t no damned mallard, I’ll tell you that. The human faces, as you might know, have this weird sheen to them, immoveable and rather stodgy against what you (hopefully) converse with every day (Mom doesn’t count). It’s still so incredibly eerie, and I don’t know if I’m ready to finally take the plunge and watch this sucker. Coincidentally, I am one in terms of always being interested in checking out the new technologies the big boys use to tell a story, and as such, The Polar Express represents this massive step forward and a strange one to the side. For me, at least. It doesn’t help that Devin, in his bile-filled review, mentions that the children are on a train of the damned (lead into Hades by Tom Hanks!), sectioned off by its various plot sequences that include one roller-coaster spectacle after another. That just makes me want to see it more! I just don’t know if I can muster up the courage, though. Then, I say to myself – "self, this is a goddamned kids movie!" – and immediately cry myself to sleep. Everybody hurts.
Warner’s putting out three editions (Widescreen, Widescreen 2-disc SE, and the Widescreen 2-disc Collector’s Edition, which comes with a Snow Globe and a Polar Express train toy). For purposes of having the most complete for the least amount of $$$, the 2-disc edition arrives with 7 featurettes (a never-before-seen Smokey and Steamer song, You Look Familiar: The Many "Polar Faces" of Tom Hanks, True Inspirations: An Author’s Adventure: Profiling Chris Van Allsburg, Josh Groban at the Greek performing the Academy Award nominated original song "Believe", Behind the scenes of "Believe": bringing a hit song to life in the recording studio, Polar Express challenge, and Meet the Snow Angels: the moviemakers’ Christmas memories), the THQ PC game demo with two playable levels, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
In what could succinctly describe that feeling after you’ve destroyed yourself this Thursday, the Beat That My Heart Skipped instead is just a French remake of James Toback’s fine American film Fingers. The original, which had a tour de force descent into madness by Harvey Keitel, now has the guy from L’Auberge Espagnole (a light film I enjoyed) taking over as he finds himself torn between his family and his father’s ‘family’ as he seeks to find solace in what comforts him: music. Papa don’t preach those harmonies, so Tom finds himself being brought into dad Robert’s organized crime scheme, where his quick-witted temper and fists of fury land him much respect against his own yearning to be creative, to make beautiful music. The start of a not-so wonderful friendship has Tom fighting between the two sides that make up his life, each one with dire consequences should he leave another. The Beat That My Heart Skipped has been receiving some great reviews, most note the attractive complexities that make up its visage. It was probably because the film itself threatened to smack the taste out of their mouths (for Christsakes, the guy has blood everywhere on his arm!). Although with this type of intrigue towards something so … foreign … it might lead to people being pleasantly surprised.
Want it from you – with: some interviews, deleted scenes, filmographies, a text and photo gallery, a trailer gallery, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
After you’ve finished your nice meal with the family (or alone, if you don’t have any friends like me), it’s only natural to want to bring a close to the nice day on Thursday with a family-sponsored viewing of Alien Vs. Predator – Unrated Director’s Cut (read Nick’s DVD review of the first edition). Paul WideScreen Anderson (the bad one) thanks you, and as such, I believe he’s allegedly promised to continue pummeling franchises in all forms as long as you keep paying to see them. That shouldn’t deter the many Lance Henricksen Legion supporters who came out in droves (or drove, for that lone group in Illinois) during the film’s original theatrical release from checking the newly powered cut of the Director. Even if it means following him to the depths of Antarctica to search for newly discovered Alien plunder. As it stands, AVP is a missed opportunity, a somewhat shameless exercise in setting up a sequel (which, should arrive, hopefully never) that’s squandered by some good intentions gone horribly awry. Through no fault of our own (the public just continues to be beaten into submission by these things), AVP has some seriously campy moments that just happen to be interspersed with some truly frighteningly awful sequences that should have set some physical sets on fire. At least in that way, they’d have never been fully realized, which is almost like half of the movie, anyway. I believe my friend said it best when he keeps saying "burn!" before we all left him for better friends that weren’t annoying. The Director’s Cut might prove to be of some use to that statement.
Burn! – with: a seamless branched unrated cut (with the added unrated footage – Antarctica 1904, Argument, Chamber of Skulls, Sacrifice, Weyland’s Death & Predator Ritual), audio commentary with Paul W.S. Anderson, Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan, a second commentary track with Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and John Bruno, 7 features (Pre-Production: AVP The Beginning, Branching Footage: ADI Workshop, Production: AVP Production, Branching Video off of Making of AVP: Miniature Whaling Station, Facehuggers and Eggs, Trouble at the Mouth of the Tunnel, Post-Production: Visual Effects Breakdown, Licensing the Franchise: Aliens vs Predator the Comic Book, and Marketing: HBO Special), some deleted scenes (The Sister, Miller Gets Caught, and the Love Scene) with optional Director’s commentary, a storyboard gallery, some concept art, Monsters in Miniature by Todd McFarlane, and three theatrical trailers.
If you happened to have bought the Masterworks Edition of Ran, now is the time to start bawling your eyes out. You’re going to have to purchase the film again (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), because those loveable bastards (who I’ve never met, but must proclaim my undying love to) over at the Criterion Collection have gotten their sneaky hands on Kurosawa’s masterpiece and have gussied it up with a nice purdy bow and a lot of reach-around excitement. Arguably, Ran is one of Kurosawa’s best films (alongside the masterpiece that is the Seven Samurai – a movie you should have purchased yesterday through CHUD here). A masterstroke of color, composition, and filmmaking the likes of which haven’t been called out in years. Based loosely on Shakespeare’s King Lear, Kurosawa stripped down the plot elements, including the lengthy dialogue, and pumped up the cinematic possibilities; via a shimmering amount of color (the bloody sequences in particular), the stunningly gorgeous shots that were picked so amazingly, and the resonance of the imagery through the various items (sound, editing, etc). Everything played for maximum effect. Ran has a 16th Century Warlord renouncing his kingdom and divvying it up amongst his three sons, only to have it all come out from underfoot as his spawn battles against one another for supreme world domination. Kurosawa was a spry 75 years old when he let loose the cinematic dogs of war upon unsuspecting audiences, and if you’ve only vaguely heard about it, Ran is waiting and most of us are jealous that you get to see it for first time.
The double-disc set comes with a newly restored high-definition digital transfer, a new and improved English subtitle translation, audio commentary by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince, an appreciation of the film by director Sidney Lumet (Network, Dog Day Afternoon), A.K., a 74-minute film by director Chris Marker, a 30-minute documentary on the making of Ran, part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, a 35-minute video piece reconstructing Ran through Kurosawa’s paintings and sketches, created as part of the series Image: Kurosawa’s Continuity, a new video interview with actor Tatsuya Nakadai, the film’s theatrical trailers and a 28-page booklet featuring film critic Michael Wilmington and interviews with Kurosawa and composer Toru Takemitsu.
England’s Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were a formidable team, unleashing several bonafide classics through their Archer films banner (one being a movie both Martin Scorsese and I both love, the gorgeously stunning Red Shoes, which should buy from CHUD here). One of those was The Tales of Hoffmann, the film version of the well-known opera (although most of us probably are scratching our heads in bewilderment. It’s natural). Powell and Pressburger subsequently were at the mercy of Technicolor, which they molded into one of their own whores like no one’s business, and as such, each one of their films is a lesson into how to use color, shading, and composition to maximum value. Even if it means you sit through something you might not normally check out. Hoffmann dreams of matters of the heart, since being in the local University allows him to fall in and out of love like those Ramen Noodles coming into your mouth on a regular basis. His three love affairs with different women are captured with full verve and equal heartbreak, especially when he finds out one of whom is actually a mechanical women. This was the age before your own Real Doll, after all, so technology used all the gears and levers to get your rocks off. Shooting high to the moon, Tales of Hoffmann should get most of you predispositioned to hating older films into a tizzy, but for the rest of us, the real treat of discovering a great film filled with poetic visuals is a purchase away.
The new SE comes with a newly restored high-definition digital transfer, audio commentary by director Martin Scorsese and film music historian Bruce Eder, a new video interview with director George A. Romero!, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1956), a short musical film directed by Michael Powell, based on the Goethe story, Rare collection of production designer Hein Heckroth’s design sketches and paintings, a gallery of archival production and publicity photographs, the film’s original trailer, and a new essay by film historian Ian Christie (which you can read right here).
As evidenced above, this week has a ton of releases that should cause panic and frantic decisions once you get to the store (or place of rental). Just make sure to check out David’s DVD review of Home Improvement: Season Three here and anything else you missed in our Forum here.
Criterion "Alex" Winter
December sees the slow-down at the Criterion factory, as they only release two noteworthy editions. Quite possibly this is to allow you to play catch-up on all of the previous months’ releases, to which ninety billion great titles were placed in front of you with little to no time to decide (such as their Jules et Jim, Le Samouraï, Hoop Dreams, Man Who Fell To Earth, Naked, Life Aquatic, and Au Hasard Balthazar editions). Thankfully, the amount of quality isn’t on the backburner for the folks at the Collection as the Pagan Holidays near with reckless abandon. Consider checking out Shoot the Piano Player [Note from George: An awesome flick!], one of Truffaut’s most enjoyable comedic noir films with a nouveau vague twist, and Forbidden Games, which has René Clément focusing his camera on two orphans (who are both not Jewel) growing up in the tumultuous World War II period as it rages through France.
January 2006 sets your resolutions in its sights with Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well, John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, and Vittoria De Sica’s The Children Are Watching Us. All will be discussed in exactly 4 weeks time. See you then!
Making THE LIST
Check it twice. Especially since these dates appear to shift around on me like Meatloaf’s Bat Outta Hell. As you might have already noticed, the second-to-last week of every month (the 10th since I’ve been regulated and chained to this wonderful monster column) sees what happens to drop the next in the land of DVD. All things considered, December is almost like March, in like a Lion and out like a Lamb – in terms of frontloading everything before the Christians march forth with their dollars. Buy! Sell! Yay, capitalism!
I hate being a cheerleader for the simple reason of this fucking itchy skirt.
24: Season Four
All the King’s Men
American Ninja 4: The Annihilation
American Ninja 5
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Volume 4
Batman: The Animated Series – Volume Four
Boyz ‘n the Hood, Baby Boy, Poetic Justice Box Set
Chain of Command
Cinderella Man (comes in Regular and Collector’s Editions)
Delta Force 3
The Dukes of Hazzard (comes in Unrated and Rated versions)
Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Fifth Season
Footballers Wives: The Complete Second Season
Forbidden Games: Criterion
Full House: The Complete Second Season
Fun with Dick and Jane
Garfield & Friends: Volume 5
Gargoyles: Season Two
Imagine: John Lennon – Deluxe Edition
Jackass: Volume One
Kiss of Death
Ladies in Lavender
Law & Order: The Fourth Year
MacGyver: The Complete Fourth Season
Magnificent Seven – Complete First Season
M*A*S*H: The Complete Ninth Season
Matt Helm Lounge Box Set
MTV Jackass: The Box Set
The Mummy Lives
Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Second Season
Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica – The Final Season
Pam Grier Collection
The Proud Family Movie
Ride Beyond Vengeance
Saved by the Bell – Seasons 6 and 7
Shooting the Piano Player: Criterion
A Star is Born
Star Wars: Clone Wars – Volume Two
Star Wars Trilogy
Superman: The Animated Series – Volume Two
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Volume 3
Walt Disney Treasures – The Chronological Donald, Volume Two, 1942-1946
Walt Disney Treasures – The Adventures of Spin and Marty, The Mickey Mouse Club
Walt Disney Treasures – Disney Rarities, Celebrated Shorts 1920s-1960s
Walt Disney Treasures – Elfego Baca and The Swamp Fox, Legendary Heroes
The West Wing: The Complete Fifth Season
Where the Sidewalk Ends
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Bad News Bears
Big Bad Mama: Special Edition
Death Race 2000: Special Edition
The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Fifth Season
Frank Miller’s Sin City: Recut · Extended · Unrated
Gallipoli: Special Collector’s Edition
Garfield: The Movie – Purrrfect Collector’s Edition
Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fifth Season
Godzilla: Final Wars
The Intruder: Special Edition
King Kong: Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries
Kronk’s New Groove
Miami Vice: Season Two
The Producers: Deluxe Edition
Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School: Special Edition
The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (comes in Collectible Marge Head Pack and regular edition)
The Yards: Director’s Cut
21 Hours at Munich
Amazing Race: Season 7
Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0
Bob the Butler
The Brothers Grimm
Chicago: The Razzle-Dazzle Edition
Cry_Wolf (comes in Unrated and Rated versions)
ER: The Complete Fourth Season
Exorcism of Emily Rose (comes in Unrated and Rated versions)
Four Brothers: Collector’s Edition
Frankie and Johnny Are Married
The Great Raid: Unrated Director’s Cut – Miramax Collector’s Series