December! A month filled with half-days, long, cold nights and enough family gatherings to put a bullet in your brain. I’m not advocating that, but if you need something to get through all the wonderful times with people who you loathe with the fire of a thousand suns, you could do no better than digital video discs.
Have Mercy on me please!
Ron Howard’s subsequent films have always had that sheen of vanilla to them. Sure, they’re fun stories (The Baldwins fighting DeNiro fires, Tom Hanks battling the invisible forces of Space) and well-crafted ones, films that arguably could have been made competently by any other group of classically-trained filmmakers working in that day and age. Recently there’s been a shift in Howard’s abilities; he’s been putting a brighter focus on story, on character, and – gasp – the filmmaking itself. Luckily enough, we’re all privy to this slow change (a departure that started with The Missing) and his most recent, the seemingly unloved Cinderella Man (read Nick’s Old Reliable review), is yet another small step in a right direction. Howard’s clockwork-like precision in crafting a good story told increasingly well is focused on Russell Crowe as Depression-era jabber Jim Braddock. The downtrodden times have taken their relentless toll on the Braddock family, and it’s within this situation where he has to step up and provide for his family in a way that requires him to toss aside his former phone-throwing laurels. He gets another chance. But, he’s going to have to work at it. Crowe, using all of his inventive skills, is backed up with a myriad of good actors like Paul Giamatti (somebody give this guy an award already!) and the boastful chest-puffing of one Craig Bierko. Above all, however, is Howard and Crowe’s wondrous efforts to deliver a great narrative richly ensconced in the period itself. Howard’s slowly but surely working towards becoming something more than himself, and I for one, am excited to see what happens from here as he takes on those dastardly Christians and their overt symbolism.
There are two versions of this excellent film, the Widescreen and the Collector’s Edition. The Widscreen version of the film comes with audio commentary from Director Ron Howard, Writer Akiva Goldsman, and Writer Cliff Hollingsworth, some deleted scenes with optional commentary with Howard, 5 features (The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man, The Man, The Movie, The Legend: A Filmmaking Journey, For the Record: A History in Boxing, Ringside Seats, and Jim Braddock: The Friends & Family Behind The Legend), and a Kodak Partner Spot. The Collector’s Edition contains everything above and some additional deleted scenes with optional commentary from Howard, 5 more features (Video Diary: On The Set With Russell Crowe, Pre-Fight Preparations, Lights, Camera, Action: The Fight From Every Angle, The Sound of the Bell, and Braddock VS. Baer Fight Footage), a featurette: Cinderella Music Man, and a photomontage, all packaged in a spiffy box.
The rallying cry against the misfortunes of Fantastic Four (read Devin’s surprisingly positive review), was more than droning. Everywhere you looked the various Internet peoples were decrying the film’s poster, advertisements, and the disheartening trailer. But then something happened on the way to the Forum, a film with intensive bias against it turned into a movie a lot of acquaintances I know found themselves saying it was adequate, but not spectacular. Granted, I have still yet to see the film, partly because of the fanboy outcries in our Message Board Discussion (click here), but I am curious (yellow). Maybe to see a world of hurt, a world of fantastical treats so resoundingly skewed, I might be in for the surprise of my life. As it stands, Fantastic Four is still that one that got away for me; a film so filled with several over-the-top moments in the trailer. I couldn’t help but notice The Thing’s strangely ridiculous accent, or Jessica Alba’s unflattering presence (that’s not quite a potshot!). And I know there are legions of fans out there, pouring over their comic books of the tale of the four heroes whose powers make up for some of the most interesting ever assembled (besides Captain Canuck and his minions), and there are some still crying out into the still of the night. Along with those awesome bastards of Whitesnake, they might finally accept that wolf at their door. Unless they’re making sweet, sweet love to you. A riffing guitar solo would be a great exit right about now…
"No … let’s" – with: audio commentary from Alba, Chiklis, and Gruffudd, sprinkled in with a dash of McMahon (although I think I speak for all when I say – where’s Tim Story?), 3 deleted scenes, The Fantastic Tour: Exclusive behind-the-scenes home video hosted by the entire cast, the making-of The Fantastic Four, Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session & Making A Scene, 3 music videos (Everything Burns, Come On Come In, and Music), and an exclusive first-look at X-Men 3 – hosted by producer Avi Arad. In that case, everybody cry out "Ratner!" and cry themselves into a sweet slumber.
I can usually tell instantly when a movie is going to be atrocious. And The Dukes of Hazzard (read Devin’s review, where he berates everyone involved, including you) seemed to have all of those qualities – tone, sense of plot development, Jessica Simpson – in spades. The pedigree of the original television series, the one that consistently managed to find viewers in the most unlikeliest of hyperlinked places, still astounds me with its unabashed brand of humor, stereotypes, and Southern hospitality this side of Pynchon’s Mason-Dixon. Leave it to CHUD favorites Broken Lizard to put their hat into this warbled ring, considering their Super Troopers is a fun exercise in comedy and a bland one in filmmaking. The plot, while supremely thin, has the Duke Boys (Brothers Johnny Knoxville and Sean ‘Wilhelm’ Scott) stumbling onto Boss Hogg’s (Burt Reynolds) plan to stripmine Hazzard County. So, of course, they’ll have none of that, as they race their cars at obscene levels and destroy everything in their path with flaming arrow shenanigans. Speaking of which, it’s when Devin mentions that Jessica Simpson is truly the only one to acquit herself from the weak series of events, that’s when you know you’ve stumbled upon something mighty special. Watch at your own risk, or suffer the wrath of someone’s unintended viewing habits.
Warner brothers suddenly starts releasing their movies in Unrated and Rated versions. The Unrated version (surely for you horn dogs out there wishing to see more anorexic Simpson in a thin bathing suit) comes with 2 sets of additional scenes – unrated and PG-13, several featurettes (Daisy Dukes: The Short Short Shorts (Learn how they made the shorts so short and how to make your own); The General Lee Lives (A close look at the beloved car); How to Launch a Muscle Car 175 feet in 4 Seconds (How they pulled off such a large scale car jumping stunt)), 2 gag reels – unrated and PG-13, Simpson’s ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin‘ music video, and a behind-the-scenes look at The Dukes of Hazzard.
A lot of readers have asked me over these past months when Star Wars: Clone Wars – Volume Two was arriving. My response: OMG, TODAY, DOOD. Famed animator Genndy Tartakovsky’s exploits into the worlds that you continue to act as if were realer than real develop and shift, causing Wars to ignite further into disarray and Jedi’s to seek enlightenment; through wrecking shit up, my Coruscantian friend. Quickly zooming back to where Volume One left off (purchase that through CHUD here!), everyone’s favorite wheezy cougher General Grevious continually threatens our 2-D heroes into oblivion and strife, as the Separatists’ war rages around their adventures into the Lucasfilm stable of creations. When it’s firing on all cylinders, Tartakovsky’s world is a feast for your eyes, and an invisible string rising something down there all over again. Girls love that. Questions are answered, posed, and exploded into submission, all leading yourself right into Episode III and your great mimicry of yelling your own Vader rising scene over and over when Mom doesn’t give you chocolate milk.
A wondrous array of extras for any fanboy! – includes: audio commentary with Genndy Tartakovsky and his band of merry Men’s Men animators, an exclusive featurette: "Connecting the Dots" – which takes you inside the creative process that Genndy Tartakovsky and his team used to link Clone Wars to Revenge of the Sith, 2 galleries of concept art, storyboards, sketches & more!, the Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith launch trailer, the Star Wars: Battlefront II video game trailer, the Star Wars: Empire at War video game trailer, a "Revenge of the Brick" trailer from LEGO, and a special Xbox-playable demo with two entire levels from the new Star Wars: Battlefront II video game.
Jenny McCarthy can write! Isn’t that wonderful! Yes, the woman who you fawned and swooned over on Singled Out has managed to find funding for her tale of romantic woes – Dirty Love, while your own tale of mediocrity still bangs itself out on your coffee table (mine managed to spontaneously combust). Directed by her former husband, John Mallory Asher, McCarthy finds herself jilted at the most unfortunate time, leaving her to shuttle her boyfriend and take up with pals Carmen Electra and Kam Heskin. Thus making that old adage that beautiful thin people can’t find a stable relationship so entirely awesome and true. That’s not all either! McCarthy’s best friend, the dude from American Pie who slept with Stifler’s Mom, finds himself developing a pants-shattering revelation towards his feelings for Ms. Playmate of the Year eighteen billion years ago. Will she realize his affections before it is too late? My guess is yes, and it’s more than entirely a good bet on my part to run to Vegas and put a couple Lincolns down on it. If you feel cheated by such a spoiling caveat, it might be time to check out some more film entirely more worth your time. Dirty Love feels just like its title and I might need a cleansing before I’ve even watched it!
Get dumped by these pithy extras with include audio commentary with McCarthy and Asher and some previews for unknown films.
A friend of mine commented that 24 only gets better with age, decimating the competition with its frenzied developments anchored by a great Kiefer performance as the man keeps getting shat on. Shifting alliances, stabbings in the back, terrorist plots to detonate a nuclear device somewhere in the continental United States – in short, a typical day for Counter Terrorist Unit’s Jack Bauer (Sutherland). Season Four saw no shortage of slam-bang reacharound ‘real-time’ action action, as these slimy enemies of freedom pulled out absolutely no stops, threatening to explode multiple nuclear power plants, shoot down Aero Force One (without Aerosmith on board!), and continue to assassinate the President. Sutherland continues to stay one step ahead of these dastardly assholes, working in tandem with his group and pummeling all those who stray the course. But there are jaw-dropping moments to be discovered, and a Season cliffhanger that makes you go C+C Music Factory’s "hmmmm" all over the place, especially since you’ll be screaming bloody murder at where they leave you. Stock up, sit back, and let Season Four rip-roaringly shred all of your preconceived notions about thrilling television to bits while most of you eagerly anticipate January’s Season Five debut.
Tell me where the bomb is or I’ll kill your son! – with: cast and crew audio commentary on selected episodes, 39 deleted scenes with optional commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and all of the "24: Conspiracy" Cell Phone Mobisodes, just in case you missed them. Awesome-o.
It would be very unlike myself to not include Konga this week. Continuing in the mold of the original giant hairy ape, Konga‘s sensibilities lie in its B-picture qualities that would leave any beast jumping up and down in screeching joy. Doctor Decker (Batman‘s Michael Gough) arrives back from the Congo with some plants and a little simian friend named Konga. Working diligently night and day, he starts to develop his greatest creation: a serum that accidentally turns Konga from a little chimp into a gigantic super-ape, hell bent on smashing and eating bananas at furious rates. Decker immediately starts using Konga to rip apart his enemies and suddenly, the unthinkable happens. Konga escapes, rampaging his way through the streets of a swinging London, and it’s up to the gallant British Army to save the day. What instantly flashes to mind is Rampage, the classic video game for which men were crowned men and women the heroines of the day. But where Konga is pure inspired lunacy is in its sheer spectacle – towering apes running rampant through cities will always be worthwhile, even if age, acting, and a man in a poor monkey suit has not been kind (look at Mighty Peking Man! – purchase that from CHUD right quick!).
Attack! – with absolutely no special features.
Some of you assholes absolutely love Jackass, Johnny Knoxville and Company’s ode to the mentally challenged kid in all of us. Season One remained firmly out of the public’s reach until recently, so now without futher adieu, Jackass: The Boxed Set arrives in its Three Season glory. Relive all of those nasty hi-jinx, as these adventurous band of unstable human beings continually cheat death and destruction of their bodies while fellating everything good in the world with their particular brand of humor. Jackass isn’t for everyone, and those repulsed by the sights of poo-eating, shin-shattering stunts will most likely turn their heads in disgust. Just like my High School Graduation. And that’s just the beginning as these boys go way beyond the line of dignity and courage, making a run for the border while torching it in arguably the funniest way imaginable. For the rest of us, who thrive off of lowbrow humor and the sight of watching a friend or a neighbor or your Grandma throwing caution into the wind and farting flames of fury, Jackass’ Boxed Set is right up your testicle electrocution alley.
I repeat – do not try this at home – with: audio commentary with cast & crew, including Johnny Knoxville & Bam Margera, never before released footage (Volume 1 contains over 50 and 2 and 3 have been updated), the 40 minute where-are-they-now? featurette, the Gumball Rally 3000 feature with cast commentary, various skits, photo galleries, a Jackass Cribs edition, Jackass VMAs cast appearances, and a 48-page book – an insider’s look into the world of Jackass.
François Truffaut made many films, each and every one a gem in its own right (although I’m not very partial to the best-of clip show of Love On The Run), so its fitting that Criterion show him even more love than they already have, this time with his second film – Shoot the Piano Player. Arguably one of his most inventively creative, Truffaut’s film is a masterstroke of rebellion in its various cinematic ways. Not only does he throw every rule out the window, but he manages to craft a film so wholly original that it does justice to the genre it invokes, which is a gangster-comedy-film noir-musical-realism hybrid. That mouthful aside, Shoot the Piano Player has our titular hero, real-life musician Charles Aznavour, in self-exile – that is until two gangsters from his former colored past come back into his life. Faced with the possibilities of being a McCartney Man on the run, Aznavour gets mixed up in this crazy free-flowing world of Truffaut and the results are as spectacular as they are pleasantly jumbled. Truffaut uses everything but the kitchen sink (and it might even be in there, as my old age is causing brain farts) – jump cuts, kenetic hand held shots, split screen, fantastical elements (one shot involves a character saying something which cuts to a hard cut, charming my pants right off into bliss), and even levels of profound excitement – all wrapped up in a homage to the various B-pictures of yore. It’s a tremendously fun flick, so get out there and check it out, Putain!
Extras include: a newly restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Raoul Coutard, new and improved English subtitle translation, audio commentary by film scholars Annette Insdorf and Peter Brunette, exclusive new video interviews with actors Charles Aznavour and Marie Dubois, a video interview with Coutard, conducted in 2003, a rare interview with François Truffaut collaborator Suzanne Schiffman, from 1986, various excerpts from a 1965 episode of the French television program Cinéastes de notre temps dedicated to Truffaut, an excerpt from the French television program Étoiles et toiles in which Truffaut discusses his adaptation of the David Goodis novel, The Music of George Delerue, an illustrated essay, Dubois’ screen test for the film, a new essay by film critic Kent Jones, and the film’s theatrical trailer. As Beck says – hell yes.
Criterion’s only other release for this month is René Clément’s Forbidden Games. A movie almost certainly several of you will ignore to the point of downright pretending its your bastard child, Clément’s film is widely considered to be one of his finest. Strictly researched for five long years, Forbidden Games studies the ravages of World War Two on the children, something Sally Struthers would most likely cry about at all times. This is a serious matter, as Clément makes sure you feel every single moment in this film, even as he condemns the Adults in their film with their selfish ways, jockeying for position amongst themselves and ignoring the most important aspect – life – right in front of their eyes. Taking a massive stand, Clément wants this story never to be forgotten, considering tragedies like the Paulette and Michel Dolle’s happen every single day wherever ignorance is being waged.
Extras include: a newly restored high-definition digital transfer, new and improved English subtitle translation, an optional English-dubbed soundtrack, a collection of new and archival interviews with director René Clément and actress Brigitte Fossey, an alternate opening and ending to the film, a new essay by film scholar Peter Matthews, and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
I love Fox’s recent Film Noir series because it affords the causal viewer the opportunity to be thrown into these suspicious worlds of dark and light, evil and goodness. And on top of that, be entertained tremendously at the same time! Not only this week can you receive the dreaded Kiss of Death, but also check out a Dark Corner with Lucille Ball, and figure out Where the Sidewalk Ends, Otto Preminger’s ode to Shel Silverstein’s dark side.
Don’t forget about these either.
No Explanation Needed
Movies that united cultures and destroyed familial units!
Are These The Droids You’re Looking For?
For the hardcore completist/fetishist out there, the Star Wars Trilogy Limited Edition arrives and you’ll most likely snatch this sucker right up, considering the new cover art. For the rest of us, you’ll quickly notice that the set is simply the same as the 2004 release WITHOUT the infamous Bonus Disc (where some of you complained about childhoods being zapped into oblivion). Ultimately, that means the exact same changes for the 1997 Special Edition re-releases, pure as the virgin thoughts Lucas put into them. And you’ll continue to get the other quick fixes as well, such as Hayden Christensen’s cameo in Return of the Jedi and even Ian McDiarmid’s added dialogue in Empire. The good news is the price slash, which substantially cuts the boxed set down a Hamilton or two, thus enabling cheap assholes like your Uncle to consider snatching up his favorite set of films since American Ninja. If he’s the type of person who would be satisfied without the excellent full-length Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, then by all means, let him at it. But if not, I think most of you know where you’ll stand. Outside the goddamned store before it opens on Tuesday.
Obi-Wan helps you – with: the set comes with Episodes IV, V, and VI, and includes all of the original audio commentary from the previous boxed edition.
The D’s Have It
Keira Knightley pulls a 180 and whoops some ass in Tony Scott’s frenetically paced Domino (out on DVD on Valentine’s Day – how quaint). As you might have guessed from the amazingly awesome trailers – Knightley is a bounty hunter. She’s Domino Harvey (daughter of the guy who attempted to kill the President in the original Manchurian Candidate). She’s unfulfilled with her life, preferring to take the low road and bust all the fugitives into clobbered mounds of tears while hobnobbing with Los Angeles’ rich and famous. Most notably, Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering. Teaming up with Mickey Rourke has to have some sort of notoriety with it too, as Domino joins his bounty huntin’ unit and proceeds to go into machismo land. It’s only then where Reality TV producer Christopher Walken wants to make sure to get in on the ground floor of this insane endeavor, but with the clock ticking away at every turn, the real Domino Harvey’s life remains unknown to most of us. Probably because we didn’t venture to the cinema to check it out. Know one thing, and that’s Tony Scott’s abilities as a high-octane craftsman who will blow you out of your socks before filleting your face with his unique brand of filmmaking (arguably one hated by many!).
Absolutely brilliant – with: audio commentary with Tony Scott and writer Richard Kelly, a second track with script notes and story development from director Tony Scott, executive producer Zach Schiff-Abrams, writer Richard Kelly and actor Tom Waits, some deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by director Tony Scott, the featurette "I am a Bounty Hunter": A look at the life of Domino Harvey with optional commentary from writer Richard Kelly and Domino Harvey, the featurette "Bounty Hunting on Acid: Evolution of a Visual Style": A look at Tony Scott’s visual style starting with his award-winning Marlboro ads through the gritty styling of Domino, and the film’s teaser and theatrical trailer.
Doom (read Devin’s amazing review) is one of those movies that is life-affirming. Where else can you see a man die, his spirit levitating above his body, only to quickly re-enter? The goal is to receive a free life, and our lives are forever enriched with this cinematic equivalent of the holy light shining upon us. The Rock is Sarge, who along with Karl Urban is part of the Rapid Response Tactical Squad. Ripping its plot straight from your monitor of Doom 3, The Rock and Urban suddenly find themselves and their RRTS team on Mars, battling the actual portal into the gates of Hell. Demons, creatures, and enough first-person shooter shots (did you see the trailer? Anyone remember that first-person chainsaw shot? AMAZING) populate Doom with joyful glee that’ll make everything all right in your sad, pathetic little world. The words big, dumb, and appalling never meant anything to Doom, as it seemed to brush them aside while literally killing everything in its path. If that’s not cinematic potential to the nth degree, I don’t know what is.
Hark! Extras are still TBA, but what has been revealed to us mere mortals is – First-Person Shooter Sequence (Unrated Editions only), Game On: A beginner’s tour of locations, weapons, creatures and strategies (Unrated Editions only), Basic Training: Join The Rock and the rest of the cast as they train with the SAS, Doom Nation: Exploring the worldwide phenomenon of Doom, the video game franchise, and of course – much, much more. The end is neigh.
Now, a trio of upcoming titles. The universally hated The Fog hits on 1.24.06, as well as the universally unseen duo of The Weather Man (on 1.31.06), and The Chumscrubber (out on 1.10.06), which allowed for Justin Chatwin to meet Mr. Spielberg for War of the Worlds.
Region Free is something that happens.
The Austrian Alps holds many mysteries, including one to figuring out who the Governor of Calee-for-nea truly is. For the meantime, a young woman blandly named Irene takes over a desk position at a posh luxury Hotel in the mountainous land of Arnold. It just so happens that the last woman, named Eva Stein, quickly up and vanished, thus leaving a gaping wound and a much-needed paycheck for our able heroine. However, strange things are afoot, as her Boss keeps to himself and remains mum on the issue of what the Hotel seemingly harbors. Like Seamen and mustard, and guys in Pig masks. The others who populate the getaway are increasingly distancing themselves from Irene’s curiosity, that is, until she seems to take things a step too far. Hotel, from the German Jessica Hausner (director of Lovely Rita and Inter-view), seems to be a lively psychological thriller, one that might be a little more Kubrick, a little less De Bont in regards to the evil goings on inside of a dank and dark mischievous place.
Extras include German DD 5.1 Audio and English subtitles. This is a Region 3 PAL release.
We’re re-mentioning the French’s release of David Lynch’s Lost Highway: Ultimate Edition, because it just came out and I don’t want you to forget. Lynch’s surrealistic take on all things Pullman and Arquette (consequently, how can you forget Robert Blake’s evil, evil smirk?) is still a movie that divides even the staunchest of bastards. Almost ten years later, I still am no closer to understanding the themes, emotions, saxophone playing, and subconscious thoughts Lynch placed into arguably one of his best films than I am when I head-scratchingly viewed the film for the first time. Since then, every time feels like the first time, the very first time (apologies to Foreigner), considering I consistently find some new nugget of excellence and weirdness. Sounds like high time to re-watch the film!
Dick Laurent is dead, isn’t he? – with: Anamorphic Widescreen aspect ratio, English DTS and 5.1. Surround, a 1996 interview and 2005 interview with David Lynch, an interview with Bill Pullman, one with Patricia Arquette, and another with Robert Loggia (no word on whether he expounds on the merits of drinking O.J.), a promotional featurette, a making-of featurette, the film’s theatrical and teaser trailer and a 78-paged booklet, all in French. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Also Works As A Floatation Device
Use this just in case you missed the thousands of titles that came out over the past two weeks.
11/29: Mr. & Mrs. Smith (await Dave’s
DVD review!), March of the Penguins, The Frighteners: Director’s Cut, Havoc
(read Dave’s DVD rack), Sky
High (await Dave’s DVD review), Deuce
Bigalow: European Gigolo,
Murderball, Family Guy – Volume Three, The
Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Muppet
Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Unknown
Chaplin, CSI: Season Five, Empire, Don’t
Go Into The House, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Mission
Hill: Season One, Legends of the Fall: DE, A River
Runs Through It: DE, Death to the Supermodels, Jurassic
Park: Franchise Collection, Mummy: Collector’s Set, and Tremors:
Franchise Collection. Read last weeks’ Special Edition right here.
11/22: War of the Worlds, King
Kong (comes in Collector’s Tin – await Jason’s DVD
review!), Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, King
Kong (‘76), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Polar Express, The
Beat That My Heart Skipped, Alien Vs. Predator – Director’s Cut,
Flux – Complete First Season, Ringers, Honeymooners, Seinfeld:
Season Five, Seinfeld: Season Six, CSI:
Miami: Season Three, Home Improvement: Season Three
(David’s DVD review), 8MM2, Ran:
Criterion and Tales of Hoffmann: Criterion. Read
the two week old Special Edition right here.
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