Eyes when young, register fast. Later you develop the film. Or so said someone famous. I forget. But the little things add up, leaving imprints. Like the time I stole those Citizen Kane lobby cards, or even when I schemed to pilfer that typewriter; finagling everything left and right. Nothing a good, long walk on the beach wouldn’t cure.
Toil and Trouble
The original, which is by no means a masterpiece, had Wes Craven in his most creative period before succumbing to whatever oddness he concocts today. That meant that High Tension’s Alexandre Aja was able to sneak by, expound upon Craven’s already built themes, summarily tweaking them with a blood-thirsty amount of disturbing imagery that will linger. Ever wanted to see a man get an American flag through the jugular? The Hills Have Eyes (read Devin’s gushing review) is for you. For the rest, Aja takes the paranoia exploitation of Craven’s probing Vietnam-era culture schism and ratchets it up to new levels; our New Nightmare™, the ‘war on terror,’ serving as the catalyst into the skewed abyss. It’s still mostly there; the Carter family venturing out into the dusty travails of the desert, and the deformities preying out one’s hopes and fears on those unwilling to submit. Much like anyone’s own family gatherings, Aja’s Hills Have Eyes is a visceral shock-fest, a one-two punch to one’s own swimmers without a warning (although here’s one – Billy Drago is in it). For that, you might want to see what all the unrated fuss is about.
Don’t believe in guns – with:
- Audio commentary with Director/Co-Screenwriter Alexandre Aja, Art Director/Co-Screenwriter Gregory Levasseur and Producer Marianne Maddalena
- Audio commentary with Producers Wes Craven and Peter Locke
- Documentary: Surviving the Hills: Making of The Hills Have Eyes
- Production Diaries
- Music video – Leave the Broken Hearts by the Finalist
Wallowing in a dense plot likely to cause pause for a few, Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (read Devin’s positive review) is a good film, a great film even. The ideas flow freely, as a multi-layered section of incredibly nuanced actors smash into one another when one US oil company merges with another, its sociopolitical ramifications sending shock waves through those with minor touch (like the odd bedfellows of Matt Damon and the wonderful Alexander Siddig) and those in shady deals (like Clooney’s misguided CIA Agent). There are other threads running parallel (Jeffrey Wright’s turn as a Washingtonian Lawyer lumbers), as each story connects and offers insight into flawed policies and failed expressions. What’s not quite there is the character development, which I feel suffers slightly from the sheer amount of stories told, Gaghan weaving in and out with an assured style and force to erase Abandon from my mind. Syriana is well-worth your time, don’t get me wrong on that one. It’s just its power is protracted over the overabundance heaved onto you.
Run a truck into it at 50 MPH – with:
- Some additional scenes
- The feature: A conversation with George Clooney
- The featurette: Make a change, make a difference
- Theatrical Trailer
As an aside, I would have been more than intrigued to hear Gaghan’s thoughts on his interwoven skills through a commentary track. Such is disappointing it’s not included.
It’s tough to gauge Forrest J. Ackerman’s contribution to the fledgling minds of American Sci-Fi with his Famous Monsters of Filmland, the bulk of readers who have gone on to great acclaim. One of those sparked was the creative imagination of ILM’s own Dennis Muren, whose VFX credits cement his place. But there was a time when Muren was growing up and fantasizing about it all, much like ourselves. Where the moment differs is when he took to his feet and did something about it – Equinox. The story, a mixture of student film acting and a hefty dose of material professionalism through its special effects, has a group of Teens stumbling upon an ancient book over-lorded by the Park’s Ranger (also the film’s other Co-Director), aka the demonic Asmodeus. Chucking a variety of thoroughly-wondrous creatures at the pubescent ones, Muren and Wood’s combined version crafts a thrilling tale that I’ve consistently enjoyed even if one of the creatures happens to look like my morning self.
Know a catatonic comma if it hits you – with:
- The original, original, never-released The Equinox: Journey into the Supernatural, and the 1970 Jack H. Harris theatrical release, Equinox
- Audio commentary with Writer/Director Jack Woods and Producer Jack H. Harris on Equinox
- Audio commentary with Effects Photographer/Producer/Director Dennis Muren, Writer/Co-Director Mark McGee, and Matte Artist/Cel Animator and Effects Technician Jim Danforth on The Equinox: Journey into the Supernatural
- Video introduction by Forrest J. Ackerman
- Interviews with director Dennis Muren and actors Frank Bonner, Barbara Hewitt and James Duron
- Deleted scenes and outtakes from the original 1967 version
- Rare animated fairy tale The Magic Treasure by Equinox animator David Allen
- David Allen’s acclaimed "Kong" commercial for Volkswagen, including test footage
- Short film Zorgon: The H-Bomb Beast from Hell (1972) featuring Equinox cast and crew
- Extensive gallery featuring rare stills and promotional material
- 32-page booklet with tributes from George Lucas and Ray Harryhausen and an essay by Brock DeShane
- Trailer and radio spots
Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch (read Devin’s review) is a cross between The Matrix (visually) and a night at Thomas Flower’s favorite Opium Den (emotionally). The eternal Vampiro forces of light and dark battle it out in the streets of Moscow set against a rage of pulsating house music. Flash back centuries and you’ll notice that they’ve set some ground rules as part of their truce, the darks taking the Day Watch (which is screening out there, somewhere…) and the lights, the film’s title. Never mind the already mind-boggling arising sociological scenarios, just scuttle them off for the action-adventure of hero Anton’s tale. The truce between all vanishes when an ‘Other,’ like Anton, comes into the picture (there are several to allegedly tip the balance). Taking the side of the lights, Devin explains it’s all rather “ill-defined” but works in a somewhat larger visual sense, spilling its intestines out Russian-style. Whatever that means. Bekmambetov’s acuteness isn’t overshot from any angle, but Night Watch doesn’t quite translate from its more bulging intentions.
Act like a Human – with:
- Audio commentary with Director Timur Bekmambetov (subtitled in English, Spanish, French – on Side B’s Russian Version ONLY)
- A text commentary with Novelist Sergei Lukianenko (subtitled in English, Spanish, French – on Side B’s Russian Version ONLY)
- The extended ending (of ‘the roof’) with optional audio commentary with Bekmambetov (option to view in English or Russian audio)
- Inside Look at upcoming Night Watch sequels
- Bonus Trailers
2006 was the year of the weird Paul Walker dichotomy. There was the slam-bang-thank-you-Chazz Palminteri rush of Running Scared (see Nick’s DVD review), but before that Walker was the biggest draw in all of Hong Kong where his kiddie flick, Eight Below, held up for many, many weeks. Frank Marshall, who made me squirm during adolescence with both Alive and Arachnophobia, retells the 1993 Japanese yarn about a group of pups (six Siberian huskies and two malamutes) who are abandoned during an intense Artic winter storm by Walker’s desire to be like Susan Hayward. Working diligently afterwards, Walker and crew regulate their own mount-up sticks for a jaunt into the frigid ex-girlfriend like depths of Antarctica to rescue the d-o-double g’s and make your heart all warm and fuzzy inside. Outside, you might end up like Devin (who cried in his review), or possibly even relieved that the main crux of the story will put some hair on your chest.
Payback’s a pretty good dish – with:
- Audio commentary with Frank Marshall and Producer Pat Crowly
- Audio commentary with Marshall, Paul Walker and Director of Photography Don Burgess
- Some deleted scenes with optional Marshall commentary
- Featurette: Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below
Waldo Salt is one of cinema’s greatest screenwriters, but also one of its most puzzling mysteries, having labored in his share of creaky credits before getting to the meaty stuff. Depending on how you feel, Salt and James Goldstone’s Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight is mad-cap zany, filled with actors whose best times (like a mop-topped De Niro and Orbach) were definitely ahead of them. As a film it’s not very memorable, but has a mischievous spirit much like that of Vigoda, assuming he’s still battling the shrouding Reaper force. Additionally, Albert Brook’s unloved ditty Modern Romance is one of his better films (Mother being one of his worst. I felt so uncomfortable) with his whole family getting into the act of seducing and wooing a girl, Kathryn Harrold to be precise. While not literally a family affair (wink, nudge?), Modern Romance does paint an entertaining portrait of a time when Brooks was at a peak.
Extras on both include:
More aptly, I’d call this mini-section “The British Are Coming!”, since Tony Richardson’s The Loved One is a devilish look at the nasty business of funerals. An odd mixture of one part Jonathan Winters, one part Rod Steiger, and an eighth of Liberace, Richardson riles-up the eccentric cast of Evelyn Waugh’s novel at the expense of Terry Southern’s co-adaptation (along with Christopher Isherwood) as its deeply black comedic roots enrapture everything from humanity to shooting corpses into space. Eternally, The Loved One will probably feel free to roam about and poke nefariously into the windows of those habeas corpses with scrupulous methods, exploiting them for good measure. Check this one out.
When Sean Connery broke away from Bond, A Fine Madness sprung forth; better films like Man Who Would Be King, came later. Connery’s acting has always been more larger-than-life than actual life, and here he fits the bill slightly. Jaded and poetic all at the same time, his shoe salesman Samson Shillitoe is melancholic and completely incorrect in his societal attitudes. Plunging into relationships with the likes of Joanne Woodward and Jean Sebring, Connery fashions his role with a chutzpah that’s categorized by a whimsy unlike anything he’d done before. The movie as a whole is entertaining, just not a revelation from soon-to-be Lucas’ed Irvin Kershner.
Finally, Richard Lester brings together the illuminating (and ray-gun stunning) 60’s Julie Christie with the gruff George C. Scott for a little Petulia. Their recently-divorced opposite sides attract, neither taking two steps forward. Instead, the pair swing into the sixties with reckless aplomb, Scott more reserved than Christie’s free-wheeling in the grand scheme. Lester’s film is a departure from his own particular Beatles invasion, with his resonance between two romantics sparking to one another speaking more from Nicholas Roeg’s visuals than Lawrence Marcus and Barbara Turner’s words. Still, it’s a worthwhile misadventure.
Feel something – with:
- New featurette: Trying to Offend Everyone (Loved One)
- Vintage featurette: Mondo Connery
- New featurette: The Uncommon Making of Petulia
- Old featurette: Petulia: The Uncommon Movie
- Theatrical Trailer
With John Moore’s Omen floundering in theatres, see how it was done well with Richard Donner’s more thrilling and evil Omen: Collector’s Edition. I know what you’re thinking, debating with your moth-ball ridden wallet to upgrade from the previous, but it’s worth it. Gilbert Taylor’s cinematography has been given the old ethereal clean-up, showcasing a relatively spiking composition that sprays pea-soup all over the last transfer. Plus, there’s a variety of extras expounding on Donner’s own wrestling matches with the Devil (winner won the right to make Timeline. We, as audiences, lost). Donner’s great film, made during the era in which Lucifer got busy with many still retains its inherent shock values (think of Goldsmith’s haunting score) and more importantly, the performance of Gregory Peck, grey and beaten-down with the choice he must undoubtedly make. One only wonders if indeed their own demonic sperm were that of Satan, but then I realized that most Internet posters are truly that outcome. Hail.
It’s all for you – with:
- Audio commentary with Donner and Editor (slash US Marshals Director) Stuart Baird
- Audio commentary with Donner and Director/Screenwriter Brian Helgeland
- 6 featurettes (Curse or Coincidence, Jerry Goldsmith Discusses The Omen Score, 666: The Omen Revealed, The Omen Legacy, Screenwriter’s Notebook with Screenwriter David Seltzer, and An Appreciation: Wes Craven on The Omen)
- Introduction to the special edition of Omen by director Richard Donner
- Deleted Scene – Dog Attack with commentary by director Richard Donner and & writer/director Brian Helgeland
- Stills Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
There is that pencil-thin moustache, surrounded by an air of masculinity peppered with truthful matinee-idol status (after Gone with the Wind he was labeled “The King of Hollywood” to Cecil B. DeMille’s dismay). There’s only been one Clark Gable, and his films remain testaments to the more classical style of filmmaking when his talents reigned supreme – look at his work with Capra. In The Clark Gable Signature Collection, Gable takes us on a ride of adventure, romance, thrilling excitement, and even African Safari jungle tours rivaling your own dense imaginations tarnished with You Tube. The transfers run the gamut, though, and the set (I’ve heard) isn’t quite up to par with existing Warner Signature standards. This could be a case of the remaining surviving elements, but I’m ecstatic that we’re getting such diverse Gable films as Mogambo, China Seas, San Francisco, Dancing Lady, Wife vs. Secretary, and Boom Town. The latter extolling the virtues of capitalism on our society by Spencer Tracey’s eclectic monologue skills. The rest of the films range from everyone’s tastes, but in reality, those wishing to understand where Hollywood is coming from (to become what it is today) should stock up on Warner’s amazing series of sets they’ve been pumping out, including Gable.
Lick me if it’ll help – with:
- Vintage short: Hollywood Hobbies
- Classic cartoon: Home on the Range
- Theatrical trailer
- Vintage Fitzpatrick TravelTalk short: Cherry Blossom Time in Japan
- Musical short: A Girl’s Best Years
- Theatrical trailer
- Vintage musical shorts: Planet Nuts with Ted Healy and the Three Stooges, Roast Beef & Movies with Curly Howard
- Theatrical trailer
Wife vs. Secretary
- Vintage musical short: New Shoes
- Oscar-winning Crime Doesn’t Pay short: The Public Pays
- Theatrical trailer
- Alternate ending sequence
- Documentary profile: Clark Gable: Tall, Dark & Handsome hosted by Liam Neeson
- Vintage Fitzpatrick TravelTalk shorts: Cavalcade of San Francisco, Night Descends on Treasure Island
- Classic cartoon: Bottles
- Theatrical trailer
- Theatrical trailer
Tuesday will more than likely see your own Super fetishes take hold, culminating with some thought towards Superboy, Superman’s Animated Adventures, Justice League’s Second Season (read David’s DVD review), or even the hokey-pokiness’ of Lois & Clark’s Third Season. Whatever floats your kryptonian boat.
Hold These Truths To Be Criterion Evident
July puts its John Hancock down onto the DVD scene, ushering in three interesting, yet completely different films from our unknown friends at the Collection. Edward Yang’s Yi Yi (out on 7.11.06) is a completely necessary cinematic experience, while Barbet Schroeder’s Koko: A Talking Gorilla (also on 7.11.06) bridges the gap between man and myth (still ignoring my queries into why I am prone to fling poo every once and a while), while the Archers get in on the fun with Powell & Pressburger’s magnificent A Canterbury Tale (out on 7.25.06), as the duo responsible for so many indelible images updates Chaucer’s tales into the confines of World War II. See most of these.
August brings Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales (with Bakery Girl of Monceau, Suzanne’s Career, La Collectionneuse, My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knees, and Love in the Afternoon), Pietro Germi’s Seduced and Abandoned, and a much-needed assimilation of Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming.
But that’s not all.
We’re just gearing up for September, which brings jaw-dropping revelations. Normally, I’d wait until next month, but these titles are all getting deluxe updates and the first receives a 3-disc Special Edition (read our MB Thread here). Call it serendipity. Call it fate. Any way you slice and dice your enemies, it’s a boon to everything we call DVD. Enjoy!
There’s more (like a Brazil upgrade), but these three I’m particularly emaciated about. Considering I’ll be saving money by not eating.
Land Of The Free, Home Of THE LIST
June’s third week brings July’s entire offerings (or close to it, since they can change at a moment’s notice). Things to get excited about: Grand Prix: SE, MoH: Homecoming, Blackballed: Bobby Dukes Story, Film Noir Classics Collection: Volume Three, Yi Yi: Criterion, Road House: SE, Tsotsi, Warner’s Tough Guys Collection, and the Hudson Hawk: SE. The last title because it’s aged gracefully, like Robert Davi.
Charlie’s Angels – The Complete Third Season
Doctor Who: The Complete First Series
Legend of Prince Valiant: The Complete Series Volume One
Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School
Astro Boy: Greatest Astro Adventures
Basic Instinct 2
Blackbeard: Terror at Sea
Bridezillas: The Complete First Season
Bridezillas: The Complete Second Season
The Ellen Show: The Complete Series
ER: The Complete Fifth Season
Grand Prix: 40th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition
I Dream of Jeannie – The Complete Second Season
Martha’s Guests: Master Chefs
Masters of Horror: Homecoming
Perry Mason: Season 1 Volume 1
Reno 911!: Season 3
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Volume 2
Weeds: Season One
Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr.: The Complete Series
Amazing Stories: The Complete First Season
Best of She-Ra – Princess of Power
Bullets or Ballots
Carnivale: The Complete Second Season
City for Conquest
Each Dawn I Die
Film Noir Classic Collection Volume Three
Hiroshima: BBC History of World War II
Incredible Hulk: The Complete First Season
Jack of All Trades: The Complete Series
Pretender: The Complete Fourth Season
Pup Named Scooby-Doo Volume 3
Pup Named Scooby-Doo Volume 4
Queer Duck: The Movie
Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes
Road House: Deluxe Edition
Road House 2
Shakespeare Behind Bars
She’s the Man
A Slight Case of Murder
Some Like it Hot: Collector’s Edition
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Taking Over the Tipton
That’s So Raven: Volume 4 Raven’s Makeover Madness
Ultraman: Series One Volume One
Warner Bros. Pictures Tough Guys Collection
Academy Award Nominated Short Films
Animaniacs: Volume 1
Ask the Dust
Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That
Bogie & Bacall: The Signature Collection
Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story
Boondocks – The Complete First Season Uncut and Uncensored
Chappelle’s Show: The Lost Episodes Uncensored
Final Destination 3
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG – Volume 6: 2-Disc Limited Edition
Halloween: 25 Years of Terror
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – Divimax Special Edition
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers – Divimax Special Edition
Hudson Hawk: 15th Anniversary Edition
JAG: The Complete First Season
La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fourth Season
Laguna Beach: The Complete Second Season
Mee-Shee: The Water Giant
Pinky and the Brain: Volume 1
Punky Brewster: Season Three
Rawhide: The Complete First Season
Robert Ludlum’s Covert One: The Hades Factor
Shirley Temple Collection, Volume 4
Steal the Sky
Tales From the Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season
Three’s Company: Season Seven
Will Rogers Collection, Volume 1
I was very leery about Silent Hill, since the video game-to-film ratio has cultivated such curios as Super Mario Brothers, Resident Evil, and whatever else fumes nostrils. There was that effectively spooky trailer, meanderingly slightly, effused with Deborah Kara Unger and her frizzy white hair. But if Christophe Gans (who made Brotherhood of the Wolf) did indeed pull something through those gates of hell (via Roger Avery’s words), one might feel vindicated. But then comes Russ’ negative review (here), where he mentions “I wouldn’t have believed that even Avary would cop to something this soggy.” Next, realize that while effective in intent, maybe it didn’t quite work out. We’ve all played the video games and almost wet ourselves during the whole (maybe that was just me?). Expectations were undoubtedly high, considering the dearth of really good horror movies (see our first title this week being the exception) out there. So on 8.22.06, I suppose you (and I) can strap on our rose tinted glasses and experience everything without the nagging of “it stinks!” behind us. Instead, it’ll probably just come from the front.
What the fuck? – with:
- 6 making-of featurettes (Silent Hill Origins, Casting Silent Hill, Building Silent Hill, Stars and Stunts, Creatures Unleashed, and Creature Choreography)
- Other extras TBA.