Well, Newell got caught up in his day job [Note from Nick: I love you, Newell Todd!] and was not able to continue writing Special Edition, so I’m the new kid on the block who will be taking over the column. I can’t match Newell’s wit but I hope to bring you something different, while keeping the format as close to normal as I can. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is an off week for mainstream releases, so I guess I picked a good time to start this.


SAW IIISaw III

The third installment of the Saw series arrives this week and you have the choice of either the Rated-R version or the Unrated Edition to torture yourself with. Jigsaw, the master manipulator from the previous two films has his apprentice Amanda kidnap a doctor who he forces to keep him alive for as long as it takes Jeff, another of his victims, to complete a game of his own. Racing against the ticking clock of Jigsaw’s own heartbeat, the new victims struggle to make it through each of their vicious tests, unaware that Jigsaw and Amanda have a much bigger plan for both of them. I never saw the flick, but was told it involves surgery on Jigsaw that rivals that of Ray Liotta’s brain surgery in Hannibal. That is probably hyperbole as most people I talked to called it one of the worst movies of the year. Reviews say the acting is good but the story remains quite shallow. The DVD comes with no extras other than the cryptically-named "featurettes." Learn from the past: When the fourth installment comes out this Halloween, a special collector’s edition will be released. Unless you’re a double dip whore.


THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED

not ratedKirby Dick, who brought us Oscar nominated documentary Twist of Faith, brings us this documentary that attacks the moral police of cinema entertainment – the MPAA. In an interview with Devin (read that interview here), Dick said that he hoped this documentary would at least put pressure on [the MPAA] at least to make some changes. After this week’s news that the MPAA is enacting new guidelines to "attempt to more clearly explain ratings decisions" (read the news here), it might have worked. Of course the MPAA claimed this change was underway before Dick hired a private investigator to discover the actual identities of the super-secret organization that decides if a movie should be Rated-R or if it receives the dreaded NC-17 rating. I have heard a lot of debate about the film but don’t know anyone personally who has seen it. Based on Devin’s interview with Dick and the fact that it features such filmmakers as Allison Anders, Darren Aronofsky, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone and John Waters, it’s a film I definitely plan on picking up. What it needs, though, is extras – some outtakes or deleted scenes; anything really. Yes, many of the things you would expect in a making of is included in the documentary itself, including the actual appeals process where Dick challenged this films NC-17 rating. However, for extras, this DVD has nothing. I would expect a special edition to be released soon, so be prepared for a possible double dip.


BROKEBACK MOUNTAINbrokeback

You knew it was coming, yet everyone went out and bought it when it was first released anyway. Well, double dippers rejoice – Brokeback Mountain is being re-released this week in a 2 Disk Collector’s Edition. I have a close friend who loves this movie like no one else. For those living in a cave the last two years, Brokeback Mountain won Ang Lee an Oscar for directing Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in a movie about a forbidden and lost love. A movie ridiculed in the Midwest where I live, it is actually a beautiful film that features some brilliant acting performances by both Gyllenhaal and Ledger. It is simply a deeply felt, emotional love story that deals with the heartbreak and despair of the human heart. In his review (read it here), Devin called it "cinematic craftsmanship of the highest degree." He is absolutely right. In this double dip, you get various featurettes covering everything from the directing to the writing to the music.

- Premium packaging with 8 collectible postcards
- "A Groundbreaking Success" featurette
- "On Being A Cowboy" featurette
- "Directing From the Heart: Ang Lee" featurette
- "Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain" featurette
- "Music From the Mountain" featurette
- From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
- Impressions From the Film – Photo Montage


THE GUARDIAN

Guardian

When I first saw the trailer for The Guardian, I pegged it as just another brainless action flick. Well, after reading Devin’s review (read it here), I have not changed my mind. He said "The Guardian wastes not just an interesting concept – Coast Guard rescue swimmers who risk their lives to save people on the high seas – but also a very good cast that includes the likes of Clancy Brown, John Heard, Sela Ward and Neal McDonough." The movie has Kevin Costner as a rescue swimmer who has lost his confidence after a horrible accident kills his whole crew and his wife leaves him. He is now an instructor who meets a new student played by Ashton Kutcher, who has a troubled past. The two butt heads immediately. The ending is obvious and it is just basic genre fare, no more and no less. I really want to like every movie that I see Costner in, but this one just didn’t excite me. If you want to see a movie that basically regurgitates every mentor/student relationship in movie history, this DVD might be for you.

- Commentary by: Director Andrew Davis and writer Ron L. Brinkerhoff
- Deleted scenes
- Alternate ending
- "Unsung Heroes" tribute to real-life Coast Guard rescuers
- The making of The Guardian


SHERRYBABYsherrybaby

This is a movie I never heard much about before awards season came around. Maggie Gyllenhaal earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal as Sherry Swanson, who returns home to New Jersey after serving a three year prison sentence and discovers that coming back to the world she left behind is far more difficult than she had planned. She tries to reclaim the daughter who’s nearly forgotten her mother over the years. Gyllenhaal has always shown great potential, especially in smaller movies such as Secretary, and this movie’s awards potential proves that it might be one to keep an eye on. Unfortunately, the DVD has no extras outside a trailer. However what the DVD does have is Danny Trejo. And you can never have enough Danny Trejo.

- Theatrical Trailer


YOJIMBO

yojimboTwo of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces are released this week in Criterion Collections.

In Yojimbo, a wandering samurai, enters a rural town in nineteenth century Japan. After learning that the town is divided between two gangsters, he plays one side off against the other. From what I understand, this movie was the inspiration for Sergio Leone’s "A Fistful of Dollars." Importantly, the problems with the last Criterion releases picture is supposed to be fixed here. I am not as up to date on Kurosawa (or Asian cinema) as I should be, but this is considered one of his finest films and this re-release should be a treat for all fans of great film.

- All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Optional Dolby Digital 3.0 soundtrack, preserving the original Perspecta simulated-stereo effects
- Audio commentary by film historian and Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
- A 45-minute documentary on the making of Yojimbo, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
- Theatrical trailer and teaser
- Stills gallery of behind-the-scenes photos
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Booklet featuring an essay by critic Alexander Sesonske and notes from Kurosawa and his cast and crew

SANJUROSanjuro

In Sanjuro, Kurosawa’s sequel to Yojimbo, Kurosawa crafts a film more lighthearted and less cynical, a rousing adventure with Toshirô Mifune reprising his role as the scruffy mercenary who becomes an unlikely big brother to a troupe of nine naive samurai.

I don’t know much about this film, either. It is considered one of Kurosawa’s more entertaining films. Dismissing the cynicism of the first film, Kurosawa mixes a bit of comedy into the film as the un-named samurai is not portrayed as the mentor that he becomes to the young samurai, who are reckless and slightly incompetent. I feel that if you want to learn more about Kurosawa’s work, these two films should be as good a place to start as any.

- All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Optional Dolby Digital 3.0 soundtrack, preserving the original Perspecta simulated-stereo effects
- Audio commentary by film historian and Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
- A 35-minute documentary on the making of Sanjuro, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
- Theatrical trailer and teaser
- Stills gallery of behind-the-scenes photos
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Sragow and notes and statements from Kurosawa and his cast and crew



This week’s column was a bit abbreviated, but next week it will be beefed up quite a bit. Give me any ideas you might have on the message boards. Next week, upcoming DVD news and the bargain bin will return. Plus, you get my thoughts on next week’s big double dip release, The Passion of the Christ.