|DVD Reviews for 7/21: Tough Guys Galore
|by Peter Sobczynski
In which your faithful critic, after a week chock-full of out-of-town visitors, last-minute screenings, interviews a-plenty and several days without any access to that newfangled electricity stuff that all the kids are raving about, realizes that he just doesn’t have time to present a full-length review of anything for this week. Instead, please enjoy his snide commentary on some cult TV shows, a couple of great collections of classic crime films, a couple of cross-dressing comedies, the latest from the beacon of light in an otherwise foul universe–you may know here as Piper Perabo–and the long-awaited special edition of the greatest philosophical-bar-bouncer-pounds-the-crap-out-of-Ben-Gazzara film ever made
NEW AND NOTABLE
THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY JR (Fox Home Entertainment. $99.98): In a move sure to cause devastation among the dealers of grey-market videos at this weekend’s Comic-Con, Fox has finally caved in to fan pressure and released the entire run of the exceptionally strange 1993 sci-fi/western series that featured B-movie god Bruce Campbell as a Harvard-educated bounty hunter on an endless quest for those responsible for killing his father. In the event that your jones for all things Bruce Campbell isn’t satisfied by the 27 episodes in this set or the upcoming “The Ant Bully” (in which he shares the screen with such up-and-comers as Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts and Ricardo Montalban), you may also want to check out “Jack of All Trades–The Complete Series” (Universal Home Entertainment. $39.98), an equally weird 2000 series in which he starred as a Revolutionary War-era spy hired by Thomas Jefferson to halt Napoleon’s attempts to conquer the world.
AMAZING STORIES–THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Universal Home Entertainment. $49.98): When it premiered in 1985, this insanely-hyped anthology series produced by Steven Spielberg was expected to revolutionize television by bringing in a mixture of emerging filmmakers and veteran directors and actors to do a group of mini-movies. It wound up being a major disappointment–the show only lasted two years because Spielberg’s contract with NBC guaranteed it a two-season run–but this collection of episodes from the first season is worth checking out for the intriguing contributions of Martin Scorsese (“Mirror Mirror”) and Clint Eastwood (“Vanessa in the Garden”).
EDISON FORCE (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.98): Thanks to its all-star cast, including Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Dylan McDermott, LL Cool J and Justin Timberlake (making his dramatic debut), this film about a crusading young journalist (Timberlake) attempting to uncover police corruption in his city was one of the more heavily-hyped films going into the Toronto Film Festival last fall. However, the fact that it is going the direct-to-video route despite that cast should give an indication of how well it went over once people actually saw it. Nevertheless, I will probably have to check it out at some point since one of the supporting roles is filled by none other that the ever-fetching Piper Perabo herself.
FILM NOIR CLASSIC COLLECTION–VOLUME 3 (Warner Home Video. $49.98): While this latest box set of film noir favorites from the Warner Brothers archives may not contain titles as instantaneously recognizable as the previous installment, even casual fans of the genre should not fail to get their hands on it as soon as possible. The titles include 1949's “Border Incident” (Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy are Border Patrol cops out to bust those who are exploiting illegal aliens for their own gain), 1951's “His Kind of Woman” (a weirdo semi-spoof of the genre featuring Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell and a hilarious supporting turn from Vincent Price), 1946's “The Lady in the Lake” (Robert Montgomery’s cult favorite that told its Raymond Chandler story by using a first-person-cinema technique in which everything shown in the movie was literally seen through the eyes of hero Phillip Marlowe), 1952's “On Dangerous Ground” (a Nicholas Ray drama in which brutal New York cop Robert Ryan seeks redemption from blind Ida Lupino) and 1951's “The Racket” (Mitchum and Ryan return as, respectively, an old-school cop and old-school gangster who are finding themselves being edged out by a new breed of criminal who treat the rackets as just another corporation). If those titles–each one featuring a commentary track from a noted genre scholar–aren’t enough, the box also features a sixth bonus disc featuring the informative retrospective documentary “Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light,” a genre overview including interviews with the likes of Christopher Nolan, Frank Miller and Theresa Russell and five installments of the popular “Crime Doesn’t Pay” short subject series.
THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW–LIVE AT THE ROXY THEATER (Image Entertainment. $14.99): Before his Pee-Wee Herman character became a pop-culture institution through film and TV appearances, Paul Reubens was performing the part in a show that became a popular fixture on the L.A. comedy scene and this DVD–a 1981 performance shot for a special for HBO–captures that period in a funny goof on 1950's kiddie television shows. However, parents should be warned that the humor is slightly more adult-oriented here than it would eventually become–be prepared for questions from your kids about why Pee-Wee is wearing shoes with mirrors on them.
ROAD HOUSE (MGM Home Entertainment. $19.98): On the “Clerks X” DVD, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier spent a good chunk of the introduction wishing that they could be doing a commentary track for this amiably fenderheaded 1989 B-movie classic instead of their own movie. Someone must have been paying attention and in addition to the more traditional bonus features (a commentary from director Rowdy Harrington, interviews with Patrick Swayze and other cast members, a trivia track and a preview of this week DTV sequel “Road House 2"–sadly, they didn’t include a rendition of the classic MST3K tune “Let’s Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas This Year”), the producers of the disc also hired Smith and Mosier to provide a second commentary in which they profess their acerbic love for one of the goofiest movies ever made. (Presumably, this means that Scott Foundas, David Poland and Joel Siegel won’t be getting free copies sent to them.)
SHE’S THE MAN (Dreamworks Home Entertainment. $29.95): Although as teen-aimed adaptations of Shakespeare go, this riff on “Twelfth Night” is no “10 Things I Hate About You” (even though it was written by some of the same people) but it does have more than its fair share of laughs, mostly thanks to the cheerfully exuberant lead performance from Amanda Bynes as a girl who inspires enormous amounts of romantic conflict, gender confusion and flat-out silliness when she disguises herself as a boy to play on her school’s all-male soccer team.
SOME LIKE IT HOT (MGM Home Entertainment. $24.95): Although this is at least the third version of the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy classic (the virtues of which I presume I don’t have to expand upon) to hit DVD in the last few years, it looks like this one might finally be the keeper–this 2-disc set features documentaries on the making and impact of the film, a commentary track that include interview clips from stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis and full interviews with Curtis and other surviving members of the cast.
WARNER BROS PICTURES TOUGH GUYS COLLECTION (Warner Home Entertainment. $59.98): If the “Film Noir Collection” set wasn’t enough for you this week, Warners has also thoughtfully issued another box set of nifty crime-related titles from their vaults, each one containing a commentary from a noted genre historian, documentary featurettes and collections of various shorts, cartoons and coming attraction previews that you might have encountered if you caught the films at the time of their original releases. This set includes 1936's “Bullets or Ballots” (in which the weirdly-cast Edward G. Robinson plays a dedicated undercover cop out to bust mobster Humphrey Bogart), 1940's “City For Conquest” (James Cagney plays a boxer who fights in order to fund his brother’s artistic vision, only to lose his actual vision during an especially brutal brawl), 1939's “Each Dawn I Die” (James Cagney is a crusading reporter who is framed for manslaughter and sent to the slammer after exposing political corruption), 1935's “G-Man” (Cagney, in his first good-guy role, plays a federal agent obsessively pursuing a career criminal in a story based on the hunt for John Dillinger), 1937's “San Quentin” (Bogart is a hardened inmate in the title prison who warden Pat O’Brien tries to reform) and 1938's “A Slight Case of Murder” (arguably the highlight of the set, a pretty funny genre parody in which Robinson plays a bootlegger forced to go straight when Prohibition is lifted).
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originally posted: 07/21/06 14:05:37
last updated: 07/28/06 12:58:30