|THE DVD SHOPPING PLANNER (JULY 2004)
|by Erik Childress
Welcome again to the monthly DVD Shopping Planner where we inform you of all the titles streeting during the month so you know what is just itching to jump into your collection. Each month we’ll examine the DVD trends and hopefully steer you towards some happy buying.
WHOSE IN THOSE SHADOWS?
Last month the prevailing theme was murdering spouses. What is it about the summer months that draws up thoughts of lust and violence? Tight t-shirts and Cubs/White Sox rivalries I suppose. In July it gets even darker beginning with Warner Bros. superb Film Noir Collection. Included in the package is John Huston’s “getting the gang back together for one more score” heist flick, The Asphalt Jungle. Before Drew Barrymore, James LeGros and Tamra Davis could remake it, there was the original 1949 Gun Crazy about a pair of young lovers with a penchant for firearms. 1984’s Against All Odds was inspired by Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas in Out of the Past. Dick Powell takes on the role of Raymond Chandler in Edward Dmytryk’s Murder, My Sweet and on a twist on the old noirish detective stories, Sean Connery stars as a Franciscan monk trying to solve a most medieval murder 14th century-style in The Name of the Rose.
MGM takes the detective series a step further with the release of The Charlie Chan Chanthology. They’ve been doing some great packages of this ilk lately (Pink Panther and an upcoming David Lean Collection) and this one is no exception. Six discs. Six movies. Included are Meeting at Midnight, The Chinese Cat, The Jade Mask, The Scarlet Clue, The Secret Service and The Shanghai Cobra. Each of them is also sold separately.
Universal and Paramount are also ramping up the suspense in July. Charles Laughton and Ray Milland would later become Gene Hackman and Kevin Costner in No Way Out, but first had their own movie with The Big Clock. Burt Lancaster tries to steal his armored truck to get his wife back from a hoodlum in Criss Cross which later became Steven Soderbergh’s The Underneath. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. He’s a gunman. She’s his blonde bombshell. Together they’re in This Gun For Hire. Universal is also releasing just in time for the big screen sequel, the “Explosive Extended Edition” of The Bourne Identity. If more spying is what you need, Richard Burton can handle that in the adaptation of John Le Carre’s bestseller, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. William Holden is blackmailed into being a infiltrating Nazi sympathizer in The Counterfeit Traitor and for the lighter side of crime, go to England and join a society of assassins including Diana Rigg, Oliver Reed and Telly Savalas in The Assassination Bureau.
Continuing with the foreign side of crime and punishment, Home Vision releases La Balance about crooked cops, drug syndicates and pimps. In other words, good wholesome fun for the kiddies. In the vein of The Professional comes mercenary Jean-Marc Barr protecting a 12-year old from her evil mommy (Asia Argento) in Red Siren. Headed to Spain from TLA Releasing, we get Box 507 about a mysterious bank robbery that leads the manager to discover information about his believed-dead daughter. Wellspring whisks us off to Iran for the tale of a Travis Bickle-ish pizza delivery man in Crimson Gold and then over to London for the Sherlock Holmes mystery Hands of a Murderer where The Equalizer (Edward Woodward) and Higgins (John Hillerman) take on Moriarty. Finally, returning to an ugly section of America, you’ll find DMX acting again in the rather nasty crime tale, Never Die Alone
CATS & BIGGER CATS & DISNEY CRIMINALS, OH MY!
Even the Walt Disney live-action films this month have a few criminals doing their thing. But only a few. Dick Van Dyke is mistaken as a hitman (Never A Dull Moment). Don Knotts & Darren McGavin are safecrackers unwittingly a part of a fake kidnapping (No Deposit, No Return). Knotts is on the other side of the law as the bumbling sheriff (typecasting?) in Hot Lead & Cold Feet and a group of church ladies team up to fight the mob in The North Avenue Irregulars
In June, DVDs reflected the growing pattern of your children. A month later, it’s all about your pets. A young Scottish girl’s true object of affection is for her little marmalade cat in The Three Lives of Thomasina. Too bad little Thomasina doesn’t have a spaceship (albeit a broken one) like The Cat From Outer Space. For a more nature-endowed story you can take a journey with Charlie, The Lonesome Cougar or join Jodie Foster and her gentle pet lion (aren’t they all?) with Napoleon and Samantha. And if the big-screen treatment wasn’t enough to turn you off, then you can pick up the first volume of Fox’s animated Garfield and Friends.
Of course, if you’re not a cat person and prefer doggies like myself, you can go back to Scotland with the Scottish shepherd star of Greyfriars Bobby or the fun Dean Jones/Suzanne Pleshette family comedy (at least when I was 10) The Ugly Dachsund. It may not be Lesley Ann Warren and The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band but it’s something. Finally, just to prove that the old school, slightly lame live-action Disney comedies of the past aren’t dead, Hollywood’s new (and now legal) “it” girl, Lindsay Lohan starred in this year’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.
HERE WE GO AGAIN ON MY OWN
2004 has been relatively lackluster in the theatrical quality department. This month is a testament to that and you can see it in the sequels and remakes making their way into your home. Frankie Muniz, just a year after the original, travels as the young super spy in Agent Cody Banks: Destination London. Four years ago, Jonathan Lynn gave us a pleasant little comedy with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry. This year, Howard Deutch tarnished its memory in The Whole Ten Yards. Also in the “what were they thinking?” department comes Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights which is a prequel to a 17-year old film that features Patrick Swayze presumably as the same character (although unnamed) who must have grown younger by the time he met Jennifer Grey. Or something like that. 18 years ago director Denys Arcand showed us The Decline of the American Empire and now he follows up on those characters in The Barbarian Invasions. If you don’t count Yahoo Serious (and who does, really?), Heath Ledger takes on the role that Mick Jagger tried to make work in 1970, Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. Although panned by many, give a shot to the remake of Elmore Leonard’s The Big Bounce. The cast is stacked with Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, Charlie Sheen and hottie Sara Foster, in a bubbly yet impressive (early) Cameron Diaz-esque performance. You can also catch Wilson this month with Ben Stiller in the latest Todd Phillips comedic dead zone as Starsky & Hutch.
Before you head out to see Jonathan Demme’s latest remake, MGM is releasing a new special edition of John Frankenheimer’s classic The Manchurian Candidate. They also have the upper hand on the Bill Paxton live-action version of Gerry Anderson’s Marionettes with Thunderbird 6 & Thunderbirds Are Go. Kids can also flock to the circus of Big Top Pee-Wee while adults can either choose to look at the nimble Valeria Golino or pick up both versions of Dennis Potter’s Pennies From Heaven. The 1978 miniseries from BBC features Bob Hoskins and the 1981 theatrical remake from Warner Bros. has Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken
The TNT network remade both The Goodbye Girl (with Jeff Daniels & Patricia Heaton) and The Lion in Winter (with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close). Both are available this month. Kino International offers two of 1943 takes on the classic tales of Munchausen and the Titanic. Cultish sci-fi/horror fans can rejoice in new special editions of Highlander 2: The Quickening and Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2. Seduction Cinema also delivers their own sequel, Blood Sisters: Vamps 2 full of Joe Bob Briggs’ favorite three B’s – blood, breasts and beasts.
HONEY PLEASE, THE GAME IS ON!
Continuing with the male perspective, sports titles are again heavily on the docket. With the Olympics just around the corner, St. Clair Vision is offering a 3-disc set called The Olympic Series featuring some of the most amazing moments in Olympic history from 1920-2002. I can’t remember any of them involving volleyball, but I do remember Courtney Thorne-Smith in a bikini from Side Out. Oh yeah, C. Thomas Howell and Peter Horton hit a white ball around or something. If that makes you feel like punching someone, wait until you see Meg Ryan as a boxing promoter in Against the Ropes. After you’ve beaten someone to a bloody pulp, you can pick up what is considered one of the most realistic boxing films ever, Robert Wise’s The Set-Up (also part of WB’s “Film Noir Collection”). If you STILL feel like body-slamming someone, then Vince McMahon feels your pain with a pair of pay-per-view events, WWE Bad Blood 2004 & WWE Great American Bash 2004. There’s also the tribute DVD, WWE Chris Benoit. Never to be out-bloodied, check out the 46th volume of the Ultimate Fighting Championship from Studioworks. Finally, from the world of “is-it-a-sport-or-ain’t-it?”, Anchor Bay tries to teach Poker for Dummies
If you’d rather try knocking down your opponent with the mighty sword as opposed to your fists or trusty pen, there are some new choices out there this month. Start with a pair of Alexandre Dumas updates, The 5th Musketeer and the television production La Femme Musketeer with Michael York, Gerard Depardieu and Nastassja Kinski. Double up with VCI’s Sword & Sandal (Double Feature) containing Giants of Thessaly & Sins of Rome. Double-dip again with AnimEigo’s latest in their martial arts series, Lone Wolf & Cub (Baby White Heaven in Hell) and Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman. Then call up the friends, get out the Tostitos and double-dip those chips into the awesome awfulness of Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Sonja and answer the immortal question – were you more of a Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman or Sarah Douglas man? I was all about the Ursa myself.
SEX & POLITICS
Michael Moore has set a fire under the ass of America with Fahrenheit 9/11. About the only thing Dubya hasn’t been accused of is having sex with an intern. This month’s titles attempt to reunite the partnership of sex and politics; some more than the other. Fresh off of theater screens is Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial (because of its “NC-17” rating), The Dreamers about sex, politics, sex, movies and more sex in late 60s France. Anthony Hopkins was born a poor, black child who grows up to teach and have his way with Nicole Kidman in the sack in Robert Benton’s misguided The Human Stain. Maggie Smith plays the unconventional school teacher in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie trying to imbue in her students the love of art, history, literature, and sensuality. Better Eva Green, Kidman, and maybe even Maggie Smith though than the plastic doll at the center of the creepy “May” wannabe, Love Object. Although if you were Stephen Baldwin on a dark and stormy night and encountered lesbians Ally Sheedy and Patsy Kensit on Shelter Island. what would you do?
With the sex you’ve got Juliet Stevenson as The Politician’s Wife in that British miniseries and without it you can see Jill Clayburgh as the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in Ronald Neame’s comedy, First Monday in October with Walter Matthau. From Capitalism to Communism, you ever try to fake either for your dying mum? The kids of Goodbye, Lenin do and more than just wackiness ensues. Unfortunately, the new special edition of Air America with Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. have nothing to do with a radio station.
Allow me to bridge for a moment if you will. Ally Sheedy had Patsy Kensit as her lover, but years earlier there was gorgeous Radha Mitchell gettin’ down with her photographer-self in High Art. Rocker John Mellencamp also plays a photographer teaming with a psychic to solve a series of murders in After Image. For some truly disturbing images though, prepare yourself for the documentary, Bus 174 about a young hijacker taking a bus hostage in Rio only to be making a political statement rather than a straight snatch ‘n’ grab. What he’s selling you’ll have to discover for yourself, but a pair of well-known filmmakers make it quite clear what their subjects are all about. Danny Boyle’s darkly comic made-for-television Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise is about a wannabe D.J. selling vacuums door-to-door. John Landis made quite a career out of smashing the hell out of cars in The Blues Brothers. Now he’s showing you one of the most fascinating characters of the year in Slasher. You’ll think three times before buying your next car.
SEX + POLITICS + PHOTOGRAPHERS + SALESMEN = ???
Why SHOWBUSINESS of course!!! And to get to the talent you have to go through the publicists. Al Pacino plays an aging one in People I Know which played Sundance in 2003 only to get short changed with a theatrical release despite names like Kim Basinger, Ryan O’Neal and Tea Leoni. Part of a publicist’s job is to deal around the gossip columnists making the rounds. Two of Hollywood’s most ruthless around the 1940s & 50s were Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Alexander in Malice In Wonderland. Personally, you can have all the backstabbing and spin. I’ll take the films and the filmmakers like Martin Scorsese who have a passion for them. Scorsese takes us on a four-hour guided tour through Italian cinema in My Voyage To Italy
Wannabe actresses fight over the same movie role (and apartment) in the violent Japanese comedy, 2LDK while MGM releases a “V.I.P. Special Edition” of the “I’m a dancer” (wannabe) semi-cult classic, Showgirls. It may have hurt Elizabeth Berkeley’s career a little, but Gina Gershon went on to a few bigger and brighter things. And when the movie roles started running out, she took to the road and the stage in Rocked with Gina Gershon as a result of her involvement as an aging rocker in another Sundance entry, “Prey For Rock ‘N’ Roll”. She isn’t the only one hitting the road when Bruce MacDonald’s 1989 cult film Roadkill debuts about a woman sent cross-country by a rock promoter to find a band. Even Bill Plympton’s animated musical fantasy The Tune centers on an aspiring songwriter looking for love and music.
I’M BILL KURTIS
You want biographies this month? Wellspring has a trio of fascinating ones, starting with the Kennedy Mystique: Creating Camelot about how the media was used to form their political influence. After that, the Young Kennedy Women (Caroline Kennedy, Maria Shriver, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and Kerry Kennedy Cuomo) are profiled as part of the Lifetime network’s ongoing series. Also part of their “Intimate Portraits” is a documentary on Grace Kelly: American Princess Finally if you want to see a record of an important moment in a writer’s career, check out 1970’s Bukowski at Bellevue
Two masters of French cinema get tripled up on behalf of Home Vision and The Criterion Collection. The latter packages together Jean Renoir’s The Golden Coach, French Cancan and Elena And Her Men in Stage and Spectacle: Three Films By Jean Renoir. (They are only available in this set and not sold separately/) Home Vision does have three separate DVDs from Claude Chabrol, La Ceremonie, Masques and Story of Women. Murder, Nazis, psychological melodrama and Family. You want more?
GOES TOGETHER LIKE A HORSE AND CARRIAGE
You put enough people together in a house or for a weekend and its only a matter of time before they just blow up. Take the six friends of Under the Lighthouse Dancing (including Naomi Watts) who gather together for a fun weekend in Australia only to hear announcements of illness and quickie weddings. Dogme 95 is enough to drive anyone nuts. Throw in a birthday party and family secrets and you’ve got Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration. An absentee daddy returns to reconcile with his son in My Father and I and a town’s haunted past keeps the residents of Seaside from finding happiness. A poor Italian family sacrifices to send their child to school only to see a broken pair of shoes set-off a string of tragic consequences in The Tree of Wooden Clogs. Marcello Mastroianni co-stars in Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil, the surreal flipside of adolescence about a young girl trying to escape her awful life and if you haven’t had enough family crisis for one month, go grab the award-winning Broken Wings
For variations on the bonds of marriage, start in Taiwan with the constriction of tradition (The Wooden Man’s Bride). Yasujiro Ozu also takes on arranged nuptials in Early Summer. Take a tour of Russia with Tim Blake Nelson and David Arquette trying to find a mail-order bride and instead finding the lovely Emily Mortimer in the shamefully overlooked 2 Brothers and a Bride (originally titled A Foreign Affair). Or you could stay stateside and listen to Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson argue like Nora Ephron in Heartburn.
Why are actors always itching to direct? Sometimes it can lead to a successful career like Woody Allen, who followed up “What’s Up, Tigerlily?” with the hysterical Take the Money and Run, reissued this month by MGM. To the flipside of his career, Dreamworks is packaging up his four most recent films (Anything Else, Hollywood Ending, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion & Small Time Crooks) in the Woody Allen Four Movie Comedy Collection. (One out of four ain’t too good.) Woody’s longtime (on-screen) companion, Diane Keaton, made her feature debut in Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor’s Lovers and Other Strangers and Jack Lemmon directed HIS longtime (on-screen) companion, Walter Matthau, as the widower Kotch. Both are available from MGM in July.
For more comedy, you can get your fill of Dudley Moore in the Old Testament spoof, Wholly Moses and the advertising satire, Crazy People. Also from Paramount is Richard Pryor on the lam as a fake doctor in Critical Condition. And Universal releases a more superb 4-pack with The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Shakiest Gun In The West and The Love God? – also known as the Don Knotts Four Movie Reluctant Hero Pack
GIVING THE DEVIL HIS DUE
Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? Talk to comic book hero Hellboy. I’m sure he can hook you up with daddy as part of all the special features available on the DVD. Director Guillermo Del Toro also unleashes a new special edition of The Devil’s Backbone to coincide with his latest effort. Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale about an officer who inadvertently sells his soul to the devil gets an innovative animated treatment. Anchor Bay’s Evilspeak tells a similar story about a tormented military cadet (played by ruler of the universe, Clint Howard) who discovers a satanic temple and seeks revenge.
If going a little mad sometimes in cinema is the cause celebre in your household, then July is your month. Synapse has the bloody twosome of beasts & cults in Entrails of the Virgin and Entrails of a Beautiful Woman and the Japanese comic book about a town slowly obsessed with spiral shapes comes to life in Uzumaki (or “Spiral”) Maybe the best of the lot though is the underappreciated sci-fi thriller The Butterfly Effect. I don’t know which devil Ashton Kutcher sold his soul to in order to get such a great script, but here it is now in all its director’s cut glory and I highly recommend it.
Batman: The Animated Series, Challenge of the Superfriends, Combat: Season 1 (Campaigns 1 & 2), Da Ali G Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Jeff Foxworthy Show, Millennium, Pasquale's Kitchen Express (Vol. 1), Ponderosa Season 1 (Vol. 1), Puppets Who Kill, Sealab 2021, Sledgehammer!
TELEVISION SECONDS, THIRDS…
Second Seasons/Volumes: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Foyle's War, La Femme Nikita, The Persuaders, Project Greenlight, Six Feet Under, Soap, Starsky & Hutch
Third Season/Volumes/Sets: All In The Family, The Cisco Kid, A Fine Romance, Star Trek: Voyager, A Touch of Frost
Fourth Seasons: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Complete Series: Boomtown, A Fine Romance, K Street, “V”
Other Collections: Dark Shadows (Collection #13), Wiseguy (Box Set 3 - Prey for the City), You Bet Your Life (The Best Episodes)
You can check out all the major and minor titles in their respective sections below. Each title has a link to buy the film directly from Amazon.com if you want to get your shopping taken care of ASAP. The same goes for The HBS/EFC Complete DVD Schedule, updated every Thursday reminding you what’s coming out each week. Remember that dates are subject to change and each DVD bought from here helps support our site bring you the best reviews and most up-to-date information and features around. So, until next month, happy DVD shopping!
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originally posted: 07/02/04 02:01:56
last updated: 08/12/04 12:09:59