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DVD Reviews for 3/3: "Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor-Damn!"

by Peter Sobczynski

In which your faithful reviewer, laid up with a vicious head cold, realizes that he doesn’t have the energy to write a longer main review this week and decides to just skip it altogether and go directly to the short stuff.


CHARMED-THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $49.98): For those who actually pay attention to this long-running supernatural jigglefest, this was the season in which Shannen Doherty was canned and replaced by the equally vixenish Rose McGowan in a move hailed by 12-year-old boys and slash-fiction writers everywhere.

CONTROVERSIAL CLASSICS VOLUME 2: THE POWER OF MEDIA (Warner Home Video. $59.98): Three great films from the 1970's–“All the President’s Men,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Network”–get the special edition treatment in this impressive box set. Each film gets an informative commentary track (Robert Redford does the honors for “All the President’s Men” while director Sidney Lumet handles the task on the others), detailed making-of documentaries and a wealth of other bonus materials, including an odd clip from Dinah Shore’s old talk show in which she, Paddy Chayefsky and, inexplicably, Steve Lawrence, discuss the meaning and importance of “Network” and a TCM documentary/interview with Lumet covering his entire career. Even if you bought these films in their original bare-bones versions, this set is a must-own.

THE ICE HARVEST (Universal Home Video. $29.98): Almost completely ignored by audiences during the onslaught of holiday films last Christmas, this was an entertaining blend of jet-black comedy and neo-noir moodiness that featured funny performances from John Cusack (as a Mob lawyer smart enough to figure out how to rob his boss and dumb enough to think he can get away with it cleanly), Billy Bob Thornton (as his sleazy partner) and Connie Nielsen (as a strip-club owner that Cusack is sweet on), a fun screenplay from Richard Russo & Robert Benton and the best directing work in years from Harold Ramis.

KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): Generally regarded as one of the all-time great comedies–certainly the cream of the crop produced in England by Ealing Studios in the 1950's (including the likes of “The Ladykillers” and “The Lavender Hill Mob”)–this hilarious bit of black humor tells the tale of a young man (Dennis Price), one whose scandalous birth caused his late mother to be disinherited from her noble family, who decides to avenge his mother and ascend to the dukedom by killing off the eight relatives (all played by Alec Guinness) who stand in his way. In addition to the film, this package also contains a detailed documentary on the history of Ealing Studios and a 70-minute interview with Guinness from a 1977 talk show appearance.

LADY AND THE TRAMP: 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.95): Actually, it’s the 51st anniversary of the film that proved that few things in the world are more adorable than dogs eating spaghetti. While not quite up there with the top Disney titles, this is still an effortlessly charming depiction of puppy love and the rare use of widescreen Cinemascope framing in an animation film results in some striking visual moments as well.

THE LOSERS (Dark Sky Films. $19.98): In this 1970 exploitation classic, a group of seedy bikers are inexplicably recruited by the CIA on a suicide mission to invade Vietnam in order to rescue a captured agent. Probably best known today to younger moviegoers as the film playing on the television while Bruce Willis frantically searches for his watch in “Pulp Fiction.”

LOVE ME TENDER (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.98): In this 1956 melodrama, two brothers are divided when the older one goes off to fight in the Civil War and returns to discover that his sibling has married his girlfriend. On its own, it is an adequate movie but the reason that anyone cares about this movie today, as you may have figured out from the title, is that it marked the screen debut (in the role of the younger brother) was a heavy-lidded newcomer from Memphis by the name of Elvis Presley.

NEWSRADIO: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. $39.95): The “Arrested Development” of its day–a smart and hilarious sitcom that never managed to garner more than a loyal cult following (although NBC, to its credit, kept it on for several years as a prestige item) despite brilliant writing and a peerless ensemble cast led by Dave Foley and Phil Hartman. In this 3-disc set, containing 25 episodes (and not a stinker in the bunch), we get such treats as station owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root) announcing his bid for the presidency, office weirdo Matthew (Andy Dick) becoming obsessed with “Dilbert,” blowhard anchor Bill McNeal (Hartman) lashing out against rap music and endorsing malt liquor, guest appearances from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, James Caan, Leelee Sobieski, Jon Stewart and Norm McDonald and an entire episode speculating what the show would be like if it was set in outer space.

PRIDE & PREJUDICE (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Although I could easily have gone my entire life without sitting through another version of Jane Austen’s wildly overrated novel, this adaptation was actually a reasonably entertaining take on overly familiar material, aided immensely by a nice visual style (for once in a period piece, the locations feel like actual homes instead of museum exhibits) and strong performances from Keira Knightley (as the feisty Elizabeth), Rosamund Pike (as her more level-headed sister) and Donald Sutherland (who deserved an Supporting Actor nomination for his work as their exceedingly patient and loving father).

THREE. . . EXTREMES (Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment. $27.98): Three weird and creepy short films from three weird and creepy filmmakers–Chan Fruit, Chan-Wook Park and Takashi Miike–make up one of the few Asian horror films in recent years to actually live up to the fanboy hype. Those of you who were especially taken by Chan Fruit’s startling and sickening entry “Dumplings” (in which the titular foodstuff has the power to restore youth thank to its special filling) will be either thrilled or nauseated to discover that this disc also contains Fruit’s feature-length expansion of his original short.

WALK THE LINE (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.99): Great performances (especially from leads Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon), great music and a powerhouse love story that–can someone please explain to me how this stirring biopic of the life of Johnny Cash didn’t get nominated for Best Picture?

WERKMEISTER HARMONIES (Facets Home Entertainment. $29.95): Okay, I have seen this 2000 effort from Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr (whose slow and contemplative style was aped by Gus Van Sant in his true-death trilogy of “Gerry,” “Elephant” and “Last Days”) and I am still at a loss to explain what it means or even what it is about. However, those with a taste for the off-beat may well find it worth seeking out and exploring for themselves. And if you anti-Hollywood types fire up the DVD when the Oscars begin, you can watch all 145 minutes of it and you’ll still be able to catch most of the big awards.

WHERE THE TRUTH LIES (Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. $26.96): One of the world’s best directors–Atom Egoyan (the man behind such masterworks as “Exotica” and “The Sweet Hereafter”)–directs his very worst film in this silly and contrived erotic mystery that seems to have been designed to answer the unspoken question “What would it be like if Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis killed a groupie and a slutty Nancy Drew took up the case two decades later?” Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Alison Lohman show plenty of skin but even that isn’t worth sitting through this turgid and inexplicable disaster.

YOURS, MINE AND OURS (Paramount Home Video. $29.95): Well, at least when people ask Dennis Quaid what his most embarrassing career move was, he no longer has to answer “Jaws 3-D.”

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originally posted: 03/03/06 15:56:31
last updated: 03/10/06 22:25:31
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