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DVD Reviews for 12/5: Reissue It Again, Sam.
by Peter Sobczynski

Curving bullets, curvy Mob personnel and the latest release of one of Hollywood's most enduring classics are among this week's releases. Additionally, it is time for my annual solicitation for titles for my annual M.I.A. DVD column. Help me, gentle reader, you're my only hope.

As regular consumers of DVDs have learned over the years, the first week of the new year is an exceptionally bleak time for new releases--having already pushed their big titles and most interesting niche items during the holiday season, most distributors have little left to offer outside of the kind of junk that most people wouldn’t watch on a dare. (This year, there is a rare exception to that rule as Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s wondrous romantic fantasy “A Matter Of Life and Death” debuts during this ordinarily fallow period.) And as regular consumers of this DVD column have learned over the years, I have responded to this relative lack of anything to write about by dedicating the majority of the piece to listing 10 films that, for whatever reason, have still never been officially released on DVD in this country. It may seem like a quixotic gesture to some of you but before you laugh, it should be noted that a number of the films mentioned in previous columns (such as “Quintet,” “The Girl on the Bridge,” “Student Bodies“ and “Walker“) have all arrived on DVD after being featured.

This year, I will be doing it once again and once again, I am asking for your help in coming up with some of the ten titles. Don’t worry–this isn’t going to be one of those cut-and-paste screw jobs where people write in stuff and I just jam it all together into an instant article for which I take all the credit. I still plan on doing the writing–I am just looking for some suggestions of possible titles that will hopefully spark something or other and at the end of the piece, I will probably list all the titles that were suggested. I am open to virtually any kind of film as long as it hasn’t been previously released on DVD in the U.S., it hasn’t been announced for a future release or is known to be in the midst of a restoration process for a future release (such as “The African Queen” or “The Magnificent Ambersons”) and that it is a film that actually exists–things like fully restored versions of “Greed” or “Return to the Blue Lagoon” that exist only in the minds of devoted fans will not be included. If you have any suggestions to offer, and the more obscure the better, you can do so by clicking on the comments section at the bottom of this piece and posting them there or by sending them to me at by December 26. I will look over the suggestions, see which ones seem most intriguing (and yes, I already have a couple of my own that should be of vague interest as well) and make my final selections for the column, which will appear in this space on January 2, 2009.

For those who have somehow missed the previous editions of the M.I.A. columns, here are links to them for you to peruse. (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)


CASABLANCA: ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITION (Warner Home Video. $64.98): So how do you get audiences to go out and buy yet another copy of a film that they most likely already own and which was already released in a pretty definitive version only a couple of years ago? Well, in the case of this timeless classic (if further explanation is necessary, you are probably reading the wrong DVD column), Warner Home video has repackaged that previous 2-disc edition with a third disc containing the 1993 feature-length documentary “Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul,” a look at the life and work of the former studio head, and a bunch of knick-knacks that include a photo book, reproductions of some of the posters and pieces of the studio correspondence dealing with the film’s legendarily tumultuous production, a passport holder and luggage tag and even a replica of Victor Lazlo’s letter of transit. In other words, there is no real reason to upgrade unless you are an absolute fanatic for the film but then again, who among us (with the exception of my mother) isn’t a fanatic for this particular film?

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $39.99): Even duller than “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (something that I didn’t think was humanly possible), this adaptation of the second of C.S. Lewis’s series of fantasy stories finds the Pevensie children returning to Narnia a year after their previous adventure (1300 years in Narnia time) and find themselves trying to help a hunky young prince regain his throne with the aid of a grumpy-but-loveable dwarf, a swashbuckling mouse and the late-inning return of Aslan, the Lion King of Kings. Although widely considered a disappointment in comparison to the enormous financial success of the first film (mostly due to Disney’s ill-advised decision to release it a week after the juggernaut that was “Iron Man”), this installment has still been given the full special edition treatment with a three-disc set that includes the film, a commentary featuring director Andrew Adamson and the cast, deleted scenes, bloopers, any number of behind-the-scenes featurettes and one of those increasingly ubiquitous extra discs containing a digital copy of the film that can be downloaded directly into you computer or iPod.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.98): Although I doubt that any of us, outside of some exceptionally obsessive Keanu Reeves fanatics, are really anticipating the dreadful-looking updating of the 1951 sci-fi classic that is due next week, its release has at least has the salutary effect of inspiring Fox to put out a new 2-disc version of the original that reprises the original version’s fascinating commentary track featuring director Robert Wise and fan/filmmaker Nicholas Meyer and includes a second historical commentary and a slew of featurettes on the making of the film, the people who put it together and its lasting impact on the world of science-fiction.

FLY ME TO THE MOON (Summit Entertainment. $25.99): The bad news about this limp animated cartoon (originally presented in an especially cruddy version of 3-D) about a trio of young houseflies who stow away on Apollo 11 during its trip to the moon is that it was dramatically vapid, comedic ally inert and visually horrendous from start to finish--an unfortunate flashback to the bad old days of so-called “family entertainment.” The good news is that despite all that, it was still only the second worst animated film to come out last summer--even it wasn’t quite as bad as “The Clone Wars.” That said, there is absolutely no reason for you to even consider picking this disaster up unless you have some young children that are in need of severe punishing.

FROST/NIXON: THE ORIGINAL WATERGATE INTERVIEWS (Liberation Entertainment. $24.95): Timed to coincide with the release of “Frost/Nixon,” Ron Howard’s not-uninteresting look at the goings on behind the legendary series of interviews with ex-president Richard Nixon conduct by British talk show host David Frost, this disc covers the portion of the interviews dealing specifically with questions regarding the scandal that forced Nixon out of office. Those of you with no real working knowledge of Watergate may find yourself at sea at time but for those of you with an interest in the subject, the interviews are as riveting to watch today as they were 30 years ago.

THE LONGSHOTS (The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. $28.99): You know, if you had told me a few years ago that formerly edgy rocker Fred Durst and formerly edgy rapper Ice Cube would one day collaborate on an inspired-by-a-true-story film of a young girl (Keke Palmer) who joins her uncle’s losing Pop Warner football team as quarterback and winds up leading them to victory, I probably would have said that you were seriously deluded. And yet, here it is with Durst behind the camera making his directorial debut and Cube as the uncle. Although the film is not without its minor charms, mostly supplied by the enormously engaging Palmer, there is nothing here that you haven’t seen done better a dozen times before.

THE MAN CALLED FLINTSTONE (Warner Home Entertainment. $19.98): In this 1966 feature-film spin-off of the long-running animated series, a spy bearing a striking resemblance to Fred Flintstone is grievously injured during a chase in Bedrock and you-know-who is charged with replacing him on a mission that takes him all over the world and forces him to attempt to thwart the machinations of the evil Green Goose without letting slip his secret to Barney or Wilma. Yeah, it is pretty dumb but I would take it over either of the live-action “Flintstones” movies any day of the week.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Universal Home Entertainment. $69.98): Although this year of the long-running sketch comedy series, which hit the airwaves just after John Belushi became a superstar thanks to the release of “National Lampoon’s Animal House” the previous summer, contains two of what are considered by insiders to be among the worst episodes of its trailblazing early years (the ones hosed by Frank Zappa and Milton Berle), there are so many other classic bits on display that this is usually considered one of the show’s very best seasons--the hosts include Steve Martin, Carrie Fisher (who her monologue dressed as Princess Leia), Fred Willard, Michael Palin and Buck Henry, the musical guests include the Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, the Blues Brothers and the Rolling Stones (who may not have sounded that great, thanks to a week of hard living leading up to show, but who definitely lived up to their bad boy reputation) and sketches such as the appearance of “Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute,” a party featuring all the top superheroes and the still hilarious bit in which Dan Aykroyd’s Julia Child has a slight mishap in the kitchen. Other TV-related DVD’s arriving this week include “Cannon: Season One, Volume Two” (CBS DVD. $37.99)," “Jake and the Fatman: Season One, Volume Two” (CBS DVD. $37.99)" and “Perry Mason: Season 3, Volume 2” (CBS DVD. $50.99)."

STEPBROTHERS (Sony Home Entertainment. $34.95): Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly reunited for this Judd Apatow production in which they play a pair of a couple of aging man-children whose sedentary lives are thrown into upheaval when their parents marry and they become stepbrothers. Although not nearly as inspired as the likes of “Pineapple Express” or “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and plagued with a deadly dull opening half-hour, this film eventually settles down and becomes a reasonably amusing and surprisingly raunchy comedy that contains just enough big laughs to make it worth watching.

WANTED (Universal Home Entertainment. $34.98): After dazzling audiences around the world with the visually flamboyant, dramatically nutty and hugely entertaining vampire films “Nightwatch” and “Daywatch,” Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov was brought to America to help this adaptation of a graphic novel in which ordinary schnook James McAvoy is recruited by sexy Angelina Jolie and sinister Morgan Freeman into a top-secret cabal of international assassins who get the identities of their targets from the “Loom of Fate.” Amazingly, his American studio debut turned out to be even more visually flamboyant, dramatically nutty and hugely entertaining than his previous works--although it contains not a single touch of what one might recognize as reality, it is so much fun (albeit of the raunchy, super-violent and morally questionable variety) that only a churl would complain about the myriad ways in which it violates all known rules of physics and narrative cohesion in its efforts to provide viewers with one eye-popping thrill after another.

WISEGAL (Starz/Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $19.97): In this made-for-TV movie that originally aired on Lifetime, Alyssa Milano plays a young widow who gets a job with a local mob family, becomes romantically involved with a married wise guy and gets in deeper and deeper trouble when she finds herself torn between her family, her other family and the feds. I’ll admit it--I haven’t seen this movie but based solely on the description and the presence of Milano, I think I love it.

THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (Fox Home Entertainment. $34.98): Yes, after years of speculation, the creators of “The X-Files” and stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson finally reunited for a new big-screen adventure last summer. Yes, even though such a project had been discussed for a long time, the plot--something involving a series of mysterious abductions and a creepy ex-priest who has psychic visions of the crimes--felt like something that the screenwriters slapped together the weekend before the script was due at the studio. Yes, the result was a laughably inane mess that played more like a bad knockoff of the show than anything else and yes, it turned out to be such a disappointment that not even the most devoted fans of the show bothered to turn up to see it during its brief and ignoble theatrical run. Some of them may be willing to check it out here on this three-disc set (featuring the usual array of deleted scenes, behind-the scene featurettes and another one of those digital copies) but I suspect that most will prefer to preserve their memories of the original show and pretend that this disaster never existed.

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originally posted: 12/04/08 02:33:23
last updated: 12/04/08 02:49:08
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