Weekly Release Roundup
Uhg. Apologies in advance, but I've been really, really sick this
past week and weekend, therefore I haven't gotten much DVD-ing in.
So, this column will be a little light this week. I'm going to give
you a listing of everything coming out worth your time, but I'm not
going to go as in-depth as I'd (or you'd) like.
But with that, I say... aaaand away we go.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu's
21 Grams is a brilliant
film with brilliant acting, but it's not for everyone. It's
dark, gritty and a bit off settling. Iñárritu
plays with time and story structure much like Tarantino did with
Pulp Fiction and, in a
way, his own, equally brilliant Amores
perros. Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro
star as three people whose lives become entwined because of a
very horrible event.
Universal sends us this one as a standard movie-only release.
You get anamorphic widescreen video at 1.85:1 and both Dolby
Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio with a short behind-the-scenes
Mmm. Criterion brings us this classic Japanese horror film and
I couldn't be happier. Onibaba
follows a woman and her daughter-in-law, who lure wayward
warriors to their death in a pit, selling their armor and
weapons for food and provisions. Dog eat dog, you would say. But
things get complicated when the daughter-in-law is told of her
husband's death and the messenger stays along out of
love/lust/self preservation to work the scheme with the women.
Worried that her daughter-in-law will run off and she'll be left
alone to fend for herself, the "mother" hatches a plan
to use a frightening mask to scare her daughter-in-law into
obedience. But things don't quite work out they way she hoped,
when the mask becomes fused to her face.
Criterion delivers this one to us with a very nice anamorphic
widescreen transfer, wonderfully preserving the gorgeous black and
white photography. Sound is in the original mono with new English
subtitles. Extras include a video interview with writer/director
Kaneto Shindo, that has behind-the-scenes footage cut in. More
behind-the-scenes footage is included in a separate piece, which
includes some fascinating color material. Criterion also includes a
stills gallery with production sketches and promotional art, an
untranslated theatrical trailer and a booklet featuring an English
translation of the original fable that inspired the film, plus liner
notes by Chuck Stephens and a statement by Shindo. It's really a
nice set and, if you're a fan of Japanese cinema, it's a must have.
Robert Ludlum's best-selling novel became legendary director
Sam Peckinpah's last film, and even though the film was a
disappointment, the DVD from Anchor Bay is not. In fact, it's an
intriguing use of DVD as film history tool. Not only does it
present the film in luscious video and sound quality (anamorphic
widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, 2.0 and mono as well as
DTS 6.1 - all of which sound incredible), but the Bay also
serves up the original "director's cut" version of the
film (pulled from what looks like a VHS tape) in full frame.
That's in no way a slight to the film quality, by the way. This
is probably the only way we would be able to see this version of
the film, so we'll take it anyway we can get it.
You'll also find a very informative and entertaining commentary
track with not two, not even three, but four Peckinpah historians,
discussing the film, his career and the director's process. And for
those wanting to hear what the actors and production team have to
say, there's also a fascinating 78-minute documentary included,
entitled Alpha to Omega. Also
look for a full stills gallery and the film's theatrical trailer.
Although not a great film, this DVD really does its job preserving
the film and its history for us. Anchor Bay has done Peckinpah and
his fans proud with this one.
Running Man: Special Edition
Arnold Schwarzenegger's grand 1987 film version of the Stephen
King (using the pen name Richard Bachman) story The
Running Man is once again on DVD people... and this
time it's actually a good thing. You remember The
Running Man don't you? Arnold in a gold and green
jumpsuit, Yaphet Kotto with a bad Jehri curl and TV host Richard
"Who do you love?" Dawson's over the top performance
as an over the top TV host? All right, fine. I remember it and
that's all that matters. Artisan delivers on DVD the film that
predicted both reality television's rule over entertainment and
supreme government control in a very cool way. It features a
remastered anamorphic widescreen presentation that blows the
previous edition out of the water. But if you'd rather, the full
frame version is on the flip side of the disc. Sound is also
quite nice with DTS ES 6.1 for those who prefer it and Dolby
Digital 5.1 EX for everyone else. Fans of the film will also
find two nice commentary tracks (one with the executive producer
and one with the director) and a silly interactive "game"
where you can read the stats and facts about the colorful
Stalker characters featured in the film.
But the most interesting thing about this disc is a couple of
documentaries that draw a very nice parallel between the film and
our current state of affairs in these United States. The first,
Lockdown on Main Street, looks
at the political climate of the U.S. post-9/11, drawing comparisons
to the film and how things have panned out and/or look to be headed.
Scary stuff. Also paralleling the film nicely is a documentary
called Game Theory, which
looks at reality television and how we're not too far from seeing a
show much like The Running Man.
This is a fun set, and one that's not just for you Arny fans. Do
check it out.
Speaking of TV, this is a great week for TV from around the world
on DVD. Check it out:
Fabulous: Series 5
Eddy and Patsy are back in AbFab:
Series 5. It's been a while since the
AbFab Special in 2001.
This set features all 8 episodes in anamorphic widescreen video
(presented in 1.78:1) and standard Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
Extras include commentary for the first episode with series
creator/star Jennifer Saunders and producer Jon Plowman, as well
as some funny outtakes and a stills gallery.
This award-winning Australian TV mini-series looked at the
lives of six nuns in the Santo Spirito convent. It stars
Josephine Byrnes and Brenda Fricker and features very young
Naomi Watts and Russell Crowe. It's coming from Wellspring
A Gladiator's Story
If you loved Ridley Scott's Gladiator,
you'll enjoy Colosseum: A Gladiator's
Story. This hour-long BBC docudrama shows us a
recreation of one of the only fully detailed descriptions of a
gladiatorial battle: that of Verus and Priscus, as well as
details the making of the Colosseum itself. Utterly fascinating.
The show is presented in good looking anamorphic widescreen
video, and the extras include the hour-long recreation of the
last day of Pompeii, interviews with the filmmakers, the
featurette A Composer's Story,
facts and trivia, and trailers.
Liaisons: Extended Edition
This is the 270-minute version of the French mini-series from
last year. Catherine Deneuve stars as Madame de Meurteuil and
Rupert Everett is Valmont in this faux-modern update of the
classic tale of morals and sex. The mini-series also stars
Nastassja Kinski and Leelee Sobieski. This three-disc set is in
French with English subs in anamorphic widescreen video. The
mini-series is also available in two shorter 200-minute
versions, one in French and the other in dubbed English. But
c'mon, this is DVD, we want this stuff in its original language
and as long as possible. Stick with the 270-minute French
The Complete First Season
What can I say? How about Yabba Dabba Doo! Read Bill's thoughts
HBO's steamy and scary version of The
Twilight Zone is making its way to DVD. Sadly, this
is not a complete season set (why?), so this disc brings
together 10 random episodes, including those directed by Paul
Verhoeven, Philip Noyce and Carl Schenkel. The episodes are
presented full frame and with standard Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
Extras include five commentary tracks (two from Noyce with
producer Lewis Chesler, one with Verhoeven and two with Carl
Hopefully, HBO will find this set well received and will get
around to releasing complete season sets. This was a great
series and you can see that for yourself with this nice two-disc
Fu: The Complete First Season
The show that made David Carradine (Kill
Bill) a star and the word "grasshopper"
part of pop culture vernacular is finally on DVD. Included in
this three-disc set are all 15 episodes of season one (from way
back in 1972, yo!) plus the original pilot and a couple of
making-of featurettes. The big deal with this set is that it's
presented in anamorphic widescreen video, even though the series
was originally broadcast in full frame. This will raise the ire
of many purists, but the presentation doesn't look too bad.
Personally, I think Warner should have presented these in full
frame - which I know is an odd statement here on The
Bits - but it's the way I feel. The widescreen
doesn't hurt it, and ends up making the presentation feel a bit
more theatrical, but as supporters of having things the way they
were originally meant to be seen, it's a sticking point.
with Children: The Complete Second Season
If you can stand it, here for your enjoyment are 22 episodes of
Married with Children
uninterrupted and full of all the toilet humor you could ever
want. M*A*S*H this ain't,
but it's damn funny stuff. The presentation is standard full
frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound - it does its job and does it
well. The extras are a series of Easter eggs, that you have to
hunt for to enjoy. It's basically a group interview edited up
into 20 pieces. Good luck finding 'em all.
from a Marriage
You're probably wondering why I included Ingmar Bergman's
brilliant examination of love and marriage in the TV group, but
unbeknownst to many film fans, this actually was originally a
five-hour television mini-series for Swedish TV. Criterion
presents both the TV version and the abridged U.S. theatrical
version. Extras include a video interview with Bergman (from
1986), a new interview with stars Liv Ullmann and Erland
Josephson as well as an interview with Peter Cowie on the
differences and overall impact when you compare the two
versions. Criterion presents both versions in their original
full frame aspect ratio with Dolby Digital mono sound, and both
look great. But you probably knew that when I wrote "Criterion"
in the sentence above. Just go by it.
Where Are You!: The Complete First and Second Seasons
Before he was a CGI cousin to Jar Jar, he was a Saturday
morning cartoon star. Trivia bit for you: "Scooby Dooby
Doo, where are you? I'm over here" were my first words. Now
you know why I do what I do. Read Bill's thoughts on this set
Rounding out the column this week is a last handful of discs
worth mentioning. First up...
Commitments: Collector's Edition
Get ready to replace your old edition of The
Commitments, because a new one is here and it kicks
the old version's ass. Sent to us by Fox with a new anamorphic
transfer and an updated English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track
(the previous edition sported only a 2.0 track), this is also a
loaded two-disc special edition. First, we get a commentary by
Alan Parker, which is good but suffers a bit from the standard
commentary track boo-boo where the director dictates what's
going on on-screen. But it's better than nothing. Next, we get a
pair of making-of documentaries, one focusing on the production
at the time and the other looking at the production from today's
perspective. There is also a pair of featurettes, one on the
band that inspired the film and the other a slimmed-down version
of the documentary about the production. Filling out the
collection is a music video, two audio-only tracks, a trailer,
TV and radio spots and a stills gallery.
Seuss' The Cat in the Hat
I hate this film, so I'm not going to talk about it. If you're
a parent with any respect for your own childhood, avoid this
film and give your kid a copy of the book. That said, and
knowing I have no influence... Cat in
the Hat on DVD looks nothing short of gorgeous. And
it sounds incredible as well. Hate to say it, but it's true.
Extras are pretty vast as well and include a commentary with
director Bo Welsh and actor Alec Baldwin, deleted scenes,
outtakes and a very nice collection of featurettes concerning
hats, Dr. Seuss, the S.L.O.W. (the car featured in the film),
the D.I.R.T. cleaning machine, the look of The Cat, the town,
the development of the fish, the music, the kid actors in the
film, the CGI and even a look at the U.S. Postal stamp. It's a
good DVD. A damn good DVD. But, oh... how the film hurts me so.
The Last Unicorn is a
movie that we've wanted on DVD for a very long time. Sadly, as
of press time, I haven't had a chance to see this Lion's Gate
release, so I can't vouch for whether it's a good showing on
disc or a bad one. But I know a lot of people who will be
cheering from the rooftops if it's even close to good.
Joel Shumacher's examination of the life and death of Irish
journalist Veronica Guerin didn't make any noise in theaters,
but it should hit big in homes. The famed Sunday
Independent reporter who went up against Dublin's
crime world and paid the ultimate price stars Cate Blanchett and
features a cameo by Shumacher favorite Colin Farrell. This
Touchstone/Buena Vista DVD features anamorphic widescreen video,
Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as DTS 5.1 audio, two commentary
tracks (one with Schmacher and the other with the writers of the
film), a deleted scene, a video interview with producer Jerry
Bruckheimer, Bruckheimer's photo diary, a featurette focusing on
the real Guerin and a making-of documentary. Not bad at all.
Check it out.
Also available today:
Rebecca Demornay in Roger Vadim's remake of his own film
God Created Woman,
the Rain Must Fall,
the Stars, the original 1950 version of
by the Dozen,
Will Be Girls, John Turturro's directorial debut
Mick Jagger's turn as
Kelly, direct-to-video fare with Michael Keaton in
and the classic MGM/UA film
Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.
This it for this week. I'm going back to bed and try to sleep this
off. Damn flu.
Wait... I'm not Ryan Seacrest. I am so way cooler. I am, and always