THIS WEEK IN DVD’S – Mar. 15th, 2007
The Mr. Moto Collection: Volume Two (Fox)
Fusing the smarty-pants sleek of Charlie Chan and the sweatiness that only Peter Lorre could provide, Mr. Moto—on paper—is an endearingly entertaining detective. Inspired by the popular JP Marquand novels of the early 1900’s, Fox’s Mr. Moto movies followed the Asian-made-up Lorre as he basically did what Charlie Chan did: Solve crimes using both Western forensic skills and good old-fashioned Eastern ascetics. The Mr. Moto Collection: Volume Two (Fox) houses four of the later Lorre Moto movies—Mr. Moto in Danger Island, Mr. Moto’s Gamble, Mr. Moto’s Last Warning, and Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation—and as one would expect, they’re interesting…for about ten minutes. It’s a double-edged sword, these old films on DVD: Without the implicit filmic prowess to make them bona fide classics, they’re really more nostalgic curios than anything else. But Fox knows this, and has catered this collection to Moto fans excellently: The transfers here are significantly stronger than I ever would have expected, and while the bonus film, The Return of Mr. Moto (with a commentary track from actor Henry Silva), ain’t much of anything, coupled with the handful of interviews and featurettes on this box set, The Mr. Moto Collection: v. 2 actually makes for a fine historical document.
Godzilla Raids Again & Mothra vs. Godzilla (Classic Media)
I don’t know whether it makes me a contrarian hipster or a bona fide weirdo, but your buddy Mike spent Valentine’s Day with Godzilla Raids Again and Mothra vs. Godzilla (Classic Media), and it was great. Godzilla Raids Again—presented here in both its original Japanese release and its chopped-up US version (featuring the voice talents of Sulu himself, George Takei—is the lesser of the two films (both the Japanese and US takes on Mothra vs. Godzilla are extraordinary), but the big lizard-fight at the end is totally bitchin’. And Classic Media is giving these Godzilla movies regal treatment: No, the transfers here aren’t spot-on, but they’re leaps and bounds more pristine than any versions I’ve ever seen, and the commentary tracks on the films from Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle (as well as a few other geeks and Godzilla alums on Godzilla Raids Again) are essential listening for anyone with more than a passing interest in that lovable Godzilla. Though, truth be told, I’m more of a Mothra man. Happy Valentine’s Day, Mothra—can I get you another glass of wine…?
Tammy Wynette: Greatest Hits Live
U2: Achtung Baby—A Classic Album Under Review
Guns n Roses: DVD Collector’s Box
MVD has a slew of new music releases on the market, but a handful of them are the kind of thing you’d buy on an impulse at a record store, then come home and curse yourself for picking up. The good first: Tammy Wynette: Greatest Hits Live is similar in quality to Loretta Lynn: Songs of Inspiration (released a few years ago)—it’s not a compilation of studio recordings, by any means, but this concert features many of the country legend’s standouts, including “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and “Stand By Your Man”. Sure, the audio and video quality is poor, but that’s okay—the lack of technical prowess gives you more time to admire Wynette’s helmet-cut hairdo. A lesser evil is U2: Achtung Baby—A Classic Album Under Review. No, we don’t actually hear any of the songs U2 recorded for this monolithic mainstream album, but many of the experts gathered to discuss the LP make intriguing points about specific songs’ impact and finesse. At the bottom of the barrel, though, is Guns n Roses: DVD Collector’s Box. Without having access to any GNR, this two-disc “documentary” is nothing more than surface-level musings on the band’s popularity, their meteoric rise to the top of the glam-rock heap, and their bling-bling album sales. Sure, you get to watch Slash mumble through a few lines of slurred interviews, but after five minutes of this thing, you’ll be ready to turn it off and start up your CD of Appetite for Destruction instead. And audio/video quality? Forget it. The fact that this Guns n Roses disc has a text discography of the band’s output is the zenith of its bonus features palette.
Romeo + Juliet: Music Edition (Fox)
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet sucked then and it sucks now, but at least late-90’s Leo-freaks can slo-mo their way through Romeo + Juliet: Music Edition (Fox), a DVD celebration of the film’s 10th anniversary. This release comes with an expanded CD soundtrack (which includes five more of the odious songs used in the film that weren’t included on the film’s original bestselling soundtrack) as well as a handful of bonuses that I bet even Baz wouldn’t care much for. First of all, there are not one, not two, but three (?) screen-specific audio commentaries here—one from Luhrmann (who, for all intents and purposes, sounds as though he at least knows what the Hell he’s talking about), another from composer Craig Armstrong, and yet another from composer Marius De Vries. Even as one compiled track, this would be a stinker—everybody knows that even with a solid soundtrack, it was the film’s frenetic pace and visual style that set it apart, not the million-dollar decision of including a Garbage song on the soundtrack. The overlong documentary Romeo + Juliet: The Music isn’t much better, but it’s better than the handful of the other featurettes that round out the edition. Dig deep into your closet, find the dusty copy of the soundtrack you haven’t listened to since sophomore year, and relive Romeo + Juliet that way. Because, mark my words: Even with a tweaked-up and fancy 2.35:1 Anamoprhic widescreen transfer and a DTS soundtrack (that makes you want to set fire to all the speakers in the room before you take your own life), this one’s a Leo picture even fan-girls should forget. And yes, for the record, it is worse than Celebrity. Get over yourself.