THIS WEEK IN DVD’S – Feb 7, 2008
Deep Water (IFC)
Not quite a documentary and not exactly a drama, Deep Water (IFC) resonates on its own terms. This tale of Donald Crowhurst and his attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a 1968 yacht race spanning the seven seas is jam-packed with nail-biting suspense and earnest, human emotion, but its real value lies in its near-insistence on not being pigeon-holed into a certain genre. Truth be told, there are few films made the way Deep Water was made, and that uniqueness is a reason to celebrate.
Oswald’s Ghost (Paramount)
Oswald’s Ghost (Paramount) may be far more traditional of a documentary than Deep Water, but it’s nevertheless one of the more powerful docs this writer’s seen in a long time. Part of what makes the film so engaging is how it makes pretty well-worn information seem new and fresh. It passes any conundrum of the “Do we really need another JFK assassination movie?” question within five minutes and ends up showcasing perspectives on that devastating moment in American history with fervent, true passion. And Norman Mailer’s interview material incorporated into the film is nothing short of mesmerizing – his monologue as the movie winds to a close is a work of astute, well-researched genius.
Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (Warner)
While there was a capable documentary included on last years’s Val Lewton Horror Collection, it’s nice to know that Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (Warner) will give cinephiles a chance to dig deeper into the persona and profession of one of the cinema’s greatest horror artists. Martin Scorsese does a fantastic job narrating this short but information doc, and his obvious interest in the man and his work gives The Man in the Shadows a shocking degree of legitimacy. Even though this DVD might not be for anyone not fully versed in the magic of Cat People or I Walked With a Zombie, as a portrait of a subversive businessman and artist, it’s a Hell of a trip.
Pioneers of Television: Late Night/Sitcoms/Games Shows/Variety (Paramount)
Far less impressive is Pioneers of Television: Late Night/Sitcoms/Games Shows/Variety (Paramount), simply because it takes absolutely no risks with the legacies it aims to define. Not to say that viewers should want their documentaries to be muckraking sleaze-fests, but this DVD is little more than a puff piece. Do these personalities – Johnny Carson, Steve Allen, Jack Paar (to name but a few) – deserve loving accolades? Of course. But just because one admires these pioneers doesn’t mean one needs to skirt around every issue. It’s a shame, because to learn the ins and outs of these popular personalities would be an illuminating experience, I’m sure.
The Apartment: Special Edition (MGM)
Old Timer: The Apartment: Special Edition (MGM). One of Billy Wilder’s most whimsical and effervescent social comedies, The Apartment remains a singular, genre-defying trapeze-act of a movie. The chemistry between Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon is hypnotic and dizzyingly sexy, and the film showcases one of the best screenplays ever written for the medium. This one’s not really worth an upgrade, though – while the two featurettes included are worth a peek, the full-length commentary from film scholar Bruce Block, while quite reverent and appreciative, is pretty one-note.
2 Days in Paris (Fox)
Feast of Love (MGM)
New Blood: 2 Days in Paris (Fox) and Feast of Love (MGM). Julie Delpy’s tonally-similar riff on the Before Sunrise and Before Sunset films that she shined so brightly in is really nothing new – I dare you to find a review of the film that doesn’t infer that the picture is Before Sunrise-lite – but her coquettish charisma and the worrisome neurosis in her beau (Adam Goldberg) meet to bring the film a lilting romance. It ain’t rocket science, but you’ll smile through the whole thing anyway. Feast of Love, though, is a misstep for typically dependable director Robert Benton. This tale of love, loss and starting over starring Greg Kinnear, Selma Blair and Morgan Freeman aims to be a thinking-person’s Love Actually, but ends up getting mired in its own preciousness.
An Affair to Remember (MGM)
In the Heat of the Night (MGM)
Old Timers: An Affair to Remember (MGM) and In the Heat of the Night (MGM). Each of these memorable classics get the special-edition treatment in early 2008, but while the addition of commentaries and making-of featurettes make nice appendices to the films’ reputations, the real meat is still in the pictures themselves. Affair is just about as gushingly romantic as a film can get, and even though some of its racial politics have become a bit antiquated, Sidney Poitier’s performance in Heat of the Night is proof positive that he’s one of the best screen performers we’ve ever had.
The Comebacks (Fox)
Drumline: Special Edition (Fox)
New Blood: The Comebacks (Fox) and Drumline: Special Edition (Fox). Yeah, Drumline isn’t that new, but this new special edition allows for viewers to revisit the birth of Nick Cannon’s career anew. The movie follows all the predictable plotline roadmarkers you’d imagine, but like a great Lifetime movie, even when it’s bad, it’s engaging and fun. The Comebacks, though – yikes. This writer loves a sports movie and he lives for dumb comedies, but this one is neither funny nor enjoyable. Steer clear.