Criterion's new edition features the original live TV production as well as the feature film
The classic 1957 "12 Angry Men" (Criterion) began life as a landmark of live television. Reginald Rose's original teleplay won an Emmy Award in 1955. Henry Fonda brought the story to the big screen and brought Rose along with it to adapt and expand the script.
Producer Fonda takes the lead as a hold-out juror who tries to stop a rush to judgment in a murder trial and debate the facts at hand before sentencing a young man to death. Lee J. Cobb leads the "guilty" votes and becomes belligerent as others change their votes during the debate. Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, and Robert Webber co-star as fellow jurors. The film marked the feature debut of Sidney Lumet, himself a veteran of live TV, and he effectively modulates the drama without ever taking the camera out of the jury room until the verdict is in and the jury is out.
"The movie plays like a textbook for directors interested in how lens choices affect mood," wrote Roger Ebert in 2002. "By gradually lowering his camera, Lumet illustrates another principle of composition: A higher camera tends to dominate, a lower camera tends to be dominated. As the film begins we look down on the characters, and the angle suggests they can be comprehended and mastered. By the end, they loom over us, and we feel overwhelmed by the force of their passion.
Plus more 'Perry Mason,' PBS documentaries and more
"The Office: Special Edition" (U.K.) (BBC) is a new edition of the original British incarnation of workplace sitcom with Ricky Gervais as a most insufferably self-satisfied office manager on television. Videodrone's review is here.
"Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series" (BBC) features all 13 regular episodes plus the Christmas special from most recent series of the erstwhile British sci-fantasy show, now under the creative wing of writer/producer Stephen Moffat and Doctor Matt Smith. It's a season to remember, opening with the death of The Doctor and then circling back around the strange and amazing story of River Song (Alex Kingston), and an absolute delight of time travel fantasy and wildly inventive adventures. I reviewed it as it rolled on home video earlier this year: "The Christmas Special," "Season Six, Part One" and "Part Two." On DVD and Blu-ray, both in six-disc box sets packed with supplements, including episodes of "Doctor Who Confidential" new to this set. The Brits do love their Doctor.
Herge's Tintin, the globetrotting adventures of a boy journalist, is one of the most beloved series of comic books adventures for children all over Europe (and the world) for more than forty years. "The Adventures of Tintin: Season One" (Shout! Factory) is the second animated series based on the books, made between 1991 and 1992. A co-production of French and Canadian studios, it's the most faithful screen version of the books, produced in a simplified animation style that recalls the original comics (right down to reproducing some of the original panels). It originally showed in the U.S. on HBO in the nineties but debuts on DVD in advance of the new Steven Spielberg film. More than simply timely, it also features adaptations of two stories that form the basis of Spielberg's film. The first season of 13 episodes (most of them two-part adventures) are presented on two discs. No supplements.
"Whitechapel: The Ripper Returns" (BBC) is actually a three-episode BBC mini-series series starring Rupert Penry-Jones as an up-and-coming DI investigating who is teamed up with a hard-bitten veteran DS near retirement (Phil Davis) and a "Ripperologist" (Steve Pemberton) to investigate a series of murders that resemble Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. The self-contained series runs a little over two hours, and proved successful enough for a continuing series. The disc also includes the making-of featurette "Peeling Back the Layers."
Even more vintage is "Perry Mason: Season Six, Volume Two" (Paramount), with 14 episodes of courtroom brilliance from Raymond Burr's definitive TV lawyer and his crack team (Barbara Hale and William Hopper). D.A. Hamilton Burger (William Talman) never had a chance. This season also feature Karl Held in a recurring role as a law-school drop-out befriended by Mason.
The documentary "These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Make America" (PBS), originally produced for public television, surveys the films on the National Film Registry. "While it's far from comprehensive and some subjects are given rushed treatment, the film makes a commendable effort toward inclusiveness," writes David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter. The DVD also includes the featurette "Lost Forever" (about film preservation and restoration) and other supplements. Also originally made for public television is "The Fabric of the Cosmos" (PBS), a series hosted by physicist Brian Greene for the science series "Nova."
"Shaun the Sheep: Season 2" (Lionsgate) presents 40 7-minute episodes of the animated series from Aardman. "Conan the Adventurer: Season Two, Part 1" (Shout! Factory) features 13 episodes of the animated series, by Crom! "Love Begins" (Fox) is the latest TV movie in the "Love Comes Softly" series inspired by the books of Janette Oke.
Plus a new 'Spy Kids,' rock and roll 'Trigger' and much more
"Super 8" (Paramount), J.J. Abrams' alien adventure with a cast of kids, has the DNA of a Steven Spielberg tale lost in the noise of a special effects extravaganza. Videodrone's review is here, along with a clip featuring co-star Elle Fanning.
Jason Momoa (late of "Game of Thrones") takes up the sword and loincloth as "Conan the Barbarian" (Lionsgate) in the big screen revival of Robert E. Howard's pulp fiction hero, originally made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Marcus Nispel directs this reboot, which co-stars Rachel Nichols, Stephan Lang, Rose McGowan and Ron Perlman. "[W]hile Nispel never lets his movie become dull, it truly comes alive only when people are hacking other people to bits," promises Village Voice critic Mark Holcomb. "Squeamish types may balk, but the gory cruelty on display here is faithful to the source material and deeply thrilling." Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D, the latter editions with two commentary tracks (one by director Nispel, the other by actors Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan) and four featurettes.
Dominic Cooper delivers his breakout performance as Uday Hussein and his civilian lookalike in "The Devil's Double" (Lionsgate), directed by Lee Tamahori. "Lost somewhere in "The Devil's Double" is a good-to-great film, but it's sabotaged by a weak script and direction that fails to fully realize its challenging subject matter," complains MSN film critic Kat Murphy, but she praises Cooper: "Playing Saddam Hussein's mad son Uday and his fiday -- body double and bullet catcher -- Latif Yahia, Cooper alternately smolders in silence and erupts in spasms of raucous lunacy." On DVD and Blu-ray, with commentary by director Tamahori, two featurettes and an interview with the real Latif Yahia.
Kristin Scott Thomas stars in "Sarah's Key" (Anchor Bay), a World War II mystery wrapped around the Holocaust, the occupation of France and the collaboration, based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. "The film rather resourcefully depicts the way history, so often seen as an abstraction or a collection of facts that has been safely stored away and has lost the power to effect a rebuilt state of things, still resonates and does damage,' observes MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. "It's in these respects that Paquet-Brenner's writing and directing do their jobs best, and of course he is aided immeasurably by a spectacular cast. Scott Thomas is remarkably subtle and insinuatingly intelligent in her portrayal." On DVD and Blu-ray, both with a making-of featurette.
Robert Rodriguez returns to his juvenile James Bond series with Jessica Alba and Joel McHale in the lead as the power spy-couple parents "Spy Kids: All The Time In The World" (Anchor Bay), which also features the original "Spy Kids" Alexa Vega and Daryl Saabara (no grown up) and co-star Jeremy Piven as the new villain. "This fourth "Spy Kids" picture isn't so much bad as it is just boring, lacking the buzz and brio of even some of the earlier entries in the series," complains Los Angeles Times film critic Mark Olsen. "It feels like someone is now just marking time." Available on DVD and a four-disc Blu-ray+DVD+Digital Copy with a bonus Blu-ray 3D version. Both releases include an interview with Rodriguez, a featurette, deleted scenes and other supplements.
"Trigger" (Wolfe) is Bruce McDonald's rock and roll indie from Canada with Molly Parker and Tracy Wright. Globe and Mail film critic Stephen Cole calls it "A mesmerizing talk-a-thon with smart, useful things to say about life, love and rock ’n’ roll." Includes an table reading of the script with the cast.
"Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven" (First Run), a portrait of restaurateur Sirio Macciono and his sons, is a documentary from Andrew Rossi, the director of "Page One: Inside the New York Times." "Making the Boys" (First Run) explores the legacy of "Boys in the Band," the first gay play to run on Broadway. "Becoming Santa" (Cinema Libre) follows one man's journey to reclaim the Christmas spirit for his family by literally playin the part.
"The Family Tree" (eOne) is an indie comedy of family dysfunction with an impressive cast: Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Selma Blair, Keith Carradine, Chi McBride and Christina Hendricks, to name a few. DVD and Blu-ray, with a featurette and behind the scenes footage.
"Carjacked" (Anchor Bay) stars Mario Bello as a single mother and Stephen Dorff as a fugitive bank robber who carjacks her for a getaway ride. On DVD and Blu-ray, with a featurette. Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd are rival bank robbers who target the same bank in the crime comedy "Flypaper" (IFC), co-starring Tim Blake Nelson and Mekhi Phifer. On DVD and Blu-ray, with interviews.
Aunjanue Ellis stars in the family drama "Money Matters" (Image), Malcolm McDowell is a college professor who runs a prostitution ring of college girls in "Pound of Flesh" (Odyssey) and Philip Winchester and Lacey Chabert star in the thriller "In My Sleep" (Freestyle).
The BBC original is revived in a new set with bonus supplements
“You can’t put a price on comedy," says David Brent, the alter ego of Ricky Gervais in the original BBC "The Office." But "The Office: Special Edition" (BBC) has given it a shot: this new edition carries a $39.98 suggested retail price (less with the inevitable discounts of web retailers and other stores). It's a much more caustic and squirmy comedy than its American counterpart, which was designed to play for more than the 12 episodes (plus two-part Christmas Special coda) of the self-contained British show. That's not to dismiss the superb American incarnation, but it's what makes the original so distinctive.
Creator/co-writer/co-director Ricky Gervais is fearless as the insufferably self-satisfied office manager of a paper company branch who fancies himself a born comedian and a natural leader. He’s wrong about both counts, naturally, but his yes-man team-leader Gareth (Mackenzie Crook), a brown-noser with delusions of competency, hasn’t noticed, and white-collar joker Tim (Martin Freeman, currently playing Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit") is too worried about his job to say anything to his boss. This is the show that introduced the mockumentary format that has defined so much of American sitcoms, but plays it differently: Everyone forgets about the camera but Brent, who can't help but bray and play to his audience, mouthing off inanities while he pontificates as the voice of wisdom.
It gets even more squirmy in the second series as Brent melts down in envy and anxiety when a former fellow manager (Patrick Baladi) becomes his boss and proves to be both more effective and popular and Brent offends just about everyone in the newly expanded office and alarms his corporate superiors with tasteless jokes and the scariest dance unleashed on television. The two-part "Christmas Specials" wraps it all up in a low-key happy ending. It’s a reward that they’ve all earned, even the pathetic David Brent, who -- in a moment of rare self-awareness -- chucks away his painful pose and eager-to-please phony chumminess to become a real person.
There are some new supplements added this four-disc set. Most interesting to fans will be the original pilot, which is shot fast and cheap and rough around the edges and shows the series in primordial form. Also new are the BBC special "Comedy Connections: The Office" and episode introductions by Gervais and Merchant and friends (including Matthew Perry, Ben Stiller and Christopher Guest).
From the previous release is the hilarious documentary "How I Made The Office by Ricky Gervais," a title his co-creator Stephen Merchant is a bit, shall we say, unhappy with. It’s a perfect companion to the show, with Ricky Gervais hamming it up as David Brent in the opening scenes and his co-stars whining about Gervais’ neediness and preening, but it also reveals the chaos of production that makes it work. Also includes commentary, interviews, deleted scenes and outtakes, short featurettes and other supplements.
J.J. Abrams tries to revive the wonder of Steven Spielberg's great science fiction films
Written and directed by TV wunderkind turned megamovie director J.J. Abrams, "Super 8" (Paramount) has the DNA of a Steven Spielberg tale. Set in 1979, before the home video revolution put video cameras in the hands of movie-mad kids, this is a monster movie adventure powered by creative kids, a love of movies, and an authentic foundation of mystery and wonder as seen from the perspective of schoolkids old enough to make their own zombie movie on super 8 film and young enough to get so excited by it.
See below for an exclusive clip from the Blu-ray edition of the film
Too bad that director J.J. Abrams pays more attention to the pyrotechnics than to the kids in the middle of it. When the kids sneak out to film their big scene at a train station at night and the train derails, it kind of derails the film as well. Sure, it unleashes the monster and subsequent military conspiracy that drives the rest of the movie, but instead of putting us into the shoes of the kids, it piles on the CGI overkill, turning it into just another Hollywood explosion fantasy. The rest of the big spectacle scenes follows suit, going big rather than going intimate, and Abrams doesn't have Spielberg's understanding of suburbia, of kid and of family. It hits all the right notes, but Abrams isn't playing with feeling.
He does, however, get a lot right, from the model building and pre-teen monster movie fandom and the often argumentative and contentious chemistry of groups of boys to the rickety emotional world of kids still reeling from loss and trying to take the first steps as their own people. And Abrams gets performances from his young cast, especially Elle Fanning as the well-possessed young woman they cast in their film, but also first-timer Joel Courtney as the boy still recovering from the loss of his mother months before. These two kids connect in an authentic and convincing way that the rest of the film never quite manages.
The director of "¡Three Amigos!" revisits the film as it debuts on Blu-ray
All these years later, this affectionate tribute to old Hollywood and innocent matinee westerns is just as funny, thanks to a knowing script (by Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman), engaging performances (by Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short) and Landis' savvy direction, which is larger than life in all the ways that those original westerns were. Landis has a real affection for this film and shared in a brief interview where we discussed the film, his love of horror movies and what he's been watching.
MSN: What are you watching?
MSN: That's a stunning disc.
JL: It's magnificent. I was really blown away by it.
MSN: Comedy is such a product of its time. In the eighties, you and Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis dominated with madcap antics and energized comedy. Now there's a whole new comedy aesthetic, which is focused on gross-out humor and arrested adolescence. What do you think has changed?
JL: A lot has to do with the movies the studios are making. It's a different time and they won't take the risk that they used to take. Things are a lot more conservative. But having said that, I thought "Bridesmaids" was funny. I mean it wasn't perfect but it made me laugh and that's what you want from a comedy.
MSN: And it was pretty smart too. Are there any other comedies of the past couple of years that you've liked?
JL: Most of the really good comedy these days is being done on television and most of it is animation. Between "The Simpsons" -- that they've maintained this quality all these years is incredible -- and "Family Guy and "South Park," there's a lot of really interesting stuff on TV. And sitcoms too.
MSN: I worked in a video store for years we played "¡Three Amigos!" constantly in the store.
JL: It's had quite a life, that movie. They're sweet characters and there are very few comedies made in the last twenty years or so that you can show the entire family.
MSN: I was trying to think of a one-sentence description of "Three Amigos" and I came up with: "The Magnificent Seven" remade as a slapstick singing cowboy matinee.
JL: That's a pretty good description. There's a lot of "The Wild Bunch" in there, too, but we were very much trying to honor the Gene Autry / Roy Rogers westerns. And at the same time it's very much "The Magnificent Seven." In fact, one of the things I enjoyed the most about the film is Elmer Bernstein's extraordinary score. I asked Elmer, "Would you please satirize yourself?" And he does it brilliantly. The music in the movie is fabulous. Between Elmer's score and Randy's songs I'm very happy with the music in the movie.
Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week.
"Super 8" (Paramount) has the DNA of a Steven Spielberg tale: creative kids, a love of movies, an alien visitor, a military conspiracy. mystery, wonder and adventure from the perspective of a child. Too bad that director J.J. Abrams pays more attention to the pyrotechnics than to the kids in the middle of it. But he does get some superb performances from his young cast, especially Elle Fanning. Videodrone's review is here.
"Conan the Barbarian" (Lionsgate) casts Jason Momoa in the role of Robert E. Howard's pulp fiction hero, made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger, for this attempt to reboot the franchise for a new generation. Robert Rodriguez returns to his juvenile James Bond series with Jessica Alba and Joel McHale in the lead in "Spy Kids: All The Time In The World" (Anchor Bay)
Dominic Cooper delivers his breakout performance as Uday Hussein and his civilian lookalike in "The Devil's Double" (Lionsgate), directed by Lee Tamahori. Kristin Scott Thomas stars in "Sarah's Key" (Anchor Bay), a World War II mystery based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay.
Plus "Trigger" (Wolfe) is Bruce McDonald's rock and roll indie from Canada with Molly Parker and Tracy Wright, "Carjacked" (Anchor Bay) stars Mario Bello and Stephen Dorff, and "Flypaper" (IFC) stars Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd.
TV on DVD:
"Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series" (BBC) features all 13 episodes plus the Christmas special from most recent series of the erstwhile British sci-fantasy show, now under the creative wing of writer/producer Stephen Moffat and Doctor Matt Smith. It's a season to remember. Videodrone remembers is here.
"The Office: Special Edition" (U.K.) (BBC) is a new edition of the original British incarnation of workplace sitcom with Ricky Gervais as a most insufferably self-satisfied office manager on television. This set features new interviews and a retrospective documentary. Videodrone's review is here.
"The Adventures of Tintin: Season One" (Shout! Factory) is an animated series produced in Europe in the early 1990s and based on the original books by Herge, including two that form the basis of the new Steven Spielberg film. "Perry Mason: Season Six, Volume Two" (Paramount) features 14 more episodes of courtroom brilliance from Raymond Burr's definitive TV lawyer. The documentary "These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Make America" (PBS), originally produced for public television, surveys the films on the National Film Registry.
Flip through the TV on DVD Channel Guide here
Cool, Classic and Cult:
Henry Fonda calms "12 Angry Men" (Criterion) in the classic 1957 courtroom drama set entirely in the jury room. Sidney Lumet made his feature debut in the big screen adaptation of the original live TV production. The Criterion debut features both versions and plenty of supplements. Videodrone's review is here.
Two D.W. Griffith silent movie landmarks receive newly remastered editions on DVD and Blu-ray debuts: "Birth of a Nation" (Kino), the original American cinema epic (as influential as it is controversial), and the thrilling melodrama "Way Down East" (Kino) with Lillian Gish.
"¡Three Amigos! 25th Anniversary Edition" (HBO), starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short as intellectually-challenged actors in silent movie westerns mistaken for genuine heroes, may be the forgotten John Landis comedy classic. It's certainly the sweetest of the American western parodies, and it is a loving tribute to the innocence of the early westerns. Videodrone interviews John Landis here.
"Rushmore" (Criterion), Wes Anderson's second feature, the original "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (MGM) with Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, and the sprawling 1958 western "The Big Country" (MGM) with Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston and Jean Simmons also debut.
The complete calendar of releases this week is after the jump:
|Tags:||Week in review|
50% all Criterion releases ends Monday, November 21
It's a great excuse to peruse the shelves or browse the website. And maybe even pick up a little something for yourself along the way.
And if you're looking for a few recommendations, allow me to steer you toward some of my favorite releases of the past year (new to DVD and/or Blu-ray, or re-released in a new edition), with links to my reviews.
American Classics: Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator," "Sweet Smell of Success" with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, Robert Aldrich's 1955 film noir apocalypse "Kiss Me Deadly,"
Modern Classics: Brian DePalma's "Blow Out," Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild," Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused."
Foreign Classics: Jean Renoir's "The Rules Of The Game," Luchino Visconti's "Senso," Henri-George Clouzot's "Diabolique," Jean Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast," "The Complete Jean Vigo" and Victor Sjöström's silent movie masterpiece "The Phantom Carriage."
Modern Classics (Foreign Edition): Krzysztof Kieslowski's "The Double Life of Veronique" and the sublime "Three Colors: Blue White Red," Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander Box Set" and Olivier Assayass' "Carlos"
Cool and Culty: Roman Polanski's "Cul-De-Sac" and the original 1932 "Island of Lost Souls." Are we not cinephiles?
But you need to act now. The sale ends on Monday, November 21. Happy shopping.