The cops-in-paradise crime series gets a new incarnation
"What kind of cops are you?"
"The new kind."
"Hawaii Five-0: The First Season" (Paramount) revives the old cops-in-paradise crime series with a young cast and a maverick new sensibility. This Five-0 is a special branch of the Honolulu PD, personally created by the Governor (guest star Jean Smart) to take on major crimes and high-profile cases, and it makes up its rules. Think of it as a classic cop show on steroids and suntan lotion.
Alex O'Loughlin is the new model Steve McGarrett, the local boy made good: a former Navy SEAL hardcase with a cowboy approach to police work and the looks of a GC model. Danno (Scott Caan), a Jersey transfer with a sardonic streak, helps cut through McGarrett's intensity and counterbalance his single-minded pursuit of the men who murdered his McGarrett's father. Filling out the team is disgraced officer Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), accused of a crime he didn't commit, and surfer girl turned fresh Police Academy graduate Kono (Grace Park).
This is boilerplate stuff: Steve McGarrett takes a job on the force to get the man who killed his father (guest appearance by William Sadler; get that man his own series) and stays on to run his own team. Between the weekly rotation of new cases, he digs into the web of criminal conspiracy and finds Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos, like O'Laughlin a good-looking and stylish new model villain) and corruption infiltrating the department and even the government.
O'Loughlin apprenticed under Michael Chiklis's Vic Mackey on "The Shield" and apparently brought some of those ideas to the island, but he's not crooked, merely reckless. Remember that thing about making up his own rules? He and his team heists $10 million from a police evidence locker and then lose it before he can sneak it back in, and then walk right into a major frame-up in the cliffhanger season closer. Danno's job here isn't so much to keep McGarrett honest but to remind him of all the lines he's stepping over, and then back his plays unconditionally. I can appreciate that kind of loyalty, but this is one cowboy cop who could use some push back from his partner.
24 episodes six discs plus commentary on two episodes and a big complement of supplements. A lot of those are basic promo pieces (like the "behind the scenes" look at recording the new incarnation of the iconic theme song) but there's also "Shore Lines: The Story of Season 1," a substantial half-hour featurette, plus "Picture Perfect: The Making of the Pilot," highlights from the Comic-Con panel and the usual deleted scenes and gag reel.
It's also coming out on Blu-ray, but it's exclusively available through Best Buy for now.
Kristen Wiig lets the girls play in the guy's sandbox of gross-out comedy
Every couple of years, some film with a predominantly female cast becomes a big hit and suddenly every paper and online film site is reminded that women also go to movies. With "Bridesmaids" (Universal), the story was extended to the insight that hey, women can be funny too. Really. Wow, insight indeed.
No, the real story is that women can have just as much fun playing in the comic sandbox of adolescent behavior, poor judgment and gross-out gags and that both male and female audiences find it just as funny. "Bridesmaids" found box-office gold in a girl-bonding romp filled equally with outlandish bridal showers and alcohol-fueled slapstick aggression, grand romantic gestures and furtive sex, high couture and low blows.
Wiig, like so many underutilized and highly creative performers before her, answered the lack of substantial roles by writing one for herself and her fellow funny ladies, but she built the character of Annie on a foundation of disappointment and anxiety that women and men both can relate to. An entrepreneur picking up the pieces from a failed business, she's broke, in a job she hates, a roommate situation that drives her farther into depression and a relationship with a cad who undercuts her self-esteem with every sleepover. When her best friend (fellow "SNL" regular Maya Rudolph) announces that she's getting married, the sinkhole just gets worse, especially when she finds herself competing with a spoiled society girl (Rose Byrne) who proclaims herself the new best friend.
The anxiety of underemployment and the palpable humiliation of slowly losing her independence gives a human dimension to the over-the-top comedy and helps smooth out the sometimes spotty nature of this kind of filmmaking. But mostly, it's satisfying to see Annie act out in ways that movies allow men to constantly but rarely extend to women: responding to stress and jealousy like an overgrown adolescent, misbehaving out of pique and anxiety, screwing up big and getting the opportunity to make good and be forgiven.
Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist home video releases of the week.
"Bridesmaids" (Universal) is a necessary reminder that women can have just as much fun playing in the comedy sandbox of adolescent behavior, poor judgment and gross-out gags (they clearly do) and that audiences find it just as funny. Kristin Wiig co-writes and stars in this hit girl-bonding romp and gives a charming vulnerability to it all between the laugh. Videodrone's review is here and Videodrone talks to Kristin Wiig about the film and DVD here.
Speaking of brides, "Bride Flight" (Music Box) is a romantic drama about three Dutch women emigrating to New Zealand to meet their husbands-to-be in 1953, while "Brand New Day" (Fox) is an Australian musical road movie starring Geoffrey Rush.
On the foreign front we have a couple of horror films -- "We Are the Night" (IFC), a German vampire indie, and "The Silent House" (IFC), a haunting thriller from Uruguay shot in a single, unbroken take -- plus the Lebanese drama "I Want to See" (Typecast) starring Catherine Deneuve and the documentary "Nostalgia For The Light" (Icarus) from Chile. Videodrone's Foreign Affairs round-up is here.
Finally, Bruce Willis goes direct-to-DVD in "Set Up" (Lionsgate), getting second billing to Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson.
TV on DVD:
"Hawaii Five-0: The First Season" (Paramount) revives the old cops-in-paradise crime series with a young cast and a new sensibility. This Five-0 is a special branch that makes up its rules, sort of a classic cop show on steroids and sun tan lotion. The season ends with a cliffhanger rife with conspiracy, corruption and criminal frame-ups. Book 'em, Danno. Videodrone's review is here.
Dana Delaney returns to TV in "Body of Proof: The Complete First Season" (Disney), playing a flinty former neurosurgeon turned forensic pathologist who has to learn to tone down her attitude and reconnect with her estranged daughter after a car accident ends her surgical career. Videodrone's review is here.
There are more debut seasons: "Mike & Molly: The Complete First Season" (Warner), with newly-anointed Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy, "Happy Endings: The Complete First Season" (Sony), "Raising Hope: The Complete First Season" (Fox) and "Law & Order: Los Angeles – The Complete Series" (Universal), the latter reviewed on Videodrone here.
Also this week comes Emmy Award powerhouse "Modern Family: The Complete Second Season" (Fox), "Castle: The Complete Third Season" (Disney) and "The Mentalist: The Complete Third Season" (Warner), while on the classic TV front, "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer: The Complete Series" (A&E) stars Darren McGavin in a late-fifties version of the iconic detective and "The Dick Van Dyke Show 50th Anniversary Edition: Fan Favorites" (Image) offers 20 classic episodes. The vintage releases are reviewed on Videodrone here.
Cool, Classic and Cult:
"Le beau Serge" (Criterion) and "Les cousins" (Criterion), the first two films from Claude Chabrol, mark the official birth of the French nouvelle vague. The two confident, mature dramas don't have the stylistic flash or narrative invention of the more famous works by Godard and Truffaut that followed, but that was always the way with Chabrol, the classicist of the "Cahiers" crowd. They make their respective American home video debuts on beautifully-mastered DVD and Blu-ray editions from Criterion. Videodrone's review is here.
"Landmarks of Early Soviet Film: A Four-Disc DVD Collection Of 8 Groundbreaking Films" (Flicker Alley) may sound like dry lesson plan in film history on the surface but the diversity of films, from dynamic dramas to witty comedies to striking documentaries, makes this collection a revelation for lovers of silent films, classic cinema and adventurous filmmaking. Such a labor of love certainly gets some love from me in the Videodrone review.
Also debuting this week is "Visions of Eight" (Olive), the anthology documentary on the 1972 Munich Olympics with sequences by Milos Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Arthur Penn, John Schlesinger, Mai Zetterling, Juri Ozerov and Michael Pfleghar, and "hitRECord RECollection" (hitREcord), a multimedia collection of short films, music and art collected in a hardcover book.
The 1941 Disney animated classic about a little circus pachyderm with big ears and the unlikely ability to fly, makes its Blu-ray debut with "Dumbo: 70th Anniversary Edition" (Disney) in newly remastered edition, reviewed on Videodrone here.
Audrey Hepburn is perfection as carefree and kooky New York party girl Holly Golightly in "Breakfast At Tiffany’s" (Paramount), Blake Edwards’ sparkling adaptation of Truman Capote's bittersweet novella, and Wes Craven's first two films get new Blu-ray editions. Also new this week: "The Others" (Lionsgate), "Scary Movie 2" (Lionsgate) and "Scary Movie 3: Unrated" (Lionsgate).
The complete calendar of releases this week is after the jump:
|Tags:||Week in review|
Talking movies and DVDs with the star and co-writer of 'Bridesmaids'
Kristin Wiig, one of the only reasons to check in with "Saturday Night Live" in recent years, has been turning bit parts into defining comedy moment in films as "Ghost Town" and "Adventureland," not to mention a half dozen Judd Apatow comedies. Now Wiig takes charge as co-writer and star of "Bridesmaids," a boys night out comedy for women that defied all industry expectations, becoming a smash hit and the most successful comedy to date for producer Apatow. It’s also a necessary reminder that, Hollywood's obsession with making films for adolescent males aside, effective comedy cuts across gender lines. Especially when you throw in a little bathroom humor. "Bridesmaids" hits DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download this week and Videodrone checked in with the multi-talented Ms. Wiig to talk movies, DVDs, Jon Hamm and doing nasty things in bridal shops.
MSN: I just listened to the "Bridesmaids" commentary track, with you, director Paul Feig, co-writer Annie Mumolo and most of your fellow bridesmaids.
Kristen Wiig: Uh-oh.
It sounds like you guys had a lot of fun.
Wiig: We did. I'm actually nervous because I haven't heard it yet. Did I say anything to embarrass myself?
Let's just say that you didn't say anything that was more embarrassing than anything you said in the movie.
Wiig: There! Okay, that's fair.
You recorded that commentary track the day before the film opened, when you had no idea that it was going to be huge.
Wiig: Yeah, that's crazy. I was probably very, very nervous. It's probably why we were drinking wine.
If the commentary track is anything to go by, it sounds like you all had quite a time on the set as well.
Wiig: We did. It was like summer camp for three months. It was so fun and the cast made it so special. We just got lucky. All the girls all fell in love with each other and, yeah, those are my girls.
Here's what's in the Blu-ray debut, what's not, and what's the big deal
Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I gave up my indignation over George Lucas screwing up "Star Wars" and sequels/prequels by re-editing scenes, adding special effects and rewriting small but central parts of the original experience. That doesn't mean I like it – I've kept my lo-fi, non-anamorphic DVD edition of the original "Star Wars," just so I can preserve a copy of the experience I first had way back in 1977 without the CGI noodling in the margins of the Mos Eisley spaceport and other scenes – just that I'm tired of complaining about it.
See an MSN Exclusive Clip from the supplements, featuring George Lucas discussing the origins of Boba Fett, below.
So in "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" (Fox), I can confirm that Greedo doesn't noticeably shoot first (it's pretty much simultaneous by now) and Muppet Yoda has NOT been replaced by a CGI version, that all those distracting CGI embellishments to the original "Star Wars" (aka "A New Hope") are still there and still distracting, that Vader doesn't scream "Noooooooooooooooo!" so much as growl "Nooo!" at the end of "Return of the Jedi," and that I still don't care about Episodes I-III.
With that out of the way, we get to the question that the collectors have: is it worth the upgrade? And the answer is pretty simple: if you want the highest quality of presentation for a high-definition system, then yeah, this is a definite step up in video clarity and audio muscle. It's possible that it could be better, as Lucas is using digital source material created for its DVD debut, but it looks good to me.
If you are more concerned with the integrity of the original films, however, you might as well hang on to those unrestored editions on DVD. Those are hardly state of the art (Lucas made sure of that back in 2006 by presenting them in non-anamorphic editions -- an unnecessary slight to his loyal fan base) but they are the original theatrical versions, which Lucas is apparently uninterested in making available on Blu-ray.
And in terms of supplements, Lucasfilm has dropped some of the more substantial documentaries from the earlier DVD editions (notably the superb two-and-a-half-hour "Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy" but also some terrific shorter featurettes) and added a few new ones, including the 2007 "Star Warriors" (more time than you'd ever want to spend with fandom's answer to Civil War reenactors), 90 minutes of spoofs, and "A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later," a 25-minute interview featurette with Lucas, director Irvin Kershner, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and composer John Williams discussing the challenge of creating the second film in the series. In addition to the commentary tracks of the DVD releases, there is a second commentary for each film constructed from archival interviews.
But watching the films again with all this increased detail simply reminds me how much I like that roughed-up texture of the props and sets and miniatures of the original "Star Wars," that physical quality of the original trilogy that fades away in the digital dazzle off the later prequels. I'm sure there's a generation out there who doesn't really care about that tactile dimension but to me it's part of what makes those films such a blast. They may not be perfect, but creativity that met the challenges of special effects in the pre-digital age is part of what makes them such beloved films.
For more in-depth and technically savvy reviews, I direct you to Home Theater Forum, The Digital Bits and High-Def Digest, and for reviews from the British release, identical to the American but for the physical packaging (the case itself), see my earlier posting on Videodrone here.
See an exclusive clip from the supplements, followed by a detailed listing of the contents of each disc, after the jump.
Your guide to our coverage of the new DVD/Blu-ray releases
Here's what's new on DVD and Blu-ray this week as featured on Videodrone
'Thor' – From Olympus to Earth to Home Video
'Meek's Cutoff' – Lost on the Trail
TV on DVD:
'Spartacus' and 'Camelot,' Spectacle and Sex
'Rescue Me: The Sixth Season and The Final Season' - Saved From the Flames
The Cool and the Collectible:
Countdown to 'Star Wars' Blu-ray: The First Reviews
Streams and Channels:
Countdown to 'Star Wars' Blu-ray: 'Star Wars Begins'
Coming up next week:
"Bride Flight" (Music Box)
"We Are the Night" (IFC)
"The Yusuf Trilogy: Yumurta, Sut, Bal" (Olive)
"Le beau Serge" (Criterion)
"Les cousins" (Criterion)
"Landmarks of Early Soviet Film: A Four-Disc DVD Collection Of 8 Groundbreaking Films" (Flicker Alley)
"Visions of Eight" (Olive)
"Modern Family: The Complete Second Season" (Fox)
"Hawaii Five-0: The First Season" (Paramount)
"Mike & Molly: The Complete First Season" (Warner)
"Happy Endings: The Complete First Season" (Sony)
"Raising Hope: The Complete First Season " (Fox)
"Body of Proof: The Complete First Season" (Disney)
"Law & Order: Los Angeles – The Complete Series" (Universal)
"Castle: The Complete Third Season" (Disney)
"The Mentalist: The Complete Third Season" (Warner)
"Mad: Season One, Part One" (Warner)
"Dumbo: 70th Anniversary Edition" (Blu-ray) (Disney)
"Breakfast At Tiffany’s" (Blu-ray) (Paramount)
|Tags:||Week in review|
The sole surviving sound-era performance by Broadway legend Jeanne Eagels
"The Letter" (Warner Archive)
The movies learned to talk in 1927, as they say, but it took a few years to find its voice. After all, it took more than thirty years of filmmaking to arrive at the storytelling grace and sophistication of "Sunrise" and "Street Angel" and "The Crowd," a mode of filmmaking that came to an abrupt end with the arrival of sound. But it wasn't simply a matter of adjusting to new technological limitations. The movies still needed to find its own, unique vernacular and way of speaking.
The 1929 version of "The Letter," the first screen version of the W. Somerset Maugham play, is also the sole surviving sound-era performance by Broadway legend Jeanne Eagels. It's not a particularly good film –- the 1940 Better Davis version, directed by William Wyler, is far more compelling –- but it is a revelation of a performance and an illustration of the challenges filmmakers faced in the early sound era.
Apart from a fluid (and wordless) opening that culminates in a camera creeping through the jungle bush to reveal a rubber plantation manor, it is a static production that stops to observe stiffly-staged scenes of actors frozen in stand-offs. Part of that is surely the demands of early sound recording directly on film with noisy cameras that were boxed up to blimp the sound. But it also suggests that director Jean de Limur (like so many directors at the time) looked to the stage for guidance in directing actors through the new dimension of sound. The performances are pitched to the back row but the camera up close and intimate, magnifying every gesture and exaggerating every pause, and dialogue is just as arch, falling back on stage conventions. The movies had not discovered the stylized patois of street slang and drawing room wit and smart-aleck snappiness that exploded in the early thirties of gangster films and backstage musicals and streetwise romantic dramas and comedies.
Amidst the proclaiming and posing, however, Jeanne Eagels delivers a slinky, fluid performance and the unexpected cadences of her line readings develop into spoken arias. While the rest of the dialogue tends toward the formality of a lecture, Eagels portrays a woman who spins a fiction under oath like a diva playing the wronged woman, and then loses her composure and social self-control under pressure, her words pouring out as if carried by a flood of unchecked emotions. It's the first inkling of a modern sound film performance, exciting and unexpected with the feeling of spontaneity, not yet perfected but definitely alive in an otherwise fossilized film. Eagels died soon in late 1929, less than a year after the release of the film
MOD stands for "Manufacture on Demand" and represents a recent development in the DVD market, where slipping sales have slowed the release of classic, special interest and catalogue releases. These are DVD-R releases, no-frills discs from studio masters, ordered online and "burned" individually with every order. You can read a general introduction to the format and the model on my profile of the Warner Archive Collection on Parallax View here.
Plus 'Trainspotting,' 'My Life as a Dog,' 'The 10th Victim' and more
Has a Blu-ray release ever arrived with as much anticipation and apprehension as "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" (Fox)? It's not the original versions of the films -- once again Lucas has tinkered with the effects and reworked scenes -- but Lucas offers state of the art remastering for the high definition debut. Expect the fan blogosphere, already buzzing with indignation, to explode when it finally arrives on Friday, September 16. As of this writing, my copy has not arrived but we have reviews from the British Blu-ray release earlier this week. No such controversy surrounds "Citizen Kane: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition" (Warner), a beautifully mastered edition of what has been called The Greatest Film Ever Made. Videodrone's review is here.
Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Janice Rule are the "3 Women" (Criterion) of Robert Altman's 1977 masterpiece, disparate personalities who come together, merge, and morph in a surreal drama. Duvall is a would-be swinger idolized by shy Spacek, a young Texas woman who gets a job in a small nursing home, and Rule is a silent, pregnant artist married to a philandering stuntman (Robert Fortier). Duvall is perfectly gauche and oblivious as the prattling woman who imagines herself a sophisticate and Spacek’s transformation from fragile little girl to domineering personality is genuinely spooky. Like his earlier "Images," this is a powerful personal film by Robert Altman, a rare portrait of women and an even rarer dream film in his filmography. According to Altman, it was inspired by an actual dream he had.
Criterion previously gave the film its American home video debut with its 2004 DVD release. The new Blu-ray improves upon that excellent disc with a sharper, richer image. Features commentary by Altman (recorded for the 2004 DVD), a gallery of rare production and publicity stills, TV spots and the trailer, plus a fold-out booklet with an essay by David Sterritt.
The opening credits to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (Touchstone), the Coen Bros.'s depression-era prison break movie-turned-screwball odyssey through the deep south, makes the claim: "Based upon 'The Odyssey' by Homer." Well, maybe. George Clooney does play a character whose given name is Ulysses and who escapes a chain gang and races home town to stop his abandoned wife, Penny (Holly Hunter as a tart Penelope). But even if it does display a remarkable (if playfully skewed) fidelity to the epic poem of mythical struggle, it also zigzags through Southern politics, blues legends, Baby Face Nelson's crime spree and a KKK rally that plays out like a scene from "The Wizard of Oz," all juiced with hillbilly humor and screwball surrealism and set to a soundtrack of "old-timey" blues, folk, gospel and country. Clooney comes on like a screwball Clark Gable by way of a greasy con-man, a tetchy John Turturro and a sweetly stupid Tim Blake Nelson are dragged along as his reluctant partners and John Goodman's giant of a one-eyed salesman makes for a memorable Cyclops. Hilarious. Features "The Making of O Brother, Where Art Thou," two storyboard-to-scene comparisons and a music video.
Danny Boyle’s sophomore feature "Trainspotting" (Lionsgate), adapted from the cult novel by Irvine Walsh and starring Ewan McGregor as an unapologetic heroine addict who hangs with a crew of junkies (Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and Kevin McKidd) and an alcoholic bully (Robert Carlyle) while waiting for his next high, is a jolting, wicked rush of style, attitude, and nihilistic escape. Features commentary by director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge, producer Andrew Macdonald and star Ewan MacGregor (recorded way back for the original laserdisc release!), "The Making of Trainspotting," "Trainspotting Retrospective," deleted scenes and interviews from the Cannes premiere, plus a bonus digital copy. Still haven't confirmed if this is the "uncut" (a matter of a couple of seconds of footage) version with the original soundtrack (it was redubbed with softer accents for American audiences), but likely it is, given the materials available to Lionsgate.
"My Life as a Dog" (Criterion), Lasse Hallstrom’s delightful 1985 Swedish import, is the story of a city kid (Anton Glanzelius as a wide-eyed ragamuffin) sent off to country relatives when his mother falls ill. Melding innocence and capricious playfulness, and brimming with all the impish energy and sexual curiosity of a real 12-year-old boy, he finds his place in a quirky little village where eccentricity is worn like a badge and his antics are recognized for the simple adolescent energy of growing up. Features Lasse Hallstrom’s 1973 debut film "Shall We Go to My or Your Place or Each Go Home Alone?," a short feature made for Swedish TV, plus a video interview with director Hallstrom and a booklet with essays by Michael Atkinson and Kurt Vonnegut.
"The 10th Victim" (Blue Underground), Elio Petri's campy sci-fi social satire from the swinging sixties, stars Marcello Mastroianni as a womanizing Italian reality TV darling and Ursula Andress as his new nemesis, a New York Amazon with a wardrobe as deadly as it is chic. In this future, reality TV is dominated by assassination games and these are the star players. Petri directs with tongue firmly in cheek, lampooning the media obsession with high risk contests and games of chance with cool style, absurdly chic fashions and a comically blasé performance by Mastroianni. It’s like Fellini gone ballistic, a battle of the sexes in a world where spontaneous shoot-outs are just another part of the social landscape. In Italian with optional English subtitles and English dub soundtrack, plus the featurette "Marcello: A Sweet Life" and galleries of stills and posters.
Robert Ginty is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore in "The Exterminator" (Synapse), the grindhouse vigilante flick from James Glickenhaus. When his best friend is killed, this Vietnam Vet declares a private war on the New York underworld. Christopher George is the cop on his trail and Samantha Eggar co-stars. The film hasn't been treated well on DVD in the past but Synapse loves its drive-in cinema and remasters its Blu-ray+DVD Combo pack from the original Director's Cut (featuring more gore and violence) with a the original stereo soundtrack mix and includes commentary by director James Glickenhaus.
Jim Caviezel stars in "The Count of Monte Cristo" (Touchstone), Kevin Reynold’s version of the rousing Alexandre Dumas adventure of betrayal and revenge as a man betrayed by his best friend (Guy Pearce) and left to die in an island prison. Features commentary, deleted scenes (including a previously unseen alternate version of the final duel) and featurettes.
I'll be covering Wes Craven's original "The Hills Have Eyes" (Image) next week with another classic Craven release.