How to Spend $20
By David Mumpower
July 18, 2006

Did you just say Fox cancelled us? No way. They would never cancel a great show!

This is Bruce Campbell week in the home video market. Sure, there are other decent titles, but if you are going to spend $100, there are only two box sets to consider. Bump your budget up to $116, and we can throw in a Billy Wilder classic, though.

For Crow T. Robot: Road House (Deluxe Edition) (1989)

Around the time when WTBS turned Patrick Swayze's ode to bar bouncers into ubiquitous cable television, Mystery Science Theater 3000 took the ball and ran with it. There was some unexpected character development wherein Crow revealed that he considered Roadhouse to be the greatest movie of all time. Now, in his defense, the robots, Joel and Mike were the subjects of a horrific psychological test. After being subjected to some of the worst cinema of all time, maybe Roadhouse would begin to look like Casablanca. I hope not, but it's a possibility. For the rest of us, the movie is what it is...a brief Jeff Healey Band video surrounded by 90 minutes of stunts, some of which involve hardcore legend Terry Funk. Roadhouse has grown into the barroom brawl fan's answer to Major League, but that doesn't make it worth a DVD purchase.

For not even Crow T. Robot: Road House 2 (2006)

Jonathon Scaech and Jake Busey star in this belated (as in 15 years too late) follow-up to what was already a terrible movie. I presume the name of the production company behind this is Bad Idea Jeans.

For Eddie Murphy's next Good Samaritan car ride: She's the Man (Widescreen) (2006)

Seriously, Eddie, just look for the Adam's Apple. That's a tell. With regards to the movie, BOP fave (well, BOP's own Dan Krovich's fave) Amanda Bynes celebrates transvestitism when she chooses to masquerade as her own imaginary twin brother. If the premise sounds familiar, you are either old enough to remember the 1985 classic Just One of the Guys. I guess it is also possible you are one of the seven people who suffered through 2002's Juwanna Mann. If that is the case, you have my sympathy as well as less of my respect. But I digress. She's the Man attained a decidedly poor reception from critics (currently 46% at Rotten Tomatoes) but had decent word-of-mouth, particularly within its primary demographic: the under-18 crew. It's harmless fluff featuring the only high profile teen actress who isn't frequently featured on trashy celebrity blogs. As such, you could do worse.

For people who feel Brooke Shields is winning her celebrity feud with Tom Cruise: Our Italian Husband (2004)

I don't know which lead in this movie misses the 1980s more, Shields or Chevy Chase. What I take from the very existence of this project, however, is that North American audiences are done with both of them. Note to struggling actors: if you have to go to Italy to find work in a low-rent romantic comedy, it's time to start thinking about retirement in Florida. It's somewhat depressing to me that this needs to be pointed out.

For Howard Hughes and Howie Mandel: Clean (2006)

Dirt isn't going to kill you, fellows. Well, okay, it might have killed Hughes, but until CSI proves this definitively, I stand my ground on the issue. Clean is a tour de force role for Maggie Cheung, one that won her the Best Actress Award at Cannes in 2004. She plays Emily, a semi-reformed junkie attempting to become a good mother to son Lee. This is made difficult by the fact that since the father of her son was almost beaten to death and left to a rot at a motel, the boy has been staying with his grandparents. This was required because Mommy was off vacationing in jail for several months. Emily seeks to find redemption and travels the world in hopes of attaining acceptance somewhere. She discovers that England, France, Canada and America all treat drug abusers similarly, though. Clean is considered Cheung's edgiest work of her career, and it exemplifies how far she has come as an actress since her early work as Jackie Chan's girl in the Police Story franchise.

For people seeking an inferior version of Roll Bounce: ATL (Widescreen 2006)

The marketing team did everything they could to hide the fact that this is a skating movie. They did their job to a large degree, tricking (?) consumers into an $11.6 million opening weekend. The final box office of $21.2 million indicates that once the word got out, people certainly were not interested in the subject matter. In point of fact, ATL offers one of the strangest splits between critics and target demographic in recent memory. The movie is fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, earning 63% positive reviews. Conversely, it is reviled by IMDb voters, receiving only 3.1 on a 10.0 point scale after 1,429 reviews. That dichotomy alone is enough to make me want to watch ATL. Your mileage may vary.

For fans of the show not too bitter with HBO over its unjust cancellation to line their pockets with money: Carnivale: The Complete Second Season (6-DVD Set) (2005)

Remember back when HBO was so focused upon quality that it gave quality shows every opportunity to succeed? Yeah, those days are gone now. In hindsight, Carnivale was the early warning signal. The impossibly well-reviewed show never found the wide audience other HBO staples such as The Sopranos and Sex and the City managed. Rather than continue to build through the foundation of quality, the pay channel killed the show after only two seasons. Since then, other promising new enterprises such as Rome and Deadwood saw their life-spans shortened dramatically, leaving the network with Entourage and, well...nothing after The Sopranos ends its run in early 2007.

Carnivale is an epic tale of good versus evil set in the era of the great depression. It features Terminator 3's Nick Stahl versus the Kurgan himself, Clancy Brown. Season two does not feature the oversight of Ronald Moore, the talented executive producer who left the show in order to focus upon Battlestar Galactica's ascension. In addition, it has the tragic misfortune to have left any number of storylines unresolved. The producers had been given every hint that a season three was likely. The end result was a season (and accidental series) finale that left more questions unanswered than diehard fans had expected. The whole matter is a low point in HBO's history, but the show is by all accounts sensational. I've only watched a pair of episodes; however, I totally understand why fans are so passionate about it. If you are one of them or want to give the show a chance and do not mind giving HBO some money it doesn't deserve, this is an excellent title for your catalogue.

For people looking for a truly hysterical ode to transvestitism: Some Like It Hot (Collector's Edition) (1959)

First of all, let me say that there is nothing wrong with such urges. BOP isn't here to judge you. We simply want to fill your needs in a positive way. Some Like It Hot is a 1959 classic that is not only Marilyn Monroe's greatest claim to fame with regards to quality but arguably also Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon's. Both men had marvelous careers filled with star-making roles and while many would claim Curtis peaked with Spartacus and Lemmon with The Apartment, I disagree. Some Like It Hot is the rare 50-year-old comedy that remains timelessly funny.

Curtis and Lemmon portray musicians who witness the legendary St. Valentine's Day massacre, making them targets of mob brutality. In order to evade their doom, the men attempt to a join a band. The only problem is that this particular group is estrogen-exclusive. So, if the boys want to survive, they have to dress up as girls and resist the temptation sleep with their band-mate, Marilyn Monroe. The old adage "they don't make them like this any more" is, as we know from the She's the Man example above, not exactly true. What is undeniable, on the other hand, is that there has never been a cross-comedy of stronger substance than Some Like It Hot.

The collector's edition includes two new documentaries about the project, commentary from Curtis and Lemmon, a "Nostalgic Look Back" from Curtis and the original pressbook gallery and theatrical trailer. For fans of classic Hollywood cinema, this is a Must Own title. If it had been released in either of the past two weeks, it would have been the DVD selection of choice. Unfortunately, it ran up against Bruce Campbell DVD week.

For people who want to pair up their Cleopatra 2525 box set with its just companion: Jack of All Trades: The Complete Series (3-DVD Set) (2000)

In 2000, the Action Pack syndicated programming package included something rather unusual. Two half-hour action shows were paired together in order to pack an entertaining wallop into channel line-ups mainly comprised of game shows, Jerry Springer and Baywatch. The results were unfortunately lacking, tragic when we consider just how solid the programs were. Cleopatra 2525 received its release on DVD last year and now my favorite, Jack of All Trades, joins it. As I type this, I already hold the box set in my hands. That statement says it all about how highly I think of its quality. Jack of All Trades represents the embodiment of what television all too frequently fails to offer. It's fun...a true delight that never takes itself seriously.

Bruce Campbell is masterful American secret agent Jack Stiles and Mini-Me himself, Verne Troyer, is brilliantly cast as Napoleon. The show also features Auckland, New Zealand native Angela Dotchin as the ridiculously buxom Emilia Rothschild, an English agent keeping tabs on Napoleon. Campbell and Dotchin have sizzling chemistry together and the show features a sense of whimsy no action program over the past five years has matched. Best of all, Jack of All Trades features the catchiest theme song in recent history. Buy this box set. Otherwise, you don't know Jack. Jack of All Trades is an easy choice for co-DVD selection of the week.

For my wife, a semi-pro Bruce Campbell stalker: The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.: The Complete Series (8-DVD Set) (1993)

1993 was a simpler time for television viewers. We had not yet come to realize just how evil Rupert Murdoch is. The first tell-tale sign of his maniacal behavior, at least for North Americans, came with the unjust cancellation of a silly little western show called The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Sure, discussing the reckless cancellations of Fox television programs has become something of a second sport here at BOP, but Brisco was different. This was before Futurama or Firefly or John Doe or...well, let's stop at three for today. The point is that Brisco was the first genuinely great show that we saw have its future destroyed by thoughtless scheduling, lackluster network support, and more than a little bit of spite. Do I sound bitter? Okay, I probably do but I'm on the side of the angels here. Any anger is more than justified.

The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. was a throwback to a lost era of television. Like Gunsoke and Bonanza before it, this show celebrated the frontier lifestyle as well as the ethical challenges of a relatively anarchist society. We are talking about the positive precursor/counterpart to the dark and subversive Deadwood, and as much as BOP likes Al Swearengen, he can't hold a torch to Bruce Campbell's Brisco County.

Our titular hero exemplifies multiple aspects of law and order as he is not just a bounty hunter but also an attorney. He puts his law career on hold in order to hunt down the batch of nefarious murderers who ended the life of one Brisco County Sr. Along the way, Brisco discovers love, adventure and even a bit of time travel thanks to the power of a mystical orb. And he meets eccentrics including a professor with shockingly modern technology, a villain with a near-sexual fetish for his artillery, and more than a few damsels-in-distress seeking to reward a kindly hero.

As I was growing up, The Wild, Wild West was one of my favorite shows, and Brisco County, Jr. is the closest thematic ancestor to it. The show's entire run is presented in this box set, making it must not only for Bruce Campbell and western fans but also anyone who enjoys old-fashioned frontier heroism and justice. Along with Campbell's other title, it is the choice for co-DVD selection of the week. My wife and I have already picked up both and we hope you will join us in supporting quality television on DVD.

DVD releases for the week of July 18, 2006:

7 Mummies (2005)
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.: The Complete Series (8-DVD Set) (1993)
The Amazing Mr. X (1948)
Amazing Stories: The Complete First Season (4-DVD Set) (1985)
ATL (Full Frame) (2006)
ATL (Widescreen) (2006)
Bloody Brothers (1993)
Bullets or Ballots (1938)
Carnivale: The Complete Second Season (6-DVD Set) (2005)
The Cavern (2005)
City for Conquest (1940)
Clean (2006)
Don't Move (2005)
Each Dawn I Die (1939)
Edison Force (2005)
G Men (1935)
Jack of All Trades: The Complete Series (3-DVD Set) (2000)
Latin Palooza (2006)
Mafia Doctor (2003)
Mr. Jingles (2006)
Our Italian Husband (2004)
Peaches (2004)
The Pretender: The Complete Fourth Season (4-DVD Set) (1999)
Pure (2002)
Queer Duck: The Movie (2006)
Rabid Dogs (1974)
Road House (Deluxe Edition) (1989)
Road House 2 (2006)
The Second Chance (2006)
Sex with Love (2003)
She's the Man (Full Frame) (2006)
She's the Man (Widescreen) (2006)
Shocking Asia (1974)
Some Like It Hot (Collector's Edition) (1959)
SpongeBob Squarepants: Karate Island (2006)
Tsotsi (2005)
Ultraman: Series One, Volume 1 (3-DVD Set) (1966)