How to Spend $20
By David Mumpower
May 12, 2005
Taking a look ahead at the week's DVD releases is always dicey for your wallet. Nearly every week, there's a disc that would fit nicely into any size collection. When it comes time to decide what to buy, there are really two determining factors: how much you love the content and the quality of the extra features on the disc.
As a result, decisions will be totally subjective. The massive unreleased studio (film and television) back-catalogue means that every week there's likely something for every film fan. So before you think to yourself, "I resent simians because they think they're so smart, I found MVP: Most Valuable Primate too cerebral, and I hate that sign-language bitch Koko for being more literate than me, but I will gladly pay to see the tender tale of a boy and his chip overcoming a nefarious animal testing laboratory" stop; ask yourself, "Why!?" and then check to see if Funky Monkey (or your disc of choice) is one of the weekly BOP DVD recommendations.
For people who have performed truly heinous acts and are in need of spectacularly brutal penance: Alone in the Dark (2005)
I have seen one film this year that was worse than Uwe Boll's latest crime against humanity. That project, the ill-conceived, ill-fated Son of the Mask, is best described as follows. "Imagine the most god-awful piece of celluloid Uwe Boll could create. Now, visualize a film of less quality than that." It's enough to make a person sell all their worldly belongings, buy plane tickets to Nepal, join a monastery, and take a vow of silence rather than speak of such a monstrosity ever again. Having seen both films, I am currently considering an Everything Must Go sale on eBay. Before I head over to travelocity.com and purchase my tickets to Tibet, though, I want to take this opportunity to warn others.
You might find yourself thinking, "I could put this in my Netflix queue", please remember these words. The best part of Alone in the Dark, in point of fact the only good part, is when failed actress and crack-whore-in-training Tara Reid says the word "Newfoundland" as it appears phonetically. Her emphasis of the 'found' syllable is amusing enough on its own. It is, however, her smug nod of satisfaction afterward which sells the fact that the party girl is certain she is sounding like a brilliant scientist should. I can't decide if it was her sense of pride or the crew's desire to prank her that caused no one to correct the mistake. Either way, the bit delivers six to eight seconds of respite from an otherwise shock-inducing cinematic disaster.
Having suffered through another Uwe Boll production, I may only mirror the words echoed at uweboll.com. Dear Dr. Boll, please stop making movies.
For easily confused fans of Herbie the Lovebug: Racing Stripes (2005)
This horseracing movie featuring a talking horse...err, zebra is presumably being released this week in order to capitalize on the goodwill created by the Kentucky Derby. Do not, however, kid yourselves on this point. Racing Stripes is no Seabiscuit. It's not even a bad episode of Mr. Ed. Instead, this is a cheaply budgeted attempt to leech off the combined appeal of the 2003 Tobey Maguire outing as well as the Babe franchise. The result is politely described as lacking. A woefully miscast and under-utilized Bruce Greenwood portrays a gifted horse trainer whose daughter nurtures a zebra into a competitive thoroughbred (assuming that is correct zebra terminology). The girl, Hayden Panettiere is much better in Ice Princess, which is still in theaters. Either take your child to that movie or await its debut on home video. Racing Stripes is down there with the Wiggles with regards to lousy family entertainment.
For people who can't get the show's impossibly catchy theme song out of their heads: Kim Possible: So the Drama (2005)
For 65 episodes, I have relished the opportunity to call and beep her when I have wanted to reach her. Alas, now Kim Possible is closing up shop on me. The marvelous animated show has completed its 65 episode run, and Disney has decided that despite stellar ratings, they will not be extending the show into a fourth season. When this happened with Lizzie Maguire, the studio had a legitimate argument that the titular star wanted too much money. With Kim Possible, there was no real reason to end the show's run other than company policy. To say that I am disappointed with their decision is an understatement. The past three seasons of the show have surpassed the efforts of both South Park and The Simpsons, and I say that as a huge fan of each. Kim Possible goes out as the best animated television show, so there is certainly a huge positive to going out on top.
Even so, I find the arrival of the DVD that offers closure to its fan-base a mixed bag. On the one hand, I have yet to view the film, so I have 71 more minutes of the series to enjoy. On the other hand, it's over after that unless Disney eventually decides to bring back the show at a later date. Stating the obvious, Kim Possible: So the Drama as well as the series itself is highly recommended for children of all ages. Also, if Walt Disney World wants to get me to visit, a theme park ride would be a strong incentive.
For Kevin Dyson and fans of the 1999-2000 Tennessee Titans: The Longest Yard (Lockdown Edition) (1974)
Speaking of The Simpsons (and when am I not?), A few years ago, there was an episode involving the Springfield Film Festival. One of the strongest contenders was Hans Moleman's Man Hit in Groin by Football. I almost certainly laughed at this bit more than most. The causality is my unnatural love for the closing drive of The Longest Yard. Seeing the evil guard smacked in the boys on three straight plays cracked me up as a kid. When the re-make showed this gag in the trailer, I giggled like a small boy all over again. Since Hollywood DVD 101 is to re-release any title whose re-make is in theaters, I have known this was coming for a while now and had it circled on my calendar. Here's to Ed Lauter taking it in the jimmy one more time.
For people who miss Zsa Zsa Gabor's perennial police attacks: Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)
Speaking of re-makes, Assault on Precinct 13 hits DVD this week. The update of the John Carpenter classic went in an entirely different direction from the original. It focused on the star power of Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne as much as the gritty underbelly of crime. Unfortunately, movie audiences have seen this sort of malevolent action storyline on episodes of television fare such as The Shield, The Wire and even any number of Law & Order incarnations. As such, there was middling critical and audience receptions to the film as well as lousy box office of $20 million. Carpenter's film stood the test of time, but the Fishburne/Hawke face/off appears unlikely to replicate this feat.
For people wanting to watch the best documentary ever: Hoop Dreams (1994)
In 1994, two of the most famous basketball players in the world had never made it to the NBA. The basketball standouts in question were William Gates and Arthur Agee. Their intersecting stories involved the fact that they were considered to be two of the finest high school ballers in the Chicagoland area. Since that region was considered to be one of the best resources for recruiting future NBA talent, colleges across the country scoured the area looking for the next Michael Jordan. Both of the two were so talented that they wound up being allowed to matriculate at the same high school where NBA icon Isaiah Thomas attended.
Agee and Gates agreed to allow cameramen to follow them at high school and for another five years as each attempted to make it to the pros. One suffered through a string of injuries and the other dealt with a unique series of events involving his father's drug habit as well as being forced to live in the projects. Neither one ever made it to the NBA, though each did manage to play professional ball for a time in various lower tier pro circuits. The real story, though, is what it's like to be a talented basketball player growing up in a poor area. The pressure these kids face on a daily basis in having to make enough money to survive in the short term while facing a potentially lucrative future as a millionaire is a struggle most North Americans will never understand.
The willingness of Agee and Gates to allow their trials and tribulations to be recorded for posterity's sake made them a precursor for reality television as a whole. The athletes were being filmed a full three years before Jonathan Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim brought their first Real World cast to New York City. Hoop Dreams is singularly unique both for the raw emotional power of its story as well as its claim to be the genesis for an entire television genre.
For people whose bosses use the word synergy despite having no idea what it means: In Good Company (2004)
In Good Company got a bad rap last year for not being cutting enough. People expected a North American cinematic answer to the BBC's The Office. Instead, what they got was an indie movie with a much more familial tone. Since this was not what was expected, the movie got lambasted for its genteel nature. As someone who knew about the criticisms of the movie as I went in, I was liberated by the lack of expectations. I found In Good Company to be one of the most charming movies of the year despite Topher Grace's later Ocean's 12 confession that he "totally phoned in that Dennis Quaid movie". In Good Company accurately encapsulates the madness of the early 21st century business world. The idea that each and every business purchase should be a thread attached to a larger picture corporate skein is one that appeals to me. Seeing a sports magazine forced to be in business with cereal sales makes for an entertaining movie. But the film is also one with a penetrating point about the mindlessness of forced synergy.
For Jacques Cousteau fans seeking to fill the void in their lives: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
As one of the owners of a movie Web site, I get mailed all kinds of cool swag from the various studios and their marketing arms. I appreciate all of the goodwill offers, especially considering how hard BOP has to be on the Uwe Boll-type releases. My all-time favorite studio swag, however comes from Disney. It is a gloriously detailed The Life Aquatic script set in a book casing that rivals my leather-bound Shakespearean titles for curb appeal. This project has been one of my most anticipated titles since its inception. After Bill Murray knocked one out of the park with his performance in Lost in Translation (which I maintain is the single greatest acting performance in the history of cinema), the bar was raised even higher. For this reason, I did something I never do.
I went ahead and read the script for Wes Anderson's latest project almost a year before its release. I never do this as a rule. I prefer to be completely unbiased about a movie as I walk into theaters. After The Royal Tenenbaums and Lost in Translation, however, I could wait no longer. I had to sneak a peek. To my satisfaction, the words on the page reflected another Anderson masterpiece. Simple lines such as "She never really loved me" leapt off the page. For months on end, I anxiously awaited the moment when I would finally get to see the words brought to life. Before that could happen, early reviews leaked in, and these indicated that the movie was too emotionally detached for many. All this served to accomplish for me was to curb my existing unrealistic expectations down to a level where the project could match my desire for it. Sure enough, I found The Life Aquatic to be mercurial, brilliant, and stubbornly off-putting. This is exactly the sort of challenging, oftentimes impenetrable movie that most filmmakers no longer have the guts to do. Since this is Wes Anderson, though, the intrinsic humor of the piece manages to permeate throughout the proceedings despite its quirky nature. The end result is that The Life Aquatic is a cinematic masterpiece, one of the best films of 2004, and an easy choice for the DVD selection of the week. It's certainly not for everyone, but Wes Anderson fans will relish in its beauty.
May 10, 2005
Advise and Consent (1962)
Alone in the Dark (2005)
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Assault on Precinct 13 (Full Frame) (2005)
Assault on Precinct 13 (Widescreen) (2005)
Bad Apple (2004)
Bad Day at Black Rock (1954)
Bear Cub (2004)
Bear Cub (Unrated) (2004)
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Burden of Dreams (Criterion Edition) (1982)
Cafe au Lait (1994)
The Dain Curse (1978)
Dead Life (2005)
A Different Loyalty (2004)
Donkey Skin (1970)
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Funky Monkey (2004)
Hair Show (2004)
Hiruko the Goblin (1990)
Hoop Dreams (Criterion Edition) (1994)
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
In Good Company (Full Frame) (2004)
In Good Company (Widescreen) (2004)
In Living Color: Season Three (3-DVD Set) (1992)
Kart Racer (2003)
Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama (2005)
The Last Shot (2004)
The Life & Death of Peter Sellers (2004)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Criterion Single Disc) (2004)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2-Disc Criterion Edition) (2004)
The Longest Yard (Lockdown Edition) (1974)
My Mother Likes Women (2002)
The Pornographer (2001)
Racing Stripes (Full Frame) (2005)
Racing Stripes (Widescreen) (2005)
Samaritan Girl (2004)
Sometimes in April (2005)
William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (2004)