Spike Lee’s gem ‘Do the Right Thing’ tops latest Blu-ray releases

[30 June 2009]

By Doug Nye

McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

Director Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (Universal, 1989, $29.98) leads the small list of new titles arriving on Blu-ray this week.

When it was released 20 years ago, “Do the Right Thing” was dubbed “controversial” by many critics. More often than not, that means the film gives those watching it something to think about. Lee’s film definitely does that.

Although he tackles racism head on from several perspectives, Lee also gives us a film full of memorable vignettes of life and many unforgettable characters.

It all takes place in a predominately African-American Brooklyn neighborhood on one of the hottest days of the year. The residents live without air conditioning and are doing their best to survive the heat wave. Most of them do that by just sitting around and talking.

Meanwhile, Mookie (Lee) delivers pizza for Sal (Danny Aiello), an Italian American, who has been running his corner restaurant in the same place for 25 years. Sal’s racist son Pino (John Turturro) despises working a neighborhood dominated by African Americans and urges his dad to sell and get out. Sal refuses, saying the people in the neighborhood have been good to him.

Everyone seems contented with Sal’s place until Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) complains that there are only pictures of Italian Americans on the restaurant’s wall — none of African Americans. Sal tells him to get his own restaurant. After that, Buggin Out tries to organize a boycott of Sal’s restaurant but nobody seems interested.

He finally finds an ally in Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), who roams the neighborhood with his boom box blaring. Raheem is still angry at Sal for telling him to turn down the volume earlier in the day. So, Raheem and Buggin Out head to Sal’s for a confrontation.

When Sal demands that they shut off the radio in his restaurant, Raheem and Buggin’ Out began taunting him. Sal grabs a bat and starts smashing the boom box; an ugly riot ensues that ends in tragedy.

There are so many rich layers to this film and the only way to appreciate them is to see it. Among the other unforgettable characters are Ossie Davis as Da Mayor, Ruby Dee as Mother Sister, Samuel L. Jackson as deejay Love Daddy, Rosie Perez as Tina and Richard Guenveur Smith as Smiley.

Extras include a 20-year retrospective with cast and crew, deleted and extended scenes, a terrific “Making of ..” documentary, commentary by Lee and much more. It’s just as powerful today as it was two decades ago. Very highly recommended.

Other Blu-ray releases:

“Jonas Brothers — The 3-D Concert Experience” (Walt Disney, 2009, $44.99): The Jonas Brothers — Kevin, Joe and Nick — are one of the most popular teen singing groups in the country. This three-disc set includes the concert on Blu-ray, standard DVD and a digital copy. The Blu-ray disc includes both 3D and 2D versions.

The 3D is among the best ever seen on disc in the anaglyph process, which requires the wearing of red-and-blue glasses to enjoy the illusion of depth. There are very few of the “ghosts” that have been evident in most previous 3D Blu-ray releases. Appearing as guests are Taylor Swift, who recently won several Country Music Awards, and Demi Lovato, star of Disney’s “Camp Rock.” Highly recommended for those who are fans of the Jonas boys.

“Flawless” (Magnolia, 2007, $29.98): Told in flashback, this film takes place in 1960 London, where Laura Quinn (Demi Moore) is expecting a big promotion with her company, London Diamonds Corp. But the company’s janitor Hobbs (Michael Caine) tells us that he has found out that she is about to be fired. Hobbs, who is soon to retire, convinces Quinn to team up with him in a diamond heist. Caine, as usual, is a pleasure to watch.

“12 Rounds” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $39.99): WWE Champion John Cena plays New Orleans detective Danny Fisher learns that his girlfriend Molly Porter (Ashley Scott) has been kidnapped by terrorist Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen). If Fisher wants to get her back, he’s going to have play a game, devised by Jackson, that includes 12 challenges.

“Two Lovers” (Magnolia, 2008, $34.98): After suffering a heartbreaking experience, Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix) moves back into his childhood home. Not long after that, he encounters two women — Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Sandra (Vinessa Shaw) — and becomes interested in both. Leonard finds himself more and more fascinated by Michelle while his parents want him to take up with Sandra.

“Street Fighter; The Legend of Chun-Li” (20th Century Fox, 2009, $39.99): Kristen Kruek portrays Chin-Li, a concert pianist who also grows up to become a legendary fighter who deals out justice on the streets of Hong Kong. Based on the video game.

Also now available: “Barbara Streisand: Live in Concert” (Universal, 2006, $24.98); “John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Friends” (Eagle Rock, 2003, $24.98); “Ted Nugent: Motor City Mayhem” (Eagle Rock, 2008, $24.98)

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/107492-spike-lees-gem-do-the-right-thing-tops-latest-blu-ray-releases/