[21 August 2006]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
When studios and filmmakers grouse over the effect DVD has on the box office, it’s usually day and date that they argue over. Back in the days of VHS, a major mainstream movie would wait several months before finding its way onto videotape – and even then, it was typically in a rental-only format. Sell-through didn’t arrive until much later, and with it came the death of such delays. But now, fans want titles as soon as possible, and for many in the industry, the faster a title arrives on the digital format, the lesser the likelihood an audience will visit the Cineplex to seek it out. This ‘wait and see…it at home’ principle has been blamed for the 2005 slump, and the diminishing returns for some high profile releases. This week, we have a clear example of this perplexing paradigm. A certified bomb from May makes its DVD debut a mere 12 weeks after it flopped in theaters. The question becomes, will the digital presentation be a hit, or will the film’s obvious flaws guarantee and equally fast exit from the brick and mortar. And what will it mean to day and date? We will just have to wait and see. Joining the cinematic shipwreck is a diverse collection of movies, including:
Double Indemnity: Special Edition*
For many, it’s one of the last DVD Holy Grails, a classic Billy Wilder film noir unconscionably left off the digital domain for far too long. But the fact of the matter is, Image Entertainment released a version of the seminal crime thriller back in 1998. This time around though, Universal does the title right, tossing in a pair of commentaries, a documentary, and even a TV movie version from 1973. Whatever the presentation parameters, this is one timeless example of Hollywood’s heyday that deserves to be on every film fans shelf.
Kicking and Screaming: The Criterion Collection*
Perhaps in preparation for a future visit to his critically acclaimed The Squid and the Whale, writer/director Noah Baumbach sees his first film, a story about disaffected college buddies who can’t quite commit to the responsibility of the real world, get the full blown Criterion Collection treatment. Witty, insightful, and just a little too in love with the notion of the campus as the last bastion of full blown freedom, Baumbach and his capable cast manage to make these pseudo-slackers symbols of the mid-90s malaise that swept over America.
There’s no denying the fact that, as a stand-up comedian, Mo’Nique Imes is talented. She is crude without being gross, cutting without resorting to racial slurs. Sadly, the same can’t be said for her movie career, which spans bit parts in Baby Boy, Soul Plane, and Domino and leading roles in Hair Show and this latest offering from April 2006. Using her plus size physique as the foundation for a film about love and acceptance, Phat Girlz tries to deliver a sincere message about the media’s role in shaping female body image. Too bad it’s trapped inside this lame, laugh-less excuse for entertainment.
Poseidon: 2 Disc Special Edition
It was the crappy capsizing heard round the cinematic world. Who would have thought that Wolfgang Peterson, responsible for the excellent actioners In the Line of Fire and Air Force One could screw up this remake of the beloved Irwin Allen disaster epic of the ‘70s. Sadly, with casting only The Love Boat could appreciate, and an overabundance of unconvincing CGI, what should have been a summer blockbuster slamdunk for Warner Brothers is now appearing a mere 12 weeks after the film opened in theaters. Even on DVD, it’s still a waterlogged waste of time.
Forget what you’ve heard about this film – that it’s merely a big screen translation of a far more frightening video game, that it’s The Descent without the claustrophobic cave setting – and settle back for a creature feature for the ages. Brotherhood of the Wolf director Christophe Gans outdoes himself in the mood and mystery department, taking the Playstation platform title and making it his very own. Featuring stellar performances and unnerving effects, Silent Hill represents the pinnacle of creepy, atmospheric horror. It is the most satisfying movie macabre in a very long time, and coming in a year when Hostel and The Hills Have Eyes redefined the genre, that’s saying a lot.
State of the Union*
A true forgotten gem from the oeuvre of three of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters – Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and filmmaker Frank Capra – this timely political allegory about the difference between one’s personal and public persona couldn’t be more timely, especially in our 24 hour a day media coverage mentality. Though Universal fails to flesh out this release with significant contextual bells and whistles, this DVD is still worth owning if only for the moment when Tracy tries to address the nation while a drunken Hepburn lashes out at “the other woman”. Talk about feeling ripped from today’s headlines.
Far be it from Short Ends & Leader to deny the retro resplendence of this love letter to Ninetendo and its Super Mario Brothers. Indeed, The Wizard represents a veritable right of passage for anyone who grew up under the hypnotizing influence of the NES game system and those crazy, mushroom stomping plumbers. With a young Fred Savage as the older brother of Jimmy “The Wizard” Woods and more nods to arcade culture than a weekend at E3, this simplistic plot about familial appreciation and a video game championship predated our current Xbox/Game Cube standard. Back then, professional gaming seemed asinine. Today, it’s every adolescent’s dream job.
In a new weekly addition to Who’s Minding the Store, SE&L will feature an off title disc worth checking out. For 22, August:
Tromeo and Juliet: 10th Anniversary Edition*
Marking the second DVD go-round for this beloved Troma title, the Bard’s basic story of star-crossed lovers is fused with a scatological punk rock sensibility to create the first ever gross out version of a Shakespeare play. Perhaps more amazing than the awkward performances, plentiful gore, and abundant nudity is the number of unknown actors and crewmembers who went on to become famous fixtures in both Hollywood and the Indie film scene. They include screenwriter James Gunn (Scooby-Doo, Dawn of the Dead) Will Keenan (Operation Midnight Climax) and current reigning b-movie scream queen Debbie Rochon.