Elvis sings and gets the girl

[8 August 2007]

By Terry Lawson

Detroit Free Press (MCT)

Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but the gimmicky packaging of these new DVDs at least represents the content.

“Lights! Camera! Elvis! Collection” (Paramount, $76.99) comes sheathed in—what else?—faux blue suede, while the 8-film collection contains at least one film that saw Presley still rocking.

1958’s “King Creole” (3 stars) not only had a tough, bluesy soundtrack that included the title song, “Trouble” and “Hard Headed Woman,” but also had more than an inkling of the actor Presley might have become had his manager not insisted he stick to the songs-scenery-and-sugar formula of his post-Army movies.

Based loosely on a Harold Robbins’ novel, “A Stone For Danny Fisher,” the film saw “Casablanca” director Michael Curtiz surrounding Presley, a Bourbon Street singer with a (forgivable) criminal past, with a seasoned supporting cast that includes Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Vic Morrow and Dean Jagger.

If “Jailhouse Rock” contains Presley’s most galvanizing musical performance, this is clearly his most convincing dramatic effort—evidence of what might have been.

The other films in the set are standard fare, although 1960’s “G.I. Blues” (2 stars) is not without its charms, notably a sexy Juliet Prowse, and “Blue Hawaii” (2 stars) introduces “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

The rest can be defined by their titles: 1962’s “Girls! Girls! Girls!” (2 stars), 1963’s “Fun in Acapulco” (2 stars), 1964’s “Roustabout” (2 stars), 1966’s “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” (2 stars) and 1967’s aptly-titled “Easy Come, Easy Go” (2 stars). No extras, but all are in widescreen format, and available individually for $12.97.

The Vegas Elvis is paid homage in the jacket—a replica of the studded white jumpsuit—for the new “Hail to the King” edition of the 2002 cult comedy “Bubba Ho-Tep” (3 stars, Fox, $22.95) in which Bruce Campbell plays an elderly El, who, per rumor, faked his own death and is now encamped in a rest home with an equally alive JFK (Ossie Davis), who, to avoid detection, has been dyed black. The secret seniors are forced to team up to take on an Egyptian cowboy zombie in a movie that’s funnier than it has a right to be.

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Also new this week:

The buzz on “The Invasion”—the upcoming remake of the sci-fi allegory “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers”—is not so good. That could make it the first adaptation of the classic not to do justice to the original. The 1956 movie was first redone, most admirably, by Philip Kaufman, whose 1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (3 stars, MGM, $19.98) is reset in nonconformist San Francisco. That makes it easier to understand why residents like Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum become concerned that some of their neighbors are acting a bit, well, bland.

This remastered “Collector’s Edition” is a 2-disc affair that contains commentary by Kaufman, a new feature about the history of the story, the original movie and Kaufman’s reasons for mounting a remake, as well as a look at how the special effects, including those gooey alien pods, were created.

So why wasn’t this packaged in a replica pod, anyway?

For the record, Don Siegel’s 1956 original (4 stars, Republic, $14.98) and Abel Ferrara’s 1993 “Body Snatchers” (3 stars, Warner, $9.98) remain available on disc.

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TV on DVD:

The “Complete Second Season”—and final season—of the lavish HBO-BBC coproduction “Rome” (3 stars, HBO, $99.98) is not quite as soapy as the first, but it’s still quite the spectacle. Soldiers Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) attempt to figure out whose side to take in the post-Julius Caesar power struggle between Mark Antony (James Purefoy) and Octavian (played as a young man by Simon Woods) and their respective female controllers Atia (Polly Walker) and Servilia (Lindsay Duncan). The last 10 episodes remain as violent, sexy, silly and irresistible as the first episodes.

Also boxed this week:

“The Muppet Show—Season Two” (Columbia-TriStar $39.98).

“Full House—The Complete Seventh Season” (Warner, $29.98).

And in special pizza box packaging, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—Season Five” (Lionsgate, $24.98).

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Family pick of the week:

The “The Simpsons Movie” has racked up more than $125 million in theaters, and we can expect more shekels will be spent on “The Simpsons—The Complete 10th Season,” especially should you elect to add the “Bart Head” edition (3 stars, $49.98, look for discounts in the $35 range) to your “Homer Head” “Maggie Head” and “Marge Head” DVD packages. Fans are divided as to whether the 23 shows collected here on 4 discs are better than those of the ninth season, but it’s hard to niggle when recounting “Lard of the Dance,” Homer’s scheme to rebrand and resell cooking grease. Or Marge’s road rage explosion in “Screaming Yellow Honkers” and Lisa’s acceptance into the Mensa Society in “They Saved Lisa’s Brain.” There’s commentary on every episode, not to mention all the Butterfinger commercials, alternate endings and lots more useless but hilarious junk.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/elvis-sings-and-gets-the-girl/