[2 June 2009]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
New DVD releases due in stores on Tuesday:
“Revolutionary Road”: On the audio commentary track accompanying his film, director Sam Mendes states that his first cut was much more “reverential” to Richard Yates’ 1961 novel but that he eventually re-edited the movie — and took a few liberties with the structure — to help give it identity and feel.
Although not nearly so well known as its critical acclaim would suggest, Yates’ novel, about an unhappily married couple living in the Connecticut suburbs in 1955, had long been contemplated for the movies. But it was Mendes, along with screenwriter Justin Haythe, who finally succeeded where so many other filmmakers had failed.
Haythe, who joins Mendes on the commentary track, says the famed “breakfast scene” that comes late in the film is the first moment in which Frank and April Wheeler, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, succeed at being honest and that he doesn’t agree with some viewers’ interpretations that the couple were being disingenuous.
Mendes also reveals he shot the film almost entirely in sequence to make things easier for his actors and points out a clever cameo he sneaked into the film of the RMS Titanic in honor of his leads’ prior, vastly more successful, acting pairing.
Aside from the commentary, extras on the DVD and Blu-ray editions include a half-hour making-of featurette that focuses extensively on the film’s impeccable 1950s period design and the style cinematographer Roger Deakins chose for the movie. Also included are 10 minutes of deleted scenes, among them a great one showing Frank and April as they buy their house.
The Blu-ray also includes the half-hour featurette “Richard Yates: The Wages of Truth” that uses interviews with the writer’s widow, daughters and friends to recount his life and career. Although he did enjoy great critical acclaim, Yates never achieved the popularity his books merited. Whatever its flaws, the film version of “Revolutionary Road” has helped to correct that deficiency. DreamWorks Home Entertainment, $30 DVD, $40 Blu-ray.
“Killshot” (2008): Finally released earlier in January — to five theaters in Arizona — after sitting on a shelf for a couple of years, the star-studded Elmore Leonard adaptation “Killshot” arrives for everyone to see. Directed by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) and adapted by esteemed screenwriter Hossein Amini (“The Wings of the Dove”), the project had attracted a lot of A-list talent over its years in development hell (Robert DeNiro, Quentin Tarantino, Justin Timberlake, Viggo Mortensen and Tony Scott were all attached to it at one point).
The resulting film is not good enough to have warranted all the bother. But neither is it bad enough to have received the unceremonious treatment it got from distributors Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who inexplicably chose not to capitalize on star Mickey Rourke’s post-“Wrestler” success.
Rourke stars as a contract killer for the Toronto mob who reluctantly pairs up with a small-time hoodlum (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and becomes obsessed with eliminating a pair of eyewitnesses (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane) who are cooperating with the FBI.
The movie, which arrives on DVD without extras, is enjoyable for its performances. Rourke weaves a nice variation on his world-weary persona, while Gordon-Levitt overacts effectively as the sleazy, dangerous loser. Leonard’s plot machinations are also a joy, and “Killshot” is one of the few film adaptations of his work that doesn’t try to inject wry humor into his story line. If the movie ultimately feels puny and inconsequential, undemanding viewers will still get their Leonard fix and can try to imagine what could have been. The Weinstein Co., $20.