It's another uninspired week in the DVD aisles, with lots of lame product taking up valuable merchandising space. Certainly, if you're interested in the latest installment of the dragged out Simpsons' release schedule (we are now up to season EIGHT) or some less than stellar box set collections of "classic" films by Hollywood stalwarts like Clark Cable, Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Regan, there's very little of note. Instead, there's another digital variation on a seminal '70s classic, two offerings by one of Italian horror's most recognized auteurs, an unusual biography, a sloppy send-up, a flat family film, and a compendium of masterworks from an important French artist. Together, they make a deliciously diverse set of possible purchase options. The selections that SE&L's thinks may or may not tickle your filmic fancy for August 15 are, in alphabetical order:
Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier*
Or, actually, the "incomplete" dossier. Still MIA in this otherwise stellar presentation of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam via Joseph Conrad masterwork is the equally sublime Hearts of Darkness documentary. Said warts and all look at the production, featuring audio recordings of the filmmaker's frequent meltdowns, has long been rumored to be part of a comprehensive Apocalypse package. Its absence here continues to fuel speculation that Coppola no longer appreciates the film's portrait of him as director/demagogue. Thankfully, we have both versions of the finished epic (original and expanded cut) and a wealth of extras to keep us occupied.
Do You Like Hitchcock?
After a comeback, of sorts, with 2004's The Card Player, horror master Dario Argento helmed this stylish TV movie, part of a proposed series in which other famous Italian filmmakers would pay homage to the unqualified Master of Suspense. Opinions are mixed on the final outcome, with some critics complaining that Argento seems stuck in the overstylized aspects of his aesthetic while others enjoy the numerous references to genre artists (Murnau, Lang) from the past. One thing's for sure – with Argento behind the lens, the visuals will far outshine any narrative missteps.
Heart Like a Wheel*
Long before Danica Patrick made fast (racing) females pop culture cool, Shirley "Cha Cha" Muldowney broke the gender barrier in the competitive world of top fuel drag racing. This 1983 bio-pic features a stellar lead turn by Bonnie Bedelia as Mudowney, with excellent supporting work from Beau Bridges, Hoyt Axton and Leo Rossi. Over the Edge director Jonathan Kaplan doesn't go for slam bang action, or a phony vignette-oriented overview of Muldowney's life. Instead, he allows the characters to develop and grow, making the emotional impact in the story all the more potent.
Favored Florida son Carl Hiaasen has been notoriously gun shy about having his work translated to the silver screen. After all, the last time he allowed a novel of his to be interpreted by Hollywood, the result was the certified stinker, Demi Moore's infamous Striptease. Nearly a decade after that debacle, Hiassen hooks up with comedian turned director Will Shriner to helm a version of his most family friendly tome. While this story of a transplant teen compelled to take up the cause of an endangered owl is faithful to its source material, many critics found the results dull and uninspired.
Masters of Horror: Dario Argento's Jenifer
When Showtime announced the premise behind its new anthology series, Masters of Horror, the scary sky appeared to be the limit. The world's leading genre moviemakers creating original fright flicks for the small screen – what could go wrong? Well, just ask anyone who sat through Don Coscarelli's Incident On and Off a Mountain Road or John Landis' Deer Woman. While Joe Dante's Homecoming received universal praise, Dario Argento's addition, a slick, sick adaptation of a 1974 Creepy Magazine story was not so successful. It goes without saying that the title "entity" is a nasty little looker. The rest of the movie is not that much fun.
Scary Movie 4
Oh joy, more pointless spoofery without a lick of subtlety and sense. Nothing more than a lame lampoon of every blockbuster film that arrived in theaters since the last installment of the franchise, there is no longer anything frightening in these films – except their continuing existence. With nary a Wayans in sight and a constant reliance on gags both obvious and under-realized, the formerly talented creative team behind the still funny Airplane!/Naked Gun movies shows how far they have sunk in their desire to be demographically correct. Besides, how do you seriously ridicule cinematic and social stumbles as obvious as The Village or Tom Cruise's Oprah dramatics? That's like shooting farce fish in a barrel.
Six Moral Tales by Eric Rohmer, The Criterion Collection*
Though he's considered an important part of the French New Wave of the '50s and '60s, director Eric Rohmer was not out to change the face of cinema. Instead, he was more concerned with bringing the dark truths and harsh realities of human interaction into the typically staid world of Hollywood hokum. Collecting all six efforts in this self-styled series – The Girl at the Monçeau Bakery, Suzanne's Career (both 1963), The Collector (1967), My Night at Maud's (1969) Claire's Knee (1970) and Chloe in the Afternoon (1972) – Criterion delivers another stunning box set celebrating an important motion picture artist.
And Now for Something Completely Different
In a new weekly addition to Who's Minding the Store, SE&L will feature an off title disc worth checking out. For 15, August:
First off – gotta LOVE that title. It would take a whole heck of a lot of cinematic incompetence to screw up this superb idea. An outbreak of the deadly virus turns twisted, as victims mutate into foul flesh eaters. It is up to a guy with a sword to stop the rampage. While it claims to be created "in the tradition of Shaun of the Dead", this sounds more like the amazing Argentinean undead epics Plaga Zombie and Plaga Zombie: Mutant Zone. In fact, if it's one-tenth as inventive and entertaining as those hilarious horror comedies, this could be the fun fright find of the year.