The Barbarian Invasions
(Alliance Atlantis, 2003) D: Denys Arcand, w/ Rémy Girard, Stéphane Rousseau. Rating: NNNN
Alliance Atlantis has included both the Quebec cut of The Barbarian Invasions and the "world cut." I'd seen the Quebec cut (Alliance screened it for the press before Cannes last year), and the word was that a "few minutes" of material was cut for everywhere else, mostly "local stuff." It turned out to be almost a quarter-hour of footage, and it radically alters the film. Denys Arcand's love-hate relationship with his home province culminated in Le Confort Et L'indifference, his 1982 documentary on the failure of the first independence referendum. The Barbarian Invasions is a father-son story, a sequel to 1986's Decline Of The American Empire, but the first half-hour of the Quebec cut is a savage discourse on the provincial government's bureaucracy. Since the film's senior characters are part of the generation that created that government, it's part of Invasions' critique of its characters. Bits of it are left in the international version, but the effect of the excisions is to make it a more sentimental film.
On the one hand, thanks to Alliance Atlantis for including both versions in this DVD. On the other hand, the "English subtitles" aren't really subtitles - they're English closed-captioning, which means that the 20 per cent of the film that's in English is also titled, as are miscellaneous sounds and music. It's not like they didn't have a set of English subtitles available.
EXTRAS Very light for a two-disc edition of Canada's first foreign film Oscar winner: a Radio-Canada reunion of the cast to discuss the film and its issues, theatrical trailer. French with French and English titles.
(Kino/Pixi, 1943) D: Josef Von Báky, w/ Hans Albers, Brigitte Horney. Rating: NNNNN
In the category of cinematic esoterica, Kino's issue of the 1943 fantasy Münchausen ranks very high, especially given the superb restoration of colour achieved by the Murnau Institute. This is very much the same story that Terry Gilliam adapted, and fans of the Gilliam film will have a field day comparing the two. Produced by the UFA in the middle of World War II, it was a phenomenally expensive production for the era - millions of marks expended. It's also a very strange film to watch because of its context. Rudolph Raspe's 18th-century stories glorify the greatest liar in the world, and Hans Albers, a great star of the Nazi era, looks like a member of the German high command, right down to his monocle. It's still a fun film, though, and contemplating what constituted state-of-the-art special effects six decades ago is half of it. Kino's put together a really strong package of extras.
EXTRAS Introduction by the director of the Murnau Foundation, theatrical trailer, 1944 animated Münchausen short, gallery of Gustave Doré's Münchausen engravings, photo gallery. German with English subtitles.
The Big Bounce
(Warner, 2004) D: George Armitage, w/ Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman. Rating: NNNN
Starsky & Hutch
(Warner, 2004) D: Todd Phillips, w/ Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson. Rating: NNN
The Big Bounce, adapted from Elmore Leonard's novel about a drifter (Owen Wilson) who finds himself entangled in an increasingly complicated caper plot, disappeared quickly from theatres. This suggests that Owen Wilson can't carry a picture without a male co-star, but his laid-back charm is what holds together the centripetal plot of this film, as do the gorgeous Hawaiian locations and a low-key, funny performance by Morgan Freeman. It's a lot more enjoyable than, say, Starsky & Hutch, which my colleague Cameron Bailey nailed when he said it's funny, but not Zoolander funny. Wilson and Ben Stiller recreate the 70s TV cops in a sea of supporting performances that are much funnier than the leads: Vince Vaughn as a drug lord, Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear and there's a hilarious two-scene cameo by Will Farrell.
The problem is the long, flat stretches between the comic bits. Still, it's certainly worth renting for Farrell and the scene at Vaughn's daughter's bat mitzvah.
EXTRAS Big Bounce: making-of featurette, surfing featurettes, theatrical trailer. English and French versions, English, French, Spanish subtitles. Starsky & Hutch: director's commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel, mock making-of documentary, 70s fashion featurette with Snoop Dogg, theatrical trailer. English and French versions, English, French, Spanish titles.
Millennium: The Complete First Season
(20th Century Fox, 1996-97) Creator: Chris Carter w/ Lance Henriksen, Megan Gallagher. Rating: NNNN
back in 1996, when chris carter was Fox's most valuable producer because of The X-Files, they let him do a new series. Millennium, which featured veteran character actor Lance Henriksen as a psychic profiler working for a mysterious Millennium Group, turned out to be X-Files without Agent Scully and without any of the dark humour the other writers had brought to that show. Shot relentlessly night for night, with Henriksen tapping a higher glumness, Millennium may be the dourest TV series ever to last three seasons on American network television. That said, the only disappointment for fans of the series will be the dearth of commentaries, a familiar situation faced by those who've collected The X-Files on DVD. There's a making-of documentary, a full gallery of TV spots and promos and a documentary on real-world profilers.
I do wish they'd included a blooper reel. It'd be fun to see Lance Henriksen break character just once. The really good news, though, is that Fox has announced Carter's very weird and short-lived series Harsh Realm for late August.
EXTRAS Carter commentary on the pilot, director commentary on Gehenna, making-of documentary feature, documentary featurette on profilers, TV spots. English, French, Spanish versions, English and Spanish titles.
Coming Tuesday, July 27
Showgirls: VIP Edition
(MGM) No, really. Big box, bonus games, commentary - though not from anyone involved in the film.
(Columbia TriStar) Spectacular two-disc special edition of the year's first big superhero movie.
Pennies From Heaven
(Warner) Simultaneous release of the great Dennis Potter mini-series and the American feature film with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb