(Warner, 2006) D: Edward Zwick, w/ Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNN
Ed Zwick is a fairly earnest Hollywood liberal, and that orientation is manifested in his films in interesting ways. On the one hand, he likes to make smart, kick-ass action movies. On the other, he worries about them. The Siege, still the best 9/11 movie even though it was made three years before 9/11, blows shit up in scary ways. And head FBI guy Denzel Washington worries ferociously about civil liberties.
Likewise, Blood Diamond features some startling combat sequences set in Sierra Leone, but every now and then it stops to harangue us about buying conflict diamonds because of their human cost. Okay, I won't. Now, when are Leonardo DiCaprio's mercenary and Jennifer Connelly's journalist going to have sex?
I mock, but when Zwick is on his game - here, in The Siege and in Glory - you can enjoy the unwieldy combination of rhetoric and explosions. For further proof of earnestness, check the director's commentary.
Extras Director commentary, Blood On The Stone documentary, featurettes on DiCaprio and Connelly, making-of featurette on the street battle scene, Nas video, theatrical trailer. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.
Come Early Morning
(Alliance Atlantis, 2006) D: Joey Lauren Adams, w/ Ashley Judd, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Wilson. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: bare bones.
I just want to smack the marketing folks at Weinstein for this one. They decided that Come Early Morning, an indie starring Ashley Judd that was well reviewed at Sundance , wasn't worth opening in theatres, so they sent it straight to video. Okay, business decision. But why stick that horrible blue-green romance novel cover on it? If you see this movie in the video store, you'll have to be colour-blind to rent it, and it deserves better.
If you've tired of Ashley Judd's line of films about "gun-toting babes with black mentors," note that Come Early Morning, Joey Lauren Adams's debut directorial effort, takes Judd back to the rural tone of Ruby In Paradise - if Ruby had, over the last decade and a half, turned into a hard-drinking slut.
Then she meets a guy who's interested in commitment and she starts worrying about her daddy issues. This is a good film, and most of the cast don't have to stretch for their Southern accents. I hope Adams gets to make another film.
NewsRadio: Season Five
(Sony, 1998) C: Paul Simms, w/ Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Stephen Root. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
This was newsradio's final season, though they didn't know it. It's a fascinating example of an assured series suddenly struggling to find its voice after the loss of Phil Hartman, who was murdered by his wife after season four.
Jon Lovitz was brought in to replace him as WNYX's on-air voice, but Lovitz's comic rhythm is so distinctive, he threw the show off. It was no surprise that the producers then imported Patrick Warburton as comic villain and suitor to Maura Tierney's Lisa, reducing Lovitz's role considerably.
That said, NewsRadio was the best of the 90s job comedies (it may have been the last great American workplace sitcom) and is very well written. The final season is worth a rent just for the episode when Andy Dick's Matthew rebels against turning 30 and becomes a punk rocker. It may be Dick's finest moment.
Extras Despite what the box says, there are several writer/producer/cast commentaries to go with the advertised gag reel and deleted scenes. Portuguese subtitles. Apparently, NewsRadio was huge in Portugal.
Miami Vice: Season Three
(Universal, 1987) C: Michael Mann, Anthony Yerkovich, w/ Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Edward James Olmos. Rating: NN; DVD package: bare bones
Miami Vice: Season Four
(Universal, 1988) Rating: NN; DVD package: bare bones
I watched 15 randomly chosen episodes from the new Miami Vice season boxes. Either the series was really erratic and I kept hitting bad episodes or the show was a lot worse than I remember it.
The problem with revisiting "daring" and "innovative" shows 20 years on is that if they were really innovative, most of their improvisations have been absorbed into the grammar of the medium.
They also tend to be incredibly of their moment. Miami Vice is so stylish it hurts: 80s music, 80s clothes, 80s hair. It was the first show to shoot TV so cinematically, and it still looks good - those cobalt nights and Miami pastels are so vivid, it's a shock to visit Miami and discover that it actually looks like that.
Yes, there are great guest stars (check these boxes for a pre-everything Wesley Snipes and a pre-Steel Magnolias Julia Roberts), but the directors spend so much time grooming the mise-en-scène that the only actors who come off well are Philip Michael Thomas (surprisingly good) and Edward James Olmos, because of his unusual style - he never raises his voice above a whisper.
Given how awful they are, it's amazing that Olivia Brown and Saundra Santiago, the female vice detectives, maintained careers into the late 90s. For hardcore fans only.
Coming Tuesday, March 27
Children Of Men
A lot of people I respect liked Alfonso Cuarón's near-future dystopia more than I did. Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Eijofor appear.
(20th Century Fox, 2006)
Like Apocalypto, but in English and with hottie college kids.
The Mario Bava Collection
(Anchor Bay, 1960-67)
Five classics of Italian horror from the man who invented the genre, including Black Sunday, Black Sabbath and Kill Baby Kill.
The Dawn Patrol
The prize in Warner's Errol Flynn Signature Collection, Vol. 2, with great first world war dogfight footage. Also in the collection: Charge Of The Light Brigade and Gentleman Jim.