Ultimate Director's Cut (Paramount, 1979) D: Walter Hill, w/ Michael Beck, James Remar. Rating: NNN
Walter Hill has always managed to find some emotional/thematic tone inside the common action movie. He explored existentialism in The Driver (1978), humanism in 48 Hrs. (1982), nihilism in Last Man Standing (1996) and nobility in the doomed revenge of Johnny Handsome (1989).
In his brief introduction to The Warriors he says it's a film about courage, but he's achieved more than that. He's given strong mythic resonance to a fast-paced, rock-music-fuelled actioner about a street gang crossing New York, mostly on foot, in a single night, hunted by every other gang in the city.
He opens his movie with comic-style drawn panels and narration telling us we're watching a retelling of an event from the ancient world, when a band of Greek soldiers crossed 1,000 miles of hostile Persian empire to reach safety by the sea. He reminds us with more panels throughout the movie that we're watching a comic book, not to be taken seriously.
But comics and myth are a natural fit. The weirdly empty all-night New York locations only enhances the out-of-time quality, as does the near-future setting. But Hill never neglects his action for his themes, and The Warriors rocks from beginning to end with beautifully staged fights and foot chases.
Some of the line delivery is a bit stiff, but it detracts only momentarily, and the actors are impressive in very physically demanding roles.
Extras Director introduction, making-of docs.
(Fox, 1986) D: David Cronenberg, w/ Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis. Rating: NNNNN
A fine movie turns into a stellar DVD package thanks to a brilliant extras disc whose making-of doc runs almost three hours.
Making-ofs don't get any better than this. It's packed with frank insider comments about everything from development through release. It has tons of on-set footage, highlighted by several amusing tests of the rotating room, a bit of baboon romance and an extensive look at puppetry and effects.
When necessary, captions explain the footage. The principal players get all the time they want to discuss their roles, as do the producers and long-time Cronenberg collaborators Mark Irwin (cinematographer), Carol Spier (production designer) and Ronald Sanders (editor).
You can also see a five-minute precis of the 1956 film version with Vincent Price and read the original short story, Charles Pogue's remake script and Cronenberg's rewrite. Some extremely horrific deleted scenes of Seth Brundle's (Jeff Goldblum) transformation from man into Brundlefly make him a much nastier figure.
Goldblum is a charismatic actor and at his peak here. So is Geena Davis as the science writer who investigates his teleportation experiments and falls in love with him. If the film has any weakness, it's that Davis fails to convince us of her love for her boss. But John Getz as Stathis Borans makes up for that, bringing the romantic triangle to life. Goldblum, explaining why that flaw is there, tells us much about the emotional demands of acting.
Cronenberg is absent from the making-of, but he's his usual articulate, informative and quietly humorous self on his commentary track.
Extras Disc one: Cronenberg commentary. Wide-screen, digital transfer. English, French, Spanish soundtracks. English, French, Spanish subtitles. Disc two: making-of docs, original short story, Pogue script, Cronenberg script, deleted and extended scenes, test footage, interactive magazine articles, stills and promo material gallery. Wide-screen. No subtitles.
Two-disc Special Edition (Disney, 1950) D: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, w/ Ilene Woods, William Phipps. Rating: NN
Cinderella's no Snow White. Snow's wicked queen would have Cindy's cruel stepmother for breakfast. Bippety Boppety Boo is no Whistle While You Work, and the mice, the best things in the picture, just don't cut it beside the seven dwarves. The story's more than a little thin, with nothing on its mind but Cindy's romantic prospects. It lacks the dark edge that informs the best fairy tales, an undercurrent to provide an antidote to all the saccharine being pumped into your system.
For Disneyphiles and nostalgia buffs, some good retrospective making-of docs and vintage radio and TV clips include Ilene Woods (the voice of Cinderella) with Perry Como in 1950. The other extras - music videos and games - are pitched to little girls. But it's hard to imagine any contemporary kid warming to this after seeing Finding Nemo or Spirited Away.
Extras Disc one: Cinderella moments in sports doc, music videos. 5.1 sound remix, original mix, restored print, theatrical ratio. English, French, Spanish soundtracks. English, French, Spanish subtitles. Disc two: making-of doc, deleted scenes, how to be royalty featurette, vintage radio and TV program excerpts, unused songs, demo song. No subtitles.
(MGM, 1993) creator/ Bruce Wagner, w/ James Belushi, Kim Cattrall. Rating: NNN
Panned when it first aired as a confusing imitation of Twin Peaks, TV miniseries Wild Palms has slowly gained a small cult following thanks to its convoluted plot, paranoia and strange sense of alienation.
In 2007 Los Angeles, patent attorney Harry Wyckoff (James Belushi) finds himself drawn into a new job on a virtual-reality TV station headed by former cult-leader Senator Anton Kreutzer (Robert Loggia). Harry's also dealing with rhinoceros dreams that he unknowingly shares with his young son, impotence problems and the return of an old girlfriend (Kim Cattrall, in high vamp mode). Meanwhile, well-suited men are beating up people in the street, and his mother-in-law (Angie Dickinson) is an eyeball-gouging monster.
Belushi isn't the finest actor ever to grace a soundstage, but he's perfectly cast here as an amiable everyman. His slightly rumpled and vacuous affability only makes his surroundings more sterile, uncomfortable and menacing. You get the sense that here is a man ripe for the plucking. Veteran character actor Loggia hams mercilessly and he, too, seems perfectly ill at ease, as though behind the bluster and bonhomie lies some screaming terror he cannot shake.
Is this enough to overcome the charges of scenery-chewing and incoherence? Not necessarily, but if you've a taste for paranoia and conspiracy, you could do much worse.
Extras Full frame. English, French subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, October 11
Kingdom Of Heaven
(Fox, 2005) Ridley Scott's big-budget look at the Crusades from the point of view of a Jerusalem citizen.
(Alliance Atlantis, 2005) Classic Jet Li actioner from the people who did The Transporter.
The Coen Brothers Collection
(Universal): Blood Simple (1984), The Big Lebowski (1998), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), Intolerable Cruelty (2003). Some of the brothers' best.
The Bridge Of San Luis Rey
(Alliance Atlantis, 2004) Widely panned on theatrical release, and now you can find out why.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb