(TVA, 2005) D: Jean-Marc Vallée, w/ Marc-André Grondin, Michel Côté.NNN
C.R.A.Z.Y. won 10 of the 12 Genies for which it was nominated, and I find that rather depressing - the film just isn't that special.
It's a straightforward family melodrama covering 15 or so years in the life of a working-class Montreal clan from the point of view of Zach (Marc-André Grondin), the sensitive younger son who may be gay, though I'd be more convinced if he'd stop banging his red-headed girlfriend. Anyway, they laugh, they fight, they love, they laugh, they fight, they love, and by the end of the film, we realize that whatever happens, life goes on. And on. And on. For 127 minutes.
The problem with C.R.A.Z.Y. is that it isn't, not really. It's anchored by a terrific performance by Michel Càté, the great chameleon of Quebec cinema, as the paterfamilias. It's disappointing that the DVD is a sizable screw-you to the film's English-Canadian fans. None of the extras are in English or even subtitled.
Extras: Director commentary, sound director commentary, art director commentary, making-of featurette, featurette on the film's appearance at the Venice Film Festival. French with English titles and French captions - except for the supplements, which are just French, no titles.
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
(Disney, 2005) D: Andrew Adamson, w/ Tilda Swinton, William Mosely. Rating: NNN
Winner of last Christmas's Kiwi epic competition, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is a Christian allegory fantasy for kids that doesn't insult adults, even if some of the effects are a little obvious in their effects-ness.
The story of four children who enter the magical world of Narnia through a wardrobe, the film suffers slightly from the generic blandness of its child actors, an ongoing problem with Disney films, but it benefits immensely from Tilda Swinton's turn as the White Witch, a great villain.
Andrew Adamson, best known as the creator of the Shrek films, borrows liberally from the vocabulary Peter Jackson developed for Lord Of The Rings. Aside from the New Zealand setting, watch the way he uses helicopter shots.
In the supplementary material, Lord Of The Rings is the elephant in the room - especially when someone says it was interesting to do the film in New Zealand, which "doesn't have the facilities to do a film like this." Gosh, better not tell Jackson, whose WETA effects company these filmmakers used and who was filming King Kong in New Zealand at the same time.
Good, solid supplements, particularly the design featurettes.
Extras Director commentary, director/cast commentary, blooper reel, trivia text track, making-of documentary feature, featurettes on the design, effects and costumes. DTS sound. English, French and Spanish soundtracks. French and Spanish subtitles.
The Glamour Collection: Marlene Dietrich: Morocco , Blonde Venus , The Devil Is A Woman ,Flame Of New Orleans , Golden Earrings (Universal, 1930-1947). Rating: NNNN
The Glamour Collection: Carole Lombard : True Confessions ,The Princess Comes Across ,Hands Across The Table , Love Before Breakfast , Man Of The World , We're Not Dressing (Universal, 1931-1938). Rating: NNN
The Glamour Collection: Mae West : Night After Night , I'm No Angel , Goin' To Town , Go West Young Man , My Little Chickadee (Universal, 1931-1940). Rating: NN
That thudding sound you hear in the distance is me banging my head against a wall while contemplating Universal's treatment of its archives. Perhaps we've just been spoiled by the Criterion-class care that Warner lavishes on its historical issues.
The one advantage of this set of issues from the Paramount catalogue (Universal owns the pre-1950 Paramounts) is that they're economical - five or six movies on two discs, for less than $25 at the onlines.
The Carole Lombard Collection has the best of her Paramount films, the light screwball comedies Hands Across The Table and The Princess Comes Across, where she's a working-class manicurist in the first and an ersatz Swedish princess in the second, allowing Lombard do her hilarious Garbo impression.
Ironically, while Lombard was Paramount's biggest female star in the late 30s, her best films were all done when she was on loan to other studios: Twentieth Century at Columbia, Nothing Sacred for Selznick, Mr. & Mrs. Smith for Hitchcock at RKP, and To Be Or Not To Be for Lubitsch at UA.
The Mae West Collection is weirdly programmed. It has I'm No Angel but not She Done Him Wrong, and, once the production code began to be enforced in 1934, we lost her best feature, those insinuating double entendres that made her fame. We get no extras, which is a shame. Mae West is such a bizarre figure, she does need contextualizing for a modern audience.
The best of the three issues is also the most infuriating. Marlene Dietrich made seven films with Josef von Sternberg, and five of them are masterpieces. The Blue Angel is available on Kino; The Scarlet Empress is on Criterion; this set has Morocco and The Devil Is A Woman - but where the hell is Shanghai Express? I don't miss Dishonored, and it's fun to have Blonde Venus, with its memorable Hot Voodoo number, with Dietrich in a gorilla suit, but the omission of Shanghai Express verges on criminal negligence.
Five films are on two discs, and Golden Earrings, the worst of them, is alone on the second. Why? Where are Angel, her one outing with Lubitsch, Desire, which reunited her with her Morocco co-star, Gary Cooper, or Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair?
Any collection with this good a transfer of The Devil Is A Woman deserves a spot on your classic film shelf, but it could have been so much better.
Coming Tuesday, April 11
The Busby Berkeley Collection
(Warner, 1932-1937) Six classics of American surrealism in the guise of backstage musicals.
The Mel Brooks Collection
(Fox,1974-1995) Eight Mel Brooks titles in a box, and while we're stuck with Men In Tights, the collection also includes the new DVD issues of Twelve Chairs, High Anxiety and To Be Or Not To Be.
(Alliance Atlantis, 2005) The Australian Chainsaw Massacre, in the sense that it's got lots of graphic violence and claims to be fact-based.
(Sony, 2005) A ghost story about a couple who lose their daughter, with Maria Bello and Sean Bean.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb