The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
(MGM, 1994) D: Stephan Elliott, w/ Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving. Rating: NNNN ;DVD package:NNNN
What makes Priscilla an all-time great gay movie and an outstanding feel-good flick no matter what your personal proclivities is that these three drag queens earn their moment of transcendence in the desert.
Terence Stamp does much of the work with his uncompromising, grief-stricken bitterness. In the midst of giddy comedy, he refuses to play sentimental or likeable. It's a great performance, and it anchors the rest of the movie and prevents its tale of urban drag queens on a road trip into the Australian Outback from dissolving into mere fabulosity.
Director Stephan Elliott isn't afraid of visual extremes. He gets great mileage out of his costumed queens set against the stark beauty of the desert. He's also good with sight gags, verbal comedy and the lip-sync numbers, so everything is light and sprightly.
The costumes are incredible and get lavish attention in the extras. They reflect Sydney's bizarre, kabuki-like drag scene, according to Elliott, who provides an informative commentary and an interview focusing on financing and selling the film, subjects most directors avoid.
Extras Director commentary, director interview, making-of doc, on-set interview snippets, bloopers, costume gallery, deleted scenes. Wide-screen. English, French audio. English, Spanish subtitles.
9 Dead Gay Guys
(TLA, 2002) D: Lab Ky Mo, w/ Glen Mulhern, Brendan Mackey. Rating: NN ; DVD package: NN
Some titles are so cool that they jump into your hand and you're home watching the flick before you've even read the back of the box. Sometimes that pays off; check out Twitch Of The Death Nerve.
And some titles are so cool, you've got to make the movie, which is the case here, according to director Lab Ky Mo. Two young Irish hustlers, one of them brand new to the scene, and neither one admitting to being gay, go on the hunt for the cash stash of a mysterious recluse who likes his men large and hard. But there are rivals for the loot.
You can see the potential: bizarre sex, bizarre death, deadpan Britgrit comedy and existential bafflement. Think Trainspotting - Ky Mo did.
Problem is, he has neither the writing chops nor the resources to bring it off, so the twisted sex and death mostly happen off-screen, and when they don't they're given the blandest treatment. Instead, the stories are told after the fact, so it's not much to look at, but the stories are funny, and brisk acting keeps things moving along nicely.
Extras Director commentary. Wide-screen.
(Kino, 2006) D: Yong-Man Kim, w/ Diana Gitelman, Ivo Velon. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: n/a
Most movies that deal with spirituality opt for suffering-and-redemption or feelgood-moral-uplift with pretty pictures. First-time writer/director Yong-Man Kim has a different take on the matter and lays it out with a wholly fitting minimalism.
Chris (Ivo Velon) is a Buddhist monk living in a crappy Lower East Side Manhattan apartment. By day he sketches for money. By night he meditates and works on his art. Gradually, he gets interested in the young hooker in the next apartment, who's heading for a major meltdown. Finally, despite his efforts to detach himself from worldly concerns, he's moved to help.
The film is almost wordless, which gives it a timeless silent-movie feel, at once overwrought and intimately truthful. At the same time, the unadorned location work nails the characters firmly into its contemporary milieu.
For aspiring filmmakers, this is a great lesson in visual storytelling and low-budget filmmaking. Too bad there's no commentary track.
Fantastic Voyage: Special Edition
(Fox, 1966) D: Richard Fleischer, w/ Raquel Welch, Donald Pleasence. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NNN
A group of scientists and their ship are miniaturized and injected into a colleague's bloodstream with only an hour to find and eradicate a life-threatening blood clot. It's old-school nanotechnology.
And it's old-school effects at their finest, and that's still pretty good. The set pieces aren't as long or loud as they make them today, but director Richard Fleischer keeps the thrills coming and provides A-picture production values all the way, a rarity for science fiction in those days.
Good acting was also a rarity in 60s science fiction. Donald Pleasence stands out, as usual, for his wonderful creepiness.
Fantastic Voyage's effects were highly influential in their time. That gets explored in the extras, as does Leonard Rosenman's innovative score via an isolated track and optional soundtrack with a thoughtful optional commentary by historian Jeff Bond and colleagues John Burlingame and Nick Redham.
Extras Bond commentary, isolated score track with optional commentary, effects doc. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish audio. English, Spanish subtitles.
(DreamWorks, 2007) D: Brian Robbins, w/ Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton. Rating: N ; DVD package: NN
No question, Eddie Murphy is the greatest fat-suit actor since Haruo Nakajima climbed into Godzilla. And so freakin' what? It is not enough to be fat - you must also be funny. Unless you're the sort of moron who thinks fat is funny, in which case you don't need any movie. You can get more hilarity - I tested this - hanging out on the corner and laughing at the fat people.
Murphy in the fat suit plays Rasputia, a mindless harridan who's bullied poor schmuck Norbit (Murphy again) into marriage, though he loves willowy Kate (Thandie Newton). Rasputia's got a voice like a buzz saw. She never shuts up and she never says anything funny. It gets very painful very fast.
Murphy hasn't bothered to write much in the way of gags or character for her. Or for anybody else. He has a couple of good moments as Mr. Wong. Cuba Gooding Jr. is agreeably slick, and there's an odd amusing line here and there, but we're talking maybe five actual chuckles in the whole thing.
The extras are just as thin. Amid all the mutual adulation and Murphy-worship, there are about five interesting facts, the most revealing of which might be that Murphy does this suit acting because it lets him go places he can't in his own persona.
Good for him. Be nice if he thought to bring his audience along, too.
Extras Making-of, makeup, stunts docs, comedy infomercial, deleted scenes. Wide-screen. English, French autio. English, Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, June 12
(Columbia, 2007) Two-disc extended cut of Nicolas Cage battling evil with his head on fire. Entertainment at its finest.
(Fox, 1997) The first 13 episodes of David Kelley's series about a firm of defence lawyers. A good show, but light on extras.
(Criterion) Early Spring (1956), Tokyo Twilight (57), Equinox Flower (58), Late Autumn (60), The End Of Summer (61): late-career masterpieces from Japan's most revered director.
Days Of Glory
(Alliance Atlantis, 2006) Multi-award winner about Algerians treated like scum while fighting for the French in the Second World War.