(Alliance Atlantis, 2006) D: Roger Michell, w/ Peter O'Toole, Jodie Whittaker. Rating: NNNN ; DVD package: NNN
From a very simple premise - an old actor (Peter O'Toole) falls in love with a sullen young girl (Jodie Whittaker) - Hanif Kureishi, one of the best and most original screenwriters around (Sammy & Rosie Get Laid), has crafted a story full of surprising turns, sharp humour and sugar-free emotion while creating a disturbing see-sawing in our perceptions of O'Toole as someone filled with romantic longing on the one hand and just a dirty old man on the other.
O'Toole and Whittaker, along with Leslie Phillips and Vanessa Redgrave as, respectively, the actor's friend and wife, bring it to life with flawless naturalism, while director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) keeps the pace lively and his actors effectively embedded in his unusual London locations
Michell and producer Kevin Loader do a good low-key commentary that points up key moments without wrecking our pleasure by telling us what to think about them.
EXTRAS Director and producer commentary, making-of doc, deleted scenes. Wide-screen. English, French audio. English subtitles.
Peter Sellers, MGM Movie Legends Collection: The Pink Panther
(1963) D: Blake Edwards w/ David Niven, Robert Wagner. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NNN ;
What's New Pussycat
(1965) D: Clive Donner, w/ Peter O'Toole, Woody Allen. Rating: NNNN ; DVD package: n/a;
(1968) D: Blake Edwards w/ Claudine Longet, Marge Champion. Rating: NNNN ; DVD package: n/a;
(1967) D: John Huston, Ken Hughes, Val Guest, Robert Parrish, Joseph McGrath, w/ Orson Welles, Ursula Andress. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NNN
Typically, Peter Sellers's characters are uncomfortable in their bodies and mentally oblivious or panic-stricken. It's that mind-body clash that propels them to certain disaster, and their rigidly dignified refusal to acknowledge it that forms the basis of his comic genius.
Three of these films are comic gems that let Sellers shine. But he's not the only bright light. There are tons of great comic performances, and the gags, pacing, visuals and music glitter with pure swinging 60s glee.
Except in Casino Royale. It's a dud. A psychedelic James Bond parody, it lacks story, coherence and gags that are actually funny. Sellers is underused. Everybody is underused. It's not dull, though, and quite likeable for it's glorious excess.
Val Guest, one of the film's five directors (which explains a lot right there), describes the mess in the extras. And for James Bond fans, there's a true rarity: the very first Bond screen appearance, a 1954 one-hour TV version of Casino Royale.
What's New Pussycat, Woody Allen's farce about a hopeless playboy trying to settle down, sparkles with giddy dialogue and giddier situations. Peter O'Toole, the playboy, is a marvel of spindly gawkiness and heartfelt lust. Sellers is at his looniest as an infantile psychiatrist, and everybody else flies just as high.
The Party is almost as good. Sellers stars as an Indian actor who utterly destroys a high-end Hollywood dinner party. The scene with the drunk waiter is an all-time masterpiece of disaster.
The Pink Panther, of course, introduces the incomparable Inspector Clouseau and one of the eight coolest movie themes in the world.
EXTRAS The Pink Panther: Good Blake Edwards commentary, pop-up trivia. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles. What's New Pussycat: Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles. The Party: Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese audio and subtitles. Casino Royale: Val Guest interview, James Bond TV drama. Wide-screen. English, Spanish audio. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles.
The Journals Of Knud Rasmussen
(Alliance Atlantis, 2006) D: Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk, w/ Leah Angutimarik, Pakak Innuksuk. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NNN
Despite the title and package description, Rasmussen, an explorer who joins a small band of Inuit in 1922, is not the viewpoint character. The arrival of Christianity and the first police investigation of the murder of a white man are the essential stories here.
Cohn and Kunuk, who made 2001's The Fast Runner, focus on a father and daughter, both powerful shamans, who are at odds. She's hiding a guilty secret and having spirit sex with her dead husband. The hunting's been poor and the Christians have meat.
It's all told slowly with much song and storytelling and a near-documentary style that lets the drama - and the spirit of the people - emerge naturally.
The 45-minute making-of doc shows the same relaxed, cheerful spirit, long on showing, short on explanation and filled with small surprises.
EXTRAS Making-of doc. Wide-screen. Inuktituk audio. English, French subtitles.
(Touchstone, 2006) D: Mel Gibson, w/ Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trujillo. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NN
Basically, this is a tarzan movie. Cruel city guys capture a jungle guy who's gotta escape, kill his pursuers and get back to his imperilled beloved. As such, it's thoroughly entertaining trash.
It's all set in the waning days of the Mayan empire, early 1500s, and what's highly original is the lavish depiction of things we've never seen before. These brilliant details are a treat, but Gibson thinks they'll explain why this civilization fell, and they won't. Everything goes by too quickly to allow us to make the connections he wants us to make.
Forget the making-of doc. It's pure formula, and the commentary does a merely adequate job.
EXTRAS Gibson and co-writer Farhad Safinia commentary, making-of doc, deleted scene. Wide-screen. Mayan audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday,May 29
(Weinstein, 2007) For those who really care about the liver-chomping psycho's formative years.
(Alliance Atlantis, 1986) One of the best kung fu comedies from top Hong Kong actor/director Sammo Hung in a Dragon Dynasty edition.
The Naked Civil Servant
(WB, 1975) Biopic of legendary gay figure with with John Hurt as Quentin Crisp.
Upstairs Downstairs: Collectors' Edition Megaset, plus Thomas And Sarah
(A&E Home Entertainment, 1971-75) All you could possibly want of the popular British series about an Edwardian family and its servants.