Greenaway - The Early Films
(Zeitgeist, 1969-1980), D: Peter Greenaway. Rating: NNNNN
Some argue that English director Peter Greenaway's early experimental films are superior to his later narrative films. Here's your chance to judge for youself. This set includes all the major short films - H Is For House, Water Wrackets, Windows - and his great catalogue films, Vertical Features Remake, A Walk Through H and supremely, The Falls, all 195 minutes of it. The Falls is a faux documentary about the English victims of what Greenaway calls the VUE, or Violent Unexplained Event, which caused massive human mutation, the creation of 92 separate languages and immortality. To get a representative cross-section, he limited himself to those victims whose last names begin with the letters FALL.
Along with A Walk Through H, it contains the seeds of most of Greenaway's later features: the obsession with birds, the mythical writer Tulse Looper, the three Cissie Colpitts characters from Drowning By Numbers, the Amsterdam Zoo (A Zed & Two Noughts) and an interest in water imagery and decay.
I've seen The Falls a dozen times in the past 20 years and could easily watch it again tomorrow.
video introductions to each film, his booklet essays, galleries of his paintings and drawings, British Film Institute catalogue material for The Falls.
The Family Stone
(Fox, 2005) D: Thomas Bezucha, w/ Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Diane Keaton. Rating: NNN
Here's a "heartwarming" family comedy that keeps brushing up against its real subject, then running away. Sarah Jessica Parker plays Meredith, supposedly some sort of high-powered executive who's so insecure she can barely stand when her boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney) brings her home to his family for Christmas. The Stones are one of those sprawling, lively WASP clans who veer between Norman Rockwell affection and Eugene O'Neill savagery when confronting an outsider.
The spectacular cast includes Diane Keaton as the family matriarch, Rachel McAdams as the smart-mouthed kid sister and Luke Wilson in a role that suggests the filmmakers really wanted but couldn't afford brother Owen.
Thomas Bezucha, who wrote and directed this entertaining but timid film, never realizes or confronts the fact that the family attacks Meredith so they won't attack each other. He really didn't want to make A Long Day's Journey Into Christmas.
Extras: Director-producer commentary, fairly worthless Parker and Mulroney
commentary, deleted scenes with optional commentary, making-of featurettes, gag reel, recipe. English, French, Spanish soundtracks. English, French subtitles.
(Alliance Atlantis, 2005) D: Cory Edwards, w/ Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Patrick Warburton. Rating: NNN
We've been so spoiled by the extravagant perfection of Pixar's animated features that when a new picture shows up that doesn't look that good, we're suspicious of the filmmakers' talent and intent. They're all guilty until proven otherwise. For the first few minutes of Hoodwinked, which redoes Little Red Riding Hood as Rashomon and film noir, it was very odd to see a computer-animated film whose slightly crude look resembled those Rankin/Bass animations from the 60s (Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer). Then, in the commentary, I discovered that director Cory Edwards and his collaborators, Tony Leech and Todd Edwards, were going for that look so the film wouldn't look like "Pixar lite."
It's a clever and entertaining film. Edwards, Edwards and Leech are animation geeks the way Tarantino is a B movie geek. There's some outstanding voice work by Patrick Warburton as a brilliantly deadpan Big Bad Wolf and Glenn Close as an extreme Granny.
The filmmakers' commentary is quite funny, especially when they worry about being "too self-congratulatory."
Extras: Filmmakers' commentary, deleted scenes, music video, theatrical trailer. English, French soundtracks. Spanish subtitles.
King Of The Hill
(Fox, 2001-2002) C: Mike Judge, with Judge, Kathy Najimy, Brittany Murphy. Rating: NNN
At this point you pretty much know whether you like the adventures of Hank Hill, American, and his family or not. The sixth season has some classic episodes, like young Bobby attending a women's self-defence class, Peg taking students on a field trip to Mexico and inadvertently bringing back an extra child, and The Bluegrass Is Always Greener, wherein Kahn Jr. rejects Mozart for Bill Monroe and a trip to a fiddle contest in Bransom. (Always a treat to hear Lauren Tom's voice work as Kahn Jr. and her mother, Minh.) The big problem is that while their network mate, The Simpsons, produces wonderfully jammed DVD collections full of commentaries on every episode and every loose bit of Simpsoniana they can find, the King Of The Hill packages have become increasingly minimalist, to the point where season six has zero extras that I could detect.
Extras: None I could find. English and Spanish soundtracks. Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, May 9
(Universal/DreamWorks, 2005) Steven Spielberg's meditation on the price of exacting revenge works as both a dissection of human values and a low, cunning thriller.
The New World
(Alliance Atlantis, 2005) Apparently, Terrence Malick has prepped a three-hour cut for the DVD. You are getting sleepy, very sleepy....
(Criterion/Paradoz, 1949) Yasujiro Ozu's classic family drama about a daughter (Setsuko Hara) who must contemplate leaving her aging father (Chishu Ryu) for marriage. Yes, that describes about half of Ozu's films.
Masters Of Horror: Mick Garris; Don Coscarelli
(Anchor Bay, 2005) Two more entries in Anchor Bay's release of television films by "great" horror directors.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb