(Columbia/Tristar, 2004) D: Guillermo del Toro, w/ Ron Perlman, Selma Blair. Rating: NNNNN
This is what the Lord of the Rings extended editions have brought us: geek-friendly special editions where the making-of is longer than the film itself. Strange to see this coming from Columbia, whose special editions (Spider-Man, XXX) are usually not very special at all. Hellboy's making-of runs 150 minutes, almost half an hour longer than director Guillermo del Toro's witty comic book adaptation, which stars Ron Perlman as a trans-dimensional being working for the FBI since he crossed over back in the 40s.
As mentioned in last week's guide to comic book adaptations, Hellboy is among the very best, because del Toro doesn't believe he's slumming in the genre and because the studio backed his unconventional casting of Perlman.
Terrific against-type casting of Selma Blair as well.
EXTRAS Video intros by del Toro and Blair, director/author commentary, cast commentary (Perlman is very funny), making-of feature, deleted scenes with director commentary, animatics, storyboard comparisons, DVD comix created by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, DVD-ROM content including printable screenplay, trailers and TV spots. It's loaded. English and French versions and subtitles.
(Home Vision/Morningstar, 1995) D: Claude Chabrol, w/ Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Bonnaire. Rating: NNNNN
Story Of Women
(Home Vision/Morningstar, 1988) D: Chabrol, w/ Huppert, François Cluzet. Rating: NNNN
claude chabrol and isabelle hup- pert have made half a dozen pictures together, from 1978's Violette Nozière to 2000's Merci Pour Le Chocolat. Here are their two best films. La Cérémonie, adapted from Ruth Rendell's A Judgement In Stone, features Huppert as a small-town postmistress simmering with class resentment who connects with an illiterate housekeeper (Sandrine Bonnaire) against her bourgeois employers. Because it's hard for the movie to centre on Bonnaire, whose character verges on aphasia, the novel's dynamic shifts and Huppert's character moves into the lead.
Given the number of astonishing performances Huppert has given over the past 25 years, it's surprising that she's only won the César, the French Oscar, once, for La Cérémonie. The year of Une Affaire Des Femmes (Story Of Women, 1988), she lost to Isabelle Adjani for the latter's performance in Camille Claudel.
Story Of Women is a mistranslated title for one of Chabrol's darkest films; a more accurate translation might be Women's Business. In occupied Paris, Huppert plays an abortionist who dodges Nazis while betraying those around her.
By placing this character at the centre of a drama of the Occupation, a genre of French self-flagellation, Chabrol creates one of his most morally complex films. It's almost impossible to sympathize with the point-of-view character.
EXTRAS La Cérémonie: making-of featurette, theatrical trailer, booklet essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum. Story: director scene commentary, producer interview, theatrical trailer, booklet essay. French with optional English subtitles.
Showgirls: V.I.P. Edition
(MGM, 1995) D: Paul Verhoeven, w/ Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon. Rating: NN
one would have thought few films less deserving of a special edition than Showgirls, which was reviled in some quarters as the worst movie ever made. (Not as long as there's Battlefield: Earth, but I can see the argument.) This release's extra material involves none of the original cast or creative team. Actually, the best justification for a Showgirls SE would be a full-length commentary by Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Esterhasz explaining exactly what the hell they were thinking. Footage of them being publicly flogged would be a good bonus. MGM's packaged the film with an assortment of goodies, like shotglasses for the Showgirls drinking games, a deck of cards - it's set in Vegas, after all, even if it was mostly shot in Reno - and a commentary by Showgirls expert David Schmader, who by his own count has seen it a couple of hundred times. His commentary, defending his claim that Showgirls is the greatest postmodern comedy of the 20th century, is funny, and useful for pointing out the film's thematic threads. (For example, and it's true: all the women ever talk about in this movie are chips, their nails and their breasts.) Worth a rent and, to give credit where it's due, the transfer is gorgeous, but a turd in a silk wrapper is still a turd.
EXTRAS Critical commentary, lap dance tutorial, storyboard gallery, trivia track, theatrical trailer.
World Poker Tour: Season One
(Morningstar) w/ Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten. Rating: NNNN
a couple of years ago, i attended a presentation in Las Vegas by Steve Lipscomb, who had cobbled together something called the World Poker Tour, a TV series covering some of the biggest poker tournaments in the world. At the time, I thought, "Well, everybody should have dreams, but who the heck is going to watch poker on TV?" This is why I'm not a successful television producer. After this series ran on the Travel Channel, attendance at major poker tournaments rose all over the U.S., online poker began to boom and you now have to line up for a seat at the small daily tournaments at the Mirage. Oh, and 2,500 people put up $10K apiece to play the main event at the World Series of Poker, which had 800 entrants the year before. And Ben Affleck won the California Poker Championship last month.
The four-N rating assumes an interest in the subject matter. This five discs include 20 hours of poker tournaments. It's the ultimate reality show - the only one where the participants are playing with their own money. And for those who are interested, there's a tutorial in high-level poker play that made unlikely media stars of the professorial Howard Lederer, mercurial Dane Gus Hanson and Phil Ivey, with his Rain-Man-like demeanour and uncanny ability to pick off people who bluff at him.
The downside is the ongoing and inane yammering of the play-by-play team of Mike Sexton, a good player in his own right, and failed tennis pro and actor Vince Van Patten, whose relentless product promotions, inaccuracies and banality force you to turn off the sound once you've grasped the basics.
EXTRAS Introductory featurettes on the game and the tour hosted by Lou Diamond Phillips.
Coming, Tuesday, August 3
(Disney) Viggo Mortensen goes horseracing across Arabia. Based on a true story, which means it never happened.
13 Going On 30
(Columbia) Jennifer Garner. Nuff said. OK, it's the chick flick version of Big.
Zorba The Greek
(Fox Studio Classics) Anthony Quinn as the life force. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
(Paramount) Willem Dafoe, medieval detective. Really.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb