(Miramax/Alliance Atlantis, 2003) D: Anthony Minghella w/ Jude Law, Nicole Kidman. Rating: NNNN
the strength of the dramatic spine of Cold Mountain revealed itself on my flight home from Cannes. Even under those appalling conditions, it held up as a tale of love interrupted by war, salted with first-rate supporting players. Given the beauty and nobility of Jude Law's and Nicole Kidman's characters, it really needs the down-to-earth human frailty of Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger, Brendan Gleeson, Ray Winstone, Kathy Baker and others. The two-disc special edition has a good transfer and a rather dry commentary by director Anthony Minghella and editor Walter Murch. Either Minghella and Murch are genetically incapable of humour or nothing even slightly amusing happened during production.
On the second disc are a pair of making-ofs with very little re-watch value, an exceedingly PBS-like Evening With The Words And Music Of Cold Mountain and a too-brief documentary on sacred harp singing.
EXTRAS Director/editor commentary; Climbing Cold Mountain, a 70-minute production documentary; Journey To Cold Mountain, a half-hour production featurette; Words And Music Of Cold Mountain"; 11 deleted scenes; storyboard comparisons; DTS Soundtrack. English-, French-language versions, English, French, Spanish subtitles.
The Fanny Trilogy: César, Marius, Fanny
(Kino/Pixi, 1931-1936) D: Marcel Pagnol, Alexander Korda, Marc Allégret, w/ Raimu, Pierre Fresnay. Rating: NNNNN
these three films by playwright/ novelist Marcel Pagnol are cornerstones of French cinema. The French new wave movement of the 60s held up Pagnol's works as key examples of auteur cinema, and their technique - shot mostly on location in Marseilles in an era of studio production - was an inspiration for their own methods. The films are interrelated - César (Raimu) is the father of Marius (Pierre Fresnay), who's in love with Fanny (Orane Demazis) - if not exactly sequels, and were a sensation in their day in part because it was so unusual to hear the Marseillais accent on the French stage or screen. It's especially startling to hear it coming from Fresnay, who's better known for his urbane characters in films by Renoir (Grande Illusion) and Clouzot (Le Corbeau). A must for fans of classic cinema.
The transfers are good enough that we notice when the quality drops off. (César's second reel is a bit scratchy.) The trilogy's producer, La Compagnie Méditerranéenne de Films, has put together excellent supporting materials, including audio-only commentary by Pagnol and a scholarly documentary.
EXTRAS Critical documentary on Pagnol, Pagnol's comments on the three films (audio only), original theatrical trailers, galleries of posters, stills and promotional materials, booklet essay by Bertrand Tavernier. French with optional English subtitles.
(Columbia/TriStar, 1984) D: Alan Rudolph w/ Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson. Rating: NNN
i've given this a three-n rating because of the catalogue dump quality of the DVD. There are no extras at all, and with stars Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Rip Torn and Leslie Ann Warren very much alive, as is director Alan Rudolph, it wouldn't have been that hard to assemble a commentary or a little making-of documentary. The film, however, is a buried treasure, a relaxed comedy about the music business, with Nelson as a country singer-songwriter who sets up an elaborate scheme to screw the manager (Richard Sarafian) who's been screwing him for years.
Great performances. Kristofferson's and Nelson's relaxed rapport is terrific, Rip Torn's portrait of an unscrupulous promoter with a speed habit and a gun is a comic masterpiece, and Lesley Anne Warren has never been sexier.
EXTRAS None. Nada. Zipporino.
Barbershop 2: Back In Business
(MGM, 2004) D: Kevin Rodney Sullivan w/ Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer. Rating: NNN
i'm torn about films like this. i enjoy the performers' finely honed verbal rhythms - I'd happily watch Cedric the Entertainer and Queen Latifah locked in comic combat for hours - but I really don't like the fact that director Kevin Sullivan has no idea how to stage a scene without making it look look like a train wreck. It's sort of interesting, though, to see Ice Cube, one of the scariest rappers of the 80s, turn into an emblem of grassroots black entrepreneurship.
It's worth renting, less for the film than for the performer commentary by Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity and Jazsmin Lewis, who are funnier than the movie itself. A couple of good music videos, too.
EXTRAS Director/producer commentary, cast commentary, outtakes, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, music videos by Mary J. Blige and Sleepy Brown, behind-the-scenes photo gallery.
The Perfect Score
(Paramount, 2004) D: Brian Robbins, w/ Erika Christensen, Chris Evans. Rating: NN
if you've ever wanted to see the Breakfast Club redone as a caper movie, here it is. A group of high school students decide to steal the SAT exams so they can get into the colleges of their choice. Then the movie decides to get all moral. With Erika "When you can't afford Julia Stiles" Christensen, Scarlett "great reviews don't pay the rent" Johansson and Chris "the man who would be Freddie Prinze Jr." Evans in the main roles, this is a movie with an unerring sense of where the clichés are and how to hit them with precision. Compliments to Leonardo Nam, who's very funny as a stoner dude who happens to be a math whiz.
The usual extras, though why anyone would want to hear the thoughts of Robbins and screenwriter Mark Schwahn on this utterly self-explanatory film is beyond me.
EXTRAS Director/writer commentary, making-of featurette, theatrical trailer. English and French versions, English subtitles. .
Coming Tuesday, July 6
Shadows, Lies And Private Eyes: The Film Noir Collection, Vol. 1
(Warner) Out Of The Past, Gun Crazy, Murder My Sweet, The Asphalt Jungle and The Set-Up are available boxed or separately, with at least three essential titles for fans of Hollywood's dark cinema, the crime films of the late 40s.
(Universal) Double Indemnity, This Gun For Hire, The Big Clock, Black Angel and Criss Cross, all available separately - more femmes fatales, convoluted narratives, tough guys and rain-slick streets....
Take Care Of My Cat
(Kino) High school girls, but in Korea, where they probably don't even have a word for "Lindsay Lohan."
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie
(20th Century Fox) Maggie Smith's Oscar-winning turn as the charismatic teacher at a Scottish girls' school during the 30s - with a Maggie Smith commentary!
(Columbia) - Omar Sharif as an Arab shopkeeper who adopts an orphaned Jewish boy. Sharif commentary
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb