(20th Century Fox, 2001) D: Brooke Burgess, w/ Greg Anderson, Jamie Bell. Rating:NNN
I'm officially old. after about three hours of this Canadian animated Web series, I was impressed by the animation, thought the writing was quite clever and was able to pick up most of the references, but I had absolutely no idea what the thing was about.
There are these primitive magicians in some desert-island setting, and another guy who's suspiciously like Neo even if he's not dreaming in a big tub of pink goo, and a lot of, well, stuff going on. I mentioned this to a NOW colleague who's an anime enthusiast, and she said, "The plot doesn't really kick in until about halfway through." I don't want to watch five hours before the story starts to make sense.
That said, Fox has produced a nice four-disc package that includes a full commentary on all 24 episodes, a good transfer and a completely redone soundtrack, bringing it up to modern 5.1 Dolby standards. People who like this sort of thing will, I suspect, like this. The DVD can be sampled at http://bs.brokensaints.com/dvd/.
Extras Full filmmaker commentary, making-of doc, fan films, webcasts with the creators, Sundance featurette, trailers, Easter eggs. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
V For Vendetta
(Warner, 2006) D: James McTeigue, w/ Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt. Rating: NN
A two-disc version of V for Ven detta is apparently coming out, but Warner didn't send out review copies, so there was nothing to distract one from this 132-minute talkathon.
In an Orwellian England of the future (yes, casting John Hurt, who played Winston Smith in 1984 two decades ago as this film's Big Brother figure is a canny joke), the mysterious V (Hugo Weaving) wanders around with a Guy Fawkes mask, a lot of dynamite and Natalie Portman by his side, his goal to blow up the Parliament buildings.
For all the faux (and Fox) controversy about a major American studio releasing a movie with a "terrorist" hero, what went largely unnoticed about this graphic novel adaptation is that while it's visually stylish, it's also a movie where nobody ever shuts up.
Every 10 minutes someone gets to play Sir Basil Exposition and deliver great chunks of backstory, sidestory and/or political philosophy. There's nothing wrong with occasionally explaining where we are Donald Sutherland's contribution to JFK is a model of how to deliver 11 pages of exposition. But it kills the film's momentum. If you still need to see it, remember that both wide-screen and "full-screen" versions are available, marked by a banner on the box front indicating which is which.
Extras Short making-of featurette. English and French soundtracks. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
(Epic Legacy, 1980) D: Jack Hazan, David Mingay, w/ Ray Gange, the Clash. Rating: NNNN
This is not the first dvd release of Rude Boy, but it has the best transfer and the best bonuses in the form of interviews and added Clash performance footage.
Filmed during the Clash's 1978 tours of England, Rude Boy is the story of Ray Gange, a layabout Clash fan who finds himself working for his favourite band as a roadie and confronting political ideas that affect his own views on race and culture. On the one hand, it's a little time capsule of the dawn of Thatcher's England. But the real interest comes from the electrifying live footage of the Clash in their prime: stunning performances of White Riot, White Man In Hammersmith Palais, Police & Thieves and I Fought The Law, among others.
Extras An hour of interviews with star Ray Gange, Clash road manager Johnny Green and the filmmakers; performances cut from the original film; two contemporary BBC performances; deleted scenes; theatrical trailer; photo gallery; a nifty menu item that lets you just play the performances.
The Mr. Moto Collection: Volume One
(20th Century Fox, 1937-38) D: Norman Foster, w/ Peter Lorre, Rochelle Hudson. Rating: NNN
This is an unexpected oddity from the Fox vaults. While most people remember Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto, from novels by J. P. Marquand, is largely forgotten. I like old films as much as anyone, yet I'd never seen any of these. They're hardly major but are often fun if you can get past the implicit racism of Hollywood creating a Japanese action hero and casting a Hungarian Jew in the role.
There are four films in the box, and the only bad one is the first, Think Fast, Mr. Moto, at which point they'd yet to figure out who the character is. Here, he's a master of disguise (albeit disguised as someone about 5-foot-3 with a very round face), a judo expert, generally lethal guy and brilliant investigator. By the third film or so he's become Mr. Moto of the "International Police," which of course didn't exist in the 1930s. At times he's a cross between Charlie Chan and Indiana Jones, only his archaeological interests are a cover for his spying.
Part of the fun is that the films are a festival of 30s minor stars and great character actors. Look, there's Rochelle Hudson as an aviatrix! John Carradine as a Chinese seller of antiquities! Erik Rhodes from the Astaire-Rogers pictures as a super-villain! Beautiful transfers.
Extras Featurettes on star Peter Lorre, producer Sol Wurtzel and Norman Foster, who directed and co-wrote all these films; two theatrical trailers. English, Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, August 8
(Universal, 2006) Less a thriller than a New York mood piece, Spike Lee's latest stars Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen.
The Jayne Mansfield Collection
(Fox, 1955-58) Jayne Mansfield made two classic comedies with director Frank Tashlin: The Girl Can't Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? They're both in this box.
Don't Come Knockin'
(Sony, 2005) Some people are thrilled to see the phrase, "From Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard, the creators of Paris, Texas." Me, not so much.
(New Line/Odeon, 2006) Hard-boiled high school film noir. With the kid from Third Rock. Why not?
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb