thelma and louise: special edition (MGM/ UA, 1991) D: Ridley Scott, w/ Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis. Rating: NNNN
Thelma and Louise was the best Cannes Film Festival closing film in my memory. It's a classic piece of genre crossover, a female buddy movie acting like a male buddy movie, with everybody hitting the road and packing pistols and knocking over convenience stores.
More than a decade later, it's even clearer now that the controversy over the film's alleged male-bashing was the product of some very insecure boys, and ignored the sympathetic characters and performances of Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen.
That said, Thelma And Louise is highly entertaining. It's got a pair of great lead performances (this may be Davis's best film performance, period) and the exhilarating spectacle of Ridley Scott, of Alien and Blade Runner, working in the open air of the southwestern desert.
MGM's new Special Edition offers a markedly superior transfer , enhanced for wide-screen TVs. The sole original extra feature, Ridley Scott's commentary, has been brought over, and a bunch of new ones have been added, including a commentary track shared by the stars and Oscar-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri. A small complaint: the original "Polaroid" poster art isn't on the box cover -- probably to distinguish it from the original DVD issue.
DVD EXTRAS Director commentary, stars/writer commentary, new, hour-long documentary, Thelma & Louise: The Last Journey, deleted scenes, extended ending with director commentary, storyboards. This is a "flipper," so the bulk of the special features aren't on the same side as the film. English-, French- and Spanish-language versions and subtitles, Portuguese titles.
igby goes down (MGM/UA, 2002) D: Burr Steers, w/ Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes. Rating: NNNN
ask me to name the best american movie absolutely no one saw last year, and I'd answer Igby Goes Down, a whip-smart portrait of a prep-school screw-up who's smart enough to develop a healthy contempt for his universe but not smart enough to accept his own limitations.
Kieran Culkin plays Igby, kicked out of most of the private schools in the Northeast, harassed by his pillhead mom (Susan Sarandon), overshadowed by his arrogantly intelligent older brother (Ryan Phillippe) and infatuated with an "older woman" (Claire Danes) who prefers his brother.
The picture is jammed with great performances: Sarandon using those great eyes to show her contempt for her son, Phillippe offering a rich boy's indolence in every shrug, and revelatory work by Danes, not to mention Jeff Goldblum, Jarred Harris, Amanda Peet and Bill Pullman.
Steers's script is endlessly quotable, and everyone in the cast is up to it. I'm not sure the whole thing hangs together, but it's certainly worth seeing.
DVD EXTRAS Very solid commentary from Steers and Culkin, apparently the smartest of that large acting brood. Deleted scenes, stills gallery. English, French and Spanish versions and subtitles.
the banger sisters (20th Century-Fox, 2002) D: Bob Dolman, w/ Goldie Hawn, Susan Sarandon. Rating: NNN
When Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn made The Banger Sisters, they were older than Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were when they made Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? in the 60s. And that says a lot about the difference between the 60s and this new millennium.
The Banger Sisters, in which Sarandon and Hawn play women who cut a sexual swath through the L.A. rock scene two decades before and are reunited in Phoenix, is very much Hawn's show. She has the fearless instincts of a great clown, and if it's hard to buy the film's peculiar message -- your most youthfully irresponsible being is your true self -- Hawn almost carries it off.
The problem is that everything admirable about the film, like first-time director Bob Dolman's plain-style devotion to the integrity of the performances, tends to be undercut by something silly, like the whole repressed-writer subplot involving Geoffrey Rush. Not a keeper -- the extras aren't exceptional -- but worth a rent for Hawn.
DVD EXTRAS Director commentary, theatrical trailer, blooper reel, HBO making-of featurette. Original aspect ratio version and horrible pan-and-scan version. English, French and Spanish dubs, English and Spanish subtitles.
murder by decree (Anchor Bay, 1979) D: Bob Clark, w/ Christopher Plummer, James Mason. Rating: NNN
this is the second sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper movie. (The first, A Study In Terror, with John Neville as Holmes and Robert Morley as Mycroft, is available on tape.) Christopher Plummer is Holmes, James Mason Watson, and the spectacular supporting cast includes David Hemmings, Geneviève Bujold and Anthony Quayle.
Like From Hell, Murder By Decree applies the royal bastard theory, but unlike From Hell, it uses a fair number of existing London locations. Unfortunately, these are detailed in ways that blow the illusion, like that Royal Opera House sign slapped up on the Tate, which is ridiculously out-of-period.
Not a bad film, it's worth seeing for the performances (especially Mason's and Bujold's), but the first-rate anamorphic transfer tends to show what a lousy compositional sense Bob Clark has. It's the best film in a fantastically undistinguished filmography -- Clark directed the first two Porkys, Rhinestone and Baby Geniuses.
DVD EXTRAS Director commentary, theatrical trailer, stills gallery, downloadable copy of John Hopkins's screenplay in DVD-ROM format.
predator 2 (20th Century Fox, 1990) D: Stephen Hopkins, w/ Danny Glover, Maria Conchita Alonso. Rating: NNN
Predator 2 is one of those joel Silver-produced movies in which good actors -- in addition to Glover and Alonso, Ruben Blades, Gary Busey, Bill Paxton and Robert Davi -- run around with guns and shout things at each other like "You have no idea what you're dealing with!" and "That thing killed Danny! Now it's personal!"
It has a lot of plot but almost no story, except that the actors keep getting put in jeopardy so the director of photography can flash lights in their eyes while they mime terror and the effects coordinator can figure out new ways to break glass. It's less an action movie than an abstract for an action movie, with all the urban dystopia and hostility you could ask for.
Predator 2 is listing cheaply: the premiere issue, along with Sidney Lumet's Q & A, at the top of a bunch of down-priced movies, including Point Break, Romancing The Stone, Donnie Darko and Wall Street. It's a crappy movie on several levels, but it also so perfectly represents a moment in the decline of the action film circa 1992 that it's hard to resist.
DVD EXTRAS: Two making-of promotional shorts, theatrical trailer.
English-, French- and Spanish-language versions, English and Spanish subtitles
Also this week
THE THREE MUSKETEERS/THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (Anchor Bay) Re-mastered two-disc edition of the last of the classical swashbucklers.
SIX FEET UNDER: COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Brothers/HBO) Best TV series set in a mortuary, from Alan Ball, the Oscar-winning scenarist of American Beauty.
SWEET HOME ALABAMA (Disney) Reese Witherspoon on her way to becoming the new Meg Ryan. Disney promises an alternate ending, which probably doesn't involve a tri-state crime spree.
REBELS OF THE NEON GOD (Wellspring) Taiwanese auteur Ming-Liang Tsai's first film, a meditative "action" movie that's closer to Ozu than Woo.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb
No rating indicates no screening copy