the usual suspects: the special edition (1995, MGM/UA), dir. Bryan Singer w/ Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne. Rating: NNNNN
The Usual Suspects is a classic demonstration of how hard it is to make a good movie. Director Bryan Singer (X-Men, Apt Pupil) and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Way Of The Gun) have been looking for lightning to strike again ever since this 1995 hit, an electrifyingly intricate crime thriller that won Oscars for McQuarrie and star Kevin Spacey.
If you've been holding out for a special-edition DVD, go, buy, enjoy. Those who have the earlier edition should note that the new transfer is a bit cleaner than the old, though the old one is pretty good, and the witty original commentary track by Singer and McQuarrie is still there. The extras are what make the difference.
EXTRAS: The new edition has an added commentary track by the film's secret weapon, composer/editor John Ottman, all the trailers and TV spots, a gag reel Singer put together for the cast and crew, and a fistful of documentary featurettes that are mostly of value to acting students: Gabriel Byrne says some remarkably insightful things about his craft, and Kevin Pollak is very funny (surprise!). Unlike most special editions, this is a single-disc flipper: the film itself, both wide-screen and pan-and-scan versions, is on one side, and the extras are on the other. I'd recommend the new edition. English and French dubbed versions; English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Big-screen rating: N/A
the deep end (2001, Fox), dir. David Siegel and Scott McGehee w/ Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic. Rating: NNNN
From the directors of Suture comes this adaptation of a long-forgotten novel, with Tilda Swinton as a mom forced to confront the fact that her son is gay, that his lover is not a savoury character and that the lover's body has turned up on her dock. Then the blackmailer shows up. A smart, elegantly filmed drama (set in the extraordinary beauty of the Lake Tahoe area), it builds into an intensely constructed psychological thriller. Very good DVD transfer, and if the package is light on extras, the director commentary track is a superb blend of the practical and the philosophical. "We directed the film. We also wrote it and produced it, so everything here is our fault...."
EXTRAS: Director commentary track, short making-of film, Sundance Channel scene study.
Big-screen rating: NNNN (JH)
fatal attraction: special edition (1987, Paramount), dir. Adrian Lyne w/ Glenn Close, Michael Douglas. Rating: NNN
The hot-button movie of the mid-80s returns, and, boy, is it the 80s -- bad perms, uncomfortable-looking sex scenes, unmotivated light sources, visible exhaust fans and Michael Douglas. The headline item in a Paramount DVD series of Smart Women, Weird Choices pictures (Thief Of Hearts, Indecent Proposal, The Temp), Fatal Attraction is such a key document of its era that it deserves a special edition, but a better one than this.
The making-of featurettes are endless talking heads. Someone should tell directors that if they're going to do a commentary track for a 15-year-old movie they should maybe do a little bit of prep. And where is James Dearden's short film, Diversion, that was the basis for the whole thing? Come to think of it, where's James Dearden, who wrote the script? Included is the alternate Madame Butterfly ending, though. Neat facts: Douglas's family apartment was also Kim Basinger's apartment in Lyne's 91/2 Weeks; and in the restaurant scene between Douglas and Close, jazz legend Bill Evans is actually playing the piano.
EXTRAS: Director's commentary, three documentary featurettes, alternate ending, rehearsal footage, theatrical trailer.
Big-screen rating: N/A
high heels and low lifes (2001, Touchstone), dir. Mel Smith w/ Minnie Driver, Mary McCormack. Rating: NNN
This comic thriller stars Minnie Driver and Mary McCormack as pals in London who become involved with a bunch of London thugs who they find out have committed a big robbery. The leads have an easy chemistry, and the film as a whole has considerable charm and great bad guys in Kevin McNally and Michael Gambon. Not a theatrical success -- one suspects Touchstone didn't know how to market it -- but it's a fun rent. Where else are you going to see Minnie Driver with an M-16?
EXTRAS: Commentary track with Smith and screenwriter Kim Fuller, making-of featurette, theatrical and television trailers, English and French dubbed versions; English, Spanish and French subtitles.
Big-screen rating: N/A
Also this week
The Man Who Wasn't There The Coen brothers' black-and-white noir pastiche, with Billy Bob Thornton.
Tape Richard Linklater's three-actors-in-a-room extravaganza, with Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman.
Husbands And Wives Woody Allen's Scenes From A Collapsing Marriage, with Mia Farrow just before their memorably acrimonious breakup. Great Judy Davis performance.
= 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