river of no return (1954, Fox), dir. Otto Preminger w/ Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum. Rating: NNNN
The lineup in the second box of Fox's Marilyn Monroe collection -- Don't Bother To Knock, Monkey Business, Niagara, River Of No Return and Let's Make Love -- is actually stronger than the first. None of these films is as clunky as Bus Stop or There's No Business Like Show Business.River Of No Return, which I remember from faded, scratched 16mm prints in the 70s, is given a stunning restoration here. Monroe and Mitchum ride a raft down a river in the Alberta Rockies. Mitchum is solid, and Monroe does her bad-girl-redeemed-by-love thing and sings a couple of songs.
The historical interest here is elsewhere: this was the first CinemaScope film for director Preminger, one of the great wide-screen stylists. Here and in Carmen Jones, he takes a format that had been anchored in static studio work and frees the camera to move. Compare the fluidity of the tent-show scenes early in the film with any scene in Demetrius And The Gladiators and you'll see the difference. Also, it may have been the first 'Scope western. EXTRAS: Theatrical trailers, restoration comparison, stills gallery.
>vanilla sky (2001, Paramount), dir. Cameron Crowe w/ Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz. Rating: NNN
Writer-director Cameron Crowe describes Vanilla Sky as the cover version of Alejandro Amenábar's Open Your Eyes. It's certainly louder and longer, but it's a fascinating instance of a picture being less than the sum of its parts. For every goodie like Cameron Diaz's heart-rending performance or the aching Central Park dream sequence, there are longueurs and trials. It's a $70-million art movie and Crowe's most self-indulgent work to date, which is something considering the 165-minute extended-play version of Almost Famous. (FYI, Vanilla Sky was one of the working titles for Almost Famous.) Interesting commentary track by Crowe, and well worth a rental. Absent are the plethora of outtakes and extended scenes that Crowe likes to include, so there may be a special edition down the road.
EXTRAS: Commentary track, two documentary featurettes, two theatrical trailers, music video.
>the boondock saints (1999, Paramount), dir. Troy Duffy w/ Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery. Rating: NNN
Two Irish brothers start killing Italian and Russian gangsters in Boston. This drama, showcasing heroic vigilantism with a healthy dollop of Catholic symbolism, could not find a home in American theatres during the post-Columbine panic. It's a small genre treat, with the unexpected highlight of Dafoe in a rare lead performance as an eccentric, preternaturally gifted FBI agent heading the investigation in the face of local cop density and indifference. Great commentary track from first-time writer-director Duffy, who has some good advice for people trying to make their first films and some comments on the relentless attack on the film from the MPAA; the violent scenes were heavily cut to avoid an NC-17 rating. EXTRAS: Director commentary, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, outtakes, English and Spanish subtitles.
Also this week
Snow Dogs Cuba Gooding Jr. does Alaska.