The Long Goodbye (MGM, 1973) D: Robert Altman, w/ Elliott Gould, Nina Van Pallandt. $30. Rating: NNNNN
You can argue that Altman's The Long Goodbye is an act of genre betrayal -- Rip Van Marlowe on the loose in L.A., trying to hold on to his old school code in a world that has no time for it. But it remains one of the greatest American films of the 70s, loaded with Altman-esque virtues.
With Elliott Gould improvising through virtually every scene in the film, Vilmos Zsigmond's floating camera and post-flashed images, and the director's distinctive eye for offbeat casting -- Henry Gibson as the sinister Dr. Verringer, Sterling Hayden as the tortured writer Roger Wade, director Mark Rydell as the amoral gangster Marty Augustine -- The Long Goodbye achieves on odd, disorienting mood, capturing the distemper of its time.
MGM has made an immaculate transfer. Now that we have MASH, The Long Goodbye, McCabe And Mrs. Miller and Nashville, maybe Columbia will get to work on California Split, the last of Altman's 70s masterpieces and the only one never available on video.
EXTRAS Two making-of featurettes, one with Altman and Gould, the other with Zsigmond. 1973 American Cinematographer article on post-flashing, theatrical trailer. English and French versions; English, French and Spanish subtitles.
kissing jessica stein (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment, 2002) D: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, w/ Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen. $47. Rating: NNNN
Kissing Jessica Stein is smart, charming and funny, like Woody Allen's movies used to be. It's about two straight women, a newspaper copy editor and an art gallery owner, who decide to try lesbianism.
Westfeldt and Juergensen developed Kissing as a play and lived with the project for almost five years, so they have an effortless chemistry as actors and know the characters in their bones. They shepherded the play through several stages of indie film production, leading to a colourfully informative commentary track that ranges from the practicality of adaptation to home movie commentary. ("My parents' best friends loaned us their house to shoot this scene.") Excellent outtakes, and more practical remarks from the director and from cinematographer Lawrence Sher.
EXTRAS Director/cinematographer and stars/writers commentary, outtakes, deleted scenes, original ending, trailer, making-of featurette. English and Spanish versions; English and Spanish subtitles.
frailty (Lion's Gate, 2001) D: Bill Paxton, w/ Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Paxton. $35. Rating: NNNN
Veteran character actor Bill Paxton (Aliens, Near Dark) makes an atmospheric directorial debut with Frailty, a pure Texas gothic.
Frailty arrives on video with its terrors intact -- a genuinely spooky performance from McConaughey and a fascinating recreation of 70s Texas entirely filmed in Southern California. McConaughey plays a tortured young man who arrives one night at the local FBI office to tell them that his brother is the Hand of God killer. The film plays out in extensive flashbacks to his childhood, when his dad (Paxton) was visited by God and told to destroy demons.
EXTRAS Loaded with three commentaries, from Paxton, screenwriter Brent Hanley, and a production track with producer David Kirschner, editor Arnold Glassman and composer Brian Tyler. Paxton occasionally talks about the film as if he'd had nothing to do with making it, but everything about the making of this movie is here. Plus the usual making-of featurette, trailer, storyboards (gorgeous), Sundance Channel "anatomy of a scene," deleted scenes, stills gallery. English and Spanish subtitles.
monsters, inc.: collector's edition (Pixar-Disney) D: Pete Docter, w/ voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal. Two discs. $30. Rating: NNNN
You can complain about the rampant Disney commercialism that has attached itself to Pixar's computer-animated comedies, but when they do a Special Edition, they do it right: gorgeous transfers, director-producer commentary, a special short made for the DVD, the now classic Pixar outtakes, storyboard galleries, pitch meetings, rejected animation concepts, theatrical trailers, TV spots. If there's some info associated with a Pixar film anyone wants, it's here, and if it isn't, it probably doesn't exist.
Monsters, Inc. is the story of Mike and Sully (Crystal, Goodman), whose job in monster world is to sneak into our world and frighten children -- it's what fuels their world. Though it may not achieve the elegant surrealism of A Bug's Life, it's still very funny, with spectacular animated sequences and a great, warm-hearted performance from Goodman.
EXTRAS Everything you could ask for, plus sound-effects-only soundtrack option, the Monsters, Inc. orientation film and employee handbook. As well, Pixar's Oscar-winning short, For The Birds, makes its DVD debut here.
Also this weekAlso this week
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN: 50th Anniversary Edition
AMADEUS: Director's Cut Special Edition
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST: Special Edition
UNFORGIVEN: 10th Anniversary Special Edition
TRUE ROMANCE: Director's Cut Special Edition
All two-disc sets, all from Warner Home Video, all loaded.
24 (Fox Home Entertainment) The series, all 18 hours of it, on six DVDs; the fastest ever series-to-video turnaround.
SPELLBOUND (Criterion/Morningstar) Hitchcock's psychoanalytic classic, with Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck and dream sequences by Salvador Dali.
= 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