Video & DVD

Rating: NNNNNNew releases river of no return (1954, Fox), dir. Otto Preminger w/ Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum. Rating: NNNN The lineup.

Rating: NNNNN

New releases

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 AmenĂ¡bar’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.

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