(Fox, 1987) D: Oliver Stone, w/ Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen. Rating: NNNNN ; DVD package: NNNN
Wall Street has it all: an absorbing story with a clever plot, a powerful theme with complex characters to save it from becoming a simple battle of good and evil, sharp dialogue, great performances, elegant visuals and high-energy direction.
It offers Michael Douglas's and Charlie Sheen's best work. Bud Fox (Sheen), is a greedy, naive stockbroker. Gordon Gekko (Douglas) is the corporate raider who seduces him into big-time money and big-time corruption.
The supporting players and roles are also great. Terence Stamp chills as a British version of Gekko. Martin Sheen delivers a complex portrait of anger, sorrow, regret and love as Fox's father. Plus, it's fun to watch father and son play father and son.
Stone delivers an informative, insightful commentary. Along with intentions and methods, he has something to say about his own father and about the similarities between Wall Streeters and Miami drug dealers.
Even more fun is the retrospective appreciation, where the movie's creators and various Wall Street types talk over the movie's accuracy and meaning. Some of the real-life stockbrokers admire Gekko.
EXTRAS Disc one: Stone commentary. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish audio. English, Spanish subtitles. Disc two: Stone introduction, retrospective appreciation, retrospective making-of doc, deleted scenes with optional Stone commentary.
(Fox, 1985) Mark L. Lester, w/ Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NN
Before the bloated excess of Terminator 2 and the turkeys that followed, nobody was more fun to watch than Arnold Schwarzenegger. He brought a larger-than-life comic-book body and sensibility to a string of otherwise average B movies and turned them into trash heaven.
Commando was one of his top five. Thugs kidnap his daughter; mayhem ensues. Mark Lester's efficient direction and James Horner's score (wretched as music, brilliant as rocket fuel) keep things whipping along, while Vernon Wells and Rae Dawn Chong share the fun as heavy and heroine respectively.
The extras aren't great.
EXTRAS Theatrical and extended director's cut versions, director commentary, retrospective making-of doc and appreciation, deleted scenes. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish audio. English, Spanish subtitles.
(Alliance Atlantis, 2007) D: Quentin Tarantino, w/ Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson. Rating: NN ; DVD package: NNN
Good car chase, terrible movie. In fact, almost no movie at all. In the extras, writer/director Quentin Tarantino inadvertently explains part of why his movie's so terrible: he just wanted to make a car chase as cool as the ones in 70s actioners like Vanishing Point.
But listen to what he doesn't say. There's not a word about a story he wanted to tell, an emotion to explore or even a mood - just a fanboy's urge to make a car chase like the old guys.
The other reason is that Tarantino is afraid of sex. The movie promises sex in the opening: a woman walks toward the camera with her finger in her crotch while Jack Nitzsche's killer theme grinds away underneath. But there's no sex here. The big lap dance sequence that's supposed to replace it is timid and tame, lots of it shot from behind.
What's left is a 113-minute movie with about 22 minutes of fun. The first hour is prologue: a trio of young women out on the town run afoul of a lunatic who uses his car as a murder weapon. The second hour repeats the set-up, only this time two of the women are stunt players with the skills to fight back.
The rest is pointless dialogue, some of it mildly funny, some mildly informative. But cumulatively, it's repetitive and an impediment to the action.
The extras are better than the movie. Tarantino has some good analysis of what goes into a chase sequence, and there's some interesting stuff about car stunts and the people who do them.
EXTRAS Disc one: Hot rods doc. Wide-screen. English, French, Italian audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles. Disc two: stunt driver, stuntwoman Zoe Bell, Kurt Russell, female cast and male cast docs, editor Sally Menke tribute. Wide-screen.
(Starz, 2006) D: Chris Bradley, Kyle LaBrache, w/ Jeff Goldblum, Moby. Rating: NN ; DVD package: NN
Despite the obvious comparisons to Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show, Pittsburgh is not a mockumentary in the sense of being a fully scripted and staged comedy with actors playing roles.
This is semi-documentary: Jeff Goldblum and some of the other cast are acting - Ed Begley Jr., Moby, Illeana Douglas - but most of the rest are simply being themselves under the misapprehension that a documentary crew is following Goldblum around.
According to the lacklustre directors' commentary, Pittsburgh was inspired by Goldblum's desire to make a movie in which he does lots of acting, and out of his training in the Meisner technique, a respected acting system designed to bring real emotion to imaginary situations.
But the situations are only semi-imaginary. In real life, Hollywood actor Goldblum, pushing 60, falls in love with a Canadian stage actor, 23, and, in order to get her a green card goes to Pittsburgh with her to do two weeks of The Music Man onstage. But really he's going because, again according to the commentary, it's a good idea for this almost-mockumentary.
Meanwhile, his manager goes ballistic over the phone because he's passing up a big Michael Bay movie about clones and damaging his reputation as an A-list star. At the same time, his good buddy Begley is drawing him into promoting one of his inventions, and another buddy, Douglas, is having an affair, then breaking up with pop star Moby.
This is an okay exercise if you're interested in the blurred line between fact and fiction, or in acting and the Meisner technique. You'll find Goldblum teaching a Meisner class in the deleted scenes. As an evening's entertainment, forget it.
EXTRAS Directors' commentary, deleted scenes with optional directors' commentary. Wide-screen.
Coming Tuesday, September 25
(Sony, 2006) Paul Verhoeven's look at a Jewish refugee who joins the Dutch resistance in the waning days of the Second World War.
(Buena Vista, 1962) Roger Corman directs William Shatner in an ahead-of-its-time drama of racial hatred.
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series
(MPI, 1984-94) Jeremy Brett, the greatest Holmes on film, in faithful adaptations of the original Conan Doyle stories. A must-have for Holmes fans.
As You Like It
(HBO, 2006) Shakespeare's comedy, directed by Kenneth Branagh.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb