Evil Dead 2: Book Of The Dead 2 (Special Edition)
D: Sam Raimi. Rating: NNNNN
Given that this is the best horror movie ever made and a contender for my list of the world's 100 greatest movies, we can't blame Anchor Bay for releasing yet another special edition, particularly when director Sam Raimi has been hired to supervise the new digital transfer. The film looks better than its done since theatrical release. We can, however, blame them for not doing quite as good a job on the fancy packaging as they did on the original Evil Dead Book Of The Dead edition. This has a slightly improved Necronomicon facsimile book, The human-skin-like cover is in colour, and it screams when you poke it in the eye (don't we all?). But the book's contents are slimmer: no extensive essay, fewer of Tom Sullivan's ghoulish drawings and less bizarre text that you can decode into plain English.
Most of the disc's extras are the same as previous versions': an outstanding home-movie making-of doc that really captures the sweat and toil of filmmaking, and a good comic commentary featuring Raimi and Bruce Campbell. The only new material is a selection of animator Tom Sullivan's photos from the shoot, detailing model construction, with his commentary.
The movie itself remains wonderful. Evil Dead 2, which is about demons attacking some people in a cabin in the woods, embodies the spirit of playful creativity. There's scarcely a moment that doesn't contribute something novel and strange. The result could have ben a mishmash of of cruelty, gore and goofiness, but it's turned into a living universe by Campbell's finely tuned cartoon performance. He's alone on screen for a half-hour, an audacious concept in any film, let alone a commercial one, and he builds the madness flawlessly.
You can watch this movie endlessly. Long after the scares and the laughs have faded, the spiritual uplift of creativity at play remains strong.
Extras Director, star, co-writer, effects creator commentary, making-of doc, effects photos doc, talent bios. Wide-screen, new digital tranfer. No subtitles.
Lords Of Dogtown (Unrated Extended Cut)
(Columbia, 2005) D: Catherine Hardwicke, w/ John Robinson, Victor Rasuk. Rating: NNNN
Stacy Peralta was one of the kids from the slums of Venice, California, who turned skateboarding into the popular extreme sport it is today. They perfected their moves in rich people's empty pools, a method that provides one of this film's best and funniest sustained sequences. Peralta wrote this account of his and buddies Tony Alva's and Jay Adams's rise and fall, and wrote and directed the 2001 doc Dogtown And Z-Boys.
He and some of the other Z-Boys were heavily involved in the making of Lords Of Dogtown. The making-of docs lovingly detail who they are and what they really did. Peralta shares a commentary track with Alva, and it's clear that the two love the sport and feel that, necessary fictions aside, the film gets it right.
The extras enhance the film mightily, but you don't need to know or care a thing about skateboarding to get instantly hooked. Catherine Hardwicke, a long-time production designer whose directing debut was Thirteen (2003), directs with exuberance and a powerful sense of immediacy. She nicely avoids or subverts the clichés in some of the dramatic material.
She's helped enormously by the photography of Lance Mountain, who shoots while skating and does a phenomenal job of putting us into action that's fast, tricky and dangerous. Fuelled by great 70s rock, it plays as pure exhilaration.
All the performances are strong, but Heath Ledger (The Brothers Grimm) stands out as Skip, the store owner who turns the kids into a team but can't keep them, or himself, together.
This version has more swearing and drugs than the theatrical cut, but they feel right, both for the pacing and the characters.
Extras Director and actors commentary, skaters commentary, making-of docs, extended and deleted scenes, gag reel, storyboard comparisons, music video. Wide-screen. English subtitles.
It's All Gone Pete Tong
(Alliance Atlantis, 2004) D: Mike Dowse w/ Paul Kaye, Beatriz Batarda. Rating: NNN
On director Mike Dowse's commentary he says two things over and over. First, that he's made a comedy. Second, he keeps pointing out the jokes that nobody got in the test screenings. They're good jokes, but despite starting out to make a comedy, Dowse has given us something else entirely. He intended to make a vaguely Spinal Tapish parody of the folly and excess of dance music superstar DJs. There's plenty to parody, but much of the funniest material somehow ended up in the extensive deleted scenes section.
As Frankie Wilde, the dance king of Ibiza, Paul Kaye is perfect, a mindlessly arrogant, self-absorbed, perpetually wasted blithering idiot with awesomely bad hair and a way of moving that suggests he's about to sproing apart at the seams.
But Kaye and Dowse make one tandem mistake that kicks this into a realm somewhere beyond comedy and turns what might have been mildly amusing satire into strong, strange drama.
They agree on the idea that, to make the comedy work, they have to treat the underlying tragedy seriously.
When Wilde goes deaf, Kaye's performance kicks into high gear, as if he utterly believes in Wilde's passion for music and his suffering. It isn't funny (except when he battles his cocaine habit in the form of a giant badger in an apron). It is, however, fascinating.
The film gets even less funny but more absorbing when Dowse and his editor start playing with sound and silence, giving us a strong sense of what it's like to be deaf. It's terrifying.
Comedy or not, it's a terrific show, with strong content, enjoyable Ibiza locations and some of the best club footage ever.
Extras Director, actor Mike Wilmot commentary. Wide-screen. English, French soundtracks. English, French subtitles.
The O.C.: Season 2
(WB, 2004) created by Josh Schwartz, w/ Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan. Rating: NN
The O.C. benefits hugely in its second season from the addition of two new characters who nicely offset the vapidity of Marissa (Mischa Barton) and Summer (Rachel Bilson), the pair who provide romantic fuel for self-involved nerdboy Seth (Adam Brody) and brooding outsider Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie). Tattooed tough girl Alex (Olivia Wilde) takes a shine to Seth, while headed-for-Harvard scholarship student Lindsay (Shannon Lucio) begins by loathing Ryan but changes her mind fast. They bring a dry-eyed outsider's gaze and portrayal of people of overt intelligence to the show.
Intelligence and a bit of distance from the candy-coated world of Orange County used to be the sole province of Peter Gallagher's Sandy Cohen. He's still doing it and it's still funny, but it was never enough. Now Alex and Lindsay bring it directly into the teen world, where it casts much needed light and shadow on the show's flat plane of overprivileged angst.
Extras Creator, producer, writer, editor commentaries on selected episode, costume doc, gag and blooper reels. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, October 4
Val Lewton Horror Collection
(WB): Cat People (1942), The Curse Of The Cat People (1944), I Walked With A Zombie (1943), The Body Snatcher (1945), Isle Of The Dead (1945), Bedlam (1946), The Leopard Man (1943), The Ghost Ship (1943), The Seventh Victim (1943), Shadows In The Dark (2005). Classic 40s B horror and a doc on the man who made them.
(Fox, 1986) Two-disc special edition includes commentary by director David Cronenberg.
The Amityville Horror
(MGM, 2005) Latest version of the enduring spook show.
(Disney, 1950) Two-disc special edition of the animated classic.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb