Cult and classic favorites, new editions, and complete series collections dominate today’s new release schedule.
Christmas is a little over nine weeks away, and already the movie studios and television networks are pumping out special editions of DVD and Blu-Ray sets unmistakable for their gift potential, including new editions and expanded versions of cult and classic favorites. This week shows a pretty broad cross section of the last forty years of film and television, including at least one half-forgotten classic TV series, possibly the best cop show ever, and a half-dozen other, smaller releases with appeal to more selective audiences.
The big release this week, of course, is Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen on DVD and Blu-Ray. Nevertheless, the following is just a sampling of what else is available, including the suggested manufacturer’s list price. Of course, prices may vary according to retailer, and will likely decrease as the holidays bear down on us.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles – “Those Aren’t Pillows” Edition ($14.98) Boasting career highs from both writer-director John Hughes and co-star John Candy, this 1987 classic features Steve Martin as Neal Page, an uptight Chicago executive stuck in a series of accidents, near-accidents and strokes of bad luck while trying to fly home for Thanksgiving. Candy plays Del Griffith, the slovenly shower curtain ring salesman who dogs his every errant step and false move. The chemistry between Candy and Martin is almost legendary, with each new calamity building on the last to overwhelm the mismatched travelers. Full of quotes and scenes you’ll re-create with friends through the holidays. “Dell Griffith, please to meet you.”
This new DVD includes Hughes and Candy retrospectives and a deleted scene.
Monsoon Wedding – The Criterion Collection ($39.95) This 2001 dramatic comedy won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and helped reignite foreign film afficianados’ love affair with Bollywood cinema. Directed by Mira Nair (the upcoming Amelia), the story follows the entanglements and complications arising from a traditional Punjabi wedding, showing the ups and downs of both the family members and the servants on whose shoulders the celebration ultimately rests. Maybe some of the characters are a bit broad, and the observations a little precious, but audiences who enjoy family centered works such as this probably won’t care anyway.
The Criterion edition contains all the usual premium-grade extras you’d expect, including three short documentaries about India directed by Nair. Also available on Blu-Ray disc.
Easy Rider ($38.96) - The iconic road movie about 60s rebellion comes – only a little ironically – to Blu-Ray disc with a new featurette and commentary by director and co-star Dennis Hopper. For those few who don’t already know, the 1969 film follows two rebels (Hopper and Peter Fonda) as they drive from California to New Orleans in order to see Mardi Gras. Along the way they pick up a small-town lawyer (Jack Nicholson, in his star-making role) who shares their disillusionment with society and its trappings. For a treatise on freedom, the film’s attention to form, structure, and even geographic accuracy are appropriately loose, with digressions and long talky passages frequently interrupting the travelogue montage sequences. And the infamous ending, though explosive at the time, today feels both pretentious and stiff. Still, the movie overall captures the era’s zeitgeist, even while as a work of cinema it gets creakier by the year.
Vega$: The First Season Volume 1 ($36.98) More than twenty years before the sexy lab rats of CSI:, Las Vegas was kept safe by freewheelin’ private detective Dan Tanna (Robert Urich), cruising the streets in his vintage Thunderbird and solving cases with his bumbling sidekick and single-mom secretary. The show is vintage late 70s cheese, right down to the swanky, horn-driven music and do-your-thing attitude, and with his cool car and hip bachelor pad Tanna is the archetypal private eye of the period. Urich, who might be described not unkindly as the Tim Daly of his generation, holds the show down thanks to his easy charm. The three-disc set includes the first half of the first season, though why CBS video wouldn’t spring for the other half is anybody’s guess.
Homicide: Life On The Street – The Complete Series ($149.95) About as far from Vega$ as humanly possible in tone and approach alike, NBC’s critically-adored, audience-starved 1993-99 procedural consistently struggled to find its audience, and no wonder. The show was simply ahead of its time, as demonstrated by the success of The Wire, Homicide creator David Simon’s later effort and a sequel to this earlier series in all but name. Based on Simon’s book chronicling his year with the Baltimore Police homicide department, Homicide the series ranks among the best television ever produced, and for our money it’s the best cop show ever. Utterly and completely riveting for six of its seven seasons, with the seventh (following the departure of breakout star Andre Braugher) being only very good. The middle seasons depicting the mammoth “Luther Mahoney Saga” are essential viewing for any cop show fan.
The equally mammoth 35-disc collection includes all 122 episodes, three crossover Law & Order episodes, and the 2001 telepic Homicide: Life Everlasting, which served as coda and elegy and for the series.
The Hunger: The Complete Second Season ($39.98) Possibly the closest thing Generation X’ers might ever get to their own Twilight outside of the Whedonverse (True Blood arguably notwithstanding), the second and final season of this British anthology series featured demons, vampires, and smart erotica mixed into a potent swirl and hosted by David Bowie, who at 62 years old still has more erotic cool than the somnambulant hipsters of Twilight likely ever will.
The four disc set includes all 22 episodes, produced by Tony and Ridley Scott and featuring appearances by Anthony Michael Hall, Giovanni Ribisi, Eric Roberts, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Beals, and many others. The first season, hosted by Terrence Stamp, is also available.
- Michael Kabel