DVD & VHS This Week: July 9 - Mania.com



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DVD & VHS This Week: July 9

Killer calamari and Klaus Kinski are among the pleasures of a week which also offers a salute to Ray Harryhausen and proof that there is such a thing as too much Dick

By John Thonen     July 09, 2002

VIDEO NEWS


2002 has been an uneven year for most cinematic genres, but it's been a great year for animated films. One of those animated hits will be coming to DVD just in time for Christmas. ICE AGE, the tale of a mammoth named Manny, a sloth named Sid, a saber-toothed tiger named Diego and a none-too-bright squirrel named Scrat, will arrive as a two-disc set which will include an audio commentary, deleted scenes, a "making of" documentary, trailers, TV spots, promo interstitials, a "Blue Sky" featurette and still galleries. Plus, for the younger set, there will be interactive games and an extra animated short and DVD-ROM features.


The video collection you've all been waiting for will finally arrive August 6th. Yes, Zalman King's RED SHOE DIARIES COLLECTION is on DVD at last. Oh come on, there has to be somebody who's excited by this. King, a none-too-successful "B" movie actor from the '60s, somehow earned millions as the producer/director of a series of erotic films (WILD ORCHID, TWO MOON JUNCTION) and a long-lived cable TV series, hosted by a then unknown David Duchovny, called RED SHOE DIARIES. This "exclusive" 2-DVD collection offers one disc featuring "memorable" episodes of the series, another offering RED SHOE DIARIES: THE MOVIE, plus a CD of "sensual" music from the show. Actually, the CD might be worth a listen as the series music, from composer George S. Clinton, is pretty darn good. Oops, I think I've just admitted that I've watched some of these things. OK, I have. And I read PLAYBOY sometimes too, but just for the articles, I swear.


THIS WEEK'S NOTABLE NEW RELEASES


BAT THUMB is Steve Oedekerk's latest [IMG2R]short which retells a popular film in condensed fashion, but replaces all of the actors with human thumbs (featuring animated faces). That's right, it's a "thumbnail" version of BATMAN. I'm not sure if Oedekerk (KUNG POW, ACE VENTURA) is running out of inspiration with these silly films, or if the novelty of the idea is starting to wear thin, or if this one just isn't as funny as the ones that came before it. But it's, well, not as funny as the ones that came before it.




GRAVEYARD OF [IMG4R]HORROR, as opposed to what? Graveyard of Happy Days? Maybe Graveyard of Smiley Faces? This wonderfully generic title camouflages a woefully generic Euro-horror tale involving mad scientists, premature burial and lizard men. Reasonably atmospheric, but otherwise, kind of dull. The DVD features a nice collection of trailers, including one for this film under an alternate title.


HART'S WAR lost [IMG5L]the battle at the box office once potential customers learned that, in spite of reams of advertising to the contrary, it wasn't really a Bruce Willis action film. However, the movie may yet win the war if the audience that ignored it at theaters checks it out on video. Willis has a supporting role here, and he's quite good, but the star is Colin Farrell who plays Hart. If this WWII tale has any major fault, it's over ambition, as it tries to deliver too many disparate elements in one story dealing, as it does, with American soldiers in a Nazi prisoner of war camp who end up in a military trial involving racism. But it's all very well acted, dramatically sound and consistently interesting. It's no classic, but this is one war that's worth a visit.


THE HARRYHAUSEN CHRONICLES is a wonderful tribute to master 3-dimensional animator Ray Harryhausen, one of the greatest special effects men to ever come near a camera. Harryhausen's artistry has been seen in films like SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and many others. This documentary, directed by TIME magazine critic Richard Schickel, is filled with footage from Harryhausen's films, discussions with Harryhausen himself, unseen test footage, early effects efforts and much more. This is pretty much a must have for most effects enthusiasts, but be aware that it's been included as an extra feature on some previously released Harryhausen Special Edition DVDs.



IMPOSTOR is inspired by the works of legendary science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick, who can also be credited for inspiring BLADE RUNNER, TOTAL RECALL and MINORITY REPORT which is damn good, so IMPOSTOR is the only real cinematic misfire to date which can be credited to his work. IMPOSTOR features a fine cast, some stunning special effects and a really stupid and hard to believe story about a man desperately trying to prove that he's really him, and not an alien imposter. There's a lot of running, a lot of effects, a couple of fights and an admittedly surprising, but quite unsatisfying, ending on display here. Many millions were spent to make this, many millions didn't bother to see it. Why ruin a good thing now?


MONSTER A-GO-GO [IMG6R]/ PSYCHED BY THE 4-D WITCH is a double feature disc featuring first a sci-fi film partially filmed by Bill Rebane (see cinescape.com's earlier article on Rebane's GIANT SPIDER INVASION) and later finished by Herschell Gordon Lewis, of BLOOD FEAST infamy. It's a terrible movie no matter who made it, but it's an honest curiosity that's been hard to see for years. Plus, it stars Henry Hite, the world's tallest man at the time of this 1965 film's original release. Feature #2 is a serious entry in the "What The Hell Was That?" realm of movies too strange to believe. Sex, witchcraft, puppets, it's all there and not a damn bit of it makes any sense. Not to be missed. Since both features are pretty short, the good folks at Image have packed it with trailers and short features, making this one a great movie party disc.


MY FAVORITE [IMG7L]YEAR is one of my favorite movies, though younger audiences unfamiliar with the real life story behind it may not find it quite as pleasurable. It's basically a retelling of an incident from Mel (BLAZING SADDLES) Brooks' life where he ended up having to baby-sit charming, alcoholic troublemaker Errol Flynn until he could make an appearance on the then hugely popular Sid Caesar SHOW, on which Brooks was a writer. All the names are changed here, with Peter O'Toole wonderful as over-the-hill, former swashbuckler Alan Swan, and the story suggests a happier ending to Swan's life than Flynn found (What am I saying? The guy died on a yacht in the company of two underage girls. How much happier could a guy be when he dies?) but the movie is nonetheless a delight.


NO SUCH THING is the latest in a seeming wave of "Arthouse Horror" films which have come along over the past couple of years from various "indie" filmmakers. This time, it's the king of the "indies" (no, not Harrison Ford "indie" not "Indy") Hal Hartley who takes a shot at intellectual horror which has something to say about the condition of life. I'll confess I haven't seen this one, and it has yet to receive any kind of decent release, but this tale of a woman who finds a "monster" in the wilderness of Iceland has received some great reviews so far. Hartley's work is usually interesting, so I expect to check it out soon.


NOSFERATU is a 2-disc set featuring Werner Herzog's remake of F.W. Murnau's 1922 original, which was itself an unauthorized version of Bram Stoker's DRACULA, and which also inspired the recent SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, a fictionalized version of the making of Murnau's film. Unfortunately, the history surrounding Herzog's film is perhaps more interesting than the movie itself. Klaus Kinski is quite interesting as the vampire, and looks great in the makeup (which has influenced many films itself, including Tobe Hooper's SALEM'S LOT), but the movie is uninvolving and meandering. Includes a commentary track with Herzog, a "making of" featurette and a 4-page booklet.



THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS is the most overrated movie of the past year. There, I've said it, drum me out of the "Film Reviewer's Club," revoke my membership in the "Roger Ebert Fan Club," hell, take away my Gene Shalit wig. I'm sorry, I just don't understand the love film writers have for this movie, or its marginally talented director, Wes (RUSHMORE) Anderson. I mean, this is the guy to blame for Jason Schwartzman having a film career. Anyway, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS has a wonderful cast who all play quirky members of the same family and it has its moments of humor and wit. It's an O.K. movie, maybe even a pretty good one. But "Best Film of the Year"? Give me a break. Didn't these guys see JASON X?


EASTER EGG HUNT


The pickings are slim in hidden goodies this week, oh fellow Vidiots, but the good folks over at DVDreview.com did manage to unveil one just stupid enough to qualify. It seems that on the just released SHALLOW HAL DVD, you can go to the "Main Menu" and there select "None" in the subtitles area. Now, press "Left" and Mauricio's silhouette will be highlighted and if you now press "Enter," you'll see a brief demonstration of the tail worn by Jason Alexander in his role as Mauricio.


COMING ATTRACTIONS




Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.

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