Friday, August 11, 2006

New arrivals at the DVD Panache Library

Think it's about time I sorted through a few of the noteworthy additions to the DVD Panache Library:

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection

Though I am guilty of once trashing this set, I couldn't be more happy with it after picking it up at the low low price of $70 from DeepDiscountDVD's annual take-an-extra-20%-off sale. With 14 mostly-excellent movies, all remastered special editions, contained in the most handsome box set packaging (other views here and here) you've ever seen, $5-per-movie is a price that can't be resisted.While there certainly are some films in here that should never be listed under 'masterpiece' (**cough**Topaz, Torn Curtain, Family Plot**cough**), I can't really get mad, since Universal obviously does not have the rights to some of his other 'true' masterpieces, which were largely included in Warner's Alfred Hitchcock: The Signature Collection.A lot of the movies included I have not seen yet, I'm particularly looking forward to finally seeing 'The Trouble With Harry' and 'Marnie.'

The John Wayne-John Ford Film Collection

Yes, I've certainly gushed about this set before, and it has lived up to my lofty expectations. Most of my post-purchase glee is centered on the Ultimate Collector's Edition of The Searchers. Not only do you get a 1950s Searchers comic book, tons of press clippings and set photos and can even send away for a free 27x40 poster (three weeks and counting on that one), the extras are great, helped in large part by another fantastic Peter Bogdanovich commentary. For those who enjoyed Peter's commentary on the Citizen Kane disc, it's the same idea here, he knew and respected John Ford but can still cast an objective eye on his best work. The movie also gets an eye-popping new transfer which makes it even more enjoyable. I hadn't seen this for quite some time and was surprised by how short it seemed, I had a memory of it being nearly 3 hours long, but it checks in at just over 2. I may have to devote a post in the future to 'The Searchers,' I've watched it twice since getting the set and a third is on the way when I convince my wife to watch it with me.

Mr. Show: The Complete Series

I've stumbled on to a few great DVD deals over my life, but this was one that just blew me away. You still have to pony up $30 for any one of the three Mr. Show volumes, then earlier this year, the Complete Series came out at around $90, offering the consumer a savings of zero dollars (Amazon currently lists it at $72). So you could imagine my surprise when BestBuy had it on sale for $40! It's a great deal for a wildly entertaining and underseen show, which is now getting play late night on TBS of all places. If you're burned out from SNL now, try Mr. Show, as they make a point to stay away from parodies of current events and TV shows/movies, instead just using fantastic writing to create riotous sketches. If there's one gripe, this is probably the most cumbersomely-packaged box set I've ever seen, removing the sleeves is a delicate process and getting them back in is even harder. To make matters worse, there's no 'play all' feature.

Dazed and Confused: The Criterion Collection

I thought I could resist this one, since I already owned the decent 'Flashback Edition' that came out last year, but the more I read about it, the more I knew it would soon be resting on my shelf. In addition to the wildly creative packaging (a fantastic amalgam of a high school yearbook and the cover of Led Zeppelin III), the picture is greatly cleaned up, Richard Linklater finally lends a very informative commentary track and you also get a host of typical Criterion goodies (insert with a variety of essays, original poster). If you're a fan of the movie you have to pick this up, especially now that Amazon is selling it for only $23.

Recent gem:

Sometimes you read praise about a movie that makes it impossible for you not to see it within a week. When Jim Emerson recently said, 'there was no better film in the 1980s than
Cutter's Way,' I immediately moved the intoxicating movie to the top of my Blockbuster queue. Best of the 80s? You don't throw praise around like that on any movie, and although the 80s was nowhere near the 70s in terms of pantheon films, there's still plenty of competition.

Though I'm not ready to annoint 'Cutter's Way' like Emerson did, I can certainly see why he would. Released in 1981, Emerson makes the great point that it feels like it belongs in the 70s, but it makes a statement that must have reverberated through the generation of the 60s as they were entering a new decade. And unlike the overrated The Big Chill, whose once-powerful message has faded away, 'Cutter's Way' still packs a punch. What earned the film a spot in Emerson's blog was its unforgettable opening shot, which brings us into the middle of a Spanish Days parade in Santa Barbara, eventually introducing us to Jeff Bridge's playboy/scoundrel Richard Bone, who will soon witness the disposal of a brutally murdered cheerleader. He never really sees who was in the Cadillac on that rainy night and neither does the viewer, but during the parade the next day he recognizes the driver as prominent businessman J.J. Cord, who pretty much runs the show in town.

Enter Alex Cutter, Bone's crippled veteran friend, who makes incriminating Cord his duty, whether he did it or not. Cord becomes the face of corporate mistrust and the political crimes committed against Bone and Cutter's generation, and Bone realizes this is his last chance to find justice for his wounds. But this is just one plot point amongst several complex character relationships that smolder throughout the film. Bone is convinced -- just as Cutter is about the murder -- that he is in love with Cutter's wife, who seems to be slipping further and further out of touch with reality. Then there is the victim's sister, Valerie, who finds more fulfillment in getting attention (in any form) from her amateur detective counterparts Cutter and Bone.

All of this takes place in the dream-like mist of Santa Barbara and has a score as enchanting as the story. Bridges is wonderful, playing a character similar to Humphrey Bogart's in 'Casablanca' or 'To Have and Have Not,' he doesn't necessarily agree with Bone's scheme, but he goes along with it anyway as a duty to his friend. As Cutter, John Heard buries himself in the role so much that he was unrecognizable to me until I looked at his IMDB page and saw that he was the father in 'Home Alone.'

No comments: