Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Demko's DVD shelf

You can call it Samurai day here, and more specifically Toshiru Mifune day, and how can that be a bad thing?

Seven Samurai

The only thing that worries me about this new, three-disc release of Kurosawa's masterpiece is that it will add fuel to the (yet another) remake rumors I've been hearing for years now. Shame on anyone considering this.

This one already has its deserved Criterion kudo-set, but this new edition adds tantalizing extras to the classic tale of a fighting force recruited to save a suffering village from marauding bandits. Extras include: An all-new, restored high-definition digital transfer; two audio commentaries: one by film scholars David Desser, Joan Mellen, Stephen Prince, Tony Rayns and Donald Richie, and the other by Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck; a 50-minute documentary on the making of Seven Samurai, "It Is Wonderful to Create"; My Life in Cinema, a two-hour video conversation between Akira Kurosawa and Nagisa Oshima produced by the Directors Guild of Japan; "Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences," a new documentary looking at the samurai traditions and films that impacted Kurosawa's masterpiece; theatrical trailers and teaser; a gallery of rare posters and behind-the scenes and production stills; and a booklet featuring essays by Peter Cowie, Philip Kemp, Peggy Chiao, Alain Silver, Kenneth Turan, Stuart Galbraith, Arthur Penn and Sidney Lumet, and an interview with Toshiro Mifune.

Whew! Now that's a deluxe treatment! But no movie I can think of is more worthy of it, so this one is my lock of the week.

Toshiro Mifune - The Ultimate Collection

No image from "Seven Samurai" gets seared in your mind faster than the entrance of Toshiro Mifune, with his eyes seemingly swollen with simmering rage. Get your fill of this great actor in this new box set of five of his samurai classics.

This comes from the IMDB: In "Samurai Assassin" (1965), directed by Okamoto Kihachi, he's a scruffy swordsman who joins a secret sect plotting to assassinate the Emperor's advisor, who has built himself up to become the most powerful man in Japan. "Samurai Banners" (1969), from director Inagaki Hiroshi, is a sweeping story of two men attempting to build an empire in 16th century Japan. In "Red Lion" (1969), he plays a common stablehand who returns to his village impersonating a great military officer just as the corrupt governor has kidnapped a number of locals. And finally, Mifune revives his beloved rogue samurai character Yojimbo in "Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo" (1970), his only showdown with Shintaru Katsu's legendary samurai character, and in "Incident at Blood Pass" (1970), hired for an assignment so mysterious that he isn't even told what it is.

I have to confess I haven't seen any of these, so it should make for a fun week of viewing chez moi.

Gojira/Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Monsters just don't get any badder than the O.G. himself, no matter how many pretenders have followed in his footsteps.

Now, in a two-disc set, we get both the original Japanese flick, "Gojira," which had both an anti-Atomic bomb message and references to Hiroshima, and the first American version, "King of the Monsters," which includes new footage featuring Raymond Burr.

If it weren't for "Jackass" (more on that later), this would definitely be my fun video pick of the week.

Brazil and Amarcord from Criterion

Terry Gilliam's sci-fi mindtrip has already gotten the three-disc treatment from Criterion, so consider this single-disc version still packed with extras a gift to those of us on a budget.

This new version features Gilliam's definitive version of the film, culled from materials in numerous different release cuts, in a newly restored high-definition master and a remastered soundtrack. You'll also get a commentary by Terry Gilliam and a booklet with an essay by Jack Mathews.

Amarcord, Fellini's carnivalesque portrait of Italy during the Fascist period, also gets the Criterion treatment this week, in a two-disc special edition. If you spring for this one, you'll get a commentary by scholars Peter Brunette and Frank Burke; a deleted scene; "Fellini's Homecoming," a new 45-minute documentary on the complicated relationship between Fellini, his hometown, and his past; a video interview with star Magali Noël; Fellini's drawings; "Felliniana," a presentation of "Amarcord" ephemera; audio interviews with Fellini, his friends and family by Gideon Bachmann; trailers; and a booklet featuring a new essay by Sam Rohdie and Fellini's 1968 memoir, "La mia Rimini."

All the King's Men

Count me as skeptical-turning-toward-cautiously-optimistic that the upcoming remake of this true American classic won't suck hard. Even if it does, at least it has brought us this special edition of what is, in my opinion, America's greatest political film.

If you don't already own Robert Rossen's flick based on Robert Penn Warren's novel, featuring a blistering performance from Broderick Crawford as the populist firebrand Willie Stark, I'd recommend this highly. But if you already do, this set will offer little reason for an upgrade. The main extras are all about the new film, including interviews with James Gandolfini, Jude Law and Anthony Hopkins, plus the theatrical trailer.

United 93

Though I readily concede Paul Greengrass' retelling of the flight of United 93, the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania farm field on 9/11, is a masterful piece of filmmaking, it's also something I never need to see again.

Call me a wuss, but I had to turn away from the screen at several points during the third act, knowing too well how it would all end. If you'd like, you can read my original review here.

If you haven't seen this one, it's definitely worth a rental. Supplements include a commentary with director Greengrass; "United 93: The Families and the Film" featurette and memorial pages.

Jackass - The Movie

And now for something completely different ... I had never seen the show "Jackass" (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it) when my brother called to tell me he had just seen the movie and it was just about the funniest thing he had ever seen. And I have to agree.

In this new edition most surely inspired by the upcoming "Jackass" sequel, you'll get four minutes of extended scenes added to the original film; Two commentaries, one by star Johnny Knoxville, director Jeff Tremaine and cinematographer Dimitry Elyashkevich, and another by the cast of jackasses; "The Making of Jackass The Movie" MTV special; outtakes; 27 minutes of additional footage; "Too Hot for MTV" additional footage, and, of course, an inside look at "Jackass Number Two."

If you like your humor, rude, crude and straight for the gut, jump at this one.

Fraggle Rock

HBO brought us this musical trip with Jim Henson's creations, a delight for children and adults alike. This set contains the 24 episodes from season two of the show's five-year run.

And with that, I sign off. A lot of titles to choose from this week, so I hope you found something to check out. Now, if you'll excuse me I have to return to work after a rather enjoyable holiday weekend. Peace out.


Vasta said...

Did you just say Fraggle Rock? Oh man, you just made my day.

Consider me in the group of people that will cry and wail incessantly if they decide to remake Seven Samurai.

United 93 was excellent, but I couldn't buy it for the simple reason that it would be too hard to watch again. I don't see DVD sales of that movie doing all that well.

And I'll let you know what I think of All The King's Men, the remake actually does look quite good and I'm anticipating its release at the festival.

Reel Fanatic said...

I look forward to reading your review of All the King's Men, Vasta ... With a cast that good, it just can't be awful

Mercurie said...

Well, since I consider The Seven Samurai to be the greatest film ever made, I guess it would be no surprise that I think it deserves the deluxe DVD treatment. Good to see that the new release has a lot of extras, especially the new digital, hi-def transfer. As to the remake rumours, I hope they never remake it. Why bother? It is already the perfect film, not to mention there have already been a ton of remakes or "homages" (The Magnificent Seven, Battle Beyond the Stars, A Bug's Life....)

I was also glad to hear bout Toshiro Mifune--the Ultimate Collection. Given Mifune's work with Kurosawa, these are definitely his lesser efforts, but they are enjoyable nonetheless (esp. Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo).

It's also great to see Gojira/Godzilla get the two disc treatment. Okay, I'm not sure it can be called a classic, but it is one of those all time fun, popcorn movies. (-:

Eleven said...

Wow, too much to buy on this list. Darn you for making my September/October so costly with all of these samurai and Godzilla movie packages!! My wife is going to kill me! ;)

Reel Fanatic said...

Sorry about that Eleven ... Hope you manage to pick up some of them without suffering any bodily harm!

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Divinity said...

Fraggle Rock! Y'know my Doozers shirt is just about my favourite article of clothing ever... Best of Sesame Street is out soon too! Second (ok, third) childhood, here I come!

Reel Fanatic said...

Not sure why I love Fraggle Rock quite as much as I do, Divinity .. maybe it's Jim Henson's connection to Maryland, but for me, he could do no wrong

themarina said...

Ok. So hold your swords. I have a confession to make. I have yet to see "Seven Samurai" but when I saw that it was getting the ultimate DVD treatment, I've decided to add it to the purchase list. I WILL watch this movie.

I was also happy to see that Brazil is out again. I have yet to pick up a copy of this great little movie and this might be the time to do it!

Reel Fanatic said...

I've yet to meet anyone who didn't like Seven Samurai, Marina, so now that you've finally gotten around to it, I hope you do too!

dwight schultz said...

Murdock at the Movies
I would like to say I like your blog Mr. Demko. I look forward to reading more of your movie reviews and insights on current movies.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, Murdock .. please visit anytime!

Chalupa said...

This summer I went on a samurai movie kick trying to see some of the movies that Kill Bill was based on. It was quite interesting. Seven Samurai was definitely a favorite along with Yojimbo. I wasn't too impressed with Sanjuro though. Shogun's Samurai and Shogun Assassin were pretty good too. I really liked the Samurai Trilogy starring Toshiro Mifune too.

I also saw United 93 and wasn't too impressed. I know what you mean by not needing to see it again.

Reel Fanatic said...

I wouldn't say I wasn't impressed, Chalupa ... For the first hour or so, the real-time re-creation was a real work of art ... I just, like you, never need to see that ending again

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