Tuesday, October 23, 2007

All hail Criterion: Demko's DVD shelf

The big news if, like me, you happen to live in Macon, is that Wes Anderson's "Darjeeling Limited" is coming to The Grand (formerly known as the AmStar) this weekend. I've been back to the site three times already to check it, but it seems a slow movie weekend means the answer to "how far will I have to drive to watch the new Wes Anderson movie?" is, well, about 10 miles. Huzzah to that.

For the rest of the world, thanks to Criterion (who are at work on a special edition of Anderson's "Bottle Rocket"), it's a banner week on DVD with two genuine classics getting grand treatment.

First up comes "A Bout de Souffle," or as Criterion has chosen to call it by its English title, "Breathless," or as I like to call it each time I finish watching it, "quite possibly the coolest movie ever made."

An exaggeration? I don't think so. If you've never seen Jean Paul Belmondo riffing on Bogie and pitching woo at the very funny Jean Seberg, watch this immediately. There was also an American version of this starring Richard Gere, but i couldn't possibly give you an opinion on that since I could never bring myself to watch it.

For the new Criterion edition of Jean Luc Godard's original Frenchy flick, the extras include: Archival interviews with Godard, Belmondo, Seberg and co-star Jean-Pierre Melville; new video interviews with director of photography Raoul Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient and filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker; New video essays: filmmaker and critic Mark Rappaport's "Jean Seberg" and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Breathless as Film Criticism"; "Chambre 12, Hotel de Suede," an 80-minute French documentary about the making of "A Bout de Souffle," with members of the cast and crew; "Charlotte et son Jules," a 1959 short film by Godard, starring Belmondo; and a booklet featuring writings from Godard, film historian Dudley Andrew, Francois Truffaut's original film treatment and Godard's scenario. With all that included, I just can't recommend this one highly enough.

In making "Days of Heaven," American director Terrence Malick clearly took note of the French New Wave to make some ripples of his own. His increasing abhorrence of anything resembling a structured plot has, for me at least, made his recent movies like "The New World" almost unwatchable, but with this '70s flick he was clearly on top of his game.

As visually stunning as it is all-around entertaining, "Days of Heaven" stars Gere as a Chicago steel worker who accidentally kills his supervisor and flees to the Texas panhandle with his girlfriend (Brooke Adams) and little sister (Linda Manz) to work harvesting wheat in the fields of a stoic farmer (Sam Shepard). What they find there develops into a love triangle and much more.

For the Criterion edition you won't get a commentary from the very camera-shy Mr. Malick, so instead there's one from art director Jack Fisk, editor Billy Weber, costume designer Patricia Norris and casting director Dianne Crittenden, who all apparently provide insight into just how hard it was to work for the demanding Malick.

There's also an audio interview with Gere that plays over footage from the film, in which he also vents some frustrations with Malick. Rounding out the set are interviews with Shepard and with camera operators John Bailey and Haskell Wexler. If you have a few shekels lying around, you can pick up these two genuine classics for $53 from Amazon, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

"Fido" - a zombie movie I somehow managed to miss

I've seen the poster for "Fido" several times now, but it never hit me that that was the very funny Billy Connolly all zombied out in the picture. If that's not enough to make this at least worth a rental, well, you and I clearly just have different tastes in movies. As far as I can tell, this is basically a boy-and-his-dog movie in which the dog just happens to be a zombie. I'm there already.

Two great TV series come to an end

I'm about to watch Kristen Bell's "Heroes" debut on the DVR (as soon as I can wrap this up, in fact), and seeing her again will be nice, but not as nice as the oft-rumored but ultimately failed revival of "Veronica Mars" would have been. The series had already lost its way a bit in the third and final season, out on DVD today, as it substituted mini-cases for a single, season-long puzzle to solve. Even in its lesser form, however, it was funnier and smarter than just about anything else on TV, and well worth buying on DVD. If you spring for it, you'll even get "Pitching Season 4": An in-depth interview with creator Rob Thomas discussing the new direction for the series he tried to pitch to network executives that picks up years later, with Veronica as a rookie FBI agent.

"The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 2" famously wrapped up the mob series with an up-in-the-air ending that infuriated many fans but just worked for me. I've never been one that demands closure, and from what I hear the ending of the new Coen bros. flick "No Country for Old Men" will put this further to the test, assuming I ever get to see it. Along with the final nine episodes, you get the promising featurette "Making Cleaver": A behind-the-scenes look at Christopher's horror film, and "The Music of The Sopranos," in which creator David Chase, cast, and crew discuss the songs from the show.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I am indeed going to cut this short and go watch "Heroes" now. Peace out.


jeremy said...

"Breathless" and "Days of Heaven" are all well and good, but when the heck is "Last Year at Marienbad" finally going to make it to DVD? (I'm going crazy waiting for it.)

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to confess, Jeremy, that that is one flick that I knew nothing about ... I looked it up on the IMDB, and would definitely add it to my viewing list, assuming it does someday make it to DVD, so thanks for the head's up (I actually checked at Netflix, which gave me the opportunity to "save" it assuming a DVD release ever actually happens)

Mercurie said...

Criterion is sometimes uneven when it comes to extras. Some of their releases are almost bare bones. It is good to see that they gave Breathless the deluxe treatment!

I must say that I've wanted to see Fido for quite some time. I only knew about it from the various Canadian blogs I read!

Bob said...

"Fido" is great! You're gonna love it. I'm very excited for "Days of Heaven" too. (Though you and I differ on "The New World." I thought it was amazing. It was "The Thin Red Line" I found unwatchable.)
I'm glad Macon's getting "Darjeeling." You'll be very happy with it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think for me the Malick decline began with "The Thin Red Line," Bob, which I found to be uneven at best .. . and while I know many people find "the New World" to be a visually stunning movie, I just couldn't get into it one bit

Eric said...

My DP and I were discussing Malick the other day. he had a pretty good view on his work. he said that If he had released Thin Red Line in the 70s it would have been considered one of the masterpiece films of the century. This is because his style was a very 70s style and it would have been a better fit to the audiances. Blame MTV for ruining our appreciatiation of the long drawn out visual style. It created short frenetic edits and films and changed what we expect to see.
I love how Malick would finish a scene and then pan off onto a bird or a lizard or something and then transition to the next scene.

Jonathan said...

I actually watched "The New World" finally this past weekend on "On Demand," and I agree that visually it is as breathtaking as anything Malick as done, but the Pochaontas story has just never interested me that much, and Malick didn't really change my opinon that much. I found it to be pretty dull when all was said and done. I had the same reaction to "Thin Red Line" the first time I watched it, however, and it has grown on me over the years, so maybe "New World" will do the same.

I saw "Fido" in the theater earlier this year, and I didn't get into it, but I think it's definitely a film that is either a love it or hate it kind of thing. So, I hope you're able to get some enjoyment out of it.

Marina said...

Big shocker, I still haven't seen "Days of Heaven" though I have liked the Malick I've seen, primarily "The Thin Red Line" and "Brave New World" which I loved. If these are considered his lesser films, I'm in for a serious treat with his earlier stuff.

And it's not too surprising that you missed "Fido". I don't think it played particularly wide in either Canada or the US but it's tremendous fun!

lylee said...

I've only seen Malick's later stuff (Thin Red Line and The New World), both of which I liked but didn't love...but I've been meaning at some point to see "Days of Heaven."

I'm curious, what did you think of Kristen Bell's debut on "Heroes"? Frankly, I was underwhelmed...though to be fair, she wasn't on for very long and was saddled with some pretty terrible dialogue and a character who thus far makes no sense (to me, anyway). Hopefully it'll get better. But that last scene in the car with her on the cell phone made me wince and yearn for Veronica Mars.

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to agree with you so far, Lylee ... Her power in particular wasn't particularly impressive, but I'm still hopeful her story line will improve with more screen time ... If I'm not mistaken, they're planning a 10-story arc or so with her in it, so it should be a lot of fun

Neel Mehta said...

"Fido" - a zombie movie I somehow managed to miss

Don't blame yourself. As you might tell from my side project, I'm quite aware of the curious film breed that's described as "now playing in select cities."

Fido got publicized in Canada fairly well -- it was filmed in British Columbia, and stars natives Carrie-Anne Moss and Henry Czerny.

But, as you can tell here, it didn't make a box office impact in the U.S. because it never had a chance.

Reel Fanatic said...

That unfortunately doesn't surprise me all, Neel ... I was pleasantly surprised when Shaun of the Dead played wide enough to reach my little corner of the world, but I guess two zombie comedies in a row at my multiplex would be much too much to ask for

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

To ditto Marina's comment re: Fido, it wasn't in huge release in Canada (a few weeks in Toronto is all I can confirm), and I am not sure if it was released in the US at all.

It's a fun zom-com, I hope you like it!

Fated said...

I would love to see Veronica Mars brought back to television. The first two seasons were solid entertainment. The third was lacking a bit. I think it is because it changed the way it organized the season. They went from having small mysteries every show but ultimately the season revolved around one big mystery. Season 3 didn't have that. I would love to see VM take the way of an FBI agent. I would definitely tune in.

That said. I am not too sure I like her Heroes character. I suppose I will just have to let it stew for the week and see if her character impresses me anymore next week.