Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Demko's DVD shelf

There's a lot to choose from this week, so bear with me. I'll start with the ones I've seen, and then let you know about two I will soon.

"Apocalypse Now"

I still don't know how I managed to make it until I took a political film class at Catholic University without having seen this. When I finally did see it, I had to watch it all again a week later because I wasn't sure exactly what I had just seen.

It's never been one of my favorite movies, but Francis Ford Coppola's use of "Heart of Darkness" to tackle the psychological horror that was Vietnam probably has more memorable scenes than any other movie I can think of besides "The Godfather" (Coppola again, I know.) Whether it's those helicopters flying over the cliff to the tune of "Flight of the Valkyries" or the first time you encounter Marlon Brando's Col. Kurtz, these are images that get instantly burned on your brain.

The 2-disc set out today, labeled "The Complete Dossier," features both Coppola's original 2 1/2 hour version released in 1979 and the 2001 "Apocalypse Now Redux," recut and expanded by 50 minutes by Coppola and editor/sound designer Walter Murch. I haven't seen this recut version, but I won't be able to say that for long.

Along with the two movie versions, extras include the lost "monkey sampan" scene; an outtake of Marlon Brando's complete reading of T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men"; 12 never-before-seen segments from the cutting room floor; A/V Club featurettes: "The Birth of 5.1 Sound," "Ghost Helicopter Flyover," "The Synthesizer Soundtrack by Bob Moog" and "Technical FAQ"; The Post Production of Apocalypse Now featurettes: "A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now," "The Music of Apocalypse Now," "The Sound of Apocalypse Now" and "The Final Mix;" The retrospective "Apocalypse Then and Now;" another retrospective, "PBR Streetgang," a cast members' reunion; "The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now," plus commentary by Francis Ford Coppola on both films.

Whew! That's a boatload of extras, but if you want to learn as much as possible about virtuoso filmmaking in one weekend, this set sounds like just the perfect way to do it.

The Simpsons, take 8

There was surely a point when I stopped tuning into "The Simpsons" each week with enthusiasm, but they have yet to put out a season on DVD that makes me feel that way. The 25 episodes in Season 8 definitely continue that run.

These are definitely very Homer-centric episodes, which is never a bad thing. Plus you get John Waters (on the great episode "Homer's Phobia.") I may have to hold off a week for financial reasons, but I'll definitely be picking this one up soon.

As with Season 7, it's available in two separate packaging options: a classic gatefold digipak or a plastic case shaped liked Maggie's head. Along with commentary on every episode by creator Matt Groening and executive producer Josh Weinstein, joined by (variously) the producers, writers, directors, and voice cast, you get "The Simpsons House" featurette plus a lot of animatics and stuff that I have to admit I usually pass right by.

"Hong Kong Phooey" and "Magilla Gorilla"

Though my parents signed me up for karate at some point in the early '80s, I was never particularly good at it. Neither was Hong Kong Phooey, but that didn't stop the janitor-turned-hero from fighting his way to a bumbling victory each Saturday morning.

I had forgotten (or perhaps never knew) that our hero was voiced by the late, great Scatman Crothers. Can't wait to go back and revisit his work here.

Along with 31 episodes on two discs, one single-sided and one double-sided, you get commentary on three episodes by creative producer Iwao Takamoto, layout unit manager Willie Ito and Warner animation producer-historian Scott Jeralds; "The Phoo-Nomenon" retrospective documentary, plus the storyboard for "Hong Kong Phooey - The Batty Bank Gang."

I'm not sure how the flimsy premise of "Magilla Gorilla" ever worked, for even the youngest of audiences, but it did for me. It's basically a vicious tale of co-dependence, with Mr. Peebles selling our hero to a new owner each week, only to have Magilla act so badly that he has to be returned to the shop. Sounds awfully sad on paper, but's it's silly fun from Hanna Barbera.

"Magilla Gorilla" wasn't the only character on the show. You also got cartoons featuring the feuding team of Punkin' Puss and Mushmouse and the adventures of Sheriff Ricochet Rabbit.

In this set you'll get 23 episodes on four discs; "Magilla Theme Song, Live And Unplugged" - rare footage of Hoyt Curtin and Bill Hanna at the piano, introduced by series animator Jerry Eisenberg; "Mr. Peebles Pet Shop" - an interactive interview gallery with Magilla Gorilla voice Allan Melvin, series animator Jerry Eisenberg and animation historian Jerry Beck; "Here Comes a Star" - an archival TV special that goes inside Hanna-Barbera Studios to introduce the great ape, plus eight bonus cartoons.

Sounds like a lot of trouble for a silly simian, but why not?

"Lemming" and "L'Enfant"

Here are two that I haven't managed to see yet, but definitely peak my interest.

If you haven't seen Dominik Moll's funny and odd thriller "With a Friend Like Harry," do it now. It's a mind trip well worth taking.

His follow-up features la bella Charlotte Gainsbourg, her mother, Charlotte Rampling, and French actor Laurent Lucas. According to the IMDB, Lucas and Gainsbourg are a seemingly perfect young couple whose lives are infected by his philandering boss (Andre Dussollier) and his boss's bitter, spite-driven wife (Rampling.) The IMDB also promises its "a strange study in obsession and malice from beyond the grave." I'm definitely there.

If I'm not mistaken, "L'Enfant" won a Palme D'Or at Cannes, so it must be good, right? Just the trailer was enough to give me chills, so I'll definitely be renting it.

The drama from Belgian brother Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne follows a young, very immature couple (Deborah Francois and Jeremie Segard) living on the streets of a Belgian steel town with their newborn baby. The father sees his offspring as little more than a commodity to be sold for short-term profit. I'm not sure where it goes from there, but I can't imagine it's anywhere good.

Doesn't exactly sound like a charmer, I know, but I'll definitely be checking it out.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I unfortunately have to get ready for work. Peace out.


Carrie Lofty said...

L'Enfant follows the father's quest because, after he sells the child and realizes the horrific impact his act has on his partner and their relationship, he strives to get the baby back. It's at the top of my list at present.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the tip, Salome .. that does sound like a much more engaging movie than if he simply gives the baby away for cash .. I'll definitely check it out now!

Terence Towles Canote said...

For me I think season 8 of The Simpsons was the last time it was really good one. It was about season 9 that I stopped watching the show on a regular basis, although that probably had more to do with my life at the time than the decline in quality in the series I percieved.

I am actually looking forward to seeing Hong Kong Phooey. It was one of my favourite shows from my childhood. Scatman Crothers was great as the voice of the character

Reel Fanatic said...

Like I said, Mercurie, I can't remember when it happened for with 'The Simpson," but I think it's coming soon ... But until then, I'm a sucker for Groening & co.'s work, so I'll keep buying

Unknown said...

I was REALLY disappointed with 'L'enfant' when I got the DVD a couple of weeks ago and thought "Le Fils" was much better. The charm of watching a film that looks as if it's been made by a single person who's only just bought their first home video camera palls rather quickly, and although the premise is interesting the story doesn't really go anywhere.

On the other hand this morning's "Metro" (free newspaper available at bus/train stations throughout the UK) gave it five stars out of five, so what do I know?

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the word of warning, Ian .. I always like to hear from people with divergent opinions ... sounds like the camerawork might annoy me too, but I'll find out soon

Unknown said...

I really like L'Enfant. Not exactly what I was expecting (I ignored reading anything about it) but definately worth watching. As for Apocalypse Now, I have yet to add this to my library but I think this is the edition that makes it. Thanks for the reminder.

Reel Fanatic said...

I've resisted adding it as a permanent fixture too, Marina, but I too think I'm gonna give in now and just buy it

Divinity said...

Brilliant! I wish I had thought of reviewing DVDs as I acquired them, it might've pre-empted a lot of the issues I'm having right now, such as having 90 or so DVDs of movies I have never seen on my shelf, glaring at me silently.

ren said...

if you've not seen "heart of darkness" with tim roth give it a go. i am no fan of conrad but i loved this version of it. and it's a nice contrast to "apcolypse now".

Spidey/Tato said...

i realy lie apocalypse now...on eof my greatest war films together with Platoon adn all time best saving private ryan

Reel Fanatic said...

I do like it quite a bit myself, Couch tater ...As for war movies, I think Full Metal Jacket would have to be my favorite ... I hadn't heard of that "Heart of Darkness," Ren .. I'll have to check it out!