Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Demko's DVD shelf

You can tell a TV series is truly great when, even in a season when things truly start to fall apart, it's still the best show on the air.

For me, that's the case with "Gilmore Girls," which definitely lost its way in season six, out on DVD today, and then lost its creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, at the end of the season. Even with these troubles, it's still packed with priceless "Gimore" moments, particularly the wedding of Lane Kim and axeman Zach.

As fans will remember, the season ended with Luke, after being a weenie for the entire season, rightly rejecting Lorelai's offer to elope, and Lorelai running back into the arms of Christopher. Next week will finally bring new episodes so we can find out what really happened.

But you can get your fix in the meantime with these 22 episodes on six discs. Even if you're late to the party, it's one well worth crashing, and definitely my pick of the week.

Hard Candy

This one played for a few nights at downtown Macon's Capitol Theatre, and I'm glad I managed to catch it then. It's definitely on a tough subject, with a minor (Ellen Page) entrapping and then torturing her would-be suitor (Patrick Wilson) after they meet on the Internet. The movie wisely avoids any "Hostel"-style gore and instead turns into a fairly first-rate psychological thriller in the vein of Polanski's great "Death and the Maiden," and young Ms. Page is terrific.
Supplements include a commentary by director David Slade and writer Brian Nelson; another commentary by actors Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page; deleted and extended scenes; and two featurettes, "Creating Hard Candy" and "Controversial Confection." If your sensibility can take it, I definitely recommend this one as my pick from this week's new releases.

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

Dangerous wit Dorothy Parker probably never should have been brought to the big screen, but Jennifer Jason Leigh pulls it off nearly flawlessly in this little flick from director Alan Rudolph. Joining her around the Algonquin table in this 1994 flick were Campbell Scott as Robert Benchley and Matthew Broderick as Charles MacArthur, joined in a great ensemble cast by Peter Gallagher, Jennifer Beals, Andrew McCarthy, Wallace Shawn, Martha Plimpton, Sam Robards, Lili Taylor, James LeGros, Gwyneth Paltrow and Nick Cassavetes.

Supplements for this new edition include a commentary by director Rudolph; a video interview with composer Mark Isham, and a bonus documentary, "Would You Kindly Direct Me to Hell? The Infamous Dorothy Parker."

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

This sympathetic but never mawkish portrait of troubled singer-songwriter Johnston also had a brief run at the Capitol earlier this year. Though Johnston is a hero to many "alt-rock" stars, who stop by to testify about his appeal, his schizophrenia can also make him dangerous, and the movie never shies away from that.

The fairly substantial supplements include deleted scenes; a Sundance world premiere featurette; "Laurie and Daniel Reunion" featurette about Daniel's reunion with his high school sweetheart; WFMU broadcast featurette; "Cinema of Daniel Johnston," featuring movies made by the artist himself; "Daniel's Audio Diaries," personal recordings of Johnston; and a commentary with director Jeff Feuerzeig and producer Henry S. Rosenthal. If you like movies that delve into the creative process, I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Chucky: The Killer DVD Collection

The world may not really need a box set of Chucky's exploits, but admit it, we've all seen at least one of these movies, and probably liked them quite a bit. The best ones blend horror and humor for a very fun concoction.

For some reason, however, this set apparently doesn't include the original "Child's Play" movie. Was it not good enough even for Chucky's standards? But it does have "Bride of Chucky," the absolute best flick in the series, plus "Child's Play 2," "Child's Play 3," and the, for now at least, final installment in the series, "Seed of Chucky," where the demonic spawn of Chucky and Tiffany bring the killer dolls back to life.

Supplements for "Bride" include a commentary by director Ronny Yu, a commentary by actors Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly and writer Don Mancini, and "Bride of Chucky Spotlight on Location" featurette. With "Seed of Chucky" you'll get a commentary by writer/writer Don Mancini and actress Jennifer Tilly; "Conceiving the Seed of Chucky" featurette, and a clip of Jennifer Tilly on "The Tonight Show." I can't see myself possibly springing for this set, but it will make for a fun rental.

"My Name is Earl - Season One"

It's truly a sad statement on the state of TV that this karmic comedy was lauded so highly simply for being funny. It definitely delivers dark laughs aplently, however, and Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Emmy nominee Jamie Pressly and Eddie Steeples (Crabman!) are all great in it. Lee was the second biggest Emmy snub this year, behind Lauren Graham of "Gilmore Girls," and packaged with "The Office" it gave NBC the funniest hour of TV in the post-"Arrested Development" landscape.

Not surprisingly, the extras for this one are a bit askew. Among them are the DVD exclusive mock "lost pilot" "Bad Karma," an alternate reality version of the show where Earl takes the path of vengeance with alarming results; commentary by creator Greg Garcia, stars Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee, and others on five episodes; commentary by the mothers of Greg Garcia (Natalie Garcia), Marc Buckland (Mary Buckland), Jason Lee (Carol Lee) and Ethan Suplee (Debbie Suplee) on the episode "Dad's Car;" "Karma Is A Funny Thing" blooper reel; "Making Things Right: Behind The Scenes Of My Name Is Earl" featurette, and deleted scenes. Believe me, your karma can't afford to skip this comic gem.

"The Personal Best Of Monty Python's Flying Circus"

Last but definitely not least comes this release from the vaults of the world's funniest defunct comedy troupe (with all due respect to runners up The Kids in the Hall.) Collected on six discs are skits from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" selected by (respectively) Eric Idle, Michael Palin, John Cleese and Terry Jones, plus animated segments selected by Terry Gilliam and a salute by the surviving five members to the late funny man Graham Chapman, featuring his best work on the show.

In addition to the episodes you'll get clips from "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl;" "Behind the scenes of John Cleese's Personal Best;" the 20-minute animated featurette "A Retrospective of Python's Animation;" "Personal Second Best" featurettes from Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Graham Chapman; six 15-Question, 15-Ton Megaquizes; Python Troupe biographies and selected credits, and an introduction by the stars. If I really need to twist your arm to at least rent this one, you don't laugh nearly often enough. Just do it.

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


Sameer Vasta said...

Wow, that's a long post.

Hard Candy was one of my favorite films of the year, and I will not-so-sheepishly admit that I have a huge crush on Canadian Ellen Page.

Never really got into Gilmore Girls, but the few episodes I did see where great. Now, My Name is Earl, on the other hand, is just fantastic, and it's early reports are saying that this season is going to be even better than the first.

Reel Fanatic said...

I can't wait for the return of Earl, Vasta, and as you can tell from my post, I definitely recommend Gilmore Girls to anyone who enjoys well-written, witty television

Terence Towles Canote said...

My Name is Earl and The Office are the only recent comedies I watch with any regularity. And in both cases it simply comes down to the fact that they are funny.

Lori said...

I'm not a big sitcom person anymore, haven't gotten into any since That 70's Show went down the cr*pper a few seasons back...but Earl's friggin' great. I can't wait until it comes back.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm definitely with you on that Lori ... Earl and The Office are a different breed though, so I'm definitely stick with those two ... I also like Everybody Hates Chris, though with its new 7 p.m. Sunday time slot on the CW, that one might not even survive the new NFL season intact

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about how great it would be to have the first season of My Name is Earl on DVD since I missed most of it due to CSI: being in the same time slot. (Oh, and CBS being about the only channel I pick up decently on my rabbit ears.) Glee! My karma is improving.

Reel Fanatic said...

CSI vs. Earl shouldn't be a dilemma this fall, if I have my fall schedule right ... I believe Earl and the Office are moving to the 8-9 slot, where its principal competition on Thursday should be the new ABC show "Ugly Betty"

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your thoughts on "Hard Candy" and "TThe Devil and Daniel Johnston" was a surprisingly good documentary.

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Annie in Austin said...

Our only comedies are 'Earl' and the 'Office', too. We've heard that 'Everybody Hates Chris' is a good show, but couldn't get that station in our part of Austin. I guess the new combination station means we can see that one now.


Reel Fanatic said...

I'm not sure how widely the new CW will be distributed, Annie, but hopefully it gets onto your channel list!

Kelly said...

Holy CRAP! I just skimmed through this post the other day and I'm so glad I went back and reread. I wanted to catch Hard Candy at the theater but missed the weekend it was in Pittsburgh. Can't wait to see it, thanks for the head's up!

Reel Fanatic said...

No problem, Kelly .. be warned that it is a bit disturbing, giving the subject matter, but definitely work a look

Simon A said...

Hard Candy was fantastic, I'm thinking maybe worth an import.

I've only seen a couple of episodes of My Name is Earl, and I could never really get into it. I've heard episode to episode the show goes up and down, so maybe I just chose the wrong ones.

Is Everybody Hates Chris still going? That was another pretty highly regarded one that didn't really work for me. The Office, on the other hand, is fantastic, and this is from someone who loved the British one. RIP Arrested Development, too.

Reel Fanatic said...

Chris is still going Simon, but with the way it's gotten screwed by the CW, probably not for long .. it's been placed as the opener for an evening of mindless "comedies," in the deadly 7 p.m. Sunday slot .. I'll be happy if it makes it through this year.