TOP 15 FAVORITE DVD Commentaries! Part 2 of 3!

Continuing my list of 15 favorite DVD commentaries, here are selections 6-10.

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN- Great reminiscences on the making of the film and the personalities including Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen by a quartet of voices that includes Eli Wallach and James Coburn (with a voice so deep, it’s like mountains… shifting) makes this an endlessly listen-able and informative and enjoyable commentary.
The Magnificent Seven (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition) This is the version to get as it contains two commentaries, including one that is not on the Blu-Ray version. Who loves ya baby?! ๐Ÿ™‚


Tim Burton’s SLEEPY HOLLOW commentary is up next. Tim Burton is a ‘hit and miss’ director for me, while always an amazing visual stylist, his more humor laced films such as DARK SHADOWS I don’t like. There’s a natural tendency to black humor in the direction of Tim Burton, but it works better when he doesn’t play to this tendency, because then it comes out forced as in DARK SHADOWS. However when the humor is not the goal, but just a side effect of the situations or the truth of the characters, when it doesn’t supplant or overshadow the drama or action or horror… then it works.

That’s what is so special about his films, such as SLEEPY HOLLOW and to a lesser extent the first BATMAN, that dark Gothic atmosphere, that tone, stays paramount, and indeed is heightened by brief moments of levity.

Heightened by a deadpan delivery, not there for laughs, but because that is the truth or the absurdity of that character in that moment. The scenes should work when played and taken straight, and shouldn’t be there expecting a laugh (which is the surest way not to get one), however if the humor works, comes across for some, that’s just an added bonus.

A great commentary by Tim Burton touches on all of this. Burton discusses working with Christoper Lee and Landau and of course Depp, the power of Spanish horses, his sheep fetish, working on sets (which Burton is a master of), discussing Depp’s amazing ability to faint like a girl. ๐Ÿ™‚ Just a fun, informative commentary that lets you see first and foremost Burton as film fan and connoisseur.
Sweeney Todd / Sleepy Hollow (Two-Pack) [Blu-ray]


INSIDE MAN- Spike Lee’s career took a heavy hit with the atrocious film, MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, one of the few movies so awful I walked out on (to be fair the camera work was great, just the story and dialogue and pacing was garbage). However prior to that, he was firing on all cylinders with the film INSIDE MAN. Not just one of Spike Lee’s best films, but one of the best heist/thriller films you’ll come across. And it’s adorned with a FANTASTIC commentary by Spike Lee that shows him as the ultimate New Yorker. Just great, high energy stories about Lee shooting in a city he clearly loves. Perhaps the only other filmmaker who is as much a cheerleader and champion for New York as Spike Lee would be Martin Scorsese. A wonderful commentary.
Inside Man (Widescreen Edition)


THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN- It’s rare when you can point to a film and say. “yep this is the film that ended his career”. You can do that with this film, and the directing career of Stephen Norrington. Most people hate this film for largely not being Alan Moore’s comic, and the changes made.

Well it is definitely changed. But that’s the nature of Adaptations, what works on the page does not necessarily work on the stage/screen. And slavish devotion to the source material, ala SIN CITY is no guarantee of quality (I hated SIN CITY). If you want the source material, go read the source material, that hasn’t been changed.

For the rest of us, we are sharp enough to get the fact that the film has to meet the needs of a far greater range of people and interests, and becomes by definition a different thing. Now whether that different thing is good or bad is the question.

In the case of Stephen Norrington’s THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN I enjoy this film a lot. And I appreciate it more every single time I see it. It takes the framework of Moore’s story, and builds something that moves at a brisk, exciting pace to fill close to 2 hours (110 minutes), something that Moore’s original, was not designed to do. Moore’s work is designed for the page, and works best there.

But to adapt it to the screen, it has to become something else. And I think Norrington and crew create a something else… that is one of the best love letters to the age of the pulp hero and two-fisted action that you will find, outside of an Indiana Jones film. And I love that it goes for practical effects, and tries different things, instead of just CGI. So yep I proudly own the DVD for this film, and routinely take it for a spin.

And I also routinely listen to the commentary, which is great. By all reports Norrington had a bumpy time with his first success BLADE, coming to loggerheads (a fancy old time expression, meaning to bring something to a boil. A loggerhead back in the day being a long heated piece of iron with a bulbous head used to heat liquids. And yes, that is your word for the day :)) with individuals, that almost there ended his directing career before it began.

Here in LEAGUE, in his fourth film, he ticks off (forget Alan Moore, forget the fans)… he ticks off the star of the film, the legendary Sean Connery! And all of that, is included in the commentary. How are you going to talk about throwing down with Sean Connery?!! So it is an amazing bit of commentary for this 2003 film, and seemingly signals a promising director’s swan song from the business.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Widescreen Edition)


THE HOWLING- Everyone knows this is one of the greatest Werewolf movies ever, but what you might not know is it’s also one of the most enjoyable, fun commentaries. With Joe Dante, Dee Wallace Stone and her husband Chris Stone (boyfriend during the filming of the movie, I’m such a romantic that I dig things like that, plus I generally adore Dee Wallace, she is just so completely invested and open and awesome in this film), and Robert Picardo, all just having a ball.

And to that fact, there are guest stars/cameos galore (Ackerman, Sayles, Corman, Caradine, Slim Pickens, etc) in this film, and this commentary becomes everything a great commentary should be. Easily should make anyone’s best of list!
The Howling (Special Edition)

Join me in the next installment as we cover the final five favorite commentaries #11-15 (Here’s part 1 if you missed it)! And in the interim feel free to leave comments about your favorite commentaries! If you like this post, take the time to give a ‘like’ and also take the time to purchase using the links provided.

That one two punch of support is what keeps this blog going. And it also helps me decide what future segments to concentrate on, the posts that get the most likes, and generate the most purchases, are more than likely topics that have an audience, so I’ll revisit them.

So yeah, your feedback in those two ways… just a way cool thing for you to take time to do! Keep it up! Thanks!:)!

Here’s Part I!

DVD OF THE DAY : PASSING STRANGE Greatest Rock Opera EVER!?!

“I Wish we could talk about how the means will not prepare you for the ends.
how your epiphanies will become fair-weather friends.
how death will make you lower your defenses.
The only truth of youth is the grown up consequences”
—PASSING STRANGE

“I will see her again. Because life is a mistake, that only art can correct. I will see her again.”
—PASSING STRANGE

I just saw one of the most brilliant things ever.

Simply devastating.

PASSING STRANGE is a DVD that I picked up today. Directed by Spike Lee it’s a filmed play, that I had never heard of before, but has by all reports been a smash hit sensation on Broadway. I’ve passed on this DVD a couple times, mainly because 1/I’m not a fan of filmed plays and 2/Spike Lee has been on my bad side, ever since his awful mangling and failure that was MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA.

But today I decided to give the dvd PASSING STRANGE a try.

Man.

Man.

Stunning. Simply stunning.

Created by singer/songwriter Stew, PASSING STRANGE is a semi-autobiographical Rock Opera, that takes you on a journey of one man’s search… for the real; that becomes all our journeys and all our mistakes. Highlighted by a phenomenal cast, avant-garde and stunning script/design, and brilliant music and direction. It is the tale of coming of age, told unlike any I have seen before. A minimalist play/tale that spans LA to Amsterdam to Germany, and spans distances not measurable in miles, and times that can not be captured in years. PASSING STRANGE devastates With humor, hunger, poetry and pain. And Love. And Love.

And raw effing POWER and ENERGY.


“I’ll live in vans crammed with guitars.
I’ll sleep on floors and play in bars.
I’ll dance to my own Metronome
Till Chaos feels like Home!”

“You know what’s weird? When you wake up that morning and realize your entire adult life was based on a decision made by a teenager.”
—PASSING STRANGE

Words just do not do it justice.

I have got to see anything this playwright/troupe ends up doing in the future.

Brilliant.

Been a long time since I’ve been to a concert or a play, several months, long time since I’ve felt… moved. Art when it’s good, when it is really, really good; can change the contour of your soul and the breadth of your reality.

At 14 it would have changed my soul, and at 400 :), I find, much to my surprise, it still has the power… to change my soul. ๐Ÿ™‚

It can make you reevaluate your status quo.

And make a change.

PASSING STRANGE is art.

And Spike Lee manages to capture, brilliantly, the last night, and by all reports one of the greatest nights of the play.

Highest Recommendation.

UPCOMING FILMS (1st Thoughts) 2012: HOBBIT, REDTAILS, PROMETHEUS

“You’re so… My Girl.” FARSCAPE’s Crichton Scorpius

Well I told you what trailers and upcoming films I’m not interested in, usually the mainstream pa-lava, so what is rocking my boat?

Well, first the list of trailers I spent good time viewing, in order to determine the good from the bad:

IN HER SKIN- Interesting trailer, not something I would see in the theater, has a lifetime channel feel, but this thriller about a missing daughter looks intriguing

DARKEST HOUR- 20something yuppie-lites in peril. I could not care less.

PROJECT X- A suburban take on House Party? If I was 10 maybe. Not interested.

THE HOBBIT- I loved the first LORD OF THE RINGS movie, I thought it was brilliant, the two follow-up movies not so much. In fact I dislike both of them and only own the first movie. It is not the first failed trilogy (cough– MATRIX— cough), and probably won’t be the last. I do think the trilogy broke Peter Jackson a bit, as the movies since… not good.

Having seen the trailer for the HOBBIT, I don’t know if it will be a great film. It’s not going to be a trilogy… which is good, but it is a bit hard perhaps to invest in the prequel, when the follow-up films are so fresh in everyone’s head. The absence of surprises and jeopardy (I mean we know Bilbo makes it out okay) maybe making it a bit by the numbers. I’ll probably go see it, but in no way enthused, or excited by it. Time will tell if it proves me wrong.

PROMETHEUS- This is a summer film, but I have to mention the trailer… it looks GREAT! I mean we all know Ridley Scott does visuals exceptionally well, but with the exception of AMERICAN GANGSTER, I have not loved a film he’s done in the 21st century.

Not a fan of GLADIATOR, BLACK HAWK DOWN, BODY OF LIES, etc. It’s odd how he and his brother are on different and opposing trajectories for me.

Ridley Scott’s masterpieces were all at the beginning of his career, from ALIEN in 1979 to BLACK RAIN in 1989, every single one of the films he did in that decade are absolutely AMAZING, beautiful, and gorgeous and also just great, challenging, imaginative and fresh films, but his films since have, for me at least, tended toward the formulaic and uninteresting and a bit tired and propagandistic (think Bigelow). ROBIN HOOD isn’t bad, it just isn’t very good, or interesting, or re-watchable.

Whereas Tony Scott, is the exact opposite. His early films were good, if a bit formulaic and forgettable. But the films he’s done in the last decade or so… I adore. Films such as MAN ON FIRE, DEJA VU, UNSTOPPABLE, SPY GAMES. He is one of my favorite directors currently working, and I’m looking forward to his upcoming film EMMA’S WAR.

That said, AMERICAN GANGSTER has shown that Ridley Scott can still knock it out of the park when he needs to, and the trailer for PROMETHEUS looks… EPIC! It looks really, really great. So yeah that’s one of the few films I’m really excited about in 2012.

RED TAILS- I’m going to see this movie, because I like to support any non-comedy film with more than two characters of color, since there are just not enough of these films. Hollywood suits tending to enforce their quota of two or less people of color per mainstream film So I’m always enthused to support an OBSESSED or a TAKERS (both of which I loved), that flies in the face of this cinematic glass ceiling/tokenism.

So I’m going to give RED TAILS my money in the theaters. That said I’ve watched the 2nd trailer, and while the story looks good, the action scenes fun, my problem is, as I’ve said before, the leads. Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding. Particularly Terrence Howard seems horribly miscast. No offense but whatever it takes to get men to follow you into battle, Terrence Howard does not project it. I wouldn’t follow this dude across the street, much less into battle. ๐Ÿ™‚ So in the trailer when he gives those rousing speeches… doesn’t really work. He doesn’t have the gravitas of an Elba or Washington or even Cheedle to sell those speeches and that authenticity. And if he can’t sell it in a two minute trailer, there’s no way he can carry a 2hour movie that requires those speeches.

So yeah I’ll see the film in theaters, but I’m afraid it’s going to underwhelm (hopefully not to the extent of Spike Lee’s MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, which is one of the worst, most disappointing films I’ve ever seen, on top of being a financial failure, grossing only 7 million dollars, on an investment of 56 million. 4 yrs later and Spike Lee’s career has still not recovered from it).

Here’s hoping I’m wrong.[I was completely wrong. Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr were great. See my full RED TAILS review!]

BENEATH THE DARKNESS- Nice title, and Dennis Quaid is typically good. But there’s more than a bit of been there, done that. 20 somethings in jeopardy by the crazy killer no-one suspects. Nothing at all interesting about the young actors, and they annoy me in a 2 minute trailer much less a 90 minute flick, so I can’t really give a good care about them or the story. This one is an avoid.

LONDON RIVER- A film that completed in 2009, but like too many intriguing films, beyond film festivals, has taken a long time to get any theatrical release/DVD release, however it seems to be making some headway in 2012. Still, it will probably not make it to a theater near you, but just as probably is better than most of the films that will. An intriguing drama about 2 parents, an act of terror, and two missing children. This is a definite one to try and track down at an Indie Theater or on DVD.

EXPENDABLES 2- Another one that doesn’t hit until late in the year, but man the trailer did the same thing as the first flick. It made me shout/cackle out loud! Just like the first EXPENDABLES it’s a dream come true to see all these names in one movie together. Applause to Stallone for putting this cast together and making this film happen while all the actors are still with us. I am a huge fan of the first Expendables and definitely looking forward to seeing this one. Another MUST SEE film!

DJANGO- And speaking of phenomenal casts. Just the cast list for this Tarantino film, reads like a who’s who of great actors. Whether this will be a great movie, or a Tarantino miss, I have no clue, but the cast alone makes it a theater watch.

SILENT HOUSE- I don’t like the idea of trying to sell a film by trading on someone’s ‘real’ horror. I don’t like the sleazy based on true events tag. I’m not objecting to it being ‘true’, but based on a 1940s anecdote in a different country, by the time the American filmmakers get their hands on it I’m not sure if there is anything reasonably close to ‘true’ left.

No, what I object to is what the trailer seems to be selling. It’s selling you, like a carnival barker, the chance over ‘real time’ to watch someone suffer, to watch someone’s world end. It is precariously close to the same allure one would no doubt use, to sell a snuff film.

I didn’t like it. The trailer.

I didn’t like it when I saw it in movies like THE STRANGERS (which I walked out of the theater on) and I don’t like it here. There is something of me, inherent in me, raised on older ideas of dragons slain, and maidens rescued… that objects.

That objects…. to evil… rampant.

I think as an audience, such films appeal to what is worst in us. They are not about journeying with the victim to get out of the situation or be rescued or the bad guy put down, they are about reveling with the predator or rapist in terrorizing, mutilating and then killing his victim. They are snuff films in spirit if not in fact, and I don’t like that. I don’t like it at all.

And I think the prevalence of such films hints at a widening hole in the fabric of the audience, a hole that just might be our decency and our humanity and, perhaps even, our collective soul… falling away.

That is if anyone in the world, besides madmen and writers, still believes in anything as naive and old fashioned and archaic… as a soul.

GONE- If SILENT HOUSE is what I don’t want to see in a thriller, GONE is what I do. It’s quite a refreshing take on the thriller genre, with the young female protagonist having to race against time to save her friend, and bring down the monster. I quite like the trailer.

If it has any fault, it’s that it probably gives away too much of the movie. But I think it almost had to play its hand to get the attention of people like myself who would have written it off as just another slasher flick if a more mysterious trailer was used. But yeah they have me intrigued enough to see this in the theater.

Wow. That was a lot more writing than I had intended when initially starting this post. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and if you have got a kick out of my rambling craziness, please support this blog by donating or shopping through the handy links located throughout the posts.

Thanks, and till next installment… be well.