#052

Anger Management
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment DVD

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Teaming up the box office Goliaths of two different generations was probably an agent’s dream, as was the high concept reduction of the plot: “Jack teaches Adam how to get mad – just think about it, man!”

Adam Sandler plays yet another variation on his gentle doofus with a geyser of suppressed rage waiting to go off, while Jack Nicholson does his trademark lecherous magus, an anger management consultant assigned to help Sandler deal with his hostility after he gets tasered by an air marshall on a flight to St. Louis.

It’s a shame almost no one saw – or got - Punch Drunk Love, since its take on Sandler’s persona might have pushed Sandler to do more than re-package “Mad Adam” one more time. Even more perversely, every new Sandler film mulls down the star’s berserker fits on the way to even more sticky, sentimental finales.

According to the supplemental material, everyone involved with the film seemed to be convinced that they were making a seething, bar-brawl Sandler freak-out of a film, an illusion in no way supported by the film that was released. It would have been cathartic – if a bit exhausting – to watch Sandler and Nicholson howl furiously against the landscape of bullies and toadies in which Sandler’s films are set.

Judging by the evolution of Sandler’s films, though, Mad Adam will be giving Steve Martin a run for his money in the cinematic suburban hissy fit market in no time.

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Confidence
Lion’s Gate DVD

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Director James Foley has gotten back to the tight-arsed masculine universe of Glengarry Glen Ross, his best film, with this hermetically-sealed caper flick, a re-make of The Sting in Maxim magazine duds.

Edward Burns is the brains behind a group of con men, who find the latest grift has gone bad when their mark’s money actually belonged to The King, a local crime boss played by Dustin Hoffman. What follows is a moebius strip sort of plot, thick with misdirection, red herrings, and double and triple crosses.

The cast is superb, but none of them stand a chance next to Hoffman’s sexually unreadable gangster with Attention Deficit Disorder, who comes on to both Burns and Rachel Weisz in two riveting, camera-devouring scenes. Comes with multiple commentary tracks, deleted scenes and two entirely tangential music videos.

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Hello Kitty Diamond DVD Collection
MGM DVD box set

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Hello Kitty, probably the most skillfully marketed children’s franchise since Barbie, was launched in earnest in North America with a cartoon series that ran on CBS in the late 80s. Twenty five episodes are collected in this jewellery box-themed set, five hours of achingly cute animation based on fairy tales and old movies.

Interestingly, the series was an American production, more than vaguely in the style of the then-popular Smurfs, and entirely lacking the skittery, sometimes trippy style Japanese animation fans have come to love. In profile, the famously minimal Kitty face has grown a nose for the series, which pits her and her cake decoration-like friends against Grinder the dog and Catnip in ten-minute episodes based on everything from Snow White and Cinderella to Dracula, Star Wars, E.T. and Jaws.

Despite the packaging, the discs come without much in the way of extras, which consist mostly of DVD-ROM accessible colouring book pages.

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Sleeping Beauty
Disney DVD

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The real star of this typically full-featured two-disc set is artist Eyvind Earle, who oversaw the overall design of this 1958 Disney classic, turning the studio’s last truly great, “golden age” animated feature into a lush evocation of medieval tapestries, paintings, and illuminated manuscripts.

Earle’s work, and that of his colleagues at the studio, are examined in depth in the bonus second disc of this set, done with the usual Disney care - the legacy of a company that knew that value of its archives. There’s no shortage of Disney saccharine in the film, but the widescreen transfer is a marvel to behold, full of rich, gothic storybook design and the kind of obsessive attention to detail that digital animation has only recently rediscovered.

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The Hospital
MGM DVD

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Tough Guys Don’t Dance
MGM DVD

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The reissue of these two films from MGM’s vaults are like the two sides of a literate, macho American worldview that seems to have disappeared these days.

The Hospital was written by Paddy Chayefski, whose seething, wordy screenplays were once considered real Hollywood literature, and whose career reached a zenith with the 1976 film Network. Like Network, The Hospital is a satire of post-60s America, a place being run into the ground by the incompetent and greedy, the decline presided over by a depressed, alcoholic chief surgeon played with bellicose verve by George C. Scott.

Scott rages and howls while a killer picks off members of his staff whose lethal incompetence has marked them for retribution, the doctor’s sole chance for embodied in Diana Rigg, a leggy hippie chick who wants to take him back to the land. Scott’s ultimate decision says a lot about Chayefski’s despair-filled but markedly old school politics. No extras.

Author Norman Mailer’s film of his own novel, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, is something of a landmark in cinematic embarrassments. The 1987 movie is a shamelessly over-the-top disaster, which Mailer, in a newly-made featurette looking back on its production, is still unable to acknowledge for its almost fascinating, train-wreck-quality awfulness.

Never less than an enthusiastic appraiser of his talents, Mailer only once cops to making a mistake, as he recalls a scene, infamous in critic’s circles, where the camera dizzily circles a distraught Ryan O’Neal as he blankly overreacts to his character’s pivotal revelation. O’Neal, Mailer admits, has never forgiven him for basically torpedoing his career with one shot.

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Head Of State
Dreamworks DVD

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Chris Rock’s self-directed fantasy, imagining himself as the first black president, presents the sad spectacle of a comedic missile falling over on its launch pad.

Rock, whose stand-up monologues are masterpieces of effrontery, barely allows himself more than a couple of explosions of indignation, perversely ceding the lion’s share of the film’s laughs to Bernie Mac. Rock’s acid observations on American life and politics only burst through the loping plot in flashing eruptions, and the inevitable romance is a smothering wet blanket over it all. Rock’s snapping commentary track, however, almost redeems this package.

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Pink Floyd:
The Dark Side of the Moon
Eagle Rock/EMI DVD

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The making of Pink Floyd’s blockbuster album is examined in this carefully-made package, which combines a “Classic Albums” program with loads of extra footage. Dark Side of the Moon is probably the only really satisfying “concept album” ever made, and stands today as prog rock’s salient moment, its inevitable pretension veneered over by some truly impressive songwriting, and the sort of brilliant production that kept headphone makers in business for decades.

©2003 rick mcginnis all rights reserved.