#058

Looney Tunes Golden Collection
Warner Bros. DVD box set

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The release of even a fraction of the Looney Tunes catalogue on DVD is a much-anticipated event for movie and animation fans, and Warners has done as decent a job as can be expected.

It would have been too much to hope that they would duplicate MGM’s laserdisc Looney Tunes series, which collected nearly every cartoon that came from “Termite Terrace”, the Hollywood home of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian and the rest of the Looney Tunes family of characters.

Instead, Warners has created a character-based “greatest hits” four-disc set, with a disc for Bugs, another for Daffy Duck and Pork Pig, and another two collecting the adventures of Tweety, Sylvester, Coyote and Road-Runner, and more, fourteen toons on each disc, beautifully restored in vivid colour.

There are omissions galore; virtually no cartoons from the 30s, and few from the frantic wartime era. The bulk of the set consists of work from the late 40s and 50s, well-loved titles such as “Rabbit of Seville”, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century”, “The Hypo-Chondri-Cat” and “Long-Haired Hare”. With just less than two hours of cartoons on each disc, there’s plenty of room for bonus features, the occasional commentary track, and “music-only” tracks that pay tribute to Carl Stalling, the genius behind the cartoons’ frantic scores.

You could go on for hours with what’s missing – classics like “Porky In Wackyland”, “What’s Opera, Doc?” and “The Dover Boys” – and hope that subsequent sets will fill in the gaps. Completists, however, can see the writing on the wall – that the path chosen by Warners will leave countless cartoon oddities in the vaults. The care taken with this set is hardly to be ignored, however, and even fanatics will be grateful for this Looney Tunes fix.

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Hulk
Universal DVD

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Ang Lee’s movie version of the Hulk was just one of a summer’s worth of box office disappointments for the major studios, a let-down for audiences and executives expecting Spider Man-style thrills and bucks.

Watching a featurette included on the bonus disc of the DVD release, it quickly becomes apparent why Lee’s films tanked. Looking back on the evolution of Marvel’s raging green monster from comic book to big screen, a glance at the TV version of the Hulk, starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, reveals that Lee’s film, with its considered drama and obsession with character, was essentially more a re-make of the TV series than any of the Hulk’s graphic incarnations.

Divorced from the action franchise prerogatives of the comic book film, Lee’s brooding film doesn’t seem like such a failure. On the small screen, the CGI Hulk that Lee took pains to create almost manages to evoke emotion, and Lee’s lunge at transcending comic book “storyboard cinema” feels noble and ambitious, if flawed.

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Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment DVD

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Another disappointing summer blockbuster, the Charlie’s Angels sequel was easy to dismiss. The action sequences, while clever and gleefully over-the-top, overwhelm everything else in the film, but considering the quality of the performances – the worst acting that millions of dollars can buy – that should be considered a genius touch by director McG. Full Throttle is actually quite entertaining camp cinema, stuffed with references to classic MGM musicals like Singin’ In The Rain, and easy to enjoy in a bubble-headed, delirious frame of mind. Comes with the usual menu of bonus featurettes, director’s commentary and music video.

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The Italian Job (1969)
Paramount DVD

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The Italian Job (2003)
Paramount DVD

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A car chase involving Minis and a hoard of gold are the only things that this year’s “re-make” shares with the much-loved 1969 British heist flick with which it shares a title. While the original, starring Michael Caine and a hoard of Brit comic stalwarts like Benny Hill, is both stylish and strange, the re-make has an over-processed feel, the product of slick competence and little more. The ending of the original, a cliffhanger that even fans consider disappointing, seems brilliant compared with the neat, bloodless finale of the re-make.

The loving tone of the “making-of” featurette included with the 1969 version pays testament to the affection with which the film is remembered, especially in Britain, while the bonus supplements on the re-make are the usual, perfunctory package padding.

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City Of Ghosts
MGM DVD

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Matt Dillon’s debut feature is an impressive evocation of the strangeness of foreign travel, especially for westerners to the developing world. Dillon plays a conflicted crook in search of his mentor, a con man who’s disappeared to Cambodia after a nasty insurance scam. The lurching camera and dense soundtrack do a beautiful job of keeping the viewer dizzily overwhelmed with the strangeness of the place, but the film soon bogs down under the burden of too much plot. Includes a commentary track with Dillon and writer Barry Gifford.

©2003 rick mcginnis all rights reserved.