Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
The Governator’s last film, at least for a few years, is a briskly paced downer with a real joykill of an ending: The Machines Inevitably Win. Someone, somewhere, must have suggested this as a parallel to the Governator’s successful California election campaign.
All of this bleakness is, if nothing else, a symptom of action movie fatigue, a combination of hyperactivity and anemia that’s afflicted the later Matrix franchises and the second Charlie’s Angels film, among others. It’s a mercenary sort of boredom that overcomes film franchises whose spectacular chase, fight, and explosion sequences, built by the best talent money can buy, are far more vital than the acting, writing, and direction in which they’re embedded.
You can blame Hollywood’s relentless but uninspired machinery, or you can cite blockbusters like the Lord of the Rings films, which purposefully marry operatic battle scenes with lead-lined dialogue and plodding exposition, to no noticeable box-office detriment. In either case, the moral is simple: The machines must be stopped, before they destroy movies altogether.
Includes the usual menu of chirpy “making of” featurettes, gag reels and deleted scenes, and “databases” that lay out the Terminator timeline as if it really mattered.
King Of The Hill: Complete Second Season
The best sitcom on TV today went into first gear with its second season, nudging head to head with the Simpsons, already flagging by the end of 1997, after the departure of key writers and episode producers.
The second KOTH box set is a better deal than the first season collection, adding some truly priceless “in character” commentary tracks (by Kathy Najimy’s Peggy Hill and Brittany Murphy’s Luanne) to the 22 episodes, along with almost two hundred deleted and extended scenes, a drawing tutorial, and a featurette on the evolution of the series’ animation style.
Includes classic episodes like "Snow Job" (Hank leaves the propane business when he discovers his boss uses an electric stove), "Husky Bobby" (Bobby Hill becomes a boy model), and "Junkie Business" (Hank accidentally hires an addict to work at Strickland Propane).
The Ox-Bow Incident
This 1943 drama about a lynching on the frontier is capital-D Drama, the kind of outraged, unabashedly dogmatic story once popular with films like To Kill A Mockingbird and Death Of A Salesman, now almost completely extinct in an age of identikit antiheroes and “who can say who’s right?” moral squeamishness.
Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan play two cow-punchers who end up following a lynch mob on the trail of rustlers and murderers. It’s fast and short – only 75 minutes long – and utterly gripping. Includes an A&E Biography of Fonda, who brought the novel on which the film was based to Darryl F. Zanuck, still haunted by a lynching he’s witnessed as a boy.
There’s apparently a far cleaner restored print of Yasujiro Ozu’s classic film out there, but it was apparently unavailable to Criterion when they put together this two-disc reissue of the film. It’s the only negative thing about this carefully produced set, which adds a second disc with a two-hour Japanese documentary on the director and a 40-minute tribute to Ozu by an all-star cast of directors.
The film is quietly heartbreaking, a slow, methodical, but never tiring story about elderly parents leaving their small town to visit their children in the big city. The guilt and small slights, selfishness and unresolved tension build up to a restrained but devastating ending, the sort of film that reminds us that a family – any family, probably - contains all the drama you ever need.
The Lon Chaney Collection
Lon Chaney as Quasimodo the hunchback or the original, silent-film Phantom Of The Opera still remains famous today, if only because his performances resonate in the animated features and musicals based on his work, even if most movie- or theatergoers have never seen more than a film clip of the man himself.
This lovingly-produced two-disc set takes three of his less-known silent films, a reconstruction of a “lost” film, and a documentary on his career, and puts them together to make a case for Chaney as one of the most skillful, heart wrenching screen actors ever. Watching films like Laugh, Clown, Laugh (Chaney as a vengeful circus clown) or The Unknown (an armless knife thrower and his hopeless love affair), you’re struck with how lurid and fantastic later silent films could be, as much as Chaney’s often lyrical acting style.
Milcho Manchevski’s film transplants a western about gunslinging brothers, played by Joseph Fiennes and David Wenham, into a Balkan guerilla war in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, but only after framing the story with another set of characters in modern day New York City.
It’s a mess – an ambitious, even audacious mess – but a mess nonetheless, that careens up and down the century and across the globe, with a narrative confidence that might be unearned, but still feels admirable. In the end, you’ve long ago abandoned your trust in the narrative, or bothered looking for a message, and in any case the unbelievably bloody gun battle at the end will leave you battered and dull-eyed. Includes a director’s commentary track and deleted scenes.