Warner salutes gangster flicks then and now
This week we begin with the bad guys:
The Public Enemy, Little Caesar, The Petrified Forest, White Heat
Mean Streets, The Untouchables, Goodfellas, Heat, The Departed
Warner Bros. Pictures celebrates its 90th anniversary with these five-star collections from the genre that established the studio.
The “Classic” collection holds four unrated films, remastered for Blu-ray, starring early gangster icons James Cagney in Public Enemy and White Heat (“Made it Ma, top of the world.”), Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar (“Mother of mercy. Is this the end of Rico?”), and Humphrey Bogart in The Petrified Forest, also with Bette Davis and Leslie Howard.
The set includes the 106-minute documentary Public Enemy: The Golden Age of the Gangster Drama and four cartoons.
The “Contemporary” set features Martin Scorsese’s ground-breaking Mean Streets (1973, 112 minutes), his near-perfect Goodfellas (1990, 146 minutes), both with Robert De Niro, and his best picture Oscar winner The Departed (2006, 151 minutes). De Niro and Al Pacino face off in Michael Mann’s stylish 1995 Heat (170 minutes). Brian De Palma’s rich and flavorful The Untouchables (1987, 119 minutes) rounds out the offering.
The two separately packaged sets each include five individual films on five individual discs along with a hardcover 32-page booklet. All films contain commentaries, with Goodfellas having two. Also found on each “Classic” disc are “Warner Night at the Movies” segments with Leonard Maltin, and individual featurettes on the films.
The “Contemporary” set holds extant supplements, such as “making of” featurettes, with Heat boasting of five separate pieces. Heat also offers 11 deleted scenes, and The Departed has nine with an introduction by Scorsese.
The Last Stand (***) One current cinematic theory posits that the world’s best action films come from South Korea. Jee-woon Kim (The Good, the Bad, the Weird), the Korean director of this action-filled thriller, shows his expertise and turns what could have been another knuckle-headed Arnold Schwarzenegger throwaway into something with style and energy.
In a slam-bam opening, an escaped drug kingpin (Eduardo Noriega) escapes from a Las Vegas jail. He heads south toward Mexico in a souped-up Corvette, leaving behind FBI agents and helicopters.
His only seeming blockage might come in a small Arizona town. But the sheriff (Arnold) takes a stand, arranging his small force, including Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzman, for a sort of modern High Noon faceoff.
Rated R, 107 minutes. The DVD includes a 28-minute “making of” featurette, three 11-minute related featurettes, six deleted and extended scenes, and more.
Stand Up Guys (**1/2) Val (Al Pacino) leaves prison after 28 years while never ratting on those responsible for putting him there. His one-time best friend, Doc (Christopher Walken), waits for him and then takes him to share his shabby home.
But they both acknowledge that Doc must eventually execute Val, a twist that takes both men through the night as they visit an old partner (Alan Arkin), a brothel, eat copiously, and finally come to a decision to end with a Butch and Sundance finale. Fisher Stevens directed, obviously helpless against letting his senior talent steal the show.
Rated R, 95 minutes. The DVD includes commentary, a five-minute featurette on the film’s stunt driving, a 12-minute “making of” featurette, two deleted scenes, a five-minute segment on Jon Bon Jovi’s music, and more.
Side Effects (***) Steven Soderbergh directed this entertaining medical thriller about Emily (Rooney Mara), who suffers from anxiety and then takes an experimental drug prescribed to her by her psychiatrist, Dr. Banks (Jude Law). Afterwards, both Emily’s husband (Channing Tatum) and Dr. Banks’ wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) soon discover erratic behavior in their spouses, all caused by a series of unforeseen and effective plot twists.
Rated R, 147 minutes. The DVD offers a five-minute website “experience” for the film’s fake drug. Plus, a brief behind-the-scenes featurette, and fake commercials for the two fake drugs.
The Royal Collection: Queen Victoria’s Children, King George and Queen Mary, The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth and How to Be a Prince BBC Home Entertainment releases this four-disc collection examining the British monarchy. Individually, the discs take comprehensive looks at how sovereignty has affected the numerous progeny of Queen Victoria, the reign of King George and Queen Mary (Elizabeth II’s grandparents), the 1952 coronation of Elizabeth II, and a primer on the life and duties of the current Prince William. Also included is a replica of a booklet for Elizabeth’s II 1952 coronation with photos from the ceremony. Not rated, 446 minutes.
My Neighbor Totoro (***1/2) and Howl’s Moving Castle (****) Disney gives high definition Blu-ray debuts to two jewels from Japanese master animator Hayao Miyazaki. The newly remastered works, in English, serve as excellent examples of Miyazaki’s colorful and highly original worlds.
In Totoro (1988, 88 minutes, rated G), two sisters (voiced by Elle and Dakota Fanning) move to a house in the country to discover their neighbor is Totoro, a forest-dwelling spirit seen only by children. They stumble into a Lewis Carroll-like world filled with revelatory wonders and creatures.
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004, 119 minutes, rated PG) features a teen girl (voiced by Emily Mortimer) who falls under the spell of the wizard Howl (Christian Bale) and eventually is transformed into 90-year-old woman (Jean Simmons) by a wicked witch (Lauren Bacall). Chaos ensues in the magical world, filled with even more outlandish wonders and creatures.
Both films come in various combo packs and formats. Totoro features a six-part “making of” featurette, storyboards, trailers and more. Moving Castle has a “Behind the Microphone” featurette on the impressive voice cast, an interview with Pixar director Pete Doctor, Japanese trailers and storyboards, and more.
And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:
Perception: The Complete First Season Eric McCormack plays eccentric but lovable Dr. Daniel Pierce in the first 10 episodes of the serial crime drama about a professor whose visions and extrasensory perception help him solve crimes. He works with the FBI, but only with his former student, Kate Moretti (Rachel Leigh Cook).
He’s a prickly sort whom McCormack makes likable, which obviously helped the series become a hit. On two discs. Rated TV-14 DLV, 7 hours.
Saving Hope: First Season This odd medical series combines ghostly interaction with the standard medical drama. Michael Shanks plays Dr. Charlie Harris, who has fallen into a coma, and prowls Toronto’s Hope Zion Hospital as an ethereal spirit. His fiancee, Alex (Eric Durance), also a surgeon, receives particular attention, so much so that she and the comatose Shanks are not sure if he is a ghost or imaginary. Complications ensue. With Daniel Gillies.
Not rated, 9 1/2 hours. The set also includes interviews with Gillies, Shanks and Durance, and extra “behind-the-scenes” footage.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Beautiful Creatures, Medium Cool, Parker, True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season.