Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume 5 (Warner)
There were two reasons for my decision to purchase a DVD player in time for Christmas, 1997. One of them was the news that Criterion had begun releasing its catalog of “classic and important contemporary films” to the new format, so that a film-and-extras package that cost $100 or $125 on laserdisc would soon be available as a $40 DVD. And the other was the Warner Bros. announcement that the Looney Tunes catalog was on its way to DVD. The Looney Tunes announcement turned out to be years premature, but the shorts did start showing up on four-disc DVD collections, one per year, in 2003. The sets aren’t exactly optimized for the collector — they’re not chronological, and there is no all-Chuck Jones set, or all-Robert McKimson — but they’re organized smartly enough from a commercial perspective, sprinkling the best-known shorts across enough discs to keep the nostalgia factor high for casual viewers while dipping deep enough into the catalog to surprise even Looney Tunes fans. (Still no “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips,” in case you were wondering.) Highlights of this set include a helping of Chuck Jones classics (“Ali Baba Bunny,” “Transylvania 6-5000,” “Bewitched Bunny,” among others) plus a 2000 documentary (Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens), an all-Bob Clampett disc, and an “Early Daze” disc presenting pre-1944 ‘toons from Clampett, Jack King, Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, and Tom Palmer (1933’s “I’ve Got to Sing a Torch Song”). Extras include a couple of Private Snafu cartoons and the usual flotilla of short documentaries, commentaries, music-only tracks, etc. (Do not confuse this with the less-expensive Spotlight Collection, which only includes the first two of these four discs.)
Buy it from Amazon.com: Looney Tunes – Golden Collection, Volume Five
Twin Peaks: The Complete Series (Paramount)
OK, it’s a mixed bag, really. The second season of Twin Peaks was a disappointment, growing sillier and more disassociated from any notion of a conventionally satisfying narrative (which the early episodes delivered on top of all the Lynchian quirkiness) as each episode stretched on. Even the eventual revelation of Laura Palmer’s killer was bungled in the program’s increasingly unfocused execution. And, yeah, $100 is a lot of money to spend on a TV show. But television rarely got stranger or grander than this program’s first season, which examined the aftermath of the murder of Laura Palmer, a pretty, popular high-school girl who was found dead, wrapped in plastic, on a riverbank in Twin Peaks, WA. What ensued was a tongue-in-cheek soap opera involving the denizens of the town, plus newcomer Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), on hand to investigate Palmer’s murder and slug down diner coffee. It’s a masterpiece of mood if nothing else. And the portentous, wryly funny feature-length pilot episode remains, even after all these years, a highlight of David Lynch’s career. Watch it, and imagine what Mulholland Dr. could have been. This definitive, 10-DVD set includes all 29 episodes of the show, the original pilot, the European version of the pilot (which resolves the “mystery” in a clumsy coda at the very end), deleted scenes, and even footage from the Saturday Night Live episode hosted by MacLachlan at the height of Agent Cooper’s popularity.
Buy it from Amazon.com: Twin Peaks – The Definitive Gold Box Edition (The Complete Series)
No End in Sight
I missed screenings of this Iraq War documentary, which I guessed would be more of the same old too-little-too-late, but reviewers uniformly lauded its non-partisan presentation of evidence condemning the Bush Administration’s handling of operations in Iraq. I do suffer from war-commentary fatigue, and I remain unconvinced that this film will tell me much I don’t already know about the present-day occupation of Iraq — but I’m looking forward to seeing it. “Perhaps the most damning aspect of Charles Ferguson’s Iraq War critique No End In Sight is that even supporters of U.S. military intervention will agree with a lot of it,” says Noel Murray, writing for the Onion AV Club.
Buy it from Amazon.com: No End in Sight
El Cantante (New Line)
It’s been a great year for musicals (the Irish indie Once
and the multiplex hit Hairspray are surprisingly terrific), but not for
musical biopics. In La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotillard managed to rise above
lethargic material with her expert impersonation of French songbird Edith Piaf.
Now the story of Puerto Rican salsa legend and tragic drug addict Hector Lavoe
is torpedoed by an uneven and weirdly dominating performance from Jennifer
Lopez as his wife, Puchi, that gives El Cantante the whiff of a J-Lo vanity
project. As Lavoe, Anthony is a charismatic presence with a fine voice, and his
sometimes-galvanizing recreations of Lavoe’s live performances are stirring
enough. But the scenes in between constitute a cliché parade that’s better
suited to a TV movie than a big-screen biography. Worse, every time the drama
starts to take hold, director Leon Ichaso cuts back to the film’s awkward framing
device, which has Lopez retelling the depressing story in black-and-white faux documentary
footage. The music is dynamic, there’s some nice cinematography on location in
Puerto Rico, and the story of
salsa revolution certainly hasn’t been told by
Buy it from Amazon.com: El Cantante
Spider-Man 3 (Sony)
Don’t mess with success, sure — but Sam Raimi’s third, most self-indulgent outing behind the wheel of this hugely successful franchise is an argument for an infusion of new blood. Outstanding visual-effects sequences, tedious superhero melodrama, leaden musical comedy.