DVD Traffic Report: November 6, 2007



Ratatouille (Disney)

Sometimes I feel like all this writing about movies — coming up with reasons to dismiss movies I dislike, articulating elements I think could have been handled better and enumerating the problems in script, casting and execution — has turned me into a curmudgeonly freak who’s incapable of enjoying a great Hollywood entertainment on its own terms. And then I see something like Ratatouille, which plasters a dumb smile on my face for the majority of two hours and runs over and over in my head for weeks and months. Look, critics don’t really enjoy sitting through dross, even if it means they get to exercise their fickle fingers for a few minutes by typing a clever slag on the new popular blockbuster or critics’ (the wrong critics) darling and slapping a C-, or a D, or even an F at the bottom of the review. Those reviews can be fun to read. But they’d destroy the soul if there weren’t reviews of movies like Ratatouille to go along with them. A-freaking-plus, man.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Ratatouille or Ratatouille [Blu-ray]


Sicko (Weinstein Co.)

Of all Michael Moore’s qualities, the most underrated may be his skill

as a storyteller. For better and worse, his strategy has always

involved forcing his political arguments to fit a strong narrative

structure. In those terms, Sicko, his documentary about the American

health-care system, is a doozy. This film’s stories are heartbreaking;

many of its characters are already dead — victims, Moore argues, of

for-profit HMOs that seek to deny as many insurance claims as possible.

He gathers anecdotal evidence about universal, government-paid health

care in Canada, France, the U.K., and even Cuba — where he’s able to

secure no-questions-asked care for a group of ailing 9/11 rescue

workers. Moore once again skirts anything resembling real debate,

failing to engage with dissenting views on more than a superficial

level, but his questions are effectively pointed. If universal health

care is the boondoggle its opponents claim, why is Moore able to find

so many happy testimonials from non-U.S. citizens? And what are the

moral implications of a system that refuses care to people who are

desperately in need? Impressively, Moore maintains a sense of humor,

keeping Sicko from becoming pointlessly shrill or completely maudlin

— instead, it’s absorbing, occasionally infuriating, and thoroughly


Buy it from Amazon.com: Sicko (Special Edition)

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DVD Traffic Report: October 30, 2007



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

240_twin-peaks.jpgTwin 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)

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