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11/27/2008

Film & Video > First Shot

FIRST SHOT

 

Every year, the corporate-controlled media does its part to convince us that holiday retail sales are going to be taking a big upswing – except this time, when even the most overzealous CNN “analyst” couldn’t cough up that kind of propaganda with a straight face. Pity the poor home-viewing market, which has a battery of fancy-schmancy DVD and Blu-ray sets ready to go, just in time for its viewership to be more concerned with incidentals like food and shelter. But maybe it’s just as well for the state of the motion-picture business as a whole, since this week is dominated by DVD rereleases of timeless classics that can’t help but prove how badly most modern films bite. And this is what people with marketing degrees consider cross-promotion?

IN THEATERS

Opening Wednesday, Dec. 3

Crossing Over Filmmaker Wayne Kramer (The Cooler, Running Scared) expands his 1996 short into a feature-length, Harrison Ford–led exploration of the impact of illegal immigration on Los Angeles. Boy, is he lucky nobody solved that problem in the last 12 years! (R)

ON DVD

Available Tuesday, Dec. 2

Casablanca (Ultimate Collector’s Edition) Distinguishing this three-disc set from the 2003 edition is a documentary about studio head Jack Warner, which was put together by his own grandson yet supposedly manages not to credit him with curing typhus. The value-added draws here are replicas of various vintage printed materials, including a nifty-sounding reproduction of the letters of transit, one of the greatest MacGuffins in film history. Springing for VHS gets you a postcard of Paris and 15 minutes with a hooker in an Ingrid Bergman hat.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Two-Disc Special Edition) You’re going to want to start poring over every frame of this Cold War sci-fi classic right now, so when the destined-to-be-catastrophic remake comes out Dec. 12, you can just sit there, silently and comprehensively cataloging the suck. Oh, for a return to those innocent times when Michael Rennie thought mankind’s greatest threat to the universe was atomic energy and not the existence of Keanu Reeves! Anyway, this timely DVD release has all the commentaries, docs and archival materials demanded by special-ed junkies, plus an authentic 1951 newsreel and a featurette titled “Decoding ‘Klaatu, Barada, Nikto’: Science Fiction as Metaphor.” Having recently lost our shirts securing a grad degree in that sort of pomo flummery, we are constitutionally bound to lap up every pretentious word.

Wanted It’s a sure sign that the home-entertainment industry is trying to force you into an upgrade when the “good stuff” is suddenly playable only on technological platforms you haven’t quite gotten around to purchasing. All these years later, we haven’t forgiven the music biz for the concept of “bonus tracks” on audiocassettes; now we have to contend with purported enticements like the Blu-ray of Wanted, which happens to include an entire alternate opening that’s been conveniently left off the standard DVD. We can almost justify once thinking that we had to know what Aerosmith’s Done With Mirrors sounded like with nine tracks instead of eight, but how are you going to explain to your grandkids that you finally broke down and bought a Blu-ray player because you had to see more of Wanted?

The X-Files: I Want to Believe Any great suspense flick prods its audience into asking itself some uncomfortable questions. So it was with the latest X-Files movie, which had us wondering, “Why did we spend $12 to fall asleep early on a Saturday evening in a theater in Times Square?” Yes, the once-beloved TV series spawned one of the dourest, slowest, most aggressively unwatchable flicks of this or any other year. Yet the three-disc “Ultimate X-Phile Edition” of the DVD proudly boasts that it includes extra footage. To paraphrase Dennis Miller, “Three of shit is shit!” Released on the same day is an improved home version of 1998’s The X-Files: Fight the Future, which now looks like The Day the Earth Stood Still in comparison. Strike that: Casablanca.

VIDEO GAMES

Available Tuesday, Dec. 2

The Tale of Despereaux Scurry your way through the tie-in game to Universal’s upcoming animated mouse hunt – a movie that has already inspired charges of stolen character designs on the part of ousted director Sylvain Chomet. Cut off Despereaux’s tail with a carving knife in the game, and the entire U.S. Copyright Office becomes a playable character!

SOUNDTRACKS

Available Tuesday, Dec. 2

Cadillac Records Beyoncé Knowles’ Etta James impression drives this companion record to filmmaker Darnell Martin’s period drama about the heyday of Chess Records. The two-disc “deluxe edition” nets you twice as many songs – including, appropriately, Jeffrey Wright’s impression of Muddy Waters doing “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” (And now that we think about it, that extra Aerosmith track was kinda worth it.)

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