June 1, 2004:
The Times of Harvey Milk (1984). Well over a decade before making the popular doc on gays in Hollywood with Jeffrey Friedman, The Celluloid Closet, Rob Epstein broke new ground with the first gay-themed film to win an Academy Award. Appropriately enough, the first openly gay politician in US history is its subject. Filmthirteen notes that the film "has that rare ability to make us happy and sad, joyous and angry, jubilant and celebratory as well as humbled and realistic. It's the story of an American triumph and an American tragedy." [Rent]
This week also sees the release of two more very worthy docs by Epstein after he hooked up with Friedman: Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt (1989) [Rent], their outstanding film about the Names Project, also won an Oscar. "A gentle, sensitive film, the fierce anger felt by its makers [is] evident only in the use of statistics and media snippets which build up to a damning indictment of the social and political response to the AIDS crisis." (TimeOut). With Where Are We? Our Trip Through America (1992) [Rent], Epstein and Friedman take to the road in this "spontaneous and ultimately profound" film (PlanetOut).
The Occult History of the Third Reich. Three volumes of World War II creepiness. The discs are: The SS Blood and Soil [Rent], The Enigma of the Swastika [Rent], and Adolf Hitler [Rent].
ACTION and ADVENTURE
The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black (Director's Cut) (2000). "Packed with razzle-dazzle special effects and fueled with aggressive, hyperactive cinematography and a pulse-pounding narrative that never lets the tension subside until the final frame, Pitch Black is the movie of the season for sci-fi and horror fans," wrote Andrew O'Hehir in Salon four years ago, when the film was originally released. Now, just in time for Vin Diesel's revival of his star-making performance in this summer's sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, the unrated director's cut appears on DVD. [Rent]
Coogan's Bluff (1968). This Don Siegel urban cop-Western has one of Sisyphus' all-time favorite taglines: "Clint Eastwood gives New York 24 hours... to get out of town!" TimeOut Film Guide deems it "very funny, and aided by a very tight script as well as a mercilessly sarcastic performance from Lee J. Cobb." [Rent]
Cocoon (1985) [Rent] and Cocoon: The Return (1988) [Rent]. This week marks the disc debut of these two family sci-fi favorites. The first, as usually is the case, is the superior of the two, since people were more interested in Ron Howard's talents than, say, Steve Guttenberg's. But in this fountain of youth tale, what could have been (and sometimes still is) a major schmaltzfest was made a delight by the performances by some fine elderly actors, Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy chief among them.
The Hidden (1987). A staff favorite around these parts is finally re-released on DVD. Starring Blue Velvet's Kyle MacLachlan, The Hidden is one of the most kick-ass sci-fi flicks of the 80s. "Holding its head proudly among the pantheon of grade B movies, The Hidden is pretty damn good fun," writes DVDVerdict. One of New Line Cinema's first non-Freddy Kruger hits. [Rent]
The Abyss (1989). Re-release of James Cameron's underwater extravaganza. But has it been "Improved Into Oblivion"? Whether you prefer the original or director's cut, do check out Ray Cole's reading: "I've always viewed The Abyss in mythic terms: both the hero and the heroine visit the 'underworld,' die and return from the dead in the classic hero-myth formula, and in this context, the aliens (accompanied by Alan Silvestri's religious-hued choral music on the underscore) read naturally as mythic creatures - angels who grant Ed Harris's character entry into 'Heaven' after he is redeemed by the power of love." [Rent]
Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles. Trackers (2004). Robert Heinlein's epic war on the big bugs continues. [Rent]
Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004). We'll soon be featuring an interview with effects wizard Phil Tippett in which we ask him about this, his directorial debut. [Rent]
SUSPENSE and THRILLS
The Deep (1977). Based on a Peter Benchley novel, this was no Jaws, but with a young Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte, Jaws's Robert Shaw and a lot of lovely sea-nimaphotography, it remains an entertaining yarn. [Rent]
Perfect Strangers (1984). Underrated Larry Cohen film noir features Anne Carlisle following up her performance in cult favorite Liquid Sky. Also with Ann Magnuson, and look (or listen) for Bill Fagerbakke, the voice of Patrick on SpongeBob Squarepants. [Rent]
Special Effects (1984). Another one from Larry Cohen; this one features edgy monologuist Eric Bogosian. [Rent]
Flaming Star (1960). One of Elvis's best films, in which he's used more as an actor than a rock star, this western was directed by Don Siegel (pre-Dirty Harry). [Rent]
No Name on the Bullet. Tense western from Jack Arnold, better known for his 50s sci-fi films. One of Audie Murphy's best. [Rent]
The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete First Season (1979). A very 70s hybrid of sideburns, country music, crime-fighting and backroads racing in a 1969 Dodge Charger. A year after the show debuted on CBS, it rose to the top ten most watched shows in the country and eventually spawned a spin-off, a Saturday morning cartoon and a top 40 hit for Waylon Jennings, who sang the title theme. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
NYPD Blue: Season 1 (1993 - 1994) and Season 2 (1994 - 1995). With this series, Emmy award-winning producer Steven Bochco introduced raw language, bare butts and breasts to prime-time television, but also a rather dark and quite moving picture of America that had gone unexposed for too long. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent], 5 [Rent] and 6 [Rent]. Season 2 [Rent].
Coupling: The Complete 3rd Season (2002). "Highly accessible and incredibly funny series... quickly established itself as one of the best Britcoms of all time." (DVD Verdict). Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
Doctor Who. More and more DVDs of this legendary, long-running British cult sci-fi series are slowly eking out, and we couldn't be more pleased. The Curse of Fenric (1989): Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent]. And The Two Doctors (1965), Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
Megazone 23: Part 1 (1985). The nostalgia wave rolls on. Anime Australia: "Released in Japan in the mid-1980's, Megazone 23 has all the successful anime trade marks of that era; namely, a reckless hero, transforming mecha, a Haruhiko Mikimoto (character designer [for] Macross) character designed idol singer, and a damn good story." [Rent]
Cosplay Complex. Vol. 1 (2004). A new series parodies countless other anime series and the cosplay scene in general. ADV claims it's hilarious - we'll be the judge of that! [Rent]
Geisters: Fractions of the Earth: Vol. 1 (2001). Based on the game, with character design and 2D animation completed in Japan while the backgrounds, mechanical design and 3D work was done in Korea. [Rent]
Captain Herlock. Vol. 3: The Decimated Planet (2002). Yar! More adventures with the fearless space pirate. [Rent]
Inu Yasha. Vol. 18: The Demon Within (2000). The latest installment in this popular series that CarpeNoctem calls a "classic. Its got all the great elements of an awesome anime, moving plot without tons of filler anywhere, cool characters, smooth animation, a perverted monk, and killer villians." [Rent]
Orphen II: Revenge: Vol. 5 (1999). [Rent]
Wedding Peach. Vol. 3: Spring Storm (1995). [Rent]
Winsor McCay Master Edition (2003). McCay was certainly the first master of animation and one of its most influential artists. And, wrote Silent Era, "The DVD is of high-quality and quite pleasing. We recommend this disc to animation fans and McCay devotees." It's a real treasure, with restored versions of many McCay favorites, from "Gertie the Dinosaur" to "The Sinking of the Lusitania," which Silent Era considers "the first animated masterpiece." [Rent]
FOR THE KIDS
Catch That Kid (2004). Essentially a Spy Kids rip off, but a fun escapist caper flick for kids with attention spans that need catching. [Rent]
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