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Moriarty's DVD Shelf! GREAT AM HERO, Pixar Trip, Mind F*#ks, NEW POLICE STORY and CUTIE HONEY, Mongo's Notes & More!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Amazing. Six whole days on vacation. Out of contact. Complete radio silence. You know how rare this is for me? I went somewhere warm and tropical and just relaxed with my wife. We didn’t see any films at all. I didn’t even turn on a TV the entire time I was gone. I’m back now, though, and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do in the next two or three columns, and I’m introducing some new features, as well. I love a column like this week’s, where I get to cover a lot of ground and discuss a wide variety of titles. This is what I love about DVD in general... that random collision of programming that keeps it all interesting. Coincidences like when I put MIKEY AND NICKY and THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN in on the same day, both films I had never seen before. Turns out, in MIKEY AND NICKY there’s a scene where Peter Falk and John Cassavetes go to a movie theater. The title? THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN.

I’m sending out notifications this morning to the winners in my big Valentine’s Day giveaway. You’ve got 48 hours to e-mail me back to confirm your shipping information, or I’m moving on to the next person on the list. After all, over 18,000 of you entered over the space of 15 hours. It only seems fair. I’ve been watching big gulps of TV series in the last few days... ANGEL, POPULAR, MIAMI VICE, MURDER ONE, DEADWOOD... all stuff I’ll be reviewing in one of my next few DVD SHELF columns. Movies took a bit of a back seat. Even so, I managed to fit in a couple of platters worth of stuff to review. I also took a pretty spiffy day trip recently to celebrate the release of a new DVD, which is how we’ll start today’s column.

But first, as always, I’ve got my entire DVD collection set up at DVD Aficionado, a great site that I’ve enjoyed working with. With very few exceptions, I’ve been able to find all my titles in their archives. You can check it out right here if you’re curious, and I’ve made sure to point out what was purchased, what was sent as a screener, and what was a gift.

(Click header to go directly to the section)





Cine-East Titles Of The Week: CUTIE HONEY and NEW POLICE STORY



The last Wednesday morning in February, I caught the 8:00 AM flight from Burbank to Oakland, then took a taxi to Emeryville, where a drive-on pass was waiting for me under my covert spy name, Drew McWeeny, allowing me to enter the headquarters of Pixar for the very first time. This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, so despite the ungodly early hour, I was full of energy.

I was the first person from the group of journalists to arrive, giving me plenty of time to look around the lobby, which is actually a gigantic football-field length atrium, the centerpiece of the entire building.

As it was explained to me later, Steve Jobs originally proposed a building with one bathroom, something that would drive foot traffic to a central area all day long. Obviously, they’ve got more than one bathroom in the building, but just standing there and watching as everyone arrived to start their day, it was obvious that Jobs had managed the feat.

The mailboxes, the employee café, and the common room where all the games are all open into that atrium, and people lingered, talking, exchanging ideas and discussing the various projects they’re working on. It seemed like a fertile, creative environment, and I felt like Charlie Bucket holding a golden ticket as I examined the larger-than-life INCREDIBLES statues in the center of the atrium and the concept paintings hung on the walls.

I talked with a couple of guys who were also waiting there in the lobby, guys working with Pixar on an ancillary project. They sounded just as excited talking about the company as I’m sure I did, and it struck me: for hardcore animation fans, Pixar plays the same role that the Beatles must have for music fans in the ‘60s. We are living in a golden age, watching true giants in their primes, and each new film they put out is a joy because of the incredibly high genre defining standards that they hold themselves to. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t crazy about the teaser for Lasseter’s CARS, due now in 2006, but I know no one works harder to develop their films than this company. They have an unstoppable story department, and they work tirelessly. I’m confident that when we finally see the still-evolving film, it’ll be another tremendous winner.

By 10:30, several other reporters had arrived, and we were ready to begin the tour. We were introduced to Randy Nelson, who serves as Dean of Pixar University. Believe me when I say I mean this as a complimentary comparison... Nelson gives off a real strong Fred Rogers vibe. This guy is a true believer, and when he talks about Pixar, you get the feeling that he means everything he says, and it’s not just corporate speak that’s been impressed upon him through endless repetition.

It makes sense that he’d be in charge of the continuing education of everyone who works for Pixar. They offer classes to all of their employees, no matter what department they’re in, on all aspects of filmmaking. The theory is that they want everyone in the building to understand exactly what it is that the company does, so they can all appreciate the main goals of Pixar. The Pixar University building sits right next to the main animation building, joined by the pool and bordered by the soccer field. It’s a sixteen-acre property, just big enough that when you’re there, it’s all you can see, even though the Emeryville City Hall sits at the far end of the same block.

Nelson led us through several different galleries, featuring storyboards, color scripts and character sculptures...

... an awards case (where we were told that Lasseter’s two Oscars aren’t in the case because they live at his house, where he’s commissioned a series of seasonally-appropriate outfits for them, including an Oscar night tuxedo and matching evening gown, from a friend who designs clothes for BARBIE), gag sheets...

... and (my favorite) a set that was put together to inspire the animators on THE INCREDIBLES, a perfect recreation of the desk and wall of Mr. Incredible’s office, complete with a jar full of bent lead slugs labeled “Bullets That Bounced Off Me.”

He also led us through the section of the building where the animators actually work. Here’s where the Wonka factory comparison felt strongest. Instead of cubicles, each of the animators has a customized space. There was one guy who had this groovy corner office that was open on two sides, and he had no chair at all. He had the entire office set up so that he could work standing, like so:

That was a pretty extreme example of what someone could do with their space. A lot of the animators decided early on that they didn’t want cubicles, so instead, Pixar found these groovy little cottages that they bought for them. Walking through the animation department is like walking through a neighborhood for dwarves. Lots of little houses laid out along “streets,” each one with an address on the door.

The animators also have lounges set up so they can congregate and relax, including a jungle-themed lounge with piñatas hanging overhead.

One of the most amazing things we saw was the assembled hardware required to make Pixar’s films happen. The computer brain of Pixar is as big as I’d expected, and there’s something surreal about this serene room full of rack after rack after rack of black computer boards, nearly featureless, being the place where such memorable characters as Buzz and Woody and the Incredibles and Boo and Sully all live and breathe. There’s also something HAL9000 about the entire room, and I started to get worried that the computer was reading our lips as we stood looking in at it through the window.

Our tour ended in one of the Pixar screening rooms, where there was a presentation by Ann Brilz and Osnat Shurer, who produced the DVD. They showed us some of the special features, including the sensational “Jack-Jack Attack,” a new short cartoon created especially for the DVD. I’ll review the disc content later in this week’s column, but I’ll say that the pride Brilz and Shurer had in the disc was evident, and it’s a testament to the volume of their work that they just barely showed us a glimpse of the total running time in the full hour that we spent with them.

After lunch, held downstairs in the game room where one of the walls had a great MONSTERS INC. display, we rotated through our one-on-one interview time with Brad Bird, John Walker (who produced THE INCREDIBLES), Tony Fucile, the character designer and supervising animator, as well as Brilz and Shurer. I’ll bring you highlights from those interviews next week. It was a blast to sit down with Bird again, and to chat with Fucile for the first time since a Glendale Warner Bros. store signing back around the release of THE IRON GIANT.

Time was tight, though, and traffic was terrible, so I had to hustle to make my 5:30 flight out of Oakland. By the time I got home that evening, my INCREDIBLES DVD was sitting there waiting for me on the coffee table. Perfect end to a perfect-but-oh-so-short day.





Even though it’s been a couple of weeks, I’m sure you can still guess my reason for putting on WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM. I mean, I’ve seen every inch of that excellent Criterion FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS set, and it’s beautiful... no doubt about it. Wayne Ewing’s BREAKFAST WITH HUNTER is also worth tracking down if you haven’t seen it. Of all the films that deal with the “twisted legend of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson,” this Art Linson film is the most unfairly maligned. It’s got a great supporting cast of guys like Bruno Kirby and Rene Auberjonois, and it covers some truly crazy corners of HST’s career. The entire film is slightly fictionalized, mainly to alter the name of ROLLING STONE, even though it’s obvious that Bruno Kirby’s meant to be be playing Jann Wenner, who Hunter had such a legendarily contentious relationship over expense accounts. I like the movie. I like its energy. It reminds me of PRIVATE PARTS in some ways... a slightly idealized version of a media figure who was still working and in their prime while the film was being made. Hunter was a rock star when Bill Murray played him, and he was the first one to really nail down all the insane quirks that later showed up so famously in Johnny Depp’s HST. It’s obvious that both men are basing their performances on the same person. Murray got so into playing this role that he had trouble shaking it when he got back to SNL in the fall, and it’s easy to see why. It must be liberating to play Hunter at full-tilt. It’s all about being fearless and blessed and totally fucking shitfaced. Murray in the early days had a malevolent comic energy, like he’d be the best guy in the world to get drunk with right up to the moment where he insisted on beating the shit out of you. His Hunter is more of a menace than Depp’s, largely because he’s matched so ably by the freak power of Peter Boyle as Laszlo, Hunter’s attorney. The way Boyle portrays him is a little closer to the truth of Oscar Ocosta, the firebrand who Hunter was actually writing about.

I think Boyle’s even more of a wild animal than Murray, if that’s possible. He’s a bad influence with a wicked temper and unbridled id. He and Murray have very funny chemistry together, and much of the film involves the period where HST was convinced that Ocosta was dead. I like that this covers a totally different set of stories than FEAR & LOATHING. Taken together, they paint a great portrait of the mythology that HST built up around himself. The disc is completely free of extra features, and I’d describe the transfer as decent at best. It’s a discount title at under $10, though, and I’m glad to finally have the chance to add it to my collection.

My first time through watching THE INCREDIBLES, all I cared about was sound and picture. This was my favorite film last year, so I want a disc worth revisiting. I used the THX Optimizer included on Disc One of the set to adjust my 60 inch screen. I was surprised how much fine-tuning it needed. Might explain why THE FIFTH ELEMENT looked so bad a few weeks back. One thing’s for sure... after doing it, this film looked absolutely beautiful. It may well be one of the best-looking discs in my library. Watching the film yet again, I’m struck by the economy of storytelling, and by just how much movie there really is. There’s enough movie here for three regular movies, yet it somehow remains elegant in terms of overall construction. It’s never once unwieldy or obvious. There are two commentaries on the disc, one with Brad Bird and John Walker, and the other featuring several of the animators. Excellent stuff, all of it, and there are things you’ll learn each time through. The commentary tracks serve as nice complement to the extras on Disc Two without duplicating them. As Brad Bird does his introduction to the second disc and talks about his love of extra features, rest assured he’s not just saying that to move copies. I remember when I worked at Dave’s Video in the early ‘90s, and Brad was one of our customers. Everyone of us working there was a huge fan of “Family Dog,” and Brad was an avid laserdisc fan, a regular, and that long-term love of the format shows in how densely packed this disc is. It’s riddled with Easter Eggs, for one thing, several of which are classic, so keep your eyes open for random Omnidroids. They’re verrrrry important. Also, watch all of the superhero files, interactive menus like the files that Syndrome was keeping on all the supers. Some very, very smart and funny stuff in there.

The first original piece for the disc is “Jack-Jack Attack,” and it’s simply a great example of how to make a short subject. It’s as good and as pure as the Tex Avery stuff or the heyday of Termite Terrace. It’s a gagfest, a veritable symphony of gags, all centered on the long night where Kari the babysitter first learns the true nature of Jack-Jack’s special powers. Kari’s a hilarious character, and Syndrome makes a very funny special appearance, explaining the “S” on his outfit. The second original piece is called “Mr. Incredible & Pals,” and there are a lot of levels to this joke. The concept is that Mr. Incredible and Frozone both licensed their likenesses to a cartoon company back in the ‘60s, before the supers all had to go into hiding. When the scandals happened, the cartoon got shelved, so no one ever saw it. You can watch the pilot episode here, complete with terrible limited animation, bunny rabbit sidekick, and human CLUTCH CARGO-style mouths. It’s pretty damn funny stuff on its own, filled with knowing period detail. Even better, you can watch the segment with commentary recorded as Mr. Incredible and Frozone see the cartoon for the very first time after all these years. Absolutely hilarious, especially Frozone’s escalating outrage (“They made me white! I sound like a beatnik! AND WHO APPROVED THE RABBIT?!”) contrasted with Mr. Incredible’s desperation to put a good spin on everything.

There are several deleted sequences and a totally different opening to the original version of the movie (which featured a totally different villain!), all with introductions by Bird and excellent explanations of the context of everything. There are two different “Making Of” Features, both dense and informative. One of my very favorite things on the disc is “Vowelett – An Essay By Sarah Vowell,” in which she discusses working on the film with the same wry, perceptive humor she exhibits on NPR’s THIS AMERICAN LIFE. She’s great, and it’s a nice outsider’s perspective since she’s not really a professional actor.

And if you liked BOUNDIN, it’s here on Disc Two, beautifully reproduced with a director’s commentary and a short feature called “Who Is Bud Lackey?” I think it’s great that they included this tribute to one of Pixar’s best-kept secret weapons, a guy whose work I’ve evidently been watching since the early days of SESAME STREET.

Sound and picture are top-notch across the board, and the 2.39:1 anamorphic transfer is stunning. There are English, French, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes that perfect reproduce the Oscar-winning sound mix. This is one of the year’s best discs, certainly, and a marvelous record of a film that will only improve through repeat viewings.

I haven’t made my way through the second disc of Fox’s special edition release of I HEART HUCKABEES, but I’ve watched both of the commentaries on the first disc now, as well as the film itself. Great transfer. Peter Deming’s photography is beautiful, candy-colored and bright. Jon Brion’s score sounds rich and full. The David O. Russell commentary is thoughtful and illuminating. I would say again to the movie’s detractors... there’s more here than you may want to admit. Listen to Russell as he talks about his philosophical mentors, his collaborators, the actors, and the intricacies of the plot. He’s able to clearly explain and deconstruct the film in a way that seemed elusive to many critics. Watching the film several times in a row has further convinced me that Mark Wahlberg and Jude Law, the standouts in an entirely excellent cast, gave two of the smartest, funniest, and bravest performances in anything last year, and the second commentary with the cast is a bit of a chaotic free-for-all, which seems fitting after the ways Russell pushed them to get this work onscreen.

Somehow, it seemed fitting that I followed HUCKABEES, which depends on the momentum of anarchy for much of its energy, with a great little gem from last year, THE YES MEN. Many people were outraged to me in e-mail about my support this weekend of the work of Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland. Don’t be. I think they are really clever sleight-of-hand artists. I think they create material that feels real but isn’t. I don’t trust a single thing of theirs in terms of being genuine documentary. Everything they do could easily be rigged to cause an audience reaction, without ever harming or wronging anyone. Or... it might be real. That’s the fun of it for me. If it’s not for you, I get that. Maybe you should try this film instead, since so many of the pranks that are played by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are about pointing out dangerous anti-people corporate sentiment. There’s a deeply humane message at the heart of their hijinks, which may make it far more palatable for you.

I think the film will be a favorite for viewers of THE DAILY SHOW, because that’s what it reminds me of most. It’s just that Bichlbaum and Bonanno took their cutting commentary and turned it into performance art practical jokes instead of a TV show. The thing that amazes me most is that it took this film to introduce me to their antics. We live in a media age. The slightest rocking of the boat can cause an avalanche as the status quo struggles to reassert itself. How did two lunatics represent themselves as official spokesmen for the World Trade Organization and make appearances at conferences and media events around the world? How were they ever allowed airtime, and why wasn’t it a bigger story once the truth was revealed? Bichlbaum in particular is a brilliant natural performer. He can convince any crowd that he’s serious, no matter how outrageous or ludicrous the presentation is that he’s giving. The only audience that ever freaks out or reacts seems to be a student-filled classroom. When they appear in front of rooms full of journalists and experts, no one ever appears even remotely ruffled by the nature of what they’re saying. Directors Chris Smith (AMERICAN MOVIE, HOME MOVIE, AMERICAN JOB), Dan Ollman, and Sarah Price have done a great job of making the case for why the work of the Yes Men matters, and the disc features an audio commentary with all the directors, Bichlbaum, and Bonanno together, and they’ve included some deleted scenes that are entertaining enough. The film got an R for language, but it doesn’t feel like an R. It’s smart, and it might serve as a provocative way to start a conversation with younger teen viewers about responsibility and media “reality.” There’s an English Dolby Digital stereo track, and English, French, and Spanish language subtitles.






Everyone loves a good mindfuck.

That’s my theory, anyway. Everyone loves that feeling where they’re watching a film and suddenly everything takes a right turn you just didn’t see coming, and everything falls into place and a film just... opens up for you. It’s one of the things cinema does well, thanks to the way you can layer visual and audio information into something. You can really play with the way perception works. It’s one of the challenges that has kept filmmakers interested since the very early days of film, and all of these films try to blow the audience’s mind in different ways.

I’ve got a real soft spot for giallo as a genre, but more on a film-by-film basis than across the board. Lucio Fulci, for example, has made films that I love (like THE PSYCHIC, which may well be the best thing he ever touched), and he’s made films I can barely sit through (sorry, BEYOND fans... I don’t get it). Until Shriek Show put out this new 2-disc release of LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN, I’d never seen this one. It’s a good trippy murder mystery that puts me in mind of BLOW-UP or some of Brian De Palma’s early work.

Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) has a disturbing dream about murdering her neighbor. It’s very surreal, but specific in certain details, and when she tells her therapist about it, Carol’s very upset. Things get worse a few days later when her neighbor turns up, killed exactly as she was in Carol’s dream. There’s a ton of evidence linking Carol to the crime scene. She’s freaked out, especially when she’s arrested by Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker). She’s confined to a sanitarium while her husband and her father start working on her defense. When a hippie who appeared in her dream shows up in her waking life and starts to follow her, she becomes convinced that she’s going to be killed next. Inspector Corvin digs deeper, coming up with a half-dozen viable suspects. It’s a wild visual ride, totally high on ‘60’s excess, and as mysteries go, it’s clever and well-constructed. The last ten minutes do a great job of tying everything together.

There are two different cuts included here, one under the American release title of SCHIZOID. There’s only about a five minute difference between the two edits, but the longer cut turns up the nudity and the gore enough that it’s definitely the one genre fans are going to want. It’s not a flawless transfer, but it looks like they made the most of the materials available to them. Shriek Show’s put together some good extras, including interviews with the stars and with Carlos Rambaldi, who handled the film’s effects. There’s also a documentary, a gallery, the original trailer, and more. If you like giallo at all, then give this one a try. It’s a good example of what keeps fans of the genre coming back, and a nice disc overall.

I was really excited when NIRVANA showed up as part of a stack of screeners from Disney. Miramax released director Gabriele Salvatores’ most recent film, I’M NOT SCARED, last year. I fell head over heels in love with that movie, so I was looking forward to seeing this earlier film of his. I’d read that it was a cool, smart mix of BLADE RUNNER, TRON, and THE MATRIX.

Ummmmmmmmm... no.

I gave the film two separate attempts, but it’s pretty much unwatchable. Christopher Lambert plays a video game designer who is about to release his newest game, Nirvana. When he learns that the lead character in the game has come to life, he has no choice but to destroy his own program. There’s plenty of potential here, but this film is inert. There’s nothing worse than a cyberthriller written by people who appear to have never touched a computer. Nothing makes sense in the film, and there’s not a single compelling character. The film tries several major narrative twists, but it’s so uninvolving that it’s hard to care. For a mindfuck to fully pay off, you have to care about what you’re watching. Otherwise, it’s all just an empty game.

Michael Cooney was the writer of IDENTITY, James Mangold’s bizarro-riff on TEN LITTLE INDIANS from a couple of years ago. That was pretty entertaining, if a wee bit on the absurd side, and served as potent actor bait, so I can see why someone would expect one of Cooney’s plays, THE i INSIDE, to yield similar results.

Ummmmmmmmm... no.

Director Roland Richter came up empty, even with an interesting cast including Ryan Phillippe, Robert Sean Leonard, Piper Perabo, Sarah Polley, Stephen Lang, and Stephen Rea. Simon (Phillippe) wakes up in a hospital, where he’s told that he is recovering from an accident. As a result, he’s got a case of amnesia that has erased two full years from his memory. Or... did it? Simon falls asleep, wakes up again, and finds himself transported back two years, where he lies in the same hospital following a different accident. Simon begins to pinball back and forth in time, and as he does, he starts to piece together the death of his brother, an affair, blackmail, and more. The movie tries hard, and it’s good-looking, but it never really clicks. Maybe it’s too busy narratively, trying too hard to impress. Whatever the case, it ultimately becomes more exhausting than exhilarating.

Sometimes, simplicity is best. Otto Preminger’s BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING is a beautifully-made freakshow starring Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea, and Noel Coward. It’s a wonderful, lean example of film writing, and it’s exquisitely photographed in black-and-white scope. Ann Lake (Lynley) is new to London, having just moved with her four-year-old daughter Bunny. She shows up with Bunny for her first day of preschool, in a rush, and drops Bunny off. When she arrives later in the day to pick her up, no one can recall having seen her. Preminger’s first great move is how he handles the set-up of the film. We never see Bunny. Not even a glimpse. It’s handled very naturally, never drawing attention to itself. Ann goes nuts when no one can find her daughter, and her brother Steven (Dullea) gets involved. They turn the school upside down. When Superintendent Newhouse (Olivier) gets involved in the investigation, he starts to notice subtle clues in the stories of the Lakes that suggest that Bunny may not even exist. Every scene tests your ideas about what really happened, and the ending delivers the goods. The film doesn’t have to resort to crazy cutting and random surreal imagery or excessive narrative convulsions to make its point. It’s simply a smartly plotted piece brought to life with exceptional performances. This is a great example of how this sort of film is supposed to work, and the print of the film looks spectacular.

It’s been interesting watching the cult of DONNIE DARKO grow since its Sundance 2001 debut. It’s hard for me to judge what’s been done to Fox Home Video’s new release of DONNIE DARKO: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. I saw the film four times before it was released in theaters initially... once at the Sundance premiere, and then three times as it was being prepped for release... and each screening was a different cut of the film. Richard Kelly worked hard to satisfy himself and Newmarket, his distributor, and I give him credit for flexibility. He demonstrated that he was able to approach the film several different ways. Seems appropriate that every time I’ve seen the movie, it really has been different and hasn’t just seemed that way. It’s forced me to think about what DARKO is trying to say. I’ve gotta say... the commentary track by Kelly and Kevin Smith is one of the best commentaries I’ve seen in recent memory. Smith enjoys the film, obviously, but he also has great fun teasing Kelly about how much thought he’s put into everything from shot composition to song selection. Kelly makes his best case for his interpretation of what the whole film means, and Smith makes me laugh when he flat-out disagrees with some of Kelly’s conclusions. That’s why I think DARKO’s become such a cult hit. Everyone who watches it feels like they get it in a way that nobody else does. The 2.35:1 transfer is the best-looking version of this film that I’ve ever seen, theatrical or otherwise, and both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are excellent. There are English and Spanish subtitles. I haven’t seen the extras on the second disc yet, but this set’s worth buying just for the film itself.


Watching all the TV show collections that come out these days seems like a full-time job. There are certain shows that come out that take automatic priority, however, because of nostalgia value. As I said to someone recently, “My entire childhood is being released, one box set at a time.” It’s risky, though, because there are thing I enjoyed when I was young that were best enjoyed with more innocent, unjaded eyes.

Thankfully, THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO actually stands the test of time. It’s not one of the best shows ever made, but it’s charming and succeeds in large part because of the chemistry between the leads. Stephen J. Cannell admits in the extra material here that he didn’t like superhero films or comic books when he was offered the chance to create this show. He made a very specific choice to create a show in which all the superpowers were centered in the suit, not in the person. He wanted to do something about a normal guy who ends up having to deal with this extraordinary circumstance, and because he wasn’t a comic fan, he manages to bring a very different perspective to things. This isn’t loaded with all sorts of sly, knowing nods to the genre. In fact, it really doesn’t feel like any comic book I’ve ever read. Cannell’s mainly interested in the evolution of the relationship between Ralph Hinkley (William Katt) and Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp), the two guys who are chosen by visiting aliens to be the custodians of The Suit on Earth. Ralph’s a high-school teacher who works with the special ed kids, and Bill is a no-nonsense FBI agent. Remember... this was originally aired in 1981, just as the Reagan era was getting underway. Ralph and Bill embodied the extremes of liberalism and conservatism at the time, and Cannell managed to make the back-and-forth more fun than it should have been. I think the subtext got a little wierd for them when a guy named Hinkley actually shot Reagan, and they changed his name for a little while, dubbing over any dialogue referring to him by last name. By season two, they had evidently changed it back, realizing that no one was confused enough to think that William Katt was somehow involved in the shooting of the President. Katt and Culp are both good comic performers, and they get more and more confident playing off one another as the season progresses. The surprise for me is looking back at Connie Sellecca, who played Pam Davidson, Ralph’s girlfriend. She’s got great comic timing, and she carried a lot of weight on the show. I always knew she was gorgeous, but I didn’t remember how good she was as a performer. The supporting cast of kids features a few familiar faces, including Michael Pare in what must have been his first role. There are eight episodes here, including the 2-hour pilot, and they included the unaired pilot for THE GREATEST AMERICAN HEROINE, a proposed spin-off, as a bonus feature. There’s a reason this was unaired. It was five years after the original show began, but that five years made a huge difference. It just doesn’t work, and the lead actress (who I didn’t recognize at all) has hopefully vanished back into the obscurity she was plucked from to appear in this. Anchor Bay did a nice job with the package overall, including over an hour of new interview material, and I’m excited to see them release season two later this year.


I know I’ve mentioned Amoeba Records several times here in the DVD SHELF column. Small wonder. They’re right around the corner from the Labs in Hollywood, and they have a huge used section. They also have a pretty healthy import section, and I browse there every time I go in.

If I was interested in a better deal, though, I’d just cut Amoeba out of the import equation altogether and go directly to Cine-East, the retailer/wholesaler that supplies Amoeba with their import titles. I’ve been in to Cine-East a few times. It’s an unassuming little storefront when you walk in, but what they have going for them is expertise and experience. They’ve been doing this for a long time under several different names, having started as an anime shop originally.

On a recent Friday morning, I went to lunch with Enrique, who runs the store. He’s involved in a number of interesting upcoming anime expos and screening events here in LA, and he also wanted to talk to me about Cine-East. It’s obvious that he cares passionately about making sure that these films he loves are seen by as many people as possible, and I love video retailers like this... guys who got into it because they are crazy about the films that they sell. To that end, he proposed giving me a few titles every week to check out, films he wants to make sure people know are available, and I’m going to include a regular ongoing feature here in the column where I discuss the very best of those titles, starting with two recent releases today.

NEW POLICE STORY is the latest Jackie Chan release, and I remember when we first ran a link to the trailer last July. I remember thinking that it looked like the first old-school Jackie in quite a while. It’s directed by Benny Chan, who also directed GEN-X COPS and GEN-X COPS 2, as well as the Jackie film WHO AM I? The good news is that this film will feel very familiar to fans of Jackie’s HK-era stardom. The bad news is that this film will feel very familiar to fans of Jackie’s HK-era stardom. They certainly didn’t try to reinvent anything here. Basically, Jackie plays Wing, a badass, highly decorated police officer who is destroyed when a hostage situation involving other cops goes bad, and Jackie is the only survivor. Even worse, he was an arrogant jackass on the news, making claims about how quickly he’d catch these particular bad guys. Daniel Wu plays Joe, the leader of the bank robber/cop killers, and it’s a nice performance in a very broadly drawn bad guy role. He takes a personal interest in destroying Jackie’s life, and watching the cat and mouse between them is half the fun of the film. The other major character is a rookie cop (Nic Tse) with a lot of secrets who is partnered with the disgraced Wing to try and solve the case. The action in the film is all pretty good, and it builds to a suitably splashy finish with some big eye-popping stunts. It’s a good looking disc, too, from Joy Sales, a two-disc set that features both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, as well as a widescreen transfer. It’s an all regions NTSC disc, so you don’t need to have a region-free player to be able to watch it. There’s a disc full of extras like behind the scenes footage and interviews with the actors, as well as trailers, a music video, and a photo gallery. I would recommend this one, even if I would caution you to not expect something that bests the considerable highs Jackie Chan has accomplished in the past.

And then there’s CUTIE HONEY. Hooooo, boy. Where do you even begin when you’re writing about a film like this? There are certain titles that unite audiences around the world in common cultural reactions, movies that speak to everybody. And then there are films that come from another country but which might as well come from another planet. This film is totally absolutely over the top batshit crazy, and it seems almost gleeful about it. It’s especially bizarre coming from Anno Hideaki, who created NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, one of the most dour, brutally depressing and fucked up anime series I can think of. It’s obvious that he used EVAGELION to work through all sorts of issue, and the film he made at the end of the series, END OF EVANGELION (aptly enough), features a full-blown psychotic episode-as-Apocalypse that lasts about a half-hour or so. To see him make a movie this cute and bright and plastic and pop and cheerful is like seeing comedian Steven Wright burst into song and dance. Hideaki seems to have a flair for having fun, though, because it’s hard not to enjoy yourself while CUTIE HONEY is playing. I was trying to imagine how I would describe this film to a completely non-fan, someone with no real point of reference. Sure, you can just say, “Based on the anime series,” but what if someone is unfamiliar with manga and anime?

”Okay, see, there’s this robot girl who was made from the dead girl who was the daughter of the scientist who built the robot, and he also created this collar that she wears so that she can press a button and the ‘honey flash’ will turn her into a superpowered shape-shifting superhero who fights the members of the Panther Claw clan, a group of sexually ambiguous super-powered creatures who worship a demon god named Jill. Oh, and when she’s not working, she’ll work in an office where she gets tea for everyone. And, uh, she loses her clothes. A lot.”

That actually sounds more sane than it plays, too.

I can’t imagine Warner Bros. ever growing the stones to release this film in the US. I just don’t think there’s a mainstream hunger for MIGHTY MORPHIN PERVERT RANGERS. Sure, Eriko Sato is yummy and plays up the innocent sexuality for all its worth. And Hideaki displays a zeal for all the stereotypes of anime, doing his best to make this live-action film feel exactly like an animated movie. The effects are all over the place. Some of it looks great. Some of it is no more advanced than stuff from the silent era. Overall, I can’t even keep a straight face while recommending the film. It may well be a terrible movie. I wouldn’t know. I had too much fun watching it.

Check out Cine-East right here!!


Henchman Mongo was a longtime presence at the Moriarty Labs until about a year ago, when he moved out. We didn’t hear from Mongo for quite a while, and I was beginning to suspect that he had vanished entirely. Then, mysteriously, DVDs began disappearing from the Labs for days at a time. They’d show up sticky, manhandled, fingerprints and fluid all over the place. I placed a tracking device in all the DVDs in the house and waited for the next stack to vanish.

Sure enough, it happened again, and I followed the signal to a crawlspace under the Labs. That’s right... he moved out, but he didn’t leave the building. I made sure to carry my cattle prod, and I gently explained to Mongo that he is free to take any DVD from the Labs as long as he returns it free of his own funk and with a review attached. He seems to have taken to the idea, and I’ve decided to reprint the thoughts he leaves behind. This may well be the first AICN column composed using only fecal matter and Post-It Notes.

First up, his take on THE FORGOTTEN:

first off... I still would rather dry hump Agent Scully.... But J Moore carried the movie pretty well. I enjoyed this movie. Anytime you have the allstar HBO cast... its a good thing.

McNulty is kick ass always.... he's a Brit... right? WELL THERE BE MY 007! I also spied Captain Hampsterdam & Keller's Bitch of Oz. I like this film... mostly because I recently viewed the last two F Night ShammyDingDong films.... and they sucked hard... this was pretty damn good. this kind of reminds me of the movie where the bridge was gonna collapse... remember?... with "the Ring" hottie in it.

Anyhoo... this movie didnt try too hard... they compare it to 6th sense... looks like they watched it a few times.... one of the cops looks just like F knight..hehe.. the idea is good and I like that we dont see the Aliens... but you sort of feel they are about & then they suck you up and shit.

See what I mean? Pauline Kael is not dead after all. He also watched the Mike Hodges film, I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD, starring The-Man-Who-Would-Be-Bond, Clive Owen:

i get impatient some times... wasnt into this out of the box... then ...I started to feel the slow burn... like I was stuck in quicksand & I liked it. Maybe it was the score... but I felt like, at times, that I was watching a Kubrick film...... the music gave it a really strange groovy feel...... I like the fact this movie doesnt feel it needs to spoon feed you the details.

if you took a chick to this film.. the bitch would talk all the way thru....why is he doing that??.. or.. who are those guys??. or.. have you been smoking weed???

Leave em at home for this one dudes.

I started leaving out titles to challenge him, like CARANDIRU, the South American prison drama:

There was a time when the only Prison films I dug involved Steve Mcqueen, a hefty Bavarian Prison Matron debasing hot young naked female inmates, Em City, nipples against glass...or a mouse... i'm a prison movie guy now. this is yet another look at prison life.... I enjoyed this movie. check it out.

I was curious what he’d think of the Japanese horror film PHONE, which I saw at the FanTasia Film Festival and which is just now being released domestically by Tartan Extreme Video:

these Japanese actresses are something else

they are strong and stoic, western yet traditional....spooky and sexy as hell..

women rule this movie

will somebody turn off your fucking cell phone... im trying to watch a fucking movie here !!!

Kids are Spooky

the girl who played young-ju is fantastic

i am covinced they hired a very disturbed 50 year midget to play this role.

...hmmm....i mean ....little person...

like in "dont look now"...remember the red mac? yikes

This little girl is the star of this movie

she sort of reminds me of sir jack in "the shinning".. or of reagan in "xercist"..... but without all those fancy store bought effects

love her

do you remember an old night gallery where a little girls face would appear on an old spooky tree at night ...or some shit.... and she would always repeat ...."mommy, why, ..why did you let me die."....... I love that.

loved the cast... i loved the look of the film.... the music was nice

this movie never lets up... lots of cheap scares are around each corner....but they are fun

but it seemed every 2 minutes the phone would ring and then that pissed off dead wet chick would suddenly appear on something

a mirror... a window pane..... a puddle ..a glass of soy milk...yadayada... and then they would drop the piano from the 5th floor...BANG

it almost got on my nerves.. but it let up

this movie is fun...... come see it for young-ju..... stay for some scares and lovely ladies.

He specifically made sure he grabbed THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES from one of my stacks and wouldn’t give it back even when I hit him with a Taser:

my on again off again physician, Dr. Clau told me she loved this movie.... I was worried and I smelled the English Patient all over me.... as I remember... I got sleepy during that flick and had a painful dream about a urinary infection.

But see.... I forgot Dr. Clau is not your usual female sawbones.

i loved this movie, the kid who is the lead, Ernesto?? He reminds me of a Spanish Freddie Prinz Jr. .... but with talent. I found him almost mythical with his depth of character. His side kick was great too... as the likable con... also played with heart and finesse.

after watching this.... i got really inspired to do something... something good.... then i started watching Sports Center..... did you hear about randy moss? ... i hate the Raiders.. they deserve each other

ooh.... i almost forgot ...i really love the b/w living pictures this film uses, quite artfully, throughout the entire story....particularly at the end. live stills. really nice.

This film is sweeping. This film is personal. mongo like

I warned him that BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS was about people having conversations, but he liked the cover, and he hid it in his pants, so I couldn’t get it back:

and i felt nothing. the people in this movie were so unattached from any sort of emotion or reality,,, that i didn't care about them. this is a fine film... well played & beautifully shot... ... i know it is the era for this crap......oooh and it's clever. I still don't care. Dan Aykroyd was unremarkable in his ode to Michael Lerner. There… now I feel like a real critic.

Oh, and Peter O'toole... God Love Him... am I a bad person if I think of EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE every time I see him now? I expect Clint Eastwood to come out and say, “Right turn, Sir O’Toole.”

He mentioned that he’d be having a girl over. Short of abduction, I’m not sure how that’s possible, but I offered him a film that I thought might help the cause, WIMBLEDON:

All the stars were in line for me to hate this movie..

and then......... Kirsten Dunst put the Voodoo on me good.. again. She is natural and adorable...

Guys will love this film!

Here's the basics :

regular guy is found falling apart

hot, famous chick sees the greatness in him

the guy....with her help... figures out he IS great & scores the hot chick & supreme victory

and SHE thinks she has the healing power of love and feels even more special

that is what all of us undiscovered geniuses are waiting for

And then finally, he told me that he would hide in my toilet and scare my wife if I didn’t give him Paul “What Script?” Anderson’s ALIEN VS PREDATOR to watch:

This movie is not as bad as I thought is was going to be... [ smiles, showing teeth ]...still, it's pretty bad.

The Black gal who plays the lead is hot. I was watching "Latin Fever 4" right before I put this movie on, you could imagine .. I was a bit horny, ... and the whole time. I was just wishing... that I could, ...only,.. once, .... emerge from MY slimy pod and mount her face and plant my seed down her throat.

I'm sorry.

The film was kind of alright for awhile... but, I started thinking about the strange longing that I have been developing for Jada P lately ..... Weird... (I thought I hated her?? Turns out ... I am into her now.

Ok... maybe ...I hate Will Smith now?

That's weird ... because I used to love him. Fresh Prince made me laugh..... and his side kick Carlton was a hoot!

... Will & Alonzo were beautiful together and.. The TV personality sister ..Hillary? .... She was sexy... kinda like , if you got into bed with her naked.... she would complain that you smell like an animal....but still have sex with you. The younger Sister was just turning hot.

Oh Yeah... I have met the Butler, from the show, a few times, and he is a real warm dude. I really liked him.

He kind to Mongo.

Will Smith is just selling toothpaste now...why not.. Will is awesome... he do what he want.....but, I want to see what he's got.

I think Will Smith is a lot like Jim Carrey. Special.

Jim almost let it all fly in Eternal Sunshine.... that was great.. but then, he fell back to his old tricks in Lemonysnickers.


PS - I just spe;l chceked check my review... I spelled every word wrong.....So, you got to keep thwt in mind. P

He spell checked something written in chicken blood. Right. And aside from spelling, that was the most on-target review of AvsP ever written.

I’ll be back in about three or four days with a much bigger DVD SHELF column. Lots of great titles in this next one, and I’ll also be transcribing today’s press conference held to announce the special edition DVD of TITANIC. I got a chance to talk a little with James Cameron and Jon Landau, and even if you’re not a fan of TITANIC, I guarantee I got some news you’ll be interested in. See you back here in a few. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

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