Knight at HOME at the Movies
Summer Blockbusters and a Blockbuster Couple
Two of the summers biggest hits have arrived on DVD and are obviously going to find their way under the Christmas trees
of a lot of folks this holiday. For a little more depth, I suggest adding the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton boxed set as
well -- one of the cinema's most spectacular blockbuster couples.
The summer’s biggest hit, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is
finally here on DVD thanks to Walt Disney Video. Though the film is available in two
formats, I strongly suggest the 2-disc Collector’s Edition for those dying to find out
how the filmmakers crafted all those stunning spectacular visual effects and for
some other really interesting featurettes. There’s a disc's worth of densely packed
features that focus on everything from how they created the squid-like Kraken
monster to a nifty feature on how the Pirates ride was upgraded at the Disney theme
parks. I have to be honest, though -- I zipped through many of these “making of”
featurettes because, frankly, I don’t want to know how they did a lot of these cool FX
things. The intricacies of Johnny Depp’s wardrobe, okay, the premiere footage with
Keira and Orlando all dolled up, fine, but I don’t want the magic of Davy Jones’
squirming octopus face wrecked for me by "here's how we did it" reality. So, if you're
like me, enjoy but keep a sharp eye out mateys (can't resist one) if you don’t want
to have the surprise factor removed.
As I wrote in my review of the film, the movie is a grand, expansive entertainment,
a delightful waste of time (though a tad too long) and a mite good sequel to the
original. Who would have thought after Cutthroat Island that anyone would want to
see these black hearted swashbucklers again? But there you have it. This is going
to be a terrific film to enjoy over the holidays with the family gathered. Ahoy there
matey (okay, can’t resist two).
Folks are also going to enjoy Superman Returns, out on a similar 2-disc Special
Edition from Warner Home Video. Though the film just hit the stores last week my
preview copy arrived in time for the Thanksgiving holiday and was the prime
attraction in the lineup at my sister and brother-in-law’s spectacular new home
theatre. And we’re talking one of those 20 foot screens with all the sound options.
Let me just say that this film looked and sounded as terrific as I remembered it.
The action sequences were wonderfully done by out director Bryan Singer (trading in
the latest X Men sequel to tackle this). And Brandon Routh is the find of the year so
eerily does he suggest – and advance – the legacy of the role left by Christopher
Reeve. In general the movie, including the score, pays perfect homage to its
predecessors and then stakes out new territory on its own. My biggest quibble with
the film itself are the casting of Kate Bosworth in the Lois Lane role and Kevin
Spacey’s tired under played menace as Lex Luthor. I really missed Margot Kidder,
the gleeful Gene Hackman and even the sweet, poignant Valerine Perrine. Though
the movie’s too long – like Pirates 2 – it’s a great picture to watch with family and
The second disc of the Warner’s Special Edition has – get ready – a THREE hour
making of documentary that pretty much tells you everything except the brand of
underwear that Routh is wearing. Strangely enough, unlike the Pirates sequel, I ate
this behind the scenes stuff up. Superman Returns was less about magic and a lot
more about action and thrills for me so I wanted to know “how they did it.” And boy
– this 2-disc edition answered all my questions (except for the underwear on Routh,
obviously). The movie is also part of a 14-disc comprehensive Ultimate Superman
boxed set that bundles the movie with the Reeve films. I’ll have more on that in
the coming weeks.
I leave you this time with a new boxed set starring that blockbuster couple of the
tabloids – Liz and Dick. Warner Home Video’s 5-disc Elizabeth Taylor-Richard
Burton Film Collection is centered on the 2-disc, Oscar winning peak of their
acting career together, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Though the 1966 film has been
available on DVD before, this new edition has all new, fascinating documentaries
(including a vintage one with first time film director Mike Nichols) and a new transfer
of the film (to my eyes) that make the set a must have. What else to say about
the film – other than to once again mourn the fact that Burton lost the Oscar he
should have had for his stunningly good performance? The non-stop talk, talk talk
of the movie (the film is almost a virtual transfer of gay playwright Edward Albee’s
stage hit) might put off some modern audiences but the performances of Taylor-
Burton-George Segal-Sandy Dennis are riveting for those willing to take the ride.
The set also includes the Taylor-Burton political thriller, The Comediens (a 1967
political drama set in Haiti that is somewhat rewarding), the campy, over the top The
Sandpiper from 1965 and the set’s real find – 1963’s The V.I.P.s. In The Sandpiper
(directed by Vincente Minnelli) Burton plays a priest who gets involved with single
mother Taylor, a free spirited artist who lives at the beach on Big Sur and paints by
the seashore dressed in a big poncho. Somehow – and it’s never clear how – she’s
got a boy toy in Charles Bronson (whose character might be gay) who is loyal to a
fault. There’s also Eva Marie Saint as Burton’s long suffering wife and a lot of
insufferable soul suffering -- all drowning in the Oscar winning song “The Shadow of
Your Smile,” (gallons of musical syrup get poured over the movie). It’s a camp
stinker but a fun one.
As for The V.I.P.s it’s one of the least remembered but one of the best couplings of
Taylor and Burton on screen. Released in the midst of all the Cleopatra scandal
stuff, it’s a high class soap opera in which the breathtakingly beautiful Liz is
determined to leave handsome Dick for handsomer Louis – as in Jordan. But the
illicit lovers are trapped at London’s Heathrow airport by the fog and when Dick reads
her "Dear John" note he heads to the VIP lounge for some major nostril flaring.
Other guests waiting around for the weather to clear – and the drama to shift – are a
dream cast of over actors – Orson Welles, Maggie Smith and Margaret Rutherford in
her Oscar winning role. This is a luxurious, highly satisfying, high dungeon drama in
the Douglas Sirk vein and is a welcome addition to DVD.