Knight at HOME at the Movies
Drama! Action! Dramedy! Comedy!
Four great movies; grand entertainments all. Something to please everyone in these DVD recommendations me thinks.
As 2007 wends along thoughts of the year's best movies are starting to silently line up in
the back of the mind. High on that list for me is The Astronaut Farmer, which is now
out from Warner Home Video. I fell hard for this Capra-like story in which Billy Bob
Thornton essays the title role of a rancher who wants to go into space and has the brains,
the gumption, and the will to do it. He is aided in his dream by his supportive wife, the
illuminating Virginia Madsen, the rest of his family, and eventually, a country full of
people desperately in need of dreams of their own. This is perfect family fare and I
mean that in the best way. It deserved a much larger audience and hopefully will find it
via this DVD release. The disc contains a making of featurette, a conversation with a real
NASA astronaut, and more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (can't you tell by the capital letters?!).
Neither critics nor audiences had much love for Factory Girl, director George
Hickenlooper's take on 60s pop icon, the beautiful and damned Edie Sedgwick. When
rich, bored socialite Edie hooked up with gay pop artist Andy Warhol in 1965 in Manhattan,
the two apparently saw something in the other that was enough to thrust them to the
pinnacle of hipster fame. The excellent oral biography of Edie by Jean Stein and George
Plimpton was the first of its kind and was the publishing phenomenon of 1982 (it's an
endlessly fascinating account of that brief period in New York social and cultural history).
Immediately, talk of a film version of the 1960s It Girl who blazed like a comet and died
of a drug overdose at 28 was everywhere. Many, many actresses - from Molly Ringwald
(!) to Charlize Theron have all been mentioned as potential Edie's. But it took
Hickenlooper to get it made. He chose Sienna Miller for his Edie who does an okay job
and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol (who is funny as hell in the part). The movie includes
many of the other characters that hung out at Warhol's infamous salon, The Factory (with
its silver walls and mile long white couch) with Jimmy Fallon playing gay as Edie's
confident and pseudo "manager" Chuck Wein. It also includes a character obviously
based on Bob Dylan, one of Edie's hit and run romantic partners. The movie's enjoyable
enough and certainly sketches in much of the surface details of Edie's life as the leader of
the youthquake movement but considering its subject matter, doesn't cut very deep.
Those not familiar with Andy and Edie however, will find this an eye opening tour of the
beginnings of our now pervasive celebrity culture. As noted time and again, Edie, one of
the first official "superstars" was famous for doing nothing - the original Paris Hilton and
Warhol certainly wasn't hurt by the reflected star wattage. The disc includes several
It's been ten years since Francis Ford Coppola's last movie and now Parmount Home
Video has given us a special edition of it: John Grisham's The Rainmaker. This by
the numbers, heavily plotted 1997 courtroom drama introduced the young Matt Damon to
the movies and instant stardom. He easily wears the mantle of Leading Man and is ably
abetted by scene stealers like Danny DeVito and Jon Voight. The movie is also helped by
the goofball but expert supporting cast that includes the luminous Mary Kay Place and
Mickey Rourke. The story's still a nice example of Sunday night movie fare (it's kind of
like a long episode of "Law & Order") and features a terrific two scene appearance by The
Astronaut Farmer's Virginia Madsen and first impressive performance by Claire Danes.
Numerous featurettes are on this Special Feature edition, most interesting among them is
the director's commentary and a healthy 30 minute segment on Coppola's creative
directing style (we are treated to numerous examples throughout this fascinating
featurette). Now if we could only get a Special Edition of the director's Dracula!
Paul Newman should have won the Oscar for his performance in 1982's The Verdict
which is getting a 2-disc Collector's Edition treatment from 20th Century Fox. Newman
plays the down on his luck, drunken Frank Costello, a lawyer who has one last case to
redeem himself. Sidney Lumet's courtroom drama features a first script by playwright
David Mamet that I think is still his best. In this David vs. Goliath story, Newman is
surrounded with a dream cast: a wily James Mason as the head of the opposing team of
lawyers, Jack Warden as Newman's buddy and associate, Charlotte Rampling as a
mysterious woman who seems to be in Newman's corner, Milo O'Shea as a cranky judge
who won't give Newman any slack and a raft of amazing character actors, Julie Bovasso
and Lindsay Crouse (then Mamet's wife) among them. Fox has included a second disc
which offers a host of new, informative featurettes along with vintage material. There's
even one that focuses on the reasons why Newman wasn't awarded the Oscar (Ben
Kingsley in Gandhi took the prize). This is a terrific film that is as fresh today as when it
was first released - a genuine courtroom classic and Fox's collector's edition is worth
trading up for or adding to your collection.