Image

Shared Darkness

A Communal Life in Film, Examined

The Wilkie Collins Set

Four Weddings and a Funeral). More mystery ensues.

The Moonstone, meanwhile, tells the story of a sacret Hindu diamond. While lesser known, and  additionally a bit less taut and steeped in moodiness than its companion piece here, it’s an equally well-sketched tale, and capably brought to screen in this version from director Robert Bierman. When jewel thief John Hearncastle (Terrance Hardiman) nabs the titular yellow stone from the head of a Moon God statue, and passes it along his niece Rachel (Keeley Hawes) on occasion of her 18th birthday, it sets off a wild chain of events. Rachel’s boyfriend, Franklin Blake (Greg Wise), immediately offers to have the stone mounted, but the next morning it’s missing again, and London detective Sergeant Cuff (Anthony Sher) is called in to investigate. As he uncovers a web of lies, no family member is above suspicion. Kevin Elyot’s adaptation tweaks a good bit of the dialogue, but retains Collins’ galloping sense of fated doom.

The Wilkie Collins Set is offered forth in a sturdy cardboard slipcase, with each title coming in its own respective plastic Amray case. The 1.33:1 full screen video transfers are fairly solid, with only a bit of color irregularity marring some of The Moonstone‘s outdoor passages. There are unfortunately no supplemental features offered on the titles, but if it’s straightforward, well acted presentations of literary classics you crave and live productions are far outside of your zipcode, you could do much, much worse than these earnest, well-mounted offerings. B (Movies) C (Discs)

Ana Claudia Talancón > Chopped Liver

Rachael Leigh Cook, including Stateside, 29 Palms, Tangled and Greg Marcks’ 11:14, opposite Hilary Swank — who I swear does not look like my sister. Such fixations, let’s call them, have nothing to do with talent, of course, or even innate sexual heat. There’s just something guys frequently latch onto — a sort of cute, buoyant relatability. Or maybe that’s just me. It’s worth pointing out in my own defense, though, that I was on paid assignment for three of the four flicks above. And I drew the line at Scorched.

This switch in my mind was flipped just now with the recent DVD arrival of The Virgin of Juarez, costarring the lovely Ana Claudia Talancón (above).
Talancón
burst onto the scene, of course, in 2002’s Oscar-nominated foreign language film El Crimen del Padre Amaro, opposite Gael Garcia Bernal. I interviewed her at the time, and though sick with a cold, she was still radiant and charming — just a real pleasure. So of course I dutifully caught the little-seen Sueño, opposite John Leguizamo, making it the background accompaniment for an evening of laundry earlier this year.

With roles in Richard Linklater’s highly anticipated Fast Food Nation and Mike Newell’s Love in the Time of Cholera on the horizon, though, Talancón
may not have to live only in my DVD player. And that’s great. Still, you can expect my review of The Virgin of Juarez fairly soon.

U2: Zoo TV Live from Sydney

waging war on AIDS and stupid poverty, rock star Bono also finds time to “kick out some fresh jams,” as the kids today don’t say. U2: Zoo TV Live from Sydney finds the group in fine form on the outdoor leg of their famed early-’90s Zoo TV Tour. You missed it, you say? Too busy stitching New Kids on the Block patches onto your sister’s hand-me-down jean jacket? Jesus, I wouldn’t mention that to anyone else. For the full review, from IGN, click here.

Fight For Your Right to Score Dream Internship

To paraphrase Janeane Garofalo in Reality Bites, if the phrase “once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity” and The Gap ever crossed your mind in the same sentence, well… pass me some of whatever you’re having. Still, Columbia Pictures announced today it is partnering with
eight of the world’s leading companies to offer the “Pursue It Ultimate
Internship Contest,”
in which contestants will compete for dream internships at
Gap Inc., The Hollywood Reporter,
Morgan Stanley, NBC, the National Football League, People Magazine, PlayStation and Yahoo!

In addition to the internship position, each winner also
will win a trip to the Hollywood premiere of Columbia
Pictures’
The Pursuit of Happyness
[sic]
, starring Will Smith, Thandie Newton and Jaden Christopher Syre Smith.
Winners will have the opportunity to meet Smith and enjoy the gala evening with
the film’s cast.

Based on a true story, the movie stars Will Smith as Chris
Gardner, a marginally employed salesman who finds himself with nowhere to go
after he and his 5-year-old son (played by real-life tot Jaden) are evicted
from their San Francisco apartment.
When Gardner lands an internship at
a prestigious brokerage firm, he and his son endure numerous hardships as he
struggles to create a better life for the two of them.

From October 18 through October 30,
2006
contestants can visit the contest Web site www.sony.com/Pursue-It
and choose the company at which they would like to intern. As part of the
online application process, entrants will need to create a video of themselves,
in which they share, in five minutes or less, their own personal motto
or “words
to live by,” giving examples of how this philosophy makes them uniquely
qualified to work at the company they have chosen.

Fox Atomic Makes Halloween Plans

web site for Fox Atomic, 20th Century Fox’s new genre arm, will attempt to make a splash on Halloween day in an interesting fashion, offering up a series of scheduled giveaways, premiere clips, contests and photo releases from forthcoming Atomic film releases, including John Stockwell’s Turistas and the sequels to The Hills Have Eyes and 28 Days Later.

Christened the “Carnival of Lost Souls,” the event will include a number of incentivized trivia contests, testing fan
knowledge of minute details of some of the most popular horror films of the past two decades.
Visitors
are also invited to send in a photo or video of their Halloween costume for consideration,
and the respective winners in each of three categories (scariest, funniest,
and sexiest) will score a free private screening of Turistas in their hometown. Nice. Sure beats the iron-on patches and crappy plastic trinkets from contest giveaways of my misspent youth. For a complete schedule and more information, visit foxatomic.com.

Beer Pulls Even with Death

I caught five movies yesterday, which is about the limit of human endurance. No true turds amongst the quintet, either, which is at least pleasantly surprising if not an outright statistical anomaly. There were merits to each, in other words, and some fine and moving performances.

Without delving into the specifics, four of the five movies featured beer (two quite copiously), equal to the number which featured death. Of the latter grouping, two dealt rather explicitly with murder, while the other two films featured off-screen passings of characters. Perhaps less surprisingly, only one film featured Peter O’Toole getting a titty twister. Though it did happen twice, actually, so there you go…

On President Bush and the Religious Right

With the publication of Tempting Faith, a memoir by former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives David Kuo which alleges cynical and dismissive attitudes toward religious conservatives within the Bush Administration, this documentary on the massage and manipulation of the religious right is even more fascinatingly topical. Despite the title, it’s neither a political broadside nor all about President George W. Bush.

Bewitched: The Complete Fourth Season

The series, of course, centers around striking and
benevolent witch Samantha
(Elizabeth Montgomery), and her mortal husband Darrin
(Dick York, above left), a talented but somewhat stodgy and conservative advertising
executive obsessed with all outward appearances of normalcy
. That the couple
met and fell in love in the first place is a bit of a dubious stretch, but
within the clearly established parameters of the show their differences and
petty frictions do certainly make for some entertaining scenarios. Abetting all
this madcap turmoil is Samantha’s meddling, independent-minded mother, Endora

(Agnes Moorehead), who can’t believe her daughter would ever subjugate herself
to Darrin. Compulsive practical joker Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde, above right) also pops up
throughout to stir up trouble and have some fun.

While the series was already a ratings bonanza, the 33
episodes here comprise one of its two breakout seasons, critically-speaking; Montgomery
and Moorehead were both coming off of Emmy nominations for their work, and the series picked up another five Emmy nods, including one for Outstanding Comedy Series. The season kicks off with the famous “Long Live the Queen” episode, in which Samantha is appointed the successor of a departing witch matriarch. In “My, What Big Ears You Have,” featured on the cover, Endora accuses Darrin of seeing another woman when he tries to buy Samantha a surprise gift. Other fun episodic moments
of note include “Birdies, Bogies and Baxter,” in which Darrin becomes a great golfer but almost loses his job, and “The No-Harm Charm,” in which Uncle Arthur convinces Darrin that a lucky bauble will protect him. Certainly a number of episodes (“No Zip in My Zap,” “Snob in the Grass,” “To Twitch or Not to Twitch”) till the same well-trodden ground of Samantha’s romantic jealousy and Darrin’s oscillating unease with his wife’s powers, but the pleasant personalities and chemistry of Montgomery and York help pull the show along.

Like previous releases, Bewitched:
The Complete Fourth Season
is presented in 1.33:1 full screen, over four
discs housed in two slimline plastic cases in turn housed in an attractive
cardboard slipcase. Also as with the first three compilations, the original
credit sequence touting the show’s sponsors has been replaced with the generic,
syndicated opening. Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks are included along with optional subtitles in those languages. There are unfortunately no DVD extras in the way of audio
commentaries, interviews of reminiscence or the like. Even some bit of
backslapping, quasi-critical contextual overview would have been welcome. Instead,
you unfortunately get only trailers for other Sony classic television releases. B (Show)
D+ (Disc)

Excellent Cadavers

Excellent
Cadavers, opening this week in limited release and also available on DVD. Based
on Alexander Stille’s 1996 book of the same name — which also was the source
for a 1999 narrative feature starring Chazz Palminteri — the movie is certainly
not part of the Italian National Tourism Board’s welcoming care package, that’s
for sure.

In the beginning of 1982, there was a Mob killing “only” every
three days in Palermo. By the end
of the year, more than a 1,000 corpses had been stacked up. Excellent Cadavers focuses on hardnosed prosecutors
Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who led the city’s famed mid-decade
Maxi-Trials
, where, from an underground bunker, more than 300 Sicilian Mob defendants
were eventually convicted in December 1987, including 19 life sentences for
mid- and high-level bosses. The resultant price, of course, was high — in 1992
Cosa Nostra struck back with hits on Falcone, Borsellino and others, after many
of the investigatory and legal innovations they had passionately argued for
were repealed or otherwise blunted, freeing hundreds.

Journalist Stille narrates his journey back to Sicily, where
Turco uses photojournalist interview subject Letizia Battaglia’s memories as a
child (she speaks eerily about the scent of blood) as well as a series of
extremely graphic black-and-white stills (apparently the Italians let as many
inquisitive people gather around bodies as a given sidewalk will allow)
to
illuminate the ebb and flow of public acquiescence and outage. This is
eventually intercut with fascinating footage from the aforementioned trial,
interviews with current and former Italian magistrates (which is what they call
federal prosecutors) and a wide-ranging overview of the knotted and bought-off
Italian political scene
.

The tangle of collusion is sometimes bramble-thick, and
Turco cedes too much of his movie’s pace and plotting to others (especially
early on), but makes up ground in a home stretch that includes revelations about
seven-time Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti’s wink-wink acquittal of criminal Mafia
ties
due to statutory limitations and recently ousted former Prime
Minister/billionaire businessman Silvio Berlusconi’s connections
to organized
crime as well.

While the movie doesn’t touch upon Berlusconi’s electoral
defeat or the recent arrest of Bernardo Provenzano, a Mob boss who for more
than four decades lived in quiet “open secrecy” before recently being reeled
in, Excellent Cadavers highlights the
incentivized nature of the long-term relationship between dirty business and
equally imbedded politicos
. The film opens in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Grande 4-Plex on Friday, October 27, and while it isn’t yet available for sell-through commercial release on DVD, more information can be accessed on the title through this web site.