David Lynch will release a nine-disc, one-CD deluxe box set this November, dubbed David Lynch: The Lime Green Set, according to the fine folks at Dugpa. Included will be a remastered version of Eraserhead; an Eraserhead soundtrack; the DVD collection of Lynch’s short films; The Elephant Man, with a new collection of extra material; Wild at Heart; the dvd debut of Industrial Symphony No. 1; Blue Velvet, with a new, Lynch-approved 5.1 sound mix; Dumbland; a special booklet featuring rare Lynch imagery; and a special mystery disc that Lynch is thus far keeping under wraps. The set will be distributed by Ryko, and available at most stores and online retailers, streeting on November 18.
Smart People fancies itself an urbane comedy in the vein of Sideways, As Good As it Gets and The Squid and the Whale. In fact, it’s from one of the same producers of Sideways, as its cover-pitch text and same-shaded lime green color indicate. Hell, it’s even got Thomas Haden Church as a rascally n’er-do-well! What more could one want for? A lot, actually. Unfortunately, this movie is a mess — a collection of precious, and preciously false, characters bumping up against one another in a sometimes mildly colorful but ultimately droning fashion.
Focusing on a dysfunctional Pennsylvania family with lots to learn, Smart People centers around a widowed, once idealistic and ambitious Carnegie Mellon classics/English professor, Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid), who has lost his passion for both teaching and, seemingly, day-to-day interaction with people he looks down upon, which is pretty much everyone. When a sudden head injury after a stupid accident sends Lawrence briefly to the hospital, he finds his world turned upside down. Forced to depend on his under-achieving step-brother Chuck (Church, above left), a freeloading oddball, for transportation, Lawrence is surprised to find himself attracted to an emergency room doctor and former ex-student, Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker, playing a blank).
His acerbically witty daughter Vanessa (Ellen Page) is none too pleased by this development, but as Lawrence begins to emerge from his isolation, this is but the first of several surprising consequences for the entire family. Things that were previously important to him — chairing a search committee for a new department head and trying to surreptitiously push himself into contention, as well as peddling a condescending sociocultural text — become slightly less so. Vanessa, meanwhile, moves from viewing Chuck in chiding and disdainful terms (“You should really make your bed — it sets the tone for the day”) to slowly realizing the value in his advice to loosen up a little bit.
Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Noam Murro and scripted by novelist Mark Poirier, Smart People has the look, feel and plump, well-fed density of an adapted novel, even though it’s an original work. Yet there’s no payoff of hidden pain or fire-born resilience behind all this colorful dysfunction, and the movie isn’t across-the-board whipsmart and wildly loquacious enough to compete on the same playing field as something like Metropolitan. The problems in pacing boil down to the fact that you don’t really know these characters, especially Lawrence’s college-age son James (Ashton Holmes). They’re types, all, meant to just colorfully bounce off one another. Lawrence and Janet’s stop-and-start relationship is additionally baffling, and certainly not aided by the movie’s difficulty at clearly conveying the passage of time.
Page, as she proved in both Hard Candy and Juno, has a wonderful way with intellectual patter, but the role of a bearded academic doesn’t suit Quaid very well; he’s too much of an everyman, and the self-involved dialogue he’s required to deliver sounds mannered and considered coming out of his mouth. Honestly, I laughed more times, apropos of nothing, at Church’s moustache-and-Kentucky-bedhead combo than anything else, and would have been perfectly happy to follow his character around, away from everyone else in the movie.
Housed in a regular Amray case with a cardboard slipcover, Smart People comes presented in anamorphic widescreen, with a 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound audio track. Castand crew interviews bolster an EPK-style making-of featurette that runs 16-plus minutes. There’s also a feature-length audio commentary track with Munro and screenwriter Poirer in which the pair ladle praise on their cast and discuss the challenges of a 29-day production schedule. Running 10 minutes, a hearty collection of deleted scenes provides more background and detail to Vanessa and Chuck’s relationship, and the emotional drift Vanessa is experiencing, the latter shown in her rebellious, against-character embrace of smoking, which baffles Lawrence. There’s also a two-minute blooper/gag reel, which offers lots of shots of Quaid and Parker cracking up, and extra footage of Church lounging around in his character’s back-flap pajamas. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C- (Movie) B (Disc)
Small business owner Wade Porter (Stephen Dorff) lives a modest life with his fiancée Laura (Marisol Nichols)
and their three-year-old son. Everything changes in an instant, though,
when he’s convicted of killing a man who breaks into his home.
Sentenced to state prison, Wade ends up in a hellish facility overseen
by a guard (Harold Perrineau) who encourages gladiatorial fights among
the inmates. Though wanting to neither “fight or fornicate”
(the two delightful options given by one inmate, in slightly saltier
terms), Wade eventually yields to the former activity, in a paradoxical
attempt to protect himself and try to triangulate a position between competing Latino, African-American and Aryan skinhead gangs. When trouble mounts, his new cell mate,
John Smith, (Val Kilmer),
a burly, goateed “lifer” with his own dark devastation, provides
Wade with important guidance, all while ruminatively stroking his own tattoos.
Shot in hand-held,
super-confessional close-up, and on color-saturated Super16 blown up to
35mm, Felon doesn’t have much of revelatory value to say about the nature of violence
— indeed, its closing narration seems to endorse whatever-you-gotta-do
means. The flimsy, cardboard-thin set-up is meant to only get Wade into
prison (he cops to a murder charge since the fleeing culprit was
technically no longer on his property?), and the setting is meant to
only serve as an excuse for heavily tatted muscle-heads to use gang
slang, prison acronyms and flip each other around in gritty,
bare-knuckle fashion. See how that works? Still, in this regard, writer-director Ric Roman Waugh’s heavy background in stuntwork certainly pays off, as Felon, with its many boxers-and-sneakers brawls, rivals Eastern Promises in padding-free fisticuffs.
chief problem is that, despite invested performances by Dorff and
Kilmer, and after going to significant lengths to both establish a
sense of claustrophobic realism and depict Wade as being punished by an
unjust system, for not wanting to stoop to its calibrated levels of further dehumanization,
Waugh chucks all this for a contrived, mad-dash finale that requires
his protagonist bash in the brains of an “innocent” (a relative term
here, I realize) guy to get the proper attention of higher-ups, and
secure his release. Part cop-out, part simply bizarre, seemingly
concessional flourish, it’s a weird ending for a film that otherwise decently captures the grimness of prison life, and how it corrodes even those ostensibly in charge. One hopes, at least, the stuntmen were well compensated.
Housed in a regular Amray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, Felon comes presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with English 5.1 Dolby digital and French Dolby surround audio tracks, and optional English and French subtitles. Apart from previews for other Sony home video releases, its sole bonus feature is a 13-minute making-of featurette — one of those deals that eats up its first 30 seconds with a clip-laden introduction. This irksome detail aside, Waugh charts the course of the film from inception through production (he even used gang-bangers as script consultants, for authenticity’s sake), and Dorff and stunt coordinator Mike Davis also pop up in a few interview clips. All in all, it’s OK, but a bit even more input from Waugh — both about his aesthetic decisions, but especially about the film’s location shoot at the New Mexico State Penitentiary — would greatly increase a sympathetic reading of this Felon. To view the film’s trailer, click here. To purchase it on DVD, click here. C+ (Movie) C (Disc)
You’ve heard whispered stories about them — your nephew’s babysitter’s older sister, who works in corporate publicity at Exxon Mobil — but you’re increasingly not sure of anyone who hasn’t seen The Dark Knight, which topped the domestic box office for the fourth consecutive frame this past weekend, grossing $26 million, and pushing its cumulative haul to $441.5 million. (Next up, competition-wise: Michael Phelps.) The latest Apatow-branded comedy, Pineapple Express, grossed $22.4 million over the weekend to place second, and has made $40.5 million since its bow last Wednesday. Brendan Fraser’s third Mummy flick held on to the third spot, pulling in $16.1 million (up to $70.7 million total), while fellow Wednesday, August 6 opener The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 earned $10.7 million over the weekend, and $19.7 million from its debut.
Rounding out the top 10, Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and John
C. Reilly’s R-rated Step Brothers
slotted fifth, with $8.9 million ($80.9 million overall); the ABBA-inflected stage musical adaptation Mamma Mia!
placed sixth, with $8.1 million ($104 million overall); Fraser’s Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D finished seventh ($4.9 million, $81.8 million overall); Will Smith’s Hancock placed eighth ($3.3 million, $221.8 million overall); Kevin Costner’s Swing Vote slotted ninth ($3.1 million, $12 million overall); and Wall▪E placed tenth ($3 million, $210.1 million overall). Falling way out of the top 10 in just its third week, The X-Files: I Want to Believe scraped up another $1.18 million, pushing its total to $19.6 million and leading one to believe that perhaps 20th Century Fox should have been more aggressive in its marketing.
In limited release, writer-director Randall Miller’s ensemble wine dramedy Bottle Shock grossed $295,000 on 48 screens; Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz’s Elegy made $102,000 on six screens; and writer-director Larry Bishop’s Hell Ride pulled in $83,500 on 82 screens.
Philip Noyce’s espionage thriller Edwin A. Salt is undergoing a gender change. According to Variety, Tom Cruise is out as its lead, and Angelina Jolie, who previously worked with Noyce on The Bone Collector, is all but officially in. A sort of on-the-lam, procedural actioner, one presumes, the movie is described as being about a CIA officer who’s accused by a defector of being a Russian sleeper
spy. He… errr, now she must elude capture long enough to establish her innocence. OK, a little bit The Fugitive, a little bit Breach, a little bit another movie I’m currently blanking on… I can get on board. One wonders, though, if the title will merely receive an extra vowel, or be reworked into something lame and anonymous. If they could somehow just come up with a justification for Salt Lick, the poster would make itself, and this thing would be huuuuge…