View From the Rental Counter 2/20/05

I Heart Huckabees
DVD: Single Disc, 2-Disk Special Edition
MPAA: R (language and sexual scene)
Budget/Gross: $20M/$12.8M
Market: Enjoy the world of Charlie Kaufmann and Spike Jonze? Then this one is for you. This movie billed itself as an “existential comedy” which probably scared most people away from it. That and the inability of reviewers and previewers to neatly summarize the plot. I haven’t seen it so I can’t either but this one is definitely on my too-see list since I enjoy the work of the two gentlemen above as well as Huckabees director David O. Russells’ Flirting With Disaster.

Get Shorty
DVD: Special Edition
DVD: Special Edition
Market: Two significant reissues this week. Get Shorty is getting the special edition treatment just in time for the release of its sequel, Be Cool. On the other hand, Heat isn’t tied to anything in particular (I actually expected this to be released on the heals of the DVD of director Michael Mann’s latest, Collateral). Fans, however, have been clamoring for a special edition (or at least a non-flipper DVD) of this modern classic. Now they’ve got one.

Off The Beaten Path
Leave Her To Heaven
DVD: Fox Studio Classics Edition
Market: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it but I remember this Gene Tierney/Cornel Wilde psychological classic as being very good. Fox continues to impress me with their Studio Classics line – inexpensive but packed with extras.

Television and Box Sets
South Park: Season Five
DVD: Boxset
Market: The same folks who bought season one through four.

King of Queens: Season Three
DVD: Boxset
Market: Again, I’m surprised this didn’t come out just before the opening of Hitch, starring Kevin James opposite Will Smith.

Shield: Season Three
DVD: Box Set
Commish: Season Two
DVD: Box Set
Market: Those who have enjoyed either or both of the two sides of Michael Chiklis as police officer. This is cross-promotion.

View from the Rental Counter: 2/1/05

Mr. 3000
MPAA: PG-13 (sexual content and language)
Budget: N/A
Gross: $21.8M
DVD: Widescreen, Fullscreen (Commentary by director Charles Stone III, deleted scenes with optional director commentary, extended scenes, and 3 featurettes: The Making of Mr. 3000, Everybody Love Stan (about Bernie Mac’s character), and Spring Training: The Extras Journey.)
Market: Those who enjoy the Bernie Mac show and humor-filled sports movies. The filmmakers seemed to be vying for the Major League of this generation but instead wound up with the Major League 3 of this generation.

MPAA: PG-13 (drug addiction, sexual materials)
Budget: $40M
Gross: $73
DVD: Widescreen, Widescreen Blind and Low Vision Enhanced, Fullscreen (Commentary by director Taylor Hackford, the documentary featurette Walking in His Shoes (which charts Foxx’s transformation into Charles) and the interview featurette Ray Remembered, 14 deleted scenes, and uncut versions of 2 musical performances from the film.)
Market: I’m surprised they didn’t delay this one a week or so in order to make sure all the DVD boxes were marked with a list of the movie’s various Academy Award nominations. This is a movie that is being marketed to the broadest possible audience the Oscar acceptance of the material would have been a great tool to use in selling the DVD.

The Grudge
MPAA: PG-13 (mature material, horror/terror and some sexuality)
Budget: $10M
Gross: $110M
DVD: Widescreen (Commentary by producer Sam Raimi, actors Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ted Raimi, and other members of the cast and crew, the 5-part making-of documentary A Powerful Rage and the featurette Under the Skin (a medical explanation of the fear response in film), and bonus trailers.)
Market: This remake of the Japanese original is designed to go after the same audience that made The Ring such a huge success. Can’t say Sarah Michelle Gellar is really stretching by playing a pretty young thing surrounded by the supernatural, but hey, she has to ease into the post-Buffy groove right? Fans of the original will be interested since it was made by the same crew, including director Takashi Shimizu.

Shall We Dance?
MPAA: PG-13 (sexual references and language)
Budget: $40M
Gross: $57M
DVD: Widescreen, Fullscreen (Commentary by director Peter Chelsom, deleted scenes with optional director commentary, 3 featurettes (The Making of Shall We Dance?, The Music of Shall We Dance?, and Beginner’s Ballroom, on ballroom dancing), and a music video.)
Market: Another remake of a Japanese original (also available today), this one was less successful than The Grudge. I’m almost tempted to rent this to check out Stanley Tucci’s performance alone.

Off the Beaten Path
Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)
Market: I’ve never seen this turn by Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson but the cast, including Peter Boyle and Bruno Kirby and with music by Neil Young, is intriguing enough that I should probably check it out. Maybe as a double feature with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, another Thompson adaptation I’ve yet to see.

Television and Box Sets
Wonderfalls – The Complete Series
Market: Fans of quirky television, this one’s for you. Tim Minear (from Buffy and Angel) came over and wrote an episode or two. Unfortunately this one was gone before it popped up on most people’s radar, airing only four episodes. All 13 created are presented here.

Oz – The Complete Fourth Season
Market: Learn to make a shiv and other useful and fun facts can be gleaned from this show, the fourth season of which makes its DVD debut now.

Karate Kid Collection
Market: When someone says, “Sweep the leg!” do you know what exactly what they mean? Have you been unable to paint a fence or wax a car without, at least for a minute or two, going through the whole scene from the first movie? If this sounds like you, you need this set of all four movies, the first of which sports a whole new batch of features.

View from the Rental Counter: 1/21/05

Alien Vs. Predator
MPAA: PG-13 (violence and language)
Budget: $65M
Gross: $80M
Market: Fans of the two movies apparently ate this one up but it’s about five years late to really capitalize this one. It seems more like the result of someone attempting cash in on the success of Freddy Vs. Jason. Anyway it did reasonably well theatrically and will probably do likewise on video.

Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow
Budget: $40M
Gross: $37M
Market: It’s hard to figure out who this one was marketed to. Action/adventure fans seemed more likely to stay home and watch their new Indiana Jones DVDs. In the end all the features and news stories on the groundbreaking special effects couldn’t save it but the documentaries on said effects that appear on the DVD will likely be a big draw.

Off The Beaten Path
When Will I Be Loved
MPAA: R (sexuality, language and nudity)
Budget: N/A
Gross: $159,000
Market: First – People who enjoy offbeat and interesting character driven movies. Second – People who want to see copious amounts of Neve Campbell’s body. I think those two pretty much cover it.

Television & Box Sets
Warner Gangsters Collection
Market: This is a great set of some of the great gangster flicks back when they knew how to make gangster flicks and didn’t feel the need to include Sean Penn sporting one of the all time greatest afros in history. These titles are available individually as well, but why not just get your James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart shopping done right here?

Batman: Animated Series – Vol. 2
Superman: Animated Series – Vol. 1

Market: These two volumes contain some of the best superhero animation ever. DC characters have done so well in animated form but have languished so badly since the early 1990’s. Hopefully Batman Begins will turn that around.

MacGuyver: Complete First Season
Market: Patty and Selma Bouvier primarily. Also those who want to take notes on how to escape should they find themselves in a cargo container with only a piece of string, some chewing gum and a tin of axel grease (again).

Coupling: Complete Fourth Season
Market: Very funny and very raunchy Brit-com. If you like British humor in general and think Brits obsessing and talking endlessly about sex then this will be right up your alley.

View from the Rental Counter: 1/18/05

Didn’t do one of these last week. My bad.

MPAA: PG-13 (action/violence and sensuality)
Budget: $85M
Gross: $40M
Market: Surf on over to FilmThreat for my full column on this one. This is the type of movie that will likely find a bigger audience on DVD than it did in theaters as its easier to distract yourself by, say, pulling your eyebrow hairs off.

MPAA: PG-13 (violence, terror, language)
Budget: $25
Gross: $30
Market: This movie seemed to market itself as a thinking-man’s thriller so it might do well with someone looking for a decent flick. Kim Basinger seems to be trying to re-re-re-vitalize her career by pulling a MacGyver with a smashed up phone. Might be worth checking out with a sweetheart who will grab your hand every time something conveniently scary pops up.

MPAA: PG-13 (violence and language)
Budget: $42M
Gross: $66M
Market: Full disclosure – I’m a huge Julianne Moore fan so I really want to check this one out. This and Cellular might cannibalize each other’s audience to some extent as they’re likely to appeal to the same group.

Friday Night Lights
MPAA: PG-13 (sexual content, language, rough sports and action)
Budget: $30M
Gross: $61M
Market: Jocks and the girls who love them. That’s pretty much it. If you can’t get enough of high school football on public-access cable then this one’s for you. Looks like it follows the Hoosiers mold pretty closely in being all inspirational.

Off the Beaten Path
MPAA: PG-13 (mature material, some violence and mild drug content)
Market: This is another tale to come out of World War II and the Holocaust so if you’re a History Channel buff and always head for the WWII section at Borders this is one to check out.

Television & Box Sets
Curb Your Enthusiasm: Complete 3rd Season
Market: This is one of the funniest shows on television. It’s accomplished this feat by being intelligently written (to the degree that it is, since much of the dialogue is improvised) and cleverly plotted. Fans of not only Seinfeld but The Office and Fawlty Towers will enjoy Larry David’s world.

The Return of Jafar/Aladdin and the King of Thieves
Market: Enjoying Disney’s feature films is understandable. Yes, they may be overly saccharine of late (pretty much after Sword in the Stone) but they are designed to appeal to a broad audience and they hit that big target. Enjoying their crappy straight-to-video sequels is less understandable and you should probably see some about that. Keep in mind this package does not contain the original for no good reason I could think of.

Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries
Market: You know who you are. This is timed to come out just as the new miniseries is hitting airwaves.

View from the Rental Counter 1/4/05

MPAA: R (violence and some sexuality)
Budget: $185M
Gross: $133M
Market: Did you enjoy the other 17 sword and sandal epics that included thousands of CGI arrows flying through the sky? Are you a woman (or a man) who enjoys seeing guys like Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana all sandy and sweaty? Then this one’s for you!

Harod & Kuman Go to White Castle – Extreme Unrated Edition
MPAA R (language and a host of other reasons)
Budget: $9M
Gross: $18M
Market: People who can’t get enough of Dazed and Confused but still feel insulted by the American Pie movies. There’s a fine line there but I get the feeling from everything I read about this one that it treads it very well.

Little Black Book
MPAA: PG-13 (sexual content and humor)
Budget: $35M
Gross: $20M
Market: It’s interesting because as I watched the commercials and the trailer for this I think I actually saw Holly Hunter wondering what the hell she was doing there. If you are looking for a simple romantic comedy on a weekend night than this one may be up your alley.

Television & Box Sets
CSI: Miami – Complete Second Season
Market: I’m personally not into these shows but they do seem to be huge so I’m sure there will be a large audience ready to snap this up.

God the Devil & Bob
Market: The five people who remember this when it aired for about 12 minutes. Maybe the producers are hoping for a Family Guy-esque rebirth.

Las Vegas: Season One
Market: Isn’t the first season of this show still being aired? Are we already in season two? Does anyone think James Caan doesn’t cry himself to sleep most nights?

Millenium: Season 2
Market: Chris Carter was once Fox television’s golden boy. He had done the X-Files and this was his first attempt at branching out from that. Never got into it myself but knew it had the same sort of arc-heavy style that X-F did.

Question to ponder: When will J.J. Abrams fall the way Carter, David E. Kelley and Aaron Sorkin have? Remember, though, that Sorkin was pushed.

View from the Rental Counter: 12/11/04

Pick of the Week
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Extended Edition)
Market: Folks, this is as close as we’re going to get to a full-scale epic in the digital age. There’s a reason for all the CGI in these movies: The story couldn’t be told any other way. Peter Jackson has strewn these movies with not only a wonderful and emotionally fulfilling plot (coming to a finish here) but with so many tiny grace notes that the movies bear up to as many repeated viewings as you can put them through. Everyone should enjoy this one and I’m looking forward to the 50 minutes of additional footage.

MPAA: R (language and situations)
Budget: $65M
Gross: $100M
Market: Film lovers. Those people who pine not for the fjords but for more movies like Heat and Last of the Mohicans (both by Collateral director Michael Mann) and their stylized violence. Mann never accidentally points his camera anywhere. Each shot is always purposeful and meaningful.

I Robot
MPAA: PG-13 (violence and partial nudity)
Budget: $105M
Gross: $144M
Market: This is this week’s popcorn flick. Based on the marketing and reviews of this movie it’s not very heavy on the brain and is almost completely illogical. A good choice if you want to have movie on while you’re writing Christmas cards.

Mary Poppins
Market: Those of you who (like me) long for the days when Disney made sugary sweet movies but at least wasn’t actively pandering to the entire population like they are now. This 40th Anniversary release isn’t so much to present the movie in a new way but to look nice next to…

Princess Diaries 2 – Royal Engagement
Budget: $40M
Gross: $95M
Market: Teenage girls and their parents who are looking to placate them. This rides the same wave the original started and which then spawned the Freaky Friday remake and such.

Meet the Parents: Special Edition
Market: Is anyone (aside from his accountant) really enjoying this phase of Robert DeNiro’s career? I can see the occasional dabble in comedy but when he said “yes” to Rocky and Bullwinkle then it was time for Scorsese to give him a call. Then again they both were in Shark Tale, so that may not have been the right person to talk DeNiro off the ledge. Anyway, this “Special Edition” is timed to tie into the theatrical release of Meet the Fockers.

Off the Beaten Path
Door in the Floor
MPAA: R (sexuality and language)
Budget: N/A
Gross: $3.8M
Market: Jeff Bridges hasn’t achieved nearly the kind of success or stardom that his acting ability warrants. If you enjoy Bridges, LA Confidential-era Kim Basinger or just emotional dramas as a genre then this may be worth a rent. I know I will be.

We Don’t Live Here Anymore
MPAA: R (language and sexual content)
Budget: $3M
Gross: $2M
Market: I haven’t been able to catch Six Feet Under but enormously enjoyed Peter Krause on Sports Night. This movie seems like it would appeal to anyone who also enjoys Neil LaBute’s or David Mamet’s movies.

Television & Box Sets
Ben Stiller Collection
Just a boxing of four of Stiller’s movies by Universal.

Family Guy – Freakin’ Sweet Collection
This collection contains the unedited versions of some episodes which wound up being cut on the full-season sets. Also is billed as creator Seth McFarlane’s “favorites”. Basically it’s a new package to put out now that the seasons are done.

Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica – Complete 1st Season
Take one blonde who realized she could make a lot of money playing brain-dead. Add one guy who is going to ride that train as long as he can until someone more famous comes along. Mix together in front of MTV’s cameras. Result is an inexplicable cultural phenomenon.

Quantum Leap: Complete 2nd Season
Great show while it was still great, before there started to be weird supernatural overtones to the whole leaping thing.

Rocky Anthology
The second attempt by MGM to package the Rocky series. This one, I believe does include anamorphic transfers on all five movies, unlike the previous release.

View from the Rental Counter: 11/30/04

Daredevil: SE
MPAA: PG-13 (action & violence and some sexual material)
Budget: $75M
Gross: $102.5M
DVD Formats: Widescreen
Market: This director’s cut is sure to appeal to the segment of the audience who were, let’s just say, under whelmed by the big-screen adaptation of ol’ hornhead. This one features 30 additional minutes of movie which reportedly reinserts Coolio’s cameo as a defendant of Matt Murdoch (Ben Affleck) and more character building moments. The same folks who soiled themselves at the Hellboy: Director’s Cut will snap this one up.

Spider-Man 2
Budget: $200M
Gross: $373.4M
DVD Formats: Full screen, widescreen, Superbit and Gift Set with extras
Market: The entire world! Hahahahahahahahah… Sorry. Seriously, though, this one is going to be marketed to everyone. That’s why the commercials for the DVD release so heavily emphasize the action when everyone who saw the movie and liked it praised the character development and plotting. They are trying to get those last two dozen people who are looking for a mindless action flick to rent it or blind-buy the disc.

MPAA: PG-13 (stylized violence)
Budget: $30M
Gross: $53.4M
DVD Formats: Widescreen
Market: Click on the title’s link for my take on the movie. The DVD is being marketed the same way.

Off the Beaten Path
MPAA: PG-13 (disturbing violence)
Budget: N/A
Gross: $5.8M
DVD Formats: Widescreen
Market: This one isn’t as high profile or as controversial as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ but the market is fairly similar. Granted, the audience may be somewhat narrower as Gibson’s film was relevant to all Christianity whereas this deals with one aspect (the founder of the Lutheran church) specifically. It’s doubtful this one will be argued over or shown by churches still not on board the Reformation.

Television and Box Sets
Northern Exposure – The Complete Second Season
Market: Fans of quality TV will jump at this offering. This is from the good years, before they tried to keep the show alive after Rob Morrow pulled a David Caruso and left for that fat movie cash.

Lost in Space: Season 2 V.2
Market: Remember the awful Matt LeBlanc headlined movie? Neither do I. Go get this instead for space travel that’s as campy as it comes.

Ray Harryhausen 5pk Giftset
Market: Fans of and students of the history of special effects will hold this one near and dear. Note how the stop-motion animation still looks more realistic than anything in The Day After Tomorrow.

Tru Calling – The Complete First Season
Market: Sorry, the only thing that’s coming to mind is some sort of divine union between those seeking a Luke Perry fix and everyone who missed Eliza Dushku after she left Buffy.

View from the Rental Counter: 11/22/04

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Budget: $130M
Gross: $250M (just shy)
DVD Formats: 2 Disc set (Widescreen or Full Screen formats)
Market: The same friggin’ mix of preteens and baby boomers who feel reading the books and seeing the subsequent movies helps them hold on to their youth. This one will be gone from your local rental store faster than you can say “muggle”, whatever the hell that means.

The Terminal (2004)
MPAA: PG-13 (brief language and reference to drugs)
Budget: $60M
Gross: $77M
DVD Formats: 2 disc set (widescreen or full screen) or 3 disc set
Market: Everyone with a pulse but they will be making a concerted effort to bring in all the people (and based on the box office there were quite a few of you) who missed this in the theater. It’s the perfect piece of candy corn for a cool fall evening, much more so than escapist summer entertainment.

Sleepover (2004)
Budget: $10M
Gross: $8M
DVD Format: Widescreen
Market: Wait a minute: This is directed by Joe Nussbaum? The same Nussbaum who wrote and directed George Lucas in Love, one of the funniest things in recent years? What the hell? I can’t even muster the strength…

Off the Beaten Path
Tanner on Tanner (2004)
Budget: N/A
Gross: N/A
DVD Format: Not sure.
Market: This follow up mini-series to the original Showtime mini-series was placed on the Sundance channel right in the heat of the actual Presidential race. Considering co-creators Garry Trudeau and Robert Altman’s political leanings, this is likely to appeal more to the left-wingers in the population. Of course put those two things (Sundance channel original and politically lefty) together and anyone interested will probably have to look hard for this one and are more likely to have to go online to rent it.

Cloak and Dagger (1984)
Gross: $9.7M
DVD Format: Widescreen
Market: This is a childhood favorite of mine, which is why I’m including it here. Good fun and a wonderful performance in dual roles by Dabney Coleman. Anybody else remember this one?

Television and Box Sets
Golden Girls: Season One
Market: ………….

Star Wars: Animated Ewoks, Animated Droids and Ewok Movies
Market: Fan boys. Pure and simple. Those (like me) who want it all: anything associated with Star Wars. The only disappointment is that the animated Ewoks and Droids sets aren’t complete seasons. Instead they are “movies” that consist of four or five episodes of a story arc cobbled together. The Ewok movies are the ones that you have nightmares of, especially considering one of them stars Wilford Brimley. Run, don’t walk to your local store to pick these up.

Home Improvement: Season One
Market: The same folks who are chomping at the bit to see Christmas With the Kranks and think Jungle 2 Jungle is the end all be all. I love the TV on DVD trend as much as anybody, but what’s the replay value here? This is in contrast to…

Seinfeld: Seasons One, Two and Three
NOTE: Seasons one and two come together. Season three is sold individually but there is a “Re-Gift” box set of all three.
Market: This could go up there with the Simpsons as one of the all-time best selling TV shows on DVD. I can’t think of one good reason why everyone wouldn’t want this in their collection (and please note, that not liking the show is not a good reason as there is no reason not to like it).

View From the Rental Counter: 7/16/04

DVD Releases for 7/20:

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)  PG13
Synopsis: Spoiled city brat finds out she’s actually not that important when her family moves from the city to the suburbs.
Box Office: $29.3 million
Market: Anyone above the age of 13 is likely to have their intelligence insulted by this movie, so expect it to do well.  Families including at least one girl will gravitate toward this one.
Similar Titles: Freaky Friday (2003 remake), Princess Diaries

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004) PG13
Synopsis: Nobody puts Baby in a corner, which is beside the point because Jennifer Grey isn’t even in this sequel to the 1987 classic (did I actually just write that?).  Patrick Swayze appears briefly, but that can only be a good thing.
Box Office: $14.1 million.
Market: May lean heavily on nostalgia for the original.  Couples in their 20s or 30s may enjoy this one.
Similar Titles: Dirty Dancing (duh), Titanic

Secret Lives: Hidden Children & Their Rescuers During WWII (2002) NR
Synopsis: Documentary on European families who risked the wrath of Nazi Germany to hide Jewish children during World War II.
Box Office: —–
Market: Adults seeking more serious subject matter.  People interested in this may not be fighting the crowds on Friday or Saturday night but may come in earlier in the day.  Parents who are bringing their kids may find this interesting for themselves.
Similar Titles: Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary (2002), Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000).

Starsky & Hutch (2004) PG13
Synopsis: A very loose and very tongue-in-cheek remake of the 70s TV series starring Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller in his 35th movie of 2004.
Box Office: $88.2 million
Market: This is the big one.  Everyone is going to be interested in this.  At PG13, this is the perfect compromise for families wanting to watch a movie together as well as teens and 20-somethings getting together with friends.
Similar Titles: Old School

The Big Bounce (2003) PG13
Synopsis: Comedy about small-time con artists all double dealing each other in this adaptation of an Elmore Leanord book.
Box Office: $6.4 million.
Market: If (or more accurately when) Starsky & Hutch is out, point customers here since it also stars Owen Wilson.  Not quite the same level of comedic hijinks, but may serve as a consolation prize.
Similar Titles: Get Shorty, Ocean’s Eleven

The Goodbye Girl (2004) PG
Synopsis: Remake of the 1977 original, which was itself originally a Neil Simon play, this version stars Jeff Daniels and Patricia Heaton (from “Everybody Loves Raymond”) as strangers forced to share an apartment.
Box Office: N/A.  This was originally a TV movie.
Market: Nice, gentle middle of the road romantic comedy will probably skew more towards 30-somthing couples looking for a date movie.
Similar Titles: Goodbye Girl (1977), Seems Like Old Times

The Human Stain (2003) R
Synopsis: Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman star in this drama about a college professor (Hopkins) and how the secrets he’s kept for years impact his life when they are revealed.
Box Office: $5.3 million.
Market: Adults looking for something that is just a few steps off the beaten path should enjoy this one.  This movie was well received by critics but never found a mainstream audience, making it perfect for someone who may not know exactly what they would like to rent.
Similar Titles: The Hours, Hearts in Atlantis.