In the years following the death of SCTV (1983) and before the birth of Mr. Show (1995), The Kids in the Hall held the honor of best sketch comedy on television. Hailing from Canada and discovered by Saturday Night Live mogul Lorne Michaels, the Kids reigned supreme on HBO (from 1989 to 1994), where they dared to drop frequent F-Bombs and play women characters in the great tradition of William Shakespeare and Monty Python. (The group was all-male.) Viewing this first season, it's obvious that the Kids weren't one of those troupes that needed some growing time to establish themselves. They were brilliant right out of the gate, introducing Bruce McCulloch's savage Cabbage Head and Mark McKinney's "Crushing your head!" guy in the first two episodes. Perhaps the troupe's most notable pioneer was Scott Thompson, a gay comic who dared to be happy and proud of his sexuality, most notably with his characterization of frank-talking bar owner, Buddy Cole. The Kids recently reunited for a 2002 tour, so it's good to know these guys don't hate each other too much to share a stage from time to time.
Special Features: The box set contains four discs, three of them dedicated to the show's first 20 episodes, and the fourth full of decent extras. An Oral History is a 45-minute documentary containing new interviews with the Kids and a decent back-story on how the troupe was formed. There's 30 minutes of grainy home video footage chronicling the Kids' days at the Rivoli Theater, two best-of compilations and some audio commentaries for a few of the skits.
Boy, am I sorry I missed this one at the theaters. P.J. Hogan takes the classic J.M. Barrie story and makes it wonderful on every level. Dedicated to its source material, the film casts Jeremy Sumpter as the boy who won't grow up, and he kicks Cathy Rigby's ass! While Hogan doesn't hesitate to show the joy of Pan's story, he doesn't shy away from its sadness, either. Rachel Hurd-Wood, in her feature film debut, is the quintessential Wendy, and Jason Isaacs makes the role of Captain Hook his own. After Spielberg slaughtered the legendary tale with his abysmal Hook, my interest in another Peter Pan film was admittedly low, but this one is a visual treat that packs a decent emotional punch.
Special Features: The standard Pan ending--in which Peter visits a grown up Wendy and takes her daughter out for a midnight flight--was scrapped for the theaters. The DVD contains the alternate coda before special effects were added, and while it's a solid sequence, I prefer the ending Hogan chose. Some decent behind-the-scenes stuff and a pirate song relegated to the cutting room floor are included.
Sure, Tom Cruise can seem a little self-obsessed and perhaps obscenely serious about his acting gigs. Beats me why people have a problem with that. His obsessions lead to rather decent performances (Magnolia and, yes, Vanilla Sky), and his almost insane work ethic reaps great rewards in this epic film from director Edward Zwick. To make things clear, Cruise doesn't play "The Last Samurai." That is actually the role Ken Watanabe portrayed on his way to an Oscar nomination. Cruise plays a disgraced Civil War soldier who takes a job overseas training the Japanese Imperial Army in modern warfare. When he's captured during battle, his adversary (Watanabe) spares his life, and shows him the ways of the Samurai. Cruise molded himself into a different being for this film, and his commitment to the role is amazing. He's utterly convincing in battle scenes, sometimes riding horses in full armor swinging swords and risking his neck for great shots.
Special Features: This is a two-disc set with featurettes boasting rather self-important titles like Tom Cruise: A Warrior's Journey. Goofy titles aside, the shorts and commentaries are entertaining, informative and, sometimes, unintentionally funny in that Cruise really does take all this shit very seriously. In fact, here's a little game for you: When watching Tom Cruise: A Warrior's Journey, picture yourself just off camera as Cruise orgasms about the wonders of moviemaking and how hard he works. Then picture yourself jumping into the shot and screaming, "It's only a movie, ya crazy bastard!" every time he says "I" or "me." By my estimate, you'd be interrupting him every 6.2 seconds, and would soon find yourself engaged in your own Samurai battle with the self-declared master, who would surely kick your ass for being so rude.