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The History of Rock N' Roll

Warner Brothers
Show B+
Special Features None
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

This Time Life production covers rock history from Buddy Holly through Nirvana. Produced in 1995 (so the music study stops there), it does a rather nice job of summing up rock history in 10 chapters, culling interviews and live footage to provide a cohesive, mostly chronological experience. Some artists, like Pete Townshend, Bono and Jerry Garcia, provide exclusive interviews to go with the historical footage, with Townshend being perhaps the most animated and wonderfully vulgar of the participants. Great chapters include My Generation, which covers the emergence of The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Band, as well as Woodstock and Haight Ashbury. Of course, any series trying to sum up the history of rock in 10 hours has its work cut out for it, but this one does a pretty good job. Much of the footage here has been used before (Who fans, such as myself, will recognize large portions of The Kids Are Alright).

Special Features: None to really speak of.


Angel Heart: Special Edition

Lions Gate
Movie A
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

I insist that this is one of the scariest films ever made. When I first saw it on home video, the big freaky twist ending blindsided me, and I found myself quite afraid of the dark (kind of pathetic, considering that I was 19 at the time). Mickey Rourke stars as Harry Angel, a 1950s private investigator who travels to New Orleans at the request of a mysterious man (Robert De Niro in a great small role). While investigating a missing person named Johnny Favorite, he gets caught up in the world of voodoo and finds out some startling secrets about Favorite and himself. One of the great underrated horror films.

Special Features: This includes a funny, candid interview with Rourke, who admits he wasn't very enthusiastic about acting at the time. While his performance in this film is probably his best, it's funny to hear how unimpressed with himself he actually is. The interviewer tries to engage him, but he remains rather aloof, which is entertaining in a funny way (he actually brings along his cute little dog). Highlight: Calling Bill Cosby a "chicken shit" for making a stink about his sex scene with Lisa Bonet. Director Alan Parker contributes a compelling new commentary, the disc's other best offering. There's also lots of stuff about voodoo that was of absolutely no interest to me.


The English Patient: The Collector's Edition

Miramax
Movie B+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 4 (out of 10)

OK, so it was long-winded and a bit sappy in spots, and it had no business beating out the likes of Fargo for Best Picture in 1996. Still, it's remarkably beautiful in spots, and Ralph Fiennes commands the screen as a World War II burn patient with a story to tell. Kristin Scott Thomas is kind of a drag as the love interest, but Juliette Binoche is striking (and an Oscar winner) for her role as the caring nurse.

Special Features: The Miramax 25th Anniversary reissues of their best pictures continue, and this two-disc collection is a must for fans of the film. Two audio commentaries, multiple documentaries and deleted scenes described by Director Anthony Minghella are all fascinating. Be advised that liking the film is pretty much a requirement for viewing the many features.


Spartan

Warner Brothers
Movie B+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

A prior review from a Tucson Weekly critic gave this one some low marks, but I beg to differ. David Mamet has written and directed a tour de farce for Val Kilmer, who is excellent as an undercover agent trying to rescue the abducted daughter of a government official.

Mamet is a master of dialogue, and Kilmer proves himself a much worthy vessel. Mamet proves quite capable of tackling the thriller genre, filming tense action scenes with the same masterful technique that pervade his heavy dialogue scenes. Whenever Mamet's name shows up on a film, I get excited. A film entitled Joan of Bark: The Dog that Saved France, to be written and directed by Mamet and starring Will Ferrell, is slated for 2006. I have no idea what it's about or if it will actually get made, but I admit to being intrigued.

Special Features: While the only special feature to be had here is an audio commentary from Kilmer, I'm still giving a high grade because he's a crack-up. Coming at you with whispery tones and comments both essential and nonsensical, he makes the experience as enjoyable as his performance in the film. Kilmer sounds like he's hanging over some bar, drinking a few cocktails and talking movies. Commentary highlight: One of Kilmer's comments about Mamet, in which he admits that he doesn't understand him, and knows that he needs "help."

More by Bob Grimm

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