Man, there are a lot of dead people in this documentary. Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, as well as Joe Strummer of the Clash, all died within the last four years! Shit, Johnny was the oldest to die at the ripe old age of 56. And Iggy Pop still breathes. That's fucked up!
End of the Century is the story of the Ramones, and it does a nice job explaining their significance to the music world and their influence on punk rock. There's plenty of performance and interview footage, including members of the band, alive and dead, as well as folks like Strummer and Blondie's Debbie Harry chiming in.
There are plenty of surprising revelations in this film. Johnny and Joey seemed to hate each other after years of power struggles and problems with girls. Dee Dee was just a mess, tragically addicted to chemicals and one of the worst white rappers to ever walk the Earth.
Special Features: A lot of extra interview footage, including a good bit with Tommy Ramone revealing the writers of all the songs on the first three Ramone albums.
James Stewart won his sole Best Actor Oscar for playing a grouchy journalist in this funny screwball comedy, part of the cascade of classics Warner Brothers has been releasing to DVD as of late. Katharine Hepburn is the very definition of beautiful as Tracy Samantha Lord, divorced from C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) and readying to marry George Kittredge (John Howard). It's just a little funny how cruel this film actually is in retrospect (the honorable George gets some rather poor and unjust treatment in the end) but it's clearly a major stepping stone in Hollywood's portrayal of women on screen. Tracy Samantha Lord is about as independent a female character as you could get away with in 1940, and while her judgment is quite questionable in the end (she goes back to C.K., who shoves her in the face during the film's opening), she still shines as a symbol of female independence. Director George Cukor manages some moments of sheer lunacy, such as when young Virginia Weidler does an insane version of "Lydia the Tatooed Lady." Grant is vintage perfection, playing the straight man like only he could. As for Stewart, it's a blast to see the Hollywood sweetheart play a grouchy cad. Even in this bitter role, about the meanest thing he can muster to say is, "Now doggone it!"
Special Features: A very nice touch, including Katharine Hepburn: All About Me on this disc, a 1993 documentary that she narrated herself. The disc also includes a documentary on Cukor. Don't confuse this DVD with the single-disc version released just last year.
After watching the sweet above-mentioned movie, chase it with this amazingly nasty love rectangle released last year. Jude Law, Clive Owen, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman might make you laugh, but it's that uncomfortable kind of laugh. Director Mike Nichols managed to make one of last year's better films, while Portman and Owen deserved their Oscar nominations. If you are currently in a relationship that involves infidelity, stay away from this one. It will kick your ass.
Special Features: Nuthin' but a stupid music video. Those of you thinking you might get to see some of that nude footage of Natalie Portman that Nichols excised from the film will have to wait for a special edition.
For those of us brave enough to admit we need an Abba fix every once in awhile, this documentary is a real treat. It offers generous helpings of the Swedish Fab Four's music through archive footage, intertwined with the recent fifth-anniversary celebration of the stage show Mamma Mia! It was at that show's finale where three members united on stage for the first time since Abba broke up in the early '80s. (Agnetha "Wonder Butt" Faltskog is the only one who didn't make it.) The documentary is actually quite comprehensive, examining all facets of Abba, including the construction of their incredible sounds and the reason for those outrageous outfits. Hilarious footage of band members before Abba formed are a real treat, as is seeing three of them (Benny, Anni-Fid and Bjorn) get together to celebrate their tunes. The band has allegedly turned down billions of dollars for a reunion, and after watching this, I found myself wishing the group would just take the payday and get together for one last blast. As for now, fans will have to settle for three out of the four sitting down for a nice chat, and to their credit, they are quite forthcoming in their interviews.
Special Features: A few interview excerpts and the finale of Mamma Mia! Most of this stuff can be found within the actual film.