One of my all-time favorite television shows is finally out on DVD. Before it morphed into a semi-funny film franchise, Police Squad! was a hilarious, short-lived TV program. I remember how critics loved this thing, but nobody (other than my brother and I) took the time to take it in, and it was canceled after only six shows.
Leslie Nielsen, a couple of years after his Airplane! success with the Zucker brothers, headlined this show in 1982, and it's the best work he has done in his long career. The first two episodes of the show are brilliant, especially "Ring of Fear (A Dangerous Assignment)," which spoofs boxing movies (the Ali-like champ delivers poetic lines like, "Jack and Jill went up the hill ... I'm gonna break your face"). The joke factor is remarkably high (there seems to be a good one every 10 seconds), and the comic timing of the actors is pitch-perfect.
The greatest thing in each of these episodes would be the epilogues, which always ended in a fake freeze frame. Nielsen and his screen partner Alan North would strike a pose, but the world would continue around them. They'd start blinking their eyes and stretching their mouths, seemingly waiting for the credits to end. Each episode would present new scenarios, such as a prisoner noticing the fake freeze frame and trying to escape, or a chimpanzee running amok while the actors stand still. Priceless.
I suppose we've seen the end of the Naked Gun films (the big-screen version of the show). Many probably aren't aware that they were inspired by a TV show. Here's your chance to see where it all started.
Special Features: There's a terrific freeze-frame shot done for a potential movie that didn't get made. A cigar starts a massive fire in a courtroom, and the place falls to pieces around the actors as they try to remain still (many of them flinch). There are director and writer commentaries, and an interview with Nielsen.
Yes, Tom Cruise is a little nutty. He's also an artist (I know some of you are laughing at that notion), and artists can be some of the craziest people on the planet. Mel Gibson's recent public meltdown actually downgraded Cruise to the second-nuttiest megastar on the planet. Seriously, Cruise owes Gibson a lot. Hey ... they should do a movie together. That would rock!
As for Cruise, he makes some damn great movies, no matter how much he disses Brooke Shields or hops around on couches. This film is another very good chapter in a great franchise, highlighted by Cruise's excellent work as Super Agent Ethan Hunt and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the baddest of bad guys. The opening scene alone qualifies this as one of the year's most exciting films.
The plot involves something called the Rabbit's Foot, and Hoffman's character will stop at nothing to get it. The film's best sequence involves Cruise putting on a Hoffman mask, requiring Hoffman to act like Tom Cruise. Hoffman actually does a great job capturing some of the Cruise mannerisms.
I admit that the Mission: Impossible films can be hard to follow, but the fact that they make you work so hard is part of the fun. There's nothing wrong with a good cinematic puzzle every once in awhile, and Cruise has now given us three.
Special Features: The two-disc set features some behind-the-scenes featurettes and a commentary from Cruise and director J.J. Abrams. It's fun to have Cruise let you know what stunts in the film were actually done by him (most of them). Cruise says "Thank you, Paramount!" at the end, which is funny considering what just happened between him and the studio.
Well, here's another terribly fine show from HBO. Admittedly, when I first saw coming attractions for it, I thought polygamy on a weekly basis would be kind of a downer. As it turned out, Bill Paxton got himself involved in one great project, and this show was solid for each of its first 12 episodes.
Paxton plays Bill, owner of a hardware chain and husband to three beautiful wives (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin). They live in suburban Salt Lake City and manage to keep their little secret. Harry Dean Stanton is terrific as one of Bill's fathers-in-law, a very evil man.
Especially noteworthy is Sevigny as the shakiest of Bill's wives, a person whose actions are not at all predictable. Tripplehorn gets career-best work as the matriarch of the family, who is probably Bill's favorite wife. This, coupled with the sixth season of The Sopranos, made for an excellent Sunday night this past year.
Special Features: A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the intro is a little unnecessary. There are a couple of decent commentaries with Bill and his wives.