The 1984 film The Natural is one of those movies I can credit for my movie-critic status. I saw it with a girl I had a crush on in high school. She hated the Robert Redford baseball movie and all its corniness, but I loved the thing and argued until the girl pretty much couldn't stand me. I put the damn movie before the girl. That set a standard for years to come.
For DVD, director Barry Levinson has put 15 minutes of new footage into the film while trimming some minutes for pacing. This results in a markedly different beginning for the movie, which shows us a little more of Roy Hobbs' (Redford) dark past before making his major league debut with his Wonderboy bat.
Redford was pretty badass in this movie. He was in his late 40s, but he looked at least 10 years younger than that. Allegedly, the man could play ball, and a lot of the shots we see in the film are the results of his swings. He also does a decent job shagging flies with those goofy early model baseball gloves, and his pitching form is major league good. He set the stage for Kevin Costner, who would become the king of baseball movies a few years later.
In past years, whenever I've come to the plate during clutch situations in coed softball, I've played Randy Newman's score from this film in my head, sometimes resulting in my going yard. That's quite the pathetic admittance, but so be it. I remember how shocking it was to discover that the goofball who wrote "Short People" composed such majestic, powerful music. He should've taken home the Oscar.
This one was critically panned upon its release, mostly for changing the dark ending of the novel it was based upon. I had no problem with the artistic license, because without it, we wouldn't have gotten the amazing light-tower explosions. I love this movie, warts and all.
Special Features: A very nice two-disc set, with all sorts of background on the making of the film, including participation from Redford and Levinson. Producers describe how Redford wouldn't show up for baseball practice, yet he managed to blow people away when the filming of the baseball sequences started. There are lots of documentaries, including one about Eddie Waitkus, the real-life baseball player who was shot by a crazed fan, much like Redford's character in the film. There are also extensive interviews with real-life baseball heroes like Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryne Sandberg.
I'm a big fan of Tim and Eric Awesome Show: Great Job! currently airing on Cartoon Network. It actually isn't a cartoon, although it does contain some animated sequences. It's essentially a live-action version of Tom Goes to the Mayor, a bizarre animated creation from the same team.
This is animation at its most primitive, with regulars and guest stars as blue-and-white cutouts against color backgrounds. The people in these shows look like architectural blue prints, and are made up of stills rather than continuously flowing animation. This results in a very cheap-looking production, something I believe the creators intended.
Guest stars include Tenacious D, Michael Ian Black, Jeff Goldblum and Mr. Show alumnus David Cross. The other half of Mr. Show, Bob Odenkirk, is a regular with his voice and likeness showing up for many characters.
Fans of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Mr. Show should find this very much to their liking. If that's the case, make sure to catch Tim and Eric on Cartoon Network--beautifully strange entertainment.
Special Features: Plenty of episode commentaries from Tim and Eric, who also offer offbeat intros to many of the featurettes. One of the better segments would be footage of the guest stars getting their pictures taken for the animation. The DVD contains the entire series in a three-disc set. Every episode contains much laughter and strangeness.
One of the great all-time comic performances would be Dudley Moore as Stanley in this Faustian tale of a short-order cook who sells his soul to the devil (Moore's then-partner, Peter Cook) for a series of wishes. The humor here would be that the devil keeps finding loopholes in Stanley's wishes, plunging him into one nightmare after another in his pursuit of a beautiful waitress.
It's very dry British humor, and not everybody's taste. One of the funniest scenes in the movie occurs when the devil turns Stanley into a nun at a convent where the sisters routinely bounce on trampolines. Absolutely nuts.
Special Features: The DVD includes archival footage of Cook and Moore, including a fake interview they filmed during production of the film. Harold Ramis, director of the 2000 remake starring Elizabeth Hurley, offers up his opinions on the original.