"Pollock" is an intelligent, unflinching biopic about the troubled life of the late abstract painter Jackson Pollock. Ed Harris, who made his directorial debut with the film, received an Oscar nomination for his uncompromising turn as the manic-depressive alcoholic. Marcia Gay Harden won a supporting actress Oscar for her gritty, feisty portrait of his painter wife, Lee Krasner.
Just like the film itself, the digital edition (Columbia TriStar, $25) is demanding, thought-provoking fare. The DVD includes a nice wide-screen transfer of the film, production notes and an above-average "making of" documentary in which Harris talks about his arduous journey in getting the production off the ground and scenes of Harris directing the film. The mini-doc also includes interviews with Harden and Harris' wife, Amy Madigan, who plays art patron Peggy Guggenheim.
Several of the deleted scenes are wonderful, including one in which a drunken Pollock is refused service at a bar and another in which Krasner breaks into a rage when Pollock alters one of her paintings.
Harris' thoughtful interview on PBS' "The Charlie Rose Show" is featured on the disc.
Harris became interested in Pollock 15 years ago when his father sent him a biography on the painter for his birthday. The actor-director is a bit too soft-spoken with his audio commentary, but he offers generous insight into the production.
Strictly for the undiscerning is the DVD of the teen slasher flick "Valentine" (Columbia TriStar). Denise Richards, David Boreanaz and Jessica Capshaw are among the stars of this violent horror film about a cherub-masked killer slicing and dicing a group of twentysomething women.
The digital edition features the wide-screen version of the film, a music video of "Opticon" by Orgy, very boring cast and crew interviews and snoozy audio commentary from Australian director Jamie Blanks, who also made the equally inane teen horror flick "Urban Legend."
In 1916, Charlie Chaplin released one of his best-loved short comedies, "The Rink." Eighty-two years later, his granddaughter, Dolores Chaplin, headlined the slight French comedy "The Ice Rink" (Kino, VHS for rental; $30 for the DVD). Jean-Philippe Toussaint directed this comedy about the making of a movie at a Parisian ice rink. Bruce Campbell plays the American star of the French production, and Chaplin is his leading lady on and off the screen.
Chaplin is the daughter of Michael Chaplin, who appeared with his famous father in "The King of New York." The DVD includes the wide-screen version of the film and the theatrical trailer.
New from the Criterion Collection is the recently restored 1963 British comedy "Billy Liar" ($40). Based on the Keith Waterhouse novel and hit play, "Billy Liar" stars the wonderful Tom Courtenay as a young man trapped in a worthless job who daydreams of escaping his boring existence. Julie Christie also stars as a beautiful free spirit. John Schlesinger directed this poignant, delightful film.
Courtenay also appeared in the London stage production of "Billy Liar," taking over from Albert Finney, who originated the role.
The digital edition includes a lovely wide-screen transfer of the black-and-white film, excerpts from "Northern Lights," an episode of the BBC series "Hollywood U.K.: British Cinema in the Sixties," hosted by director Richard Lester, and warm and funny commentary from Schlesinger, Courtenay and Christie that was recorded last year in Los Angeles and London.
"The Best of Bob Hope" DVD double feature (American Home Treasures, $10) really doesn't feature the best films starring the beloved comic actor.
The amusing 1952 comedy "The Road to Bali," starring Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, is the only "Road" picture in color and finds the boys--now a tad too long in the tooth for this type of fare--rescuing jungle princess Lamour. The print used for the DVD transfer is in pretty good shape, but the color has faded.
The second feature, 1947's "My Favorite Brunette," stars Hope as a baby photographer who yearns to be a private detective and ends up embroiled with some mobsters. Lamour, Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney Jr. are also featured. "Brunette" has a lot of laughs, but unfortunately the print American Home Treasures used for the digital transfer is full of scratches and dirt and is in dire need of restoration.
Long before Michael Crawford became a sex symbol with his Tony Award-winning performance in "The Phantom of the Opera," he starred in the British comedy series "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em." Shot in the early '70s, the silly sitcom finds a very scrawny and unsexy Crawford playing a lazy goofball. Crawford is a wonderful slapstick comic actor, but the jokes wear thin pretty quickly. Michelle Dotrice plays Crawford's wife. BFS has released several episodes of the comedy series on DVD ($20 per tape, $50 for a three-disc set).
Kino on Video continues to reissue on VHS ($25 each) classic French films it acquired last year from Interama. The best of three new re-releases is Jean Renoir's glorious and magical 1954 musical, "French Can Can." Shot in beautiful Technicolor, "French Can Can" pays tribute to the Paris of his father, painter Auguste Renoir, as well as the Montmartre and Pigalle music halls of poster artist Toulouse-Lautrec.
Those who enjoyed the musical "Moulin Rouge" this summer will get a high kick out of "French Can Can," because it tells the story of the owner and creator of the famed Parisian music hall. Jean Gabin, who was arguably France's greatest actor, plays Danglard, the creator of "Moulin Rouge" who falls in love with a beautiful young launderette (Francoise Arnoul) and turns her into a can-can dancer. Maria Felix plays Danglard's very jealous mistress.
Also new from Kino is the 1930 French drama "Prix de Beaute," with Louise Brooks in her last starring role, and Robert Bresson's award-winning 1950 drama "Diary of a Country Priest."