Films for all tastes being released on DVD
The martial-arts fantasy that became enormously popular in its original Mandarin language now arrives in English, on DVD. Unfortunately, the dubbing flattens the performances and makes the movie seem inherently silly. The stars delivered excellent performances in the original Mandarin. The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes documentary. The commentary track features director Ang Lee and producer-writer James Schamus, who repeatedly interrupts the soft-spoken Lee.
"The House of Mirth," Columbia TriStar
Gillian Anderson was a near-revelation in this tragic period piece, one of last year's most overlooked movies. Based on Edith Wharton's novel, the stately film tracks the decline of a free-thinking woman trapped by financial and social conventions. The disc showcases scenes reluctantly cut by director Terence Davies, who lucidly responds to the "less-is-more" notion with the remark that "sometimes I just think less is less." Davies' audio commentary is an eloquent, far-ranging discourse on the subtlety of Wharton's language, the difficulties of shooting a costume drama on a tight budget and even the eroticism of smoking cigarettes.
"The Woody Allen Collection," MGM
The second of MGM's Allen boxed sets, this five-disc package includes what may be his masterpiece, "Crimes and Misdemeanors," and the best of his dramas, "Another Woman." "Crimes" features Martin Landau and Allen in a sobering tale of murder skillfully juxtaposed against a lighter story of romantic misadventure. Gena Rowlands stars in "Another Woman," about a philosophy professor peeling away her self-deceptions. The other films are "Alice," "September" and the Kafka-esque comedy "Shadows and Fog." Allen refuses to provide DVD bonuses, but each disc comes with the theatrical trailer and nice booklets with background on the films.
Other new releases:
"Hope and Glory," MGM The DVD debut of John Boorman's semi-autobiographical account of a boy's wondrous perception of the London Blitz. One of the best films ever about civilian outlooks on war, but it's a shame the disc has no commentary from Boorman, given the movie's personal nature.
"The Madness of King George," MGM The widescreen DVD format again comes to the rescue of a lush period film. This is not one to see in the pan-and-scan VHS format. Nigel Hawthorne is magnificent as George III, who loses his marbles after rabble-rousers in the American colonies win independence.
"Panic," Artisan William H. Macy is at his hangdog best as a hitman with second thoughts about working for a contract-killing business run by his father (Donald Sutherland). Extras include director's commentary and deleted scenes.
"The Fugitive," Warner Home Video The DVD's interviews and commentary are surprisingly candid: This thriller about a wrongly accused man trying to find his wife's killer came close to being a tremendous train wreck, instead of just featuring a tremendous train wreck. The director, producer and stars agree: "We were making it up as we went along."