Thank goodness for the classics
In a week when the big new releases (“Good Luck Chuck,” “Mr. Woodcock”) carry an OS (OK, so?) rating, it’s a joy to see some worthy reissues.
Leading the parade, “When Harry Met Sally: Collector’s Edition” showcases the quintessential relationship movie: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy meets girl; and they become friends but don’t have sex for fear it will destroy the relationship; then they have sex and it destroys the relationship.
The touching finale contributes mightily to the romantic comedy’s quintessential quality; we’re all suckers for happily ever after.
And, as the entertaining extras point out, the 1989 film was released when its stars, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, were at their most charming. Their characters’ authenticity, simplicity and vulnerability combined with Nora Ephron’s sage screenplay to make the movie a perennial.
In the spiffy bonus materials, director Rob Reiner is joined by Crystal and Ephron in an insightful, warm, playful and funny commentary that’s leagues better than Reiner’s tepid solo on the original DVD.
Among the tidbits: Sally’s (Ryan) pickiness about ordering food is based on Ephron’s way of ordering.
Regarding Harry’s (Crystal) remark that men and women can never be friends, Reiner says, “There’s a sexual tension between men and women, always, no matter what, even when they’re married. Of course they can be friends, but if they’re two heterosexual people, there’s always a sexual component.”
Then there’s Ryan’s memorable faking-an-orgasm-in-the-diner scene — the reason for the film’s R rating. At first, Ryan was too nervous to let go in front of the extras.
So Reiner took her seat and yelled and pounded on the table to show what he wanted. Then Ryan relaxed and created the iconic moment that ends with a customer, played by Reiner’s mother, saying, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Reiner got embarrassed after his demonstration, because, he says, “I realized I just had an orgasm in front of my mother.’
Other extras: a short about the older couples’ love stories (all true, but tightened and told by actors); analysis of the film’s perennial status; more.
Just shoot me
“Men never get this movie,” Rosie O’Donnell’s character says to Ryan’s in “Sleepless in Seattle,” Ephron’s homage to “An Affair to Remember.”
Many men would rather roll over hot coals (note to women: men like to exaggerate) than sit through the 1957 romantic tearjerker, out this week as “An Affair to Remember: 50th Anniversary Edition.”
The ultimate chick flick, the picture pegs to pretty, witty sophisticates (Cary Grant andDeborah Kerr, “two legendary actors at the peak of their form”) who meet aboard a passenger ship, spar, spark and fall in love.
They get closer while visiting his beloved grandmother (first cry), lose each other due to a tragedy (second cry), then find each other again (third cry).
Despite the schmaltz, the oft-amusing movie draws you into its magic — because of the chemistry between its stars, the intimate direction by Leo McCarey (who also directed the first version, 1939’s “Love Affair”) and the poignancy.
Extras: Shorts on Grant, Kerr, McCarey and producer Jerry Wald and their personal lives; good piece on the look of the film; titillating AMC backstory.
Feeling the ‘Heat’
A taut 1967 drama, “In the Heat of the Night” beat out heavyweights “The Graduate,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Bonnie and Clyde” and lightweight “Doctor Dolittle” for the best picture Oscar.
Out this week as “In the Heat of the Night: 40th Anniversary Edition,” the film is still engrossing and relevant.
The tale of murder in a small Southern town stars Sidney Poitier as Virgil “they call me Mr.” Tibbs, a Philly homicide detective battling small-mindedness, racism and his own disgust as he works with a bigoted redneck police chief (Rod Steiger, who won the Oscar for best actor) to solve the murder of the town’s wealthiest resident.
Director Norman Jewison and cinematographer supreme Haskell Wexler create a steamy atmosphere, enhanced by Quincy Jones’ innovative score.
Extras: Tasty tidbits include the tale of Poitier’s refusal to film south of the Mason-Dixon because of the way blacks were treated; Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated a year later. Also: intriguing shorts on the creation of the film and of the soundtrack in the context of the times.
Bad luck, America
“Good Luck Chuck” is an unwatchable romantic comedy that Jessica Alba, the film’s only highlight, will no doubt delete from future resumes.
Dane Cook, an unfunny comic who seems to show up everywhere, plays Chuck, a crass, clueless single dentist who has carnal relations with a steam of semi-naked, well-endowed women who consider him a lucky charm: After having sex with Chuck, they are sure to find their true love and marry him.
Chuck gets tired of being used long after the audience gets tired of watching him and his buddy, an annoying gnat-like plastic surgeon played by Dan Fogler, star of the equally unwatchable “Balls of Fury” exchange crude sexual remarks.
They remind me of high school bullies, or class clowns talking sex trash to be popular — and aren’t.
Alba’s a ray of light who keeps on shining as a clumsy penguin zookeeper who catches Chuck’s lascivious eye.
Extras: Unfunny outtakes and ad-libs by the male leads, who come across as obnoxious as they do in the movie; unrated filmmakers’ commentary; a “sex matrix”; deleted and alternate scenes.
“Mr. Woodcock,” a comedy driven by anger and competition, plays better than “Good Luck Chuck.” Don’t take that as a recommendation.
A successful self-help author (an over-the-top Seann William Scott) returns home to receive a special community award. Still smarting from years in gym class being humiliated by his teacher Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton), he finds the latter dating his mom (Susan Sarandon) and tries to interfere.
Things evolve pretty much as you expect for most of the movie before taking a brief plunge into substance near the end.
Think Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in “Anger Management,” only a little less funny and about as irritating. Scott does exaggerated frustration well, but that’s about it as far as character development.
Extras: “P.E. Trauma Tales” is worth a look, as stars and others share bad gym-class memories. Also: making-of short; deleted scenes.
Also new on DVD
“Dragonlance”: Animated “Dungeons & Dragons”‘-type fantasy features voices by Kiefer Sutherland and Lucy Lawless.
“Killer Diller”: Residents of a halfway house form a blues band that clicks when a piano-playing autistic savant joins; comedy with Lucas Black and music by Keb’ Mo.
“Saving Sarah Cain”: High-profile career woman must take care of five Amish orphans; based on the novel “The Redemption of Sarah Cain.”
“She’s Gotta Have It”: Spike Lee’s first is a comedy about Nola, a woman with an unquenchable sexual appetite, and her lovers.
“Suburban Girl”: Sarah Michelle Gellar romantic comedy based on stories from the novel “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.”
“The Ten”: Comic sketches based on each of the Ten Commandments; ensemble includes Paul Rudd, Adam Brody, Gretchen Mol, Winona Ryder, Liev Schreiber and Jessica Alba; uneven but some funny moments.
TV on DVD
“Extras Gift Set” (complete series plus 90-minute finale)
“Family Guy presents Blue Harvest” (“Star Wars” spoof)
“Melissa” (BBC murder mystery)
“The New Adventures of Old Christine: Season One” (finally, a successful series by a “Seinfeld” alum)
“Oswald’s Ghost” (documentary takes new look at JFK assassination)
“Persuasion” (recent Sally Hawkins version)
“Rising Damp: The Movie” (British comedy with Leonard Rossiter)
“The Rockford Files: Season Five” (TV’s all-time best private eye)
“Sabrina The Teenage Witch: The Third Season” (giddy witchy woman)
March 4: “Into the Wild”