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View From The Couch

Little Children, An Officer and a Gentleman, Errol Flynn Collection



ERROL FLYNN: SIGNATURE COLLECTION VOLUME 2 (1936-1948). The Adventures of Robin Hood naturally merited its own two-disc deluxe DVD edition, while classics likes The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood were included in Volume 1. Not to worry: Errol Flynn made enough notable movies for Warner Bros. that it was a cinch filling out a second collection of choice material.

Back during the brief period when the Academy handed out Oscars for Best Assistant Director, Jack Sullivan earned one for his work on The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), a large-scale historical epic that marked Flynn's first film after Captain Blood had made him a star. The Dawn Patrol (1938), perhaps the best film in the set, is a somber drama about the constant pressure put upon a squad of World War I aviators. Flynn co-stars with Fred MacMurray in Dive Bomber (1941), an overlong yet worthwhile tale of preparing pilots for high-altitude flights. Gentleman Jim (1942) finds Flynn cast in one of his favorite roles: James Corbett, the Irish-American boxer who defeated heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan (Ward Bond). And Adventures of Don Juan (1948), an Oscar winner for Best Costume Design, finds Flynn back in the swashbuckler mode that initially jump-started his career.

The Dive Bomber DVD includes a new featurette and the theatrical trailer; the other four titles include the ever-popular "Warner Night at the Movies" package which the studio includes in many of its box sets (vintage newsreels, shorts, classic cartoons and trailers).

All Movies: ***

Extras: ***

LITTLE CHILDREN (2006). Based on Tom Perrotta's novel, Todd Field's richly textured drama offers a petri dish dissection of the residents of a Massachusetts suburb in which most of the adults' lives are defined by the manner in which they relate to the kids who scamper around the margins of both their lives and the movie itself. Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) and Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson) are both unhappily married stay-at-homes who engage in an adulterous tryst scheduled around outings to the pool and the park with their small fry. First, though, they have to navigate their way around the disapproving clucks of their neighborhood's soccer moms, robo-parents whose familial devotion has stripped them of anything resembling a personality. And then there's Ronnie McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), a convicted sex offender whose emergence in this quiet community understandably draws attention, though it also allows the other residents the opportunity to smooth over their own flaws. The entire cast is superb -- as Ronnie's blind date, Jane Adams is sensational in a role that would draw award attention were it not so brief -- but it's former '70s child star Haley who's the most memorable. His sexual predator is by turns loathsome and sympathetic -- not unlike most of the "normal" characters in the film -- and Haley is able to locate the humane within the inhuman. It's a complex portrayal, perfectly suited to the weighty movie that shelters it. Winslet, Haley and the script by Field and Perrotta all picked up Oscar nominations.

There are no extras on the DVD.

Movie: ***1/2

Extras: *

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (1982). During my two high school years living in Nairobi, Kenya (1982-1984), no movie was more popular -- or played at the local theater longer -- than An Officer and a Gentleman. The reason was obvious, as evidenced by the mostly black audiences' roars of approval and bursts of applause whenever Louis Gossett, Jr. appeared on -- and took command of -- the screen. Which just goes to prove the filmmakers are correct in an accompanying DVD feature when they state that the movie was an international success that spoke to different people on different levels. Twenty-five years later, it holds up as a prime example of old-fashioned -- some would say corny -- romantic melodrama, as troubled naval officer Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) falls for factory worker Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger) while butting heads with demanding drill instructor Foley (Gossett, copping the Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Winger and Gossett nabbed most of the critical acclaim for their work in this sleeper box office hit -- and, indeed, they're both excellent -- yet it's Gere's superb performance, the finest of his lengthy career, that propels the film toward its hankie-saturating finale.

DVD extras include audio commentary by director Taylor Hackford, a half-hour retrospective piece, a featurette on the film's music (including the Oscar-winning song "Up Where We Belong"), a look at the hand-to-hand combat scene between Gere and Gossett, and true stories of military romance.

Movie: ***1/2

Extras: ***

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