INDIANA JONES: THE ADVENTURE COLLECTION (1981-1989). Paramount first released a long-overdue Indiana Jones box set back in October 2003, but the impending release of the fourth film in the series now provides the studio with a good excuse to offer another collection containing the original trilogy. The films themselves need no lengthy introductions. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), which made an icon out of Harrison Ford's whip-wielding adventurer, is one of the all-time greats, a delightful thrill-a-minute flick in the grand swashbuckling tradition. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), which along with that same summer's Gremlins led to the creation of the PG-13 rating, is the most underrated of the three, with its dark tone working perfectly in the context of its often macabre tale. And Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) closes the decade (and, until now, the series) in style, with Sean Connery an inspired choice to play Indy's dad and River Phoenix (who died four years later) an equally sensible selection to play the teenage Indiana Jones.
The 2003 set, billed as The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection, included a fourth disc packed with enticing extras. This new collection only contains three discs, with the extras disbursed among the platters holding the movies. Unfortunately, these bonuses, while entertaining, aren't as comprehensive as those from the previous package, which provided lengthier looks at each of the three films. The extras here consist entirely of short pieces, including new introductions by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, a conversation with the leading ladies, looks at the location shooting and visuals effects, storyboard sequences, and, of course, the trailer for the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: ****
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: ***1/2
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: ***1/2
MAD MONEY (2008). At this time last year, risk-taking DVD viewers were suffering through Because I Said So, a Diane Keaton vehicle so horrific that it barely got beat out by License to Wed for the top spot on my 10 Worst list for 2007. Luckily, Keaton's latest film is much better, simply by virtue of the fact that I wasn't tempted to cram a gun muzzle into my mouth this time around. Keaton stars as Bridget Cardigan, an upper-middle-class wife reeling from that fact that her husband Don (Ted Danson, very good in his best role in ages) has lost his job and they may now be in danger of losing their home and comfortable lifestyle. As a temporary solution, Bridget takes a job as a cleaning lady at the Federal Reserve Bank, where she eventually devises an elaborate scheme to steal the worn-out bills marked for destruction in the building's shredding facilities. She enlists the aid of two co-workers, sensible single mom Nina (Queen Latifah) and vivacious party girl Jackie (Katie Holmes), and the trio set about pulling off the most unlikely of heists. A remake of a 2001 British TV-movie called Hot Money (never made available in this country), Mad Money is a generally entertaining picture, even as it dabbles in implausibilities and often fails to get a firm grasp on its characters. Are there better ways for DVD renters to spend their own money than using it on Mad Money? Certainly. But there are also worse ways. They could be renting Because I Said So.
DVD extras include audio commentary by director Callie Khouri, a brief making-of piece and theatrical trailers.
P.S. I LOVE YOU (2007). It's possible for this to have been a winner had its running time been capped at 100 minutes. That way, it could have focused on the most interesting aspect: the palpable sense of loss a wife experiences after her husband dies of a brain tumor, and efforts to insure that she doesn't forfeit her life to misery. This is prime tearjerker material, and Hilary Swank and (to a lesser degree) Gerard Butler demonstrate that they're capable of pulling this off. Instead, this runs 126 minutes, and that extra half-hour bloats the material into an ugly mishmash in which the attempts at comedy are excruciating and the drama gets diluted by needless set-pieces (Swank not only sings along to Judy Garland's "The Man That Got Away" in her living room but also merits two karaoke scenes). The central thrust, dopey but sweet, is that Butler's Gerry knows that Swank's Holly will have a hard time coping with his passing, so he arranges for her to receive a series of letters after his death to help her cope. Yet it's hard to focus on this storyline when, for instance, Lisa Kudrow (as Holly's cock-hungry friend) regularly shows up to lust after stray men, or when Holly and her best buds (Kudrow and Gina Gershon) get stranded in a fishing boat in the movie's worst scene. And don't get me started on Harry Connick Jr.'s maddening performance as Daniel, a potential love interest who's either A) mentally challenged; B) autistic; C) suffering from Tourette's syndrome; D) auditioning for a "This is your brain on drugs" TV spot; or E) a serial killer. So does the possibly psychotic Forrest Gump get the girl? Only suckers who shell out for this pap will ever know.
DVD extras include 12 minutes of deleted scenes, an interview with author Cecelia Ahern, and the music video for James Blunt's "Same Mistake."