Film » View from the Couch

View From The Couch

by

comment
THE CRITIC (1994-95). In the annals of television, has there ever been a series that focused on a worthier subject than this one? Well, OK, I might be a tad biased; seriously, though, fans of The Simpsons (whose producers were also behind this show) will enjoy this animated program that offered big laughs while taking shots at current staples of pop culture. A flop when it first aired, it has always maintained a small but loyal following, and this DVD set rewards the faithful by including all 23 episodes from the show's two seasons. Jon Lovitz provides the voice for short, pudgy critic Jay Sherman (whose catchphrase is "It stinks!"), and among the episodes is the now-poignant one which featured guest vocal appearances by Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel. To its detriment, the packaging on this three-disc set doesn't mention that there are any extra features, but among the scattered bonuses are short "Web-isodes" (created in 2000, a few years after the original series went off the air), audio commentaries by the show's creators, and a compilation of parody trailers (including Smokey and the Spartacus and Dennis the Menace II Society).
Series:
Extras:

MY FAIR LADY (1964). It's no secret that the Academy went gaga over bloated, Broadway-based musicals in the 50s and 60s, handing Best Picture Oscars to an inordinate amount of lumbering behemoths that more often than not haven't aged well. This three-hour adaptation of the Lerner and Loewe smash -- based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion -- is often held up as the least deserving of this winning bunch, but for my money, I'll take it over Oliver! and Gigi any day of the week. True, its ass should have been kicked at the Oscars by Dr. Strangelove and A Hard Day's Night (a forward-looking movie musical, and the antithesis of the old-school Lady); George Cukor's direction couldn't possibly have been more static (this truly looks like a filmed play); and the storyline's misogynistic strains are never resolved and in fact are enhanced by the letdown of an ending. Yet there's still plenty to enjoy. The soundtrack includes several of L&L's most enduring tunes, including "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?," "Get Me to the Church On Time" and the timeless "I Could Have Danced All Night." Many of the film's eight Oscars were for technical achievements, and the film still looks lovely (or "loverly"?), especially in resplendent Technicolor. And while Audrey Hepburn's shrieking as the dirt-poor flower girl who becomes a polished society lady occasionally wears on the nerves, Rex Harrison (in an Oscar-winning turn) is perfect as stuffy wordsmith Henry Higgins. Extras on the two-disc DVD include a lengthy documentary on the film's history, Hepburn's original vocals on two songs (in the movie, her singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon), and reams of vintage footage and promotional material.
Movie:
Extras: 1/2

PLANET OF THE APES (1968). Forget those religious flicks: Charlton Heston's best performance can be found at the center of this still-riveting sci-fi odyssey (co-written by Rod Serling, from Pierre Boulle's novel) in which Heston's astronaut crash-lands on a world in which apes have the upper hand over people. Our favorite NRA nut proves to be the perfect embodiment of rugged individualism, and when he tells a "damned dirty ape" to take his stinking paws off him ... well, it just makes you proud to be human. Billed as the "35th Anniversary Edition" (um, aren't they a couple months late?), this two-disc set is a vast improvement over the previous DVD release, which was skimpy on extras. This one, on the other hand, features a cornucopia of Planet propaganda, most invaluably the original test footage -- created to sell the studio on financing the film -- that featured Heston, Edward G. Robinson in full Dr. Zaius makeup, and James Brolin as Cornelius. Other extras include the superb Apes documentary that originally aired on AMC, trailers for all five films in the series, and Roddy McDowall's home movies.
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

SYLVIA (2003) Failing to convey the imagination of Frida, the poignancy of Iris, or the profundity of Virginia Woolf's plight in The Hours, Sylvia brings up the rear when it comes to recent films about tortured women trying to create art while contending with the roadblock of mental and/or physical anguish. Forever known in shorthand as the suicidal author of The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath didn't see that description expanded by this dreary effort that seems more interested in documenting a tragic love affair than getting inside this woman's head. Whether Plath's art and death were fueled by much beyond romance gone awry seems almost beside the point in this picture, which focuses almost exclusively on the soap opera angle and in effect paints largely unsympathetic portrayals of both Sylvia (Gwyneth Paltrow) and her husband, poet Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig). Paltrow suffers nobly, Craig (previously Paul Newman's weakling son in Road to Perdition) fails to muster up the charisma that made Hughes such a babe magnet, and the film's creators are under the impression that glum subject matter must be given a glum presentation, even at the expense of eliciting audience empathy. The only DVD extra is the theatrical trailer.
Movie:
Extras:

UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (2003). In this largely fictionalized adaptation of Frances Mayes' memoir, Golden Globe-nominated Diane Lane is irresistible as our heroine, who, on the heels of a nasty divorce, heads to Italy on a vacation arranged by her best friend (Sandra Oh). There, she falls in love with the Tuscan countryside and on a whim purchases a dilapidated villa in need of dire restoration. But as she works on the house and becomes acquainted with the locals, she realizes that the one thing still missing from her improving existence is romance. Tuscan Sun largely plays out as one might expect, though the journey is so enjoyable that many viewers won't mind being led down this familiar path once more. Lane's heartfelt performance provides pools of depth to her character's plight, and the supporting players are a finely drawn bunch. A warm and luminous film, Tuscan Sun can take the frost out of any chilly winter evening. DVD extras include audio commentary by writer-director Audrey Wells, a short making-of piece and a couple of deleted scenes.
Movie:
Extras:

Add a comment