What's new on home video...
"Monsters, Inc." -- As all kids know, monsters appear in the bedroom closet after lights-out and, sure, they're scary as all get-out but it seems monsters are just as scared of kids. So we're told early on in this delightful Disney-Pixar computer-animated collaboration (they teamed earlier for the two "Toy Story" films and "A Bug's Life") in which the spooky denizens of Monstropolis are finding it harder to frighten the little ones on their nightly boo-hahas out of the closet. That's a problem because the goal is to collect screams needed to generate power back home. Foremost among this scary squad is big, shaggy Sulley, a blue bear-like critter with horns but a nice guy underneath (voice by John Goodman), aided by his edgy best pal, Mike, a green eyeball with arms and legs (voice by Billy Crystal). To keep the shriek seekers in line, their boss, the suspicious Henry J. Waternoose (voice by James Coburn), tells them that human children are "toxic" and it would take just "a single touch" by one to kill. So, imagine the panic when a little girl follows Sulley into the closet at night and stolls into monster world. A lot of fun, aimed at kids but with plenty to amuse adults as well. (The two-disc DVD version includes a bunch of extras including the Oscar-winning Pixar short "For the Birds" and "Mike's New Car.") 2001. 86 minutes. Animated. Walt Disney Home Entertainment. Rated G.
"Murder by Numbers" -- Two bright high school students, in an effort to show how superior their intellect is, devise the "perfect' murder in true Leopold and Loeb style and defy the authorities to find them in this glossy, entertaining thriller. Their main adversary is sassy Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock), an unorthodox police homicide investigator, very good at what she does but essentially a loner, secretly haunted by something in her past. To prove their point, Richard and Justin (Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt), choose a victim at random then carefully lay a trail of incriminating clues implicating their school's janitor. Her bosses are convinced and close the case but Cassie's not through, especially after an alarming chance meeting with one of the boys. Despite harsh orders to the contrary, Cassie presses on, links the two boys and goes on, perilously, from there. Ben Chapin co-stars as her partner who's by-the-book but rarely on the same page. 2002. 120 minutes. Warner Home Video. Rated R (violence, language, a sex scene and brief drug use).
"Hollywood Ending" -- Woody Allen, in his usual role of writer, director, star and hopeless neurotic, takes a humorous jab at Hollywood and the way movies are made. Allen plays Val Waxman, a washed-up, two-time Oscar-winning director relegated to the scrap heap of creativity when his ex-wife Ellie (Tea Leoni), now a producer, talks her reluctant boss/fiance (Treat Williams) into offering him a plum comeback shot. It's a job directing a big budget flick called "The City That Never Sleeps," something Ellie insists Val is perfect for, but once he gets the job he's under such stress that on the day shooting is to begin he goes blind. It may be all in his mind, but he can't see a thing and is determined, with the help of a number of helpers, to shoot the movie without anyone knowing of his sudden affliction. While not always living up to its potential, it's at times quite funny with its zippy one-liners and silly situations and has a solid cast. 2002. 114 minutes. DreamWorks Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (some drug references and sexual material).
"Monsoon Wedding" -- One of the most charming films to come out of India, an engaging romantic comedy with some drama sprinkled in and a large, diverse array of interesting characters. It helps that most everyone speaks English, though some switch at times to Hindi and Punjabi. It's a story that blends tradition with today, a modern middle-class world of cell phones, e-mails and an arranged marriage. It is such a marriage that Lalit Verma (Naseeruddin Shah) and his wife Pimmi (Lillete Dubey) are planning for their only daughter and a man she has just met. Director Mira Nair weaves in several subplots and intrigues as the big day arrives and a flood of guests from far and near, most of whom are members of the extended family, show up in such numbers as to cause one to remark, "I don't even know who's who half the time." A warm, delightful little film. 2001. 114 minutes. In English, Hindi and Punjabi with occasional English subtitles. Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Rated R (language, including some sex-related dialogue).
Coming up: "The Scorpion King" and "Enigma"... "The Rookie" tops the video rental charts this week. Moving up quickly is the vampire thriller "Blade II"... "Minority Report," the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg thriller, makes its home video bow on Dec. 17...
Gene Kelly capped his long, high-stepping career with the Oscar-winning "An American In Paris" in 1951. So, what could he do for an encore? The following year he topped even that with what many consider the greatest movie musical ever made, "Singin' In The Rain," bowing on DVD in a sumptuous, digitially restored and remastered two-disc 50th anniversary edition from Warner Home Video on Tuesday. Among the acres of extras is a new 30-minute documentary with Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Cyd Charisse and others titled "What A Glorious Feeling," which pretty well sums up the film for the fan of those flashy musicals of yore. This enduring extravanganza about Hollywood's silent-to-sound transition never looked better...
It's an unusually fertile week for recent nostalgia. Warner also is releasing three other two-disc packages highlighting a trio of Best Picture Oscar winners. They include "Unforgiven," the 10th anniversary edition of Clint Eastwood's acclaimed Western about two aging outlaws trying to collect one last bounty, with interviews and other extras involving Eastwood and co-stars Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris; "Amadeus" (1984), the elaborately staged tale of musical genius and obsessive envy starring Tom Hulce as a rambunctious Mozart and Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham as the bitterly jealous composer Salieri, and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" (1975), the powerful tale of life or something like it in a mental institution that earned Academy Awards for Jack Nicholson as a feisty misfit who stirs up his fellow patients and Louise Fletcher as the strong-willed head nurse. (Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd are among the patients.)
Then, there are the Beatles -- and their first film, "A Hard Day's Night" from 1964 and Miramax, in its first, two-disc DVD appearance and a return on VHS, with John, Paul, George and Ringo frolicking about in what director Richard Lester perceived as a day in the life of the Fab Four at the height of their popularity. There are 12 Beatles songs including "Can't Buy Me Love, "She Loves You" and the title number. Lots of old and new footage and other extras on the DVD version.