Wednesday, April 19, 2006
another fine roundup
It's a belated media roundup today, Shelfers. A day late, but not necessarily a dollar short. Who has an extra dollar lying around anyway? Have you bought gas lately?
Top Shelf Pick of the Week
The TCM Archives: The Laurel and Hardy Collection
I remember watching my first Stan and Ollie short on a Saturday morning PBS show that ran old comedy shorts when I was a kid. It was The Music Box. I remember laughing my head off at the funny man who took his bowler off and whimpered and struggled to get out his words while the chubby guy, with such a faux dignified and precise air and manner of speaking and moving, just stood at him and glared. Immediately after, the show ran a Three Stooges short, called An Ache in Every Stake, that had a somewhat similar gag with a long staircase in the beginning. That was enough to start me on the delinquent path rife with classic film and shorts. I could provide anecdotal evidence that many a classic film fan (especially of the male persuasion) cut their teeth on Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy or The Three Stooges, or in my case both.
The TCM Archives is a delightful series that needs to be encouraged to do more of the same- which is why the link provided is to the TCM online store. This set includes two full length features, Bonnie Scotland and The Devil's Brother, some clips of the duo from other films, and the wonderful TCM documentary about short subjects Added Attractions: The Hollywood Shorts Story. TCM recently reran the doc, written by Leonard Maltin and narrated by Chevy Chase, and I found it to be wonderful and informative- very much worth watching again and having as part of your film library.
Bonnie Scotland and The Devil's Brother are excellent films, which I haven't seen in years, but aren't necessarily the best they ever made. No complaints here, however, for while some other Laurel and Hardy films are available on DVD, more often or not they are poor prints or cheaply contrived DVDs. This is perhaps the first DVD of the duo that really packs the DVD punch that they deserve. Leonard Maltin and Richard Bann provide commentary on the films. To us, commentary is a 50-50 thing. Sometimes it's great, other times it's a waste of time. Most of the commentary I have heard Leonard Maltin provide is informative and always interesting - so give it a whirl.
Here's to hoping there is more first rate Stan and Ollie on the way. They built such a loyal following in many incarnations- during their original run with Hal Roach and when their films began appearing during the early days of television. Their work has influenced many a comedian and actor- so introducing them to a new generation kind of keeps the influence alive. Fox has also recently released a DVD set of the Stan and Ollie films made while at Fox in their later years. These films are not as great as the stuff made during their heyday, but still worth seeing. John McElwee has a great post on the Fox set and the films over at Greenbrier Picture Shows, and another post in honor of Ollie's birthday.
This is not first rate Marx Brothers material, but it is the last movie that really featured the three brothers together in top billing. While they had several other projects after this, this film was the last for the Marx Brothers. So if you have the two previous box sets, there is no excuse to not own this film and complete the collection. The brothers had already "retired" before and this originally was written and concieved by Harpo as a solo project, but he asked his brothers to come on board-partly to help continue the financial backing. That being said, its not truly a bad film, and can stand on it's own merits. Harpo has some good moments, and it's classic to see Groucho with Marylin Monroe. Despite what the cover would have you believe, Marylin has a very small part in the film, and the always delightful Margaret Dumont is missed. Marylin Monroe is no Margaret Dumont, and Margaret Dumont is no Marylin Monroe- for obvious reasons. As the wise sage once said, "Don't cross the streams. Crossing the streams is very bad." Go out and pick it up for the final bookend of your Marxian collection. It is slated to be out this week- but for some reason most online retailers are not showing this week's release as available. If any sharp-eyed Shelfers can tell us why- or locate a copy- let us know in the comments section.
The Complete Mr. Arkadin (Criterion Collection)
This is one of Orson Well's most mysterious films. With a structure similar to Citizen Kane and based in part on Welles' character from The Third Man and a the same-named radio series, Harry Lime. Mr. Arkadin is a wealthy amnesiac living in Spain who hires an American smuggler to investigate his past, to discover any skeletons that might come back to haunt him. We haven't seen this one yet, but we hope to soon.
Last night's NCIS and The Unit was a great one-two punch of television, with The Unit being probably one of the best episodes to date. It still kind of wierds me out to see that David Mamet not only created it, but has written several episodes and directed at least one that I know of. Sure, I normally think of Glengerry Glen Ross when I think of Mamet, but a closer look shows several other things that I didn't realize he had worked on The Untouchables and episodes of The Sheild and Hill Street Blues. Anyway, last night's episode really underlined the sacrifice of the soldiers and their families, and how that sacrifice is not always a temporary thing. Very powerful TV.
Tonight is the night for The Amazing Race and South Park with some familiar favorites. On The Amazing Race the camels are back. The teams are in Oman, and as always the challenges that involve the camels are difficult for the teams and humorous for viewers. The competition is perhaps fiercer in this season than in season's past. The most annoying teams (in my estimation) have all fallen- with Lake and Michelle being the final one that got on my nerves. And there hasn't been a non-elim round yet. This season is shaping up to be one of my favorites.
Towlie is back on South Park in the new episode entitled, A Million Little Fibers. From Southparkstudios.com's description: "Towelie gets over his drug addition and writes a moving book about his experiences. Thanks to Oprah’s support, the book becomes a best seller and his story inspires millions to turn their lives around. However, when he’s caught in a lie by the grand dame of daytime television, Towelie’s old habits start to look might appealing."
This is the first episode of South Park that has really been not-so self referrential, so it should be interesting. Nice to see Towlie back too.
The Shelf's TCM highlights for the week:
April 20th: Harold Lloyd dominates the line-up with Safety Last (1923), The Freshman (1925), Welcome Danger (1929) , and The Milky Way (1936). Also don't miss the little seen It's a Wonderful World (1939) starring Claudette Colbert and James Stewart.
April 21st: Bing Crosby and Bob Hope travel The Road to Utopia (1946) while family man Cary Grant and lovable wife Myrna Loy try to live the American dream in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
April 22nd: John Wayne puts the exclamation point in Hatari! (1962)
April 23rd: TCM has some great adventure films with The African Queen(1951) , Gunga Din (1939) , and The Four Feathers (1939).
April 24th: Don't miss Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in a Top Shelf favorite: Ball Of Fire (1941)
Finally- just for kicks and your entertainment pleasure.... Watching the last Top Shelf Pick of the Week DVD The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother made me look for some more Marty Feldman hilarity. Courtesy of You Tube a classic sketch from the British show, At Last the 1948 Show which starred Feldman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and pre-python John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Enjoy...
He doesn't want me! He wants the other monkey!