Wednesday, June 07, 2006

roundup special edition

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Well Shelfers, I warned you. I told you last week that you’d better rest up for what promised to be a banner week for the roundup- and if you’ll just scan what’s below, you’ll see that I was right. There is so much great stuff that this is a specil edition! So much good stuff, that if there wasn’t such a clear winner for the Top Shelf pick- well, it would have been hard, is all I’m saying. So grab a snack and a root beer and settle in… we’re here for the long haul.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
John Wayne - John Ford Film Collection
I’m going to go out on a limb, with half a year under our belts, and declare this DVD release to be at least in the top five of all the DVD Box Set releases this year. Just you wait. At the end of this year, when the Shelf does it’s Top Shelf Picks of the year- this may be one of them. Fans have eagerly waited for the third part of the JW/JF Calvary triology, Fort Apache to be released. Not only is it finally here, but She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is getting a better DVD release in this set as well. Rio Grande (comprising the third installment) is already on a great disc – so completion of this series in a spectacular way is worthy of Top Shelf pick alone. “But Wait!”, as the Commercials say, “there’s more- so much more.”
Do you already own The Searchers on DVD? Give it to your cousin Bob- you’ll want this two disc special edition! Trust me on this. More features than you can imagine, plus an improved transfer and audio quality. Don’t forget the 2 disc special edition of Stagecoach, the movie that really launched Ford and Wayne into the Western Legends category. Also included in that special edition will be the American Masters episode of John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend, that was a Shelf pick several weeks ago. Don’t forget The Three Godfathers, one of my favorite older westerns that John Wayne did with Ford. There are also the great World War II films: They Were Expendable, and The Wings of Eagles. And then there is The Long Voyage Home. Now to sum it all up: 8 great films- majority of them new to DVD, some special edition upgrades worthy of the double dip, tons of features including several great feature-length documentaries, plus commentary and radio adaptations. If you only get one thing for Father’s Day… one pick, how about tell Junior to skip the tie and wrap up the Duke. You’ll be glad you did.

Other can’t miss Box Sets or TV Sets:
John Ford Film Collection:
Now if you couldn’t get enough John Ford this week, here is another great box set from the master director. See what we meant about so much stuff for the roundup? This is certainly the runner-up as far as the Top Shelf pick is concerned. It is very much a look at a multi-faceted director that can surprise you if you just think of him as a director of Westerns. Included in this set is The Lost Patrol, a gripping drama about a group of WW I British soldiers trapped by Arab snipers in the desert. If you are a fan of Merian C. “King Kong” Cooper, you’ll want this film. He was the producer. The third film in the set is The Informer, about an Irish Republican Army low rung soldier selling out his associate. The film won several Oscars including a Best Director for Ford. Mary, Queen of Scots is a different film for Ford, but it was an early one in the career of its star, Katherine Hepburn. The two reportedly fell for each other during the making of this film. There are two westerns here as well: Sergeant Rutledge, which starred Woody Strode in a powerful performance as a black Calvary officer (Buffalo Soldier) accused of rape. Lastly, Cheyanne Autumn is Ford’s last Western, beautifully filmed narrative told from a Native American’s point of view. Don’t sell yourself short, plan on making this set part of your collection.

John Wayne's Batjac Productions Suspense Collection
Yes, none of the films in this collection star John Wayne, but they were produced by his production company. And the previous Batjac films, like McLintock! and Hondo and others have received great DVD treatment. Included in this set are two excellent westerns, Plunder in the Sun with Glen Ford and Track of the Cat starring Robert Mitchum. Also in the set are two mystery, tough guy films: Man in the Vault and Ring of Fear.

Charmed Season 5
Well, we’ve already discussed how much I’ve enjoyed this show, so recommending the DVD sets are a no-brainer. However, I do have a complaint- there are no extras or even commentary from the cast. You would think that they would have at least some commentary as the show was still in production during the making of this set. Unfortunately this is typical of Paramount’s handling of some of their television properties on DVD. Still, get the set for the show- that’s what its there for anyway.

NCIS - The Complete First Season
Longtime Shelfers know of my love for this show. And of course all things Bellasario- JAG, Magnum P.I. and Quantum Leap are some of my all time favorite shows. NCIS is right up there, as well. Mark Harmon leads an outstanding cast in one the highest rated dramas on network television today.

Wild Wild West Season 1
F Troop
Two classic television series that are worthy of your attention.

Fox Film Noir:
I Wake Up Screaming
House of Strangers
This is one the more underrated DVD series that is out there. The fans know and love it and anxiously await each wave of arrivals. If you think you know mysteries and noir, think again. Fox has been steadily releasing these DVD in great packaging and a few features. Some of the more famous films, like Laura have some great extras, but the series itself is worth the Shelf space.

Other great releases this week:
Mommie Dearest (Hollywood Royalty Edition)
Again, as with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, I never cared for this film. It has been on television multiple times, so how could anyone escape it? But the impact on popular culture that this film had is unquestionable. It popularized a whole new wave of child of Hollywood stars books and films, as well reinvigorated the whole wooden/wire hanger debate. Special 2 disc edition includes a ton of features.

Emperor of the North
I had never heard of this film, despite being a Lee Marvin fan, until I read a write up about it on Retrocrush. And as luck would have it (luck likes to have it many ways), it ran on TBS the very next day. I watched it and was intrigued by how something so hokey and contrived ended up being so great. Features some of the fakest blood you’ll ever see. I also guarantee you’ll never look at train conductors the same way after Ernest Borgnine’s performance.

Also this week some double dips that might worth upgrading to, and a double feature set of some good recent westerns.
Dumbo Big Top Edition
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
All the Pretty Horses / Geronimo: An American Legend Double Feature

When the Astors Owned New York : Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age by Justin Kaplan
I know it isn’t very jake nowadays to study the lives of the wealthy, but we do it anyway. I just choose to read about historical figures rather than the celebrity debutant of the moment. The Astors may have well been one of the first familes in America to achieve empire and wealth without title. The Canegies, the Vanderbuilts, the Rockafellers all came after the Astors- a name that has more less been around since the early 1800s. This book in particular tells their story through their building of a hotel empire during the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. Take that Paris Hilton.

The House That Trane Built: Story of Impulse Records
Piece by Piece by Katie Melua
River in Reverse by Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint

Jazz is the order of the day and there are some different, yet worthy offerings in the mix. The multi-disc set from Impulse records feature not only great cuts from John Coltrane but other greats like Count Basie, Gil Evans, Art Bakely, Coleman Hawkins, Charles Mingus and others. This is jazz at its most wonderful peak from the 50s through the 70s. Check it out. Then give an ear to a modern songstress like Katie Melua. Combining several genres like pop, jazz, and blues Katie has a wonderful style and an enriched voice. Her cut “Blues in the Night” is my new favorite. Also check out Elvis Costello and master New Orleans Jazz Musician, Allen Toussaint in a great collaboration between these two friends in River in Reverse.

(check local listings for times)
Shelf picks for TCM:
June 8th: Check out two of the films from the Batjac Suspense collection being released this week: Track of the Cat (1954) and Plunder in the Sun ( 1953). Later Betsy Drake tries to corner Cary Grant in Every Girl Should Be Married (1949)
June 9th: Judy Garland is the featured player for this day with a bunch of films including For Me and My Girl (1942), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Summer Stock (1950), The Harvey Girls (1946), and In the Good Old Summertime (1949).
June 10th: William Holden portrays a POW during WW II and later is a prisoner of a different kind in The Bridge on the River Kwai(1957) and Sunset Boulevard (1950).
June 11th: Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson turn Shakespeare on his ear in Kiss Me Kate (1953). Later, Bob Hoskins and Humphrey Bogart portray two different hard boiled detectives with a very different set of clientele in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and The Maltese Falcon (1941).
June 12th: It’s the swan song film for Nick and Nora in The Song of the Thin Man (1947).
June 13th: Some great comedies come your way with Dinner at Eight (1933) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). Then change the genre and not the channel for the classic noir that influenced and help launch the classic TV series, Dragnet: He Walked By Night (1948).

That's all for this Special Edition of the roundup! If you would like to add your own commentary track you are free to do so in the comments section! Til next time...

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Well, I guess you can't break out of prison and into society in the same week.

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