With a publication break coming up, I'll be covering four weeks worth of releases instead of the usual two. It's a pretty weak schedule overall, but here is a look at what is worthwhile.June 16
Two classic comedies are coming to Blu-Ray for the first time, but even if you don't have a hi-def set-up, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"
are must-haves for your DVD collections.
If you've never seen these (and if not, why haven't you?), you're missing out on two of the most essential comedy films ever made.
Released in 1964, "Dr. Strangelove" was a satirical look at the Cold War. When General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden, as frightening as he is funny) orders his squadron to attack the Soviet Union without presidential permission, the rest of the United States government finds itself unable to get through to the planes to rescind the order. This is due to a policy loophole that Ripper has exploited. R.A.F. Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) is the only man with a chance to get the recall code from Ripper; that is, if he can survive being in the same room with him.
In the War Room in Washington, desperately trying to bring back the planes are General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) and President Merkin Muffley (also Peter Sellers). They're so desperate, in fact, that Muffley is willing to call in the Soviet ambassador (Peter Bull) so they can alert the Russian premier.
Turgidson isn't sold on the idea. "He'll see everything. He'll see the big board!" Together they attempt to divert disaster, but Dr. Strangelove (Sellers once again) seems to find futility in their efforts, which is just fine by him.
One of the attack planes, piloted by T.J. Kong (Slim Pickens), is full of men who are convinced they are only being sent to attack because America has already been hit by the Soviets. Only one crewman (James Earl Jones in his first role) seems to think there's something fishy about all this.
At the height of Cold War fear, director Stanley Kubrick and co-writers Terry Southern and Peter George dared to find comedy. As a Brit, an American, and a German, Sellers is absolutely brilliant. It's one of the definitive comic performances of all-time. His finest moment comes as Muffley tries to explain over the phone to Premier Kissoff that, "One of our base commanders, he had a sort of... well, he went a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny."
Far from feeling dated, "Dr. Strangelove" remains hilarious, dark, and a true original.
"Ghostbusters," meanwhile, is the movie that taught us science fiction can be funny. Of course when you have 1984 Dan Aykroyd, 1984 Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray from any year, anything can be funny. Few movies before or since have managed to so successfully blend elements of sci-fi, action, horror, and comedy into one package.
It's a film I grew up on, but I've revisited it a couple times recently, and not only does it hold up, there are a lot of jokes that went over my head at age six. The screenplay (written by Aykroyd and Ramis) is incredibly clever and is the most underrated element of this fantastic movie. Directed by Ivan Reitman, "Ghostbusters" is even more fun after 25 years. If you've got kids who've never seen this, it's time to introduce them to the wonders of Bill Murray.June 30
Staying with comedy but moving to television, two gems with cult followings are coming to DVD. First up, season 2 of the hilarious British series, "The IT Crowd." The first season was released recently as well.
Cantankerous Roy (Chris O'Dowd) and sweet but thick Moss (Richard Ayoade) are the IT department at Reynholm Industries. Their lack of people skills keeps them in the basement until someone upstairs absolutely needs them to fix something. Never eager to leave the comfort of the basement, however, Roy answers every call, "IT, have you tried turning it off and on again?"
But their world is about to be shaken when Jen (Katherine Parkinson) becomes the head of the department, even though she knows nothing about computers. (It's the down side of lying on your resume.) Quickly, the guys discover that they need her people skills and she needs their technical knowledge for everyone to stay employed.
"The IT Crowd" is a decidedly wacky series that takes place in a world where a fire in the office means sending an e-mail, the IT guy on the night shift is kept in a bizarre room in the daylight hours, and Roy and Moss can convince Jen that the entire Internet is housed inside of a small black box.
"It's so light," she remarks.
"Well don't be silly, Jen," Moss explains. "The Internet doesn't weigh anything."
If you enjoy off-kilter comedy, "The IT Crowd" is a must.
Also on this date, I am pleased to announce that the first season of "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" (originally aired in 1990) is finally coming to DVD. Parker (Corin Nemec) is a high school student in a world that's actually not that dissimilar to the one of "The IT Crowd." One of his closest friends, Jerry (Troy Slaten) wears a trench coat which can produce virtually any object imaginable, and solving any problem begins with the words, "Gentlemen, synchronize Swatches!"
Most people from my generation get nostalgic over "Saved By the Bell." But much closer to my heart is "Parker Lewis." Check this show out.
Also Coming to DVD and Blu-Ray6/16
Burn Notice: Season 2
Jesse Stone: Thin Ice
The Seventh Seal6/23
Confessions of a Shopaholic (PG)
Pink Panther 2 (PG)
Waltz with Bashir (R)6/30
Entourage: Season 5
Eastbound & Down: Season 1
Two Lovers (R)
Do the Right Thing (Blu-Ray)7/7