Bird on a Wire

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/21/21;
Kino Lorber;
Comedy;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, David Carradine, Bill Duke, Joan Severance, Stephen Tobolowsky.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to advertise a movie. For its 1990 release, the poster for Bird on a Wire was little more than the faces of stars Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn. The pair had such clout at the time that the poster only listed their first names.

It ended up grossing $138.7 million against a budget of around $20 million, and was the top movie upon its release in May 1990 a week before being bumped from the spot by Back to the Future Part III.

The story is little more than an excuse for some madcap fun and romance involving its leads, so it relies mostly on their chemistry, which is plentiful. The plot involves Goldie as a corporate attorney named Marianne who runs into Mel at a gas station, and recognizes him as her former fiancé, Rick, who disappeared 15 years earlier.

He denies it, but it turns out that’s exactly who he is. After testifying against a corrupt DEA agent (David Carradine) named Sorenson, Rick has been bouncing around the witness relocation program. Thinking his cover as a mechanic could be blown, he calls the FBI to ask for a new identity, but his new handler (Stephen Tobolowsky) is on the take and feeds Rick’s location to Sorenson.

Unable to fight her curiosity, Marianne heads back to the garage to confront Rick, only to show up at the same time as Sorenson and his hit squad. As the bullets fly, Rick and Marianne hit the road, hoping to find Rick’s old handler and find a solution to his predicament. Along the way, Rick returns to some of his former identities from his time in hiding, setting up some easy gags as Marianne struggles to reacquaint herself with the man she once loved.

Kino’s new Blu-ray edition of the film uses a new 2K master that looks pretty sharp, but does get a bit splotchy depending on how well the original scene was lit.

The disc includes a pretty good audio commentary with director John Badham, joined by producer/second-unit director Rob Cohen and film historian Daniel Kremer.

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Goldie Hawn Comedy ‘Overboard’ and Spanish Horror Films ‘Cannibal Man’ and ‘No One Heard the Scream’ Due on Disc From MVD Aug. 24

The Eloy de la Iglesia horror films The Cannibal Man and No One Heard the Scream, as well as the 1987 classic Goldie Hawn comedy Overboard, are due on disc Aug. 24 from Severin Films and MVD Entertainment Group.

Overboard will be available on DVD and Blu-ray. The romantic comedy stars Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell in a riches-to-rags love story about a snobby yacht-owning socialite (Hawn) whose accidental amnesia presents the perfect opportunity for a widowed local carpenter (Russell) to convince her she’s his wife and mother to his four out-of-control kids. Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond and Roddy McDowall co-star in the classic from director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries) and screenwriter Leslie Dixon (Mrs. Doubtfire), now scanned in 2K for the first time. Extras include an interview with Dixon and the original theatrical trailer.

From subversive Spanish writer/director Eloy de la Iglesia comes the notorious shocker of the ’70s The Cannibal Man on DVD and Blu-ray. In the film, when a slaughterhouse worker accidentally kills a man during a fight, it triggers a desperate descent into madness and mass murder. Also known as The Apartment on the 13th Floor and Week of the Killer, the film is presented in both the International and extended Spanish version newly scanned from the original negatives for the first time. Extras include “Cinema at the Margins,” with Stephen Thrower and Dr. Shelagh Rowan-Legg on Eloy de la Iglesia; “The Sleazy and the Strange,” an interview with Carlos Aguilar; deleted scenes; and the original theatrical trailer.

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One year after his international breakthrough with The Cannibal Man, Basque filmmaker de la Iglesia co-wrote and directed the twisted thriller No One Heard the Scream, due on DVD and Blu-ray, his last under Spain’s repressive Franco regime. In the film, when a woman spies her neighbor disposing of his wife’s corpse, she crosses the line from witness to accomplice to something far more depraved. The release features an HD scan from the original negative.

The “Eloy De La Iglesia’s Quinqui Collection” will also be available on Blu-ray. Short for quincallero (delinquent) and pronounced “kinky,” it was a brutal sub-genre of juvenile gang dramas produced in ’70s and ’80s Spain. For Basque writer/director de la Iglesia, these three Cine Quinqui classics would become the most successful, controversial and tragically defining films of his entire career. José Luis Manzano — the charismatic street kid discovered by de la Iglesia — stars in this graphic neorealist trilogy that depicts the crime, violence and drug abuse that ravaged the post-Franco nation, and led to the filmmaker and actor’s real-life addictions to heroin — and each other — that would ultimately destroy them both. Navajeros, El Pico and El Pico 2 are scanned in HD from the original negatives with all-new special features created especially for the collection.

Cinemark Screening Netflix’s ‘The Christmas Chronicles 2’ in Select Theaters

Cinemark Theatres has quietly begun screening The Christmas Chronicles 2, the Netflix movie sequel to the 2018 original that saw 20 million subscribers stream the Kurt Russell-starring holiday fare in its first week of release.

Netflix will begin streaming the sequel on Nov. 25 as part of an agreement with Cinemark, which recently inked a PVOD deal with Universal Pictures in exchange for allowing the studio to abbreviate the theatrical window to 17 days on select movies.

The 1-hour-51-minute adventure family comedy sequel — which is playing in select theaters in Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, again features Russell as a brash-talking (and singing) Santa Claus, with real-life partner Goldie Hawn playing Mrs. Claus in a more prominent role.

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“In light of the current operating environment, we are making near-term booking decisions on a film-by-film basis,” the the nation’s third-largest movie theater chain said in a statement. “We are pleased to collaborate with Netflix on this limited three-market test.”

 

Shampoo

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Criterion;
Comedy;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Jack Warden, Lee Grant. 

Once perceived and basically sold as a sex comedy conceived to trade in on star/co-producer Warren Beatty’s then real-life rep as Hollywood’s predominant anti-monk, Shampoo now looks amazingly prescient and, thus, a whole lot more than we thought at the time. In a terrific half-hour jawbone between two of the ‘A’-team-iest journalistic film folk (Mark Harris and Frank Rich) on a Criterion supplement here, I was surprised and certainly tickled to hear Rich say that the trajectory of Shampoo appreciation has been identical to mine. Which is to say we both liked it a ton in 1975, then somewhat less so after re-seeing it a few years back, and now think it’s even better than it seemed 40-some years ago after taking fresh looks.

Politically, the picture was shrewd and, to some extent, lucky. For starters, it was a comedy set on the eve of the 1968 presidential election — and as I learned long ago from 10 years’ worth of professional programming, any time a movie features a wall painting or portrait of Richard Nixon or Spiro Agnew, it’s an automatic audience laugh. However, Shampoo’s inevitably informed filming took place during Watergate’s final days until it was all over for the Nixon Administration but the gas chamber — leading to a March ’75 release roughly seven months into the Ford Administration when, as Ford said, our “long national nightmare” was over and people were ready to laugh. Beyond this, and for unexpected posterity’s sake, the movie’s added good fortune was to have all those portraits of Ronald Reagan on the wall flanking Dick and Spiro (or, if you prefer, “Ted”) in its famous extended restaurant set piece — which comically skewers the kind of Orange County Republican Joseph Cotten played so memorably in Richard Lester’s Petulia.

Cotten, though, was sinister, whereas Jack Warden’s relatively apolitical Elephant-man is merely a badly coiffed dim-bulb who’s amassed a lot of green though vaguely delineated means — gruffly affable enough but probably capable of busting your knees if his beefy henchman are called to act upon his orders. Warden, who’s just magnificent (and a long way from 12 Angry Men or Donovan’s Reef), is continually on the fence about investing in the Beatty character’s hoped-for upscale hair salon. This is true, despite the fact that the latter is simultaneously having sex with Warden’s wife (Oscar-winning Lee Grant, definitely back from the Blacklist); his mistress (Julie Christie as, coincidentally, a former Beatty lover); and 17-year-old daughter (Carrie Fisher in an inspired screen debut). On all three counts, Warden is oblivious due to the picture’s motivating gag: Beatty has to be gay because he’s a hairdresser, right?

Shampoo employed the services of the production designer of the day (Richard Sylbert), whose previous work on The Graduate and Chinatown made this picture the third entry in a kind of L.A.-underbelly trilogy of Big Money soulless consumption. Either Harris or Rich notes the heavy emphasis on glass in their more well-off GraduateShampoo homes, so as to make their inhabitants the kind of people who are just “a few steps away from the pool” and yet can’t seem to enjoy or even get to it. No one seems very happy (which doesn’t prevent the narrative from becoming increasingly funny) and everyone is on the make, including even Fisher’s fast-track late adolescent. Even Beatty’s character is, though it’s more on a professional level than sexual. He’s not out to hurt anyone on the latter count and makes no bones that that having lots of sexual partners is simply … well, fun.

But is it? In addition to anticipating Ronald Reagan and the revitalized Republican Party, Shampoo also seemed to anticipate that the days of the Swinging ’70s were waning (hell, even the real-life Beatty eventually settled down to raise a brood). This is one reason why the movie’s wrap-up is surprisingly moving, though a lot of the credit goes to how well the Robert Towne-Beatty script has set up the characters — plus the characteristic disinclination of director Hal Ashby’s (in his compressed but brilliant 10-year prime) to overplay anything. I’ve started to make tentative inroads to take fresh looks at Ashby’s remarkable ’70s decade, and after just an opening tiptoe, I can tell you that The Landlord, Shampoo and Being There have all improved with age from their already lofty starting points.

Beatty’s commercial instincts may have had a hand (or not) in casting two former real-life girlfriends in key roles: Julie Christie (who’d been unforgettable with him in Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller) and also Goldie Hawn, who’d co-starred with Beatty in Richard Brooks’s Dollars (sometimes rendered as $ on audience-unfriendly marquees). In any event, each puts such a personalized slant on her performance that it isn’t easy to imagine alternate casting, and Christie gets to utter the million-dollar “did-she-really-just-say-that?” line of dialogue that no one had ever heard before in a Hollywood movie, to say nothing of one that boasted some of the industry’s top stars. In addition to the actors and Sylbert, Shampoo was laden with some of the day’s top behind-the-camera talent: Richard Towne as co-screenwriter, Laszlo Kovacs as cinematographer and Anthea Sylbert as costumer. On the last count, one can advance a case that the backless dress Christie sports at the election night restaurant outing qualifies as an entire career just by itself.

A friend of mine just told me she recently saw Beatty in the ’78 Heaven Can Wait and was put off by the fact that all throughout, he conveyed the self-knowledge that he was good-looking. I can’t vouch one way or another in this case (too long between viewings), but to me, the great thing about Beatty has almost always been that he never hogs the show from other actors and is all too willing to present himself as something of a doofus. Think McCabe, Bulworth and here, to name three; even in the Beatty-directed Reds, it’s clear that at least this version of John Reed is somewhat in over his head.

The actor’s “George” character in Shampoo is rather ingratiating in his dimness — before the real-life Beatty keeps the charm spigot going in an excerpt that I wish were longer from one of Britain’s old South Bank interview showings; he re-tells a story he used previously in George Stevens Jr.’s documentary about his father (A Filmmaker’s Journey), but it’s still hilarious. The bonus extras are more limited here than on many or even most Criterion releases, but when you’ve got Harris with Rich and then a Rich essay (I used to love his movie reviews in New Times magazine back in the mid-’70s), I’m in. As expected the Sony-Criterion print is has that “opening night” quality — a respite from the beat-up 35s that kept recirculating as blasts from the not so distant blast in my local rep houses once the Carter (and especially Reagan) Administrations took over.

‘Community,’ ‘Rescue Me,’ ‘Benji’ on September Disc Slate From Mill Creek

Complete Blu-ray series sets of “Community” and “Rescue Me,” two double features and films about animal friends are among the titles on Mill Creek Entertainment’s September disc slate.

Due Sept. 18 is Community: The Complete Series, featuring all 110 episodes from the TV series, on both Blu-ray ($99.98) and DVD ($69.98). The comedy ensemble series, starring Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Borwn and Jim Rash, centers on a tight-knit group of friends who all meet at Greendale Community College and their hijinks.

All seven seasons are included in Rescue Me: The Complete Series coming out Sept. 11 on Blu-ray ($149.98). Whether pulling survivors from a fiery high-rise or the twisted steel of a subway collision, Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) takes pride in leading the heroic but overwhelmed firefighters of the NYFD. Meanwhile, he’s also drifting between sorrow and anger over a separation from his wife and three kids, and the haunting memories of his fallen comrades.

The lovable mutt Benji returns Sept. 11 in the Benji: Off the Leash Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital) at $19.98. The story, told from the pooch’s point of view, tracks his early days as a pup to his current life in showbiz. Bonus features include a feature-length commentary with director Joe Camp, editor Dava Whisenant, composer Anthony Di Lorenzo and producer Margaret Loesch; a behind-the-scenes featurette; and “Benji Movie Memories,” which covers memorable scenes from five Benji movies starring three different Benjis.

Streeting Sept. 18 are two double features on Blu-ray at $14.98 each. The comedy double feature includes Age of Consent, starring James Mason and Helen Mirren, and Cactus Flower, starring Goldie Hawn, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Matthau. This is the first time either film has been available in high definition.

Also in HD for the first time are Nightwing and Shadow of the Hawk, paired in a double feature of fright. Nightwing follows the investigation of a wave of mysterious deaths on a Native American reservation in New Mexico that turn out to be caused by killer bats. Shadow of the Hawk stars Jan-Michael Vincent in a tale of an old Native American shaman who trains his skeptical grandson as a medicine man to battle enemies and black magic.

Born Free: The Complete Collection comes out on DVD Sept. 11 at $19.98. The franchise collection is based on the 1960 book about raising an orphaned lion cub Elsa and then releasing her back into the wild. The book changed the world’s perception of wild animals. The DVD collection includes the 1966 original film, the 1972 sequel, the 1974 TV series and the 1996 TV movie.

Due Sept. 11 is the Western Buffalo Girls on DVD (plus digital) at $14.98. The film, starring Anjelica Huston, Melanie Griffith and Sam Elliott, celebrates the escapades of tough-talking Calamity Jane Canary. It co-stars Gabriel Byrne, Reba McEntire and Peter Coyote.

The miniseries Family Pictures comes out Sept. 11 on DVD (plus digital) at $14.98. The drama, starring Anjelica Huston, Sam Neill and Kyra Sedgwick, is based on Sue Miller’s best-selling novel. It follows a daughter who comes home to her divorced parents and tells the story of her family, including her younger autistic brother.

Coming Sept. 11 on DVD (plus digital) at $14.98 is Hollywood’s Best and Brightest, featuring more than 12 hours of Hollywood star biographies. Featured legends are Warren Beatty, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Dick Van Dyke, Robert Wagner, Michael York, Julie Andrews, Kim Basinger, Candice Bergen, Catherine Deneuve, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Goldie Hawn, Lauren Hutton, Angela Lansbury, Shirley MacLaine, Ann-Margret, Barbra Streisand, Kathleen Turner and Raquel Welch.