Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A
DVD GEEK FACTOR 10
(OUT OF 10)
Spike Lee's masterpiece is 20 years old—and still every bit as powerful as the day it was released.
Its June 30 arrival on Blu-Ray is a blessed thing. Over the years, I've watched grainy video and mediocre DVD transfers of the film, and as a result, I'd forgotten how vibrant the colors were in this movie—and they really pop in this format. It makes you appreciate the work of cinematographer Ernest Dickerson.
On a record-breaking hot day in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, N.Y., a couple of African-American patrons of Sal's Pizzeria get a little irate when the proprietor refuses to hang pictures of black men on the wall. Sal (Danny Aiello) tells them that when they get their own place, they can hang up whatever pictures they want. In his pizzeria, only Italian-Americans go on the walls.
These disagreements lead up to a riot and the murder of a young black man by Brooklyn police. I've had many chats with many people about this film, and the discussions are almost always about how Sal didn't deserve to lose his pizza parlor. However, Lee set out to demonstrate how the life of young black Americans had become devalued in this country in the late '80s. I think he more than succeeded. The point being made is that the cops did not "do the right thing" by arresting Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) for attempted murder and disturbing the peace. They played judge, jury and executioner, and the loss of a stupid pizza parlor is nothing next to the loss of a man's life.
The movie is also about racism, both outward and under the surface. Sal is a racist; he acts like a sweetheart to the black patrons who give him money and eat his food, but as soon as somebody crosses him, out comes the baseball bat and the racial slurs. His son Pino (John Turturro, in one of his greatest performances) is a blatant, outspoken racist. He probably got some of that from Daddy.
I showed this movie to a film-appreciation class a few years ago. After the film, I allowed the college students to discuss their views on the movie. The discussion escalated into an argument, with some students leaving the room, and others eventually screaming at each other. One student observed that the class became the movie, and I found that very interesting.
SPECIAL FEATURES: The disc has many of the features from the Criterion Collection DVD released in 2001, including a Lee commentary and an excellent making-of documentary. However, you also get a brand-new commentary by Lee, in which he sounds overjoyed to watch his movie again. There are also some recently discovered deleted scenes that are worth seeing, and a new retrospective directed by Lee. The best of the features is footage of the Cannes Film Festival press conference from 1989, during which Lee goes straight at reporters who give him crap about leaving drugs out of his movie. His response is brilliant.
Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music: The Director's Cut (Two-Disc 40th Anniversary Edition)
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 7
(OUT OF 10)
I can't give this historic rock-festival film my highest grade. I like it a lot, but Crosby, Stills and Nash make me cringe, and, wait for it ... I can't stand Janis Joplin.
If there was any chance of me ever being accepted by the hippie community, it just vanished into thin air.
Still, Joe Cocker blows my mind with his rendition of "A Little Help From My Friends," and The Who stole the show with their "See Me, Feel Me" and "Summertime Blues." Hendrix was great, but I am a ridiculously rabid Townshend fan. The Who actually performed all of Tommy, but only one song made the original cut. (For additional Woodstock footage of the band, see The Kids Are Alright.) It's interesting that Sha Na Na made the final cut, but the Grateful Dead did not.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A new retrospective that includes interviews with concert organizers and the filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, who was an assistant director and assistant editor. You also get a bunch of extra music performances, including more music from The Dead, The Who and Creedence Clearwater Revival (another band that didn't make the original cut). There's also a strange commercial for a '60s museum.
Field of Dreams (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 7.5
(OUT OF 10)
Want to make your dad cry on Father's Day? Get him a Blu-Ray player, and then provide him with this wonderful father-son film. Want to make him cry even more? Ask him to go outside and play catch afterward. If he's gotten rusty with the glove, and you wind up nailing him in the head, he's likely to really bawl.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary, deleted scenes and a cool roundtable discussion of the film with Kevin Costner and some baseball stars.