video/dvd
August 2006

 

 

 

All Reviews by Jason Aaron

Night Stalker: The Complete Series

Kolchak: The Night Stalker was a TV series from the early '70s about a reporter who investigates supernatural crimes. Though the show was short-lived, X-Files creator Chris Carter often credited it as a major influence. And now former X-Files producer Frank Spotnitz has taken the chain of influence full circle by creating an updated version of the Kolchak series that's obviously more influenced by the X-Files than the show from which it gets its name.

Unfortunately for Spotnitz this newest Night Stalker series only lasted six episodes before being cancelled, ending its run with the first part of a two-part episode. Any interested viewers can now see the finale of that two-parter as this new DVD set contains four unaired episodes.

Though Night Stalker boasted a slick visual style that alone was never enough to overcome the weak storylines that played like watered-down leftovers the X-Files or to gloss over the gaping holes in logic with which the episodes were often riddled. On the DVD commentaries, Spotnitz lays out how the show's mythology would've unfolded over time as Kolchak continued to chase leads on the mysterious murder of his wife and the strange cabal of evildoers that was apparently responsible.

If you're in dissecting the potential of an aborted TV series, then this DVD set is for you, but if you're just looking for a well-written example of creepy television, then track down the DVDs of the original Kolchak series. (NR) Rating: 2

Dumbo: Big Top Edition

It doesn't have the gorgeously rendered characters of Snow White or the lush backgrounds of Sleeping Beauty, and it's only 60 minutes long, which is pretty chincey for a feature film. So why did Walt Disney consistently name Dumbo as his favorite animated film?

Perhaps because Dumbo packs more heart than most any other Disney offering. The story is beautiful in its simplicity and originality. Dumbo is the awkward young elephant born with abnormally large ears, shunned by most everyone he meets until he triumphs in the end by learning to fly. If you're not moved by poor Dumbo's plight over the course of this film then you must have ice water in your veins.

Dumbo is also noteworthy for its infamous "Pink Elephants" sequence, which even today is still the most bizarre bit of animation Disney has ever produced. The special features on this new DVD edition are pretty lame as with most of Disney's animated features, but who really cares when you've got a movie this enjoyable? (G) Rating: 5

Glory Road

Good sports movies are like honest politicians: they do exist but they're awfully hard to find. Clichéd, melodramatic sports movies, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen. Glory Road is definitely of the latter variety.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer previously brought us 2000's Remember the Titans, which was the story of a racially integrated football team and their tough as nails, no nonsense coach, who together overcome all obstacles in pursuit of a championship. Quite obviously cut from the same mold, Glory Road is set in 1966 at tiny Texas Western college and tells the story of a racially integrated basketball team and their tough as nails, no nonsense coach, who together overcome all obstacles in pursuit of a championship. The only thing Remember the Titans had that lifted it above the level of utter dreck was Denzel Washington, who somehow is always able to consistently bring tremendous intensity to even the most poorly written of roles. Glory Road doesn't have a Denzel to save the day, leaving it to languish in melodrama, and thus, obscurity. (PG) Rating: 2

Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel

He never had a hit song, was kicked out of every band he ever joined and died when he was only 26 years old. So why should anyone care about singer/songwriter Gram Parsons?

Well, if you don't know the answer to that then you‚re probably not a country music fan and you're definitely not a listener of KCUR's weekly music program Cypress Avenue, which routinely praises the genius of Parsons.

Though his career was tragically short, Parsons was a musical pioneer in the way he combined honky-tonk music with rock and roll flair, and his work with The Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers. His solo work with Emmylou Harris paved the way for country rock bands of the '70s and the alt-country movement of today. However, this new documentary focuses more on Parsons' train wreck of a personal life than his musical legacy.

Born to a father who later committed suicide and a mother who eventually drank herself to death, Parsons seemed doomed to tragedy from an early age, though it was his longtime drug addiction that eventually did him in. This insightful documentary features interviews with loads of Parsons' family and friends, including his buddy Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and sheds light on one of the most notorious elements of the Parsons story, namely the theft of his corpse and its spontaneous cremation in the desert. Trust me, even if you're not familiar with his music, the story of Gram Parsons is one worth hearing. (NR) Rating: 4

Jason Aaron can be contacted at everywhere73@yahoo.com.


              
              
                 

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