The January 2011 release of “The Green Hornet” may have seemed like nothing more than yet another calculated move by Hollywood to co-opt an existent fan base and limit its own commercial exposure. And it “was”, sure. But a film adaptation of this property — based on the original 1930s radio program, which has lived on in movie serials and comic books — was in the works for more than a decade, with a long list of actors inclusive of George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Jet Li and Stephen Chow all at one point attached, in various combinations. In fact, a visionary music video director named Michel Gondry was hired in early 1997, to make his feature film directorial debut. That Gondry would go on to helm such visually arresting and mentally stimulating gems as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, and then circle back to “The Green Hornet” more than 13 years later certainly speaks to the unique appeal and possibility of the material, right?
Well… maybe. Unfortunately, there’s little in Seth Rogen’s film (co-written with Evan Goldberg) that breaks free from the typical constraints of yuk-yuk action-comedy buddydom. Following the death of his imposing father (Tom Wilkinson), rich kid playboy Britt Reid (Rogen) takes over the family newspaper and stumbles his way into vigilante crimefighting, all of which is really enabled by his dad’s industrious mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou), who is the true brains and brawn of the operation. Their shenanigans attract the attention of the insecure kingpin of the Los Angeles underworld, Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), and puts the two camps on a collision course. The script peddles the notion that the newly christened Green Hornet and his trusty sidekick will pose as villains in order to do good, but there’s so little specificity as to their charted course of heroic action — unwittingly fed to them in part by would-be love interest Lenore Case (a wasted Cameron Diaz), Britt’s new secretary — that the movie’s bloated two-hour running time robs it of much of any feel-good kick.
While there are Blu-ray and 3-D versions of the film releasing this week, the regular 2-D DVD version comes presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a solid array of aural and subtitle options. In addition to a feature-length audio commentary track, there are also three featurettes. The first is a 10-and-a-half-minute bit spotlighting the writing of the script. More entertaining is a seven-minute gag reel, which showcases line flubs aplenty, and finds Rogen messing around with a shake-weight. (It cuts short his explanation of a commercial for “vagina wipes,” however.) Better still, though, is a seven-minute segment detailing all the work that went into procuring 1965 Imperials from around the country, to double as the heroes’ weaponized car, The Black Beauty. Rogen and Diaz are shown enjoying the perks of parking lot stunt driving, and there’s amusing footage, too, from the first day of shooting, in which one of the Imperials is accidentally crashed into a Century City hotel wall.
Surely not to be confused with March’s “Sharktopus”, about an entirely different sort of eight-tentacled hybrid nightmare, “Dinoshark”, also produced by Roger Corman, delivers up more mutant creature mayhem, for those who can’t get enough of this type of SyFy Channel blend of nature-run-amok bloodletting and air-quote science fiction. Those inclined to do more than giggle and shake their heads upon hearing the title will likely find meager reward in “Dinoshark”, which finds a local boat captain (Eric Balfour) teaming up with a marine biologist (Iva Hasperger) to track down and visit vengeance upon a rampaging, prehistoric finned menace (released from its frozen glacial home of many millions of years by global warming, Al Gore will be chagrined to learn). Most viewers, however, will tire of howling at the risible special effects about halfway through, though a nutty finale involving a jet ski jump and grenade toss somewhat mitigates this sighing disappointment.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby digital 5.1 audio track and optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles, “Dinoshark” comes to DVD with an autoplay-enabled trailer of its schlocky predecessor, “Sharktopus”. A feature-length audio commentary track from Roger and Julie Corman and director Kevin O’Neill is included, and the trio delve into plenty of anecdotes regarding the movie’s Puerto Vallarta shoot, including how location scouting helped influence and inform trims and shifts to some of the script’s scenes. Perhaps most amusingly, however, O’Neill details the difficulty in landing model-quality babes and himbos as extras and bit players — it seems the competition that most often financially bested them were beer distributors, who hire plenty of local twentysomethings to serve as eye candy at bars. Now that “sounds” like a movie, actually!
Many low-budget films seek to exploit news and headlines of the modern day, but a few independent filmmakers seem genuinely interested in advancing a cautionary social message or cause through their work. Writer-director Michael Goi’s “Megan Is Missing” toes this line with aplomb, delivering a compelling, low-fi drama — comprised of different formats, mimicking video chats, webcam footage, home videos and news reports — about the days leading up to and following the disappearance of two North Hollywood teens (Amber Perkins and Rachel Quinn) at the hands of an Internet predator. DVD extras of Anchor Bay’s 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation include two separate audio commentary tracks (one with Goi, and one with producer Mark Gragnani and the young lead actresses), as well as a deleted scene, a making-of featurette, and a statement from Marc Klaas, who of course lost his daughter Polly in a highly publicized kidnapping some years back.
Finally, for those looking to escape narrative fiction, and maybe learn a thing or two, a slightly older title well worth checking out is “Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and The American City“, an hour-long documentary narrated by Joan Allen. While we take for granted as a shrugging matter of fact the increasing urbanization of the United States, director Judith Paine McBrien’s engrossing film provides a window into the past in detailing the life of architect and city planner Daniel Burnham, who built some of the first skyscrapers in the world and directed the construction of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Amidst the haphazard disorder of his time, Burnham sought to impose a vision that cradled and encouraged both business and art, capitalism and democracy, crafting city plans for Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Many of his development philosophies are still with us today, and PBS’ nice release of the film includes extra interviews and old world’s fair footage.
Written by: Brent Simon