If you haven’t been worn down by the media treatment this week of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago, you may be drawn to a new reissue of Oliver Stone’s “JFK.” And a new film, “Parkland,” looks at the effort to save the president’s life after the shooting.
“JFK: 50 Year Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1991; R for violence, gore, language, nudity, sex, drugs; $59.99, director’s-cut version, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, three documentaries, trailer; 32-page book, reproductions of inaugural address and campaign poster, 20 photos, 17 pieces of correspondence, six character cards, 44-page photo book; 1963 film: “PT 109”). Obviously, with all of the tchotchkes listed here, this pricey set is aimed at serious fans of the movie, rabid JFK collectors and adherents to Stone’s conspiracy theories.
The movie is a gritty, newsreel-style “docudrama” that fulfills Oscar-winning filmmaker Stone’s agenda, ignoring facts that don’t fall in line. Some of it is undeniably entertaining and the performances are excellent, led by Kevin Costner as New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, who becomes obsessed with investigating the assassination three years after the fact, debunking the Warren Commission report as he goes along. Also impressive are Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci and, as Lee Harvey Oswald, Gary Oldman.
But some speeches are way too long and redundant, there are unnecessary digressions with various subplots, and actual newsreels and re-creations are manipulated to promote theories as facts. Reviewing “JFK” for the Deseret News in 1991, I wrote that Stone takes a “sledgehammer filmmaking approach” and that casting big stars in small roles (Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Sissy Spacek, John Candy) was distracting. Watching it again hasn’t changed my opinion, but, to be fair, the film does have its champions.
Among the bonus features are two feature-length documentaries, the new “JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later” and the 1965 George Stevens Jr. film “John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums.” Also, “JFK: To the Brink,” an episode of Stone’s HBO documentary miniseries “Untold History of the United States.” And, yes, “PT 109” is the Cliff Robertson film about Kennedy’s wartime experiences. (Documentaries “JFK Remembered” and “John F. Kennedy” are also available as single DVDs, $5.94 and $11.97, respectively)
“Parkland” (Millennium/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $24.99, Blu-ray and DVD versions, deleted scenes, audio commentary). Relentlessly downbeat, somewhat aimless but attention-holding chronicle of events, both mundane and important, that surrounded the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, from Zapruder’s 8mm camera filming the motorcade to bungling FBI agents to the hospital’s emergency response teams. An interesting idea, particularly to those of us who remember this historical tragedy, but there’s nothing revelatory and no particular point of view. Good cast includes Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron. (Also on DVD, $19.99)
“Planes” (Disney/Blu-ray, 2013, PG, two discs, $44.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, featurettes, animated “Franz’s Song,” trailers). Sort of a winged version of “Cars,” this Disney (but not Pixar) cartoon movie is a cute tale of a crop duster that wants to compete with the big boys in a worldwide air race. Amusing with an array of star voices, including Dane Cook, Brad Garrett, Stacy Keach, Sinbad, Cedric the Entertainer, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, etc. (Also on DVD, $29.99, and 3D combo, $49.99)
“2 Guns” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013; R for violence, language, nudity; two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, trailers). The chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg gives this adversarial buddy-cop picture a boost, as they team up to rob a bank, discover it’s mob money and then find out they are both undercover law officers. Funny and engaging but also quite violent and profane. Good supporting cast includes Bill Paxton, Edward James Olmos, Fred Ward and Paula Patton. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“The World’s End” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, R for language, two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted/alternate scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers, trailers). Third in the so-called “Cornetto trilogy,” named after a British ice cream featured in each film, this sci-fi farce has Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reuniting with old mates (including Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Rosamund Pike) to re-create a pub crawl they tried as teens 20 years earlier, only to discover their hometown has been taken over by robots. Very funny but also quite profane. (Also on DVD, $29.98, and in a triple pack with “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead,” $49.98 Blu-ray, $39.98, DVD)
“We’re the Millers” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013; R for sex, language, drugs, nudity; two discs, $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; theatrical and extended versions, deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers, trailers). You know you’re in trouble when the advertising freely compares a film to “The Hangover.” Extremely raunchy road-trip comedy about a marijuana smuggler (Jason Sudeikis) hiring a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and two teens as his fake family to avert suspicion as they cross the Mexican border over Fourth of July weekend. (Also on DVD, $28.98)
“Therese” (MPI, 2013, not rated, $24.98, in French with English subtitles, trailer). French melodrama set in the 1920s about a marriage of convenience between the titular character (Audrey Tautou) and a wealthy older landowner (Gilles Lellouche). Therese is depressed and unhappy, even after having a child, and as she yearns for more she takes drastic steps to escape her cloistered life. Tautou’s performance is the highlight of this otherwise rather stolid, draggy affair.
“Women Without Men” (IndiePix, 2010, not rated, $24.95, in Farsi with English subtitles, featurettes, slideshows; booklet). Set against the backdrop of the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup in Iran, this metaphorical art film follows four women who converge in an orchard that acts as a healing place for victims of male oppression. Beautifully photographed.
“Christmas Angel” (aka “My Angel”) (BBC, 2013, not rated, $19.98). Gentle British TV movie about a young teen (Joseph Phillips) whose mother is hospitalized in a coma as Christmas approaches. When the boy sees her in a dream she gives him a task to save her. British character players Brenda Blethyn and Timothy Spall co-star.
“Running Mates” (Monarch, 2013, not rated, $24.95, featurette). Good cast that includes Graham Greene, DJ Qualls and Henry Winkler flounders in this Canadian farce about small-town politics that is alternately silly and vulgar. Thomas Michael directs from a script he co-wrote with Paolo Mancini, and they take the lead roles as the dumb-and-dumber candidates of the title.
“And While We Were Here” (Well Go/Blu-ray, 2013; R for sex, language, drugs; $29.98, director’s cut black-and-white version, trailer). Kate Bosworth is a married writer adapting her grandmother’s memories of World War II when she begins an affair with a younger man. (Also on DVD, $24.98)Comment on this story
“Informant” (Music Box, 2013, not rated, $29.95, featurettes). Documentary profile of Brandon Darby, a left-wing activist who gained notoriety for co-founding Common Ground and becoming the spokesperson for the grassroots organization during the post-Katrina relief effort in New Orleans, then later revealed to be an FBI informant.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com