Chris Hicks: Movies about the Kennedy assassination lead new DVDs, Blu-rays

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21 2013 5:45 p.m. MST

Kevin Costner plays New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison in Oliver Stone's "JFK," the subject of a new Blu-ray box set, "JFK: 50 Year Commemorative Ultimate Collector's Edition."

Warner Bros.

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)

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