In this week's top five to check out on one of the tiny tubes you've got at home, TCM takes us behind the scenes of the early years of Hollywood, Pixar looks at the hidden lives of toys, two classics get re-releases, HBO's look at WWII's Pacific stage, and an Austin filmmaker looks at one of YouTube's most potty-mouthed stars.
1. TCM's "Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood"
Last night, the cable network Turner Classic Movies started their "Moguls and Movie Stars" seven-hour multipart documentary, narrated by Oscar nominee Christopher Plummer. The series will run over seven weeks, with a new installment airing every Monday and a rerun every Wednesday from yesterday (with the first episode re-airing tomorrow) through December 13. So far, I've only been able to catch the first hour, but it's a healthy mixture of clips and the industry's finest (like our own Peter Bogdanovich) and film historians offering invaluable context and trivia. The first installment, "Peepshow Pioneers" starts with the early days of the technology, looks at the medium's popularity amongst immigrant communities, and provides witness to the founding of Hollywood. With the footage and expertise of the people involved, the series is a must-see for the casually interested to the hardcore cinephile.
2. "Toy Story 3" (criticWIRE rating: B+)
The third installment of the "Toy Story" franchise comes home this week, with a special box set of the trilogy arriving at stores too (If you haven't seen the second in the series, you're missing out on some amazing filmmaking and a good cry.). In the third film, Andy goes off to college and the toys make their way to a daycare center where they must contend with the ruler of that roost: a teddy bear named Lots-o'-Huggin'. In his blog review of the film, Todd McCarthy noted, that the film, "after a slam-bang action teaser, takes perhaps a bit longer than necessary to put all its pieces in place. But once it kicks in to unexpectedly become a prison-break thriller, it fires on all cylinders all the way to the finish line."
3. "Winnebago Man" (criticWIRE rating: B+)
YouTube sensation Jack Rebney, the foulmouthed star of a now-infamous Winnebago promotional video, is profiled in Ben Steinbauer's film about the elusive man who became the obsession of many a tape trader and YouTube video. Today, the film comes out on DVD via Kino. Roger Ebert puts in his two cents (and three stars), saying "Although we find out a lot about this virtual hermit and develop an admiration for his cantankerous principles, the movie leaves some questions unanswered…We suspect, but can't be sure, that much of his anger is not uncontrolled, but is aimed consciously at what he considers a stupid and corrupt world. He is not a comic character; he's dead serious." The film has great value, though, as a document of the anatomy of a YouTube sensation.
5. "The Sound of Music" & "The Bridge on the River Kwai" Box Sets
"The hills are alive" with stuffed box sets of two of the mid-twentieth century's biggest films. Christopher Plummer makes a return on our list as Captain Von Trapp to Julie Andrews's Maria. Along with the film's classic songs like "My Favorite Things" and "Do Re Mi," the box set provides all the material for a singalong, a backlot tour, and various TV content related to the film, including a Julie Andrews-Carol Burnett parody. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" heads home again with a Blu-Ray version that includes a DVD version of the film, and various photographic material and archival material featuring William Holden.
5. "The Pacific"
From the creators of "Band of Brothers" (Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and company) comes "The Pacific," the wildly acclaimed HBO miniseries that aired on the network this spring. All ten hours of the series, which recreates the United States' WWII battles in the Pacific, comes home on DVD this week. "The Pacific" follows Marines from Guadalcanal all the way to Okinawa. Writing during the film's original run, The New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley notes, "“The Pacific” comes at a time when American troops are once again fighting on two fronts against an implacable enemy that combats advanced weaponry with fanaticism and suicide bombers…For all its realism, “Band of Brothers” was veined with an almost romantic infatuation with just war and noble warriors. “The Pacific” is harder to watch and all the better for it."