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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Family > Movie Series > Urban > Hip Hop > Dancing > Singing > Desert > Childbirth > French > St > Andy Hardy Film Collection, Volume Two (1937 – 1958/MGM/Warner Archive DVDs)/House Party: Tonight’s The Night (2013/aka House Party 5/Warner Premiere DVD)/Ishtar: Director’s Cut (1987/Sony Blu-ray)/St

Andy Hardy Film Collection, Volume Two (1937 – 1958/MGM/Warner Archive DVDs)/House Party: Tonight’s The Night (2013/aka House Party 5/Warner Premiere DVD)/Ishtar: Director’s Cut (1987/Sony Blu-ray)/Starbuck (2011/E1 DVD)/Trevor Noah: African American (2013/Inception DVD)


Picture: C+/C/B/C/C+     Sound: C/C+/B-/C+/C+     Extras: C/C-/C-/C/C     Main Programs: C+/C-/C-/C/B



PLEASE NOTE: Andy Hardy V.2 is only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.




Now for a set of new comedy releases, most of which are not as funny as they think they are.



The Andy Hardy Film Collection, Volume Two (1937 – 1958) was a hugely successful dramatic film series focusing on a family headed by a real Judge (Lewis Stone) that quickly became a hit, but MGM really accelerated things when co-star Mickey Rooney started to become the #1 Box Office Star worldwide and the series started to turn to his Andy Hardy character.  Though this is the second volume of the films, this Warner Archive 5-DVD set has the key films from the first (A Family Affair), to the peak of the series (Love Finds Andy Hardy with guest star Judy Garland) to the final film (1958’s Andy Hardy Comes Home) made 12 years after the previous film and intended as an extension of the series with clips from the previous films, Rooney as the new father and his real life son as the new funny son.


Still, the series was a precursor to the TV family dramas of the 1950s, has its moments, shows Rooney in his prime (we see why he could be so popular at the time) and is always intelligent entertainment well written and respecting its audience.  Esther Williams made her biog screen debut in Andy Hardy’s Double Life, while Keye Luke (who we are big fans of here at the site) makes an unusually dignified appearance for a minority star in any film of the time in Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble, so we get nice moments, some fun moments and a set that deserves to be in print.


Quality family entertainment, the small pleasant town of Carvel is worth revisiting, especially if you are looking for child-friendly live action entertainment in a sea of stupid, angry film and TV we have been getting too much of recently.


Extras include trailers on almost all the films, plus Love Finds Andy Hardy adds a related Leo Is On Air radio program, Hardy Family Christmas trailer and introduction to the film by John Fricke with co-star Ann Rutherford.



As if it were necessary, Darin Scott’s House Party: Tonight’s The Night (2013/aka House Party 5) is a straight-to-video Warner Premiere DVD release with two new teens (Tequan Richmond, Zac Goodspeed) trying to have a wild hard dancin’, Hip Hop party, but can they pull it off?  Can they get the right people together?  Will they have fun?  Will the script here come up with something original to say, show or do?


The answers to all these questions are obvious and after all these years, where is the audience of the original film?  This cannot possibly be for them, but maybe for their children?  Not with an R rating.  So who is this for?  Who knows, but it is pretty flat, dull, silly, pointless, forgettable and you too will see why they would not use the #5 in their title.  Yawn!


Extras include a Making Of featurette and Deleted Scenes.



As some films that did not do well in recent decades are getting revisionist second looks, here comes Elaine May’s Ishtar: Director’s Cut (1987) to show us if the film was really funnier than we thought or if it is as bad as its reputation.  Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980) was just restored and issued by Criterion in a great special edition that showed the film in all of its intended glory, a victim of literal political assassination too much to get into here, yet both films were made under the same unusual circumstances.


United Artists saw all of its talented filmmakers jump ship to the then-new Orion Pictures when those executives left UA after a falling out with then-owner Transamerica.  The new people running UA let Cimino do what he wanted on Gate to show they could work with talent and get great films made.  Instead, it got out of financial control, bombed as it was attacked and drove UA into bankruptcy, leading Transamerica to sell UA to MGM, so MGM/UA was born in the early 1980s.


Columbia Pictures was in the same situation a few years later, but with somewhat different results.  Coca-Cola had bought the studio to sell soft drinks and have a new revenue source, then hired Chariots Of Fire producer David Puttnam to run the studio.  Unfortunately, he immediately declared movie stars were overpaid, despite their being the reason films were hits at the time and drove every major star away from the studio to rival studios.  Only a few years before, another Columbia executive told Steven Spielberg that despite Close Encounters Of The Third Kind making a ton of money for the studio, they did not need another one of his “UFO” films and he took what became E.T. to Universal and did not work for the studio again for decades.  Yup, Columbia was in trouble.


With no Ghostbusters sequel in sight, few major talents to help the bottom line and Tri-Star just starting to rise, the studio greenlit Ishtar in what might have sounded like a good idea… somehow… at the time.  Dustin Hoffman (who gave the studio a blockbuster with Tootsie, another comedy) and Warren Beatty (still a big box office star) would play music fans with very limited music talent who wanted to cut records and be big stars.  Beatty even repeats and sort of spoofs his character in The Only Game In Town (1970, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) Elizabeth Taylor.


The hilariously funny Elaine May would direct and write the film a few years after Barbra Streisand had a decent hit with Yentl (1984) and it would make the studio look progressive.  Charles Grodin, Jack Weston and the then-hot Isabelle Adjani would also star and the legendary singer/songwriter Paul Williams would even co-write many of the songs.  Unfortunately, everything that could go wrong did.


Thinking they would update the comic road movie formula Bing Crosby and Bob Hope established decades before, Hoffman and Beatty went for it, trying to be funny burnouts, but they instead deliver the most one-note (pun intended) performances of their careers, every character is a cardboard cutout, nothing is really funny, the New York sequences are barely watchable, then the Middle East body of the film (taking place in the title locale and surrounding areas) is a catastrophe down to a final sequence that wants to be like a bad 1980s action film, but lands up being worse!


Williams' songs are some of his most forgettable, but he was in personal substance abuse trouble at this point, Hoffman is barely digging into his character, trying to be like Beatty instead of challenging his smugness.  Comic timing is non-existent and post-9/11, the racial angles and even racism here is uglier than ever, intended an unintended.  Some films are just cursed and Ishtar in any cut seems to be one of them.  Columbia had a bad year in 1987 and even a film that should have been a big hit like Suspect did not do the business.


As for the studio, Tri-Star started having hits, including with Carolco and as the studio looked like it might be liquidated (the even uglier, more nonsensical Bill Cosby bomb Leonard, Part Six lost another fortune for the studio), Sony bought Columbia Records in 1988 and added this studio in 1989 to their holdings, spending billions of dollars since to rebuild it successfully into a major studio again which just had a record year in 2012.


Ishtar is a bad memory of the alternate fate the studio almost had and fortunately, even as After Earth and White House Down recently bombed at the box office for the studio (they still have home video and overseas to help out), Ishtar remains the bomb that stings the most, a monster of a mistake that helped kill; the studio and its status for years.  Some bad films are so bad, they are not even good.  Ishtar is one of those cinematic nightmares.


Trailers are the only extras.



Ken Scott’s Starbuck (2011) involves a goofy guy (Patrick Huard) who has odd jobs to get by and by the age of 42 has not done much with his life, though he does what he can to get money, including one too many visits to the reproductive clinic for “donations” and when it turns out the clinic has been generous with said donations, it can only spell trouble for him when (somehow!) a few hundred of the young adults that have resulted find out his code name (the title of this film) and want to meet him!


Ridiculous as it is, including big holes in logic, the film wants to be a comedy, often gross at that, then turn around and be some kind of feel-good film way too late in the text.  The actors playing the offspring are the highlight of this odd idea for a film, but you might want to see it soon before the Vince Vaughn remake shows up later this year.  Yes, it is trying so hard to be a bad Hollywood comedy that it is about to be remade as one.


Extras include Bloopers, a Music Video (?), Interviews with Huard & Scott and Deleted Scenes that made little difference.



Fortunately, stand up comedy saves the day with Trevor Noah: African American (2013) being one of the best, funniest stand-up video releases we have seen in a few years.  Noah comes from South Africa and has some great jokes, great observations and at only 70 minutes has much more of an impact than moist stand-ups with twice the time.  Nothing is scared, but he comes from such a new, fresh and accurate perspective that he could become the next big comedy star and the comic of the future if we are lucky.

I was very pleasantly surprised and has the kind of energy and timing we used to see in comedy all the time.  Mostly in his field, plus on TV and in motion pictures, should see this as a must-see program just to see where they are going wrong.  The rest of us who love big laughs will never forget it.


Extras include a few additional (and variances on) stand up routines, plus a trailer for his You Laugh But Its True concert in South Africa.




The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on the first nine Hardy films are about even and not any better or worse than the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on the final 1958 film which actually flashes back to several of the earlier films and cuts them wide to fit the new frame.  Remarkably, the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Party and Starbuck look worse with limited color range, motion blur and general softness that make them look generally cheap and cheaper than the much older MGM films.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Noah also has that blur issue, but color range and the general way it is shot looks better.


The visual champ here ironically is Ishtar with its 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer form a fine film print in a film that had no less than Beatty’s good friend Vittorio Storaro as Director of Photography, making the film look terrific and impressive for the natural shoot it usually was.  Storaro was also working with Francis Coppola at the time and was in his usual great form, but even he could not save this mess.  This transfer could not look any better, though.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Ishtar is also the sonic champ, but the film was originally monophonic, so much of this still sounds monophonic and too much towards the front and center speakers.  However, we get the original mono track for purists and let’s face it, some would say this sounds too good for this film and not being able to hear it this well is for the better.


The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Party and Starbuck, plus the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Noah tie for the next best sounding releases.  The first two do not take advantage of their multi-channel possibilities, save when music or action shows up and they still are lacking.  The latter is recorded just fine, leaving the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the Hardy films sounds low on the first three entries and occurrently brittle on and off on the rest.


To order Andy Hardy V. 2, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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