The Best of Gallagher Volume 3
For many, the notion of a Gallagher "best of" would seem to be a contradiction in terms. Kind of like "Bob Hope Special." But admittedly, for thousands of actual fans of the dimpled, mime-outfitted G-man (and, with three volumes out now, he presumably has "best-ofs"), the material on this DVD is exactly that.
Given that admission, it's tough to imagine anyone finding this lowest-common-denominator cretin entertaining at all, even on a train-wreck level. Not to say that smashing things can't be enjoyable; talents ranging from David Letterman to the Jackass tribe have proven that.
But Gallagher, well, he's just so much more ... namely, a nasty person. He begins one show by quite viciously berating an usher for seating someone near the front of the stage after the show has begun. (There are two performances offered in Green Bay, Wis., and Pensacola, Fla., which is telling right there.) After slinging impassioned F-bombs at the hapless guy, he steps into the crowd to attack the fan himself and his "fat ass."
I know, this may sound funny on paper, but Gallagher ain't no Don Rickles. He goes on at length about how the interruption — which would have been unnoticeable had he not mentioned it — destroyed his momentum. And, while the laughs keep coming, the vibe in the hall seems increasingly uncomfortable. Not in a Lenny Bruce way; there's no comic payoff. Not even in a Carrot Top way, for that matter.
Finally, after a rant on What's Wrong With America (huh?), he smashes food. Audience members in the first few rows are provided plastic tarps to ward off the flying mess. Too bad they aren't given earplugs to avoid all the spewed bullshit. —Peter Gilstrap
Erik the Viking
The main thing to keep in mind with Terry Jones' 1989 film is that it's not a Monty Python project. Yes, it's written and directed by Python Jones and features Python John Cleese, and yes, it's a period fantasy along the lines of Holy Grail and Life of Brian (and Python Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky, for that matter), but if you're looking for a slice of that comic pie, you'll be somewhat disappointed.
Jones brings all the sexy filth and squalor of the historical era to life for this tale of a wayward band of Vikings hell-bent on not raising traditional Viking hell. Led by a fresh-faced Tim Robbins as Erik, the group gives up raping and pillaging, setting out on a quest for a peaceful land instead, while pursued by, yes, other Vikings with no such warm and fuzzy inclinations.
Despite a plot that doesn't always pay off, there are some funny moments here; Cleese does an excellent turn as a warlord who delights in concocting new and wicked tortures for his victims. Also, this edition of Erik was re-edited by Jones' son (who chopped some 20 minutes), a job anyone who saw the too-long original should thank him for.
The bonus features include the original 1989 making-of mini-doc, plus interviews from father and son that true fans will enjoy, but, again, a Python film it's not. —Peter Gilstrap
Bob Dylan: The Other Side of the Mirror: Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965
It's certainly nice having all these Newport appearances in one tidy package but there's only one reason anybody would want to own this set and that's to see the epochal 1965 performance when Dylan goes electric. And yet, watching it, you realize all the real drama is backstage, folkies cursing Dylan for abandoning them and Pete Yarrow restraining an out-of-control Pete Seeger from cutting off the power onstage with an axe — things you'd almost expect to see given the Sidney Sheldon title they tagged this with. For all that has been written about this historically confrontational event, you'd think the boos would be much louder, the tension onstage much more visible. In truth, there's a helluva lot more derision in the audio track of the famed "Royal Albert Hall" concert — and that audience was British! Seeing Martin Scorsese's brilliant doc No Direction Home whetted a lot of appetites for viewing this whole show, but the straight-ahead footage (which does contain some neat rehearsal shots) without any narrative makes the whole Judas moment seem less like a betrayal and more a disappointment that he played such as short set. You kind of wonder if 42 years from now, we'll watch a "Special Edition ZVD" of Britney Spears at the VMA's doing "Gimme More" and say, "I dunno, that wasn't such a bust!" —Serene Dominic
Up the Down Staircase
Warner Brothers Home Video
There aren't any new ideas in Hollywood. But the old teachers-facing-adversity chestnut wasn't done to death back in 1967. In fact, 1955's Blackboard Jungle set the mold: You take idealistic teachers, plop them down in the middle of a failing school system and then watch as they overcome mountains of problems while finding redemption for them and their students. In this, it's Sandy Dennis (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) as the green teacher struggling to handle, much less teach, her troubled and racially diverse inner-city students. Her Sylvia Barrett is lost in a blizzard of idiotic paperwork, warnings about her students, useless suggestions from co-workers and inadequate facilities and supplies. Sylvia's idealism sees her butt heads with the principal, who warns her, "Fear: That's all they understand." So, yeah, as cookie-cutter plots go, Up the Down Staircase manages a level of realism that was missing in, say, last year's Freedom Writers, but it's not without faults. We learn nothing about Sylvia's life outside school, and a few student subplots don't lead anywhere. If not for originality, Staircase is notable for its well-paced direction by Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird) and the great performance by the lovely Sandy Dennis who, you'll note, died in 1992 of ovarian cancer. This was one of her finest moments. —Paul Knoll