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New on Disc: 'Waking Sleeping Beauty' and more …

6 Dec, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Disney, Documentary, B.O. $0.08 million, $29.99 DVD, ‘PG’ for some thematic elements and brief mild language.
It would take a miniseries to sort out the conflicting personalities of Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy Disney and their late peacemaker Frank Wells — who, in varied ways, rejuvenated corporate Disney starting in the mid-1980s. And for a documentary that deals specifically with the de-slumbering of Disney animation after years of toxic-apple ingesting, you’ll note that this short list of studio execs doesn’t even include the scads of animators and composers who helped make the Disney visuals sing. All of this is to say that Waking Sleeping Beauty director Don Hahn has bitten off a big chew when trying to tell this great story in just under 90 minutes. His documentary is one of those that leaves you wanting more, but let it also be said that there isn’t a fidgety minute to be had.
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Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel

Street 12/7
Phase 4, Documentary, B.O. $0.01 million, $29.99 DVD, ‘R’ for graphic nudity and sexual content.
Hugh Hefner is, if anything, regarded as quaint these days — which is probably why the director of an Oscar-winning documentary (Brigitte Berman of 1985’s Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got) lent her services to remind us of a few things that bear remembering. One is that in addition to jazz, Hefner is a longtime friend to civil rights, also to legal protections for married couples (not all that long ago, they could go to jail in all 50 states for breaking arcane sodomy laws) and even to film preservation. On hand to fortify the last point is George Lucas, who will do for an advocate in that field. The serious limitation here is a lack of real perspective: We’re never going to get a tough and reasoned screen debate about what the Playboy empire meant (mostly past tense — but what a run) until someone else other than its dominant player isn’t the key on-screen host. A corollary to this is this documentary’s déjà vu aspect. I know I’m not hallucinating about the existence of the startlingly similar Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time, Hugh Hefner: American Playboy and (to a lesser extent) The Bunny Years.
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The Bob Hope Collection

Street 12/7
Shout! Factory/Vivendi, Comedy, $34.93 three-DVD set, NR.
Stars Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour.
Some of this set’s five titles have been released in so many versions that it would be easy to blink and miss what this box has to offer, which is: much improved renderings with only one significant technical boo-boo to make the knowledgeable scratch their heads. The set includes Road to Rio (1947), Road to Bali (1952), The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), My Favorite Brunette (1947) and The Seven Little Foys (1955). The latter is simultaneously one of Hope’s beloved movies and this collection’s one misstep. The Technicolor values are adequate, but the one here has a 1.33:1 aspect ratio when it ought to be 1.85:1 and simply looks “off,” though not fatally so.
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Your Cheatin’ Heart

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars George Hamilton, Susan Oliver, Red Buttons, Arthur O’Connell.
Sam Katzman’s biopic about Hank Williams is probably the most respectable movie he ever made. George Hamilton plays Williams in a likably adequate manner. Just beginning his career, Hank Jr. sings the incredible catalog (“Cold, Cold Heart” and so on) that Hamilton lip-syncs — hardly an unthinkable touch though somewhat of a questionable one considering that rights to the originals were controlled by MGM Records and this was an MGM film.
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