February starts at the end
of this week
and, to celebrate the end of January (traditionally a quiet time for
new theatrical and home video releases), a good array of new releases
and recent vintage Special Editions have been issued from Fox, Disney,
Paramount, and BCI/Brentwood Home Video.
At the top of the list this week among recent theatrical fare is the
Kevin Costner-Ashton Kutcher action vehicle THE
GUARDIAN (**½, 139 mins., 2006, PG-13; Buena Vista),
few surprises but comes across as a sturdy, well-made, old-fashioned
slice of Hollywood escapism.
Costner plays a veteran Coast Guard diver who loses his teammates in a
tragic accident. After being re-assigned to a training facility,
Costner attempts to put his career back together while educating a
group of new recruits -- including brash champion high school swimmer
Kutcher -- in how to survive emergency situations. Naturally, you just
know Costner’s lessons will come in handy as teacher and
have to team up in a rousing action climax where only one will
Under the direction of “Fugitive” veteran Andrew
“The Guardian” is chock full of the usual
cliches from “An Officer and a Gentleman” to
Gun,” with the Coast Guard substituting for the other armed
services. The movie offers very little in the way of surprises but the
picture is never boring (even at 139 minutes) and Ron L.
Brinkerhoff’s script takes the time to effectively develop
protagonists. Costner and Kutcher are perfectly fine, while the
movie’s authentic Coast Guard Academy backdrops and training
footage were a result of heavy cooperation from the service itself.
Disney’s DVD includes commentary with Davis and Brinkerhoff;
alternate ending; deleted scenes; and two Making Of featurettes. The
movie’s various visual effects resemble “The
Storm” and make for an impressive 16:9 (1.85) transfer while
5.1 Dolby Digital sound is heavy on Trevor Rabin’s effective
score and thundering sound effects when the circumstances warrant.
“The Guardian” isn’t fresh or innovative,
it’s an entertaining enough star-driven vehicle
nice departure from much of today’s bland action filmmaking.
nothing else, the picture is certainly worth a rental on a chilly
III: A TWIST IN TIME (**½, 2007, 74 mins., G; Disney):
not sure how anyone could say this made-for-video sequel is
as magical as the original” (as the front cover jacket
but in the realm of small-screen Disney follow-ups,
III” is at least superior to its predecessor -- meaning
it’s routine but solidly done. This sequel follows Cinderella
Prince Charming through a “What If...” scenario
Wicked Stepmother casts a spell that turns back time, thereby enabling
her obnoxious daughter Anastasia to wear the glass slipper instead. A
better-than-average premise is complimented by colorful animation and a
story that will appeal to all little princesses. Disney’s DVD
supposed to be available for a limited time only and contains a pair of
interactive games and a music video featuring
Hayden Panettiere. The 1.78 (16:9) transfer and 5.1 DTS and Dolby
Digital soundtracks are both top-notch. (available February 6th).
Catalog Titles, New Special Editions & More
OVER, DARLING (1963, 103 mins.; Fox)
NOT DISTURB (1965, 102 mins.; Fox)
(1967, 98 mins.; Fox)
Three Doris Day comedies join Fox’s splendid collection of
“Cinema Classics” this week.
The 1963 farce “Move Over, Darling” offers
Sweetheart as a married woman who’s shipwrecked and
rescued. In the meantime, her husband (James Garner) has been remarried
(to Polly Bergen) and calamity eventually ensues once Day turns up in a
glossy, comedic ‘60s version of Tom Hanks’
Don Knotts, Chuck Connors, and Thelma Ritter co-star in this
Cinemascope comedy that’s also known as the re-shot version
“Something’s Got To Give,” the infamous,
final film starring Marilyn Monroe.
The movie is reasonably amusing and Fox’s DVD includes
featurettes touching upon the movie’s background, a
between Monroe and Day’s performances in the same role, and
interview with Polly Bergen. A D.W. Griffith 1911 short (based on the
poem that inspired the film) and a restoration comparison round out the
disc, which is presented in a crisp 16:9 transfer with 2.0 stereo and
Day’s popularity with audiences may not have waned as the
‘60s progressed, but the quality of her films did steadily
decline from her heyday in Rock Hudson bedroom farces, as evidenced by
the 1965 formula piece “Do Not Disturb.”
This tale of wife Day relocating with hubby Rod Taylor to England --
and the various comedic complications that follow -- is forgettable
stuff, but fans, at least, ought to enjoy its modest pleasures and
Fox’s DVD does preserve the movie’s wide
in a nifty new 16:9 transfer with 2.0 stereo and mono tracks.
Four featurettes include a profile of orchestrator Mort Garson,
profiles of Day’s supporting cast, and photo galleries.
Last and arguably least among the trio is the 1967 spy spoof
“Caprice,” with Doris as a spy who crosses path
dashing Richard Harris en route to finding a formula that would keep
women’s hair dry in the water.
Despite being directed by comedy vet Frank Tashlin,
“Caprice” is pretty much a plastic piece of late
studio filmmaking, though Leon Shamroy’s Cinemascope lensing
looks awfully perky in Fox’s new 16:9 (2.35) transfer. The
fashions and dialogue scream “dated,” but Day and
work well enough in what would be one of Day’s final screen
comedies (only the tepid “Where Were You When The Lights Went
Out” and the innocuous “With Six You Get
would follow for the iconic star).
Fox’s DVD includes a commentary by spy movie historians John
and Pierre Patrick; an interview with costume designer Ray Aghayan;
additional featurettes and radio interviews; a photo gallery and 2.0
stereo and mono sound.
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (***½, 1991, 118 mins., R; MGM/Fox):
double-disc Special Edition of the 1991 Jonathan Demme Oscar-winner
rushes to stores just in time for the February 9th release of the
inevitable, check-cashing prequel “Hannibal
if you haven’t owned any prior edition of “The
the Lambs” on DVD, this is a top-notch release with several
all-new featurettes, including a conversation with composer Howard
Shore (“Scoring the Silence”), two new
prior Making Of, 22 deleted scenes, a fresh 16:9 (1.85) transfer and
5.1 Dolby Digital sound plus other goodies. Superior to the
out-of-print Criterion edition and the most definitive presentation of
the movie to date on video.
FABULOUS BAKER BOYS (***, 114 mins., 1989, R; MGM/Fox):
Sterling performances from Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff and Beau Bridges
sell writer-director Steve Kloves’ acclaimed 1989 romantic
character study. MGM’s new DVD edition offers a new 16:9
of the film with 2.0 Dolby Surround stereo, but neglects some materials
from previous versions (like a commentary with cinematographer Michael
Ballhaus that was apparently on the previous Live DVD release).
THE MAN (**, 100 mins., 2006, R; Fox):
Writer-director Bart Freundlich’s ensemble comedy offers
Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Eva
Mendes in a talky and seldom funny tale of modern relationships as seen
through the eyes of two couples. Fox’s DVD, available
6th, includes both widescreen and full-screen transfers with 5.1 Dolby
Digital sound, a Making Of featurette, and deleted scenes and
commentary by Freundlich and Duchovny.
(***, 95 mins., PG, 2006; Fox):
Heartwarming remake of the old Roddy McDowall ‘40s vehicle
“My Friend Flicka” stars Alison Lohman as a teen
to tame a wild mustang in scribes Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence
Konner’s updating of Mary O’Hara’s novel.
supporting performances by country music star Tim McGraw and Maria
Bello and scenic cinematography by J. Michael Muro (shot in Wyoming)
put this feel-good family movie over the top. Fox’s DVD
both widescreen (2.35) and full-screen transfers with 5.1 Dolby Digital
sound, commentary, deleted scenes, bloopers, and a music video of
McGraw’s single “My Little Girl.” Aaron
Zigman’s understated score is a further
(**, 85 mins., R, 2006; Fox)
Mike Judge’s follow-up to “Office Space”
it to theaters and instead sat dormant on the Fox shelves for months
before finally being issued to DVD a few weeks ago. This silly comedy
stars Luke Wilson as a ordinary Joe who, as part of a government
experiment, wakes up in the future to find he’s the smartest
living man on the planet. Judge mixes slapstick with satire somewhat
effectively here, providing enough laughs to compensate for
unevenness of the material and its odd pacing, perhaps the result of
the movie having been taken out of his hands. Fox’s DVD
a 16:9 (1.85) transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, and just a few minutes
of deleted scenes.
+ JULIET: Music Edition (**½, 1996, 120 mins., PG-13; Fox):
Nifty new “Music Edition” of the 1996 Baz Luhrmann
of Shakespeare's perennial puts the accent on the film’s
soundtrack, with the package offering ample bonus material. Included
among the fresh extras are new commentaries from score
composer/arranger Craig Armstrong, Marius DeVries and Luhrmann; several
featurettes on the music, including the temp score; a documentary on
the soundtrack; and an interactive “Music Machine”
enables you to jump to sequences containing a specific track. The 16:9
transfer and 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks are all
exceptionally handled, and a separate new CD of the movie’s
soundtrack (on Capitol Records) offers some five new bonus tracks as
well. (available February 6th)
SHORTCAKE: The Sweet Dreams Movie (2006, 83 mins., G; Fox)
Strawberry Shortcake has been entrenched on the comeback trail for some
time, starring in a new TV series, innumerable made-for-video titles,
and now this CGI-rendered feature which played in theaters last fall.
Say what you will about the story, but this DiC-animated production is
leaps and bounds above the old “Shortcake” series
aired when I was a kid and our next door neighbor had every doll in the
line (Blueberry Muffin, Huckleberry Pie, etc...hey, at least they
smelled nice!). Fox’s DVD, out next week, offers a
transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. (available February 6th).
NIGHT WITH THE KING (124 mins., 2006, PG; Fox):
budgeted tale of Esther, the Queen of Persia, boasts supporting cameos
from Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, plus a sweeping score by
J.A.C. Redford. Fox’s DVD looks spiffy in 16:9 (1.78)
and boasts a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.
New TV on
DVD: Beauty & The Beast
I was entering 7th grade when Ron
AND THE BEAST (1987-88, 22 Episodes)
premiered on CBS, and clearly I was not the intended demographic for
this lush, romantic series which ran on Friday nights for three seasons
on “The Eye.”
In this soulful updating of the original fairy tale, Linda Hamilton
plays a typically harried ‘80s professional whose conscience
awakened after she’s saved by The Beast -- a big, hairy,
intelligent animal-human hybrid who lives beneath the streets of New
York, along with his father (Roy Dotrice) and other, similar societal
outcasts. For all 22 first season episodes, the series charts the
gradually developing relationship between Hamilton’s
and the Beast, named Vincent, which ultimately would come to a tragic
end in Season 2 once Hamilton decided she wanted to leave the series.
Though the series never really took off in the ratings,
and the Beast” was in some ways the ‘80s version of
“Star Trek”: while the program didn’t
stay on the air
long, what audience it did attract were hard-core, devoted viewers who
gobbled up any and all merchandise from the series (including a CD of
poetry and Lee Holdridge’s lush original score).
Those fans will be thrilled to see that Paramount is releasing the
cult-fave show on DVD in a couple of weeks, in a standard but
satisfying box-set. All of the show’s original Season 1
are on-hand in solid full-screen transfers with 2.0 stereo soundtracks;
no extras are on-hand this time out, but most viewers will likely be
happy to revisit the series’ contemporary yet timeless take
the fairy tale regardless.
10, Complete Season 1 (2006, 286 mins., Warner):
Cartoon Network series follows the life of a 10-year-old, regular human
boy who uncovers a wristband dubbed the “Omnitrix”
rubble of a crashed meteorite. The device enables mild-mannered Ben
Tennyson to change into a variety of extraterrestrial super-heroes,
which he uses to fight evil and, occasionally, just get into trouble.
This free-wheeling, kid-centric series offers colorful action for
youngsters, and Warner’s 2-disc DVD edition (due out February
6th) of the series’ first season includes commentaries, sneak
previews of future episodes, and creator drawing demos.
Filmation Studios looked to capitalize on the success of
Wars” by jumping aboard the genre and producing the
CBS Saturday morning series SPACE
ACADEMY (1977, 15 Episodes).
In the distant future (3732 to be precise), a young cast of outer-space
trainees (Pamelyn Ferdin, Ric Carrott, Ty Henderson, Eric Greene,
Maggie Cooper, and Brian Tochi) are tutored by Jonathan “Lost
Space” Harris (sporting that year’s worst
this fun slice of ‘70s nostalgia. Aimed, obviously, at
hungry for anything sci-fi related in the wake of the George Lucas
blockbuster, “Space Academy” offers decent enough
their time) special effects and engagingly outlandish stories, often
seasoned with morals and playing out like a Jr. “Star
Trek,” making it a more entertaining view than, say,
Filmation’s earlier kids offering “Ark
Following in the footsteps of that earlier Norm Prescott-Lou Scheimer
series, BCI Eclipse has dusted off “Space Academy”
assembled all 15 episodes in a marvelous DVD box set with terrific
special features. The show looks and sounds just fine, while a pair of
commentary tracks and a retrospective documentary include cast and crew
interviews. Still galleries, DVD-ROM scripts and an episode booklet
round out the package, which should come highly recommended for kids of
Also new from BCI Eclipse is the second half of the complete series of PRINCE
VALIANT (1992-93, 32 Episodes).
This Family Channel-televised series, based on Hal Foster’s
long-running comic strip, became a favorite among viewers for its
episodic and developed story lines, placing it on a pedestal above most
weekday afternoon cartoon fare (despite the Family Channel objecting to
the series’ action-packed pace and occasional violence).
BCI issued the series’ initial 33 episodes in a box-set last
summer, and now the studio’s Ink and Paint label finishes off
program with its final 32 entries in this 5-disc set. Once again the
transfers and soundtracks are more than acceptable, while a full array
of supplemental content includes commentaries, interviews, DVD-ROM
goodies (scripts) and still galleries. Recommended for all enthusiasts
of Foster’s strip and ‘90s animation.
AFFAIRS 2 (2003, 119 mins., Weinstein/Genius)
AFFAIRS 3 (2003, 118 mins., Weinstein/Genius)
STORY 2 (1988, 122 mins., Weinstein/Genius)
Three more entries into Weinstein’s “Dragon
line of Asian cinema Special Editions include the two sequels to the HK
classic “Infernal Affairs” -- unquestionably being
to coincide with the Oscar candidacy of its American remake, Martin
Scorsese’s “The Departed” (indeed, there
references to the Scorsese film on both back jackets).
Affairs 2" is a prequel to its predecessor while the third film (shot
simultaneously) concludes the trilogy. Both movies include teasers,
trailers, Making Of featurettes, as well as deleted scenes and a
subtitled cast/crew commentary track on the second film.
One of Jackie Chan’s top-rated martial arts epics,
Story 2,” also makes its way back on DVD in a proper
courtesy of Weinstein and Genius Products. The 1988 sequel’s
“Dragon Dynasty” release includes alternate
commentary with director Brett Ratner (whose praise for the movie lands
a front cover quote) and HK expert Bey Logan, and a conversation with
Transfers across all three films are newly remastered in 16:9
widescreen and feature English and 5.1 Cantonese soundtracks.
(available February 13th).
FOR SCOUNDRELS (**½, 108 mins., Unrated, 2006;
Todd Phillips’ remake of an obscure ‘60s comedy
the sure-fire teaming of “Napoleon
Heder with Billy Bob Thornton. Heder is the delinquent who’s
whipped into shape by teacher Thornton, with the usual assortment of
cameos (Ben Stiller, David Cross, etc.) sprinkled into an uneven but
occasionally funny farce. Weinstein’s DVD offers an Unrated
version sporting some eight minutes of added content; commentary with
Phillips and writer Scot Armstrong; an alternate ending; gag reel; and
a “Making Of” that “you didn’t
TV.” The 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital
are both just fine. (available February 13th)
SWORD OF STORMS (2007, 75 mins., Anchor Bay):
animated TV adventure continues the “Hellboy” comic
and film franchise started by Guillermo Del Toro, who serves here as
executive producer alongside creator Mike Mignola. Solid animation and
the voices of Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones help, but the
story by Matt Wayne and Tad Stones is routine and the action rather
tedious as a result. Still, hard-core “Hellboy”
find this to be a decent enough fill-in until the live-action sequel
rolls out, with Anchor Bay’s DVD sporting numerous
commentary, 16:9 (1.78) widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
(available February 6th)
(2005, 100 mins., Tartan):
Hong Kong import wants to be the new “Infernal
(and is compared as such in the packaging) but is, in reality, a
cluttered and only intermittently interesting action-thriller from
director Benny Chan. Tartan’s superb two-disc DVD is packed
extras (16:9 widescreen, commentary, Making Of materials) but sadly
falls short in terms of the central experience, which is routine stuff
best left for HK cinema die-hards.
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