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JURASSIC Revisited
Andy's Full Review of the Blu-Ray Trilogy
It’s not a stretch to say that movies changed forever when “Jurassic Park” opened on June 11th, 1993. I remember going on opening day for the opening of Steven Spielberg’s much anticipated adaptation of the Michael Crichton best-seller, stoked by having already purchased John Williams’ soundtrack album a couple of weeks before and played it to death by the time I finally saw the movie. While certain aspects of the movie were a bit of a letdown (both then and now), there was no denying the “game changer” that the film’s historical use of CGI special effects signified.

Spielberg’s dinosaurs, animated by ILM, actually looked photo-realistic, and those individual moments when the film’s characters saw the creatures for the first time – and their spellbound reaction to them – were matched by audience members equally captivated by what they were seeing on-screen. No movie special effects had ever captured that level of detail before, with ILM’s “pseudo-pod” in “The Abyss” and the shape-shifting FX of “Terminator 2" being mere appetizers for the full-on, jaw-dropping brontosaurus, raptors and T-Rex seen in the original “Jurassic Park.”

It’s something that bears repeating since CGI has progressed to a point nearly 20 years later where today’s television series routinely offer elaborate visual effects – yet the point in which it all came together and special effects transitioned into “the future” can all be seen in Spielberg’s film, which at one point was going to employ Phil Tippett’s stop-motion animation for the dinosaurs until ILM’s technology had matured enough to make the quantum leap into CGI during production.

As a movie, JURASSIC PARK (***½, 126 mins., PG-13) has brilliant Spielbergian set-pieces, a majestic John Williams score, and a less than a satisfying story with bland characters (Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s leads were never that interesting; Richard Attenborough’s toothless Dr. Hammond is less a Frankenstein than a kindly grandfather) that are continuously dwarfed by the “living” dinos. Overall, as a piece of escapist entertainment, it’s still a satisfying film – not one of Spielberg’s classics, but a picture that will always be remembered as one of the truly groundbreaking films in terms of its technological feats.

THE LOST WORLD (**, 129 mins., PG-13) followed in 1997 and opened with great expectations – fans hoping that the sequel would tighten up the screenplay and offer more in the way of captivating dinosaur action.

Unfortunately, not only did Spielberg’s sequel lack the spark that made the original such a blockbuster, David Koepp's script is even more of a mess, filled with poorly drawn characters and an abysmal climax set in San Diego. Some of the set-pieces are exciting, though most of these occur during the film's mid-section with Pete Postelthwaite as a big-game hunter, an intriguing role that seems to have been cut significantly from its original conception (in fact, Postelthwaite at one point literally announces his exit from the film!). The effects are still compelling but not nearly as innovative the second time around, while Jeff Goldblum looks lost – literally and figuratively – here, proving that augmenting his scene-stealing supporting turn from the first movie into a lead role wasn’t a wise decision. Things are made worse by Janusz Kaminski's overly arty cinematography, which is unusually pretentious for a movie like this, and Goldblum’s teen-daughter karate-kicking a raptor in a moment that ranks as one of the worst of Spielberg’s career. Yes, “The Lost World” is every bit as disappointing as you remember it being.

Even though it’s more of a B-movie in terms of its ambition and running time, the 2001 Joe Johnston-directed sequel JURASSIC PARK III (***, 93 mins., PG-13) is much more satisfying than Spielberg’s own follow-up, dressed up with top-grade special effects and set pieces offering some fresh twists on its predecessors. The picture rips right into the action from the opening frames, disposes of the pretentiousness of “The Lost World” and turns into an elaborate chase movie that gives you the meat – all the action and effects of the first two films -- without the fat (i.e. Richard Attenborough's preachy, ecological speechifying from its immediate predecessor).

After sitting through Goldblum's uneasy turn as a leading man, Sam Neill's more confident reprisal here of Dr. Alan Grant seems like a breath of fresh air. Suckered into a rescue mission by would-be philanthropist William H. Macy (at times essaying his "Fargo" part without the Minnesota accent) and ex-wife Tea Leoni, Grant -- along with grad student Alessandro Nivola – returns to Isla Sorna where the dinosaurs have not only continued to run amok, but also evolved with new species and forms of communication between them. Macy and Leoni's son (the surprisingly tolerable Trevor Morgan) has gone missing and it's up to the group to find him, and find their way out, before being consumed by the island's inhabitants.

“Park III” had its share of problems right from the get-go: the script, credited to Peter Buchman and "Election" scribes Alexander Payne and James Taylor, was reportedly re-written each day, while the picture's ending was scrapped and re-shot at the last minute. While the finished film boasts an abrupt conclusion that should have been more effectively staged, the rest of the picture is often quite well-executed, with a handful of exciting set-pieces highlighted by a dynamite escape from a nest of flying Pteranodons.

The ILM effects are as good as you would anticipate, while Johnston's film features a greenish, daylight look far removed from “The Lost World”’s ugly, night-time trappings. Don Davis' faux-John Williams replacement score, meanwhile, is too much at times, but at least reworks the original themes effectively enough that most audiences seemingly won't know the difference.

“Jurassic Park III” naturally doesn't have the novelty value of the first film in the series, where the groundbreaking special effects alone wowed audiences around the world, but it does rank as a sequel far superior to the second film. Like the Saturday Matinee serials of yesteryear, it gives you more of the same, but that's not necessarily a bad thing at all.    

Universal brings the entire “Jurassic Park” trilogy to Blu-Ray next week in a three-disc set offering VC-1 encoded 1080p transfers that haven’t been doused with DNR. The gain in detail is noticeable especially on the first and third films in the series, though because of the leap to high-def, the CGI sequences now seem noticeably more “processed” than other shots. All three DTS MA soundtracks are impressively delivered, no surprise given that the soundtrack to the first “Jurassic Park” was one of the reference-quality mixes of its era.

In terms of supplements, the discs include basically all the extras from prior releases (the full-length “Making Of” documentaries, the deleted scenes on “The Lost World,” trailers and other archival featurettes) while adding brand-new retrospective featurettes produced by Laurent Bouzereau.

The latter sport fresh interviews with Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Joe Johnston, cinematographers Dean Cundey and Janusz Kaminski, cast members Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Ariana Richards, Peter Stormare, Joseph Mazzello, William H. Macy and John Williams among others. The featurettes are broken up into multiple parts on the respective movie discs, running about an hour on “Jurassic Park,” 40 minutes on “The Lost World” and 25 minutes on “Jurassic Park III.”

Perhaps tellingly, the first movie’s new retrospective segment is almost entirely devoted to the special effects, with little discussion about the development history of the project, script or casting.

One thing that’s reinforced is how Spielberg left the movie in post-production to shoot “Schindler’s List” and wasn't around to supervise dubbing or even Williams' score. The director notes that it was the only time in his career that he wasn’t able to attend the recording sessions – something that confirms the notion some fans have held that the director simply wasn’t as "into" the movie as much as he was for “Raiders,” “E.T.” or his other classics. It’s also an element that comes across in the finished film, with its lacking human component (Williams refers to Sam Neill and Laura Dern as simply "the man" and "the woman" in his recollection of the picture, which says it all!).

In his “Lost World” comments, Spielberg honestly admits that it "wasn't as good" as the first movie and that it was a challenge because it was the first "pure sequel" he had ever directed. He didn't consider the Indiana Jones films to be sequels – more self-contained "adventure fantasies” – but with “The Lost World” he had to fill it with a number of different characters and that the story was handicapped by being less straightforward. Considering that Spielberg is typically even-handed when critiquing his work, it’s refreshing to hear his dissatisfaction in a number of his comments about the picture here.

The near half-hour retrospective featurette on “Jurassic Park III” is probably the best balanced of the three, with Johnston discussing the movie’s turbulent pre-production which saw the original script thrown out shortly before filming began. Neill – whose return to the series seems to have been a late decision on the part of the filmmakers – says that he prefers his performance in the third film to the first while Johnston admits the hectic shooting schedule kept the filmmakers constantly on the run throughout.

With digital copies also included, this is a must-have set for “Jurassic Park” fans, the transfers coming across as superior to Universal’s “Back to the Future” discs from last year and with outstanding soundtracks to match. While it would’ve been nice to see the deleted scenes from the first “Jurassic Park” (the long-lost triceratops sequence for one) or the original ending of the third movie, this is still a solid package with fine new extras that ought to tide fans over before the long-in-development “Jurassic Park IV” comes about.

DVD Picks of the Week

A&E/NewVideo have released a couple of nifty new box-sets that rank as some of the finest DVD releases I’ve seen this year.

Growing up I was enchanted by Japanese animated imports like “Star Blazers” and “Force Five,” the latter a series that was earlier immortalized by Mattel’s line of “Shogun Warriors” toys – oversized giant robots who defended the galaxy (and today command a nice price on the Ebay market).

Those late ‘70s/early ‘80s TV series preceded the influx of anime that hit stateside in the wake of “Akira,” and in between, were followed by ROBOTECH – a colorful Harmony Gold production imported by Carl Macek from Japan and reworked for North American audiences in the mid ‘80s.

“Robotech” was a show that I first heard about in college in the early ‘90s, when it had already established a fervent fanbase in the U.S. Offering the kinds of fanciful sci-fi fantasy exploits that “Star Blazers” boasted but on an even grander scale, “Robotech” chronicled Earth’s efforts to combat an alien invasion with the help of technology culled from an extraterrestrial ship that had crash landed on our planet. Utilizing ships that should transform into robots (a precursor of sorts to the “Transformers”), a cast of heroes – carried over through each successive series of “Robotech” – battled the aliens through three entire “wars” with the enemy (here dubbed “The Macross Saga,” “The Masters Saga” and “The New Generation”).

With engaging storylines, appealing characters and an episodic story structure, “Robotech” appealed to both kids and older viewers, making it a bona-fide cult favorite. Though the series has lived through several aborted follow-ups – as well as plans for a live-action film produced by Tobey Maguire that has since failed to take flight – the original still holds up as a highly entertaining, terrific piece of animated sci-fi fantasy, and now has been treated to a deluxe A&E Special Edition DVD box-set.

Comprised of 17 discs including the complete, three-part series (85 episodes in all), “Robotech” has never looked or sounded better than it does in this digitally restored edition. Transfers have been spruced up from the original broadcasts with truly excellent new 5.1 mixes that are constantly active in terms of their original design; purists will also note that some music that had to be changed for “Robotech”’s previous DVD release has, according to the producers, been restored in full for this edition.

Supplements are housed on no less than four platters of their own. These include a full documentary on the making of the series; music videos; alternate versions of select episodes; “Robotech The Movie” supplementals; a promo reel of the show’s Chinese launch; the original “Macross” pilots and more – all new to DVD. The aborted “Robotech II: The Sentinels” pilot is also included along with edited portions of the failed Cannon production “Robotech: The Movie” and plenty more extras from prior DVD editions, from original opening/closing credits to videogame and toy commercials, deleted scenes and tons more.

Both fans of the series as well as newcomers to the show would do well in checking out this massive set from NewVideo that’s simply outstanding in every facet.

Another must-have release – this time for sports fans – is the much-anticipated 10-disc box-set of BASEBALL’S GREATEST GAMES: COLLECTOR’S EDITION (aprx. 30 hours).

I’ve covered several of these individual releases before in self-contained reviews but now A&E has compiled them in one anthology while adding a bonus disc comprised of bonus interviews and additional footage. The games included are:

-1960 World Series Game 7
-1975 World Series Game 6
-1979 Wrigley Field “Slugfest”
-1986 World Series Game 6
-1991 World Series Game 7
-1992 NLCS Game 7
-1993 World Series Game 6
-2003 ALCS Game 7
-2004 ALCS Game 4

Each disc is housed in its own slimline case with the discs also featuring alternate audio with local radio play-by-play, making this a terrific choice for holiday gift giving for any baseball fan you might have on your list.

Also New This Week

THE TREE OF LIFE Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy (**½, 139 mins., 2011, PG-13; Fox): Terrence Malick’s latest is yet another visual tone poem – an ode to birth, life, death, tragedy, triumph, falling from grace, redemption and back again.

As with Malick’s “The New World” and “The Thin Red Line,” the movie’s threadbare plot – involving a domineering father figure (Brad Pitt) and his son (who grows up to be Sean Penn in brief bookending sequences) – is basically just an outline for Malick to provide a series of gorgeously shot sequences and ruminations on human existence. Never has everyday life looked so breathtaking as it does in “The Tree of Life,” with Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera weaving in and out of bedrooms, school yards, suburban neighborhoods and treetops like an omnipresent narrator dropping in on a typical American childhood many will be able to relate to.

Throughout, Malick intercuts scenes of the universe, even throwing in dinosaurs at one point early on, in an attempt to connect the “ordinary life” of Pitt’s family with the cosmic questions all of us face.

“The Tree of Life” is just so beautiful to look at that it’s hard for me to give a strong opinion on it one way or the other. If you’ve embraced Malick’s past films, you’re likely to be dazzled by the movie’s visuals and moody atmosphere. Others are likely to feel that if you’ve seen one Malick film, you’ve now seen them all, which is understandable since “The Tree of Life” basically reprises the same narrative elements of the director’s past works – just in a different setting, with different (yet still emotionally distant) characters. It’s still an impressively designed film, especially at a time when so many of today’s films lack the cinematic craftsmanship Malick displays here, yet also overlong and meandering, making one wish that Malick would just get on with it, especially in its final half-hour.

Fox’s Blu-Ray is a stunner; the 1080p AVC encoded transfer is just flawless on every front, and the excellently engineered DTS MA audio even comes with a disclaimer for viewers to “turn it up” loud. A Making Of runs about a half-hour and includes comments from Lubezki, production designer Jack Fisk and Malick admirers like Christopher Nolan and David Fincher. The superb original trailer is also on-hand along with a DVD and digital copy for portable media players.

BAD TEACHER Blu-Ray (**, 88 mins., 2011, R/Unrated; Sony): Another 5-minute SNL sketch padded out to feature length, the intermittently amusing “Bad Teacher” is so thinly drawn that you can basically see right through it.

Cameron Diaz plays...well...a bad elementary school teacher who spends most of her time in class hung over, showing her kids high-school set films like “Stand and Deliver” and “Dangerous Minds.” When she’s not doing drugs, Diaz’s anti-heroine attempts to save up enough money to buy herself breast implants while pursuing her school’s new substitute teacher – a dork played by Justin Timberlake (posing once again instead of delivering an actual performance) whose family has lots of money, something that Diaz counts as one of her only interests.

Written by “Office” scribes Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, “Bad Teacher” has a few inspired moments and an energetic supporting performance from Lucy Punch as the do-gooder adversary for Diaz’s poor role model (at times I was hoping Punch was actually going to beat Diaz at her own game...alas, to no avail). Unfortunately, that’s about it – neither the script nor director Jake Kasdan ever attempt to establish legitimate character development, relying on a series of self-contained blackout scenes (only a few of which generate laughs) to carry the comedy. We never know why Diaz behaves the way she does, making her sort-of-about face at the end utterly hollow – like everything else in the film we’re just supposed to accept it at face value, but if we’re never supposed to care about the character, then why bother to begin with? Even its R rating doesn’t feel deserved: outside of numerous f-bombs, “Bad Teacher” isn’t especially raunchy, at times playing like a more profane, less funny version of “Kindergarten Cop.”   

Sony’s Blu-Ray includes both the R-rated edition of “Bad Teacher” plus an unrated cut and deleted scenes, outtakes, a Making Of, and BD-exclusive supplements (more outtakes, gag reel and three behind-the-scenes featurettes). The 1080p AVC encoded transfer and DTS MA soundtrack are both fine.

THE FOUR FEATHERS Blu-Ray (****, 115 mins., 1939; Criterion): Magnificent Golden Age adaptation of the A.E.W. Mason novel comes to Blu-Ray this month in a typically superb package from Criterion.

Zoltan Korda’s film follows Harry Faversham (John Clements), a disgraced British officer who, out of cowardice, drops out of following his regiment’s departure to Khartoum at the end of the 19th century. Faversham is subsequently humiliated because of his decision and finds relationships with both his friends and his fiancee (June Duprez) to be irreparably damaged. Trying to take matters into his own hands, Faversham travels to Africa and attempts to rejoin his fellow soldiers (including Ralph Richardson) deep behind enemy lines.

While there’s some obvious propaganda inherent in R.C. Sherriff’s screenplay (no surprise given the film’s release on the precipice of WWII), “The Four Feathers” is still a regal, timeless tale with gorgeous Technicolor cinematography, a rousing Miklos Rozsa score and superb performances from Clements, Richardson, Duprez, and C. Aubrey Smith (as Duprez’s father) among others. Though a bit lengthy at 115 minutes, the movie is a handsome and beautifully rendered production, with some Sudan location shooting giving it a far more authentic feel than the type of Hollywood backlot production one would traditionally see around the same time.

Criterion’s Blu-Ray includes a superb 1.33 HD transfer from the BFI internegative with mono sound; both are as satisfying as the material allows. Extras are customarily enlightening – Charles Drazin provides an informative commentary track while a video interview is on-hand with David Korda, Zoltan’s son. “A Day at Denham: provides a short look at Zoltan on the set of the movie, while a trailer and an essay from Michael Sragow round out the disc.

INDIAN SUMMER Blu-Ray (***, 97 mins., 1993, PG-13; Mill Creek): One of the more engaging romantic-comedies of the early-mid ‘90s, Mike Binder’s “Indian Summer” hits Blu-Ray as another of Mill Creek’s satisfying, low-priced Buena Vista catalog releases.

Binder’s film is sort of a “Meatballs Grows Up” with a group of friends reuniting back at the camp where they spent their adolescent years. Diane Lane, Bill Paxton, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Pollak, Vincent Spano, Julie Warner, Matt Craven and Kimberly Williams comprise the not-quite-“Big Chill” alumni who travel back to the gorgeous Ontario camp still run by sage counselor Alan Arkin. Sam Raimi also chips in a few laughs in a rare acting role as the camp’s resident weirdo, but it’s really the beautiful Newton Thomas Sigel lensing and Miles Goodman’s breezy score that puts “Indian Summer” over the top.

Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray does not disappoint on either front; Sigel’s 2.35 cinematography has been reproduced splendidly here in the form of a 1080p AVC encoded presentation while the 2.0 DTS MA stereo track has bit of “wow”-like flutter at the beginning (something that also affected the laserdisc way back when) but gets back on track shortly after the front credits. Recommended!

Also new this month from Mill Creek are the ensemble comedy DISORGANIZED CRIME (**½, 98 mins., 1989, R), a Touchstone flop from “Stakeout” writer Jim Kouf (who also directed) that opened in April of 1989; the guilty-pleasure ski/buddy pic ASPEN EXTREME (**½, 113 mins., 1993, PG-13) co-starring a young Teri Polo; and CAMP NOWHERE (**½, 96 mins., 1994, PG), a genial summer camp comedy about a group of kids who conspire with a drama teacher (Christopher Lloyd) to run a resort-type of experience in the woods. “Camp Nowhere” is likeable enough for what it is (I recall it even receiving a few decent reviews upon its release in the fall of ‘94), and its admirers should appreciate Mill Creek’s no-nonsense, good-looking 1080p transfer and 2.0 DTS MA soundtrack. Meanwhile, “Disorganized Crime” looks like it’s from a dated source while “Aspen Extreme” appears in reasonably good shape; audio is 2.0 DTS MA on those titles as well.                   

A LITTLE HELP Blu-Ray (**½, 109 mins., 2011, R; Image): I happen to love Jenna Fischer from “The Office,” and seeing her break out in a lead starring role is something I was eagerly anticipating. Alas, this downer independent drama – with uncertain blotches of comedy – doesn’t do much for Pam Beasley’s acting career, mainly due to an uneven and unconvincing script. Fischer plays a married mom who smokes and drinks too much and seems to be aimlessly living her life until her husband (Chris O’Donnell) – whom she suspects of cheating on her – suddenly dies, leaving her to pick up the pieces with her sarcastic teen and circle of family members. Michael J. Weithorn’s film, set a year after the events of 9/11, has a few nice moments (and it’s nice to see veteran stars like Lesley Ann Warren and Ron Leibman on-screen again) but as a whole doesn’t come together. Image’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p AVC encoded transfer, DTS MA soundtrack and slight extras including interviews and the trailer.

JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT-BUMMER SUMMER Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy (**, 91 mins., 2011, PG; Fox): Harmless but forgettable kids film, adapted from a series of popular books, offers the irrepressible Judy hanging out with brother Stink and Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) during what initially looks like a bland, boring summer. Fox’s Blu-Ray package includes a DVD, digital copy, and numerous extras including deleted scenes, interactive games and Making Of featurettes.

TV on Blu-Ray and DVD

V: Season 2 Blu-Ray (425 mins., 2011; Warner): So far, recent TV remakes haven't been nearly as much of a "sure thing" as their producers would like. Not even prior long-running series like "Hawaii Five-O" and "90210" have been able to recreate their magic in their new incarnations, while genre favorite "V" has come back to TV in the form of a competent yet mostly uninspired rendering, one which concluded its run with a somewhat improved second season last spring.

Season 1 made the mistake of condensing Kenneth Johnson's still-relevant 1983 mini-series (which continues to hold up superbly as the years go by) into a mere couple of hours, introducing its lead characters and hurriedly advancing a number of plot threads, from the Visitors' arrival to a resistance movement spearheaded by "sleeper cell" aliens and FBI agent Elizabeth Mitchell. The performances and casting of the series -- from Morris Chestnut's good-guy visitor to Joel Gretsch as a conflicted priest, Scott Wolf as a TV anchorman and Laura Vandervoort as the daughter of V leader Anna (Morena Baccarin) -- is mostly top-notch, yet the scripts quite uneven.

Season 2, which hits Blu-Ray this month from Warner, is a step up since the characters have already been established and the material has more time to breathe. It’s too bad the producers didn’t get it together faster since “V” showed more promise in its second go-round, including a supporting role for the original “Diana” played once again by Jane Badler.

Warner Home Video's Blu-Ray of "V”’s second season looks terrific; the 1080p transfers and DTS-MA soundtracks are excellent, while slim extras include one audio commentary and several behind the scenes featurettes plus deleted scenes.

BONES Season 6 Blu-Ray (1004 mins., 2010-11; Fox): Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz are back in the sixth season of Fox’s popular prime-time series. In Season 6, Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth try and put their chemistry on the back burner so they can investigate another series of murders, including a run-in with a Chupacabra, a trip to the Jersey Shore, the last appearance of the Gravedigger and other horrors. Fox’s Blu-Ray package includes all 23 episodes from “Bones’” sixth season in excellent 1080p transfers and DTS MA soundtracks. Extras include two extended episodes, a gag reel, selected episode commentaries, and the pilot episode from “The Killing.”

CAPTAIN AMERICA I & II DVD (Shout!): In the late ‘70s, Marvel super-heroes hit the small screen in a series of TV movies that met with varying degrees of success – though mostly favoring the underwhelming side. The success of “The Incredible Hulk” wasn’t matched by CBS’ “Amazing Spider-Man” series with Nicholas Hammond (though I’m still waiting for a soundtrack of Johnnie Spence’s music from the first two-hour movie) or the forgettable, one-time sojourn of “Dr. Strange.”

Universal and CBS also tried, twice, to make a series out of “Captain America,” re-christening Steve Rogers as an easy-going California guy who drives a van and hangs out by the beach. Lana Wood co-starred with Brown in the first movie (Brown actually plays Rogers’ son, unaware of his father’s earlier exploits as the original Cap) with Christopher Lee hamming it up in the sequel, “Captain America II: Death Too Soon,” which brought Connie Selleca onboard as the love interest.

Neither project worked well enough to bring the show to series, though Mike Post’s scores are quite appealing in a late ‘70s, tuneful melodic manner, and each movie should still be of interest for nostalgia freaks and hardcore comic book fans old enough to remember them (younger viewers accustomed to the new Marvel movie are sure to be bored silly, however!).

Even if the tele-films feel more like “The Six Million Dollar Man” than a true rendition of the comic book (in the same way that “The Incredible Hulk” felt “inspired” by “The Fugitive”), Shout’s DVD set – coupling both on a single dual layer disc – should prove satisfying for interested viewers. The full-screen transfers and soundtracks are all just fine and the sub-$15 price (in most outlets) is perfectly acceptable.

DRAGON’S LAIR Complete Series DVD (Warner Archives): In the early ‘80s, when arcades were the place to spend your allowance money and the Atari 2600 was the Xbox 360 of is day, Saturday morning TV sought to capitalize on the success of the first video game era. Even though that first wave ended up being more of a fad than a phenomenon (the crash in the mid ‘80s nearly killed the market altogether until Nintendo resurrected it in 1987 and never looked back), that didn’t stop networks like CBS and ABC from launching cartoons based on “Pac-Man,” “Donkey Kong,” “Q*Bert,” “Pole Position” and “Dragon’s Lair.”

The latter made the most sense of all the games to adapt into a cartoon, since “Dragon’s Lair” was no ordinary video game: it was one of several laser-disc games, fully animated by Don Bluth and an absolute pain in the behind to play (most of us kids would insert 50 cents and last about 5 seconds in a game that was all about memorizing moves as opposed to hand/eye coordination). Still, it looked cool with Dirk the Daring out to save Princess Daphne from the Dragon “Singe” in a colorful medieval castle – elements which animators Ruby-Spears wisely opted to retain in their brief Saturday morning adaptation, which the Warner Archive has brought to DVD this month.

The two-disc set includes all 13 episodes of the short-lived series in acceptable full-screen transfers with mono audio. John Debney scored the series, doing a nice job infusing the limited animation pallet with majestic orchestral tones.

Also New This Week   

THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS DVD (*½, 93 mins., 2010, R; Lionsgate): Tedious documentary attempts to chronicle the life of various “Star Wars” fanboys, their obsession with the series and battle with George Lucas over the prequels and the changes he brought to the original trilogy. Lucas only appears, naturally, in archival footage here, which is understandable since “The People Vs. George Lucas” clearly aligns itself with “The People,” most of whom here are portrayed as a group of entitled – and mostly uninteresting – whiners. Though the film does make some salient points, they’re ones that anyone familiar with the situation already knows, making you wonder why you should care what most of these “experts” has to say (though it is nice to see Jeff Bond on-screen again!). Lionsgate’s DVD offers a 16:9 transfer, commentary, a music video, poetry slam selections and an interview with former Lucas associate Gary Kurtz.        

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