10/2/07 Edition -- The New AISLE SEAT BLOG Is Now Live & Relaunched!

October Arrival Edition
Blu Ray and HD-DVDs including KING OF NEW YORK
Plus: SPECIES Special Edition, THE GETAWAY and More!

A good array of high-definition titles newly issued on Blu Ray and HD-DVD ought to satisfy your viewing needs this week, especially for those not interested in the Major League Baseball Divisional playoffs (I know where I’ll be Wednesday and Thursday, however!).

Without further ado here’s a quick rundown to the latest offerings:

New & Coming Soon on Blu Ray

KING OF NEW YORK: Blu Ray (***, 106 mins., 1990, R; Lionsgate, available Oct. 23rd): Abel Ferrara’s most satisfying work to date is a taut, well-performed gangster chronicle of a recently-released drug lord (Christopher Walken) up to his old tricks in the Big Apple. Walken is tremendous and a great supporting cast includes early turns from David Caruso and Wesley Snipes as a pair of cops on his trail, plus Larry Fishburne as one of Walken’s henchmen. Lionsgate’s high-definition Blu Ray release, due out later this month, sports a crisp transfer with plenty of detail (along with some infrequent blotches of MPEG noise), 6.1 DTS-HD and 5.1 Dolby EX audio, and a good amount of extras, including two commentaries, a featurette, documentary, trailers and TV spots. Recommended!

THE CONDEMNED: Blu Ray (*½, 113 mins., 2007, R; Lionsgate): Run-of-the-kill variant on “The Most Dangerous Game,” co-produced by WWE Films and starring none other than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. “Stone Cold” essays one of several death-row inmates who are flown to a remote island, where they become participants in a reality game show where its contestants are hunted one-by-one. Lionsgate’s Blu Ray release looks and sounds superb (with 5.1 Dolby EX and 7.1 DTS-HD sound), and offers a gaggle of extras (two commentaries, five-part Making Of featurette), but it’s standard-issue thrills worth a rental if that.

DELTA FARCE: Blu Ray (**, 89 mins., 2007, PG-13; Lionsgate): Mediocre, intermittently amusing, comedy vehicle for Larry the Cable Guy finds Larry and his army-reserve pals mistakenly sent to Iraq. It’s not exactly “In The Army Now” (the hideous Paulie Shore comedy with the great Robert Folk score) but it’s still fairly desperate nevertheless. Lionsgate’s DVD includes an excellent 1080p HD transfer with 7.1 PCM audio, 5.1 Dolby EX sound, deleted scenes, director commentary, and several Making Of featurettes.

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES: Blu Ray (*½, 88 mins., 2002, R; Lionsgate): Typical Rob Zombie mess of gore, unappealing characters and incoherent story hits Blu Ray in a fine HD presentation that should please Zombie fans. The 1080p transfer is quite good while 7.1 DTS-HD audio, 5.1 Dolby EX sound, director commentary, casting footage, interviews, trailers, and an interactive “Zombietron” game round out the package. More of a trick than a treat!

TEKKONKINKREET: Blu Ray (**½, 111 miuns., 2006, R; Sony): Highly stylized, flamboyant anime (albeit directed by an American, Michael Arias) was based on a popular magna entitled “Black & White.” This interestingly designed but disjointed tale follows a pair of street urchins in a faltering metropolis where Yakuza and nutty aliens populate the streets; some impressive visual sequences are partially off-set by an oddball narrative and particularly bizarre ending that’s best left explained by anime devotees. Sony’s Blu Ray disc is, at least, sensational: the 1080p transfer is gorgeous, filled with color and detail, while 5.1 uncompressed PCM sound is offered in Japanese with English subtitles (an English 5.1 dialogue track is also on-hand). Extras include a 40-minute Making Of featurette, commentary from Arias, and an interview with Arias and British music duo Plaid, who perform the film’s soundtrack. Well worth a look for anime fans, in spite of its erratic story.

REIGN OVER ME: Blu Ray (**½, 124 mins., 2006, R; Sony): Audiences weren’t ready for a truly serious Adam Sandler vehicle about a grieving man who lost his family in the events of 9/11, with “Reign Over Me” flopping in theaters earlier this year. Though I didn’t entirely buy Sandler’s sincere but not entirely convincing performance, there’s strong supporting work from Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland on-hand in writer-director Mike Binder’s slow-moving but effective enough melodrama. Sony’s Blu Ray release (available October 9th) offers a top-of-the-line 1080p transfer with uncompressed 5.1 PCM audio, though not much in the way of extras (Making Of, photo montage, and an “extended jam session” with Sandler and Cheadle).

New on HD-DVD

THE GETAWAY: HD-DVD (***, 116 mins., 1994, Not Rated; Universal): Under-rated remake of the Sam Peckinpah-Steve McQueen-Ali McGraw ‘70s thriller boasts Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger in the better of their two big-screen affairs (it’s a classic compared to “The Marrying Man”), with the original Walter Hill script followed fairly faithfully by director Roger Donaldson and writer Amy Jones. More over, the film’s excellent supporting cast (James Woods, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Tilly, David Morse, Richard Farnsworth and a young Philip Seymour Hoffman) makes revisiting the ‘94 “Getaway” an unexpected pleasure in Universal’s superb HD-DVD edition, which includes a colorful, crisp (if occasionally grainy) 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer and 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio. Recommended!

PATCH ADAMS: HD-DVD (**, 116 mins., 1998, PG-13; Universal): Maudlin Robin Williams drama-edy from writer Steve Oedekerk and director Tom Shadyac, who both illustrate why they  ought to have stuck to comedy with this 1998 effort (which still performed well at the box-office, coming at a peak in Williams’ career in features). Williams’ performance as a crazy doctor who inspires terminally ill patients by cracking jokes is either heartwarming or exploitive (or possibly both) based on your personal point of view, but there’s no denying how saccharine and at-times unwatchable this formula mess is, right down to Marc Shaiman’s cloying score. Universal’s HD-DVD offers a decent 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio, commentary from Shadyac, outtakes, deleted scenes, and a documentary examining the production of the film.

New and Coming Soon on DVD

ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATION (1978-79, 688 mins., Warner): Star-studded sequel to the classic David L. Wolper-produced mini-series traces the lives of author Alex Haley’s ancestors from following the Civil War to the present day, offering another who’s-who of actors from its era (Debbie Allen, Marlon Brando [as a Nazi], James Broderick, Irene Cara, Diahann Carroll, Bernie Casey, Robert Culp, Olivia de Havilland, Ruby Dee, Norman Fell, Henry Fonda, Pam and Rosey Grier, Andy Griffith, Dorian Harewood, James Earl Jones, Dina Merrill, Harry Morgan, John Rubinstein, Stan Shaw, Marc Singer, Greg Morris, Richard Thomas, Hal Williams and Paul Winfield among them). Production values remain high in this massive production, with another fine score supplied by Gerald Fried. Warner’s four-disc box-set arrives next week and includes a new behind-the-scenes documentary to compliment fine full-screen transfers and mono sound.

SPECIES: Collector’s Edition (***, 108 mins., 1995, R; MGM/Fox): Double-disc edition of the highly enjoyable 1995 Roger Donaldson-directed sci-fi romp offers most of the same extras as the previous DVD editions (two commentary tracks, featurettes), but adds a new Making Of and an alternate ending (more of an unused epilogue) with stars Michael Madsen and Marg Helgenberger. Visually the 16:9 (2.35) transfer is as vibrant as I recall the film appearing on past releases, while 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital sound compliment the audio presentation.

MEERKAT MANOR (273 mins., 2007; Genius Entertainment): Hugely popular Animal Planet series hits DVD in a superb two-disc set offering the series’ complete first season in excellent 16:9 (1.85) transfers with 2.0 Dolby Surround audio. This chronicle of a group of South African meerkats is an emotionally wrenching journey that ought to please kids and adults alike, with pitch-perfect narration provided by Sean Astin. Extras include a preview of Season 2 and a “Top Ten” from Season 1.

THE SECRET WORLD OF ALEX MACK: Season 1 (1994, aprx. 7 hours; Genius Entertainment): Popular ‘90s Nickelodeon series stars Larisa Oleynik as a 13-year-old who gains super powers after her first day in junior high. Kind of like “Degrassi” meets the “X-Men,” with loads of shenanigans and an appealing performance from Oleynik (Jessica Alba is also on-hand too!). Genoius’ two-disc set offers okay full-screen transfers and 5.1 audio. Recommended for fans.

EMMANUELLE: Special Edition (94 mins., 1974, Unrated; Lionsgate): The original French “soft core” classic is back on DVD in the U.S. with a restored 16:9 (1.70) transfer with 2.0 French stereo audio (and optional English subtitles). Despite the lack of extras, Sylvia Kristel has never looked better!

NEXT TIME: A ROOM WITH A VIEW in HD! Until then, don't forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards, check out the newly relaunched Aisle Seat Blog, and direct any emails to our new email address. Cheers everyone!

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