Seat Groundhog Day Edition!
KARATE KID Returns to DVD (in Widescreen at Last!), plus SKY CAPTAIN
International viewers have had the opportunity to watch a widescreen
copy of viewer-favorite THE KARATE KID for years, but only now has a
legitimate Special Edition package been released in the U.S. for one of
1984's smash hits.
Out this week from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is a brand-new DVD
box set – THE
KARATE KID COLLECTION (my Aisle
Seat DVD Pick of the Week)
– compiling all of the “Karate Kid”
franchise films, including an
exclusive Special Edition of the original and best installment
126 mins., 1984, PG).
An informative, sometimes uproarious group commentary with stars Ralph
Macchio and Pat Morita, writer Robert Mark Kamen, and director John
Avildsen is the highlight of the disc, though the 45-minute
“Way of the
Karate Kid” documentary is likewise superb, offering a fresh
retrospective on the making of the picture. In addition to new
interviews with all the creative personnel (sans Elisabeth Shue), the
documentary includes copious home video footage shot by Avildsen during
pre-production and shooting, plus plenty of revealing anecdotes (like
how Kamen didn’t particularly care for the first studio
choice for Mr.
Miyagi -- Toshiro Mifune!).
Additional featurettes examine the movie’s application of
and use of the Bonsai, while composer Bill Conti is on-hand to discuss
the soundtrack in “East Meets West: A Composer’s
discusses his relationship with Avildsen and how the choice of a
symphonic score wouldn’t date the film (unlike the
music, as he points out), and remains satisfied (deservedly so) with
his efforts on the picture.
The 1.85, remastered widescreen transfer is excellent, with only some
scenes displaying their age. Columbia’s previous DVD version
Karate Kid” was an open-matte, non-widescreen rendition, as
previous laserdisc editions. Subsequently, this DVD marks the
first-ever letterboxed presentation of the film on video in the U.S.,
some 21 years following its theatrical release.
The “Karate Kid” Special Edition is available only
in the new box set,
which also houses all three sequels: 1986's box-office blockbuster hit
THE KARATE KID PART II (***, 113 mins., PG), its pointless, 1989 flop
follow-up THE KARATE KID PART III (*1/2, 112 mins., PG), and the
little-seen but enjoyable 1994 spin-off THE NEXT KARATE KID (**1/2, 104
Both Parts II and III continue the formula established by Avildsen and
Kamen, with Macchio back as the not-so-kiddish Daniel, and Morita
reprising Miyagi, the karate guru who instructs his high school
in martial arts and life itself. With most of the same
behind-the-scenes crew returning for both follow-ups (including
Avildsen and Kamen), the sequels are easily able to re-create the
atmosphere of the original film, although only the 1986 picture comes
close to matching its charm. With Miyagi traveling back to Okinawa to
visit his ailing father, Macchio’s Daniel travels with him,
in the usual culture clash and a romance with a young local girl
(Tamlyn Tomita). It's formula but pleasant just the same.
II was a bona-fide smash at
the box-office (grossing $115 million in 1986 dollars is pretty
impressive), but the belated PART
(managing a return of $38 million) disappointed during the summer of
1989, lost in the last, truly "big" movie summer most of us remember
("Batman," "Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade," "Ghostbusters
"Lethal Weapon 2," "Star Trek V," "The Abyss," and "Licence to Kill"
were just a few of the season's high profile movies).
In reality, though, the third go-round is a laughably melodramatic
affair, with its comic book villains (including an over-the-top Thomas
Ian Griffith) and tired plot. And Macchio himself, now five years
removed from the original (okay, so he's a young 27!), seems
ill-at-ease in his surroundings here.
Identical to their previous DVD releases, both KARATE KID II and III
feature solid 1.85 transfers and 2.0 Dolby Surround soundtracks, again
highlighting Bill Conti's enjoyable scores (plus some good, and bad,
'80s pop music like Part II's hit single "The Glory of Love," performed
by Peter Cetera). Trailers for the first two films are included on both
discs, and there's a vintage featurette included on Part II as well.
Though the Daniel-Miyagi formula had pretty much run dry by the time THE
NEXT KARATE KID
was released, this nevertheless engaging 1994 installment is
particularly fascinating now for its casting of young Hilary Swank as a
high school outsider whose parents die in an accident. Her grandfather
was an army buddy of none other than Mr. Miyagi, which leads our sage
martial arts expert to Boston to help her out – and
don’t you just know
there’s a vile gang (at least you know it’s vile
when Michael Ironside
is heading it) spoiling everyone’s high school experience in
Shot on location in Boston and its surrounding suburbs, Christopher
Cain’s sequel is a refreshing change of pace and a big
“Part III.” Swank’s role as an outsider
who comes to appreciate Miyagi
and the martial arts makes for an interesting contrast with her role in
this year’s “Million Dollar Baby.” While
there’s naturally far more
dramatic development in Clint Eastwood’s film, her
performance here is
worthwhile and makes the routine aspects of Mark Lee’s script
Sony’s transfer looks quite good in 1.85 Widescreen (all four
16:9 enhanced) and sounds satisfying in 2.0 Dolby Surround, with Bill
Conti again reprising some of his original themes.
“Next Karate Kid” DVD offered an additional
full-frame transfer and has
been out of print for some time).
At well under $30 a pop, this is a superb anthology package from Sony.
Though fans who only desire the original film may be disappointed that
the Special Edition is only (for the moment at least) available in this
box set, the low price and assortment of supplements on the original
“Kid” makes it a worthwhile package. Wax on, wax
off, and recommended!
New On DVD
CAPTAIN AND THE
WORLD OF TOMORROW
(**, 2004). 106 mins., PG, Paramount. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary
by Kerry Conran and visual FX supervisors; Commentary by producer Jon
Avnet; Hour-long documentary “Brave New World”;
featurette “The Art of
World of Tomorrow”; Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, and
six-minute featurette; gag reel; 1.85 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Pretty pictures do not make a great film, and sadly, Kerry Conran's
ambitious but bland salute to '30s sci-fi matinees is yet another
example of technological advances masking a simplistic and
In a romantic, 1930s NYC, Jude Law is a heroic pilot with Gwyneth
Paltrow as a plucky reporter who uncovers a plot by an evil scientist
to steal away the Earth's energy resources by utilizing huge robots and
other flying contraptions. It's up to the constantly bickering duo to
stop the bad guy from carrying out his nefarious plan, which means
flying around in Law's plane, trying to rescue pal Giovanni Ribisi, and
receiving assistance from Law's one-eyed ex-lover, played by Angelina
Jolie in what basically amounts to a cameo role.
It's a fun idea for a movie packed with homages, but "Sky Captain" is
absolutely bereft of innovation beyond its glossy visual sheen. There's
no character development beyond the quick quips and forced banter
between Law and Paltrow, who's grating and totally miscast here. Just
as disappointing is that -- for all of its visual effects -- there's
ultimately very little action in the film. There's plenty of running
from one location to another, but no major set-pieces after an opening
aerial duel, and what might have been an elaborate battle between Law
and an evil hench-woman played by Bai Ling never materializes.
Visual effects buffs, however, may find plenty of eye candy in
Captain” to cover over the redundant narrative, and in that
Paramount’s DVD is smashing. The 1.85 transfer looks even
the movie did being projected in theaters, with the sepia tones and
stylized visual design of the picture being more striking on the small
screen. The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is likewise excellent, with plenty
of effects to satisfy (alas, if only Edward Shearmur’s
forgettable score was as much fun to listen to).
Conrad based his feature-length “Sky Captain” on a
six-minute short he
produced in 1998, and that original short (which looks nearly identical
to the finished film) is one of the many special features included on
DVD. A two-part documentary, “Brave New World,” is
examining the movie’s fascinating origin as a short to an
albeit independently-produced, feature film funded by Dino
DeLaurentiis’ nephew and, ultimately, Paramount Pictures.
Conran working with the actors against a giant blue-screen backdrop is
actually more interesting than sitting through the movie.
A pair of commentary tracks will provide interest for fans, with Conran
and the visual FX supervisors offering a discussion heavy on the
technical challenges of the picture, while producer Jon Avnet is more
focused on the picture’s funding and distribution. An
featurette, “The Art of World of Tomorrow,”
examines the production
design, while a pair of deleted scenes (one fully completed, the other
in a “mock up” workprint form) and gag reel round
out the disc.
As much as I wanted to like “Sky Captain,” the film
itself – beyond its
visual aspects – is a tedious and highly disappointing
comparison, 1991's “The Rocketeer” paid homage to
adventures with more heart [and story], providing a far superior
entertainment in the process.) Conran's hollow script and lack of
anything remotely interesting aside from its design (which wares off
after a few minutes) ultimately turns "Sky Captain" into a dull,
derivative ride that never takes flight.
New This Week
(**, 2004). 107 mins., PG-13, 2004. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making Of
featurette, “Inside Daytime Talk Shows” featurette;
2.40 Widescreen and
Full-Screen versions, 5.0 Dolby Digital sound.
Brittany Murphy plays an aspiring TV producer who gets a job for a
Jerry Springer-like, New Jersey talk show hostess (Kathy Bates). After
being tutored in the ways of tabloid television by fellow producer
Holly Hunter, Murphy improbably finds herself in the midst of a
conspiracy designed to get her on the show when she discovers the
“little black book” of her hockey agent boyfriend
Soon, her intrigue upon opening the book turns to jealously as Murphy
tracks down all of Livingston’s ex-girlfriends, one of whom
harbors feelings for him.
“Little Black Book” has some good elements in it,
performances from Murphy, Bates and Hunter, who rise above the
sitcom-ish aspects of Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell’s script.
doesn’t work is Livingston’s under-written role,
which might have been
more effective if the film portrayed him as a louse and not a seemingly
nice guy. What’s more, the satirical talk show elements are
easy target that seem a few years out of step, and the ending
confrontation is a prolonged affair that detracts from the few,
charming elements of the picture that do work (such as
fondness for Carly Simon songs).
Columbia TriStar’s DVD includes good-looking widescreen
full-screen transfers, plus a standard Making Of featurette and a look
behind actual talk show series (with interviews with Springer producers
among others). Christophe Beck’s score is by-the-numbers but
just fine in 5.0 Dolby Digital sound.
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