Seat March Mania
NEVERLAND, ISLANDS IN THE STREAM, BEING JULIA, CRIMSON RIVERS 2 and
Johnny Depp has proven to be one of the few actors working today who
can take a variety of roles and successfully embody each and every one
of the diverse characters he plays.
Whether it’s a drug czar in “Blow,” or a
veritable Captain of the Seven
Seas in “Pirates of the Caribbean,”or Ichabod Crane
Hollow,”Depp dives into his various portrayals and, unlike
today’s stars, never comes across as merely playing himself.
Depp’s eloquent, beautifully restrained portrayal of
playwright J.M. Barrie is yet another gem in his canon, and this week
audiences at home get a chance to savor the tenderness of last
superb FINDING NEVERLAND (***½, 2004, 101 mins., PG; Buena
Seat DVD Pick of the Week).
A lost soul whose wife (Radha Mitchell) is a stuffy socialite who
relate to her husband’s creative streak, Barrie’s
world changes when he
strikes a relationship with four father-less boys of widow Kate
Winslet. Finding in them a vibrancy that stirs his writing, Barrie
begins his creation of “Pan” at the same time his
relationship with his
wife falls apart and metropolitan London stirs rumors of his
involvement with Winslet and her children.
Beautifully photographed by Roberto Schaefer, designed by Gemma Jackson
and scored by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, “Finding
Neverland” is a lovely film
less about how “Peter Pan” was made than about
Barrie and the children
whom he essentially adopted as his own. David Magee’s script,
a play by Allan Knee and “inspired” by true events,
introspective picture of a man, his creative process, and the happiness
he ultimately finds not through his stagnant marriage but rather in a
group of children.
The film, directed by Marc Foster, has an enormous amount of moving
sequences and a touching ending that will have you reaching for the
Kleenex, but fortunately not in a sappy melodramatic sense.
Neverland” garners genuine emotion through the performances
cast, particularly Depp, who’s great here, and Julie
Winslet’s domineering, though ultimately sympathetic mother,
the best for her family and believes only she can provide it.
“Finding Neverland” is a film that touches upon a
wealth of subjects,
from the death of a loved one to the birth of the creative process and
the joy of human relationships. Barrie embraced the joy, sadness, and
vitality of life in his work, something that the film captures
magnificently in what was easily one of the finest pictures of last
Miramax’s DVD, out this week, includes a gorgeous 2.35
transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Kaczmarek’s score is
offering an equal dose of whimsy and sheer emotion, though the sound
mix is sometimes a bit pinched, making the dialogue sometimes difficult
Special features include commentary with the filmmakers, a few deleted
secenes and several minutes of outtakes, plus two Making Of featurettes
and a “On The Red Carpet” premiere night segment.
Another film from last year that received acclaim, particularly for its
Oscar-nominated central performance, was BEING JULIA (***, 2004, 104
mins., R; Sony), which also makes its debut on DVD this week.
Annette Bening offers a delicious performance as turn-of-the-century
diva Julia Lambert, a successful stage actress who becomes fatigued
with her daily grind. Despite having a devoted husband managing her
career (Jeremy Irons), Julia strikes up a relationship with a young
American (Shaun Evans) who has quite a fondness for the London stage
star, leading to an affair. Soon, though, Julia tires of her young
charge and faces a challenge from upstart ingenue Lucy Punch,
seeking a role in Julia’s new play.
Ronald Harwood based his script for “Being Julia”
on W. Somerset
Magham’s novel “Theatre,” and Istvan
Szabo’s direction results in a
light, entertaining, intentionally theatrical experience filled with
great performances. Bening relishes her role with aplomb, while Irons,
Bruce Greenwood, Juliet Stevenson, Sheila McCarthy, Miriam Margoyles
and Michael Gambon (as Bening’s deceased director, who
appears as an
apparition) offer strong support.
Sony’s DVD includes a great commentary track with Bening,
Szabo, who discuss filming the picture on location in both Budapest
(for its interiors) and London (exterior work), and the challenge of
adapting Maugham’s work.
Several deleted scenes, a standard Making Of featurette, an outstanding
1.85 widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack round out the
disc. Visually, Lajos Koltai’s warm, vibrant cinematography
movie perfectly, and Mychael Danna’s low-key score lends an
“Being Julia” isn’t a cold, clinical
Merchant-Ivory drama but rather a frothy good time with a great cast.
New on DVD
STREAM (**1/2, 1977). 104 mins., PG, Paramount, available March 29th.
DVD FEATURES: 2.35 Widescreen, 2.0 Dolby Digital sound.
Goldsmith’s beautiful score and Fred Koenekamp’s
cinematography are the
highlights of Franklin J. Schaffner’s uneven 1977 adaptation
Hemingway’s final novel.
George C. Scott plays an artist estranged from his wife and children in
the Caribbean during WWII. His sons later pay a visit to
secluded, beautiful coastal home, leading “Thomas
Hudson” to re-examine
his commitment to family and one of his ex-wives (Claire Bloom), as
well as attempt to help a group of refugees and allude the Cuban Coast
Denne Bart Petitclerc’s script admirably attempts to capture
Hemingway’s prose, though the result is a somewhat
disjointed film that never quite reaches the heights of its
aspirations. The final third is particularly odd, failing to match the
movie’s most eloquent passages in its opening hour.
Nevertheless, “Islands in the Stream” is certainly
worth a view for
Scott’s performance and the aesthetic pleasures
offers: Goldsmith’s score swells like the sea itself,
beautiful pallet of themes, and Koenekamp’s Panavision
lensing of the
picture’s locales results in a movie that improves on repeat
Paramount’s long-awaited DVD offers a crisp, good-looking
in the movie’s full anamorphic aspect ratio. The print looks
to be in
generally healthy condition, though it’s disappointing that
weak theatrical soundtrack wasn’t overhauled for the DVD. The
mono track doesn’t pack much of a presence, failing to do
Goldsmith’s magnificent music.
2: ANGELS OF THE APOCALYPSE (**½, 2003). 99 mins., 2004, R,
March 29th. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: English subtitled with Parisian and
English language tracks; Deleted Scene; Making Of featurette; 5
Behind-the-Scenes featurettes; 2.35 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Routine, though reasonably entertaining, follow-up to the superior
“Crimson Rivers” brings back Jean Reno, here
reprising his role as
tough Paris cop Inspector Niemans.
This time out, Niemans is paired with a young new detective (Benoit
Magimel) as they track down a mysterious, secluded monastery, solve a
group of murders with a decidedly religious bent, and find out that
bad-guy Christopher Lee is planning to take over the world in the
Less serial-killer procedural than a fantastical end-of-the-world tale
crossed up with a typical cop-buddy flick, “Angels of the
was, like its predecessor, written by Luc Besson. Unlike its
predecessor, though, the sequel has none of the creepy atmosphere and
stylish direction that made the original an international hit,
something that could be placed in the lap of director Olivier Dahan.
The film is often routine and uninspired, despite a game effort from
Reno and Lee, who walks into the movie as if he’s The Big
In A French Movie, complete with a tongue-in-cheek introduction and
Colin Towns music that sounds as if you’re watching a Hammer
Though nowhere near as satisfying as the original, “Angels of
Apolcaypse” still works adequately enough if you dial down
expectations and enjoy it as a one-shot viewing experience.
Sony’s DVD, out next week, offers a strong 2.35 transfer with
original French 5.1 track (English subtitled) or a separate, badly
dubbed English language track. Unlike the previous “Crimson
American DVD, the English subtitles are based on the actual French
dialogue and aren’t a basic transcription of the dubbed
Extras include a strip-bar sequence that was deleted from the film, a
standard Making Of featurette and five shorter Behind the Scenes
segments, all subtitled in English.
PROFESSIONALS (***, 1966). 117 mins., PG-13, Sony, available April 5th.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: New Featurettes: “The Professionals: A
“Burt Lancaster: A Portrait,” and
“Memories from The Professionals”;
2.35 Widescreen, New 5.1 Dolby Digital and 3.0 sound.
Richard Brooks’ robust western-adventure may not be held in
high esteem among some viewers as Peckinpah’s “The
Wild Bunch,” yet
“The Professionals” is great entertainment that
finally gets its due in
Columbia’s impressive new Special Edition DVD package.
Due out on April 5th, the fully-restored film looks smashing in
Columbia’s new widescreen transfer, which also includes an
remixed 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, which does full justice to
Maurice Jarre’s strong score. The disc also includes the
3-channel stereo soundtrack (encoded as Dolby Digital 3.0) along with
three brand-new featurettes from veteran DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau.
Offering fresh interviews with authors and surviving cast members like
Claudia Cardinale, the three featurettes (“The Professionals:
Classic,” “Burt Lancaster: A Portrait”,
and “Memories From The
Professionals”) offer a terrific overview of the
and success, and its growing reputation among cinephiles.
As far as the film goes, Brooks’ movies have held up well
years and “The Professionals” is no exception. This
tale of a group of
mercenaries (Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode)
who are recruited by a wealthy oil mogul (Ralph Bellamy) to track down
his missing wife (Claudia Cardinale) south of the border is a nice
bridge between Hollywood’s westerns of the Golden Age and the
violence and “realism” served up by Peckinpah and
(***, 2004). 101 mins., PG-13, Sony. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary
by Stacy Peralta and Paul Crowder; Commentary by Greg Noll, Jeff Clark,
Laird Hamilton and Sam George; Deleted Scenes; Making Of featurette;
Fuel TV special; 1.85 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Documentary filmmaker Stacy Peralta teamed up with Surfer Magazine
editor Sam George in 2003 to produce a visual history of big-wave
surfing. The result was the acclaimed “Riding
Giants,” a highly
entertaining effort that has its own distinct rhyme and rhythm from
other surfing documentaries like “The Endless
Summer” and “Step Into
Peralta’s filmmaking technique is stylish but not overdone,
chronicling the origins of surfing in Hawaii to the breakout mania of
the sport in the days of “Gidget.” However, as
surfing legend Greg Noll
points out, those “Beach Party” flicks were bogus
renditions of the
genuine surfer lifestyle, which Peralta examines through vintage clips,
breathtaking new cinematography, and lengthy interviews. Among the
subjects are Noll, Jeff Clark and Laird Hamilton, who currently
embodies the sport to a new generation of fans, plus Gerry Lopez and
even John Milius, who produced the terrific 1978 surfing epic
Wednesday” (Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack CD still
incidentally, from our FSM store ***BOB LINK TO OUR SCREEN ARCHIVES
Peralta does an exceptional job incorporating history with spectacular
surfing footage and a discussion on the introspective side of one of
our most “soulful” sports. “Riding
Giants,” then, is a great deal of
fun for surfers and novices alike, and Sony’s DVD Special
provides a splendid package on a number of levels.
The 1.85 transfer is exceptionally good, and the 5.1 Dolby Digital
sound is vibrant, but where the disc really shines is in its
supplements. Commentary from Peralta and editor Paul Crowder dissects
their filmmaking process, while those seeking a more history-oriented
discussion can find that in another commentary with Greg Noll, Jeff
Clark, Laird Hamilton and Sam George. A 20-minute Making Of provides a
look at the production while a Fuel TV “Blue
Carpet” special offers a
more promotional 20-minute segment. A full slate of deleted scenes
rounds out a fantastic disc packed with jaw-dropping stories and shots
of surfers holding their own against the gigantic, blue fury of Mother
Nature. Strongly recommended!
DELUXE EDITION (***½, 1986). 90 mins., R, Sony. DVD SPECIAL
Rob Reiner Commentary, Making Of featurette, Music Video, Isolated
Score; 1.85 Widescreen, 2.0 Dolby Digital sound.
Still one of the very best adaptations of a Stephen King work,
Columbia’s new “Deluxe Edition” packaging
of Rob Reiner’s 1986 “Stand
By Me”offers a reprise of the studio’s superb 2002
Special Edition DVD,
along with the popular Atlantic soundtrack CD and a new 32-page booklet.
I’ve always been a big fan of Reiner’s film, which
Raynold Gideon and
Bruce A. Evans adapted from King’s novella “The
coming-of-age ‘50s tale about a group of friends (River
Whteaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell) who go looking
body of a missing neighborhood teen is funny, touching, and an ideal
examination of a boy’s journey into manhood. Reiner was able
superb performances out of his young ensemble, punctuated by equally
strong work by other young leads like Kiefer Sutherland (terrifying as
the film’s heavy) and John Cusack (in flashbacks as
brother). Narrating the later-imitated film is Richard Dreyfuss, who
came in after Reiner wanted to re-shoot scenes involving the original
narrator, and also following a variety of actors who unsuccessfully
tested for voice-over work. The resulting film is a memorable,
entertaining and endlessly repeatable viewing experience (at only 90
minutes “Stand By Me” never wears out its welcome).
Columbia’s 2002 Special Edition DVD included
“Walking the Tracks,” a
then-brand new documentary on the making of the picture, incorporating
interviews with Reiner, Dreyfuss, Wheaton, O’Connell, Feldman
Sutherland (a few months prior to his breakout, career-reviving role on
“24"). They speak about the tragic death of fellow star River
and naturally offer their vivid recollections of making
“Stand By Me.”
Reiner also contributes an informative commentary track, while a 2.0
Dolby Stereo track includes Jack Nitzsche’s low-key,
and a music video of Ben E. King’s classic title tune rounds
disc. The 1.85 transfer and 2.0 Dolby Surround tracks are both fine.
New to this “Deluxe Edition” release is a
full-color booklet offering
photos and brief bios of the cast and filmmakers from the original
press-kit, along with a brief “2005 post-script”
for each. The original
soundtrack CD – comprised only of eight ‘50s pop
hits – is also
included with new packaging on its exterior, housed within the DVD case.
ROBIN: THE COMPLETE MOVIE SERIAL (1949). 261 mins., Sony Pictures Home
Entertainment. DVD FEATURES: Original black-and-white full-screen,
Dolby Digital mono.
With “Batman Begins” poised to be one of the big
summer movies of 2005,
it’s no surprise that we’ll soon be a seeing a
plethora of vintage Dark
Knight releases popping up prior to its release.
Case in point is this highly entertaining 1949 serial starring Robert
Lowery as the Caped Crusader and John Duncan as Robin – the
screen appearance of the DC Comics heroes, out this week on DVD for the
first time from Sony.
As a serial, this Columbia production offers decent production value
and looks as good as any you’ll find on DVD.
Batman’s costume may look
a bit ragged and the Batmobile appears to approach mind-altering speeds
of perhaps 35-45 m.p.h., but viewers will still be able to enjoy the
late ‘40s fun of seeing Batman & Robin chase down a
guy (The Wizard) who wants to use his magnetic gizmo to take control of
all Gotham City automobiles. (No, it doesn’t sound like the
end of the
world, but back then it sure was close!). Even Vicky Vale (Jane Adams)
is in on the action, trying to court Bruce Wayne and uncover the true
identity of Batman at the same time.
Sony’s two-disc DVD set includes all 15 episodes of
“Batman and Robin,”
each in extremely good condition. If you own any old-time movie serials
on DVD, you’re likely aware that most look godawful since
through the cracks and into the public domain. Not so with
Robin,” which remains a Columbia property and looks as
vibrant as any
serial you’ll see on DVD. The mono sound is fine and the
packaging also satisfying, managing to be stylish and yet in keeping
with the movie’s serial roots. Recommended!
OF THE PHOENIX (**½, 2004, 117 mins., PG-13; Fox):
Box-office disappointment from last Christmas attempted to update the
old Jimmy Stewart vehicle for today’s generation. The
resulting film is
an inoffensive, forgettable action vehicle with Dennis Quaid, Miranda
Otto, Hugh Laurie, and Giovanni Ribisi stranded in the middle of the
Mongolian desert after their plane goes down. The film is predictable
but, fortunately, less schizophrenically directed than helmer John
Moore’s last outing (the obnoxious “Behind Enemy
Lines”), and the
performances are strong. Two thumbs down, however, for the
tired use of old pop tunes, which are used to perk up Marco
unmemorable score. Fox’s DVD offers a strong 2.35 transfer
DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks, along with commentary, a few
deleted/extended scenes, and Making Of featurettes. No classic, but an
agreeable enough time-killer just the same.
SHORTY: Collector’s Edition (***, 1995, 105 mins., R; MGM):
Special Edition re-packaging of the 1995 Elmore Leonard adaptation
offers new supplements and bonus features, plus a free ticket to the
current (and lamentably inferior) sequel “Be Cool.”
stylish and highly entertaining ensemble piece, a funny look at
movie-making and the mob, offers spirited performances from John
Travolta (continuing his career resurgence after “Pulp
Hackman (as a downtrodden director), Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis
Farina and James Gandolfini. MGM’s two-disc Special Edition
commentary from Sonnenfeld, three featurettes plus the deleted
“Graveyard Scene,” outtakes, a party reel, a Bravo
Making Of segment, a
look at “Be Cool,” a remastered high-definition
transfer and both 5.1
DTS and Dolby Digital sound.
JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON (**, 2005, 108 mins., R; Universal): The
second time around isn’t the charm for Helen
Fielding’s British heroine
in this forgettable sequel. Renee Zellweger gives her all again as the
pudgy reporter, once again conflicted between lawyer-boyfriend Colin
Firth and playboy Hugh Grant. The script, credited to four different
scribes (including Fielding and Richard Curtis), is a rambling wreck of
romantic passages, slapstick comedy and drama, and needless to say
doesn’t work nearly as well as its predecessor.
What’s more, Grant’s
not on screen nearly enough here to off-set the disjointed script,
though Adrian Biddle’s cinematography and Beeban
both give the movie a colorful, glossy sheen. Universal’s DVD
an alternate opening and several deleted scenes, including a lengthy,
fully shot and scored seven-minute segment that explains the uneven
tone of the film’s second half. Additional featurettes round
package, which offers a superb 2.40 transfer with bouncy 5.1 Dolby
Digital sound, containing an endless cornucopia of pop tunes and score
by Harry Gregson-Williams.
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