Aisle Seat March Madness!
Reviews From HAWAII FIVE-0 to PETER PAN
Plus: The Aisle Seat Begins Blogging!
Spring is nearly here, fellow readers, and to celebrate we’re
kicking off March Madness with the introduction of our Aisle Seat Blog
-- which you can now find at dursin.blogspot.com
-- or via the link under the banner.
March typically brings with it a good array of big-ticket new titles,
and while our wrap-up of the latest releases follows below, the Aisle
Seat Blog will include up-to-date release information as it comes into
our offices as well as additional musings and thoughts of the day.
Join us here -- and there -- as things begin to heat up at last at the movies and on DVD as well!
Fox March: New Releases, Catalog Titles & More!
It’s a good month for Fox catalog titles as several new entries
join the studio’s “Cinema Classics” line.
Mark Rydell’s CINDERELLA LIBERTY (***, 1973, 116 mins., R; Fox)
is a flavorful character study of a sailor (James Caan) who falls for a
troubled call girl (Marsha Mason) while on an extended "Liberty" pass.
Darryl Ponicsan adapted his novel for this 1973 Fox production, which
Rydell vividly shot in Panavision on authentic Seattle, Washington
locales. “Cinderella Liberty” is dated in some ways,
particularly in its now-improbable ending, but the performances of
Caan, Mason, and Kirk Calloway as Mason’s 11-year-old son are
terrific and the infectious John Williams soundtrack -- punctuated by
vocals from lyricist Paul Williams and harmonica by Toots Thielemans,
whom Williams would later collaborate so memorably with on “The
Sugarland Express” -- is one of the film’s chief assets.
Fox’s DVD includes a dynamite, spotless 16:9 (2.35) transfer with
stereo and mono 2.0 soundtracks and a good array of supplements.
Included among the latter are a new commentary from Rydell, a vintage
on-set promo reel, the theatrical trailer, and an isolated score track
(in mono) that's erroneously labeled as a music/FX track on the back
Fox went into the summer of ‘77 thinking THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT (**, 166 mins., R; Fox)
be its top ticket, relegating a little movie named “Star
Wars” to secondary status on the studio’s promotional
radar. What they got instead was a glossy bad movie that has attained a
certain level of affection among “Golden Turkey” fans -- an
adaptation of Sydney Sheldon’s novel by screenwriters Herman
Raucher (“The Winds of War”) and Daniel Taradash, following
a tawdry WWII-era triangle between pilot John Beck (terrible), a French
femme fatale (Marie-France Pisier), and Beck’s American wife
Aside from Michel Legrand’s dreamy, beautiful score (CD re-issue,
anyone?), there’s not much going on in “The Other Side of
Midnight”: the movie’s plastic, 1.85 framed cinematography
betrays its expensive budget, while director Charles Jarrott does
little to enhance the already DOA performances by two of its three
leads (at least Sarandon survived to act another day).
Still, bad movie aficionados will soak up this long-overdue (?) DVD
edition of the film, which includes a sturdy 16:9 (1.85) transfer,
stereo and mono soundtracks, and a Laurent Bouzereau commentary, which
includes interviews with Jarrott, Sheldon, and producer Frank Yablans.
The original trailer is also on-hand.
Also new from Fox this week:
JOHN AND MARY (**½, 92 mins., 1969, PG; Fox):
So-so late ‘60s romantic drama charts the relationship between
Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow, who meet at a singles bar and then
dissect what it all means the next day in Peter Yates’
good-looking widescreen feature. Fox’s DVD includes a superb 16:9
(2.35) transfer, 2.0 stereo and mono sound, and photo galleries.
MICHAEL SHAYNE MYSTERIES, Volume One (Four-Film Set, Fox):
Lloyd Nolan starred as Brett Halliday’s detective in a series of
early ‘40s noir thrillers for Fox. Volume One sports
“Michael Shayne, Private Detective”; “The Man Who
Wouldn’t Die”; “Sleepers West”; and
“Blue, White and Perfect,” all restored with new
featurettes that should please Golden Age mystery fans.
THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY FILM COLLECTION (Five-Film Set, Fox):
top-notch Golden Age retrospective from Fox finds the studio
anthologizing their various adaptations of Hemingway novels:
“Adventures of a Young Man,” “A Farewell to
Arms,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” “The Sun
Also Rises,” and “Under My Skin.” Various bonus
features are also on-hand, including commentary tracks (on
“Kilimanjaro,” “Young Man,” and “Under My
Skin”) and new featurettes with historians and producers alike.
REVENGE OF THE NERDS: The Atomic Wedgie Collection (Four-Film Set, Fox):
The recent remake might have been cancelled by the studio, but
“Nerds” fans ought to love this terrific box-set
highlighted by the new, “Panty Raid” edition of the
original “Nerds” (complete with deleted scenes, commentary
and a 35-minute documentary). Also on-hand: a
hideous, videotaped 1991 Fox pilot with Rob “Mr. Belvedere”
Stone and Robbie Rist (aka Cousin Oliver from “The Brady
Bunch”), plus the various “Nerd” sequels: the
terrible 1987 “Nerds in Paradise” (also known as the only
time my mom walked my friends and I out of a movie!), and the amiable
1992 and ‘94 Fox TV-movies “Nerds III” and
“IV,” which were scripted by the original’s writers,
Steve Zacharias and Jeff Buhai. Good fun for all nostalgic ‘80s
teen movie fans!
THE FULL MONTY: 2-Disc Fully Exposed Edition (**½, 92 mins., 1997, R; Fox):
I found the popular British comedy to be a bit overrated, but fans
ought to enjoy this feature-packed, double-disc set that includes
commentaries, deleted scenes, a full slate of documentary featurettes,
and even the original, unexpurgated British audio track. 5.1 DTS and
Dolby Digital tracks are on-hand along with a new 16:9 transfer.
THE PRETENDER Movie Edition (2-Film Set, 182 mins., Fox):
cult-favorite NBC series finished up with a pair of 2001 TV movies,
here presented on DVD in their original (full-screen/widescreen,
respectively) aspect ratios with 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo sound. A must
for “Pretender” fans.
CHRISTY: The Complete Series (1994-95, 907 mins., Fox):
Nicely produced, period family series with Kellie Martin and Tyne Daly
comes to DVD in a four-disc set from Fox. No extras are on-hand.
STARGATE ATLANTIS: Season Two (2005-06, 872 mins., Fox):
Two of the popular cable series spin-off sports commentary on every
episode, 1.78 widescreen transfers, 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks,
photo galleries and Making Of featurettes.
GARFIELD & FRIENDS: AN ODE TO ODIE (120 mins., Fox):
Several episodes of the entertaining “Garfield &
Friends” series are compiled in this Odie-centric, single disc
compilation from Fox. Cute but only for “Garfield” fans who
haven’t splurged for Fox’s individual series box-sets.
New From Paramount
Four major new TV on DVD box sets highlight Paramount’s March slate of DVD releases.
Top of the list for fans of classic TV are The Complete First Season of HAWAII FIVE-0 (1968-69, 21 hrs.)
and the Complete Second Season of THE WILD WILD WEST (1966-67, 24 hrs.).
The latter boasts the Robert Conrad-Ross Martin western-fantasy’s
second season of 28 full-color episodes on seven discs, with
mostly-spotless transfers and clear mono soundtracks. Even if the box
lacks the superlative extras that the series’ first DVD release
offered (making that set one of the all-time finest TV-on-DVD
releases), fans ought to be highly satisfied with Paramount’s
sophomore effort regardless.
Making its debut on DVD is the first season of the long-long-long
running action-crime drama “Hawaii Five-0,” which debuted
on CBS in the fall of 1968. Jack Lord starred as the irrepressible
Steve McGarrett, who’s joined by “Dan-O” Williams
(James MacArthur) on the beat as they tracked down local Hawaiian
criminals as well as the nefarious mastermind “Wo Fat.”
With its Morton Stevens soundtrack, colorful locales and taut action,
“Hawaii Five-O” quickly established a formula that would
carry it all the way through its final season in 1980 -- making it one
of TV’s longest-running series in the process. This first season
of the program offers a feature-length pilot movie (with Nancy Kwan and
Leslie Nielsen) plus 23 other entertaining episodes, presented here in
crisp, warm transfers courtesy of Paramount. The set isn’t packed
with supplements but does offer “Emme’s Island Moments:
Memories of Hawaii Five-O,” a 1996 local Hawaiian TV special which
includes Emme Tomimbang and MacArthur reminiscing about the series.
Highly recommended to all “Five-0" addicts!
Also making its inaugural appearance on DVD is the relatively short-lived but certainly fondly-remembered ABC comedy BOSOM BUDDIES (1980-81, 8 hrs., Paramount),
which boasted Tom Hanks and future “Newhart” star Peter
Scolari as a pair of young professionals, tossed out of their condemned
apartment, who find a new place to live -- in a women’s hotel,
necessitating some very “Some Like It Hot” shenanigans!
While “Bosom Buddies” only ran for two seasons, the series
has remained in the public eye due to various cable airings and the
very appearance of Hanks, here fine-tuning his comedic skills in a
somewhat pedestrian but at least amiable series which co-starred Wendie
Jo Sperber and Donna Dixon.
Paramount’s three-disc set includes all 19 first-season episodes
of “Bosom Buddies,” including the banged-up pilot (shot on
film) as well as its subsequent episodes, which were recorded on video
tape. The image quality does vary and some music was changed for the DVD
-- including the theme song, which was originally Billy Joel’s
“My Life” during its initial network run. Not wanting to
pay Joel’s surely-exorbitant fees, the theme was switched to an
original Stephanie Mills song written by the series’ composers,
Dan Foliart and Howard Pearl, during its USA network run, and that
theme has been retained here. However, it’s possible there are
other edits during the episodes, as a disclaimer on the back jacket
indicates “some music has been changed and some episodes may be
edited from their original network versions.”
There’s certainly nothing edited in the Second Season of the acclaimed Showtime series SLEEPER CELL (2006, 445 mins.),
which continues the adventures of FBI undercover agent Darwyn (Michael
Ealy), sent to infiltrate a terrorist cell lead by an extremist
portrayed effectively by “Mummy” star Oded Fehr. Season two
of “Sleeper Cell” offers three featurettes and cast bios,
as well as 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks. If you
enjoyed the series’ first season, it goes without saying that
viewers will be compelled to follow the story throughout the
program’s second slate of eight episodes.
Finally, we round out Paramount’s new releases with the COMEDY CENTRAL ROAST OF WILLIAM SHATNER (80 mins., 2006),
which carts out the usual suspects (Andy Dick, Kevin Pollak, Fred
Willard) with “Star Trek” vets (Nichelle Nichols, George
Takei) for a pleasing send-up of “The Shat.”
Now that Shatner has taken himself less seriously, some of the ribbing
isn’t as funny as it might have been 10, even 20 years ago, but
fans ought to enjoy some of the comedic nuggets, and Pollak’s
Shatner impersonation remains the strongest I’ve ever seen.
Paramount’s DVD runs 20 minutes longer than the broadcast version
and boasts a disclaimer that music has been altered for its video
of my first laserdisc review assignments (back when I was in college)
was analyzing Criterion’s presentation of the Kon Ichikawa
Japanese cinema classic THE BURMESE HARP (****, 1956, 116 mins.).
This moving, understated tale of a Japanese soldier in WWII who
masquerades as a monk following his troop’s surrender to the
British is beautifully shot by Ichikawa, tracing his
protagonist’s spiritual transformation into the very embodiment
of religious enlightenment that he initially only disguises himself as.
Now on DVD, Criterion has improved upon their initial laser release by
offering a high-definition, restored digital (full-frame transfer) with
new subtitles; video interviews with Ichikawa and star Rentaro Mikuni;
the original trailer; and an essay from historian Tony Rayns.
If you’re looking to familiarize yourself with Japanese cinema
“The Burmese Harp” is a splendid place to start and is
still one of my favorite foreign films, which Criterion has
magnificently preserved here on DVD.
Also new from the Collection this month is Ichikawa’s FIRES ON THE PLAIN (***½, 1959, 104 mins.),
serves as a fascinating companion piece to “The Burmese
Harp,” charting a Japanese soldier trying to survive the hell of
war in a foreign Philippine jungle.
More graphic in its portrayal of the horrors of warfare, “Fires
on the Plain” is a grizzly yet compelling film, spectacularly
filmed by Ichikawa, this time in full widescreen (2.35). The movie is
certainly more violent than “The Burmese Harp” but is
redemptive in its own way, and Criterion’s DVD edition celebrates
another milestone in Japanese cinema by including a video introduction
from historian Donald Richie; a video piece with Ichikawa and actor
Mickey Curtis; and an essay from critic Chuck Stephens.
Finally Criterion has tapped into one of filmmaker Jules Dassin’s most acclaimed works, THE NAKED CITY (***½, 1948, 96 mins.),
to round out their slate of March releases.
This famous noir thriller follows detective Barry Fitzgerald as he
probes the homicide of a model; the story may be relatively basic but
the execution on the part of Dassin is anything but, with “The
Naked City” using its flavorful NYC backdrops to paint a portrait
of a metropolis at the same time it tells an atmospheric narrative
years ahead of its time.
Criterion’s DVD includes commentary from writer Malvin Wald; an
analysis of the film’s locations by author James Sanders; the
trailer; and a restored, crisp new transfer. Highly recommended!
New Releases From Universal
STEVE MARTIN: The Wild And Crazy
Comedy Collection (3-Film Set; Universal):
compilation DVDs have always been an appealing treat for movie buffs
(the “Airport,” “Abbott & Costello” and “American Graffiti”
anthologies among them), and this new, double-disc set offers a trio of
Steve Martin’s earliest starring vehicles for the studio: director Carl
Reiner’s 1979 favorite “The Jerk” plus their fun 1982 collaboration
“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” scored by Miklos Rozsa, as well as the
1984 box-office disappointment “The Lonely Guy,” with music by Jerry
Goldsmith. “The Jerk” is presented in its recent “26th Anniversary
Edition” release (with a 16:9 transfer and slim supplements), but
Martin-philes will be excited to learn that “Dead Men” and “Lonely Guy”
have been exclusively remastered for this set. Both titles (previously
available in non-anamorphic DVDs) look nifty in new 16:9 enhanced
transfers, while extras include the original trailers. Those upgrades
alone make this set worth the while for Martin fanatics.
RETURN (**½, 86 mins., 2006, PG-13; Rogue/Universal):
Gellar didn’t exactly stretch her acting chops in this low-key
semi-supernatural thriller, but surprisingly, “The Return” is a good
deal more effective than its tepid commercial response would indicate.
Gellar plays a lonely young woman who returns home to her rural Texas
town, only to find herself living out the existence of someone else.
Director Asif Kapadia and writer Adam Sussman have fashioned a moody,
slow-moving film that’s more of a mystery than a horror film, leading
to a few shocks and a pleasingly ambiguous finale. Universal’s DVD
offers up some deleted scenes, a Making Of featurette, and an alternate
ending that strays too far in a direction the finished film only hints
at. The 16:9 (2.35) transfer is excellent and the effective score by
Dario Marianelli is likewise a cut-above the norm for this sort of film.
GO TO PRISON (**, 90 mins., 2006, Unrated; Universal):
wacky comedy is rough around the edges but manages to score enough
intermittent laughs to make it worth a rental (especially if you’ve got
a free one). Dax Shepard plays a recently-released ex-con who wants
revenge on the judge who started his life of jail time; Will Arnett is
the judge’s son, whom Shepard manages to frame, sending him to prison
along with Shepard himself. Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner produced this
nutty comedy, which co-stars Chi McBride as a Chuck Mangione-loving
inmate who enjoys making Merlot out of “toilet wine.” Universal’s DVD
includes both an unrated version and the movie’s R-rated theatrical
cut, plus deleted scenes and a terrible alternate ending. The 16:9
(1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack are both acceptable,
and be sure to check out the feature on the movie’s score by Alan
Elliott, which offers a top-notch R&B ensemble performing the
MAN OF THE YEAR (**, 2006, 115 mins., PG-13;
As a talk show host who opts to put his money where his
mouth is and run for the Presidency, Robin Williams manages to score a
few chuckles in “Man of the Year,” director Barry Levinson’s bizarre
meditation on talk radio, modern politics and the media. Laura Linney,
Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken and Lewis Black lend able support,
but the film is wildly uneven, particularly in its final third where it
takes an utterly absurd turn into the thriller genre! Universal’s DVD
includes a pair of Making Of featurettes, a 16:9 (2.35) transfer and
5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Also New On DVD
PETER PAN: 2-Disc Platinum Edition (***½, 1953, 77 mins., Disney):
One of Walt’s bona-fide ‘50s classics, “Peter
Pan” is back on DVD in a full-blown restored edition packed with
More than just a remastered transfer is on-hand here, as Disney
performed what they’re calling a painstaking restoration of the
1953 animated feature; the result is an exceptionally clear, crisp
image backed with an all-new 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack that enhances
the film’s audio (purists can still select the original
theatrical soundtrack, which has likewise been restored).
For extras, this DVD is on-par with previous Disney Limited
“Platinum” sets: an alternate opening is shown in
storyboard form, while deleted scenes (including “The Pirate
Song”), commentary by Roy Disney, a new documentary (“You
Can Fly”), interactive games for kids and archival comments from
Walt himself, reflecting on the production, make for a must-have
release for all Disney fans.
DECOYS: THE SECOND SEDUCTION (*½, 2007, 94 mins., R; Sony):
Disappointing follow-up to the 2004 small-screen genre effort is sadly
a cheapjack affair. Cory Sevier is back, having magically survived the
twist ending of the original, only to find that more extraterrestrial
menace -- in the form of buxom college girls -- continues to lurk all
around him. The first “Decoys” was a bouncy, well-produced
B-movie, but this sequel is desperation city all the way, from its
meager production values to the pedestrian script. Even fans of the
original will be disappointed. Sony’s DVD, out this week,
includes 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, a 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby
EDDIE MURPHY: DELIRIOUS (70 mins., 1983, Entertainment Studios/Starz):
Eddie Murphy was near the height of his popularity when he filmed this
raunchy, exuberant concert film in Washington, D.C. during the summer
of ‘83. Riffing on loads of politically incorrect subjects,
Murphy is hysterical and so alive here that you can only feel a bit of
disappointment that so much of his career went off-track just a few
years later. The Starz Home Entertainment DVD includes backstage
footage and a new interview with Murphy, making this a fine
presentation for one of the best stand-up concerts you’ll ever
JUSTICE LEAGE UNLIMITED: Season 2 (2003, 299 mins.)
BATMAN BEYOND: Season 3 (2001, 273 mins.)
BABY LOONEY TUNES: Puddle Olympics (2006, 88 mins.)
LOONATICS UNLEASHED: Season 1 (2006, 271 mins., Warner)
A new batch of Warner animated releases are headed your way this month on DVD.
“Justice League Unlimited” and “Batman Beyond”
both finish up their series’ runs on DVD, respectively, with the
second season of the JLU (which would be back for another year, but
with a new roster of characters and different talent behind the scenes)
and the third year of the futuristic Dark Knight series making their
way onto disc March 20th.
Special features include a wealth of extras on JLU, from Mark Hamill
and the show’s creative personnel discussing Hamill’s
character and story arc; a music-only track for the final episode,
“Destroyer”; and a discussion by series writers, producers
and directors on their favorite moments. The widescreen transfers
(non-anamorphic widescreen) are just fine.
“Batman Beyond,” meanwhile, offers a panel discussion of
the series’ final year from its creative talent, plus
“favorite moment” retrospectives and comments from voice
actor Will Friedle. The full-screen transfers are also perfectly
Last but not least are a pair of “New Wave” Looney
Tunes-centric releases for younger viewers: the toddler-friendly
“Baby Looney Tunes,” which includes a handful of episodes
from the series and sing-along-songs, and the bizarre, futuristic
“Loonatics Unleashed,” which traces the descendants of the
original Looney Tunes gang in the year 2772, who end up nabbing
super-powers and take on criminals voiced by the likes of Tim Curry,
Michael Clark Duncan and Florence Henderson (!). Innocuous and strange,
but I suppose kids too young for the other Warner super-hero cartoons
might enjoy it.