4/1/08 Edition -- The New AISLE SEAT BLOG Is Also Live

April Assault Edition

High-definition fans disappointed so far in the lack of “classic” catalog content available on Blu-Ray might be heartened to learn that our United Kingdom friends are eagerly expecting a wave of BD-exclusives this June.

ITV has lined up a series of catalog titles for Blu-Ray release including “Black Narcissus,” “The Boys From Brazil,” “Bugsy Malone,” “Escape To Athena,” and “Great Expectations” (likely the Laurence Olivier version).

Specs have yet to be determined, and keep in mind ITV issued several Blu-Ray discs a year ago with threadbare production qualities (“The Company of Wolves,” “Capricorn One,” and “The Eagle Has Landed”), so hopefully the company will enhance their pacakges, as those first wave of BD titles didn’t include high-resolution audio or any supplements.

That said it’s still an exciting development, and almost certainly these discs will be able to be played on U.S. players (ITV’s earlier discs did). Interested viewers are urged to check out Amazon UK for importing purposes (consolidating several titles in one order will save you on shipping, while the VAT is also removed for U.S. orders).

All titles are slated to hit stores June 16th, and we’ll keep you updated in the interim with any developments.

New on Blu-Ray

THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN: Blu-Ray (***, 127 mins., 1989, PG; Sony): Terry Gilliam’s follow-up to “Brazil” was this final entry in his loose “trilogy” of fantasies, begun in 1981's “Time Bandits” and continued in Gilliam’s controversial 1985 Orwellian semi-spoof.

The 1988 “Baron Munchausen” is a highly uneven, gargantuan production that remains as interesting for its turbulent off-camera problems -- namely, a budget that spiraled hugely out of control, signaling Gilliam’s now-infamous inability to manage productions of this magnitude -- as it is for the eclectic content that did end up on-screen.

John Neville stars as the title character, an aging aristocrat who spins a succession of yarns in a war-torn European city during the late 18th century. The Baron’s fanciful tales take him and his gang (including Eric Idle and a young Sarah Polley) to the moon, where they meet a delusional king (an unbilled Robin Williams), to underneath the earth’s surface where King Vulcan (Oliver Reed) feuds with his gorgeous wife Venus (a young and incredibly attractive Uma Thurman), and finally back to the “present” and a huge battle with the Turkish army.

I hadn't seen the film since its original release until the other day and it's as odd as I recall: marked by some great portions, some interminably weird passages, some funny parts, several bizarre moments...a schizophrenic piece that's not nearly as satisfying as “Time Bandits” but it's still quite watchable for what does work -- namely, the lush sets of Dante Ferretti, Gabriella Pescucci’s costumes, Guiseppe Rotunno’s cinematography and, in terms of set pieces, the Baron’s meeting with Uma, making one of her earliest screen performances. Those aspects tend to battle with the more self-indulgent elements of Gilliam’s film, including Robin Williams’ prolonged and bizarre cameo (can you believe Sean Connery was initially cast in the part?), and even Michael Kamen’s score, which has some gloriously romantic passages and equally obnoxious ones as well (the Sultan’s songs, anyone?).

It’s a mixed bag -- with a strange ending too -- but Gilliam’s film is packed with so much memorable imagery and the occasional chuckle that “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” offers ample entertainment in spite of -- and occasionally because of -- its excesses.

Sony’s Blu-Ray edition (also on DVD) is a new Special Edition celebrating the film’s 20th Anniversary. The movie was one of the costliest flops of its day, once intended to be produced for just over $20 million but ultimately made at a price tag more than double that -- and with a minuscule box-office return that still likely designates it as one of the biggest money losers of the last several decades.

With that kind of reputation it’s no surprise that the disc’s new documentary -- “The Madness and Misadventures of Munchausen” -- offers a detailed account of the movie’s crazed production. If you’re a Gilliam fan or have seen the superb documentary “Lost in La Mancha,” you’re likely aware that Gilliam’s abundant imagination doesn’t always gibe with the hard reality of production costs and common sense.

The 72-minute doc (presented in three parts) attempts to offer an objective account of what went so horribly wrong behind-the-scenes, with Gilliam assessing blame on a number of different parties, most notably producer Thomas Schuhly, changes in the regime of Columbia Pictures (which bankrolled the movie under David Putnam’s command), and a succession of completion bond companies. Schuhly is quick to point out that he wasn’t the bad guy, while even Gilliam’s cohort Eric Idle describes working on the film as an utterly horrible experience. One gets the sense that the truth behind the problems lies somewhere in the middle of the “blame game,” particularly since Gilliam would run into similar issues later on in his career as well.

Either way, it’s an absorbing account of the picture’s shoot, with co-writer Charles McKeown, Idle, Neville, co-stars Sarah Polley, Robin Williams, Jonathan Pryce, and others also on-hand to discuss the picture’s production.

A new commentary with Gilliam and McKeown, storyboards with narration from the duo, and an on-screen trivia track (offering snazzy “enhanced graphics” with all kinds of production anecdotes) are also offered, plus deleted scenes from the Criterion laserdisc release from way back when.

The Dolby TrueHD audio gives the soundtrack a broad, effective stage to utilize Kamen’s score and the various sound effects, but the visual presentation proves to be a disappointment.

There's loads of grain and visible "ringing" noise at times early in the film (especially when the Idle character wakes up from taking a nap and runs fast to get back to his cohorts). Colors rarely “pop” the way you might’ve thought the film would have in high-definition, while some sections barely look superior to upconverted standard-def DVD due to the persistent grain. Overall, is the best the film has ever looked? Sure, but considering how many great catalog titles we've seen in HD spread across both platforms, the Blu-Ray “Munchausen” transfer leaves a good deal to be desired -- making it the lone letdown on otherwise highly recommended release.

THE WATER HORSE: Blu-Ray (***, 112 mins., 2007, PG; Sony): Old-fashioned, charming tale of the real Loch Ness Monster makes for a beautifully filmed adaptation of the book by “Babe” author Dick-King Smith.

Alex Etel plays Angus, a young boy living in Scotland during WWII, waiting for his long-lost father to return home from his tour of duty, who comes across an odd-looking egg along the shores of the Loch. Soon the egg hatches into a small, young aquatic creature whom Angus raises, at the same time the military arrives to defend the countryside from a possible German invasion. Complicating matters is their presence in Angus’ home, including a tough sergeant (David Morrissey) who tries to woo Angus’ mom (Emily Watson), and an initially-gruff but ultimately sympathetic soldier (Ben Chaplin) scarred from his time in the service.

Robert Nelson Jacobs’ script and Jay Russell’s direction are leisurely and effective, allowing for the story to take its time developing, and for viewers to grow attached to its characters. The gorgeous locales (most of the film was shot in New Zealand with only some location shooting in Scotland) are well captured by cinematographer Oliver Stapleton, and the film manages to be sensitive without being saccharine, making for an ideal family film.

“The Water Horse” doesn’t offer many surprises -- Brian Cox essays a narrator whose identity you can pretty much figure out the second he appears -- and the ending is also a little bit abrupt. After the amount of time the filmmakers spent developing the characters and their relationships with one another, it’s disappointing we don’t get to see what happened to them, as the film quickly flashes ahead to the present day and the film’s coda instead.

Yet the picture deserves kudos for its sincerity and genuine warmth, making it that rare modern film for kids that isn’t mired in sarcasm or bathroom jokes. A modest performer in theaters, “The Water Horse” now has an excellent chance to find the widespread audience it deserves on DVD and Blu-Ray disc.

Speaking of the latter, “The Water Horse” looks spectacular in HD. The Blu-Ray’s 1080p transfer and Dolby TrueHD audio presentation are reference-quality, while a decent assortment of extras include deleted scenes, several featurettes, and a neat interactive “Virtual Crusoe Game” where you raise a water horse from infancy. The game saves data to your Blu-Ray player’s internal memory, allowing for players to come back and start from a saved file a later point.


STEEP: Blu-Ray (***, 89 mins., 2007, PG-13; Sony): Exciting, breathtakingly filmed documentary about extreme skiers, who take to the summits of some of the steepest peaks possible in literally death-defying runs. A generous mix of archival and gorgeous high-definition footage make for a fine effort from first-time director Mark Obenhaus, even if some of the comments from the various participants come off as a little much when they begin to dissect the greater “meaning” of their accomplishments. Sony’s Blu Ray disc is spectacular, capturing the majesty and daunting physical surroundings perfectly in 1080p, while Dolby TrueHD audio sports a fine original score by Anton Sanko. Commentary, additional interviews and a chronicle on how the film was shot comprise the disc’s supplemental package.

HIDALGO: Blu-Ray (***, 136 mins., 2004, PG-13; Buena Vista): Rousing, deliberately old- fashioned adventure epic stars Viggo Mortensen as cowboy Frank T. Hopkins, who travels with his horse Hidalgo to the Arabian Desert, where the legendary "Ocean of Fire" race awaits. Joe Johnston's adventure is a bit overlong, but John Fusco's script knows its genre, Mortensen is superb, and the special effects and action mix well throughout the course of the film. James Newton Howard also deserves kudos for his stirring score, which ranks as one of his best, in an underrated film that reaches Blu-Ray in a smashing 1080p transfer from Buena Vista. The visuals are tremendous, the uncompressed PCM sound is excellent, and extras ported over from the standard DVD include a behind-the-scenes examination of the film’s F/X as well as a profile of the real Hidalgo.

UNBREAKABLE: Blu-Ray (*½, 102 mins., 2000, PG-13; Buena Vista): I’ve received a few emails over the years from readers who happen to be huge fans of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable,” usually telling me they couldn’t disagree with my review more and also that I don’t read enough comic books.

Well, I definitely plead guilty to the latter, and I did attempt to give this 2000 Shyamalan follow-up to his “Sixth Sense” triumph a fresh assessment now that Buena Vista is issuing the film on Blu-Ray. Regrettably for said fans, I still found the picture enormously plodding -- even in high-definition.

Bruce Willis, looking like he needs a gallon of coffee, gives a sleep-inducing performance in this utterly inane paean to graphic novels from Shyamalan. Without rehashing the film's plot (which bites off far more than it can chew), Willis plays the last survivor of a train wreck who comic-book guru Samuel L. Jackson believes is really a super-hero. Willis's estranged wife, Robin Wright-Penn (in another ineffective role), tries to reconcile her relationship with Bruno while the security guard goes about finding out if he indeed is as strong as the Man of Steel.

Shyamalan had a bigger budget at his disposal here than he did in “The Sixth Sense” but retains many of the same cinematic techniques that he brought to his last picture: long, slow takes, frequently whispered dialogue, and an insistence on silence that does, at least, make his films suitable for home viewing.

The problem here is that “Unbreakable”’s characters are so stilted and one-dimensional that it's hard to care, ultimately, where this picture goes. The movie is slow, sterile, even ponderous at times, with a pretentious tone that's hard to comprehend since the story, in the end, has nothing to be pretentious about.

The performances are dependent on Shyamalan's script, but unlike "The Sixth Sense," the director gives none of the actors much to work with. Willis' sleepy performance is one of his weakest in quite some time, while Jackson and Wright-Penn struggle with thinly-drawn figures that are simply pawns in the writer-director's "puzzle." And that, in the end, is where the movie fails the most. While the film's incredibly rushed, lame ending reminded me of the end of a made-for-TV feature (complete with tacked-on subtitles that threaten to fly up the screen a la "A Quinn Martin Production!"), it's the story that precedes it that fails to ignite the imagination of the viewer.

Shyamalan pulled the plug on future sequels to “Unbreakable” but sadly has spent the better part of the last decade trying to recover from similar cinematic blunders; after a brief return to form with “Signs,” Shyamalan proved to be a one-trick pony again with flops like “The Village” and especially “Lady in the Water.”

While his latest (“The Happening”) is due out this summer, Shyamalan and “Unbreakable” fans will at least be satisfied with Buena Vista’s Blu-Ray presentation of “Unbreakable.” The 1080p frame and uncompressed PCM 5.1 sound are both exceptional, while a full run of extras have been ported over (in standard definition) from previous DVD editions, including deleted scenes, Making Of featurettes and other goodies.

COYOTE UGLY: Blu-Ray (**½, 107 mins., 2000, Unrated and PG-13; Buena Vista): Piper Perabo stars as a small-town New Jersey gal who moves to NYC to strike it rich as a singer in this slick Jerry Bruckheimer production that became a modest hit in the summer of 2000.

This inoffensive, slickly-made and sometimes entertaining "Flashdance" variant benefits from solid chemistry between the likeable Perabo and co-star Adam Garcia, plus a throbbing Trevor Horn/Diane Warren soundtrack. Unfortunately, after hooking viewers with a strong opening hour, the movie all but evaporates as it nears its badly-assembled, obviously reshot ending.

Touchstone's Blu-Ray edition boasts a stylish 1080p transfer with 5.1 uncompressed PCM sound. The disc includes both the PG-13 and Unrated versions of the movie with two different commentaries (one for each version), additional scenes, the trailer, featurettes and LeeAnn Rimes’ “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” music video also on-hand.

THE NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF/VEGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES: Blu-Ray (1980 and 1972, 90 mins each., R and unrated): Euro horror fans should rejoice as BCI’s new Blu-Ray Double Feature set includes pristine, surprisingly fresh 1080p transfers of a pair of Paul Naschy favorites: his 1980 horror-fest “The Night of the Werewolf” (El Retorno Del Hombre Lobo) shot on-location in Spain, as well as the odd, crazy 1972 effort “Vengeance of the Zombies” (La Rebellion de Las Muertas). Both films are presented on their own single-layer Blu-Ray releases with 5.1 Dolby Digital audio and a slew of extras including deleted scenes, multiple audio tracks, still galleries, an introduction from Naschy, vintage audio material and numerous other goodies for fans. Visually the 1080p transfer on both movies is superb, with “Werewolf” presented in 1.85 widescreen and “Vengeance” presented in 1.33 (still full HD with black bars on the side of the frame).

New on DVD

SWEENEY TODD (***½, 116 mins., 2007, R; Dreamworks): Spellbinding adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical from director Tim Burton proves to be a bit more graphic and less humorous than its source material.

Johnny Depp is superb as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, who returns to his grimy London home to seek vengeance on the magistrate (Alan Rickman) who imprisoned him, taking his wife and young daughter in the process. Helena Bonham Carter is the unhinged Mrs. Lovett, whose floundering pie shop proves to give Todd -- the former Benjamin Barker -- a “unique” means of disposing of those who stand in his way.

With a few musical exceptions (the opening and closing “Ballad of Sweeney Todd” has been reduced to an orchestral overture), the film is faithful to the show and stylishly assembled with the creative input of Burton’s creative team (cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, production designer Dante Ferretti, costume designer Colleen Atwood). Depp’s singing voice matches the intensity of his performance, and he’s well complimented by Bonham Carter, even if her performance is more psychotic than prior stage renderings by Angela Lansbury among others. The supporting cast is likewise exceptional, with Rickman turning in strong work as the villainous Judge, Timothy Spall as his cohort, and Sacha Baron Cohen in a highly amusing turn as the fraudulent hairdresser Adolfo Pirelli.

The subject matter is perfect for Burton’s cinematic sensibilities, though it’s somewhat surprising that the show’s black humor has been toned down while the violence and gore have been raised up several notches. Some of the latter is due to the very nature of the cinematic medium, yet I couldn’t help but think a less graphic interpretation wouldn’t have served the picture more effectively, as the gore can be off-putting to mainstream audiences (and likely might’ve been the reason for the film’s somewhat disappointing box-office in-take).

That said, “Sweeney Todd” is still a symphony of great filmmaking and one of the finest cinematic musicals to come our way in many years.

Paramount is issuing “Sweeney Todd” on DVD in a pair of different incarnations, including a 2-Disc Special Edition (sadly, since the death of HD-DVD no high-definition version is planned at this time; Warner Bros., on the other hand, will be issuing a Blu-Ray version for certain overseas markets in May).

Extras are ample, including a number of featurettes examining the production from its origins, with copious interviews with Sondheim, Burton, and the stars on-hand. The trailer and a look at the actual historical events that formed the basis for the Todd legend round out the package, while the film is presented in a somewhat grainy 16:9 (1.85) transfer with a strong 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (**½, 158 mins., 2007, R; Paramount): Pretentious, self-indulgent film from Paul Thomas Anderson did manage to garner a Best Actor Oscar for its star, Daniel Day-Lewis, though the film itself offers few pleasures beyond the actor’s flamboyant lead performance.

Loosely adapting Upton Sinclair’s book “Oil!,” Anderson’s dark take on the “American Dream” is set in 1898 and finds Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, a conniving oil man who buys a California property after being tipped off by one of the owner’s sons. His twin brother (both roles are played by Paul Dano), an aspiring preacher, forces Plainview’s hand and raises the rate on his purchase, leading to both successes and personal tragedies, including his “adopted” son H.W. being injured in an accident and a man claiming to be his brother (Kevin J. O’Connor) appearing out of nowhere.

Robert Elswit’s cinematography is grand and Anderson does manage to capture the look and feel of an epic throughout “There Will Be Blood.” That said, the film is unbearably slow-moving and one-dimensional; it doesn’t take long before you realize Anderson is telling us that a) greedy entrepreneurs are evil, b) bad parenting is a sin, and c) men of the cloth seeking their own fame are likewise to be avoided. These themes are hammered home over and over with little dramatic development, making the film essentially 158 minutes of “The Daniel Day-Lewis Show.” And, make no mistake, the actor has a grand time here chewing up the scenery in an overpowering performance that finally reaches its apex in the now oft-quoted “Milkshake” sequence that concludes the film. It’s not exactly satisfying from a serious dramatic angle, but it certainly is entertaining, and one can see viewers hitting the “skip” button on their remotes just to watch the last 10 minutes. The rest of the film I could take or leave, and truthfully I found it to be one of the more over-rated films of last year.

Paramount’s double-disc DVD does boast a superb 16:9 (2.35) transfer with a likewise excellent 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix. The sound design is exceptional though the one-note score by Jonny Greenwood becomes a thorn in the picture’s side as the film progresses, drawing attention to itself without adding any extra layers to the drama.

Supplements include “The Story of Petroleum,” a silent film scored by Greenwood, and exactly 31 minutes of extras, including a 15 minute montage of pictures and vintage films used as research, underscored by Greenwood’s music; the teaser and original trailer; and some deleted segments from the picture, including an outtake dubbed “Dailies Gone Wild.”

HD fans should note that Buena Vista, which distributes the film in some international markets, will be issuing a Blu-Ray version in said territories sometime during the summer, as the planned domestic HD-DVD release was scrapped.

New TV on DVD

Shout! Factory brings us some classic television when the First Season of FATHER KNOWS BEST (1954-55, 11 hours) finally reaches DVD this week.

This Robert Young series was one of the earliest prototypes for the family sitcom -- offering the trials and tribulations of the Anderson family, lead by their stalwart insurance salesman pop (Young) and levelheaded mom (Jane Wyatt), who together faced the daily problems of mid ‘50s American life with their three children, including eldest daughter Betty (Elinor Donahue), middle child Bud (Billy Gray) and young Kathy (Lauren Chapin).

The series was wholesome, often quite funny and perfectly cast, running for nearly six years and over 200 episodes before Young ended it while it was still a top ratings-grabber at the time. It’s easy to knock the series for its portrayal of a “flawless” American suburban family, but the truth is that the series holds up due to its sincerity, honest humor and appealing performances across the board.

Shout Factory’s DVD set, produced in conjunction with Robert Young’s family and the trust of producer Eugene Rodney (the duo owned the show’s rights), is superb. The episodes appear to be in excellent shape and new cast interviews, rare behind-the-scenes color footage, fragments of Young’s home movies, and two extra episodes (the pilot for Young’s subsequent series “Window on Main Street” and the “special” episode, “24 Hours in Tyrantland,” produced for the U.S. government) comprise a robust supplemental section.

Flash-forwarding ahead several decades, recent sci-fi revivals of old TV shows have proven to be a mixed bag. For every “Battlestar Galactica” there’s been a BIONIC WOMAN (2007, aprx. 6 hours; Universal), a failed NBC attempt to “reimagine” the Lindsay Wagner show as a harder-edged futuristic drama.

British actress Michelle Ryan came stateside to play the new Jamie Sommers, a bartender in charge of her teenage sister, who becomes “enhanced” after nearly dying in an accident. Recruited by a shadowy semi-government agency overseen by top dog Miguel Ferrer, Jamie finds herself trying to balance domestic issues with globe-trotting adventures and the occasional run-in with the agency’s first Bionic Woman -- played by “Battlestar”’s Katee Sackhoff -- who’s basically gone haywire.

Admittedly, there are problems with this “Bionic Woman” -- the overly serious tone and lack of appealing supporting players was one major obstacle, the writer’s strike being another since the show never got the opportunity to correct its initial mistakes (a new group of producers was brought onboard to try and lighten the tone, but apparently the series was canned before those episodes were produced).

That said, the series isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation would lead you to believe. Ryan is fetching despite her character’s inherent lack of warmth, and the show comes alive whenever Sackhoff appears to brawl with her bionic counterpart. The show seemed to be going in a better direction once the groundwork was laid for an interesting backstory involving Sackhoff’s character and her relationship with Ryan, but alas, we’ll never get to see the series make good on those alterations.

Universal’s “Volume One” DVD release includes all eight episodes of the new “Bionic Woman,” though it could’ve just as easily been deemed a “Complete Series” since no other shows were produced (and none are planned). For extras,  a pilot commentary with producer David Eick and several featurettes are on-hand, along with excellent 16:9 (1.78) transfers and 5.1 audio tracks.

Sackhoff fans can also get their fill of Starbuck in the Complete Season 3 of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2007-08, 16 hrs.), which also has been newly released on DVD by Universal.

These 20 episodes from the acclaimed and top-rated Sci-Fi Channel series are intense and throughly compelling, and Universal’s DVD presentation is likewise satisfying. The 16:9 (1.78) transfers are excellent, the 5.1 soundtracks packed with appropriate surround atmosphere, and numerous extras are likewise satisfying: deleted scenes, podcast commentaries, producer video blogs, and short “webisode” featurettes are on tap here, plus an episode commentary and -- the most substantive element for fans -- 25 minutes of extra footage added to the episode “Unfinished Business.”

As with the prior volumes, highly recommended!

New From Criterion

Allen Baron’s BLAST OF SILENCE (77 mins., 1961) is the latest film to join the Criterion Collection this month.

Director Baron spent the majority of his career turning out weekly TV episodes for shows like “The Brady Bunch,” “Kolchak, The Night Stalker” and “Charlie’s Angels,” but in 1961 directed this ragged and fascinating film noir. Narrated by Lionel Stander (with Baron’s own script here receiving an uncredited assist from Waldo Salt), “Blast of Silence” tells the story of a hit man from Cleveland (Baron himself) who is hired to take down a mafia boss in Manhattan. In the process Baron’s hired killer begins to rethink his existence, especially after he runs into some old friends while walking around New York City at Christmas time.

Produced by Universal-International and sold as a low-grade B-effort, “Blast of Silence” is somewhat crudely filmed and not particularly well acted. The soundtrack is likewise a little amateurish, comprised of jazz and heavy-handed orchestral passages, but it’s the setting that provides the most fascination here. Baron captures the locations, people and buildings of a by-gone Big Apple throughout, making for a fascinating portrait of the city in the late ‘50s as well as a different kind of film noir.

Criterion’s DVD offers a newly restored digital transfer (in full-frame 1.33) as well as a “Making Of” segment, on-set Polaroids, photos of the movie’s shooting locations today, plus a booklet offering an essay from critic Terrence Rafferty and a four-page graphic novel adaptation of the movie by artist Sean Phillips.

Also New on DVD

THE BETTE DAVIS COLLECTION (Fox Box Set, Available April 8th): Superior, essential new box-set release from Fox offers three previously unavailable Bette Davis classics on DVD for the first time in the U.S. as well as two all-new Special Editions of “All About Eve” and “Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”

Making their debut on DVD are the 1952 drama “Phone Call From a Stranger,” presented here with trailers and numerous photo galleries, as well as a mono audio track and full-screen black-and-white transfer; the full-color, 1955 Cinemascope epic “The Virgin Queen,” with Davis as Queen Elizabeth I, offered in glorious 16:9 (2.55) widescreen with 4.0 stereo sound, an isolated score track of Franz Waxman’s marvelous music, trailers, TV spots, galleries, and a “Virgin Territory” Making Of featurette; and the 1965 Hammer psychological thriller “The Nanny,” screened here in a new 16:9 (1.85) transfer with mono sound, trailers, TV spots, and numerous still galleries.

Previously available on DVD but packaged here as part of Fox’s “Cinema Classics” line of Special Editions is “All About Eve,” the 1950 Best Picture Oscar-winner, presented in a double-disc set offering all new supplemental content, including an isolated score track of Alfred Newman’s soundtrack, commentary from Celeste Holm, director Joseph Mankiewicz’s son Christopher, biographer Ken Griest; another commentary with author Sam Staggs; and a full second platter of extras, including numerous featurettes, the AMC “Backstory” profile of the film, trailers, and a handful of Fox Movietone newsreels. The full-screen black-and-white transfer seems exceptionally fresh for its time, while both mono and stereo soundtracks are included on the audio side.

Lastly, rounding out the set is a new edition of “Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” most notably offering a fresh featurette that includes stills of Joan Crawford working on the picture before she quit the production. Another featurette includes an interview with Bruce Dern, while an isolated score track is on-hand for Frank DeVol’s music, plus trailers, still galleries, and a vintage promo featurette narrated by co-star Joseph Cotten. The 16:9 (1.85) transfer is just fine and both stereo and mono soundtracks are included on the disc (note the DVD drops the commentary by “DVD Savant” author Glenn Erickson from its prior release).

Overall this is a must-have release for all Golden Age fans, with three new-to-DVD offerings and two classics being upgraded with all-new supplements. Highly recommended!

IN THE NAME OF THE KING (**, 127 mins., 2007, PG-13; Fox): Absolutely bonkers (and thus quite enjoyable for bad movie fans) fantasy-adventure from video-game film auteur Uwe Boll mixes “Braveheart,” “Lord of the Rings” and nearly every sword-and-sorcery spectacle you can imagine. Jason Statham is the hero called to avenge his son’s death and take on a wizard (Ray Liotta!) trying to take over the kingdom; Leelee Sobieski, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken, Matthew Lillard, John Rhys-Davies and Ron Perlman are a few of the co-stars who pop up in this entertaining hodge-podge of styles, which will likely go down as Boll’s “Citizen Kane.” Fox’s DVD includes a fine 16:9 (2.35) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, deleted and extended scenes, the trailer, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

ALIEN NATION: ULTIMATE MOVIE COLLECTION (1994-97, 455 mins., Fox): Fans of the Fox sci-fi series will be thrilled by this three-disc DVD release on April 15th, offering all five “follow-up” tele-films produced in the wake of the show’s cancellation. “Dark Horizon” (1994), “Body and Soul” (1995), “Millennium” (1996), “The Enemy Within” (1996), and “The Udara Legacy” (1997) are here presented in their original full-screen stereo broadcasts, with commentaries on all five films, four Making Of featurettes, a series retrospective featurette, still galleries, a gag reel and more rounding out the presentation.

THE CUTTING EDGE: CHASING THE DREAM (92 mins., 2008, PG-13; MGM/Fox): So-so second made-for-TV sequel to the infinitely more charming 1992 romantic comedy with D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly mixes up the formula a little bit, here with a Francia Raisa as a female hockey player who teams up with a championship figure skater (Matt Lanter) to go for the gold...and of course fall in love along the way. Christy (Carlson) Romano reprises her role from the prior effort as Jackie Dorsey, giving the movie a little continuity with its predecessor, but it’s still a pale imitation of the original, even under the direction of veteran director Stuart Gillard. MGM’s DVD includes a 16:9 (1.78) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, deleted scenes, and one Making Of featurette.

THE CHIPMUNK ADVENTURE (***, 1987, 76 mins., G, Paramount): Robustly-animated and quite well-done 1987 feature adaptation of the beloved cartoon characters is a definite step up from the usual Saturday morning “Chipmunk” cartoons.

Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and wife Janice Karman’s feature sends Alvin, Simon and Theodore around the world on in a hot-air balloon, where they take on a pair of diamond smugglers with the help of the “Chipettes” while buddy Dave Seville is off on a trip to Europe.

Randy Edelman provided one of his earliest film scores for “The Chipmunk Adventure” (following his then-recent work on “MacGyver”), and the soundtrack is bouncy and light, peppered with some rockin’ ‘80s tunes and a couple of original compositions from Edelman. In all, “The Chipmunk Adventure” is delightful and better than average, and recommended strongly for fans and family audiences.

Paramount’s DVD is a repackaging of the film’s 2006 disc release (with a satisfying full-screen transfer, effective 5.1 track and a few stills of art as a special feature) with one major exception: it also houses a copy of the film’s CD soundtrack, which offers all of the movie’s ample songs and one cut from Edelman’s score.

Also new from Paramount is ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS GO TO THE MOVIES: FUNNY, WE SHRUNK THE ADULTS (66 mins., 1990), a compilation of episodes from the gang’s Saturday morning series that satirize “Back to the Future,” “Big,” and “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” among others. The full-screen transfer and stereo sound are both up to par.

COLLEGE HILL INTERNS (210 mins., 2007; Paramount): BET reality series focuses on a group of college students who get a hands-on work experience at a Fortune 500 company. Paramount’s two-disc set includes full-screen transfers, Dolby Stereo sound, a cast audition and reject reel, and a bonus featurette on the second disc.

SOUTHLAND TALES (**, 144 mins., 2007, R; Sony): Nutty follow-up to “Donnie Darko” from filmmaker Richard Kelly sat on the shelf for some time after its initial festival screenings proved to be less than receptive. Eventually re-cut but barely released to theaters, “Southland Tales” now arrives on DVD as one of the weirdest films of our generation, boasting a cast filled with past and present action stars (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Christopher Lambert), past and present Saturday Night Live performers (Nora Dunn, Jon Lovitz, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler), various music stars (Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore), assorted other comic actors (Kevin Smith, John Larroquette, Wallace Shawn), plus Sarah Michelle Gellar and one of the guys (Seann William Scott) from “American Pie.” -- in a dual role, no less! Despite the eclectic cast, none of it makes any sense at all, and good luck to the cult that devoured “Darko” as a post-modern masterpiece in trying to do the same with this oddball effort, which Sony has issued on DVD with a fine 16:9 (2.40) widescreen transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, a featurette and an animated short.

EYE OF THE BEAST (90 mins., 2007, Not Rated; Genius): Not a sequel to the Peter Benchley “Beast” mini-series per se, though you’d have to imagine the thought did occur to the makers of this 2006 made-for-TV film from the Halmi group. James Van Der Beek plays a scientist sent to investigate the appearance of a giant sea monster that looks a lot like the giant squid from Benchley’s book. Moderate thrills make for a decent small-screen affair, presented in 16:9 widescreen with 2.0 stereo sound.

I WANT SOMEONE TO EAT CHEESE WITH (80 mins., 2007, Not Rated; IFC/Weinstein/Genius): Comic actor Jeff Garlin wrote and directed this affable study of an actor who looking for love and attempting to lose weight. Bonnie Hunt, Sarah Silverman, Richard Kind, Joey Slotnick, Paul Mazursky, and Richard Kind pop up in this mildly engaging comedy that IFC is bringing to DVD with commentary by Garlin and a deleted scene, plus a 16:9 transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

NEXT TIME: ALIENS VS PREDATOR - REQIUEM! 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 email address.  Cheers everyone!

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