May Day Edition!
SERAPHIM FALLS, THE HITCHER, HD-DVD and Blu Ray Discs
Plus: Tyrone Power Swashbuckles Again!
May is here, folks! Time to do some spring cleaning (tell me about it)
and get ready to hit the movie theaters at last with the beginning of
the Summer Movie Season in just a few days with “Spider-Man
3.” No doubt that it’s a good time to be a movie buff, and
while the big-screen will be heating up, so too are the amount of DVD,
HD-DVD and Blu Ray discs looming on the horizon.
Our latest Aisle Seat round-up follows below, with titles ranging from
Tyrone Power classics to WWII gems and the latest TV on DVD box sets.
Read on, and don’t forget to join us at the Aisle Seat Message
Board for a discussion of the latest films, news, sports and whatever
else is on your mind. Cheers everyone!
Aisle Seat DVD Pick of the Week
(***, 2006). 112 mins., R, Sony. DVD FEATURES: Commentary; Making Of
featurette; 16:9 (2.35) Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Available
exciting western with gorgeous John Toll cinematography went criminally
un-seen in limited theatrical play dates, despite the presence of stars
Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan in a film produced by Mel
Gibson’s Icon Productions.
Shortly after the Civil War, Brosnan plays a former Union captain
trying to elude Neeson’s Confederate pursuer, for reasons that
become clear as the film progresses. Director David Von Ancken and
co-writer Abby Everett Jacques have fashioned a basic tale of
retribution, revenge and ultimately redemption, as Neeson tracks
Brosnan through a cavalcade of old west standbys (missionaries, bank
robbers, homesteaders, etc.) in vivid, scenic Oregon and New Mexico
One of the intriguing elements about “Seraphim Falls” is
how it makes the viewer identify with Brosnan’s character through
its first half, and then with Neeson’s initially-cold blooded
pursuer in its second. The movie culminates in a surreal finale with
Anjelica Huston and Wes Studi appearing in ambiguous roles, yet still
provides a satisfying finish (albeit with supernatural overtones) to a
first-class production all the way around, capped by a Harry
Gregson-Williams score that represents its composer’s strongest
work to date.
Sony’s DVD contains an outstanding 16:9 (2.35) transfer with 5.1
Dolby Digital sound, and two extras: commentary with Von Ancken,
Brosnan and production designer Michael Hanan, as well as a standard
Making Of featurette.
Violent but fascinating, “Seraphim Falls” is exactly the
kind of film that home video was built for. Hopefully the movie will
now find the audience that never really had a chance to see it the
first time around.
New HD-DVD Titles
DREAMGIRLS: HD-DVD Edition (**½, 130 mins., 2006, PG-13; Paramount):
Bill Condon’s big, brassy adaptation of the popular Henry
Krieger-Tom Eyen Broadway musical is a mixed, but moderately
entertaining, assembly of musical numbers (some dazzling, many others
forgettable), a somewhat vacuous story, and uneven performances.
takes the rise and fall of the Supremes and turns it into a fictional
account of a ‘60s musical group (Beyonce Knowles, Anika Noni
Rose, and Jennifer Hudson) that hits the big-time, only to endure the
usual fall-out seen in most showbiz rags-to-riches tales; Jamie Foxx,
meanwhile, essays the group’s calculating promoter and Eddie
Murphy is the manic superstar who takes them under his wing.
Condon wrote and directed the screen version of
“Dreamgirls,” which is oddly paced as a sort of
“performance musical” in its first half with songs
performed primarily over montages and during concert sequences, and
then turns into more of a standard genre piece in its second half with
numbers being sung “outwardly,” substituting for dialogue.
The shift is a little jarring, and Condon can only do so much to
enhance the superficial source material, which served on the stage as a
showcase for its original stars, including Jennifer Holliday.
Here, though, Beyonce Knowles fails completely to take hold of the
screen the way Holliday did on stage, despite taking the showy central
leading role. Beyonce’s surprising lack of charisma leaves a hole
at the center of “Dreamgirls,” but solid work from Murphy
and the vocals of Hudson (who earned a Supporting Actress Oscar for her
role of Effie, though I didn’t entirely buy her affected
performance) keeps you watching.
“Dreamgirls” isn’t as satisfying as Rob
Marshall’s recent adaptation of “Chicago,” but
neither was the original show it was based upon. Musical fans will
still find enough to enjoy here, despite its drawbacks, through its
visuals and evocation of time and place.
Paramount’s double-disc HD-DVD edition of
“Dreamgirls” sports some 12 extended musical numbers (cut
down for the movie), a music video, full-length documentary, auditions
and screen tests. The HD transfer (2.35) is dynamic, as is the 5.1
Dolby Digital Plus sound, which is sure to give your subwoofer a
THE HITCHER: HD-DVD Edition (*½, 84 mins., 2007, R; Universal):
Putrid remake of the 1986 Rutger Hauer-C. Thomas Howell cult favorite
manages to throw away everything that made Eric Red’s original
version compelling, opting for obvious, cliched shock sequences,
cardboard characters, and a thoroughly pedestrian script instead.
Sean Bean might have made for a decent Hauer replacement had Jake Wade
Wall (soiling yet another genre fave after his hideous “When a
Stranger Calls” remake) and Eric Bernt’s script crafted a
character that actually resembled the original “John
Ryder,” but like everything else in the new
“Hitcher,” the movie rolls snake eyes in terms of
Instead of the psychological battle between Hauer and Howell, the
remake adds a female protagonist (Sophia Bush) who turns out to be the
one that does battle with Bean in a tiresome, endless climax, but
there’s no resonance in this retelling. Red’s original
script was a fascinating battle of wits between a mad man and an
initially meek college student; director Dave Meyers’
stylishly-looking but vapid remake strips away all the nuance and,
subsequently, we get a empty-headed teen slasher in its place with
nothing but splatter to satisfy the most hard-core gore fan.
Universal’s HD-DVD release looks fantastic, however. The VC-1
encoded transfer (2.35) is filled with detail, even though the movie
was shot in producer Michael Bay’s trademark filter-filled,
grain-enhanced visual manner. The Dolby Digital Plus sound is also
effective, and extras include over 20 minutes of deleted scenes, a
(somewhat) alternate ending, a Making Of segment, and
“U-Control” picture-in-picture vignettes that pop up on an
optional visual track. It’s a great presentation of a tepid, and
totally unnecessary, remake. (A standard-definition version is
available on the disc's flip side).
THE GOOD SHEPHERD: HD-DVD Edition (**½, 168 mins., 2006, R; Universal):
Robert DeNiro directed this long, probing look into the life of Edward
Wilson (Matt Damon), a Yale student recruited by the Office of
Strategic Services and eventually becomes a major player in the CIA.
Eric Roth’s script matches DeNiro’s ambitions with crafting
a lengthy examination of a man who sacrifices personal happiness for
what he believes to be the betterment of the U.S.A., but the point is
taken early and often, and the movie feels lethargic and tedious in
spite of first-class performances: Damon is fine in a role that’s
difficult to find sympathetic, while an excellent supporting cast
(Angelina Jolie, DeNiro, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, even Keir
Dullea) makes the picture endurable, if still disappointing.
Universal’s HD-DVD edition looks stellar (2.35 widescreen) and
packs a decent punch on the audio end (5.1 Dolby Digital Plus), though
extras are limited to 16 minutes of deleted scenes and
“U-Drive” interactive features, which crop up infrequently
via an optional on-screen prompt and offer various featurettes on the
production of the film. (A standard-definition version is available on
the disc's flip side).
SMOKIN’ ACES: HD-DVD Edition (*½, 108 mins., 2007, R; Universal):
Joe Carnahan’s loud, obnoxious action “comedy”
isn’t very funny or particularly exciting, either. Mob informant
Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) is ratting out mafia
secrets to the feds, leading a who’s who of assassins (Ben
Affleck, Alicia Keys among them) and a pair of FBI agents (Ray Liotta,
Ryan Reynolds) onto his trail. Carnahan’s first movie after
quitting “Mission: Impossible III” is a weird film that was
misleadingly marketed as having a lot of comedic, Tarantino-esque
elements, when it fact the finished product is actually pretty heavy on
the melodrama. As if to compensate for a story that’s never very
interesting, Carnahan also throws in a big “twist” at the
end that’s less than satisfying as well, and the various
performances do little to put this rambling mess on-track.
Universal’s dynamic HD-DVD presentation does sport a razor-sharp
2.35 (VC-1 encoded) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus sound; 18
minutes of deleted scenes; and Making Of featurettes, some of which are
triggered while selecting the studio’s effective
“U-Control” picture-in-picture option.
THE JERK: HD-DVD Edition (***, 94 mins., 1979, R; Universal):
Steve Martin’s box-office breakthrough is still one of his
funniest vehicles some 28 years later (was it really released that long
ago?), with the star essaying Navin Johnson, the adopted white son of a
black farming family, who hits the road hoping to make it on his own.
Martin, Carl Gottlieb and Michael Elias’ script offers an
abundance of gags, while Carl Reiner (helming the first of several
Martin vehicles) utilizes his sage comic timing to craft an
occasionally uproarious film that made a fortune in theaters and
remains a viewer favorite. Universal’s HD-DVD edition is a
noticeable upgrade on the standard-definition version, offering a new
HD transfer in the 1.85 aspect ratio with 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus sound.
The supplements are reprieved from the last “Special
Edition” version of “The Jerk,” offering only the
trailer and a “Lost Filmstrips of Father Carlos Las Vegas De
Cordova” featurette (we’ll have to wait to see the extra
scenes from the TV version at another point). The upgraded transfer
makes this well worth it for HD-owning Martin aficionados!
ALPHA DOG: HD-DVD Edition (**½, 118 mins., 2007, R; Universal):
Nick Cassavetes wrote and directed this fictionalized account of the
life of Jesse James Hollywood, an L.A. drug dealer who became the
youngest man ever to make the FBI’s most wanted list. Ben Foster,
Emile Hirsch, Christopher Marquette, Anton Yelchin, Justin Timberlake,
Sharon Stone and Bruce Willis all give strong performances in this
sometimes-harrowing account of suburban L.A. kids, growing up without
effective parenting, whose lives come tumbling down. Somewhat
predictable but nevertheless compelling, particularly due to the
performances, “Alpha Dog” arrives on HD-DVD this week in an
excellent VC-1 (2.35) encoded transfer with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby
Digital Plus sound. Extras include a Making Of featurette and
interactive U-Control “Witness Timeline.”
New Blu Ray Discs
THE QUEEN: Blu Ray Edition (***½, 103 mins., 2006, PG-13; Buena Vista):
Helen Mirren’s Oscar-winning performance as Queen Elizabeth II
lifts this Stephen Frears film from being merely entertaining to
something more substantial. As a portrait of a woman who opens up
following a tragic circumstance (here, the death of Princess Diana),
“The Queen” is a witty, human character study. Writer Peter
Morgan’s script follows the relationship between the Queen and
Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) after that event and questions the point of
the British monarchy and how far removed -- albeit well-intentioned --
the Queen is from her own subjects. “The Queen” isn’t
particularly revolutionary, but the performances of Mirren and Sheen
propel the material into an actor’s showcase, and those who
missed the theatrical release most undoubtedly should check out Buena
Vista’s Blu Ray disc. The high-definition transfer is generally
leaps and bounds above the standard-definition DVD, though it’s
curious how most of the sequences with Tony Blair talking to his staff
or his family are much grainier than the rest of the film. Like the
regular release, the Blu Ray disc also sports two commentary tracks
(one with Fears and Morgan, the other with Royal authority Robert
Lacey), and a Making Of featurette. The uncompressed 5.1 Dolby Digital
sound is just what you’d anticipate from this kind of film, with
Alexandre Desplat’s low-key score suiting the material properly.
DEJA VU: Blu Ray Edition (**, 126 mins., 2006, PG-13; Buena Vista):
Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and star Denzel Washington have
worked their magic before, but their streak at the box-office ran out
with this silly, tedious thriller. Washington plays a cop investigating
a New Orleans ferry explosion who finds out the government can alter
time to attempt to set things straight. Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel and
Bruce Greenwood lead a strong supporting cast in a slickly-made but
jumbled, incoherent film that’s far from the best work of any of
the talent involved. Buena Vista’s Blu Ray DVD does an excellent
job at offering the same supplements as the regular DVD edition,
including deleted and extended scenes and a number of featurettes,
while adding a gorgeous high-definition transfer and uncompressed 5.1
Dolby Digital soundtrack.
CATCH AND RELEASE: Blu Ray Edition (**½, 112 mins., 2006, PG-13; Sony):
Jennifer Garner single-handedly carries this soapy, light drama-edy
about a young woman whose fiancee has died, leading her to move in with
her male best friends (Kevin Smith, Sam Jaeger, Timothy Olyphant), and
finding new love with one of them (I’ll tell you this --
it’s not Kevin Smith). Susannah Grant’s credits include
screenwriting work on “Ever After” and “Erin
Brockovich” among others, and she makes her feature directorial
debut here, in a movie that most critics found trite and audiences
stayed away from earlier this year. In reality, “Catch and
Release” isn’t at all bad, though the film does feel
disjointed and jarringly shifts tone at times. That said, Garner is
appealing and the movie has enough satisfying elements going for it
that it ought to make for a decent rental for the dating crowd at
least. Sony’s Blu Ray release (out May 8) includes deleted
scenes, audition footage, a Making Of featurette, and a pair of
commentaries, one with Grant and cinematographer John Lindley, the
other with Grant and Kevin Smith. The high-definition transfer is
crystal clear and 5.1 Dolby Digital PCM audio is offered on the audio
side. The BT-Tommy Stinson score is unobtrusive and pleasant.
CLOSER: Blu Ray
Edition (**½, 104 mins., 2004, R; Sony, available May 22):
Patrick Marber adapted his stage play for this appropriately
“stagy” four-character piece from director Mike Nichols.
Jude Law is a London obituary writer who runs into American stripper
Natalie Portman. They fall in love, but Law soon falls for photographer
Julia Roberts, who later becomes married to obnoxious doctor Clive Owen
(actually that description could apply to any of the characters). Law
then breaks up with Portman, Roberts dumps Owen (who also engages in
the occasional, graphic sex chat online with Law), and each one of the
characters struggles to find the proper balance between sex, love and
Director Nichols uses London locales and a quiet, introspective
soundtrack to nice effect, yet regardless of his efforts – or
that of the cast, who are uniformly excellent –
“Closer” doesn’t really work as a cinematic
experience. The dialogue, staging, and story can’t escape their
origins on the stage, and as such, its “theatrical”
elements come off as being forced and pretentious when captured on
screen. None of the characters are appealing and the movie feels
clinical and cold, which -- while likely being part of its point -- are
I’m guessing only amplified by seeing the work filmed as opposed
to being performed live.
Nevertheless, “Closer” is worth a look due to its
performances, particularly by Portman in a role (deservedly nominated
for an Oscar) that confirms her status as one of the finest young
actresses working today.
Sony’s Blu Ray release contains an effective new high-definition
transfer that better replicates the film’s moody cinematography
than the standard definition release. The uncompressed 5.1 Dolby
Digital soundtrack is fine, but this isn’t a film your audio
receiver will be pushed to the limits on in the first place. As with
the prior DVD release (which was a Superbit title), only a music video
is offered on the supplemental side.
Fox Classics and New Releases
Fans of Golden Age cinema have been eagerly anticipating Fox’s
latest collection of vintage titles, highlighted by the superb,
five-disc TYRONE POWER COLLECTION.
This reasonably priced anthology sports five Power epics in new transfers and many with fresh supplements.
Leading the charge is the 1947 Darryl F. Zanuck/Technicolor classic “Captain From Castile,”
presented with a remarkably clear isolated score of Alfred
Newman’s all-time classic soundtrack, a new commentary with Nick
Redman and fellow historians Jon Burlingame and Rudy Behlmer, plus a
featurette on Power’s “Leading Ladies,” a still
gallery and the original trailer. The movie is great fun with a zesty
supporting cast (Jean Peters, Cesar Romero, Lee J. Cobb a others) and
plenty of action as it follows a Spanish aristocrat’s adventures
with New World explorer Hernan Cortez.
Newman’s work is also isolated on two other offerings in the box set, including “Son of Fury,”
the 1942 potboiler with Power as Bejamin Blake, George Sanders, Roddy
McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, Frances Farmer and John Carradine in an
exciting 19th century adventure. Fox’s transfer is in good
condition and the DVD also sports a behind-the-scenes featurette,
trailer, advertising and still galleries.
Newman’s score for the former is solid but his work on the 1949 Italian costumer “Prince of Foxes”
is even better, isolated here in mono with more still galleries, a Movietone news reel, and the original trailer also on-hand.
Power’s work in “Foxes” with Orson Welles would soon
lead to another collaboration with the fabled star: Henry
Hathaway’s 1950 epic “The Black Rose,”
presented here with still galleries, the trailer, and a “Tyrone Power: Family Reunion” featurette.
Last but not least in the set is Power’s 1941 starring vehicle “Blood and Sand,”
director Rouben Mamoulian’s remake of the Valentino silent with
Power here starring as an aspiring matador. Commentary from
cinematographer Richard Crudo and a photo gallery put the cap on a
magnificent set for all fans of the Golden Age, with Fox offering each
film in its own slim case with original poster art work. Bravo!
Also newly released from Fox (and available individually) are five
additions to the studio’s “War Classics” line.
Included in the lot are the Jeffrey Hunter-Michael Rennie 1953 adaptation of C.S. Forester’s “Sailor of the King”
(83 mins.), presented here with a rare alternate ending; the 1943 programmer “Tonight We Raid Calais”
with Lee J. Cobb, John Sutton and Annabella, sporting a script by Waldo
Salt and the DVD offering a still gallery and the trailer; Richard
Baseheart and Gene Evans in Samuel Fuller’s “Fixed Bayonets!”
( 1951, 92 mins.,) also sporting a still gallery and the trailer;
Robert Mitchum, Trevor Howard, and Barry Sullivan in the
seldom-screened WWII courtroom thriller “Man in the Middle”
(1964, 93 mins.), directed by future James Bond helmer Guy Hamilton and
featuring a score by Lionel Bart; and the 1944 POW tale “The Pruple Heart,”
with Dana Andrews, Richard Conte and Farley Granger starring and
Fox’s DVD sporting a new commentary from critic Richard Shickel,
a still gallery and the original trailer.
More Classics & New From Criterion
BECKET (***½, 1964, 150 mins., MPI)
The Film Foundation and the Academy Film Archive present this restored
edition of the 1964 filming of “Becket,” the David Merrick
stage production which memorably made it to the screen as a
full-fledged Hal Wallis production, starring Peter O’Toole as
Henry II (a role he would play again to equal success in 1968's
“The Lion In Winter”) and Richard Burton as Thomas Becket,
his old chum whom he appoints to the Archbishop of Canterbury post,
expecting no opposition...MPI’s new DVD release has obviously
been mastered from the best available elements, though the print still
shows its age at various points. Nevertheless, the movie looks far more
vibrant in this new 16:9 (2.35) transfer than it did in MPI’s
laserdisc from years ago, while the remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital
soundtrack does justice to Laurence Rosenthal’s superb score.
Speaking of Rosenthal, he’s interviewed in a new segment on the
soundtrack, offered in the supplements alongside an interview with Anne
V. Coates, trailers and TV spots, and archival interviews with Burton.
Highly recommended! (available mid-May)
JEAN RENOIR: 3-Disc Collector’s Edition (1925-62, Lionsgate):
Another superb catalog title from Lionsgate includes a handful of
offerings from Jean Renior. Included in the set are “Whirlpool of
Fate” (1925), “Nana” (1926), “Charleston
Parade” (1927), “The Little March Girl” (1928),
“La Marseillaise” (1938), “Doctor’s Horrible
Experiment” (1959) and “The Elusive Corporal” (1962),
the latter presented in 16:9 widescreen. Recommended for all Renoir
VENGEANCE IS MINE (1979, 140 mins., Criterion)
ARMY OF SHADOWS (1969, 145 mins., Criterion)
Among Criterion’s new releases for the month of May is
“Vengeance Is Mine,” director Shohei Imamura’s
chilling 1979 tale -- based on fact -- of a man (Ken Ogata) who goes on
a 78-day killing spree.
In light of the recent Virginia Tech shootings, this is a startling,
uncomfortable but highly effective portrait of a man who lives firmly
through the dark part of the human soul, presented here in yet another
top-flight Criterion DVD celebration of Japanese cinema: the remastered
16:9 (1.66) transfer is superb, the mono sound is just fine, and extras
include a video interview with Imamura, trailers, and an extensive
booklet with interviews, essays and more.
Also new from Criterion this month is Jean-Pierre Melville’s
“Army of Shadows,” the 1969 film (considered by many to be
his masterwork) which went unreleased in the United States until
domestic theatrical showings last year.
This ironic, atmospheric, emotionally charged tale of French resistance
fighters trying to combat the Nazis in WWII isn’t action-packed,
but boasts outstanding performances (Lino Ventura, Jean-Pierre Cassel,
Simone Signoret among them) and atmospheric cinematography.
Criterion’s double-disc DVD set includes commentary from
historian Ginette Vincendeau, a new restored 16:9 (1.85) transfer with
mono sound, new interviews, archival video excerpts, rare shorts, and
more. Highly recommended.
Also New From Fox
THAT THING YOU DO! (***½, 1996, 147 mins. [extended cut] and 108 mins. [theatrical cut], PG; Fox)
BIG (***, 1988, 130 mins. [extended cut] and 104 mins. [theatrical cut], PG; Fox)
Two Tom Hanks comedies are back on DVD in a pair of Extended Edition DVDs with all-new supplements this May.
A surprising box-office underachiever from the fall of 1996,
“That Thing You Do!” marked Hanks' feature directorial
debut -- a sweet, low-key tale of a young band trying to make it back
in the pop music heyday of the early '60s. Tom Everett Scott plays the
Hanks-like, nice-guy salesman who stumbles into playing drums for the
One-ders, a group that improbably hits fleeting fame and fortune. Liv
Tyler makes a good impression in one of her first lead roles (as does
Charlize Theron), while Hanks' "Bosom Buddies" co-star, Peter "Newhart"
Scolari, turns up as a TV host.
Hanks also wrote the script for this engaging comedy, filled with fun
music (even if you get sick of the title song by the zillionth time
it’s performed!), colorful cinematography, and a good, nostalgic
sense of time and place.
Fox's new DVD offers both the theatrical cut and the premiere of an
extended version featuring over 40 minutes of new footage (which varies
between adding depth to the characters and the development of the
story, to slowing the film’s pace down considerably). The 1.85
(16:9) transfer is often on the soft side, but the zesty 5.0 Dolby
Digital soundtrack fares better. Supplementary-speaking, the second
disc of extras offer a bunch of featurettes (both new and vintage), a
music video, TV spot, and archival HBO First Look special.
meanwhile, was Hanks’ first big success as a “leading
man” outside the purely comedic realm, even if writers Anne
Spielberg and Gary Ross’s fantasy about a teenage boy whose wish
to become older is magically granted has plenty of comic moments in it.
That said, I found director Penny Marshall’s movie to be a bit
more saccharine on this viewing than I initially did, with Hanks
carrying the film single-handedly. It’s still a gentle fantasy
but -- perhaps because of all the other body-switching/aging reversal
films that came out in the wake of “Big” and through the
years since -- it doesn’t seem as fresh as it did at the time.
Penny Marshall’s Director’s Cut (26 minutes longer than the
released version) is on-hand in Fox’s two-disc Special Edition,
along with deleted scenes and other extras. The 16:9 (1.85) transfer is
superior to Fox’s previous DVD edition, while the 2.0 stereo
sound and other supplements are equally good: an audio
“documentary” by writers Spielberg and Ross is on-hand
during the theatrical version, while a second platter of extra features
includes deleted scenes with optional Penny Marshall commentary and
several featurettes, including an AMC Hollywood Backstory documentary
on the film’s production.
It all makes for an excellent new DVD package for fans of the film,
with the only glaring omission between these sets being the lack of Tom
Hanks’ own presence (though “That Thing...” is billed
as “Tom Hanks’ Extended Edition”).
CAGNEY & LACEY: Season 1 (1982-83, 1083 mins., Fox):
ground-breaking female cop series hits DVD for the first time courtesy
of MGM and Fox on May 8th. Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly starred as the
hard-working detective duo attempting to juggle work and personal lives
in a series that initially began with Daly starring opposite Loretta
Swit in a pilot movie, then with Meg Foster in Swit’s role for a
limited, six-episode run. Gless replaced Foster, and after a massive
fan campaign to save the series from cancellation, “Cagney and
Lacey” eventually developed into the acclaimed prime-time drama
that carried it through several seasons to come. Fox’s four-disc
DVD box set does NOT contain the Swit or Foster episodes, making its
designation as “The Complete First Season” somewhat
misleading. It does offer the complete Second Season of the show (the
first with Gless and Daily), in solid full-screen transfers and a
two-part new featurette that fans will certainly appreciate.
A PERFECT COUPLE (1979, 111 mins., PG, Fox):
Low-key and off-beat (even for its director’s standards) tale of
odd couple Paul Dooley and Marta Heflin makes for an atypical romantic
offering from helmer Robert Altman. A featurette and a new 16:9 (1.85)
transfer are on-hand in this MGM/Fox offering, which also sports 2.0
A GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED WOMAN (1978, 96 mins., Fox):
Late ‘70s TV movie stars Cybill Shepherd and a gaggle of familiar
faces (Bernie Koppell, John Hillerman, Elaine Joyce, Bonnie Franklin,
“guest star” Barbara Feldon) in a sitcom-y tale that has
little in common with the Walter Matthau late ‘60s fave
“Guide For the Married Man,” except for being extremely
dated! Fox’s DVD offers a full-screen transfer and mono
THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR: Season 2 (2006, 418 mins., Fox)
Sophomore season of the Playboy reality series offers Heff, more babes
plus uncensored audio on the series’ 16 second-season episodes,
bloopers, deleted scenes, full-screen transfers and 2.0 stereo sound.
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE: Berry Blossom Festival (2007, 44 mins., Fox):
Strawberry attempts to win the coveted Berry Blossom Festival in this
latest DVD release, which comes complete with a crown for your favorite
little one to wear.
THAT ‘70s SHOW: Complete Season 6 (2003-04, 545 mins., Fox):
Season 6 for the long-running Fox sitcom hits DVD in a four-disc set
with all 25 sixth season episodes; commentaries; promo spots; three
featurettes; 2.0 Dolby Surround soundtracks and full-screen transfers.
New From Paramount
AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (***, 124 mins., 1982, R; Paramount):
One of the many box-office hits from the memorable cinematic summer of
'82, Taylor Hackford's unabashedly melodramatic, entertaining look at a
lost young man (Richard Gere) who finds himself in the military and
love with a local girl (Debra Winger) in the process won Oscars for Lou
Gossett, Jr.'s terrific performance as a drill sergeant and the
soft-rock ballad "Up Where We Belong" (still played on lite FM stations
everywhere to this day). Jack Nitzsche's score, Winger's performance,
the screenplay and editing were all Oscar-nominated. As a movie, it's
no classic, but in terms of star power and on-screen chemistry, Winger
and Gere made for a memorable screen duo in a movie that endures as one
of the top romances in '80s cinema.
Paramount’s new Collector’s Edition of “Officer and a
Gentleman” includes Taylor Hackford’s commentary from the
previous DVD (an excellent, insightful track, incidentally) along with
several new featurettes. The half-hour new “25 Years Later”
offers recollections from all the principals sans Debra Winger, while
Lou Gossett, Jr. heads back to Port Townsend for a revisit of the
picture’s shooting locales in another 10-minute featurette.
Lyricist Will Jennings, meanwhile, is interviewed as part of a look at
the picture’s soundtrack, which also includes an interview with
Jack Nitzsche’s son and music supervisor Joel Sill. Visually, the
16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 soundtrack are on-par with the prior DVD
TO CATCH A THIEF (***, 106 mins., 1955, Paramount):
Special Edition re-issue of the memorable Alfred Hitchcock-Cary
Grant-Grace Kelly teaming includes a new commentary track from Peter
Bogdanovich and Laurent Bouzereau, recounting the production of the
1955 French Riviera romantic thriller, as well as a four-part
documentary presented in the same manner as Bouzereau’s other
Hitchcock DVD supplements. The 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 2.0 soundtrack
appear to be on the same level as Paramount’s prior disc.
BEVERLY HILLS 90210: Season 2 (1991-92, aprx. 22 hours, Paramount):
Season 2 for the Walsh family and their pals certainly streamlined the
series’ original concept and delivered the real foundation for
the subsequent years of the show to follow. Mixing high school morals
with soap opera plots and colorful characters, year two for
“Beverly Hills, 90210" introduced Christine Elise’s
memorable Emily Valentine into the mix, finds Dylan (Luke Perry) and
Brenda (Shannen Doherty) trying to hook up, and the usual social issues
being a part of the individual episodes as well. Despite offering the
disclaimer that some music was changed for the DVD, Paramount’s
eight-disc box set will be more than satisfying for series fans,
offering three featurettes (including an extended look at the arrival
of Emily Valentine), good-looking full-screen transfers and 2.0 Dolby
Digital stereo soundtracks.
More TV on DVD
DINOSAURS: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons (1992-94, 670 mins., Buena Vista):
The Henson Company’s animatronic sitcom about life in the
jurassic age fell victim to sagging ratings during its third and fourth
seasons, with the series’ final group of episodes never airing on
network TV in the U.S. Not that it was necessarily a bad thing, as this
series (which admittedly I was never a big fan of) comes to a
horrifying, depressing end in a “controversial” episode
that shouldn’t have been as needlessly downbeat, at least given
the series’ parameters as a family comedy. That being said,
“Dinosaurs” fans will still enjoy Disney’s four-disc
set that assembles the series’ last two seasons in excellent
full-screen transfers with commentaries and short Making Of featurettes
that discuss the show’s problematic conclusion. Just be aware
it’s a downer in case you have kids sitting around!
E/R: Complete Season 7 (2000-01, 22 Episodes, Warner):
Complete seventh season of the still-ongoing NBC medical drama
continued the series’ downward trend, with Noah Wiley’s Dr.
Carter trying to clean himself up after detoxing, Kerry Weaver (Laura
Innes) offering revelations about her sexuality, and the depressing
plight of Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) coming to a head.
“E/R” fans will still enjoy the soapy plots, but even
die-hard series fans noted the gradual decline from the series’
previous high-quality as it entered its seventh season. Warner’s
box-set includes the show’s 22 seventh-season episodes in 16:9
(1.85) widescreen transfers with 2.0 stereo sound, outtakes and a gag
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU: Complete Season 1 (2002-03, 478 mins., Warner):
Cute comedy aired for several years on the WB network, working as a
showcase for young star Amanda Bynes, playing a teenager who moves in
with her older sister (90210's Jennie Garth) in Manhattan after their
father is transferred overseas for a new job. Nothing groundbreaking
here, just energetic performances from its two leads and
family-friendly story lines. Warner’s box-set offers all 22
first-season episodes of the series in full-screen transfers with Dolby
Surround soundtracks and a gag reel on the supplemental side.
FRANKLIN AND THE TURTLE LAKE TREASURE (2007, 76 mins., HBO):
favorite turtle (doing quite well on the Noggin channel, out-rating
series like "Dora The Explorer" these days as well) comes to DVD in an
original, feature-length film on May 22nd. "The Turtle Lake Treasure"
finds Franklin and friends searching for a box that will hopefully make
his ailing Aunt Lucy feel better. Kids will enjoy the colorful Nelvana
animation and positive lessons about cooperation in this second
made-for-DVD feature starring Franklin.
MORAL OREL: Unholy Edition (173 mins., Warner):
In-your-face, offensive enough parody of “Davey and
Goliath” is fun for a few yucks until its constant, one-note
humor (aimed directly at Christians of any religious persuasion) grates
on the viewer. Juvenile, to be sure, but this Adult Swim series has its
fans, who ought to enjoy Warner’s two-disc DVD box set,
containing uncensored episodes, commentaries, and other extras.
NEXT TIME: Pirates, super-heroes and more! Until
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