Aisle Seat Vintage Edition

Andy Reviews New Catalog Titles From Paramount & Anchor Bay

Back in the mid ‘90s, the Disney studio excised a pair of songs from two of their releases -- “Pocahontas” and “The Muppet Christmas Carol” -- that both negatively impacted the theatrical versions of each film.

The reasoning was simple: the songs in question (“When Love Is Gone” from the Muppets and “If I Never Knew You” from “Pocahontas”) were too “adult” in nature, leading some parents to take their kids out to the snack bar or the bathroom to avoid sitting in their seats for the 3-4 minutes those respective numbers were on-screen.

It didn’t matter that the songs were vital to each movie -- comprising arguably the most dramatic moments of both stories -- or that anyone other than a restless five-year-old wouldn’t have had a problem sitting through them. The editing shears were out, and neither song would appear in the theatrical release of either picture.

Flash-forward several months. Once “The Muppet Christmas Carol” hit video, director Brian Henson insisted on the restoration of “When Love Is Gone,” and the song was thankfully added into all video releases of the 1992 production. “Pocahontas,” sadly, would not have its climactic song restored -- at least not until now.

Some 10 years after the film debuted in theaters, one of composer Alan Menken’s loveliest ballads -- “If I Never Knew You” -- has at last been restored intact to POCAHONTAS (**1/2, 84 mins., 1995, G), which this week returns to DVD in a new 2-disc Special Edition from Disney.

It doesn’t matter that the movie is one of the weaker Disney productions from the ‘90s, or that the Politically Corrected-story has numerous holes. “Pocahontas” still manages to entertain in spite of its flaws primarily because of its gorgeous score by Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, encompassing “The Colors of the Wind,” “Just Around the Riverbend,” and now the film’s beautiful duet between Pocahontas (sung by Judy Kuhn) and John Smith (a surprisingly effective vocal performance by Mel Gibson), sung near the conclusion of the film.

Without “If I Never Knew You,” “Pocahontas” felt as if it had no climax. The movie’s sometimes jumbled story -- with its one dimensional villains (gasp! That evil governor of Virginia is a nasty one!!) -- and confused perspective on the Pocahontas-Smith relationship reeks of the P.C. police, and minus the duet, the film also didn’t flow properly, with a particularly abrupt final third.

Here, with the song fully animated and restored to its proper place (it was previously heard only in Menken’s underscore and a sweet end credits pop duet between Jon Secada and Shanice), the film is at least able to include a full, if not totally satisfying, statement about the relationship between John Smith and the Native American princess he meets in the New World.

Subsequently, the new, 10th Anniversary cut of “Pocahontas” is a good deal more satisfying than its predecessor -- a still-problematic but interesting entry in the Disney canon, boasting some of Menken’s finest work and one of the nicest love themes you’ll ever hear in an animated movie. And, just in case you can’t stand the addition of “If I Never Knew You” (and whoever you are, shame on you!), the original theatrical cut is also selectable via the options menu.

With its crisp and beautiful new DVD remastering, the movie has also never looked better on the small screen. Disney’s previous DVD was released many years ago and that antiquated transfer has been improved upon substantially here. The film’s bold colors and striking animation are superlatively rendered, while the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is likewise effective in conveying the rich musical texture of the soundtrack.

Extras are mostly reprisals of material found in Disney’s deluxe CAV LaserDisc box set of “Pocahontas,” but since this is the first opportunity most viewers will have had to see the supplements, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Commentary with the filmmakers (recorded in 2003) is on-hand, while the bulk of the special features can be found on the second disc.

“The Making of Pocahontas” is a superb, 30-minute look behind the scenes at the creation of the movie, while separate sections devoted to Production, Design, Music, and The Release take you through each step of production. I’ve always been fascinated at how much “Pocahontas” changed from its earliest conception at the studio (with Pocahontas as a younger girl), basically showing the lack of confidence studio honchos had with the script and seeing it evolve into something slightly more romantic over time. Several deleted scenes are on-hand, including some discarded Menken-Schwartz songs heard in demo form, as well as trailers and a look at the movie’s much-publicized premiere in Central Park.

One of the few new supplements is a four-minute featurette on“If I Never Knew You,” boasting comments from Menken and Roy Disney, who both lament the loss of the song and note their excitement over its restoration on DVD. An older featurette, “The Music of Pocahontas,” examines the creation of the soundtrack with recording session footage and older interviews culled from the picture’s electronic press kit materials.

“Pocahontas” may always be viewed as somewhat of a black sheep, particularly compared with the high quality of Disney’s theatrical output from the ‘90s, but it’s still a must-have for all animation aficionados. And -- now that “If I Never Knew You” has been restored -- Disney’s DVD is a must for all musical fans as well. It’s just a shame it had to take so long!

Also new from Buena Vista this week is last holiday’s box-office hit NATIONAL TREASURE (***, 131 mins., PG), a good-looking action-adventure yarn that provides solid escapism for viewers of all ages.

Nicolas Cage -- long desiring another action vehicle (he’s also now starring in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics’ “Ghost Rider”) -- gives a typically offbeat leading man performance as Ben Franklin Gates, a treasure hunter who’s been raised to believe the elusive Knights Templar fortune exists -- and marked on a map found on the back of the Declaration of Independence! While Ben’s hunt takes him to Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston, he’s doggedly pursued by an arch-rival (Sean Bean), an FBI agent (Harvey Keitel), and assisted by a treasury employee (Diane Kruger) and a crazy sidekick (Justin Bartha). All the while, Ben’s father (Jon Voight) doesn’t want to get involved after spending a lifetime trying to pursue his family’s previously-futile dreams of finding the missing loot.

The Jim Kouf-Cormac and Marianne Wibberley script manages incorporate a few historical references, which alone makes the plot more substantial than your typical Jerry Bruckheimer production. Make no mistake, however: this IS a product of the producer. The slick editing and cinematography from Bruckheimer’s works are on full display, but this time out, director Jon Turteltaub manages to slow the pace down enough to sustain viewer interest in the story and the characters. The result is a less-frenetic Bruckheimer piece that still manages to include the regulation action and humor you’ve come to expect from most of the producer’s output.

“National Treasure” may not provide much more than fluffy escapism, but it’s a good-humored, enthusiastic entertainment just the same, and Disney’s DVD likewise proves highly satisfying.

The 2.35 transfer (perfectly reproducing Caleb Deschanel’s superb cinematography) and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound are both top-notch, while special features include a few deleted scenes, plus a brief alternate ending, each with commentary from director Turteltaub. A standard Making Of featurette is on-hand along with several shorter featurettes, a few of which are only selectable via one’s participation in an “interactive treasure hunt.” Thankfully the game is much easier to navigate than the locked-up goodies on the original “Harry Potter” DVD, and they ought to be of chief interest to younger viewers (who are likely to have the most interest in unlocking them to begin with). Recommended!

Paramount Catalog Round-Up

The CBS Theatrical Films library doesn’t boast a whole lot of blockbusters, but buried within the catalogs of both Cinema Center Films and the later CBS label are some intriguing works that have rarely been screened over the years on video or TV.

Next month Paramount releases a freshly remastered wave of CBS catalog titles (including one of my favorite films from the ‘60s, Mark Rydell’s “The Reivers”), and gets the ball rolling this week with a handful of vintage titles that have basically been out-of-circulation for years.

Going in chronological order, 1968's WITH SIX YOU GET EGGROLL (**½, 94 mins., G) was one of several films produced late in the decade that dealt with the merging of widowed/divorced parents and the problems that ensued for their respective offspring. It’s also one of many comedies that tried to bridge the gap between the ‘50s generation and the “mod” times of the flower-child era, here with Doris Day (in her final screen appearance) as a mom to a trio of sons and Brian Keith as dad to older daughter Barbara Hershey.

“With Six You Get Eggroll” was generally viewed as inferior to the Lucille Ball-Henry Fonda teaming in “Yours, Mine and Ours,” a film that had a similar plot and did better business at the box-office (and amazingly is now being remade with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo!). Still, this innocuous family comedy boasts widescreen proportions and a few laughs, plus a strong early role for Hershey, nicely hinting at some of the underrated actresses’ work that would follow in subsequent years. Howard Morris, a former comic (and later star of “Gimme a Break” for the ‘80s generation), directed the film, which also boasts George Carlin as a drive-in waiter, a performance by “The Grass Roots,” and (what else?) a slapstick ending with Jamie Farr and William Christopher (both pre-M*A*S*H) as a pair of hippies!

Shot in Panavision, “With Six You Get Eggroll” has been restored to its full 2.35 widescreen dimensions in Paramount’s terrific DVD. The scope framing helps restore some order to the movie, which looked hideous in its well-worn pan-and-scan transfer I’d routinely see as a kid on local TV. The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is basically on par with the disc’s 2.0 stereo audio, boasting an appropriately ‘60s orchestral score by Robert Mersey (Day’s musical director on her subsequent hit TV show).

While “With Six...” has always been somewhat noteworthy for the presence of Day in her last film, director Martin Ritt’s reunion with star Sally Field -- the road trip/character study BACK ROADS (**, 1981, 91 mins., R) -- is a film that has almost entirely vanished from the cinema landscape.

An oddball film if there ever was one, “Back Roads” stars Field as the quintessential “hooker with a heart of gold” (the DVD packaging even describes her as such!) who opts to team up with local Alabama ex-boxer Tommy Lee Jones and hightail it out of their Mobile home for the left coast of California.

Along the way the duo run into an over-eager sailor (David Keith, in a role that makes you wonder why he never transcended character-role status), a grimy Mexican-American madam, assorted lowlifes and dreamers, all of whom cross paths with the traveling couple, who may just be growing closer together through their experiences.

“Back Roads” was not a box-office hit, despite the reteaming of Field and Ritt, who hit it big with “Norma Rae” a couple of years prior, leading to an Oscar for the actress. Gary DeVore’s script wants to be a gritty, down-to-Earth tale of a couple of people trying to make it out of their lot in life and find something new, but somehow the movie just doesn’t work. The music by Henry Mancini (complete with a forgettable title song co-authored by Alan and Marilyn Bergman) seems decidedly old-fashioned and out of step with the story, and while Ritt’s use of authentic locales gives the movie an ample amount of atmosphere, the picture never strikes the right tone or consistency to gel.

At least the performances are admirable, with Lee Jones in one of his strongest early roles and Field adding likewise depth to her part. John A. Alonzo’s scope cinematography, meanwhile, is another one of the film’s strongest assets, and it’s been wonderfully reproduced in Paramount’s DVD.

Framed in 2.35 widescreen, the movie’s Panavision ratio has been reproduced here for the first time on video, and the transfer is terrific. The 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo tracks are both effective as well.

Jon Voight’s superb performance as a father trying to reconnect with his family is one of the highlights of the 1983 drama TABLE FOR FIVE (***, 121 mins., PG), a sensitive -- and mostly restrained -- tearjerker also making its debut on DVD courtesy of Paramount.

Voight plays J.P. Tannen, an ex-golf pro divorced from his wife (Millie Perkins), who decides to take his three children on a cruise to the Mediterranean. Though his kids love him, Tannen has never been there to offer support on birthdays and other gatherings, which leads to a clash over parental responsibility (or lack thereof), the children’s connection with their mother’s new husband (Richard Crenna), and a tragedy that shakes all of them halfway through their journey.

Directed by Robert Lieberman, “Table For Five” works due to its poignant script by David Seltzer (“The Omen”) and outstanding performances by the cast. Voight gives an earnest and well-rounded portrayal of a guy trying to renew his relationship with his kids, Roxana Zal plays his young but headstrong daughter, and Crenna is effective as the new man in his ex-wife’s life. The movie shifts gears midway through and becomes a sad though not overly maudlin drama about loss, leading to some enormously moving scenes towards the end (and a wonderful final sequence between Voight and Crenna).

Vilmos Zsigmond’s fine cinematography and the moving score -- credited to both Miles Goodman and John Morris -- also add immeasurably to this under-rated, low key character drama.

Paramount’s DVD boasts a strong though somewhat tightly-matted 1.85 widescreen transfer. There seemed to be a few points during the movie in which the framing seemed too tight (with a few faces being lobbed off at the bottom of the frame), but the print looks fine and the frame is  otherwise well-composed. The 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks are quietly effective. You’ll have to look fast to catch Kevin Costner as a newlywed, however!

There was a short window of time where JoBeth Williams could single-handedly headline a movie -- something the likeable actress did to good effect in a handful of mid ‘80s films, including the silly piece of fluff known as AMERICAN DREAMER (**½, 105 mins., 1984, PG).

Williams stars as Cathy Palmer, an overworked and under-appreciated housewife with a pair of kids and a fondness for mystery novels. After Cathy enters a writing contest for her favorite author “Rebecca Ryan,” she leaves her family behind and wins a trip to Paris, where she ultimately gets hit on the head, believes she IS “Rebecca Ryan,” and lives a new life with Tom Conti along for the ride.

The script by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt (who would later collaborate on the terrific 1985 teen comedy “Secret Admirer”) offers its share of laughs, and Williams and Conti’s chemistry clicks in a film obviously patterned after “Romancing the Stone” and even the Kate Jackson-Bruce Boxleitner TV series  “Scarecrow and Mrs. King.” Ultimately, the movie isn’t as crisply directed as it might have been, with a few too many stock, comical characters (Williams’ husband is such a dud he’d seem cliched even on an ‘80s sitcom) curtailing some of the fun.

Nevertheless, “American Dreamer” is decent escapism with a fetching performance from Williams, and fans should love Paramount’s DVD presentation. The movie looks great in 1.85 widescreen and boasts both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks, containing an underwhelming score by Lewis Furey.

Finally, Paramount has also reached into its own back catalog for the DVD debut of the goofy 1967 comedic western WATERHOLE #3 (**½, 95 mins., Not Rated, available May 17th).

This eccentric Blake Edwards production (directed by William Graham) offers James Coburn in a typically charismatic performance as Lewton Cole, a gambler who learns the whereabouts of a fortune in stolen confederate gold near an isolated Arizona town. Caroll O’Connor is the sheriff on his trail, James Whitmore is the cavalry leader on his heels, and Margaret Blye the token love interest in this engaging though not terribly memorable affair, which western buffs should nevertheless get a kick or two out of (the strong supporting cast includes Bruce Dern, Timothy Carey, Claude Akins, and even Joan Blondell).

Paramount’s DVD includes a superb 2.35 transfer derived from the original Techniscope aspect ratio. The print looks fresh, and the disc also offers a clear mono soundtrack featuring one dated score by Dave Grusin. Country balladeer Roger Miller performs (and occasionally scats!) his way through Grusin’s helplessly “mod” soundtrack, which unquestionably stamps the picture as a product of the late ‘60s.

None of the Paramount catalog DVDs offer trailers or any supplements, but are all reasonably marked (between $10-$15 each) and offer a sterling presentation for the price. Recommended!

Fox Catalog Titles From Anchor Bay

20th Century Fox has only recently licensed some of its back catalog to Anchor Bay, which has resulted in a handful of cult favorites just reaching disc for the first time.

Not the highest-profile title of the lot -- but one of my personal favorites -- is George Gallo’s wonderful, under-rated film 29TH STREET (****, 101 mins., 1991, R; Aisle Seat DVD Pick of the Week), at last making its first appearance on DVD.

Based loosely on the life of Frank Pesce (a character actor who appeared in Gallo’s “Midnight Run”), “29th Street” centers around an Italian-American family in New York, spanning from the late ‘50s through the mid ‘70s. Danny Aiello plays the fiery, cantankerous papa of Anthony LaPaglia’s down-his-luck son Frankie, who goes from job to job without finding his place in the world. Lanie Kazan is the sympathetic mother, while the real Frank Pesce plays LaPaglia’s older brother in a movie that received mostly positive reviews but saw little support from Fox, earning only a small theatrical release (on November 1st, 1991) before heading quickly to video.

Filled with plenty of heartwarming scenes, big laughs, and a genuine holiday spirit, “29th Street” deserved better. This nostalgic, moving film not only has the glossy, nostalgic feel of “Goodfellas”’ early, flavorful scenes, crossed with some of the colorful characters of “Moonstruck,” but also it’s own unique view of life. Aiello and LaPaglia bring ample amounts of heartfelt conviction to their roles, while Gallo’s script balances warmth and sentimentality beautifully.

Also praiseworthy is the lovely score by William Olvis, which was orchestrated by Frederic Talgorn and remains one of my favorite scores of the ‘90s. Sadly, this gem has never been issued as a soundtrack album, despite being prominently placed in the film (as Gallo notes in his commentary, the filmmakers couldn’t use a glut of pop tracks because they didn’t have the budget to do so, so Olvis stepped to the plate and delivered a marvelous, moving score).

Anchor Bay’s DVD looks beautifully composed in the DVD’s 1.85 widescreen transfer. Sequences which I recall looking a bit too tight in the full-screen transfer (until now the only format “29th Street” was exhibited in on video) appear much better balanced here. The print looks great, and the 2.0 Dolby Surround stereo is likewise satisfying.

Despite the bargain price, there are even some extras to be found, including a fun commentary by Gallo and cinematographer Steven Fierberg. The two warmly recall shooting in North Carolina and working to achieve a nostalgic, ‘70s kind of look for their picture. It’s an enjoyable, chatty commentary that only disappoints in that Gallo doesn’t detail Frank Pesce’s life -- and how he worked it into his screenplay -- quite enough. Pesce had apparently developed a story with James Fransiscus (whom he worked with on the Lee Majors flick “Killer Fish”), yet Gallo only briefly mentions these elements when prompted by Fierrberg at the end. Perhaps having Pesce himself around to talk about the movie would have been a help.

Other extras include a trailer and TV spots, plus a standard early ‘90s Making Of featurette.

“29th Street” is a charming, uplifting film about the unpredictable journey we often take during the odyssey of life. It’s also one of the most satisfying and heartwarming movies I’ve ever seen about a father and son, and the bond between families. Outstanding and unquestionably recommended, particularly now that it’s finally available on DVD.

More of a cult favorite -- and far less of a satisfying motion picture experience -- is the bouncy, senseless 1983 “teeny-bopper” musical THE PIRATE MOVIE (*½, 94 mins., PG), the infamous teaming of Kristy MacNicol and Chris “The Blue Lagoon” Atkins now making its debut on DVD in the U.S.

Some bad movies are actually fun. Some bad movies aren’t as bad as you’ve been lead to believe. And then there are some bad movies that, well, actually ARE less-than-artistic triumphs of the medium, and deserve their soiled reputations.

“The Pirate Movie” clearly belongs in the latter camp. Though I’m a sucker for a good teen movie, and I love musicals, this insipid, plotless music video offers an inane collection of godawful, repetitive songs, plastic performances, and charmless work from the two leads. The “plot” finds teenager Kristy being washed ashore where she dreams that she’s in a bonafide pirate epic, complete with Captain of the Seven Seas Atkins (who probably wishes he stayed on the island with Brooke Shields).

Despite my reservations about the movie (you can only write “it’s terrible!” in so many ways, so I’ll stop), at least fans will be thrilled now that this cult favorite has been issued on DVD.

And satisfied they’ll be with Anchor Bay’s presentation, which offers a sterling 1.85 widescreen transfer with a remixed 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The hideous music never sounded so good as it does here, and even better, the original trailer and a commentary track with veteran director Ken Annakin are also on-hand.

Mr. Annakin came in at the last minute on “The Pirate Movie” as a replacement for the original filmmaker (whom he doesn’t name), and has warm memories of his work on the Australian-produced picture. He also notes that some of the dancing goes on too long (I agree!) and could have been shortened up, and relates many humorous anecdotes, such as detailing Kristy MacNicol’s personal entourage!

“The Pirate Movie” is clearly a polarizing film. While I’ll take a turkey like “Grease 2" any day over its plastic production, its many fans will be excited that the movie is on DVD, and in a first-class presentation from Anchor Bay as well. For them (and them alone), I’ll give it an enthusiastic Aisle Seat recommendation.

More fun is on-hand in another fondly-remembered ‘80s comedy, LICENSE TO DRIVE (***, 90 mins., 1988, PG-13), one of numerous team-ups between then-heartthrobs Cory Haim and Corey Feldman.

Haim plays the central role of a good kid who just wants to get his license and take out the girl of his dreams (Heather Graham), while Feldman plays (guess what?) the rambunctious best friend who basically gets them all into trouble on one fateful night. Greg Beeman helmed Neil Tolkin’s script, which became a moderate box-office success and a cult staple on video and TV for years afterwards.

Anchor Bay’s Special Edition DVD is chock full of digital sweetness (as I refer to supplements from time to time, when the situation warrants), including commentary from Beeman and Tolkin, deleted sequences and alternate footage, interviews with both Haim and Feldman reflecting on their work in the movie, TV spots, trailers, and the script as a DVD-ROM extra.

Last but not least we come to the immortal pairing of Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone in the noteworthy 1984 flop RHINESTONE (**, 111 mins., PG).

Bob Clark (“A Christmas Story”) directed the script by Sly and Phil Alden Robinson (later helmer of “Field of Dreams”), which relates the touching story of a country music star (Dolly anyone?) who takes a bet from her manager that she can turn anyone into an overnight singing sensation. Her pick? Why, none other than Stallone’s NYC cab driver, who quickly receives a tutoring in the ways of Nashville from Dolly and her associates (including Richard Farnsworth as Parton’s dad).

Actually more of a bland comedy than an awful film, “Rhinestone” has a few cute moments, some nice scope cinematography (here restored to its 2.35 origins), and a bouncy music score supervised by Mike Post. The songs are all fine -- except when Stallone is singing them -- and if you can overlook the movie’s sometimes sluggish pace and lack of chemistry between the leads, “Rhinestone” is one of those flops I referred to earlier that’s not quite as bad as its reputation would indicate.

Anchor Bay’s DVD sports a robust widescreen transfer in its original Panavision aspect ratio, plus a full-blooded 2.0 Dolby Surround soundtrack. The original trailer is the only extra, but what else would you anticipate? (Stallone commentary perhaps?).

New & Noteworthy from Buena Vista

SCRUBS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (2001-02, 558 mins.). Buena Vista, Full-Screen, 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo. Available May 17th

THE GOLDEN GIRLS: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (1986-87, 644 mins.). Buena Vista, Full-Screen, 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo. Available May 17th.

A pair of new TV on DVD box sets spotlight two of the funniest sitcoms that have graced the American TV airwaves in the 20 years.

“Scrubs” has virtually been flying under the radar since its debut on NBC in 2001. Despite changing time slots and never fully receiving the support it’s deserved from its network, this often uproarious ensemble comedy about a group of medical internists is one of the most consistently amusing shows on TV. The superb cast -- lead by Zach Braff’s wacky, amiable lead and John C. Reilly’s over-the-top shenanigans as Dr. Cox -- is thoroughly engaging, but it’s the strong writing and comedic situations developed by show creator/executive producer Bill Lawrence that make “Scrubs” a constant must-see on a network that’s been running out of “must see TV” series over the last few years!

Buena Vista’s box set includes all of “Scrubs”’ first season episodes: 24 in full, spread across three DVDs. Extras are also on-hand, including screen tests from the actors prior to the show’s production, interviews with the stars, outtakes and deleted scenes, plus a “One on One” interview with Braff.

If you’ve never seen “Scrubs” this box set is the ideal place to start, and the supplements round off a splendid package all told. Highly recommended!

Also available on May 17th is the second season of THE GOLDEN GIRLS, the long-running NBC series that never had a problem attracting an audience during its seven-year run on the air.

Collecting all 26 episodes from the Girls’ sophomore year (1986-87), Susan Harris’ sitcom had no “sophomore slump,” as the chemistry between stars Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Betty White and Rue Maclanahan was perfected with crisp, pungent writing and irresistible performances from the stalwart cast.

Transfers and sound are perfect in both box sets (all episodes are presented in their original 1.33 broadcast ratio), with satisfying 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks. “The Golden Girls” doesn’t have much in the way of supplements (an interactive trivia challenge and that’s it), but the comedy is still so fresh few fans will be complaining.

THE CHORUS (LES CHOIRSTES) (***, 2004). 97 mins., PG-13, Miramax/Buena Vista. DVD FEATURES: French 5.1 Dolby Digital with English subtitles; 2.40 Widescreen. Oscar-nominated French film about a boy’s boarding school in post-WWII France and the unexpected inspiration they receive from a new teaching assistant (Gerard Jugnot) who opts to create a choir at the school. While some arthouse movie-goers undoubtedly turned their nose at a movie like “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and likely embraced “Les Choirstes,” there’s actually not much difference between the two films outside of their time and place. This is a predictable, formula movie that nevertheless pushes all the right buttons courtesy of director Christophe Barratier. Miramax’s no-frills DVD offers a high-quality 2.40 transfer and soaring 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, sporting a superb original score by Bruno Coulais that’s easily the highlight of the picture.

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