of May DVD Parade
Whenever a new Special Edition DVD is released, fans of that respective
film will rush out to purchase it, often crossing their fingers that
its contents will be worthy of their time and money.
Reviews the JAWS 30th Anniversary DVD!
STAR TREK INSURRECTION, Fox & Disney Titles, and More!
Sometimes the studios get it right with their re-packaging and claims
of new and improved supplements. Sometimes they fail completely. And
every once in a while the results fall somewhere in between.
Universal’s new 30th Anniversary edition of JAWS
**½ Presentation, 124 mins., 1975, PG; Available June 14th)
should have been a case where the studio knocked the ball out of the
park. After all, the new double-disc DVD contains Laurent
Bouzereau’s outstanding 1995 laserdisc documentary in its
unexpurgated two-hour length, plus the film’s Oscar-winning
soundtrack for the first time on DVD. It also contains all the outtakes
and deleted scenes from the laserdisc, some of which were left off
Universal’s original DVD package.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the studio got it right on those
fronts, the new 30th Anniversary DVD is far from definitive since the
set -- inexplicably -- fails to include so much as ONE trailer of any
kind! Try as I might, I couldn’t uncover so much as one of
movie’s memorable teasers or full-length trailers on the
shocking occurrence to say the least since the trailers are arguably
half the fun of the “Jaws” supplements from both
laserdisc box set and initial DVD release.
Instead, the menus have been recycled from the previous DVD and the
additions from the “Signature Collection” laserdisc
have been seemingly half-heartedly reprieved. The “Jaws
Archives,” for example, are comprised of direct screen
from the laserdisc, some of which look downright blurry. Ditto for the
deleted scenes, which appear to be filtered and possibly likewise
ported straight off the LD. Fans will be happy to hear that the mono
soundtrack is included, but be warned it’s compressed and has
little of the dynamic range from the laser edition, thereby negating
some of its effectiveness.
So, then, where does that leave us? As a “Jaws”
means you’re going to have to own multiple copies of the
because the 30th Anniversary set does include two new offerings of
interest: a terrific, albeit short, vintage “From The
segment culled from British TV, and a nice 60-page “Photo
Journal” that gives the package a bit of gloss.
The “From The Set” segment includes candid footage
production’s first few days on-location in Martha’s
Vineyard, interviewing Steven Spielberg among others. Meanwhile,
there’s priceless footage of Carl Gottlieb falling overboard
into the icy, early May waters of the Atlantic -- all for the abandoned
first attempt Spielberg made at showing the discovery of Ben
Gardner’s boat. It’s a nice bonus for fans, and
a shame it doesn’t go on longer than it does.
That segment aside, however, this Anniversary set is otherwise a rehash
of materials that have been previously available elsewhere. The lack of
trailers means you’ll need to own the original DVD (which
otherwise has identical picture and sound to the 30th Anniversary DVD)
or the old laserdisc box, which aside from side breaks offers a more
satisfying, comprehensive selection of supplements.
Perhaps for the 35th Anniversary we’ll truly get the
“Jaws” fans have been waiting for...
A more satisfying package is on-hand in Paramount’s DVD
INSURRECTION (** Film, *** Presentation, 103 mins., 1998, PG; available
June 7th), a disappointingly
mild adventure that ranks as my
least favorite of the “Next Generation” films.
In Michael Piller’s script, Captain Picard and company
race of peace-loving, non-technological types enriched by a
fountain-of-youth generated by their native planet's outer rings, and
under attack from both Federation fiend and alien foe (think
“Lost Horizon” crossed with
“TNG” and you get
the picture). Naturally, it wouldn't be much of an adventure unless
someone had to spoil the party, and here the villainy is supplied by
F.Murray Abraham and his band of ugly nasties who must have gotten
their flesh-expanding skin treatments from the same doctor who worked
on Katharine Helmond in “Brazil.” Subplots this
include Picard's romance with a lovely member of the planet's
non-combative people (Donna Murphy), Riker's romance with Troi (though
there isn't much of it), Federation admiral Anthony Zerbe's
questionable relocating of indigenous cultures for his own good (the
movie's political food for thought), and several other plot strands
that will evaporate from memory right after the movie is over.
Jonathan Frakes' direction is competent but the movie never grabs the
viewer and gels. It takes too long to get going, and along the way
there are an abundance of extraneous scenes and "cute" sequences that
never pay off (from the Gilbert & Sullivan shuttle chase to a
native boy's fascination with Data and Worf's onsetting "puberty"). The
film feels sluggish and the lack of a thoroughly reprehensible villain
is felt right from the start; so much for a movie with a poster slogan
that once proclaimed "On December 11, Meet the New Face of Evil!"
Abraham is adequate but Piller's script is more TV-like than cinematic,
so don't be expecting any "Wrath of Khan" here.
That said, “Insurrection” still makes for passable
entertainment, but this time it's mainly for fans only. Jerry
Goldsmith's score is pleasant and in some ways ranks as his finest for
the later Trek films, but it’s the story that’s the
-- and in hindsight, seems to have marked the beginning of the end for
the TNG cast and the Trek cinematic franchise as we know it.
Tellingly, there’s no audio commentary in
latest 2-disc “Collector’s Edition” DVD,
a first for
the double-disc Trek DVD packages. Denise and Michael Okuda’s
typically interesting “text commentary” is the only
supplement to be found on the first disc, along with a nice 2.35
transfer of the film and superb 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks.
Perhaps director Frakes, producer Rick Berman and writer Piller simply
don’t have much to say about the picture, but the lack of a
talent commentary is surprising given that there’s been one
every previous Trek Collector’s DVD.
Paramount, though, has compensated by including a robust assortment of
supplements on Disc 2, including a handful of deleted scenes.
Introduced by co-producer Peter Lauritson (at least he’ll
about it), the sequences include a longer kiss between Patrick Stewart
and Donna Murphy, plus test footage of F. Murray Abraham’s
original fate in the film.
These sequences aren’t listed on the DVD packaging but are
sure enough, along with a wide assortment of behind-the-scenes
featurettes, grouped into categories entitled
(seven featurettes), “Creating the Illusion” (three
featurettes), “The Star Trek Universe” (a segment
Michael Westmore’s extraterrestrial make-up and
Trek’s Beautiful Women”),
(storyboards and stills gallery), and “Advertising”
original trailer and teaser, plus a promotional featurette).
It’s another must-have package for Trek fans, bringing the
Collector’s Edition DVDs all the way up to the most recent
poorly received) Trek film, “Star Trek: Nemesis.”
that DVD included a good array of special features, you have to wonder
if we won’t see a 2-disc Collector’s Edition of the
Trek feature film (for the moment at least) in the near future.
“All-Access” Special Editions and More
Fox this week revisits three recent box-office hits on DVD. Each film
has been given the double-disc treatment and contains all the
supplements that accompanied the respective films in their various
international DVD editions over the last few months (basically
reinforcing the notion that if a DVD is bare-bones in its initial
release, just wait a few months).
Top of the list is I,
ROBOT (***, 114
mins., 2004; PG-13), the
moderately entertaining Will Smith
blockbuster from last year.
Loosely based on Isaac Asimov's classic novel, "Dark City" and "The
Crow" auteur Alex Proyas' film is a fast-paced, sometimes clever, and
generally satisfying production. Smith gives a nicely dialed-down
performance, which helps to compensate for Bridget Moynahan's latest
D.O.A. female lead (is there some reason why filmmakers continually
cast the uncharismatic Moynahan in these parts? Wasn't her invisibility
in "The Sum Of All Fears" enough?).
The Digital Domain special effects, along with Patrick Tatopoulis'
production design, help create a future world that, for once, isn't
just another "Blade Runner" knock-off, while the motion-capture of Alan
Tudyk's performance (as “Sunny” the robot) is
brilliant. "Sunny" truly feels like a main character in the movie, and
the use of an actual actor to perform the role (even if it's digitized
afterwards) gives the actors a sense of interaction with the character
which later translates to the viewer at home. The robot doesn't feel
stiff, nor do the characters' interaction with him -- like Gollum, it's
another technological triumph in a movie that doesn’t offer
anything particularly noteworthy on the narrative front.
If there's a problem in "I, Robot" (other than Moynahan), it's the
movie's conventional finale. Despite some of the clever dialogue and
interplay in the Jeff Vintar-Akiva Goldsman script, the picture
ultimately turns into just another chase/shoot 'em up, with slow-motion
gun battles and an army of robots looking suspiciously like the clones
from Episode II. It's competently handled, but ultimately detracts from
the film as a whole.
A bit less enjoyable on the second go-round, “I,
fans ought to still enjoy Fox’s new DVD, which is chock full
supplements, including three commentaries that describe in good detail
the production of the picture.
One track includes Proyas and writer Akiva Goldsman (carried over from
the original DVD release); the second commentary offers production
designer Patrick Tatopoulos, editor Richard Learoyd and members of the
FX team; while the third track, which ought to be of chief interest for
film score fans, boasts Marco Beltrami discussing his score. Beltrami
does a fine job detailing his work on the movie, while his score is
isolated -- often with his comments -- in the backdrop.
The inclusion of DTS audio (also offered on the previous DVD) adds to
the overall enjoyment of the film proper, which is presented in 2.35
widescreen on Disc 1, while Disc 2 offers an abundance of featurettes,
grouped into a “4-hour multi-faceted movie
into the production of the film. Basically, this well-executed set-up
allows you to watch every supplement on the DVD in roughly
chronological order, complete with bridging behind-the-scenes footage
and the option to go where you want when the menu prompts appear. The
featurettes are heavy into the movie’s digital effects, which
should come as no surprise since so much of the picture was filmed
against a green screen. An alternate ending is also on-hand, along with
a couple of brief deleted scenes and a look at where actual robotics is
at in today’s society.
Also out this week is a new Special Edition for Roland
unabashedly silly, and somewhat pretentious, sci-fi disaster epic THE
TOMORROW (**½, 123 mins., 2004, PG-13).
Great special effects are the saving grace of Emmerich’s
which poses the question of what would happen if global warming reached
catastrophic levels. The answer is: dumb dialogue, splendid visuals,
thin characterizations, and over $180 million in domestic box-office.
"The Day After Tomorrow" is competent disaster filmmaking, make no
mistake: the scenes of New York City frozen over, ships parked in the
metropolitan streets, and tidal waves crashing into the Statue of
Liberty are impressive in scope. If only the premise by Emmerich and
Jeffrey Nachmanoff made more sense (it's nearly as believable as
watching one of those '50s monster movies with scientists talking
jibberish), with some outrageous scenes forcing stars Dennis Quaid (as
an intrepid NOAA climatologist) and Jake Gyllenhaal (as his son,
stranded in NYC) to look as serious as possible in an effort to make
the picture at least partially believable. It's not, but as dumb-fun
summer blockbusters go, "Day After Tomorrow" is a notch below "Twister"
on the entertainment scale, and certainly makes for a recommended DVD
view -- at least for genre enthusiasts.
Fox’s original DVD wasn’t as bereft of supplements
“I, Robot,” but there’s naturally a lot
here. Instead of two deleted scenes you get 10 of them (with optional
commentary); a new commentary track (by Nachmanoff and other members of
the production team) in addition to Emmerich’s director
commentary (reprieved here); a new documentary, “Two Kings
Scribe: A Filmmaking Conversation”; the fluffy
science” documentary “The Force of Destiny: The
Politics of Climate Change”; another five pre and
featurettes; trailers, audio demos, storyboards and concept art
galleries; plus the movie in 2.35 widescreen with 5.1 DTS (new to this
release) and Dolby Digital sound.
Last but not least among Fox’s new “All
Special Editions is a deluxe edition of MAN
ON FIRE (*,
2004, 145 mins., R), a
typically over-directed Tony Scott mess
that was first brought to the screen (to equally disastrous results) in
a 1987 film with Scott Glenn, Brooke Adams, Danny Aiello, and Joe Pesci.
Denzel Washington plays an ex-mercenary hired by parents Marc Anthony
and Radha Mitchell to watch over their precocious little girl (Dakota
Fanning) in Mexico City after a rash of kidnappings plagues the region.
Despite Washington's best efforts, Fanning is taken by a group of thugs
tied to Anthony's prior dealings, and Denzel quickly turns Rambo in a
one-man assault at getting her back.
You'd think someone might have learned from the original "Man On Fire"
and not bothered producing another rendition of its source, but
director Tony Scott and writer Brian Helgeland apparently thought their
film would have improved upon its predecessor. After a watchable, if
overlong, first hour, though, the 2004 "Man On Fire" becomes an utter
disaster, totally wasting the talents of its cast in an ugly, endless
vigilante saga that's the most self-indulgent yet of Scott's works. No
matter what scene you're watching, Scott cuts away to another shot,
inserts a special effect, throws subtitles on the screen (even when the
characters are speaking English!), zooms in, zooms out, or cuts to
something else altogether. The result is a mind-numbingly restless and
unpleasant film that made moderate box-office bucks solely on
Though Fox's initial DVD was light on supplements, the new disc offers
plenty in the way of bonus features. The sole extras from the original
DVD -- a pair of commentaries featuring Tony Scott, Dakota Fanning, and
Helgeland -- are back, while the second disc hosts a plethora of
supplements, including the documentary “Vengeance is
an alternate ending with commentary from the director, 14 deleted
scenes, a multi-angle sequence examination, a still photo gallery and a
full range of trailers and TV spots.
Also new from Fox is the two-disc edition of Bill Condon’s
KINSEY (***, 118
mins., R, 2004).
This intriguing, sometimes overwrought, look at the methodology of
University of Indiana researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) as he
broke taboos in his groundbreaking, controversial study of human
sexuality offers a host of superb performances. Neeson is excellent in
a difficult role as a man who ultimately learns that sex and love are
two totally different animals, while Laura Linney is equally strong as
his sometimes-supportive, sometimes-depressed wife, who watches while
her husband engages in questionable “field
he augments his study. John Lithgow (as Neeson’s father),
O’Donnell, Timothy Hutton, Tim Curry (as one of
colleagues) and Oliver Platt round out the cast in a movie that looks
great (kudos to cinematographer Frederick Elmes) and sports an
effective, sensitive score by Carter Burwell.
Naturally, the subject matter is not going to appeal to all audiences,
but for curious viewers “Kinsey” is a
that ultimately says as much about the human condition and
Kinsey’s own flaws as it does his work in the field.
Fox has two versions of “Kinsey” on DVD, including
two-disc Special Edition offering commentary from Bill Condon
that’s heavy into the scene-to-scene production of the film.
excellent “Making Of” documentary is also on-hand,
with deleted scenes and even an interactive “Sex
Questionnaire” prepared by the actual Kinsey Institute. The
transfer is fine and the 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital sound likewise
superlative for this kind of movie.
Last but not least we come to the engaging small-screen sequel THE
SANDLOT 2 (***,
97 mins., 2005, PG), a film
that boasts more than your typical
made-for-video offering has going for it.
For starters, original writer-director David Mickey Evans is back
behind the lens here, directing this familiar yet still heartfelt
family film about a group of rag-tag kids who play ball in the local
sandlot. Set a decade after the original, “Sandlot 2" is at
more of a remake than a follow-up, yet young viewers won’t
one bit and the production values are high: Laura Karpman
(“Taken”) contributes a fine score and David
Pelletier’s cinematography is a notch above the norm for
direct-to-video productions. More over, the cast is engaging, from the
juvenile actors to James Earl Jones, who reprises his role as Mr.
Mertle. Good, solid entertainment for all ages.
Fox’s DVD serves up a home run of a presentation as well (you
knew that was coming, didn’t you?), including commentary from
Evans, a fun featurette looking back at the cast of the original
“Sandlot,” a behind the scenes featurette, and a
of interviews with former MLB players, remembering their days on the
playground field. The 1.78 widescreen (full-screen is also available on
the same disc) transfer is fine, as is the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
From Disney & More
HEFFALUMP MOVIE (***, G, 68 mins., 2005, Disney):
Winnie the Pooh feature introduces Lumpy the Heffalump in a short but
sweet film aimed squarely at younger viewers, though adults ought to
enjoy the family fun as well. Two demerits, however, to Carly Simon for
her overly maudlin soundtrack -- needlessly depressing given the
circumstances. Disney’s DVD offers a splendid 1.78 widescreen
transfer plus bonus features for the little ones.
FAVORITES, Vol.5-7 (aprx. 60 minutes each, Disney), 2005 compilations:
Disney’s latest installments in their budget-priced cartoon
compilations tackle a variety of subjects. Volume 5, “Extreme
Sports Fun,” offers what the title implies: eight vintage
shorts pertaining to outdoor activities, including “How To
Football” and “Goofy Gymnastics.” Vol. 6,
“Extreme Music Fun,” sports another eight shorts
tuneful theme, including “Mickey’s Grand
“Farmyard Symphony.” Finally, Vol. 7,
Adventure Fun,” offers a more scattered assortment of shorts,
including “Mickey’s Trailer,”
Aloha” and “Old Sequoia.” The transfers
satisfactory, but since the discs are geared towards kids, any
complaints about the condition of the prints is moot (many of these
shorts have already been released in Disney’s limited-edition
Treasures tins, so only die-hard collectors need to check these out).
(2002, 83 mins., G; Disney):
Cute Disney Channel TV-film stars
Lindsay Lohan -- post-“Parent Trap” (see below) but
pre-“Mean Girls” -- as a high school reporter whose
mysteriously disappears. Sort of a “Nancy Drew”
“Clueless,” this lighthearted, entertaining piece
ought to please kids of all ages. Disney’s DVD even includes
alternate ending plus a satisfying full-screen transfer with 5.1 Dolby
TRAP: SPECIAL DOUBLE TROUBLE EDITION (***, 1998, 128 mins., PG; Disney):
Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer’s engaging 1998 remake of the
Hayley Mills chestnut remains the first and best film of its young star
Lindsay Lohan. Disney’s new DVD is affordable enough (around
and boasts a new 16:9 transfer plus supplements (commentary, a deleted
scene, making of featurettes) carried over from the LaserDisc release.
(***, 93 mins., R, Disney):
Little-seen but entertaining effort
from writer-director Jeff Nathanson, based loosely on a real incident
about a film director (Matthew Broderick) who’s recruited by
FBI agent posing as a producer (Alec Baldwin) to shoot an opus geared
not to reap rewards at the box-office but rather to take down the
Providence, R.I. mob. Appealing performances by the terrific ensemble
cast (Toni Collette, Calista Flockhart, Ray Liotta, Tony Shalhoub among
them) and some big laughs make this sleeper well worth a look. DVD
special features include commentary with Nathanson and Broderick,
deleted scenes, featurettes, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital
(**½, 101 mins., R, 2004; Paramount; available June 7th):
Weird is just the first word that pops into your mind when describing
Brad Anderson’s offbeat thriller. Christian Bale -- who
didn’t eat for weeks to prepare himself for the role (and
it shows!) -- essays a tortured soul who can’t seem to
recent past and what Big Event turned his life into a living hell.
Obviously made to capitalize on the success of
mind-bending thriller might have worked better as a short film (or even
an episode of The Twilight Zone), but despite solid work from Bale,
this Spanish-produced mystery doesn’t quite work.
Paramount’s DVD, out
next week, includes commentary from Anderson, deleted scenes, and an
interesting look at how the independent film was produced.
FANTASIES (1988-89, 120 mins., Fox):
The latest compilation of
Garfield’s CBS network TV specials includes the wacky
“Garfield’s Babes and Bullets,” with Jim
feline paying homage to film noir; “Garfield’s
Fantasies,” a series of vignettes; and the ambitious
“Garfield: His 9 Lives,” an hour-long special with
different animation styles that’s particularly interesting
cut above the norm. Transfers and sound are OK, making this another
top-notch title for Garfield fans and animation aficionados.
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