An Aisle Seat June Marathon!
OF THE DOLLS, CHARLIE CHAN and More Fox Classics
Criterions, MUNICH, THE PINK PANTHER and More!
Fox’s Cinema Classics Collection debuts two more top-notch
Special Editions this week, along with the first, long-overdue box-set
of the studio’s Charlie Chan mysteries.
Whether you’re part of the cult that worships VALLEY OF THE DOLLS
(**½, 1967, 123 mins., PG-13) as one of the all-time Bad
Movie Classics, there’s little doubt that Fox’s 2-disc
Special Edition of this 1967 release (a box-office smash despite putrid
reviews) is chock-full of often hilarious supplements that only add to
the movie’s enduring value as a camp perennial.
This glossy adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s bestseller was
directed with a straight face by Mark Robson, following the trials and
tribulations of several aspiring starlets (Sharon Tate, Patty Duke and
a new-to-the-scene Barbara Parkins) as they fight the perils of
Hollywood, relationships, and drug addiction.
The Helen Deutsch-Dorothy Kingsley script boggles the mind with
uproarious dialogue, which skirted the boundaries of the rating system
at the time with its scandalous mention of substance abuse and tawdry
sexual affairs, not to mention fading old dames who refuse to get out
of the spotlight (a part played by Susan Hayward after Judy Garland
vacated the role following several days of filming). Today
“Valley of the Dolls” only has enough adult content to
warrant a PG-13 rating, but this was heavy stuff for its day, and the
performances of the stars -- from Duke’s bonkers performance as
Nelly O’Hara and the bland, awful male leads (Tony Scotti? Martin
Milner? Charles Drake?) -- often go to extreme lengths to make the
It’s a weird, strange fusion of “old” Hollywood (the
Andre and Dory Previn musical numbers; the lush widescreen
cinemtography) with the increasingly more explicit adult content that
would come to permeate films in the late ‘60s, capped off by
unintentionally hilarious work from most of its leads.
Fox’s release of “Valley of the Dolls” marks its U.S.
debut on DVD, some time after its digital premiere in various
international territories. The wait, though, was worth it as the movie
has been issued as part of the studio’s “Cinema Classics
Collection” with a new transfer and ample, exclusive supplements
that only enhance the viewing experience.
Top of the list is a terrific audio commentary with Barbara Parkins and
E! TV’s Ted Casablanca, who share a candid and often hilarious
conversation, touching upon the bad performances and general
disinterest of Robson, whom Parkins says was only interested in his
camera set-ups and lighting...leaving the door open for Duke among
others to chew up the scenery with performances several decibels above
and beyond what they should have been.
It’s a delicious talk complimented by a new documentary,
“Gotta Get Off This Merry-Go-Round,” that offers interviews
with Parkins, Casablanca, and numerous writers and devotees who touch
upon the movie’s lasting legacy among B (as in “bad”)
movie aficionados and the gay community in particular.
The second disc offers an AMC Hollywood Backstories episode from 2001,
which chronicles the film’s production in a more straightforward
manner and sports the participation of Patty Duke, who otherwise
doesn’t appear in the supplements. Additional featurettes include
a hysterical 10-minute vintage promo on the film’s international
premiere hosted by Army Archerd and Bill Burrud; screen tests including
Parkins in the Nelly O’Hara role (they ultimately switched the
casting since Parkins already played a “bad girl” in
“Peyton Place”); still galleries; karaoke; a look at
Jacqueline Susann; and even the entire soundtrack album, which again
omits Dionne Warwick’s classic performance of the movie’s
Speaking of which, John Williams’ musical underscoring is
tremendous in “Valley of the Dolls,” and no more so than in
Warwick’s vocal, which ranks as one of the movie’s few
positive artistic attributes. The fondly-remembered theme is still a
gem and is only enhanced by Williams’ lyrical, almost magical
arrangement, which perfectly underscores the wintry sequences of rural
Connecticut at the movie’s beginning (and for some may rank as
one of the film’s highlights).
Fox’s new 16:9 transfer is gorgeous, the 2.0 stereo and mono
soundtracks are likewise engaging, and lobby cards round out a package
that’s a must-have for fans of the movie or late ‘60s
cinema in general.
Parkins was under contract to reprise her role in a sequel to
“Valley of the Dolls,” but Fox decided to go the
budget-conscious route by hiring sleaze merchant Russ Meyer to direct
the in-name-only follow-up BEYOND THE VALLEY OF
THE DOLLS (**½, 1970, 109 mins., NC-17; Fox).
Scripted by Roger Ebert, directed by Meyer, and scored by Stu Phillips,
“Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” is a ribald, wild spoof of
not just the original movie but melodramas in general, following a trio
of young ladies dreaming of making the big-time as a musical group but
encountering all sorts of drugs and androgynous leading men along the
“Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” was sold, and accepted, as
a lark, and the movie today is a no-holds-barred blast of its
era’s social, musical, and political mores, with ample doses of
sex, nudity, and dated songs that embody its period.
Like a veritable time capsule, “Beyond the Valley” is great
fun, especially now that Fox has given this cult fave the Special
Edition treatment in another 2-disc “Cinema Classics”
package. Commentary by Ebert describes the consistently amusing process
of making the film (the critic left his post at the Chicago Sun-Times
to write the movie in L.A. with Meyer), while another commentary with
cast members Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, John La Zar (who
also hysterically introduces the film) and Erica Gavin offers ample
recollections about the movie’s production.
Second-disc extras include a half-hour Making Of documentary; a look at
the soundtrack with comments from Stu Phillips; screen tests;
additional featurettes; and a dynamic 16:9 transfer with 2.0 stereo and
Not to be outdone in the camp department, Paramount has issued a new,
“Hollywood Royalty Edition” of their 1981 cult classic MOMMIE DEAREST
(**½, 1981, 128 mins., PG; Paramount) this week.
One of the quintessential camp titles of all-time previously found its
way to DVD in a bare-bones 2001 effort from Paramount. The new disc is
highlighted by commentary from filmmaker John Waters, who discusses his
appreciation for Frank Perry’s bio-pic of Joan Crawford, with
Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of the actresses’ terrifying
descent into alcoholism and abuse of her adopted child Christina making
for uneasy viewing at times. Certainly the movie is well-shot, capably
scored by Henry Mancini, and compulsively watchable for its portrayal
of the era, its stars, and the studio system that was to blame for many
problems of the people who worked in it.
Hollywood voyeurs and fans of so-bad-it's-good cinema will savor
Dunaway's melodramatic plunge from start to end, and Paramount’s
new DVD clearly is geared towards that audience. In addition to
Waters’ commentary, the new disc includes three fresh
featurettes, touching upon the production of the movie (featuring
interviews with producer Frank Yablans, Diana Scarwid and others) and
its cult following with Waters and even Crawford impersonator Linsynka
Technically the disc seems to contain the same a/v presentation as its
predecessor. The 16:9 transfer is a bit on the grainy side but is
generally acceptable, while the 5.1 Dolby Digital remixed sound is
better than anticipated. The trailer ("Joan Crawford: the most dramatic
role of her life WAS her life!") is included along with a brief photo
Going back to Fox, the studio reportedly spent much time restoring
their classic Charlie Chan mysteries from the ‘30s, only to keep
them on the shelf (and off the Fox Movie Channel airwaves) due to
concerns over political correctness.
The good news is that whatever reservations Fox had, they’ve been
erased since the studio is geared to release a dynamic, four-disc CHARLIE CHAN VOL. 1
Anthology (Fox) on June 20th that will be an essential purchase
Sporting the 1934 “Charlie Chan in London,” and
“Charlie Chan In Paris,” “Charlie Chan In
Egypt,” and “Charlie Chan In Shanghai” all from 1935,
this anthology finally preserves some of the finest Chan efforts to
originate from the studio and star Warner Oland, all of which look as
healthy as can be expected here due to their age.
The respective mysteries, performances, and production values are all
superb for what they are -- studio-produced ‘30s mysteries -- and
Fox should be commended not just for finally releasing the set but also
including three new retrospective featurettes (totaling nearly an hour)
and even the little-seen, Spanish language Chan effort “Eran
Trece” from 1931. “Trece” is the only surviving
version of the first 1931 Chan mystery (“Charlie Chan Carries
On”), and its inclusion here ought to be a godsend for Chan fans.
Splendidly packaged with each film contained in its own separate case,
this first volume marks the start of goodies for old-time mystery
aficionados -- not just for Chan buffs but for Peter Lorre’s Mr.
Moto as well, with a first volume from that long-running series due out
A happy day, indeed, for fans of Golden Age Hollywood and these
rarely-screened studio gems.
New Releases on DVD
2005). 164 mins., R, Universal. DVD FEATURES: 2.35 (16:9) Widescreen,
5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Steven Spielberg’s examination of the Israeli response to the
horrifying executions of 11 of their country’s Olympic athletes
at the 1972 Munich games makes for a gripping, though somewhat
dramatically unsatisfying, tale.
How factual the Tony Kushner-Eric Roth script is has been the topic of
much controversy (the movie is adapted from George Jonas’ 1984
book “Vengeance”), with many pundits coming down hard on
the movie during its release last winter.
The controversy aside, “Munich” stars Eric Bana as the
leader of a top-secret squad sent to take out targets whom he’s
been told were responsible for the deaths of the athletes. With little
debate over the authenticity of his information, Bana and his cohorts
(including the new 007, Daniel Craig) travel from one venue to another
around the globe, finishing off their assignments and then adding the
next name on the list...but Bana’s life slowly begins to degrade
as the months pass, leaving him with an empty soul that makes him
nearly as much of a corpse as the men and women he’s targeted for
“Munich” has many taut, exciting sequences that keep you on
the edge of your seat, with Spielberg capturing the story in a
pseudo-documentary fashion. There are times when Janusz
Kaminski’s overly showy cinematography again calls attention to
itself, but John Williams’ haunting, subtle score works superbly,
adding immensely to the drama.
As Spielberg states in the disc’s disclaimer, his
“Munich” wasn’t intended to be a criticism of the
Israeli response to the killings, but rather a look at the mechanics of
assassination and the cost associated with that response -- whether it
is warranted or not. Even if the film turns out to be mostly fictional,
those questions are thought-provoking and make for an interesting drama
that only becomes repetitious in its second half, with a somewhat weak
conclusion (Bana having sex with his wife -- while “flashing
back” to the executions of the Israeli athletes that Scott
Bettencourt wryly mentioned he wasn’t even present for -- is
nothing short of bizarre).
Universal’s DVD offers a strong 16:9 transfer and vibrant 5.1
Dolby Digital soundtrack. The single-disc release only includes a
Spielberg’s introduction and a no-frills presentation of the
movie (a Special Edition release is available separately but was not
screened for review).
MR. AND MRS.
SMITH: Unrated Edition (**½, 125 mins., Fox): Brad Pitt
and Angelina Jolie’s star power fuels this so-so action romp from
director Doug Liman (“Bourne Identity,”
“Swingers”), which grossed over $170 million and turned
into one of last year’s few bona-fide box-office hits.
Pitt and Jolie play a married couple unaware that their spouse is
actually a professional assassin, hired to take out a hit on a target
(Adam Brody) both are pursuing independently. Simon Kinberg’s
script unfolds leisurely, allowing for the palpable chemistry between
Jolie and Pitt to take center stage. Meanwhile, Vince Vaughn pops up in
an unbilled role as Pitt’s co-worker, and John Powell’s
score punches up the action.
Still, “True Lies” this isn’t, with the movie’s
story being too simplistic and straightforward to offer much amusement
outside of its lead performances, and a tendency to meander
particularly in its final third.
Fox’s new, 2-disc “Unrated Edition” of the film
improves substantially on the previous DVD (which did, however, offer a
commentary with Liman, Kinberg and others that’s not included in
this release). Liman provides a new commentary to compliment his
Director’s Cut of the movie, which runs some five minutes longer
than the theatrical version (mostly inconsequential footage, as is
often the case with these “Extended” editions lately), plus
nearly a dozen additional deleted scenes (with an alternate ending),
documentaries and numerous featurettes. The 16:9 transfer and 5.1 DTS
and Dolby Digital soundtracks are all excellent.
Worth an upgrade for aficionados of
the film or Brangelina fans everywhere; a rental only for everyone else.
KISS KISS BANG
BANG (***, 2005). 103 mins., R, Warner, available June 13. DVD
SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary; Gag Reel; Trailer; 16:9 (2.35)
Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Free-wheeling, highly entertaining effort from writer-director Shane
Black deserved a better fate at the box-office (and more respectful
treatment from its distributor, too).
Robert Downey, Jr. plays a petty thief who improbably stumbles into the
Hollywood scene and becomes the new rising star of an upcoming
thriller. In order to prepare for his role as a detective, Downey teams
up with Hollywood P.I. Val Kilmer, and the duo promptly get involved
with a kidnapping plot and one of Harry’s own, small-town flames
(Michelle Monaghan), who may be more closely involved in the plot than
Splendidly filmed and performed, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is a
blast of entertainment with hilarious, mocking narration from Downey
that often pokes fun at the conventions of film noir. The chemistry
between Downey and Kilmer is strong and the film irresistibly
appealing, which makes it a shame Warner’s DVD will mark the
first real opportunity most viewers will have had to check out the
The 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks are both
exceptional, while extras include an amusing commentary with Downey,
Kilmer and Black, plus the original trailer and a gag reel. Recommended!
A pair of contrasting films about adolescence are new to the Criterion
Collection this month.
Richard Linklater’s terrific DAZED AND CONFUSED
(***, 1993, 102 mins., R) compares favorably with George
Lucas’ “American Graffiti” as a perfect, cultural
snapshot of a specific time and place.
Just as Lucas’ 1973 film captured the early ‘60s,
Linklater’s movie does the same for the spring of ‘76,
showing a generation about to head out on their own in an era dominated
by bad hairstyles, atrocious fashions, and some seriously good rock
‘n roll. Frequently hilarious and filled with insights into
growing up that aren’t just exclusive to its decade, “Dazed
and Confused” boasts a plethora of future stars in leading roles
(Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey among others), a great
soundtrack, and a perfect mix of laughs and heartache that have made it
not just a cult classic but a defining film for the era it depicts.
Criterion’s new double-disc DVD edition of “Dazed and
Confused” is highlighted by new commentary from Linklater plus a
fresh 50-minute documentary, “Making Dazed,” from filmmaker
Kahane Corn. This is one of those rare disc documentaries that’s
every bit as superlative as the film it chronicles, and
Criterion’s other supplements are likewise as enlightening:
numerous deleted scenes, rare on-set interviews and behind-the-scenes
footage, auditions and a spectacular booklet with essays and even
Linklater’s personal letters to the cast make for a DVD package
as good as any I’ve reviewed this year (oh, and the 16:9 and 5.1
DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks are both exceptional, too!).
A NOS AMOURS
(1983, 99 mins., R), meanwhile, offers one of French filmmaker
Maurice Pialat’s most acclaimed films, with the gorgeous Sandrine
Bonnaire starring as a promiscuous 15-year-old who attempts to rebel
against her dominating father (Pialat himself) and a brother who beats
and humiliates her.
I haven’t seen other works by Pialat but many critics compare the
late filmmaker’s output with the work of John Cassavetes, and
“A Nos Amours” is a perfect example of that comparison: the
naturalistic performances and raw emotion stirred up by this 1983 film
are substantial, and fans of French cinema (and Cassavetes, for that
matter) ought to find the picture powerful, even in its own, quiet way.
Criterion’s two-disc set includes a new 1.66 widescreen transfer
with English subtitles; a 1999 documentary on the making of the film
called “The Human Eye”; an archival interview with Pialat;
a 2003 interview with Bonnaire; fresh interviews with filmmakers
Catherine Breillat and Jean-Pierre Gorin; auditions; and a booklet
filled with essays and interviews from Molly Haskell among others.
Fox June Round Up
AND THE SUNDANCE KID: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (***, 1969,
110 mins., PG; Fox): Director George Roy Hill’s celebrated
1969 “revisionist” western has always felt slightly
over-rated in my eyes and overly reliant on the chemistry between stars
Robert Redford and Paul Newman, despite its four Oscar wins (for
William Goldman’s script, Conrad Hall’s cinematography, and
the one-two punch of Burt Bacharach’s score and the classic song
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”). Nevertheless,
Fox’s new two-disc Ultimate Edition represents a must-have for
Butch & Sundance fans, as it’s jammed with plenty of
supplements, including the previous commentary track with Hill, Hall,
Hal David and Robert Crawford Jr.; a new commentary with William
Goldman; no less than three featurettes (including the previous
“Making Of” documentary), plus the addition of an excellent
History Channel “History Through The Lens” documentary; the
1994 laserdisc interviews with Newman, Redford, Goldman, Bacharach and
co-star Katharine Ross; trailers, one deleted scene, production notes,
a good-looking 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 2.0 stereo and mono sound.
Regardless of how you feel about the movie, this is yet another
fantastic vintage release from Fox!
STRANGERS (1941, 82 mins., Fox)
I WAKE UP
SCREAMING (1949, 100 mins., Fox): The latest entries in the
studio’s line of Film Noir classics is highlighted by Joseph L.
Mankiewicz’s well-regarded 1941 thriller “House of
Strangers,” with Edward G. Robinson, Susan Hayward and Richard
Conte, complimented here on disc by a Foster Hirsch commentary and
numerous still galleries, a fresh full-screen B&W transfer and 2.0
stereo and mono soundtracks (with a score by Daniele Amfitheatrof of
“Major Dundee” infamy). Also new to the Fox Film Noir
series is the 1949 Betty Grable-Victor Mature-Carole Landis effort
“I Wake Up Screaming,” with commentary from historian Eddie
Muller, a deleted scene, numerous still galleries, a full-screen
B&W transfer, and 2.0 stereo and mono soundtracks (well
representing Cyril J. Mockridge’s score), plus the original
BOY (**½, 2006, 94 mins., Not Rated; Fox): Entertaining
low-budget comedy about a 36-year-old video game designer (Allen
Covert) who enjoys smoking pot in his recreational time, and has to
move in with his grandmother (Doris Roberts) and her roommates (Shirley
Jones and Shirley Knight) after being tossed out by his landlord. This
Adam Sandler-produced comedy boasts cameos by many Happy Madison alumni
(Kevin Nealon, Rob Schneider, David Spade) but hits the comedic
bullseye more times than most of Sandler’s own recent vehicles,
with Covert and his co-star/co-writer Nick Swardson straddling the line
between lowest-common denominator laughs and cleverly absurd touches
throughout. Somehow it all works, though the ending is unfortunately on
the weak and abrupt side. Fox’s Unrated DVD brings home the goods
with both unrated and theatrical versions; commentary from Covert,
Swardson, and co-star Peter Dante; another commentary with director
Nicholaus Goossen; deleted scenes; bloopers, outtakes, music videos, a
Fox Movie Channel special and more. The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is just
right and so is the 16:9 enhanced (2.35) Widescreen transfer.
Recommended if the idea of the movie sounds like it’s up your
alley...all others proceed with caution.
(115 mins., 2003, Not Rated; Fox): Italian TV movie examines the
life of Mother Teresa in a respectfully told, if somewhat
poorly-edited, presentation with Olivia Hussey in the lead role.
Fox’s no-frills DVD does offer a superb 16:9 (1.78) transfer with
5.1 Dolby Digital sound; viewers should note, however, that this is the
115-minute “theatrical cut,” as a three-hour version
apparently played in Italy upon its initial 2003 showing.
END OF THE
SPEAR (**, 111 mins., 2006, PG-13; Fox): Well-intentioned but
clumsily-made independent film with a religious bent, based on a true
story, about Christian missionaries who are killed trying to convert a
warring Amazon tribe in 1956. Sweeping cinematography by Robert
Driskell, Jr. and the central story line are the movie’s main
selling points, but it’s melodramatically directed by Jim Hanon
and scored with a heavy hand by Ronald Owen. Fox’s DVD offers
both 16:9 (2.35) and full-screen transfers with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
STILL STANDING (57 mins., 2006, Not Rated; Fox, available June 27):
HBO concert special with Damon Wayans ranting on topics both large
(national security) and small (his kids). Amusing, solid concert for
Wayans fans, presented in full-screen with 2.0 Dolby Surround stereo.
Also New on DVD
(**½, 2006, 105 mins., PG-13; Warner): Formulaic but
well-executed thriller stars Harrison Ford (looking his age, sadly) as
a bank IT supervisor with a loving wife (Virginia Madsen),
picture-perfect kids, and a job that even finds him with Chloe Sullivan
as his secretary (Mary Lynn Rajskub, essentially reprising her
“24" role). Unfortunately, Ford is also the target of a plot
hatched by Paul Bettany, using his position to steal millions from the
Seattle bank where he works alongside Robert Forster and Alan Arkin.
One-time “Enemy Mine” director Richard Loncraine brings an
old-fashioned approach to this well-paced but predictable film
(Ford’s teen daughter wants nothing to do with him -- a shocker
there), working from a Joe Forte script that both star and director
claim was being rewritten even up to the start of filming.
Warner’s DVD offers a lively conversation between Ford and
Loncraine, which in many ways is more entertaining than the movie, with
the two sparring over not just “Firewall” but also the
state of modern moviemaking itself. A brief featurette with Forte and
the trailer round out the disc, while a superb 16:9 (2.35) transfer and
5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack make for an excellent technical
presentation, with another better-than-average thriller score by
PANTHER (**, 2006, 93 mins., PG; Sony): Bombastic but
occasionally amusing update of the Blake Edwards series works well
enough for young viewers, with Steve Martin handling Peter
Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau more effectively than you might have
anticipated (unfortunately Kevin Kline’s underplayed Chief
Inspector Dreyfus is a disappointment, without any of Herbert
Lom’s mounting hysteria). The film’s caper plot --
involving the death of a French soccer coach, the theft of the infamous
diamond, and a mysterious pop singer played by Beyonce -- is fun, but
director Shawn Levy (who handled Martin’s terrible, albeit
financially successful “Cheaper by the Dozen”) strives for
bigger explosions and slapstick jokes -- punctuated by overly-cartoony
music by Christophe Beck -- than anything Edwards attempted in his
original films. The result is a loud, overbearing movie that overstays
its welcome even at 93 minutes, though again, kids may warm to the film
(and indeed they must have, to the tune of an $81 million domestic
gross and a sequel in the works). Sony’s DVD offers up a nice
package, with 11 deleted scenes, including an intriguing, unused CGI
opening; Making Of featurettes; and commentary from director Levy. The
16:9 transfer is colorful and the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound boisterous,
with plenty of explosions and an over-reliance on Henry Mancini’s
classic theme, which pops up more during the course of the film proper
than it did in any of the old movies Mancini actually scored!
(*½, 2006, 113 mins., R; Sony): Someone should issue a
restraining order prohibiting Joe Roth from the director’s chair.
The former producer’s latest cinematic monstrosity is a
“guess the ending from the trailer” affair with Julianne
Moore as a panicked mother who believes her young son was taken from
the back seat of her car in an urban neighborhood populated by
African-Americans. Samuel L. Jackson does his best as the detective
assigned to the case, but Moore’s performance runs off the rails,
the dialogue in the Richard Price script (based on his novel)
doesn’t ring true, and the film’s conclusion is as
predictable as one could imagine. Unsurprisingly, this box-office flop
and critically-reviled film sports no DVD extras at all, but merely
16:9 (2.40) and full-screen transfers with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound,
offering a decent dramatic score by James Newton Howard that belonged
in a better film.
IF ONLY (**,
2004, 96 mins., PG-13; Sony): Before she began hearing whispers
from the recently departed, Jennifer Love Hewitt starred in this gooey
romantic-drama from director Gil Junger (“10 Things I Hate About
You”), with Hewitt in love with young Londoner Paul Nicholls
before tragedy strikes and Love is killed in an accident...but then
mysteriously turns up alive in a “Groundhog Day” kind of
time-shifting scenario that has Nicholls promptly re-assessing his
priorities. Hewitt croons a few songs, the overcast British locales are
atmospherically captured by Giles Nuttgens, and Adrian Johnston’s
score mostly hits the right notes...but the Christina Welsh script is
sappy to the Nth degree, with an ending that proves highly
unsatisfying. Sony’s DVD only sports a full-screen transfer with
5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
FAREWELL TO THE
KING (***, 1989, 114 mins., PG-13; Sony): Under-rated 1989 John
Milius WWII tale finally lands a DVD release in the U.S. Nick Nolte is
superb as an American POW who improbably becomes the leader of a Borneo
tribe and drops out of the conflict...only to reluctantly fight again
once the British need assistance combating the Japanese. Superb
cinematography by Dean Semler, an excellent score by Basil Poledouris
and Milius’ patented direction make this Orion release a
recommended one for action fans. Sony’s DVD offers a satisfying
16:9 (1.85) transfer with 2.0 Dolby Digital surround.
SILVERMAN: JESUS IS MAGIC (72 mins., 2005, 72 mins., Visual
Entertainment): Sarah Silverman manages to be alternately crass,
silly, hot, and hilarious in this uneven assemblage of set-pieces and
concert footage -- the latter working better than the former.
Silverman’s comedy by itself isn’t uproarious, but as with
the best comics, it’s her timing and delivery that makes it work.
Visual Entertainment’s DVD offers commentary and other tidbits
for Silverman addicts.
Buena Vista Round Up
DUMBO: Big Top
Edition (***½, 1941, 64 mins., G; Disney:) One of the
studio’s earliest animated classics is back on DVD in a new
“Big Top Edition” that does sport a new digital transfer
and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, plus the commentary from the previous 2001
DVD. Otherwise, this latest edition seems to be primarily aimed at
kids, with new features comprised of sing-along songs, Disney
interactive games, an on-screen DVD storybook, and other extras best
suited for the little ones. Worth an upgrade if you don’t own the
older 60th Anniversary set.
(**½, 2006, 118 mins., PG; Disney): Well-meaning but
rather standard issue sports movie -- the story of Texas
Western’s 1966 NCAA championship run -- enables Jerry Bruckheimer
and Disney to turn their “Remember The Titans” formula
around by having a white coach (Josh Lucas) in charge of the
nation’s first all-African American college basketball roster.
Slickly-produced with the usual Bruckheimer production sheen,
“Glory Road” is entertaining but ultimately fails to stand
out from other, better films in its genre. Disney’s DVD includes
a dynamic 16:9 transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound; a pair of
commentaries featuring the writers, Bruckheimer and director James
Gartner; featurettes including interviews with the real players and
coach Don Haskins; and an Alicia Keys music video.
MYSTIC FORCE Vol. 1: Broken Spell (67 mins., 2005, Buena Vista):
DVD compilation of four episodes (“Broken Spell” parts one
and two, “Code Busters” and “History”) from the
latest incarnation of the “Power Rangers” franchise in
full-screen transfers and 2.0 Dolby Surround stereo.
Capsules In Brief
(***, 2006, 122 mins., R, New Line): Wayne Kramer’s
follow-up to his cool “Cooler” is an insane chronicle of a
mafia newbie (Paul Walker) who botches his one assignment to dispose of
a gun involved in a drug deal. Colorful characters, plenty of
profanity, violence and sex dominate this off-the-wall -- but always
watchable -- tale from writer-director Kramer, which New Line has
released on DVD along with commentary from the director, a
behind-the-scenes documentary and storyboards. The 16:9 (2.35) and 5.1
Dolby and 6.1 DTS soundtracks are bound to give your home theater
set-up a full workout, while a limited edition mini-graphic novel
adaptation is included in the DVD’s first pressing run.
Recommended for those who can stomach its violence and a possible cult
favorite down the road, too.
THING... (2005, 93 mins., R; Magnolia): Michael Angarano plays a
terminally ill boy whose “Make a Wish” is spending the
weekend with supermodel Sunny Mabrey. Cynthia Nixon plays Mom and the
offbeat supporting cast includes Wyclef Jean and Gina Gershon in this
made-for-HDTV (there’s a first!) TV movie, which Magnolia has
released on DVD with a 1.78 widescreen transfer, 2.0 Dolby Digital
sound, outtakes, deleted scenes, commentary by director Alex
Steyermark, and an episode looking at the movie from HDNet’s
(2005, 74 mins., Not Rated; Tartan): Short Japanese horror
effort with Ruta Sato as a talk show DJ who moves into a haunted studio
while his station remodels. Reasonably well-produced but short on
length and genuine scares, Tartan’s new DVD includes a pair of
interview segments, the original trailer, 16:9 widescreen and both 5.1
DTS and Dolby Digital sound. Perhaps worth a rental for Japanese horror
aficionados, since “The Booth,” if nothing else,
doesn’t overstay its welcome at only 74 minutes long.
TIME: A Box Set Cavalcade with John Ford & John Wayne classics, TV
on DVD and More! Don't
to drop in
on the official Aisle Seat Message
any emails to the
we'll catch you
then. Cheers everyone!
Copyright 1997-2006 All Reviews, Site and Design by Andy