Aisle Seat 4th of July
Reviews STRIPES Extended Edition, HIDE & SEEK, PROZAC NATION
Plus: All The Latest
Discs From Sony, Buena Vista and More!
STRIPES: Extended Cut (***½ , 1981, Aisle Seat DVD Pick of
107/125 mins., R, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. DVD SPECIAL
FEATURES: Commentary by Ivan Reitman and Dan Goldberg; Hour-Long
Documentary; Trailer; 1.85 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital.
One of the big hits of 1981, Ivan Reitman’s silly, frequently
military comedy put Bill Murray and Harold Ramis through the paces of
an R-rated “Buck Privates” for the
“Animal House” generation.
As down-on-his-luck cab driver John Winger, Murray perfected his
sarcastic leading man in “Stripes,” a film that
offers a standard
framework to back its comedy: a group of misfits (including Murray,
Ramis, Judge Reinhold and John Candy) join the army, butt heads with
their tough drill sergeant (Warren Oates), put up with a stuffy
commandant (John Larroquette), romance a pair of military policewomen
(P.J. Soles, Sean Young), and ultimately have to save the day for real.
Dan Goldberg, Len Blum and Ivan Reitman’s original script was
to be a vehicle for Cheech & Chong, but after the project
(fortunately) fell through, “Stripes” was snapped
up at Columbia and
re-tooled (sans most drug jokes) for Murray, who brought Ramis along to
be his sidekick. The result is an ‘80s comedy classic: the
of amusing sight gags and engaging performances by a terrific cast make
for an irresistible slice of entertainment from its era. Candy and
Reinhold are hilarious in some of their earliest roles, while Elmer
Bernstein contributes a rousing score (which Varese recently issued on
CD to coincide with Sony’s new DVD edition).
Sony’s Special Edition DVD offers a new
“Extended” cut of the film,
sporting 18 minutes of added footage (noted by a brief on-screen
marker). The new scenes are amusing but “Stripes”
has a tendency
towards overlength, even in its original 107-minute theatrical version.
For that reason, most viewers will likely prefer to stick with the
theatrical cut (also included here), and watch the extended/deleted
scenes in the DVD’s supplemental section.
Both are accompanied by an interesting commentary track by Reitman and
Goldberg, who discuss the project’s genesis,
humor, shooting in Louisville, Kentucky (close to Sean
its box-office success and subsequent cult following.
Just as much fun is an hour-long documentary recounting the production.
Split into two half-hour segments, “Stars and
Stripes” is a superlative
look back at the making of “Stripes,” offering
fresh interviews with
Reitman, Ramis, Goldberg, Judge Reinhold, Sean Young, P.J. Soles and
John Larroquette among others (Murray is also on-hand in material that
looks like it was shot a couple of years back). Filled with humorous
anecdotes, this is the kind of DVD documentary most viewers will
actually watch from start till end. Bravo!
Sony’s 1.85 transfer looks markedly better than
“Stripes”’ initial DVD
release, while the remixed 5.1 Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack gives a
broader stage for Elmer’s great score.
Entertaining and perfect comedy viewing for the 4th of July!
HITCH (**½, 2005). 118 mins., PG-13, Sony. DVD SPECIAL
Deleted Scenes including an alternate opening with George Fenton score;
Blooper Reel; Behind the Scenes featurettes; Music Video; 2.40
Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Will Smith’s charisma sold “Hitch” as one
of this year’s few box-office
blockbusters, though the movie itself doesn’t quite measure
up to the
work turned in by either Smith or his terrific co-star Kevin James.
As an affable banker who can’t quite get the girl of his
heiress played by Amber Valetta), James almost steals
“Hitch” out from
under Smith, who’s equally engaging as Alex Hitchins, a
Doctor” who tutors men in how to romance the opposite sex.
inability to find true love contrasts with James’ improbable
but a N.Y. Post gossip columnist (Eva Mendes) threatens to not only
change that but ruin Hitch’s track record at the same time.
Director Andy Tennant’s breezy romantic comedy certainly
amiable cinematic “comfort food,” but the story
itself isn’t developed
enough to sustain its 118 minute running time. Smith and James are
enormously appealing and unquestionably work well together, but I
didn’t think the script or the casting of the female leads
was up to
their level. Certainly “Hitch” is entertaining and
as a “date” movie, yet I felt it could have been
funnier and more
satisfying, especially when factoring in the excellent work from both
Sony’s DVD does offer a few deleted scenes and brief
lacks one of the features its original press release highlighted: the
option of an alternate audio track featuring George Fenton’s
score. Apparently, several of Fenton’s cues were replaced by
and originally the “Hitch” DVD was going to include
the option of
hearing his underscore restored intact to the film.
For whatever reason, though (perhaps a
“Hitch” Special Edition DVD
coming down the line?), that track is nowhere to be found here, though
the Deleted Scenes DO include the movie’s lengthy opening
sequence with Fenton’s music fully restored (it’s
replaced by a variety of songs in the theatrical version).
The 2.40 widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack are both
D.E.B.S. (**, 2005). 91 mins., PG-13, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted/Extended Scenes; Making Of Featurette;
Director and Cast Commentaries; Comic Animatic; Production Stills; 2.35
Widescreen and Full-screen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Featherweight comic spoof is actually a lesbian love story in disguise.
Sara Foster plays one of the D.E.B.S., a team of elite government spies
who also happen to be goofy, attractive young college students. Her
team’s mission is to take down villainous Jordana
empire, but instead of suspicions being confirmed, sparks fly once
Foster and Brewster’s eyes lock.
Angela Robinson’s colorful spy satire likely played at
Sundance for no
other reason than its lesbian content, since D.E.B.S. itself
especially funny or sexy. Foster and Brewster anchor the
collection of attractive female leads, but the story is dispensable and
ultimately just an excuse for the two to engage in some PG-13 level
kissing. If that’s your scene, by all means give D.E.B.S. a
everyone else can safely avoid this bubblegum offering which appeared
in, and vanished out of, theaters in a matter of days last winter.
Sony’s good-looking DVD includes both 2.35 and full-screen
plus a solid assortment of extras. Robinson contributes a director
commentary in addition to a cast commentary; a standard Making Of is
on-hand in “Infiltrating D.E.B.S.,” while a comic
production stills round out the disc. The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is
bouncy, sporting an OK score by Steven Stern and the requisite songs.
IMAGINARY HEROES (**½, 2004). 111 mins., R; Sony
Entertainment. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary with Sigourney Weaver;
Commentary With Dan Harris and Emile Hirsch; Deleted Scenes;
Featurette; Photo Gallery; 2.35 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Excellent performances by Sigourney Weaver, Emile Hirsch and Jeff
Daniels mark writer-director Dan Harris’ at-times insightful,
occasionally infuriating family drama. Laced with black comedy, this
variation on “American Beauty” and
“Ordinary People” begins with the
death of the picture-perfect “All-American son”
(Kip Pardue) and then
follows its dysfunctional family unit (Weaver’s hippie mom,
Daniels’ estranged dad, Hirsch’s troubled son and
scholarly daughter) through its gradual unraveling.
Harris enables his leads to give superb performances, yet
something artificial about “Imaginary Heroes.” The
plot’s similarity to
other films in this genre -- a look at the dark underside to the
seemingly pristine American family -- makes the film feels forced at
times, and despite several excellent sequences, the movie is far
satisfying when viewed in full.
Sony’s DVD offers a pair of commentary tracks: one with
other with Harris and Hirsch. A handful of deleted scenes with optional
commentary by Harris are included, along with a typical
behind-the-scenes featurette and a photo gallery. The 2.35 transfer is
just fine and the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound restrained as you imagine it
might be given the context of the story.
This Week on DVD
HIDE AND SEEK (*, 2005). 101 mins., R, Fox. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Four
Alternate Endings; Commentary; 14 Deleted/Extended Scenes; Rough
Conceptual Sequences; Making Of featurette; 2.40 Widescreen, 5.1 DTS
and Dolby Digital sound.
This year’s entry in the now-annual Worst Robert DeNiro
Performance is an unpleasant, predictable
“thriller” with Bounty Bob
snoozing his way through the role of a psychologist trying to reconnect
with his daughter (Dakota Fanning) after his wife commits suicide.
After moving upstate, away from the noise of the city following the
tragedy (partially the same set up as last year’s DeNiro
“The Godsend”), DeNiro and Fanning try to enjoy the
good life and get
to know each other again. Their next door neighbor walks over and gives
out preserves; the sheriff (Dylan Baker) is a nice guy looking out for
new home owners in the town; and even the lovely Elisabeth Shue appears
in her first role in years as a single mom who (improbably enough)
takes a liking to the newly-single doctor. Fanning, though, has a tough
time adjusting, especially after she sees an invisible guy named
“Charlie” appearing all over the place, torturing
the family’s cat and
leaving obscene messages behind about DeNiro’s love life with
Scripted by Ari Sclossberg and directed by John Polson, “Hide
is a formulaic piece that offers as many genre cliches as you can fit
into 102 minutes: a pet who you know won’t be making it into
section of the movie; the “sacrificial lambs” who
are dead meat the
moment they appear on-screen; and the requisite
“twist” ending you can
see coming from miles away. The film squanders a game cast and
atmospheric cinematography by Dariusz Wolski for a story
shocking in how pedestrian it turns out to be. Make you sure you run
and hide from this one!
Fox’s DVD offers no less than four alternate endings,
that would have been preferable to the final cut (let’s just
character ends up institutionalized, and with good reason). Commentary
from Polson, Schlossberg and Ford are included, plus no less than 14
deleted/extended scenes, a Making Of featurette, and “rough
sequences” (live-action footage intercut with storyboards).
Widescreen transfer is just fine, as is the 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS
sound, sporting a predictably “spooky” John Ottman
score with liberal
uses of children’s choir over the opening credits.
Speaking of which, “Hide and Seek” offers one of
the silliest credit
scenes in recent memory, with cast and crew names (either their first,
last, or initials) being “shadowed” by creepy
lettering. I’m SO scared!
From Buena Vista
PROZAC NATION (**, 2001). 95 mins., R, Miramax. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:
Anatomy of a Scene featurette; 1.85 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Finally dusted off the Miramax shelf, this long-delayed (shot five
years ago), critically panned adaptation of Elizabeth
offers an excellent performance by Christina Ricci but little else to
Ricci plays Wurtzel, an aspiring writer suffering from depression who
attends Harvard, falls for Jason Biggs and meets pal Michelle Williams.
Unfortunately, pressures from Wurtzel’s home life
father’s departure and overbearing mother played by Jessica
the challenges of college take their toll, leading our heroine down a
path of drugs and self-destruction that nearly cost her everything.
Erik Skjolobjaerg helmed this well-acted though somewhat routine
filming of Wurtzel’s memoir, adapted for the screen by Galt
Niederhoffer, Frank Deasy and Larry Gross. Ricci gives a valiant
performance in a demanding role (she also co-produced the film), yet
“Prozac Nation” ends up becoming a movie that often
feels like a
Lifetime TV film. The treatment of the subject matter and
relationships are straightforwardly -- and unremarkably -- handled,
resulting in a disappointing picture despite Ricci’s strong
Miramax’s DVD offers only a Sundance Channel
“Anatomy of a Scene”
featurette plus a fine 1.85 transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
BRIDE & PREJUDICE (***, 2004, 112 mins., PG-13; Miramax):
Chadha’s follow-up to her international smash “Bend
It Like Beckham” is
a colorful, entertaining hodgepodge of Bollywood, Jane Austen, and
American musical. The radiant Aishwarya Rai plays a beautiful single
Indian woman who first locks horns with -- then falls for -- an
American businessman (Martin Henderson). Along the way
cinematography and a bevy of musical numbers bridging the
respective cultures. Not as successful story-wise as
“Beckham” this is
nevertheless an upbeat and highly entertaining film that looks
fantastic in Buena Vista’s DVD: the 2.35 widescreen transfer
superlative and the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound likewise vibrant. Extras
include commentary from Chadha and her husband (and co-writer) Paul
Mayeda Berges, plus deleted scenes, several extended song sequences,
interviews and a typical Making Of featurette. Highly recommended!
THE PACIFIER (**½, 2005, 93 mins., PG; Disney):
Vin Diesel might have
struck out with “The Chronicles of Riddick,” but he
box-office gold with this pleasant, innocuous family comedy. As a Navy
SEAL sent to guard a single mom (Faith Ford) with a pair of predictably
adorable kids, Diesel flexes his comedic muscles to surprising degree
in this assembly-line Disney vehicle. The result is satisfying family
fare, with Diesel’s superb supporting cast including the
ever-underrated Lauren Graham (in a disappointingly minor role) and
“Raymond” veteran Brad Garrett, who takes on the
Vin-ster in the
movie’s most amusing sequence. Disney’s DVD offers
deleted scenes and the requisite Making Of featurette. Technically the
2.35 transfer is colorful and crisp while the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound
offers a collection of pop tunes and an amiable score by John Debney.
DEAR FRANKIE (**, 2004, 105 mins., PG-13; Miramax): Well-acted
ho-hum British import about a single mom (Emily Mortimer) whose deaf
son (Jack McElhone) writes letters to his absentee father -- who in
reality isn’t a sailor but really an abusive man who nearly
both. Mortimer hires a local bloke (Gerard Butler) to play
dad, and you can anticipate what happens after the real father comes
back into the picture...days away from dying at that. Shona
film is competently made and superbly acted, but the story is
relentlessly predictable (and depressing), offering few twists and
dragging itself out to the 105 minute mark. Miramax’s DVD
commentary with Auerbach, several deleted scenes and an interview with
the filmmaker, plus a Making Of featurette. The 1.85 widescreen
transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound (sporting an almost Elmer
Bernstein-like score by Alex Heffes) are all acceptable, though the
cinematography and Scottish locales are fairly drab.
FANTASTIC FOUR: THE COMPLETE 1994-95 Animated Television Series
(1994-95, 569 mins., Buena Vista):
To coincide with the release of
Fox’s big-screen “Fantastic Four” movie
this week, Buena Vista has
rolled out a four-disc box set compiling all 26 episodes of the
1994-95 Fox Kids animated series. Not as well-written or animated as
Fox’s “Spider-Man” and
“X-Men” series, this is still a fairly
entertaining collection for kids and die-hard Marvel aficionados, with
solid transfers and episode introductions from Stan “The
himself. Hopefully Buena Vista will go back to the well and release the
FF’s superior ‘60s animated series once the new
movie hits DVD later on
this year (a planned “Marvel Heroes ‘66" DVD
collection has been
announced with no date set for its release).
DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN (*½, 2005, 116 mins., PG-13;
Tyler Perry’s absurd performance as a crazed Grandmother
disrupts the central story line of a woman (Kimberly Elise) deserted by
her husband (Steve Harris) and seeking to rebuild her life. Based on
Perry’s own plays (and scripted for the screen by the
BET-produced comedy-drama seems more suited to the small screen than
the multiplex, where it nevertheless drummed up a superb $50 million
plus in domestic sales. Still, you’d have to be a die-hard
Perry’s material to get much out of this effort. Lions
includes a fine 16:9 widescreen transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound,
Perry’s commentary, outtakes, two featurettes and trailers.
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