July Meltdown Edition DARK CITY Returns on disc Plus: Sony Scares Up Blu-ray Horrors
Dark, foreboding, grim...those are just a few of the terms to describe
Christopher Nolan’s massive “Batman” sequel THE DARK KNIGHT (***), which opened to widespread interest and record-breaking box-office receipts last Friday.
Picking up shortly after the events of “Batman Begins,”
Gotham City is now besieged by attacks from a new criminal on the
scene: The Joker (the late Heath Ledger), who manipulates the local
crime bosses into supporting his reign of twisted terror. His insanity
comes at the same time hope arrives in the form of new District
Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), a “White Knight”
crusader whose bold prosecution of the city’s crooks makes him
Target #1 among the thugs, now playing without rules under the
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) realizes that Dent is the city’s
true hope for the future, especially since Batman is officially a
vigilante in the eyes of the law and some residents, and even
contemplates hanging up the bat suit so he can move on with former
girlfriend Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, effectively replacing the
lightweight Katie Holmes). Unfortunately for Bruce, however, justice
comes with a price, as he all too quickly realizes...
Technically dazzling yet fundamentally flawed in certain areas,
“The Dark Knight” is a compelling, somewhat pretentious,
overlong, yet often brilliantly realized comic book movie. Nolan and
cinematographer Wally Pfister have once again produced a breathtaking
looking picture with an unrelenting sense of dread that
permeates every sequence. Ledger’s much acclaimed performance
could’ve easily been a self-indulgent affair yet the actor seized
the opportunity to craft a memorably off-kilter, truly insane villain
that undoubtedly would’ve boosted Ledger’s career had he
lived to see the movie’s release.
Yet The Joker is also, ironically, one of the film’s core
problems: out of respect to the late actor, it seems that Nolan was
slavish to retaining every shot of The Joker and "preserving his
performance" as he's said, to the point where the character overpowers
everything else in the movie. Batman is basically treated like a
secondary character once again, much like Michael Keaton was back in
the original, Tim Burton-directed “Batman” to Jack
Nicholson, and as a consequence the movie has an odd focus at times
with no real center anchoring it down.
The tragic character of Harvey Dent, meanwhile, also complicates
matters -- after 2.5 hours I felt that Ledger's Joker was plenty of
"bad" for one movie to handle, and while I understand what Nolan was
trying to say with the “Two-Face” character, dramatically
it throws the story off-course in the final third to the degree where I
was never convinced that his presence was entirely necessary.
The pacing also pushes Batman into the back seat in favor of a
redundant succession of scenes where audiences are supposed to believe
that the situation is under control, only to have The Joker throw it
all into chaos.
There should have been more pauses, more scenes to develop Bruce
Wayne’s character, and especially more interaction between him
and Alfred (Michael Caine). Bale has less to do here this time out and
doesn’t have great chemistry with Gyllenhaal either, so much that
it’s understandable at least that “the love story” is
given little screen time.
Yet Nolan’s script (co-written with his brother Jonathon)
eventually settles into a repetitive, humorless structure of events
instead: here's a scene where the Joker crashes a party and something
bad happens. Here's a scene where the Joker terrorizes the
commissioner's funeral and something bad happens. Here's a scene where
Harvey Dent is riding in a police car and something bad happens. The
Joker's in a jail cell and...guess what...something bad happens. And on
The script could’ve used another pass or two, because while there
are some wonderful scenes and moments within it, it needed something
more to break up its structure. Yes, Nolan is interested in discussing
what constitutes a “hero,” about the fragile nature between
good and evil, and how good can be corrupted -- which is all fine and
good for a dissertation, but one wishes he had spent as much time on a
script that was better balanced and gave Batman more to do. At times
it’s also pretentious with its cold, clinical tone and lack of
humor (whatever nervous laughter the film provokes comes during The
Joker’s attacks), making it easily the most downbeat film of its
kind ever produced. And again, the Zimmer/Newton Howard score is a
misfire -- even more droning, inconsequential musical wallpaper than
its predecessor, it fails to lift any of the film dramatically,
especially in scenes that call for a bold musical statement (much less
an actual theme!).
Outside of a few other pacing and story issues (the Scarecrow’s
“cameo” is a total waste of time; some scenes feel
abbreviated with no resolution while others linger on forever),
“The Dark Knight” is still a compelling, visually dazzling
show, and Gary Oldman is again superb as Jim Gordon. So are Michael
Caine and Morgan Freeman, even if both actors -- along with Bale --
have less to do here.
In the end it’s all Ledger’s show, and he does leave us
with a memorable, dynamic final turn. One just wishes that Nolan
would’ve had the courage to trim it just a bit and give its hero
as much of an opportunity to take the spotlight, or at least bring some
light to its unrelenting darkness. (152 mins., PG-13) New on DVD
Director Alex Proyas showed with “The Crow” that flashy
directorial technique and a sense of style can overcome any deficient
plot. In his 1998 follow-up DARK CITY (****, 103 and 110 mins., R; New Line),
Proyas concocted a fascinating science-fiction thriller with a story
that lives up to the evocative settings and dense noir atmosphere
Rufus Sewell stars as a man who can't remember his name and is plagued
by apparent memories of a life that might have included the murder of
several prostitutes. Meanwhile, the world in which he lives is a
setting that vaguely incorporates elements from disparate times and
places, from the '40s through a bleak future that recalls “Blade
Runner” and “Metropolis.” After Sewell are a group of
otherworldly "strangers," led by Richard O'Brien, bald and clad in
“Hellraiser”-style black costumes, and detective William
Hurt, who follows Sewell's (former?) wife Jennifer Connelly around,
trying to find out the truth about what's going on.
Keifer Sutherland also appears as a scientist who may just hold the key
to the puzzling city surrounding the characters, while Patrick
Tatopoulos’ design of “Dark City”’s cityscapes
and the amazing cinematography by Dariusz Wolski are nothing short of
breathtaking. “Dark City” is a mood piece, an intricate
puzzle along the lines of classic film-noir thrillers, but it's also a
sci-fi yarn whose imagination is singularly unique, not merely a
second-rate pastiche of other genre films.
As he did with “The Crow,” Proyas fills each scene of his
movie with stunning visual effects, setting his film in a compelling,
strange yet enthralling world that is so rarely realized in the cinema
now. The lighting, photography, effects, production design, and
comic-book styled editing all combine to produce a movie where you
often feel that you’re watching something truly special. Trevor
Jones's excellent musical score adds to the drama, while the cast
provides uniformly excellent performances across the board. Particular
standouts include Sewell, Hurt, and particularly Sutherland, in a
finely hued “character actor” type of performance.
The film's denouement is fully satisfying as well, and while it doesn't
give you all the answers, it provides enough of an explanation so that
you don't need to know any more.
As I wrote back in 1998, “‘Dark City’ is a sci-fi
film that undoubtedly will be discussed among devotees for years, long
after many of today's pre-fab "blockbusters" are but a distant memory
on video store shelves. Even if Proyas hasn’t followed through on
his potential after making this movie (at least to date), he’s at
least given us a bona-fide classic with “Dark City.”
New Line’s long-awaited Special Edition DVD (the film is also
available on Blu-Ray) boasts a new Director’s Cut of the movie
that restores about eight minutes of unseen footage and, most
importantly, dumps the studio-mandated, completely unnecessary
Sutherland monologue which opened the theatrical release and spoiled
the entire film right at the start.
I had the good fortune of walking into the theater late -- when Sewell
first wakes up in a bath tub -- and seeing the picture as the
filmmakers originally intended it to unfold, which is something that
can now be duplicated thanks to the longer Director’s edition. If
you’ve never seen the film before, this expanded cut is the only
way to go.
The theatrical cut is also on-hand here, along with numerous extras:
new commentaries from Proyas and his co-writers Lem Dobbs and David S.
Goyer, plus Patrick Tatopoulus and Dariuz Wolski, in addition to Roger
Ebert’s commentary from the earlier DVD; new documentaries
recounting the production; the trailer; a Director’s Cut
“fact track”; text essays; galleries; a Neil Giaman review
of the film, ported over from the prior DVD; a superb new 16:9 (2.35)
transfer with 5.1 audio and an extra digital disc containing a copy for
portable media players.
A spellbinding sci-fi mystery thriller, “Dark City” is
unique, potent, splendidly performed and masterfully told. Don’t
miss it. New on Blu-Ray
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (**, 102 mins., 1997, R; Sony):
And I certainly know what motivation Kevin Williamson (writer of
“Scream”) had in mind when writing this mega-successful
slasher movie -- mainly, cashing one big fat paycheck for authoring a
relatively ordinary piece of stock slasher-cinema.
That said, “I Know What You Did...” has surprisingly dated
fairly well -- even if it’s mainly because the genre has
regressed even further into an endless parade of “torture
porn” shlock since its original release.
While the then-recent “Scream” at least had a sense of
humor and knowingly challenged cliches of the old “Friday the
13th”/”Halloween” school of masked killer movies,
“I Know What You Did Last Summer” parades out all the
ancient stand-bys (horrific deaths, red herrings, twist endings)
without injecting a genuine sense of intelligence into the
storytelling. Director Jim Gillespie handles the preceding with slick
visuals but telegraphs every scare and would-be shock ahead of time,
and paces this movie as if the whole production was filmed in
slow-motion; there's not one surprise or even remotely interesting
twist to be found anywhere, and it takes forever to reach the 90 minute
mark. You know you're in trouble when Sarah Michelle Gellar's hair
getting chopped off is the most terrifying aspect of the story -- while
the ending is a groaner that sets the gears in motion for the obvious
(and even-worse) sequel which followed shortly thereafter.
The movie is predictable all the way, yet the cast makes it appealing
when viewed today: Gellar, then just settling in to
“Buffy”’s long run, doesn’t get much to do but
she looks great, while lead Jennifer Love Hewitt shows off all of her
assets (yes, I do watch “The Ghost Whisperer” -- guilty as
charged!) in a typical horror heroine role. Ryan Philippe and Freddie
Prinze Jr. ably fill the requisite male leads while trying to stay away
from the Gorton’s Fisherman killer.
It’s all simple-minded, pedestrian fare (and was interminable
when I first viewed it back in 1997), but the presence of Hewitt and
Gellar make the movie more viewable than it has much of a right to be.
Sony’s Blu-Ray edition of “I Know What You Did...”
looks superb: the AVC-encoded transfer is excellent, while a potent
Dolby TrueHD audio sports a workable John Debney score. Extras include
commentary from Gillespie, his short film “Joy Ride” and a
retrospective Making Of featurette produced a couple of years after the
URBAN LEGEND: Blu-Ray (**½, 100 mins., 1998, R; Sony):
Another ‘90s teen-horror cash-in on the “Scream”
phenomenon, though its lack of pretensions and sense of humor serve it
well -- so much that it’s a far more inviting affair than
“I Know What You Did Last Summer.”
The usual grab-bag of college students find themselves being bumped off
by a killer imitating well-known "urban legends," which leads
"Cybill"'s Alicia Witt to pin down the culprit from a host of
possibilities -- is it cub reporter Jared Leto, a shady janitor, or
perhaps gas station attendant Brad Dourif (obviously the early line
favorite in Vegas)? Plenty of chases, ersatz scares, and red herrings
later, the killer is revealed to be...nah, I won't spoil the
movie of this kind relies heavily on its humor quotient and directorial
style to carry the action and fortunately “Urban Legend”
has enough in both categories to satisfy most viewers. Witt and Rebecca
Gayhart make for a pair of appealing protagonists, while Natasha
Gregson Wagner and Danielle Harris (late of “Halloween 4" and 5
-- yes, I pay attention to these things) play victims and it's always
good to see genre vets like Robert Englund and Dourif pop up in
supporting parts. Meanwhile, Joshua Jackson gets to spoof his
“Dawson’s Creek” persona while a
pre-“Smallville” Michael Rosenbaum shows up -- with hair --
in an early supporting turn.
Director Jamie Blanks paces the movie swiftly and adeptly alternates
between slasher thrills and a standard mystery "whodunit?" framework,
which makes it easy to overlook the standard cliches inherent with this
material. The ending is a bit much, and it's as instantly forgettable
as a late ‘90s Must-See TV comedy line-up, but when compared to
its genre brethren of the period, it's superior to both
“Halloween: H20" and “I Know What You Did...,” and
manages to be campier than the “Scream” films without being
quite as sophomoric. Definitely not a classic, but still a bloody good
time for horror fans.
Sony’s Blu-Ray edition of “Urban” includes another
strong AVC-encoded transfer with Dolby TrueHD audio. Extras are limited
to a standard issue Making Of featurette and commentary from the
THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE: Blu-Ray (***, 122 mins., 2005, Unrated; Sony): One
of 2005's surprise box-office hits -- just making its way to Blu-Ray in
the United States -- is an absorbing, fascinating hybrid of courtroom
thriller and supernatural shocker.
Jennifer Carpenter plays a college student possessed by an entity that
tortures her and torments her religious family; Tom Wilkinson is the
understanding priest who frees her soul in an exorcism, only to later
face criminal charges in connection with her death. Rising attorney
Laura Linney takes Wilkinson’s case, despite doubting the
priest’s claims that there are forces beyond this world on both
sides of the spiritual coin.
Based loosely on a reported true story that happened in Germany several
decades ago, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is a
superbly-acted picture that’s anything but a re-run of William
Peter Blatty’s genre benchmark. Director Scott Derrickson and his
co-writer, Paul Harris Boardman, have fashioned a disturbing character
drama that’s particularly fascinating in its portrayal of
possession, as well as the nature of evil and faith. It's shocking to
see a movie in this day and age actually provoke an intelligent
discussion of these subjects, and yet “Emily Rose” does
just that. Linney, Wilkinson, Carpenter, and particularly Campbell
Scott (as the prosecutor) are uniformly excellent -- and in regards to
the latter, the movie does offer an alternative explanation to Emily's
plight that seems completely plausible, despite the supernatural
elements in the picture being played up.
Vividly shot by Tom Stern and creepily scored by Christopher Young,
“Emily Rose” is also somewhat disjointed. The beginning of
the movie seems a bit rushed, as if large chunks of it had been cut
(there should have been more of Emily's background and Laura Linney's
first few meetings with Tom Wilkinson). Thus, you never really feel an
emotional connection with Emily -- nor do you really feel for Linney
and her questioning of faith as much as you might have. Sony’s
DVD does restore three minutes of footage related to the case, and
while it improves on the theatrical version, I still felt even more
material could have been added, enhancing the drama.
Despite its shortcomings, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is
unquestionably one of the finest genre films that has been released in
some time. Highly recommended.
Blu-Ray edition differs from the international BD release, which only
included a PCM soundtrack and MPEG-2 transfer of the film. The U.S. BD
is an improvement both technically (AVC encode and Dolby TrueHD audio)
and in terms of its supplements, offering commentary from Derrickson
that discusses the “real” Emily Rose case, three Making Of
featurettes, and one additional deleted scene, all ported over from the
regular DVD edition.
HAROLD & KUMAR: ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY: Blu-Ray (***, 107 mins., Not Rated; New Line/Warner):
Raunchy, often hilarious sequel follows stoners Harold (John Cho) and
Kumar (Kal Penn) as they’re mistaken for terrorists on a flight
to Amsterdam, leaving them under the control of Homeland Security and
government bureaucrat Rob Cordory (who’s hysterical in nearly
every scene he’s in, making the most of his stock “bad
guy” role). Fortunately for our duo breaking out of Guantanamo
Bay is easier than it looks, with the guys subsequently off on another
road trip, meeting up again with “Neil Patrick Harris”
(uproarious) and an unexpected meeting with the President himself along
Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz made the original “Harold
& Kumar,” which was a minor box-office hit that fared more
successfully on DVD. This more cohesive and funnier sequel was a much
larger commercial success, as it parades out a succession of gags, most
of which (surprisingly) hit the mark more often than not. This
isn’t destined to win a Peabody award, admittedly, but the movie
is nevertheless quite amiable, and much more likeable than most
tasteless R-rated comedies we see these days. Cho and Penn have
terrific chemistry together and the movie yields some big laughs,
enough that I wouldn’t be completely against the prospects of a
New Line’s Blu-Ray edition is chock-filled with etxras, including
two commentaries, 27 deleted scenes, Making Of featurettes, a dynamic
1080p transfer with 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound, an unrated version
of the movie (which a feature that allows you to select from new or
alternate scenes during the film), and a bonus digital copy for
portable media players. Recommended!
THE DOORS: Blu-Ray (***, 138 mins., 1991, R; Lionsgate): One
of Oliver Stone’s slickest and more entertaining films offers a
compulsively watchable account of the rise and fall of Jim Morrison
(one of Val Kilmer’s finest performances) and The Doors.
Stone’s script, written with J. Randal Johnson, is fairly
one-dimensional on the surface, offering little perspective on what
made Morrison tick, and instead adheres to a rather basic
point-by-point account of the band’s turbulent history.
It’s glossy, stylish cinema that, when all is said and done,
probably doesn’t tell you much about The Doors than what you
already knew, but the music still sounds great and Robert
Richardson’s cinematography comes across splendidly in
Lionsgate’s new Blu-Ray edition. The 1080p transfer isn’t
entirely perfect but it’s far better than any prior standard-def
DVD release of the movie, while the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio fills your
sound system just as spectacularly as you’d imagine. For
supplements, everything that was on the 15th Anniversary DVD is here
(even though the back cover doesn’t list all the extras),
including Stone’s commentary, a lengthy slate of deleted scenes,
two trailers, and four featurettes: “The Doors in L.A.,”
“Jim Morrison: An American Poet in Paris,” “The Road
to Excess” production doc, and a vintage 1991 Making Of.
BELLY: Blu-Ray (95 mins., 1998, R; Lionsgate):
Gritty urban drama from writer-director Hype Williams is still
appreciated in the hip-hop community for the appearances of NAS, DMX,
Method Man, Taral Hicks, “T-Boz” Watkins and others.
Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray edition looks reasonably fresh with its 7.1
DTS Master audio sound and 1080p transfer, though the low-budget
film’s visuals have their limitations. Extras carried over from
the prior DVD include deleted scenes, trailers, commentary from
Williams, a Making Of featurette and the “Grand Finale”
NEVER BACK DOWN: Blu-Ray and DVD (113 mins., 2007, Not Rated; Summit Entertainment):
Sean Faris plays a normal everyday teen who falls for the fetching
Amber Heard. Unfortunately for Sean, Amber’s boyfriend is a
“fight club master” who must have watched the David Fincher
movie one too many times, and beats our hero up pretty good. Undaunted,
Faris enlists the help of a martial arts expert (Djimon Hounsou), who
was available now that Pat Morita has retired into the great beyond.
A mix of teen drama, “Karate Kid” and “Fight
Club,” “Never Back Down” is a formula but quite
watchable affair from writer Chris Hauty and director Jeff Wadlow,
utilizing the tried-and-true underdog movie formula that carried dozens
of films that were, admittedly, better than this one. The characters
aren’t the most appealing you’ll find and nothing here is
especially inspired, yet it’s marginally entertaining and managed
to quietly gross over $22 million at the box-office last spring.
Summit’s Blu-Ray disc boasts a superb 1080p transfer with DTS-HD
Master Audio sound and extras including deleted scenes, commentary,
alternate fight angles, a Making Of featurette and more. The standard
DVD presents the same extras on a 2-disc special edition set. New on DVD
CENTENNIAL: Complete Mini-Series (1978-79; Universal):
One of the great television mini-series of all-time arrives on DVD at
long last next week, bringing with it over 20 hours of historical
adventure, romance and an all-star cast.
This NBC adaptation of James Michener’s sprawling novel
(acclaimed by many as one of his finest books) follows a fictional
Colorado town as it’s settled in the 18th century through battles
over its land in the 1970s. Richard Chamberlain and Robert Conrad top
line early episodes while subsequent shows offer a veritable
who’s-who of major television stars during the 1970s.
Technically, everything about the production reeks of class, from John
Addison’s music to superb cinematography and a strong sense of
time and place. As educational as it is entertaining,
“Centennial” is a series that dates before my time and has
criminally been out of widespread circulation since its original
release -- Universal’s DVD is the first real chance I’ve
had to sit back and watch the mini-series, and although I’ve only
gone through the first few segments, I can’t wait to finish this
slice of Americana, the sort we rarely see any more.
Universal’s long-awaited DVD box set, presented in an oversized
“book”-shaped box (similar to the studio’s
“Amazing Stories” release), offers satisfying full-screen
transfers and mono soundtracks, plus one retrospective featurette.
VAN HELSING (***, 132 mins., 2003, PG-13; Universal) THE MUMMY (***½, 75 mins., 1932; Universal)
Stephen Sommers’ much-maligned box-office disappointment
“Van Helsing” opens up with a marvelous black-and-white
sequence that pays tribute to the classic Universal monster movies. The
local villagers have carried pitchforks to Castle Frankenstein, where
the good doctor has given life to the monster, only to have his work
interrupted by the appearance of Dracula, who needs Frankenstein's
creation for his own nefarious purposes.
We cut to Paris, where Vatican-approved monster hunter Gabriel Van
Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is pursuing Mr. Hyde through the city streets.
Van Helsing has Bond-like gadgets at his disposal, a faithful servant
in Friar Carl (David Wenham), and, after subduing Robert Louis
Stevenson's famous villain, quickly sets out on a new mission: to rid
Transylvania of Dracula (a miscast, and ineffective, Richard Roxburgh).
Even with the help of a gypsy princess (Kate Beckinsale), Van Helsing
finds that Dracula and his brides aren't as easy to take down as you
might have anticipated. Complicating matters is the appearance of the
Wolf Man, who -- along with former Frankenstein servant Igor -- is held
under Dracula's spell. Vlad needs their help, in addition to the
monster (who has since gone missing), in order to fulfill his nasty
plan of spreading vampirism all over the world.
grown up on the Universal monster mashes of the '30s and '40s (thanks
in no small part to "Creature Double Feature" on Saturday afternoon
TV), I was gratified to see the homage Sommers pays to James Whale's
original film in the movie's prologue. Following that, the big-budget
"Van Helsing" becomes a silly but generally enjoyable, matinee-style
adventure that owes as much to Indy Jones and Sommers's own "Mummy"
films (thankfully more the original than its sequel) as it does to the
Universal classics of yesteryear. That likely won't be a major drawback
for most audiences, provided they're willing to go along for the ride.
Allen Daviau's cinematography beautifully captures the dark fairy-tale
quality of the action and is matched by Allan Cameron's sets, which
manage to convey atmosphere both appropriate to the old classics and a
modern day effects extravaganza. Speaking of F/X, the animation by ILM
and a host of other houses is generally superb, and backing up the
whole film is Alan Silvestri's sensational score. Just as intense as
his work on "The Mummy Returns" but a good deal more effective, this is
easily one of Silvestri's finest efforts in years, being rambunctious,
rousing and melodic in equal measure.
“Van Helsing” isn’t great cinema but it’s not
nearly as bad as its poor reputation would lead you to believe,
particularly after sitting through disappointments like this
summer’s “Indiana Jones” adventure.
Universal’s new 2-disc DVD edition was clearly intended to
capitalize on the release of the forthcoming “Mummy 3" and even
includes a free voucher (up to $7.50) for the new sequel. Extras seem
to have been mostly recycled from the prior 3-disc Universal special
edition, including commentaries, outtakes, a full tour of Drac’s
Castle, Making Of featurettes and more. The 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby
Digital soundtrack are both terrific.
Also new from Universal is a double-disc “Legacy” Special
Edition of the original 1932 MUMMY, this time offering new extras,
including commentary from Rick Baker, Steve Haberman, Bob Burns and
others; a documentary on monster make-up master Jack Pierce; trailers;
the “Universal Horror” documentary narrated by Ken Branagh;
the older DVD’s “Mummy” documentary and commentary by
critic Paul Jensen; and what seems to be a slightly improved
full-screen transfer with mono sound.
HEROES (**½, 113 mins., 1977, PG; Universal):
One of the “Fonz’s” earliest leading roles came in
this affable, easy-going comedy-drama, one of Hollywood’s first
films to deal with Vietnam vets in the ‘70s. Henry Winkler plays
a troubled vet who wants to start up a worm farm and breaks out of the
Veterans Hospital to travel cross-country, meeting Sally Field and
fellow army vet Harrison Ford along the way. Jeremy Paul Kagan’s
film is sensitively directed but changes tone a bit too much for my
taste; still, the film is well-intentioned and backed with strong
performances. Universal’s DVD looks outstanding with its fresh
16:9 (1.85) transfer and 2.0 mono soundtrack; fans of the movie should
note this first release of the picture on video is missing
Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son,” which originally
closed the film in theaters.
TRAPPED ASHES (104 mins., 2006, R; Lionsgate): Joe
Dante, Ken Russell and Sean S. Cunningham each helmed segments of this
mundane horror anthology, and oh, how the mighty have fallen.
“Trapped Ashes” is yet another horror anthology film
following seven strangers who get trapped during a Hollywood studio
tour and proceed to spin tales ranging from the absurd to the
pointless. It’s all unremarkable and forgettable, the movie
having been funded by Japanese investors probably hoping to get more
mileage out of its filmmakers than they got here. Lionsgate’s DVD
includes a 16:9 (1.85) widescreen transfer with 5.1 audio, an extensive
five-part Making Of, cast and crew commentaries, uncut versions of two
of the movie’s vignettes, deleted scenes and more.
EXTASIS (92 mins., 1996, Not Rated; Lionsgate):
Early role for Javier Bardem makes its way to DVD. This 1996 offering
sports a 16:9 (1.85) widescreen transfer with Spanish audio and
optional English subtitles.
BARRIO (98 mins., 1999, Not Rated; Lionsgate):
Fernando Leon de Aranda’s 1999 portrait of teens in a working
class Madrid neighborhood arrives on DVD next week from Lionsgate,
offering a 4:3 full-screen transfer and Spanish audio again with
optional English subs.