End Of August Mania!
PRETTY WOMAN, SWAMP THING and More Favorites Return To DVD
Plus: The Latest TV on DVD Box Sets
It’s incredible how quickly this
summer has flown by. One sure sign of September -- along with kids
going back to school, college students taking over stores in place of
tourists from out of state, and our local Rhode Island beaches
thankfully becoming less crowded -- is the number of DVDs that begin to
arrive here at our Aisle Seat offices. It’s fast becoming a rite
late summer; while DVDs are spread out leisurely during the summer
months, as soon as “The Fall” arrives (even if it’s
several weeks ahead
of its actual beginning), everything is kicked up a notch (sorry
Already I’ve received a slew of new TV on DVD box sets -- a
that, not surprisingly, also comprises nearly all of my next
“Laserphile” column for FSM -- but that’s far from
all. Numerous new
re-issues and re-packagings of previously issued, popular titles are
also out there -- and in abundance as September (gasp!) arrives!
Next week I’ll have a look at Universal’s eagerly
Editions of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, THE STING, and THE DEER HUNTER. In
the meantime, here’s a preview of what you can expect from both
new re-issues on DVD in the next few days...
DVD Re-Issues and
THE TRANSPORTER: “SPECIAL DELIVERY EDITION”
(**½, 93 mins., PG-13, 2002; Fox):
Jason Statham manages to keep a straight face as an ex-military man who
currently enjoys his profession as a sleek smuggler on the French
Mediterranean coast. He's tough, professional, and unkind to strangers,
at least until he meets his latest top-secret cargo -- a sexy young
Chinese girl (Shu Qi) -- who soon manages to have Frank Martin
questioning his lack of ethics.
This slick and good-looking action movie was produced and co-written by
Luc Besson, which would explain the picture's explosive style and lack
of narrative substance. Like "The Professional" but with the story
removed, THE TRANSPORTER is an efficient action movie with a few good
fights and car chases, but not a whole lot more. Still, action fans may
want to peek a look and will likely enjoy what they see.
Newly re-issued to coincide with next week’s release of
2,” Fox's DVD offers a gorgeous 2.35 transfer (kudos to
Pierre Morel) and a non-stop, bass-heavy 5.1 surround track, offering
an OK score by Stanley Clarke. Special features include "uncut" action
scenes that were trimmed to accommodate a PG-13 rating, commentary by
Statham and producer Steven Chasman, a "Making Of" featurette, and the
original trailer -- all of which were on the original DVD. So
new? A half-hour French featurette (mostly subtitled) is included along
with storyboards and a look at the upcoming sequel.
15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (***, 125 mins., 1990, R, Touchstone):
Garry Marshall’s box-office smash gets its third go-around on DVD
September 6th. While such “triple dips” are usually best
die-hard fans of the film, thankfully this affordable re-issue (about
$15 in most locales) offers enough incentives for prospective buyers.
Chief among the upgrades is a new 16:9 enhanced transfer, which marks
the first anamorphic presentation of the 1990 film on DVD. Yes, it DID
take a while, but the results are worth it: crisply remastered, this is
a big upgrade on the previous DVD versions, at least from a visual
standpoint. The movie is presented in its 125-minute
and includes Marshall’s audio commentary, which seems to be a
recorded track (and not merely a reprisal of the laserdisc track from
Other extras include a vintage 1990 promo featurette, Natalie
“Wild Women Do” video, the original trailer, and a blooper
reel. A pair
of featurettes (“Live From the Wrap Party,” taken from a
source, and “LA: The Pretty Woman Tour,” which includes a
map of the
film’s locales) round out the disc, which also contains a
5.1 Dolby Digital mix.
The film remains a romantic fairy tale, a total star vehicle for Julia
Roberts and Richard Gere, and isn’t to be taken too seriously.
still highly entertaining, glossy romantic-comedy, and
finally gets it right -- albeit the third time around!
TOY STORY: 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (***½, 81
mins., 1995, G; Disney):
Has it really been a decade since the release of Disney/Pixar’s
Story”? This brilliant, and still fresh, entertainment for
all ages will certainly go down as one of the most influential films of
the last several decades. Its utilization of 3-D computer animation
single-handedly ushered in the CGI era for modern “family
virtually signaled the death knell for hand-drawn work), paving the way
for the “Shreks” of the world to follow.
Still, the central story is what makes the film so captivating: there
are more technically complex CGI movies being made today, but the
warmth of the characters and the emotion of the original “Toy
remain unsurpassed in its genre, even ten years later.
Disney’s two-disc 10th Anniversary edition contains numerous
supplements from the studio’s superlative (and out-of-print)
Story: The Ultimate Toy Box” box set, and adds a few new wrinkles
well. The 1.77 widescreen transfer is fantastic (though you’ll
be a stickler to see much of a difference between this and the original
DVD), while the addition of a DTS soundtrack (plus a new 5.1 Dolby EX
track mixed by Oscar winner Gary Rydstrom) is sure to please
audiophiles. A fresh, but sadly short (only 15 minutes) “Legacy
Story” documentary includes new interviews with the principal
filmmakers and talent like Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, while Pixar
director John Lasseter appears in a new “Filmmakers
featurette. Other extras include deleted scenes, a sneak preview of
Disney/Pixar’s “Cars,” several interactive games
(including the new
“The Claw!”), and numerous “Easter Eggs”
scattered around the set.
SWAMP THING (**½, 91 mins., 1982, PG; MGM/Sony):
MGM’s initial DVD of the 1982 Avco-Embassy box-office dud
offered the unexpurgated, R-rated international version of Wes
film. Now a collector’s item -- primarily for its uncensored
Adrienne Barbeau’s breasts -- MGM has re-issued what they
release the first time around: the PG-rated U.S. theatrical version of
the movie, which was never intended to include Ms. Barbeau’s
considerable assets to begin with.
“Swamp Thing” is a sort-of clunky adaptation of the DC
protagonist, which over time turned into a trippy, adult comic book (or
“graphic novel” as they say nowadays). One could see a
movie made today being a graphic and surreal affair, but back in
the property was filmed as a straight monster flick -- with too much
talk and not enough action (almost certainly the result of a meager
production budget). It’s not a total slog in the swamp, however:
Barbeau’s performance and some hammy work from villainous Louis
do partially overcome the movie’s sluggish pace.
MGM/Sony’s new DVD seems to be a bit sharper and more satisfying
the original DVD, with both 16:9 and full-screen transfers available.
The original trailer is included as the lone extra.
BREAKIN’ COLLECTION: Contains BREAKIN’, BREAKIN’ 2:
ELECTRIC BUGALOO, and BEAT STREET (MGM/Sony): Four-disc
box set from MGM and Sony celebrates the birth of hip-hop culture
through three exploitation faves and a new bonus disc of extras.
It certainly doesn't get any more "80's" than Cannon's box-office hit
about a would-be classical dancer (Lucinda Dickey) who joins up with a
pair of street dancers (Adolfo "Shabba Doo" Quinones, Michael "Boogaloo
Shrimp" Chambers) in “Breakin’,” a pleasing mix of
"Flashdance" and an
old Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney musical. Early appearances by the likes
of Ice-T (as a club DJ) and Christopher McDonald -- chewing up the
scenery even back in '84 -- add a bit of flavor to the colorful moves
and grooves in Joel Silberg's movie, while the quickly-filmed
2: ELECTRIC BUGALOO offers more of the same.
BEAT STREET, meanwhile, had just a bit more ambition behind it: this
1984 Orion favorite is generally regarded as a bona-fide “hip
old-school classic, with a cast including Rae Dawn Chong and Guy Davis,
plus music co-produced by Harry Belafonte. (Heck, even
Oscar-winner Patrizia Von Brandenstein handled the production design!).
MGM’s four-disc box set offers a reprisal of the
“Breakin,” “Breakin’ 2" and “Beat
Street” DVDs, with the latter
presented in 16:9 widescreen and the former two in full-screen (open
matte) presentations. Only the exterior packaging is different on the
discs, making the fourth DVD the main incentive to pick up the set.
“The Breakin’ DVD Collection Bonus Disc” offers
trailers, a photo
gallery, two documentaries (“The Culture of Hip Hop” and
Elements”) and vintage breakdance/hip-hop footage making for a
recommended view for all nostalgic ‘80s groove-meisters (and you
you’re out there!).
New Date Movies on DVD
A LOT LIKE LOVE (**½, 2005, 107 mins., PG-13;
Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet make for an appealing couple who just
can’t get it together romantically in this engaging enough
Set over a six-year span, Colin Patrick Lynch’s script at times
like a stage play, with Kutcher’s would-be internet mogul and
aspiring, slightly neurotic actress meeting in New York and then
crossing paths every few years. The typical obstacles come in their
path: failed relationships with other partners, dashed career goals and
general bad timing among them.
The first hour of director Nigel Cole’s film works best: Kutcher
nicely dialed down from his sometimes manic screen persona, and sparks
do fly between him and Peet. The duo make for a sympathetic couple that
you genuinely care about, but the movie ultimately can’t come up
anything original or interesting to put in their way as it nears its
Still, “A Lot Like Love” is a lot more entertaining than a
recent genre films (see “The Wedding Date” below), and is
worth a rental for aficionados of date movies or “chick
flicks” as they
Touchstone’s DVD includes a satisfying 1.85 transfer with 5.1
Digital sound, sporting a pleasant soundtrack of pop songs and Thomas
Newman-like underscore by Alex Wurman. Extras include several deleted
scenes, a blooper reel, music video, and commentary from director Cole
and producers Armyan Bernstein and Kevin Messick.
DATE (*1/2, 2005, PG-13, 90 mins.; Universal):
Disappointing romantic comedy is an over-written, tired affair, despite
the presence of stars Debra Messing and Demot Mulroney -- both capable
of far better. Messing, from TV’s “Will and Grace,”
plays a harried
exec who pays Mulroney to be her wedding date at her sister’s
wedding...and if you need any more plot description than that,
probably find this film from writer Dana Fox and director Clare Kilner
to be a boatload of laughs and surprises. Everyone else -- even
movie” aficionados -- are likely to be let down by this forced,
unappealing comedy, which isn’t especially funny or romantic.
Universal’s DVD includes a colorful, bright 1.85 transfer with
Dolby Digital sound. Extras include deleted scenes, an interview with
Messing, and a surprisingly tedious commentary with the actress,
need to pick better projects than this if she hopes to have any career
beyond the small screen.
New TV on DVD
Vista has three new TV on DVD offerings on the plate this week: the
Complete Series of last fall’s LIFE AS WE KNOW IT
(2004, 558 mins.), the Complete Third Season of BOY MEETS WORLD
(1995-96, 491 mins.) and the
Complete Second Season of ONCE AND AGAIN
(1999-2000, 991 mins.).
“Life As We Know It” was a short-lived, and
at creating an “honest” teen drama, more “My
So-Called Life” (or
“Dawson’s Creek”) than “O.C.”-esque
glossy soap. The resulting show
didn’t fly: ABC yanked the series due to poor ratings in spite of
decent reviews, but Buena Vista’s DVD offers the entire series
(including two shows that didn’t air) with selected commentaries,
deleted scenes, bloopers and satisfying full-screen transfers.
The long-running sitcom “Boy Meets World” and the
critically lauded --
though often poorly-rated -- “Once and Again” are, needless
more well-known commodities.
The goofy, juvenile laughs of “Boy Meets World” were always
a sincere attempt at developing the interaction between amiable
characters with genuine heart and soul. Buena Vista’s newest
the ‘90s Friday night “TGIF” staple includes the full
run of 22
third-season episodes in solid full-screen transfers and Dolby Digital
sound. Extras are limited to an interactive “Pop Quiz.”
“Once and Again,” meanwhile, was never (much like
favorite of mine, but fans of the series should certainly appreciate
the series’ second season arriving somewhat belatedly on DVD (the
season debuted on disc back in 2002). The box-set includes all of the
drama’s 22 second-season shows in passable full-screen transfers
selected audio commentaries from the show’s creators.
Available from Fox next week, meanwhile, is the Fourth Volume of GARFIELD &
FRIENDS (1991-93, 528 mins.), the highly entertaining and
successful CBS Saturday morning adaptation of Jim Davis’ Garfield
and “U.S. Acres” cartoon strips.
latest three-disc box-set offers 24 episodes (culled from a two-year
span) from the series, and fans will be happy to note that the
transfers and soundtracks are appreciably superior on this set to
previous DVD editions. As with before, the shows offer an appealing
blend of Garfield’s sarcastic shenanigans and the rural, folksy
served up by “U.S. Acres.”
Fans should note a fifth and final volume of “Garfield &
will be out before year’s end, completing the whole run of the
Also New on DVD
EINSTEINS: OUR HUGE ADVENTURE (2005, 61 mins., Disney):
Cute animated feature aimed at young kids is a spin-off from the
bestselling “Little Einstein” toddler videos also produced
This first adventure in the “Little Einsteins” animated
(apparently a Saturday morning ABC show launching in September) follows
a group of four kids and their musical ship as they absorb a festival
of performing arts (and, of course, have a bit of fun in the process).
Disney’s DVD is a perfect launching pad for the upcoming series
offers interactive games for kids just old enough to have graduated
from the earlier “Einstein” videos.
NEXT TIME: Universal's LEGACY Editions, SAHARA and More! Don't
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