9/4/07 Edition -- The AISLE SEAT BLOG Is Now Online!

BLADES OF Hilarity
Silly Skating Spoof Looks Spiffy on HD-DVD

Figure skating is a sport that’s been begging for a full-blown parody. While skating has generated such memorable films as the terrific romantic comedy “The Cutting Edge” and the tearjerking favorite “Ice Castles,” we hadn’t seen a full-blown, inspired romp until this year’s BLADES OF GLORY (***, 93 mins., 2007, PG-13; Dreamworks/Paramount).

Released earlier this winter to a robust $118 million domestic gross, this thoroughly goofy and occasionally hilarious Dreamworks release boasts the sure-fire comedic teaming of Will Ferrell (as a bad-boy, Elvis Stoyko-type) and Jon Heder (the artsy, slightly fey Johnny Weir-styled pretty boy) as two men’s singles champions who are banned from the sport after they brawl with one another during an international competition’s concluding medal ceremony.

Faced with grim prospects (Ferrell gains employment in a kids’ skating show; Heder works at a skate shop), Heder’s old coach Craig T. Nelson hatches a plan: the sport’s governing body offers no restrictions on the duo returning to competition in the pairs competition, so Ferrell and Heder opt to take on skating’s Gold-medalist winning duo (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett as a pair of creepy siblings)...by skating with one another!

With its ridiculous costumes and inherent pretentiousness, skating is an easy target for ridicule, and the best thing about “Blades of Glory” is that it generally bypasses the most obvious targets, letting the outlandish outfits and routines speak for themselves, and instead concentrates on developing the chemistry between Ferrell and Heder, who prove to be a solid comic team together. First-time feature directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon authentically capture the essence of Olympic-styled competition (from its choreography to the broadcast tandem of Scott Hamilton and Jim Lapley), then layer loads of laughs on top of it, courtesy of a script credited to Jeff and Craig Cox, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky. The sequences of Ferrell and Heder skating to Aerosmith’s “Armageddon” ballad and -- in the film’s memorable climax -- Queen’s “Flash Gordon” theme are hilarious, but so are a number of sight gags, the best of which involves Nelson’s secretive “Iron Lotus” skating maneuver, as captured on a videotape smuggled in from North Korea.

Jenna Fischer (from TV’s “The Office”) makes for an appealing romantic interest for Heder, while Poehler and Arnett (a real-life married couple playing the villainous siblings here) are quite amusing on their own. But it’s really Ferrell and Heder’s work here that makes this silly lark so much fun, capped by a strong Theodore Shapiro score and a memorably daffy, inspired climax. Comedy fans shouldn’t miss it!

Dreamworks’ regular DVD looks fine, but their first HD-DVD exclusive presentation is even better, offering a clean, spotless high-definition 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer. The movie looks vibrant, and the Dolby Digital Plus sound has a full, robust feel to it on the audio side. Ample extras include deleted scenes and alternate takes, an interview with Scott Hamilton, several featurettes on the making of the movie, and a gag reel -- almost all of which are in HD as well.

New on Blu Ray

REMEMBER THE TITANS: Blu Ray (***, 2001, 113 mins., PG; Disney): The first collaboration between the Walt Disney Pictures brand name and producer Jerry Bruckheimer resulted in a feel-good 2001 football drama, the true story of a Virginia high school football team in the early '70s fighting racial prejudice as well as their on-field opponents.

Denzel Washington is terrific as a black coach designated to take over the racially polarized Alexandria school district's football squad, while Will Patton -- as the white coach relegated to a backup role with Washington's arrival -- ends up helping bring races together in a movie that is every bit as corny, syrupy, and saccharine as you might anticipate from a Disney release, but also highly entertaining nevertheless.

The performances of the youthful cast go a long way to making this a perfect family film, as does Boaz Yakin's crisp filmmaking and Trevor Rabin's score. I could have done without the one-too-many Motown sing-alongs (didn't we put the cinematic kibosh on such cliched sequences years ago?), and the movie could have used a bit more action on the field, but at a movie-going time where good movies are a precious few, “Remember the Titans” is solid entertainment and a moving true story that deserves to be seen.

Disney’s Blu Ray release is a keeper: the 1080p HD transfer is as crisp as you’d anticipate, while uncompressed 5.1 PCM sound maintains a boisterous presence throughout. Extras include two commentaries, an ABC TV special, deleted scenes and other featurettes carried over from the standard definition version.

New and Coming Soon on DVD

THE GRADUATE: 40th Anniversary Edition (****, 106 mins., 1967, PG; MGM/Fox): Mike Nichols’ seminal coming-of-age comic drama is back on DVD next week in a new Special Anniversary Edition courtesy of Fox and MGM.

Though the set is a little sparse on extras, fans of this chronicle of the life of one Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) will still appreciate the new features as well as the set’s remastered 16:9 (2.35) transfer along with new 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital mixes, both of which come to life when Simon & Garfunkel’s classic songs appear on the soundtrack. Needless to say this release is a major upgrade on all prior MGM DVD editions, finally doing justice to the picture’s Panavision cinematography.

For extras, the DVD includes a new featurette, “Students of the Graduate,” offering comments from filmmakers like Harold Ramis and critics including David Ansen and Owen Gleiberman, all giving their thoughts on the legacy of this 1967 classic. An older conversation with Dustin Hoffman is culled from the 25th Anniversary VHS and laserdisc releases, as is the retrospective featurette “The Graduate at 25.” The original trailer is also on-hand, but will be of the most interest for buffs here are two new commentary tracks: one featuring Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross, the other with Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh. The Hoffman-Ross track is chatty and fun, but the Nichols-Soderbergh track will prove of more interest for scholars.

Overall, this is a must-have upgrade for “Graduate” fans, with Fox’s release also offering a mini-soundtrack CD (available supposedly for a limited time only) sporting Simon & Garfunkel’s four songs from the film.

GREY’S ANATOMY: Season 3 (2006-07, 1105 mins.; Buena Vista): ABC’s hit medical drama/soap opera is back on DVD in a seven disc set preserving the third-season adventures of McDreamy, McSteamy and Company. Here, the cast bids adieu to Kate Walsh (heading off to topline her own spin-off) and Isaiah Washington (heading off to rehab and a guest stint on “The Bionic Woman”) during these Season 3 episodes, four of which are exclusively extended for DVD. Other extras include selected audio commentaries and featurettes, plus superb 1.78 (16:9) transfers with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

UPRIGHT CITIZENS BRIGADE: Seasons 1 and 2 (Paramount): The Comedy Central series finds it way to DVD this month, first in a Complete Season 1 set (available now), offering the original pilot, commentary and other extras, and later in a Season 2 box (available September 18th) with more commentaries, early live performances by the group, deleted scenes and more.

TWO AND A HALF MEN: Complete First Season (2003-04, 24 Episodes, Warner): CBS’ top-rated Monday night sitcom debuts on DVD in a complete First Season set, preserving the Charlie Sheen-Jon Cryer comedy’s initial 24 episodes. A gag reel, outtakes, a backstage tour with their young co-star Angus T. Jones, and a Making Of featurette round out the set, which is presented in 16:9 (1.85) widescreen transfers and 2.0 Dolby Digital sound.

SAMURAI JACK: Season 4 (292 mins., Warner): Season 4 box-set preserves over four hours of Genndy Tartakovsky’s acclaimed Cartoon Network series in full-screen transfers and 2.0 Dolby Digital sound. Extras include a deleted scene, series promos, and two featurettes.

SUPERNATURAL: Season 2 (2006-07, 903 mins., Warner): Creator Eric Kripke’s chilling tale of two brothers (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) traveling the country, searching for their lost father and running into all sorts of supernatural creepies along the way was one of the fledgling CW Network’s few solid performers during its second season. With more attention turned to the series’ core story, “Supernatural” ramps up the thrills and dramatic interest in its second season, which Warner brings to DVD next week in a box-set offering unaired scenes, commentary on three episodes, Padalecki’s screen test, a gag reel, and an interactive U.S. map offering a guide to “urban legends and factoids pertaining to each episode.” Recommended!

BLOODRAYNE 2: Deliverance (2007, 95 mins., R; Vivendi): Uwe Boll strikes again, this time with his sequel to his arguably most watchable videogame-to-film adaptation (though that doesn’t say much, admittedly). Kristanna Loken is nowhere to be found, but the curvy Natassia Malthe makes for an agreeable enough substitute in this follow-up, which pits the red-haired vampiress against Billy the Kid (Zack Ward). Michael Pare shows us he’s still alive and kicking in this latest Boll concoction, best left for undemanding teenagers and video game addicts only. Vivendi’s DVD includes a digital comic book, deleted and extended scenes, commentary, interviews, and the complete “Bloodrayne 2" video game on a separate PC-DVD.

GRACIE (***, 97 mins., 2007, PG-13; New Line): Amiable drama about a fiesty teenage girl (the appealing Carly Schroeder) who defies the odds and bucks the system in her desire to play high school boys’ soccer. Dermot Mulroney and Elisabeth Shue co-star as Gracie’s parents in this inspirational family picture, directed by Shue’s husband (“An Inconvenient Truth” helmer Davis Guggenheim), which arrives on DVD in two weeks with commentaries from Guggenheim, a separate commentary from Shue and her brother Andrew (who also appears in the film and co-wrote the story), a Making Of featurette, the original trailer, a 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

NEXT TIME: Early Halloween Haunts as the Aisle Seat hits its 10th Anniversary! Until then, don't forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards, check out the new Aisle Seat Blog, and direct any emails to the link above. Cheers everyone!

Get Firefox!

Copyright 1997-2007 All Reviews, Site and Design by Andre Dursin