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Aisle Seat Baseball Playoff Edition

Plus: How You Can Find THE MUMMY Score on DVD

By Andy Dursin

The first week of October brings about all sorts of changes -- baseball playoffs, fall foliage, and some seriously good movies being released to theaters. While I did not get a chance to see THREE KINGS this past weekend, the movie garnered the kinds of critical acclaim that we find only once we dive into late September and October, where the studios routinely unveil the "important" movies of the year. You can basically count on that happening year in and year out.

It is curious, however, that 1999 has seen a rough go of it for Graeme Revell. After writing what I believe was his best score with THE SAINT, Revell has yet to nab that "breakout" work that would further catapult him into the "A" list of film composers. His ethnic and driving score for THE 13TH WARRIOR was thrown out and apparently his music from Michael Mann's upcoming THE INSIDER has also seen the axe, since new trailers now credit Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard with Original Music (the Internet Movie Database's listing confirms this). Who Bourke and Gerrard are is anyone's guess (the IMDB lists one other credit for the two, 1998's NADRO), but it's a shame that Revell, a talented composer who seemed to be pigeon-holed for a time with techno and synth-dominated scores, has had some bad luck this year. Hopefully the next Millennium will be kinder to the composer.

This week we have a little bit of everything -- some movie reviews and DVD news, as usual, and please scroll down for the FINAL time that we'll tell you how to find THE MUMMY isolated score on DVD. And remember to send in your comments to me at dursina@att.net in the meantime. Go Red Sox!

In Theaters

MUMFORD (** of four): Every once in a while Lawrence Kasdan hits the bullseye, and every once in a while the filmmaker strikes out completely.

When it comes to comedy, Kasdan seems rooted in the latter department. I LOVE YOU TO DEATH wasn't especially funny, and the dreary ACCIDENTAL TOURIST -- while touted as some kind of a comedy -- was anything but.

Kasdan's new movie, MUMFORD, is a movie that seems like it's a comedy. At least, I think it's trying to be funny. The trouble is, there's almost nothing to provoke laughter in it -- it's like watching a riotous heartwarming comedy made by people on Prozac.

Loren Dean plays a stoic, small-town psychologist who really isn't a certified doctor. I won't give away who exactly he is, but I can tell you that he watches Robert Stack on UNSOLVED MYSTERIES for a reason (it's just one of the many gags Kasdan flubs in the movie).

Dean, naturally, turns out to be a better psychologist than the real thing, particularly as he treats patients and charms townfolk with his common sense. Diner owner Alfre Woodard and misunderstood genius Jason Lee are hooked up thanks to Dean; so are Mary McDonnell (married to stoner Ted Danson) and pharmacist Pruitt Taylor Vince. Even the teens in therapy find romance thanks to "Doctor Mumford." When Hope Davis walks in, reeling from a divorce and exhaustion, Dean himself falls in love, but soon calls into question his ethics. At least, I think he does.

MUMFORD would like to be a Frank Capra-esque tale of people in a small town getting along, learning from each other, and forming a community at a time when we're all "jacked into" life with our cell phones, online entertainment, and pagers. Kasdan creates a handful of characters whom we should care intrinsically about, but we never really do because the lead character is so detached.

Dean's performance seems more suited to EYES WIDE SHUT than the folksy charm of this film. With an earnest demeanor that never conveys a tortured or even slightly confused soul, Dean mopes through the movie while Kasdan's supporting characters tend to suffer from a case of the cutes. Jason Lee's skateboarding billionaire is never in the least bit funny, even though Kasdan seems to be playing his persona for laughs and straining to say something about how electronically-oriented our society has become at the same time.

Still, the director has a tough time getting to the point. MUMFORD is GRAND CANYON Lite (it brings back a handful of that film's stars, with Davis in the Mary-Louise Parker role), with fumbled lines and bad comedic timing added into the mix. The perfunctory finale, which seems to have been cut to shreds in order to get the running time under two hours (what's the story with Martin Short's character?), is the ideal ending for a picture that seems as if it knew exactly what to say about the Human Condition, just not particularly how to say it. (R, 116 mins)


DVD News & Reviews: THE MUMMY Isolated Score (again!) and SOMETHING WICKED Re- Released

We continue to get emails about THE MUMMY DVD, and the apparent lack of an isolated score track on the release.

As we mentioned before, there IS an isolated score track... sort of.

Yes, it's true: Universal announced that there would be an isolated score channel of Goldsmith's music on the DVD. However, it appears as if someone made a major-league goof in the mastering process, since the music is not isolated on a separate audio track during the movie. (That's likely the reason why there is no mention of the isolated score track on the back of the DVD jacket).

However, all is not completely lost. If you access the "Languages" set-up menu screen, you'll notice that the background music on this screen is -- if you let it play -- the entire Goldsmith score from beginning to end. I haven't listened to it, but I believe there's some 90 odd minutes of music all told, a significant amount more than the soundtrack CD.

The hang-up is that you cannot fast-forward through tracks, flip from one cue to the next, or know precisely the context in which the music is being utilized in the movie, since the music will just play continuously from start to end on the Languages screen.

So again, the music IS there, just not in the way that most of us would have liked to have seen utilized on the DVD.

For upcoming releases, Fox's DVD of PATTON ($29.98) will include the supplemental "Making of PATTON" documentary with Jerry Goldsmith's score isolated in stereo on a secondary audio channel (during the program, not the movie). I just received a mock-up of the extra features and the score is indeed on there (so everyone can breathe a sigh of relief now!) -- but keep in mind this is the same music master you can buy on FSM's CD release of Patton.

Meanwhile, Anchor Bay has just released the compromised 1983 dark fantasy SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (***, Letterboxed, $24.98, with trailer) on DVD for the first time.

I've always enjoyed the look and atmosphere of this Jack Clayton-directed adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, with its moralistic underpinnings and examination of evil and darkness as embodied in a traveling carnival that rolls through quaint a Midwestern town during the glorious October days of charcoal-colored skies, pumpkins, and blowing orange leaves.

With a solid cast (Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce are excellent) and often evocative cinematography by Stephen H. Burum, SOMETHING WICKED renders a wonderfully realized cinematic vision of Bradbury's world of youthful protagonists growing up, understanding their elders, and realizing what life and death both entail.

Unfortunately, SOMETHING WICKED was plagued with production troubles, including a finished first cut that was slow and ambiguous, reportedly in the same way that Jack Clayton's previous movies often left much to the imagination of their viewers (including his supernatural masterpiece THE INNOCENTS).

With Disney having spent a bundle on the film, the studio and Bradbury decided to implement a thorough revision of the film, adding several special effects sequences (a la POLTERGEIST), replacing Georges Delerue's European sounding original music with a new score by James Horner (that remains one of Horner's finest early works), and changing several elements of the story to make it clearer to viewers.

The reshot footage sticks out like a sore thumb (the two young boys are both a year older and wear wigs!), and one continuously gets the feeling that the studio "dumbed down" the movie for its final released cut, in a misguided attempt to appeal to younger viewers with explicit visual effects. The changes may have made SOMETHING WICKED more palatable for older children, but they also turned the movie into a heavily flawed adaptation that one wishes hadn't been tampered with on its way to the big-screen. (The released print didn't even include the TRON-like computer effects that Harrison Ellenshaw shot at the last minute).

Anchor Bay has always been a proponent of supplemental features and restoration, which is why it's a shame that the company wasn't able (or wasn't willing) to dive into the vaults to bring us Jack Clayton's original cut of the film. After all, if the mediocre WATCHER IN THE WOODS warrants a full-blown "Special Edition" DVD, why not this far more significant and superior genre production?

At least Image's 1996 laserdisc release featured an insightful audio commentary by Bradbury, Burum, and effects supervisor Ellenshaw, which brought up all the post-production changes and studio-imposed edits the movie went through. That laserdisc also contained a rough-sounding, mono isolated score track of Horner's music, making it -- short of seeing Clayton's original version -- the next best thing.

Alas, neither feature has been included on the Anchor Bay DVD, which does include the movie's horrible theatrical trailer -- clearly one reason why the movie flopped at the box-office. Otherwise, the DVD transfer appears identical to the LD release, a shade darker and sharper but not inherently superior; the 4.0 Dolby Digital track is also on-par with the LD, though the Dolby Surround mix is much quieter and lacks the punch of the LD audio.

NEXT WEEK: Movies, Halloween Soundtracks, and more DVD news. Until then, send in your emails to dursina@att.net and we'll see you next week, when hopefully Pedro, Nomar & The Sox will have taken out The Tribe. Excelsior!


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