The Aisle Seat Third Season Premiere
A look at five upcoming movies and a host of goodies on DVD
By Andy Dursin
Now that September has finally kicked into gear (and it sure did in
the Northeast once Hurricane Floyd came barreling past us as a wind-packed
tropical storm), it seems like it's the perfect time to take a look at
the Fall movie season and the scores that we can look forward to hearing
along with them.
This year, we're going to take a brief capsulized look at what we can
expect from both movie and film music this season, with five specific movies
this week and another five to come in the next Aisle Seat column.
Don't forget to scroll down for some DVD reviews and Mail Bag comments
following this quick preview of the Fall to come, and remember to send
all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org as
we start this third year (!) of The Aisle Seat here at Film Score Monthly's
internet home. Excelsior!
Five Movies (and Soundtracks) to Watch This Season, Part One
1. SLEEPY HOLLOW (Paramount, November 19th): This project intrigued
me right from its development stages, and at least from seeing the trailer,
it appears that Tim Burton may indeed be delivering a classic romantic-horror-fantasy,
done in the style of Hammer horror with the fairy tale images of EDWARD
SCISSORHANDS. The cast is terrific (Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Jeffrey
Jones, Christopher Lee, Christopher Walken), the cinematography and settings
look to hit just the right, misty October touch, and contributing the score
is Danny Elfman, of course, who may turn in his Magnum Opus given the subject
matter. His music promises to fall somewhere between the darkness of BATMAN,
the rural folksy atmosphere of SOMMERSBY, and the fairy tale poignancy
of SCISSORHANDS, and if it sounds anything like one of those three works,
SLEEPY HOLLOW could be one of Elfman's best.
2. ANGELA'S ASHES (Paramount, November 26th): Frank McCourt's outstanding
autobiographical novel of growing up in a poverty-stricken Irish family
has been brought to the screen by director Alan Parker (EVITA, THE COMMITMENTS)
with a great cast that includes Robert Carlyle and Emily Watson. Scoring
the film is none other than John Williams, who could well be bringing home
another Oscar if the picture and the music reach the emotional heights
that McCourt's book so often achieved. Depressing at times but uplifting
at others, this could be a tearjerker that captivates audiences of all
persuasions this winter.
3. THE GREEN MILE (Warner Bros., December 17th): Combine Stephen King's
arguably finest work with the director of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and
a cast headlined by Tom Hanks, and you have the recipe for what could be
one of the finest movies of the year. While some test audience reaction
has reportedly been a bit on the disappointing side (the framing prologue
and epilogue sequences, involving an older version of Hanks's character,
have been problematic for the filmmakers since pre-production), there's
no doubt that King's serialized story -- like SHAWSHANK with mild supernatural
elements -- cries out for big-screen treatment, provided writer-director
Frank Darabont doesn't overplay the more sentimental elements of the material.
Thomas Newman provides the music here, which again promises to be alternately
evocative and uplifting, just like the last time he worked with Darabont.
Let's hope this one ranks with the roster of "good King cinematic
adaptations" along with DOLORES CLAIBORNE, MISERY, and SHAWSHANK,
and not the other handfuls of disappointing tripe produced from the author's
4. BICENTENNIAL MAN (Disney, Christmas): Robin Williams teams with director
Chris Columbus again for this adaptation of an Isaac Asimov story, produced
with a mammoth $120 million budget. A sci-fi comedy spanning 200 years
with Williams as a robot, BICENTENNIAL MAN was originally supposed to be
one of Summer 2000's big movies -- with John Williams writing the music
-- until Disney decided to rush the movie in time for a Christmas opening.
The change in schedule sabotaged Williams's involvement in the film (due
to commitments to other projects like ANGELA'S ASHES), so the music chores
now fall to James Horner, writing his final score of the Millennium. Expect
heart-tugging emotion and perhaps even an original song to compliment what
could be an interesting, mainstream holiday comedy, provided Columbus doesn't
go overboard in heavy-handed emotions like he has in the past (remember
the ending of MRS.DOUBTFIRE?).
5. END OF DAYS (Universal, November 24th): Arnold Schwarzenegger has
been waiting a while to star in a supernatural thriller. He (wisely) turned
down FALLEN and held off on several other projects before agreeing to appear
in this Satan-comes-to-New York-to-find-a-bride horror opus, which given
the favorable commercial climate of the genre these days, couldn't be opening
at a better time. Peter Hyams's resurgence following the success of the
formulaic but better-than-average THE RELIC comes to a head with this slick-
looking occult thriller, co-starring Robin Tunney and Gabriel Bryne as
Old Scratch himself. John Debney is scoring this one, and while I do not
mean to put down Debney, I hope he pulls through with a score here that's
not as -- well, to be frank, ordinary -- as his temp-track induced scores
from other Hyams projects (RELIC, SUDDEN DEATH). Could be potent stuff
to counter the effects of SCREAM 3, though the score may be a disappointment
waiting to happen if it's anything like much of Debney's past work in this
Fall DVD Mania: Buena Vista goodies and a score-packed New Line Special
Just when you think that you have exhausted enough monetary means for
the time being, along comes a full plate of DVD releases due out this Autumn
that promise to captivate viewers of all persuasions.
Buena Vista has joined in the fun with a handful of new DVDs that contain
trailers, Dolby Digital soundtracks, and generally crisp transfers. While
the company has only intermittently dabbled into the kinds of "Collector's
Edition" releases that interest die-hard movie buffs, the studio's
"basic" packages are perfectly acceptable, and Disney promises
to launch more extensive supplemental releases on certain titles in the
future (like HALLOWEEN: H20 and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, which is already available
In the meantime, two of the better Disney live-action releases from
the '90s have just been released on DVD, those being Joe Johnston's underrated
1991 period fantasy THE ROCKETEER (***1/2) and the amiable, Brat Pack revamp
of THE THREE MUSKETEERS (***, both $29.98, letterboxed), a 1993 remake
featuring Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O'Donnell and Tim Curry.
THE ROCKETEER fared moderately well at the box-office and received generally
positive notices from critics, but somehow I felt the movie should have
performed better than it did: this WWII-set adaptation of Dave Stevens'
comic book features flavorful period dÈcor and atmosphere, not to
mention an interesting plot (involving a rocket-propelled superhero, Nazis,
the mafia, and Hollywood leading men), and a terrific cast. Indeed, not
only do you have Paul Sorvino on GOODFELLAS-like turf, but we also get
the ravishing Jennifer Connelly as the love interest, and Timothy Dalton
in one of his best performances as an Errol Flynn-like marquee star who
sides with the Nazis.
Joe Johnston, who has since gone on to helm JUMANJI and OCTOBER SKY
(and was recently announced as the director of JURASSIC PARK 3), did a
superb job with this handsomely produced film, which also boasts ILM special
effects and one of James Horner's most enjoyable scores.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS, meanwhile, was a good-natured attempt from director
Stephen Herek (MR.HOLLAND'S OPUS) to make a family-friendly swashbuckler
with plenty of humor and a lack of the satirical (and sometimes sarcastic)
bite that Richard Lester brought to his two takes on Dumas.
As with THE ROCKETEER, the production is simply marvelous: the artistic
design, cinematography (by Dean Semler), and music (by Michael Kamen) are
top-notch and the performances are engaging, right down to Curry's Cardinal
Richelieu and the female leads turned in by Rebecca DeMornay, Gabrielle
Anwar, and Julie Delpy. Kamen's score is a rousing mix of derring-do and
heroic themes, and indeed sounds more cohesive than the disjointed score
he turned in on ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THEIVES a couple of years before,
that terrific opening and finale notwithstanding.
Both THE ROCKETEER and THREE MUSKETEERS were shot in Panavision, and
Disney's DVDs do a solid job reproducing the theatrical experience with
their 2.35:1 letterboxed transfers. THE ROCKETEER appears to have been
culled from the same source elements as the laserdisc, so while the colors
are a bit stronger and bleed less, the image at times exhibits a little
bit of shimmering on the edges. Still, it looks good, and THE THREE MUSKETEERS
looks even better: again framed at 2.35:1, the elaborate look of the film
has been perfectly rendered in the DVD, and indeed appears superior to
the older, THX-approved laserdisc.
Both soundtracks have been given upgrades from their preceding laserdisc
mixes: both DVDs feature Dolby Digital soundtracks, with THREE MUSKETEERS
in full 5.1 Digital and THE ROCKETEER in a 4 channel Digital mix. If you
have Dolby Digital AC-3 equipment, both soundtracks are going to sound
terrific with full, three-dimensional activity. Trailers have been included
on both DVDs, with THREE MUSKETEERS also containing a production featurette
and the music video for the Sting/Bryan Adams/Rod Stewart forgotten hit
"All For Love," which for some reason seems to be in mono.
Also newly released from Buena Vista is the direct-to-video Dimension
Films release, RUSSELL MULCAHY'S TALE OF THE MUMMY (*1/2, $29.98, letterboxed),
a goofy and off-the-wall exercise in silly horror that was likely rushed
into production to try and beat Universal's MUMMY to the screen.
Jason Scott Lee plays a U.S. English Embassy cop investigating a series
of strange murders that are linked to doctor Louise Lombard's recent pillaging
of an Egyptian tomb. Turns out the London killings are due to the arrival
of a mummy named Talos, whose quest for immortality was unleashed by Lombard's
granddad, Christopher Lee, some decades before in a prologue that closely
resembles the opening to STARGATE (this is one of those movies where every
scene tends to look and feel like something you've already seen).
You have to admire a movie with plenty of over-the-top murders (Talos
nails one poor bloke on a toilet in arguably the film's most disturbing
sequence), ambitious CGI effects done on the cheap, and wacky performances
that include Sean Pertwee as a deranged disciple, a blond Lysette Anthony
(stay off the bleach, hon), and blink-and-you'll-miss-them-cameos from
Michael Lerner, Honor Blackman, Shelley Duvall, and Coen Brothers regular
Mulcahy, who directed and co-wrote the picture, turns in a brisk 88-minute
thriller that, to give credit where it is due, does have its moments of
entertaining, guilty-pleasure fun. While the movie's personnel credentials
seem to indicate that it was lensed with a theatrical release in mind (the
cinematography is by DOLORES CLAIBORNE's Gabriel Beristain), TALE OF THE
MUMMY is the kind of mystical nonsense that you pick up with no expectations
on video, down a few brews and enjoy. The last shot bears an eerie resemblance
to the finale of STEPHEN KING'S STORM OF THE CENTURY -- but, like I said,
it's that kind of movie, folks.
Disney's DVD here is framed in the full 2.35:1 aspect ratio and looks
good, though some stock footage shots appear ragged at times. The Dolby
Digital soundtrack is also quite effective and includes a competent score
from Stefano Manetti.
Finally, New Line has released a "Plantinum Series Collection"
DVD of James Foley's THE CORRUPTOR (**, $24.98, letterboxed with isolated
score), featuring an elaborate collection of supplements.
Foley, who once directed GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS and has since been wallowing
in filming well- made but obvious thrillers like FEAR, here re-teams with
that film's star, Mark Wahlberg, in a tale of police corruption in New
York City's Chinatown. Produced mainly, I would assume, as a vehicle for
Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-Fat, this is at least a more competent thriller
than Chow's first American sojourn, the lousy REPLACEMENT KILLERS, though
you really have to be a fan of this genre to appreciate THE CORRUPTOR.
More often than not the story moves at a slow pace and the inevitable
questions of loyalty, betrayal, and double-crossing all arise as Foley
extends his film to an unmanageable 118 minute running time. There are
a few effective sequences along the way (including a crackerjack car chase),
but the film just isn't as efficient and interesting as it could have been,
and the characters aren't particularly appealing.
Despite the movie's at-times meandering narrative, New Line has managed
to produce a fantastic DVD, which once again shows that the studio is the
best when it comes to producing supplement-filled DVDs that push the boundaries
of the medium.
The behind-the-scenes documentary is filled with location footage and
candid interviews, which touch upon everything from the film's car chase
(more explicit and longer in its international release version) to the
production of the trailer and everything inbetween. Even better are the
film's menu screens and additional extra features, ranging from trailers
and the complete screenplay (accessible on DVD-ROM PC drives) and a terrific
isolated score track.
Film music fans will be more than thrilled to learn that New Line has
not only included Carter Burwell's fine score on a separate track, but
have also produced a full index listing of the various score tracks in
the film, allowing listeners to jump from one cue to the next. Additional
comments from Burwell are included, making this one of the finest examples
of presenting a full film score on a DVD we've yet seen.
The transfer looks good in the Super 35 aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and
the Dolby Digital and Surround tracks are unsurprisingly elaborate.
THE CORRUPTOR may not be one of the year's best movies, but it is easily
one of the best DVDs of 1999, and packed with the kinds of goodies that
DVD fans hope to check out every time we pop a disc in the player. If only
every film could be released this way?
Aisle Seat Mail Bag: Late Summer Laments
>From Steve Stromberg (email@example.com):
From the trailers I saw, The Astronaut's Wife looked suspiciously
like a remake of "I Married a Monster from Outerspace" - a 1958
B movie I saw when I was 12. I remember liking it because it was creepy
and the only special effect was when people died they'd fall to the ground
and their bodies would be replaced by sand with their replicant standing
their watching the process. There is a good performance by Tom Tryon, who,
on his honeymoon with Nita Talbot, is stricken and does not, shall we say,
perform at all on his wedding night.
My other comment centers on The 13th Warrior--better know as "Beowulf"
for those who remember that one from college. Yes, the Goldsmith score
is well worth having. The movie was a frustrating experience. Diana Venora
is given second billing and five lines of dialog. There was no character
development for either her (the King's daughter) or the other lead female
actress who is Banderas' love interest. The subplot which begins well with
an evil Prince--the son of the ailing King of the village the warriors
come to protect--and his antagonism towards the warriors disappears somewhere,
along with the king and the rest of Venora's performance - she looks stunning
by the way. It was so obviously cut in either the writing or editing process
that as I watched the wonderful cinematography, well-stage battle sequences,
I kept on hoping for a well-rounded and thought out movie. Alas, that was
not in the cards at all. Besides, Crichton ripped off "Beowulf"
in such an obvious manner I don't see why it didn't receive some credit
or mention besides changing Grendel to Wendel, etc. Too bad, this could
have been a good one. I enjoyed watching it and the individual set pieces
such as the night attack and the decent in the cave. Go see "Bowfinger"
Steve, I think that THE 13TH WARRIOR is one of those disappointing movies
that continuously threatens to be better than it is. It's also frustrating
because there wasn't anything wrong with the movie that another 30 minutes
of character development couldn't have corrected. Too bad, and because
producer Michael Chricton controls the film, there's almost no chance we'll
ever see director John McTiernan's original version, which did boast a
striking, more primal score by Graeme Revell that worked as well in its
own way as Goldsmith's more heroic, old-fashioned effort does in the final
>From Bob Gutowski <Rgutowski@nycds.org>
Saw DUDLEY DO-RIGHT this weekend, and it was vile. Neither Brendan
Fraser nor the inexplicable Sarah Jessica Parker has been encouraged to
play the characters of Dudley and Nell as we remember them. I imagine the
makers of the film thought that it was enough to have Alfred Molina camping
it up as Snidley.. Surprise! It isn't, even if Molina is pretty hysterical
(though he starts out sounding like Hans Conreid (the original voice of
Snidely) and then veers into a British accent). His performance works,
just the same.
However, after the Vegas-like "Kumquat Indian" dance extravaganza
featuring scantily-clad braves, as memories of CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC and
XANADU went whirling through my brain, I realized that the main question
was, who is this movie for? (I've also never nearly fallen asleep during
a climactic battle scene before, but this movie is, ahem, different.)
Bob, all I can say is, beware any movie that opens on Labor Day weekend
-- particularly those from major studios that figured to fare better being
released at any other point during the year. Universal must have realized
a flop on their hands (at 75 minutes, no less!) and dumped the movie out
asap, so it would trickle away without anyone noticing it. Their strategy,
if that's what you can call it, at least worked as the movie tanked with
a less than $7 million box-office take.
Let's hope their ROCKY & BULLWINKLE live-action/CGI effort (with
Robert DeNiro, Jason Alexander, and Rene Russo!) fares better next summer.
NEXT WEEK: Five more Fall Movies to Watch, plus STIGMATA and
STIR OF ECHOES (finally!). See you at the movies, and send all relevant
takes to me at firstname.lastname@example.org in
the interim. Cheers!