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Aisle Seat Holiday Buyer's Guide, Part II

Reviews of SERPICO, THE DUELLISTS Special Edition, K-19, and more for your last-second shopping pleasure!

By Andy Dursin

Last week we ran a review of the BACK TO THE FUTURE TRILOGY on DVD that did not include some comments I made to amend my reviews of the Widescreen transfers on Part II and III.

Basically, after reading about reports of mis-framing on both BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II and III, I did an A/B comparison of the transfers on all three films, synching up the Widescreen DVDs with the Letterboxed Laserdiscs MCA released a decade ago.

While all three films were matted to 1.85, the reports turned out to be true: both BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II and III are BADLY mis-framed, cropping out information at the top of the frame and on the edges at various points throughout the two sequels. Yes, it may look right at 1.85, but when I looked at the laserdisc, there's no question the DVD is a mess -- details are being left out and the framing looks like the work of a theater projectionist who was asleep at the switch.

Universal has issued a statement about the situation and released a phone number you can call with any questions (888-703-0010). The bottom line, though, is that the studio WILL be pressing replacement copies that you'll be able to mail in this February.

And now, if you have need some last-minute shopping ideas, here's the Second Part of our annual DVD Buyer's Guide -- just get out to the store, and quick!

I'll be back in early January with reviews of THE TWO TOWERS (my quick verdict: better than its predecessor, though the Helm's Deep battle went on too long and Howard Shore's overstated score wore out its welcome with me) and others, but in the meantime, here are the last Aisle Seat reviews of 2002. Email me at as always and have a Merry Christmas everyone!

New Release Mania

AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER. New Line Home Video. 2002, 95 minutes, PG-13.

THE NUTSHELL: Everyone's favorite swingin' '60s spy is back in this third go-around for the hit series. This time, Mike Myers' spy tries to reconcile his relationship with his dad (Michael Caine), while Dr. Evil's latest attempt to take over the world involves a skin-eating Dutch madman named Goldmember. The latter requires Austin to high tail it to the '70s, where he teams up with the very Pam Grier-like Foxy Cleopatra (the extremely easy-on-the-eyes Beyonce Knowles of Destiny's Child).

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: As much as I enjoyed the original film, I found "The Spy Who Shagged Me" to be a lame, tired retread. While the energy in GOLDMEMBER also seems to lag at times, the good news is that there are enough laughs here to warrant a recommendation. Recycled jokes are kept at a minimum (particularly considering the second film), and there's one gem of a gag involving Austin and Mini-Me (Verne Troyer) trying to elude a doctor on Dr. Evil's submarine that's absolutely hysterical. Knowles is a pleasant addition to the cast and everyone seems to be having a good time as usual (there are a handful of fun cameos as well). Also a plus are two great musical numbers: one in the movie, and the other in the deleted scenes section. The latter involves a nice salute to Caine as the cast sings an Austin-altered rendition of "Alfie (What's It All About)," with George S. Clinton providing an especially nice arrangement.

DVD GOODS: Speaking of that, when was the last time you saw something in the deleted scenes section worth watching? A plethora of extra scenes here -- fully edited and likely cut from the movie just before its release -- include some spirited gags that are actually worth taking a gander at.

Other extras are not quite as extensive as other New Line "Infinifilm" DVDs we've seen in the past, but are still pretty decent. You have a handful of mini-documentaries, commentary from Myers and director Jay Roach, a segment on the visual effects, several music videos (including one by Britney Spears and Myers' group Ming Tea), the trailer, and DVD-ROM content including a voice-over workshop.

Visually, the 2.35 transfer is exceptionally colorful and crisp, while the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is strong.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: Sure, in comparison with the first film, not every gag is quite as fresh or energetic in GOLDMEMBER, but the bottom line is that this is a major improvement on the lethargic second installment. If you're a fan of the original, give it a shot. Now for the cliched recommendation line: groovy, baby, yeah!

EYE SEE YOU [aka D-TOX]. Columbia TriStar Home Video. 1999, 96 mins., R.

THE NUTSHELL: The long-unreleased Sylvester Stallone thriller (completed in 1999) has finally found a release on home video after being sold off by its studio (Universal) and re-named under one of its numerous working titles.

Stallone plays a FBI agent investigating a serial killer who preys on cops. After his friends are wiped out -- along with sexy fiancee Dina Meyer (she's gone after 15 minutes, sad to say) -- Sly takes in a daily dose of the drink to the point where ex-boss Charles S. Dutton decides to send him to a remote, wintry rehab center to clean up his act. There, Stallone finds a motley assortment of alcoholic law enforcement officers, including Robert Patrick, Robert Prosky, Sean Patrick Flannery, and Geoffrey Wright, not to mention facility employees Kris Kristofferson and the ever-underrated Polly Walker. They bicker and quibble to no end, and soon begin to be picked off by -- you guessed it -- the same killer Stallone has been pursuing for years.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: EYE SEE YOU is more or less routine most of the way, from its claustrophobic wintry confines, down to paper-thin characterizations and dramatic developments. Most of the fine cast is wasted (like Tom Berenger as a facility handyman), and the pacing is much too frantic, with large gaps in the plot presumably explained by an overabundance of post-production work.

Still, the surprisingly watchable film is the kind of B-movie that makes for guilty pleasure cinema all the way. Director Jim Gillespie (fresh off "I Know What You Did Last Summer" at the time of filming) has basically made "I Know What You Did Before I Started Drinking And You Killed My Fiancee." It's essentially a slasher movie with a terrific cast, but somehow the movie remains oddly watchable in spite of its glaring flaws.

Part of it is due to the splendid visual presentation: Dean Semler's scope cinematography is excellent and John Powell's terrific score (which sadly will never be released, one would have to assume) lend an able assist to Stallone and company, who look a bit bewildered as to what kind of film was being made here. There are times when the movie is aiming for horrific shocks, other moments when it takes an Agatha Christie mystery- like spin, and caps it all off with a climax sporting a rousing one-on-one showdown between Stallone and the killer that delivers the goods (a little late, but better than never).

DVD GOODS: The picture was shot in 1999 and sat on the shelf at Universal for several years. Late in 2000 the movie began appearing in various foreign territories, and now Columbia TriStar has released the film for the first time in North America, exclusively on video.

Aside from the different title and addition of the "DEJ Productions" logo (which is plastered over all references to Universal except for the end credits), this is an identical presentation to the D-TOX the rest of the world received.

The movie runs 96 minutes and is presented in a comfortably framed 2.35 scope print that looks very clean. Curiously, though, the DVD defaults to a horribly cropped pan-and- scan transfer, and on both of my machines, requires you to go into the "Set Up" menu to select the Widescreen version! On the audio side, the 5.1 sound is bass-heavy and certainly acceptable.

For extras, a full slate of deleted scenes (the same ones found on the international DVD releases) are included, as well as the original theatrical trailer (again with DEJ Productions' logo substituted for Universal's).

An exclusive to Columbia's U.S. disc are the addition of nearly 30 minutes of cast interviews shot during the production. They're fluffy, promotional sound-bytes with nine members of the cast (basically everyone except Stallone), each running three minutes. Still, it's a nice bonus to have on the domestic DVD release.

LAST-MINUTE GIFT POTENTIAL: Die-hard Stallone fans will probably enjoy this one, which has received a solid DVD release courtesy of Columbia TriStar. Despite its obvious shortcomings, this is far from the worst turkey of 1999, and a good deal more entertaining than several films I paid to see in theaters since then. As an efficient B thriller, EYE SEE YOU is worth a look.

K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER. Paramount Home Video. 2002, 137 mins., PG-13.

THE NUTSHELL: Harrison Ford plays a Russian sub commander in this tale loosely based on a real incident. The crew of the sub K-19 has to contend with a leaking nuclear reactor -- and the possibility of leading the world to the brink of war -- during the Cold War era. Ford essays the ever-dour Captain Alexei Vostrikov, while Liam Neeson is on- hand to handle the combative captain and try to keep the situation from getting out of hand.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: Like a lot of director Kathryn Bigelow's films, K-19 looks great, sounds great, but something is seriously wrong in the screenplay department. Credited to writer Christopher Kyle, K-19 plays like every cliché-ridden submarine movie you've ever seen, which shouldn't, admittedly, come as a great surprise because of the confines (literally and figuratively) of the genre. That being said, the movie also features one of Harrison Ford's weakest performances, with the actor looking out of his element in a basically unlikeable role. After "What Lies Beneath," one might have guessed that Ford would go back to playing more heroic characters, but he doesn't come off nearly as well as Neeson in this "we'll never know how close we really came*" edge-of-the-apocalypse submarine thriller.

Visually, Jeff Cronenweth's widescreen cinematography is quite vivid, and Klaus Badelt's by-the-numbers score appropriately bombastic, but K-19 just doesn't work in or out of the water, with its tacked-on courtroom melodramatics seeming awfully hollow.

DVD GOODS: As you might anticipate, Paramount's 2.35 DVD looks excellent and sounds even better. This is one of those "showcase" 5.1 soundtracks you could use to show off your home theater audio system, with constant use of the surround channels and bass-heavy effects filling the air.

Supplements are also quite good. Bigelow and Cronenweth provide a better-than-average commentary track, while a likewise decent "Making Of" special is included, along with three featurettes on the construction of the sub replica. K-19 was co-produced by National Geographic and the film's attention to detail (at least in its submarine construction) is highlighted by the special features, which are rounded out by the theatrical trailer.

GIFT POTENTIAL: History buffs may find K-19 to be particularly fascinating, but dramatically the picture is a disappointment. On the other hand, Paramount's presentation is splendid on the visual, audio, and supplementary side, which makes this one recommended for history aficionados and Ford fans.

THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES. Paramount Home Video. 2002, 106 mins., PG.

THE NUTSHELL: Ian Holm plays a dual role in this adaptation of Simon Leys' novel "The Death Of Napoleon." Not only does Holm essay the exiled emperor (something he also did in 1981's "Time Bandits"), but also a common man named Eugene Lenormand -- an individual Napoleon seeks to switch identities with so can he retake the French throne. The identity swap occurs but the intended results don't quite materialize, with Eugene living the good life on the island of St. Helena, while Napoleon finds love when he returns to Paris as one of its regular inhabitants.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: Holm is a delight in this Paramount Classics release, which received widespread acclaim but only scant theatrical distribution. It's unfortunate the movie didn't find more of an audience in theaters than it did, because THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES is a funny and poignant comedy of identity switching -- with a historical bent that screenwriters Kevin Molony, Alan Taylor (who also directed), and Herbie Wave exploit to great effect. This is a wonderfully performed piece that definitely deserves a look on video.

DVD GOODS: Paramount's 1.85 transfer looks good. EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES was a co-production with England's Film Four and the movie wasn't shot on a huge budget, but still looks reasonably authentic and atmospheric.

Rachel Portman's restrained score is just what you would expect from one of the composer's works, and the 5.1 soundtrack is gentle and involving. No Special Features have been included on the disc.

GIFT POTENTIAL: Chances are that few of your friends heard (much less saw) this little-seen sleeper. Despite a lack of supplements, Paramount's DVD looks good and THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES is highly recommended.

HAPPY ACCIDENTS. MGM Home Entertainment. 110 minutes, 2000, R.

THE NUTSHELL: Marisa Tomei plays a neurotic NYC gal whose latest relationship involves a guy (Vincent D'Onofrio) who says he's a time traveler from the year 2470. If you've previously seen D'Onofrio in movies before, you know he may not be kidding -- in fact, he's pretty convincing when describing why he's come back in time to save Tomei from a life of mundane blandness. Tomei's shrink (Holland Taylor) tries to decipher the relationship while her mother (Tovah Feldshuh) attempts to encourage whatever positive aspects her daughter can extract from the relationship.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: Writer-director Brad Anderson's previous credits include the sweet Boston love story "Next Stop Wonderland," a little movie that Miramax paid a bundle for and barely recouped their investment on. Since then Anderson has been hibernating, re-materializing only briefly with the little-seen thriller "Session 9" with David Caruso last year. In HAPPY ACCIDENTS, he reprises some of the quirky characters and relationships that "Next Stop Wonderland" contained, and the result is an amiable piece of fluff. Tomei (always one of my favorites, so I admit I was suckered in pretty early here) and D'Onofrio manage to be charming and colorful without turning grating and annoying; the supporting work of Feldshuh and Taylor is also stand-out, as is Anthony Michael Hall in a hilarious cameo. No great shakes, but a good independent romantic comedy nevertheless.

DVD GOODS: MGM's DVD offers both 1.85 and full-frame transfers, along with a standard Dolby Surround soundtrack. Given the movie's modest budget, this is as good a presentation of the film as one could reasonably expect.

On the extras side, Anderson and D'Onofrio contribute an interesting commentary track while the theatrical trailer rounds out the package.

GIFT POTENTIAL: If you're looking for a "date movie" kind of title for your wife or girlfriend, HAPPY ACCIDENTS is a spicy love story with some solid laughs and engaging performances. If you can get past the R-rated profanity, this is a charming, inoffensive little film well worth checking out.

SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON. Dreamworks. 83 minutes, 2002, G.

THE NUTSHELL: The life and times of a wild mustang, narrated by Matt Damon with songs by Bryan Adams. Spirit is a stallion (of the Cimarron!) who comes in contact with a Lakota brave and an evil U.S. cavalry colonel who wants to tame Spirit's wild nature.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: Young kids will likely enjoy SPIRIT, a movie written by John Fusco ("Young Guns") that takes the interesting path of not having the horses actually talk. After sitting through countless cute Disney films, this is a refreshing change of pace, though in place of talking critters is banal "feel good" narration that sometimes comes off like Jack Handy's latest batch of "Deep Thoughts." And, say whatever you will of past Bryan Adams movie songs, but his soundtrack for SPIRIT is thoroughly forgettable -- ditto for Hans Zimmer's competent but uninspired score. As far as the animation goes, SPIRIT looks good in widescreen (more on that in a minute), but its mix of hand-drawn and CGI styles results in an uneven looking film.

All in all, the predictable and politically correct/liberal-slanted story (the white men bad, the American Indians noble and righteous) will provide passable entertainment mainly for young viewers. Adults are advised to check out "Ice Age" or "Lilo & Stitch" instead.

DVD GOODS: Dreamworks' DVD features all kinds of excellent supplementary features, but first things first: make sure you buy the Widescreen version. Shot in an anamorphic 2.35 widescreen process, SPIRIT makes great use of the wide frame and is pretty much worthless in pan-and-scan. The 5.1 DTS soundtrack is terrific, featuring a vast soundscape and use of bass.

Now, that being said, the DVD is otherwise filled with some great extras. There's a decent filmmaker audio commentary track, a featurette on the music (sporting interviews with Zimmer and Adams), several segments on the animation process, storyboards, and more.

The meat of the disc is found, for a change, in its DVD-ROM content. There's a "Mini- Avid" feature that enables you to assemble your own short movie, incorporating music and sound effects from "Spirit" and combining them with your own narration and photos. Very neat, though be warned you have to do some downloading off the net and have a powerful enough PC to really be able to pull this off. Additional ROM extras include tons of games and other goodies for the little ones.

GIFT POTENTIAL: Kids are the primary audience of SPIRIT, a simplistic but OK animated feature that gets a DVD recommendation solely on the basis of its neat interactive features. A great package from Dreamworks for a so-so movie.

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION. Dimension Home Video. 2002, 89 minutes, R.

THE NUTSHELL: What number are we on? I think it's Number 8 for the "Halloween" franchise, which seems to be regressing from watchable B-movies to low-grade studio product marginalized by a major studio. Here, "Halloween II" director Rick Rosenthal is back for another round, which finds Michael Myers NOT dead (gee, who would've thought?) but rather back to stalk a group of enterprising teens and internet hucksters, who have decided to spend a night at the insane one's old home just for the heck of it.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: Sure, Moustapha Akkad's low-budget "Halloween" entries 4-6 weren't any great shakes, but at least they were made outside the studio system. Now, with Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Dimension/Miramax Films involved, the HALLOWEEN brand name is more of a "product" than ever. Here, we have a film again as inspired by other horror flicks (think "Scream" and "Blair Witch Project") as the actual series it claims to belong to. The idiotic leads range from Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks as web producers to Thomas Ian Nicholas from "American Pie," and the film is by-the- numbers all the way. Sure, the old movies were by-the-numbers as well, but what's missing is the charm and continuing story line from the earlier films. Danny Lux's score, thankfully, at least resembles the work of Alan Howarth and John Carpenter more than the overblown orchestral score John Ottman and Marco Beltrami threw together for H20.

DVD GOODS: You might have thought Rick Rosenthal would have learned from his terrible experience on HALLOWEEN II (producer John Carpenter re-cut and re-shot the movie after Rosenthal turned in his initial version), but history DOES repeat itself, as we all know. RESURRECTION was extensively re-shot and its release delayed by nearly a year after Rosenthal's original version was deemed nearly unwatchable.

Some deleted scenes, including several different endings, are contained in the DVD, though Rosenthal isn't all too candid in his bland commentary track, recorded with editor Robert Ferretti. Documentary featurettes and storyboards are also part of a solid DVD package, while the 2.35 transfer looks good and the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound satisfying.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: I grew up watching the "Halloween" series and it's pretty sad to see the franchise turning into another genre cash cow for the Weinstein brothers. Every generation needs a good, stupid horror movie about idiot teenagers, but at least Donald Pleasance was around in the old days instead of Busta Rhymes. Pretty disappointing, even on a B-movie level.

UNFAITHFUL. Fox. 2002, 124 minutes, R.

THE NUTSHELL: Diane Lane plays a wife who decides to engage in an affair with a handsome artist (Oliver Martinez) in Adrian Lyne's intriguing though at times overblown character study. Richard Gere essays Lane's husband, who watches as his relationship with his spouse threatens to unravel while she toils around with the handsome stranger.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: Critical pundits were high on "Unfaithful," which nevertheless comes across as a contrived and stilted piece with good performances. Gere, who was terrific in last year's criminally underrated "Mothman Prophecies," gives another solid, nicely modulated performance as the husband, while Lane does a fine job as a woman who acts on her impulses. The trouble is the script (credited to Alvin Sargent and William Broyles, Jr.), which is never quite convincing in how the situation is set up: the opening scene alone is ridiculous in its execution. Still, for Gere or Lane die-hards, Lyne's steamy picture is worth a view.

DVD GOODS: Fox's DVD offers a strong 1.85 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack (a full-screen version is sold separately). For supplements, the disc offers commentary from the director and a cast commentary, along with 11 excellent deleted scenes (including a more predictable, alternate ending), behind-the-scenes and editing featurettes, "The Charlie Rose Show" interview with Gere and Lyne, and more.

GIFT POTENTIAL: UNFAITHFUL is a depressing, at-times revealing, and often frustrating film that never really gets its act together. Despite the fine work of the cast, this is an intriguing but not entirely satisfying film recommended mainly for fans of the actors.

Vintage DVD

SERPICO. Paramount Home Video. 1973, 130 mins., R.

THE NUTSHELL: Sporting one of Al Pacino's defining cinematic performances, SERPICO is one of the great cop thrillers of the 1970s. Based on Peter Maas' book (taken from a true story), Pacino stars as a New York City cop whose honesty and unwillingness to succumb to corruption alienate him from many of his brethren -- and ultimately nearly cost him his life.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: You can't go wrong with SERPICO. This is a tough, gritty film that ranks as one of director Sidney Lumet's best pictures, touching upon aspects of integrity, corruption, and government affairs that haven't dated one bit. While some of the movie's '60s "counter-culture" elements do, in fact, date the movie, its discussion and contrast of authority establishments with one's personal beliefs remain timeless.

Pacino's strong performance as an unflinching, uncompromising cop and the presence of numerous character actors in supporting roles (John Randolph, Tony Roberts, F. Murray Abraham, Kenneth McMillan, and even a young Judd Hirsch) adds to the film's power. Norman Wexler and Waldo Salt's script is taut and Mikis Theodorakis' score highly effective.

DVD GOODS: Paramount's Special Edition DVD offers a fine 1.85 transfer and a subtly effective 5.1 Surround re-mix. The print shows its age at times but generally looks razor sharp, while the stereo sound adds a little oomph to Theodorakis' atmospheric score.

For Special Features, Paramount has included several featurettes: "Serpico: From Real to Reel," "Inside Serpico," and "Serpico: Favorite Moments." Each featuring new interviews with Lumet and producer Martin Bregman, these are engaging discussions that touch upon the film's popularity and enduring thematic elements. A photo gallery, featuring additional comments from Lumet, is included along with the movie's theatrical trailer, that runs some four minutes (!) and basically conveys an abridged version of the entire film.

GIFT POTENTIAL: If you like great acting, strong writing, and gritty filmmaking, SERPICO represents '70s cinema at its finest. Worth it for movie buffs, Pacino fans, and anyone seeking one of that decade's best, issue-oriented films.

THE DUELLISTS. Paramount Home Video. 1977, 100 minutes, PG.

THE NUTSHELL: Ridley Scott's first feature has been given a tremendous Collector's Edition release courtesy of Paramount. Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine play soldiers in Napoleon's army who begin a series of duels that span some 30 years. Frank Tidy's gorgeous lensing of the film's locations and Howard Blake's atmospheric score compliment Scott's visual eye, which even in 1977 was on full display in this highly acclaimed picture.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: The American leads (Keitel, Carradine, and the bland Cristina Raines) basically play second fiddle to a fine contingent of British actors (Edward Fox, Robert Stephens, Tom Conti, and "guest star" Albert Finney), but THE DUELLISTS is more about visuals and atmosphere than the picture's lead performances. Based on Joseph Conrad's story "The Duel," THE DUELLISTS is a movie where each scene conveys a feeling or mood -- it's beautiful to look at and still one of Scott's most impressive aesthetic works.

DVD GOODS: Paramount promised a bona-fide Special Edition and THE DUELLISTS definitely delivers. There are two full commentary tracks: one from Scott that's insightful and filled with information (as seemingly all of his tracks have been), the other by Howard Blake that also includes his score isolated in stereo! Obviously, this makes it a must-purchase for FSM readers right there.

A half-hour conversation between Scott and filmmaker Kevin Reynolds ("Count of Monte Cristo," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves") is interesting and laid back, providing an analysis of Scott's work on the picture. There's also a lot of great, archival behind-the- scenes footage from the shooting present in this revealing retrospective.

Photo galleries, storyboards, the original trailer, and Scott's half-hour first movie, "Boy and Bicycle," round out a terrific group of Special Features.

The 1.85 transfer, meanwhile, is superb, looking far better than most movies made in 1977 ever have on video before. The 5.1 Surround re-mix is also superb.

GIFT POTENTIAL: THE DUELLISTS is, admittedly, a mood piece, but if you're a fan of breathtaking cinematography and Ridley Scott's other works, it's well worth seeing. Certainly the DVD presentation is enriched by excellent supplementary material, making it one of the year's best "vintage" releases in the format all told.

WAR AND PEACE. Paramount Home Video. 1956, 208 mins.

THE NUTSHELL: One of Dino DeLaurentiis' earliest epics, this 1956 adaptation of the Tolstoy novel stars Audrey Hepburn as Natasha, Henry Fonda as Pierre and Mel Ferrer as the Prince in a long and talky tale of a Russian family's exploits during the invasion of Napoleon. Huge battle scenes (shot by Jack Cardiff and directed by Mario Soldati) and some sweeping moments are undermined by a production that just seems to lack energy. Perhaps director King Vidor was in over his head making this international co- production, which failed to achieve the awards and acclaim it was intended to.

ANDY'S ANALYSIS: Big productions from the '40s and '50s that didn't become classics don't always get a chance to have a second life on DVD, but kudos to Paramount for at least resurrecting this seldom-screened epic. Still, despite the interesting casting of Fonda and Hepburn, WAR AND PEACE is overlong, overblown, and simply too uninvolving for its own good. A lot of the film is spent in endless drawing-room conversations, which might have worked had the script (credited to some six writers from around the globe) clicked. Unfortunately, the film is just flat and cold, though still watchable due to the sheer scope of the mammoth production DeLaurentiis assembled at the time. Nino Rota's score is another plus.

DVD GOODS: Paramount's DVD is pretty straightforward. The VistaVision transfer is framed around 1.85 and looks good, considering how seldom the movie has been released on video over the years. The mono soundtrack isn't anything extraordinary, and there's only an English language track included (which contains some pretty awful dubbing at times).

For Special Features, Paramount has included a pair of trailers: an extended "Behind The Scenes" trailer similar to a lot of ads produced back in the '50s that were like mini- documentaries, and a more standard re-issue trailer.

GIFT POTENTIAL: WAR AND PEACE is not one of the all-time Hollywood classics, but it's an interesting curio that'd be a nice purchase for a Golden Age fan on your list this year just the same. Others are advised to wait for Image's deluxe Special Edition release of the original Russian version coming up in a few weeks.

AND THAT'S ALL FOLKS! I'll be back in 2003 with a complete theatrical release round-up, plus the usual news and views. Until then, thanks for reading, and may you have a healthy and prosperous Christmas and New Year. Be safe, be good, and see ya on the other side in January. Ho ho ho -- I'm outta here!

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