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Aisle Seat August Assault!

Over 15 Reviews of Recent DVDs!

By Andy Dursin

Can you believe that the end of August has already arrived? While that's bad news for beach-goers in many parts of the country, it's good news for movie buffs and laserphiles since studios have their big discs slated for release in the next few months. Today I'll run down some 16 new DVDs that have arrived at our Aisle Seat offices -- almost all of them worth a spin or two for particular viewers.

Most of the horror and sci-fi DVDs we received are going to be written up in the next Laserphile column in Film Score Monthly itself, but in the meantime, I have to say how disappointed I am in several of Warner Home Video's recent, eagerly-awaited releases.

While we all know how uncompressed stereo sound on laserdisc beats most DVD audio tracks, it's still surprising when a title like CLASH OF THE TITANS is released on DVD -- sounding, unfortunately, like it's in mono compared to the laserdisc from the early '90s.

The DVD sound is tinny and compressed, and not even pushing the track to the outer limits of your surround system is going to coax much of a presence out of it. The good news is that the transfer is much cleaner than the laser, though the flesh tones are orange and there's more color in the LD that MGM/UA issued a decade ago.

Other titles like WOLFEN and THE SWARM offer superior transfers on DVD, but once again, the 2.0 Dolby Surround tracks are awfully weak, again accentuating the DVD format's main weakness (a 5.1 remixing would have been definitely better).

What's more, the commentary tracks announced on both titles failed to materialize, which is a crushing disappointment since WOLFEN had a post-production hell that would have been worth talking about (there were, at one point, no less than three different cuts of the film with different explanations for what the wolfen were!).

So, for $15 retail, these discs are still recommendable due to their pricing -- just not everything they could have (and should have) been.

New And Noteworthy

WE WERE SOLDIERS. 138 mins., 2002, R, Paramount.

WHAT IT IS: Mel Gibson's Vietnam picture portrays the war from the viewpoints of the first soldiers involved in the conflict, minus political commentary or Oliver Stone-like conspiracy theories. Gibson portrays Lt. Col Hal Moore, who sees his young charges thrown into a conflict they are ill-equipped to handle. Back at home, wife Madeline Stowe attempts to calm the nerves of the girlfriends and wives of their men overseas. ANDY'S VERDICT: Essentially an old-fashioned war movie, WE WERE SOLDIERS is a compelling and well-told story based on the real experiences of Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, who wrote "We Were Soldiers And Young" with Joseph L. Galloway. Writer-director Randall Wallace (Gibson's "Braveheart" screenwriter) adapted their book for the screen, and proves to be a far better director this time out than his muddled visualization of "The Man in the Iron Mask" showed. Gibson gives a terrific performance as Moore, while Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear, Chris Klein, and Barry Pepper lend able support as members of his team. Dean Semler's widescreen cinematography and Nick Glennie-Smith's able score are other plusses. DVD VERDICT: The 2.35 transfer is virtually film-quality, and the 5.1 soundtrack is predictably filled with explosions, gun shots, and throbbing bass. This is a near-reference quality effort from Paramount, no doubt about it. For supplements, the DVD contains some 10 deleted scenes, commentary by Wallace (fairly interesting), and a featurette on the film's production. All told, a nice disc with solid extras. BOTTOM LINE: ***. The recent rash of war movies may have cut down on the potential audience for this March theatrical release, but the film performed fairly well domestically ($78 million gross) regardless of viewers possibly being worn out by the genre. Certainly WE WERE SOLDIERS shows an important historical aspect of the Vietnam conflict that's been overlooked for too long, and the movie does an admirable job portraying it.

LAST ORDERS. 109 mins., 2001, R, Columbia TriStar.

WHAT IT IS: Fred Schepisi adapted and directed this adaptation of Graham Swift's acclaimed novel, recounting the lives of a group of British friends who come together to dispose of the ashes of their late colleague. Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, Helen Mirren, Ray Winstone, and Bob Hoskins are the actors who comprise the marvelous ensemble in this thoughtful and ultimately moving picture of life, loss, love and friendship. ANDY'S VERDICT: After a slow start, LAST ORDERS becomes an irresistibly performed drama of human relationships, brilliantly filmed by Schepisi in a flashback framework that takes some getting used to but ultimately pays off. His trademark widescreen frame is here employed to great effect, capturing the wonderfully articulated characters in a subtle, low-key manner without any of the cliched speeches and maudlin sentimentality inherent in so many Hollywood films of this type. The characters come across as real, believable people, making LAST ORDERS all the more satisfying and rewarding. DVD VERDICT: Columbia TriStar's transfer includes a crisp and perfect 2.35 transfer as well as a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, featuring an unobtrusive score by Paul Grabowsky. It should be mentioned that some of the British accents are so thick that it's difficult to understand them, which makes the inclusion of English subtitles particularly worthwhile. Schepisi's commentary and the trailer are included for extras, and the director does a fine job discussing his work on what is easily one of his most satisfying films. ANDY'S BOTTOM LINE: ***1/2. Stay with the movie through its somewhat rocky start, and your patience will be rewarded. LAST ORDERS comes highly recommended as one of last year's most underrated films.

IN THE BEDROOM. 130 minutes, 2001, R, Buena Vista.

WHAT IT IS: Highly acclaimed Oscar nominee from last year stars Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson as a small-town Maine couple whose college-bound son (Nick Stahl) is wrapped up in a relationship with an older, single mom (Marisa Tomei). Wilkinson, a doctor, and Spacek, a school choir conductor, disagree over Stahl's relationship with Tomei, which is complicated by the presence of her ex-husband (William Mapother), who wants another chance at making good with their kids. What eventually transpires is an extremely well- acted but depressing character study sensitively directed by Todd Field. ANDY'S VERDICT: There is much to cherish in this picture, particularly Wilkinson's performance as a doctor whose casual exterior masks growing anxiety and frustration over the events that occur. Rob Festinger and Field's script, based on a story by Andre Dubus, is high on detail and atmosphere, adeptly setting the scene of a New England fishing village and how "normal" people can make life-altering decisions following a tragedy. The film doesn't cast judgment, often remaining ambiguous as to the thoughts and feelings of the characters, but too much of the film was left in the interior for my tastes, especially as it nears its unsurprising and not entirely convincing climax. At 136 minutes, it also overstays its welcome in the second half. DVD VERDICT: Miramax's DVD is a basic package comprised of a fine 2.35 transfer and subtle 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, highlighting a low-key Thomas Newman score. Trailers are included for other recent and upcoming films from the studio. THE BOTTOM LINE: **1/2. Leisurely-paced and moody, IN THE BEDROOM is an interesting picture and a remarkably well-acted one, but the story felt me cold -- as if the various angles its themes could have been examined from were left untouched. Slightly overrated, though anyone looking for a character study with solid performances is urged to check it out.

BIRTHDAY GIRL. 90 mins., 2002, R, Miramax.

WHAT IT IS: Ben Chaplin essays an average British guy who decides to send away for a Russian mail-order bride. The good news? She turns out to be sexy Nicole Kidman. The bad news? The baggage she carries with her includes a couple of "cousins" who turn out to be seedy thugs. ANDY'S VERDICT: This Miramax film, directed by Jez Butterworth and co-produced by Sydney Pollack, was on the shelf for several years awaiting re-shoots while the filmmakers waited for Kidman to complete filming "Moulin Rouge." The final cut of BIRTHDAY GIRL turns out to be a strange, uneven, but oddly interesting little movie with fine performances from Chaplin and Kidman. There's a bit of kinky sex, some violence, and an unpredictable story penned by Jez and Tom Butterworth that keeps you watching, although the end result isn't entirely satisfying. Still, as a romantic crime-thriller with ample atmosphere courtesy of cinematographer Oliver Stapleton, BIRTHDAY GIRL is sufficiently offbeat to warrant a look. DVD VERDICT: The 2.35 transfer is well- composed, with Stapleton's cinematography representing both the warm backdrop of Chaplin's small English town and the darker, grittier night-time look that takes over once Kidman's cousins appear. The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is also adeptly designed, featuring a solid score by Stephen Warbeck and unobtrusive songs (including a duet between Robbie Williams and Kidman performed over the end credits). ANDY'S BOTTOM LINE: **1/2. It would have been nice to see the original cut of the film, or at least the discarded scenes that necessitated re-shoots, but BIRTHDAY GIRL is an interesting little yarn that doesn't overstay its welcome and is worth a rental, despite its flaws.

THE ACCIDENTAL SPY. 87 mins., 2000, PG-13, Dimension.

WHAT IT IS: The latest Jackie Chan flick to be imported from overseas, Chan here plays a bumbling salesman who finds out that he has the moves and charisma to be a super-star spy. His discovery sets him off on a journey to find his father, all the while being pursued (but of course!) by evil doers, which allows the star-producer to engage in all kinds of kung-fu nonsense and great stunts. ANDY'S VERDICT: The Chan fad has quieted down in the U.S. in recent years, save for the phenomenal (if inexplicable) box-office business of the lame "Rush Hour 2." THE ACCIDENTAL SPY turned up a couple of years ago as a Hong Kong import DVD, but like so many of Chan's films in America, Dimension opted not to release the movie to theaters, cutting nearly 30 minutes out of the movie and releasing it direct to video. This time, though, some of the editing room decisions were valid ones, since THE ACCIDENTAL SPY -- while still fun for Chan fans -- isn't one of Jackie's better films. The story is weaker than usual and the entire father-son angle doesn't really come off. Sure, the action -- when it happens -- is exciting, but the highlights aren't especially spectacular this time around. DVD VERDICT: Miramax/Dimension's DVD includes a colorful 2.35 transfer and 5.1 English dubbed track. Nothing else is provided for extras. ANDY'S BOTTOM LINE: **. For once, there's a reason this Jackie flick took its time to reach American shores. THE ACCIDENTAL SPY isn't a bad movie but it's pretty formulaic, even by the standards of the genre. Recommended pretty much for fans only.

CLOCKSTOPPERS. 93 mins., 2002, PG, Paramount.

WHAT IT IS: Nickelodeon kids movie, directed by Jonathan Frakes, stars Jesse Bradford as a college slacker who improbably ends up with a top-secret watch that enables him to stop time. It's all fun and games for a while -- for example, the device enables him to help out a pretty exchange student played (with a wandering accent) by Paula Garces -- but soon evil Michael Biehn and daffy scientist French Stewart are on his tail, wanting to use the watch for their own, nefarious purposes. Oh, did I mention Bradford is having problems with his professor father, who just doesn't seem to have any time to share with his son? ANDY'S VERDICT: Despite an amiable performance from Bradford and a bouncy soundtrack of pop songs and a decent score by Jamshed Sharifi, CLOCKSTOPPERS is a disappointing vehicle for the pre-teen set. The Rob Hedden-J.David Stem-David N. Weiss script lacks wit and surprise, while Frakes' direction fails to jazz up the action (he does throw in at least one reference to himself, however). It's suitable for family audiences, but that doesn't make it any good, unfortunately. DVD VERDICT: Paramount's DVD includes a terrific 1.85 transfer and throbbing 5.1 soundtrack. A handful of mostly-promotional materials are included as extras (promo spots, featurette, trailer), along with a pair of music videos. BOTTOM LINE: **. Arguably worth it as a juvenile time-killer (if your little ones have worn out every other title on the shelf), but bypass it in any other circumstance.

JOE SOMEBODY. 108 mins., 2001, PG, Fox.

WHAT IT IS: Tim Allen's box-office underachiever from last Christmas stars the former "Home Improvement" lead as an average Joe who gets beat up by brash exec Patrick Warburton in front of his daughter at work. Mad as heck and -- well, kind of not wanting to take it anymore, Allen sets off on a quest to enlighten himself and strengthen his body after challenging Warburton to a fight at work. However, a sitcom version of "Fight Club" this isn't, as Allen ultimately finds that a new romance with perky Julie Bowen beats hanging out with karate expert Jim Belushi. ANDY'S VERDICT: Not as bad as it sounds but surprisingly lethargic in both its writing and direction (despite being helmed by Allen's "Santa Clause" cohort, John Pasquin), JOE SOMEBODY is strictly an agreeable time-killer for undemanding family audiences. Allen is amiable as always and Bowen is cute, but there's a notable lack of laughs and the outcome is as predictable as they come. DVD VERDICT: Quality effort from Fox includes 1.85 and full-frame transfers and a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack including a breezy George S. Clinton score. A handful of deleted scenes are included (all of the "I know why they cut this" variety), plus audio commentary from the director and producer, the original trailer and featurette. BOTTOM LINE: **. The story and morals of JOE SOMEBODY are fine, but the movie is routine in its execution.

HIGH CRIMES. 115 mins., 2002, PG-13, Fox.

WHAT IT IS: Ashley Judd's latest woman-in-peril thriller is actually a substantial cut above "Double Jeopardy" and her last few efforts. Judd plays an attorney whose military husband (the always dependable Jim Caviezel) is charged with murdering innocent civilians in a top-secret, hush-hush operation many years before. Judd teams with a former military man (Morgan Freeman) in an attempt to clear her husband's name and learn the truth about the operation, which naturally leads to a conspiracy and cover-up. ANDY'S VERDICT: Entertaining if predictable outing is elevated to solid entertainment thanks to fine performances from the three leads and capable direction by Carl Franklin ("Devil in a Blue Dress"). The movie ends up being more successful as a courtroom thriller than a typical military cover-up drama, but at least HIGH CRIMES has enough going for it that you won't be bored. DVD VERDICT: Yet another terrific Fox DVD includes a reference-quality 2.35 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. For extras, Carl Franklin's audio commentary is far more interesting than your usual commentary track, and a handful of featurettes go behind the scenes to detail the reality behind some of the courtroom dramatics outlined in the picture. BOTTOM LINE: **1/2. HIGH CRIMES is proof that big stars and a glossy presentation can overcome a (mostly) by-the-numbers script. You likely won't remember all that much about the film except that you didn't mind seeing it, making it the kind of movie that's perfect to watch at home on DVD.

Tarantino Special Editions

We're abandoning the capsule format of this week's column just to give a heads-up about no less than THREE Quentin Tarantino Special Editions all streeting this week.

Before I do that, I have to fess up: I've never been a fan of Tarantino. I thought "Pulp Fiction" was one of the most overrated films of the last twenty years and that the director's insistence on having nearly every character in his films talk in a pseudo-hip pop culture language only confirmed that Tarantino was a one-trick pony. I felt that the writer-director (and sometimes terrible actor) would be a flash in the pan, and here we are nearly a decade after "Pulp Fiction"'s release, with that pretty much being true.

That being said, I do realize there are plenty of Tarantino fans out there, all of whom should be satisfied with the three Special Editions of his directorial work being newly released.

The movie that first placed Tarantino on the map --1992's RESERVOIR DOGS -- has been packaged by Artisan in a double-disc set that's a bit light on features in comparison to the Special Editions reviewed below, though fans will still find it of major interest.

Artisan has given the film a crisp, new 2.35 transfer with superb 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital tracks, as well as an entire disc of supplements. Among the highlights here are clips of Tarantino in Sundance rehearsal footage, several deleted scenes (including two alternate shots of the ever-popular "ear" sequence), new interviews with Tarantino, Tim Roth, Chris Penn and others, and a sporadic audio commentary track that seems like it was cobbled together from additional comments made by the actors during the interview sessions. Additional extras are of the mostly-promotional variety (like a segment on the creation of the action figures!?!), but I would bet die-hard fans will find even this of sufficient interest.

Superior are Buena Vista's two Special Editions of the mega-successful PULP FICTION and Tarantino's overlong but not entirely unsuccessful follow-up, JACKIE BROWN.

PULP FICTION is a landmark movie whether you like it or not, having inspired countless wannabes in the years since its release and creating a brief period of time when it seemed like EVERY Hollywood movie wanted Tarantino's name somehow attached to it (remember his contributions to the script of CRIMSON TIDE, when submarine commanders started talking about "Silver Surfer" comic books?). Certainly the film is vividly designed and there ARE great moments and performances in it, yet I've never cared for the mid-section of the film, or its bloated running time.

That said, Miramax's Special Edition of PULP FICTION is a superlative two-disc set that surpasses the Criterion laserdisc release from years ago. The 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks are solid, as is the 2.35 transfer. Tarantino appears in a new documentary along with deleted scenes, his Charlie Rose interview, featurettes on the production design, worldwide trailers, TV spots, acceptance award speeches, vintage featurettes, still galleries (eight of them!), DVD-ROM features including an ehanced screenplay viewer, and even an entire Siskel & Ebert program that was devoted to Tarantino's work.

The most notable omission here is a lack of a commentary track from the director, which is odd in that -- of all the directors out there -- you'd never have guessed that the candid director would ever NOT want to talk about his own work!

That said, the set is loaded with goodies, as is JACKIE BROWN, Tarantino's overlong (again, 150+ minutes) yet mostly satisfying Elmore Leonard adaptation starring Pam Grier and a terrific ensemble cast (Robert DeNiro, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton).

Although this double-disc Miramax set is also minus a commentary, Tarantino does appear in a special introduction and talks endlessly in a new documentary AND in a separate interview about the film. Deleted and alternate scenes, trailers (several of them being vintage '70s programmers that starred Grier and co-star Robert Forster), TV spots, still galleries, reviews (including Siskel & Ebert's original analysis), and more DVD- ROM features are included, which should appeal to all Quentin cinephiles.

Retail on the discs is a hair over $20 each. If you need your Tarantino fix or just have a jones for the stylized dialogue and dramatic situations that the filmmaker became renowned for (in certain circles, at least), each comes recommended.

New Vintage DVDs

PRETTY IN PINK. 96 mins., 1986, PG-13, Paramount.

WHAT IT IS: The movie that landed star Molly Ringwald on the cover of Time, this is John Hughes' seminal teen classic: a romantic-comedy and high school tale of a gawky teen from the wrong side of the tracks who ends up having to choose between her nerdy best friend (Jon Cryer) and a good-natured kid from her class' more popular circle (Andrew McCarthy). Harry Dean Stanton, meanwhile, plays her alcoholic dad, and James Spader is terrific as the obnoxious wheeler-dealer whose popularity can't buy him Ringwald's attention. ANDY'S VERDICT: It doesn't get any more '80s than PRETTY IN PINK, but this modern classic pretty much set the formula for countless youth romances and high school pictures that followed. Ringwald's charming performance is a reminder of her popularity (and ability) at the time of the film's release, while McCarthy eschews stereotype as the rich kid who tries to make good. If you've never seen the film (written and produced by Hughes, directed by Howard Deutch), you may be surprised at the film's memorable ending, which was actually a re-shoot that -- for once -- worked better than the original (and more predictable) conclusion would have. DVD VERDICT: The 1.85 transfer is colorful and well-composed, while the 5.1/2.0 soundtracks include a solid assembly of pop tunes and decent original score by Michael Gore. The DVD is bereft of extras, though hopefully Paramount will revisit this title as a Special Edition one day. BOTTOM LINE: ***1/2. PRETTY IN PINK is a great date movie and unquestionably one of the best films of its type ever made. A terrific cast enhances the entertainment (be on the lookout for Gina Gershon among other familiar faces), and the endearing performances make PRETTY IN PINK one of those '80s staples worth revisiting.

SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL. 94 mins., 1987, PG-13, Paramount.

WHAT IT IS: The "Pretty In Pink" duo of writer-producer John Hughes and director Howard Deutch re- teamed for this variation on their 1986 hit. Instead of a female high school outcast being caught between two guys from different social classes, here we get a rebellious guy (Eric Stoltz) who flirts with popularity in the guise of an attractive new classmate (Lea Thompson), while his best friend from his own social strata (Mary Stuart Masterson) looks on, hoping he'll someday figure it out. ANDY'S BOTTOM LINE: High school movie scholars have often looked at SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL as a solid yet inferior follow-up to "Pretty In Pink," though this grittier drama has a certain charm of its own. Stoltz and Thompson offer fine, non-stereotypical performances, but it's the work of Masterson as the devoted gal pal who really puts the movie over the top. The triangle does resemble the "Pretty In Pink" formula, yet the ending is different and works for this particular story perfectly. John Ashton is also terrific as Stoltz's gruff yet sympathetic father. DVD VERDICT: Again, the disc lacks supplements, but does offer a satisfying 1.85 transfer and a rockin' 5.1/2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks. BOTTOM LINE: ***. I've always enjoyed the characters and dramatic situations of SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, which marked the end of the teen movie era for Hughes. A few years later he struck gold with "Home Alone" and, alas, never looked back.

TRUE COLORS. 1991, 110 mins., R, Paramount.

WHAT IT IS: Herbert Ross-directed, Kevin Wade-written political drama traces the relationship between two law students: righteous, wealthy James Spader and hotheaded, insecure John Cusack. Both find themselves employed by veteran Connecticut senator Richard Widmark, yet are drawn towards separate paths: Spader to the Department of Justice, Cusack to power and glory. Eventually their ideals clash in an interesting portrayal of politics and ethics. ANDY'S BOTTOM LINE: Cusack and Spader are both superb in this well-drawn, if predictable, study in political maneuverings and the price of corruption. Their performances help overcome some of the obvious elements in Wade's script, along with a completely miscast Imogen Stubbs (what's with the accent?) as Widmark's daughter. TRUE COLORS is an almost-forgotten movie from the early '90s, yet its messages are just as valid now as they were when the film was first released. DVD VERDICT: Paramount's disc includes a generally strong 1.85 transfer and 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby soundtracks. Trevor Jones' erratic score ranges from overbearing ersatz-suspense music to a "Lite FM" main and end titles cue that's not representative of his best work. No supplements are included. ANDY'S VERDICT: ***. Not having seen the film before, I was pleasantly surprised with TRUE COLORS. This is a timely and well-performed morality play with compelling characters and situations. Worth it for Cusack and Spader fans, and for anyone interested in a solid political drama (don't confuse this picture with Mike Nichols' misconceived filming of PRIMARY COLORS, which starred John Travolta as Bubba Clinton).

THE RAZOR'S EDGE. 129 mins., 1984, PG, Columbia TriStar.

WHAT IT IS: Every comic-turned-actor seizes at least one opportunity to become a serious dramatic lead, and Bill Murray had his chance in THE RAZOR'S EDGE, the 1984 adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel. Murray plays Larry Darrell, a disillusioned former WWI soldier who returns to his small American hometown where he decides to opt out of marrying fiancee Catherine Hicks and head out to the Himalayas on a spiritual journey. He then comes back and tries to save former friend Theresa Russell from a life on the seedy side, only to find out that enlightenment isn't as easy as he first thought. ANDY'S VERDICT: It took a while for Tom Hanks to be accepted seriously, just as it did for Robin Williams and, to a lesser extent, Steve Martin. But Bill Murray's offbeat personality is hard to suppress -- it can work in both comedic and dramatic films, but stifling Murray's natural essence as a performer just doesn't work. That, of course, is what made his strictly serious leading role in THE RAZOR'S EDGE difficult to accept. After an introduction which finds him still clinging to some comedic mannerisms, Murray gives it his all as the stoic Darrell, but it's impossible to forget that you're watching Murray trying desperately hard to be taken seriously. The movie otherwise is a beautifully-photographed and well-performed odyssey, shot in Panavision and scored by Jack Nitzsche in what has to be the late composer's finest score. It's an epic tale that's difficult to translate to the screen in any circumstance, though Murray and director John Byrum made an admirable stab that flopped in the same summer as "Ghostbusters," thereby placing the kibosh on any kind of long-term dramatic career for the actor. DVD VERDICT: Columbia's no-frills DVD offers a 2.35 transfer that appears soft in places but is always well-composed. The 4.0 Dolby Digital sound is a little on the weak side, but seems to be a problem with the original mix and not the DVD itself. A theatrical trailer is included. ANDY'S BOTTOM LINE: **1/2. Virtually forgotten about, THE RAZOR'S EDGE is an aesthetically pleasing and admirable production that was simply too much of a change of pace for Murray at the time of its release, and was rejected by audiences. Now, it's a curiosity item, and a film worth taking a chance on for its score and cinematography alone.

COPACABANA. 95 mins., 1985, Image.

WHAT IT IS: Looking for a dose of Manilow magic? This highly entertaining, campy 1985 TV movie stars Barry as a struggling young composer in the '40s Havana who falls for a showgirl named Lola (Annette O'Toole) who's caught in the clutches of rival nightclub owner Joe Bologna. Songs, singing and dancing all ensue in this very light-hearted tale, which features plenty of Manilow songs, including the classic title track and the memorable "Who Needs To Dream?" ANDY'S VERDICT: I have to admit, I enjoyed this Dick Clark production. The performances are fun, the songs are decent, and O'Toole is attractive enough to carry the show. Am I a closet Manilow fan? Hell, I'll never tell you, but I am writing this review, right? DVD VERDICT: Image has unearthed a colorful full-frame transfer and clear, strong mono soundtrack for this inaugural DVD release of the movie. BOTTOM LINE: ***. If you like musicals and are hungering for any kind of new release on DVD, by all means go and check out COPACABANA. The TV film paved the way for Manilow's hit stage musical, but the charm rests strongly with the movie, thanks to engaging performances and its easy-going tone. Tongue is planted firmly in cheek, and the show is solid fun if you can get into the spirit of it.

NEXT WEEK: THE SCORPION KING arrives, plus the Aisle Seat Mail Bag is opened yet again! Send all emails to ands we'll catch you then. Excelsior!

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