The Aisle Seat April Assault
New DVDs from ROGER RABBIT to THE RING
Plus: Guilty Pleasure Picks, Vintage titles, and more!
By Andy Dursin
Since the last video game one of my soundtrack-fanboy pals played was
"Tank" back on the old Atari 2600, the Aisle Seat has seen little reason
to boast about the latest innovations in home video games over the years.
Plus, we get enough movies on a weekly basis that resemble playing "Pac-Man,"
but aren't as much fun, so there's little need to talk about the often
stellar work that game designers and, more recently, composers have achieved
in the medium.
That being said, I would be remiss if I didn't recommend the latest
sequel in a series I'm sure many readers out there have, in fact, played
at one time or another: Nintendo's classic LEGEND OF ZELDA series,
which this past week was revived on their GameCube system with an adventure
subtitled THE WIND WAKER.
If you recall what Don Bluth attempted to do with his laserdisc game
"Dragon's Lair" back in the early '80s, then you'll have an idea what gaming
genius Shigeru Miyamoto has done with the latest ZELDA. This is, quite
simply, the most gorgeously designed game you might ever lay your eyes
on -- characters, backgrounds, objects, and movement are rendered in an
cell-shaded, almost hand-drawn animated style to rival Disney, yet the
detail and overall look of the game is unique by itself. If you ever played
Zelda on the o'l NES system back in the '80s, you'll have a good idea about
the game play: it's patented Zelda adventure, with the player guiding hero
Link from one fantasy kingdom to another, hunting treasure, collecting
puzzle pieces, battling enemies, and solving riddles buried in deep, dark
THE WIND WAKER takes it one step further, by laying out its vast world
on an endless ocean which you have to explore -- a sea filled with pirates,
ghost ships that appear suddenly out of the moon light, lookout towers,
and treasures trapped on the ocean floor.
Complimented by one of the most memorable original soundtracks you'll
ever hear in a video game (kudos to Koji Kondo), the innovative THE WIND
WAKER is an enchanting game for all ages, and the kind of title that really
makes you feel as if you're playing an actual movie -- not just any movie,
mind you, but a really good one at that. Furthermore, if you have any nostalgia
for the games of your youth, it's proof positive that you CAN, in fact,
go home again, and have a great time doing it.
And with that, you can imagine how much work was actually done around
here at the Aisle Seat offices in the last few days ;) But, as evidence
that you can balance it all off, here are this week's new and recent DVD
releases, with a few guilty pleasures thrown into the mix for good measure.
Aisle Seat DVD Pick of the Week
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (***1/2, 104 mins., 1988, PG; Touchstone/Buena
Vista): Speaking of technical innovations, Robert Zemeckis' box-office
smash from the summer of 1988 was one of those movies -- much like "T2"
and "Jurassic Park" which followed it -- that people rushed out to see
repeated times for its landmark visual achievements alone.
Live action and animation were combined in a seamless, almost three-
dimensional manner by animator Richard Williams and ILM for Zemeckis' frothy
1988 "cartoon noir." Based on a novel by Gary K. Wolf, ROGER RABBIT examines
the craziness that ensues once alcoholic private eye Eddie Valiant (the
terrific Bob Hoskins) is hired to investigate the possible relationship
between toon star Jessica Rabbit and cartoon guru Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye).
What Valiant finds is that Acme is murdered and all signs point to Jessica's
husband -- cartoon star Roger Rabbit. With Roger in tow, Eddie reluctantly
uncovers a seedy underworld buried beneath "Toontown," where Disney, Warner
Bros., and MGM stars hang out after hours at clubs and other secluded hideaways.
ROGER RABBIT rightly copped technical Oscars for its then-groundbreaking
effects, which help compensate for a somewhat over-praised script (credited
to Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman), which is never as compelling as the
visceral element of the film. Hoskins' performance, though, is the glue
that holds the movie together, and is rightly singled out by director Zemeckis
in both his audio commentary and the 40-minute "Behind the Ears" documentary
which forms the core of the DVD's special features.
Disney's 2-disc Special Edition suffers a bit on the technical side
(the 1.85 transfer again displays some evidence of shimmering lines around
objects and small flaws that have plagued recent Buena Vista discs), but
makes up for it with 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks, and a ton of
Disc One includes a "family friendly" collection of extras (along with
a full-frame version of the movie), including a vintage Making Of segment
hosted by Roger's human voice, Charles Fleischer. Most fans, though, will
be thrilled to learn that it also includes the three Roger Rabbit shorts
that were released with other Disney films in the late '80s ("Tummy Trouble,"
"Trail Mix-Up," and "Rollercoaster Rabbit"), a set-top DVD game, and the
original trailer as an easter egg (kudos to reader Bill Williams for pointing
that out). It should be noted that there's deleted footage in the trailer
that you can't see anywhere else.
"Enthusiasts" are recommended to check out Disc Two, which features
a full group audio commentary by Zemeckis, Frank Marshall, the writers,
and ILM supervisor Ken Ralston; the before-mentioned 40-minute documentary
featuring new interviews with the cast and crew; "Toontown Confidential,"
a trivia text track that runs throughout the film; "The Valiant Files,"
which compiles still photos from the various stages of production; plus
split-screen comparisons of before-and-after FX footage, on-location footage,
and the infamous "Pig Head" sequence, which was deleted from the film but
added to CBS' network TV broadcasts in the early '90s.
ROGER RABBIT is one of those dizzying, frantic Zemeckis films that pushes
the technical boundaries of its genre, remaining a favorite of both animation
fans and fantasy aficionados. Disney's DVD, the transfer notwithstanding,
is a terrific Special Edition rich with bonus features that should satisfy
all fans of the movie and keep them glued to their sets for hours.
Also New On DVD
THE RING (***, 105 mins., 2002, PG-13; Dreamworks): Genuinely
creepy new horror films are tough to come by, which is why genre buffs
should check out this American remake of a hugely popular Japanese novel
and film. Before I first saw THE RING last October, I had to admit my expectations
for the film were low. First, it was directed by Gore Verbinski, a Dreamworks
"in-house" director whose last misfire was "The Mexican." Second, it's
a horror flick from Dreamworks, and the last time the studio released a
genre film, we ended up with the heavily compromised "The Haunting," where
Steven Spielberg himself apparently "helped" re-shoot the final third of
Despite those elements seemingly working against it, I was pleasantly
surprised by the picture, which became one of the highest-grossing horror
films in years. THE RING manages to be genuinely spooky and highly entertaining,
with a couple of potent scares along the way. The plot, which follows the
Japanese version fairly faithfully, features the premise that a video tape
brings death to all those who view it within the span of seven days. Journalist
Naomi Watts stumbles upon the tape after her niece's heart mysteriously
stops beating, and sees a series of seemingly random images on the video,
several of which involve a little girl. This forms the basis for a mystery
that takes Watts to an island off the northwest coast, where a horse breeder
and her husband had a daughter with unexplained, incredible powers.
Hideo Nakata's Japanese filming of Koji Suzuki's novel was a smash hit
in its native country, and was one of the few recent genre films to succeed
primarily on the power of suggestion and minimalist scares -- not gore
and violence. It was followed by a poorly received semi-sequel called "Spiral,"
the tepid "Ring 2" and a so-so prequel ("Ring 0"), none of which are available
domestically but can be obtained as subtitled DVD imports from England.
The American remake, scripted by Ehren Kruger ("Scream 3"), drops the
ball in a couple of places (most notably in the subplot involving Watts'
son, who apparently shares a physic connection with the girl that's never
elaborated upon), and adds a couple of unnecessarily ghoulish-looking Rick
Baker corpses, but otherwise adheres closely to its source material. THE
RING is a movie that starts off slowly but picks up steam as its mystery
unfolds, culminating in a doozy of a climax that's a little more Hollywood
than the Japanese version, yet in some ways is superior: there's just more
atmosphere and tension in the American remake. In fact, if it wasn't for
an equestrian suicide that should have been left unfilmed, I'd say THE
RING would be pretty much ideal.
That element of the film excepted, Verbinski does an adept job building
and sustaining tension here. The Pacific Northwest locales are vividly
photographed by Bojan Bizelli, and if there's one area where the American
RING is a marked improvement on its predecessor, it's in the film's stylish
look and mood. Complimenting the picture is a marvelous score by Hans Zimmer
-- or at least, Zimmer and his stable of Media Ventures composers (three
are listed with having written "Additional Music" in the end credits).
I actually didn't know who scored the film going into it, and thought it
may have been James Horner or James Newton Howard. To my surprise, the
moody, Herrmann-like score was written by Zimmer, and THE RING is unquestionably
one of the composer's finest works. If nothing else, it's one of the best
genre soundtracks I've heard in a long while (hopefully the film's commercial
success, and the score's recording in London, will result in a soundtrack
album one day).
Dreamworks' DVD offers a strong 1.85 transfer with matching 5.1 DTS
and Dolby Digital soundtracks (again, the DTS soundtrack proves superior).
The disc is almost completely devoid of supplements sans a 15-minute "mini-film"
produced by Verbinski, comprised of deleted scenes and alternate takes
not utilized in the finished film. Among them are Watts' meeting with town
locals, her ex-boyfriend's run-in with a corpse, and other snippets of
interest for fans. THE RING is slick and entertaining, with enough memorable
sequences to keep you from turning on the TV late at night. Worth a creepy
view or two.
AUTO FOCUS (**1/2, 106 mins., 2002, R; Columbia
TriStar): The life and death of "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane is chronicled
in this fascinating though flawed work from writer Michael Gerbosi and
director Paul Schrader. Greg Kinnear essays Crane as a devout family man
who attends weekly church services and comes home regularly to wife Rita
Wilson and their three children after working at a local L.A. radio station.
Everything is just peachy in Crane's spotless '60s world, except for the
occasional discovery of a smut magazine in the garage by his mystified
wife. Soon, the comic-DJ receives a script for a new sitcom from Bing Crosby
Productions, and his career blossoms as the controversial "Heroes" takes
Unfortunately, with success come temptations, in the form of busty young
women seeking his autograph, to his friendship with seedy tech expert John
Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), who has the latest in video equipment including
a very early video camera and "VTR," the reel-to-reel precursor to VHS.
Not only that, but Carpenter loves swinging on the town and taping his
subsequent sexual exploits -- something that turns out to be the downfall
of Crane's personal life, as he indulges in a series of orgies as his career
and marriage(s) take a downward spiral.
This tragic tale of personal destruction and sin lurking in a seemingly
ordinary family man is not a new subject matter for director Schrader,
who tackled similar terrain in his 1979 film "Hardcore." AUTO FOCUS is
a creepy and at times compelling bio-pic of Crane, with an interesting
visual design (courtesy of expert cinematographer Fred Murphy) that veers
from warm, primary colors at its start to washed-out, grainy hues representing
Crane's personal and professional descent. As the picture progresses, its
pop soundtrack takes a turn towards David Lynch territory -- no surprise
with Angelo Badalamenti providing original score.
The central problem I had with AUTO FOCUS is Kinnear's performance as
Crane. His affected mannerisms and accent never come off, and while the
movie tries to illustrate the pop-culture success he garnered (however
fleeting it may have been), Kinnear never adequately conveys how he got
there -- he's not especially funny in the "Hogan's Heroes" recreations,
looking stiff and uncomfortable, and his success on the radio is also bewildering
if you judge it solely on Kinnear's performance. The picture needed someone
to channel into Crane's comedic talent and contrast it with the dark side
of his personal life, but somehow Kinnear never manages to find any kind
of balance, playing what feels more like a Mr. Rogers stereotype than a
Columbia's DVD offers a fine assortment of Special Features, including
an hour- long documentary on Crane's murder and the subsequent trial of
Carpenter, which the film does not elaborate upon. A Making Of documentary
is also included, as are a handful of deleted scenes culled from the workprint.
More interesting are three full- length audio commentary tracks, one from
director Paul Schrader, another from producers Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
and writer Michael Gerbosi, and a third with Willem Dafoe and Greg Kinnear,
which is the most relaxed and engaging of the lot. The 1.85 transfer is
very good, and the 5.1 sound appropriately employed at various places.
AUTO FOCUS is a movie that Hollywood insiders and "Hogan's Heroes" addicts
will undoubtedly want to seek out, and comes recommended for those viewers
despite my reservations about its central performance.
8 MILE (***, 111 mins., 2002, R; Universal): One
of the more surprising awards at the Oscars last week had to be the winner
of the Original Song category. Most prognosticators thought either U2 (for
their so-so "Hands That Built America" from "Gangs of New York") or Paul
Simon (for his forgettable tune from the "Wild Thornberries" movie) would
walk home with the Oscar, but rapper Eminem ultimately copped the award
for his "Lose Yourself" track from 8 MILE -- even though the "song" itself
wasn't even performed at the ceremony!
Say what you want about Eminem, but his semi-autobiographical film 8
MILE -- now on DVD -- is a gritty slice-of-life vividly brought to the
screen by director Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential," "Wonder Boys").
The rapper stars as "Jimmy Smith, Jr.," a guy from the wrong side of the
Detroit tracks who lives in a trailer park with his troubled mom (Kim Basinger)
and younger sister. Jimmy has the vision to become a recording star but
lacks the means to gain the opportunity, blacking out when he tries to
win a "rap battle" on stage at pal Mekhi Phifer's nightspot. Ultimately,
Jimmy -- the cinematic alter- ego for Eminem -- tries to rise above the
insanity and hopelessness of his surroundings and gain a new opportunity
There aren't a ton of surprises in Scott Silver's screenplay, but 8
MILE nevertheless works primarily due to the film's atmosphere and Hanson's
direction, which gets a lot of mileage out of Eminem's surprisingly strong
performance and work from the supporting cast. Reviewed by some as "'Rocky'
for Rappers," 8 MILE manages to be understated and quietly emotional at
times, leaving a lot of questions dangling as it comes to its conclusion.
Like many of Hanson's films, the location filming makes for an authentic,
atmospheric picture that's formulaic and yet distinctive at the same time,
with a potent climax involving dueling rappers that's entertaining even
if you aren't into the genre (which I'm just guessing most of us here are
8 MILE has just arrived on DVD in a solid disc from Universal sporting
a few extra features geared towards Eminem fans, including uncensored "rap
battle" outtakes (a separate release censors some of the language), comments
from Eminem and Curtis Hanson, an adequate Making Of featurette, a music
video and a terrific 2.35 transfer. The soundtrack is mastered in both
DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks, but perhaps as a downside to filming
on location, the dialogue is often difficult to comprehend, meaning you'll
want to turn up the bass-heavy volume at key points to comprehend it.
MAID IN MANHATTAN (***, 105 mins., PG-13, 2002;
Columbia TriStar): Breezy fairy tale romantic-comedy stars Jennifer Lopez
as a Manhattan hotel maid and single mom who improbably turns into a modern-day
Cinderella after meeting senatorial candidate Ralph Fiennes.
John Hughes instigated this piece of escapist fare, which was ultimately
turned over to screenwriter Kevin Wade and director Wayne Wang, with Hughes
receiving story credit under the pseudonym "Edmond Dantes." [Hughes
previously used this pseudonym on "Beethoven;" Dantes was the title character
from "The Count of Monte Cristo"--SB]
There aren't any big surprises or twists in MAID IN MANHATTAN, yet this
box- office hit from last Christmas manages to be highly entertaining for
what it is, thanks to a collection of engaging performances -- including
a surprising turn from Fiennes as a genuinely nice guy (what a contrast
from his role in "Red Dragon"!). Supporting roles are nicely filled by
the likes of Bob Hoskins, Natasha Richardson (as an obnoxious hotel guest),
and Stanley Tucci as Fiennes' top aide, while J. Lo and Fiennes manage
to actually create a fair amount of chemistry together. All of it is nicely
shot on location in New York City, with a breezy Alan Silvestri score and
widescreen cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub making the proceeding
look appropriately glossy.
Columbia's DVD offers both 2.35 and full-frame transfers, but this is
one of those instances where the film was shot in Panavision (not Super
35) and thus the standard- frame version is severely cropped at every turn.
As with most every Columbia effort, the transfers are impeccable, though
obviously only the widescreen version is recommended. The 5.1 soundtrack
is fine, though extras are limited to theatrical trailers -- leading me
to believe that there may be a Special Edition release sometime down the
road, as there has been with several Columbia TriStar titles over the last
couple of years.
Aisle Seat Vintage DVDs
WIND (***, 126 mins., 1992, PG-13; Columbia TriStar): After years
of being held in the unpredictable waters of the Huraki Gulf in New Zealand,
the America's Cup was recently won by the Swiss boat Alinghi -- a victory
that will send future Cup races somewhere across the pond to a venue yet
to be determined.
It didn't used to be that complicated, as Newport, R.I. (a stone's throw
from the Aisle Seat offices) was the home for the race for the better part
of the 20th century -- at least until the Australians took the Cup home
in 1983 and changed the complexion of the event forever.
WIND was shot in 1992 -- just a few years after the Americans reclaimed
the Cup Down Under -- and chronicles how an American sailing crew loses
the trophy but decides to go at it again in Australia against an arrogant,
obnoxious businessman (Jack Thompson), a character not unlike American
entrepreneur Ted Turner.
Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey (back when she had her original, and
much cuter, nose) [rumor has it that she had her famous nosejob during
the extremely long shoot of "Wind," so interested viewers may want to look
for nose changes from scene to scene--SB] essay the sailing tandem
seeking to reclaim the Cup, but it's safe to say that the "plot" is the
least relevant aspect of director Carroll Ballard's film. Like "The Black
Stallion" and "Fly Away Home," Ballard's strength is in his strong visual
style, which in WIND captures the essence of sailing the same way that
the filmmaker captured the majesty of nature in his other works. With cinematographer
John Toll vividly providing on-location shooting, WIND is a movie that
works beautifully when it's on the water, and the only elements that matter
are the images and Basil Poledouris' marvelous score. On the land, the
film suffers from a hackneyed screenplay (credited to five different, unfamiliar
scribes) and some shaky performances (Modine and co-star Cliff Robertson
seem especially uncomfortable), but on the whole WIND is a journey well
worth taking for its look alone.
Columbia TriStar's DVD offers a 16:9 enhanced transfer in the 1.85 aspect
ratio. This is a strong effort from Columbia, reproducing all the vivid
colors of Toll's cinematography brilliantly, with the source material exhibiting
only a tiny bit of grain at times. The 2.0 Dolby Surround soundtrack is
better than most Pro Logic mixes, though perhaps a 5.1 mix might have done
more justice to Poledouris' excellent score. A theatrical trailer is included
on the supplemental side.
Guilty Pleasure Picks
DAWSON'S CREEK: Season One (1998, 570 mins.; Columbia TriStar):
Some five years ago, Kevin Williamson created a teen angst drama that managed
to find the right balance between the soap opera melodramatics of "90210"
and the more "reality" driven edge of "My So-Called Life." When it initially
premiered on the then-fledgling WB network, DAWSON'S CREEK also had controversy
written all over it: one of the characters was supposed to have an affair
with one of his teachers, while sex was supposed to have been a freely-
discussed topic. Parents wondered if the show would be suitable for youngsters,
while the network issued various "warnings" to its targeted demographic
about the subject matter.
That controversy, though, soon died out as it became apparent how sweet
and innocuous DAWSON'S CREEK actually was. Williamson's often smartly-written
show examined the life of a Cape Cod-ish teen named Dawson Leery (James
Van Der Beek) who wants to be the next Steven Spielberg, his best-friend/soulmate
Joey Potter (Katie Holmes), Jen, the new girl in town with a troubled past
(Michelle Williams), and their ever-lovable, underachieving pal Pacey Whitter
(Joshua Jackson). "Capeside" is your quintessential little New England
coastal town, and while the show was actually filmed on location in North
Carolina, the program did an excellent job capturing the on-location feel
of a place far removed from shows like 90210, with more level-headed kids
trying to live out their aspirations and move on in their lives.
The interplay between the characters and the show's writing -- especially
in its first season -- are what made DAWSON'S CREEK into a big hit for
the WB, with the program being constantly aware of its genre and sometimes
mocking it. At the same time, the show indulged in all the trappings of
a good prime time teen drama: scandals, dating, sex, family relationships,
personal responsibility, and all the inherent problems in growing up were
deftly exploited by the producers, who brought in filmmakers like Steve
Miner to help establish the program's look and feel. And through it all,
the core ensemble cast remained an attractive, appealing bunch to watch
What more can I say? I admit it: I've watched CREEK since it was first
on the air, and have lived through its uneven subsequent seasons when the
cast tried to hang together despite some sub-par plots -- problems, though,
that any TV show with a five- year run often go through. DAWSON'S CREEK
is an unabashed guilty pleasure for a lot of viewers, not just teens but
anyone old enough to have watched the John Hughes comedies from the '80s.
Its myriad of genre conventions is complimented particularly in the first
13 episodes by characters you can care about and situations everyone has
Whether or not you enjoyed those times can say a lot about one's tolerance
for DAWSON'S CREEK, but Columbia has done a solid job with their three-disc
DVD box- set of the show's first season. The episode transfers on DVD vary
from very good to mediocre, with one show in particular ("Dance" on Disc
One) looking as if the picture has been "stretched" vertically for no apparent
reason. Some grain is evident in some of the shows, yet more often than
not the full-frame transfers are in satisfactory condition.
The Dolby Surround soundtrack offers a collection of familiar rock tunes
and Adam Fields' introspective original score, one of the show's more effective
elements (Fields' score is actually isolated on an import "Best of Dawson's
Creek" DVD, available in Europe with four episodes compiled from the first
two seasons). Supplements include a fun audio commentary from Kevin Williamson
and executive producer Paul Stupin on the Pilot and season finale ("Decisions").
The two discuss the show's genesis and casting, along with the N.C. shooting
and other trivia that fans will love. A brief "retrospective" featurette
includes interviews with the duo, along with cast interviews filmed shortly
before the program's 1998 premiere.
If you're still reading this review, chances are that you too are a
closet fan of DAWSON'S CREEK, in which case this DVD edition will bring
back some good memories from the show's prime. Even when it's bad, it's
still good, and the program's solid run -- which ends next month after
five seasons on the air -- proves that there are some Capeside addicts
out there who will enjoy having the first season on disc, to enjoy again
at their leisure.
JACKASS: THE MOVIE (***, 84 mins., 2002, R; Paramount):
I hate getting into situations where I have to grudgingly admit that I
like a movie that has no redeeming social value whatsoever. The last time
at the Aisle Seat where I praised a movie as repugnant as JACKASS, it had
to be Don Mancini's subversive "Bride of Chucky." Well, I suppose a gap
of five years is enough time to recommend another profane and yet outrageously
funny flick: MTV's feature-length JACKASS, an assortment of pranks and
stunts that managed to score a few bucks at the box-office last fall.
If you've never seen the TV show (which I hadn't prior to seeing the
DVD), JACKASS is like an R-rated "Candid Camera" crossed with "Super Dave."
There's no plot or point, just a collection of blackout segments ranging
from the idiotic (guy dresses up as a mouse and navigates through a course
of mouse traps) to the ridiculous (men dress up as elderly folks and cause
trouble on city streets) to the completely disgusting (like star "Steve-O"
pole vaulting across a "river of poo" filled with excrement and a dead
cat). While some of this is undeniably gross and gut-wrenching, a lot of
it is truly inspired -- such as when star Johnny Knoxville takes to a golf
course to sound an air horn while a group of unsuspecting golfers tee off.
Some of the elderly bits are also truly priceless -- in contrast to some
of the vomit-inducing sequences -- and are worth scanning through the movie
for again after you've sat through it once.
Paramount's DVD offers a 1.85 transfer that likely looks better on video
(how it was shot) than it did cinematically, where it was blown up to suit
the needs of a theater screen. The 5.1 soundtrack is crisp and bombastic,
boasting tons of contemporary rock tracks. For Special Features, the disc
is ripe with outtakes and some 27 minutes of amusing scenes that didn't
make the final cut, including Knoxville's memorable trip into a porn shop.
Audio commentary by Knoxville and a separate group commentary are also
included, along with promo spots, music videos, the trailer, photo and
poster galleries, and cast and crew bios.
JACKASS is a movie that you won't want to admit that you liked, but
I'll be damned if most viewers out there with a sense of humor wouldn't
find at least SOME of it funny if they were forced to watch it. If you're
in the mood or are having a group of friends over who can tolerate the
R-rated material (and a few throw-up scenes), you'll likely find yourself
in stitches watching these brainless fools torture and humiliate themselves
for the purposes of a few laughs.
TROOP BEVERLY HILLS (**1/2, 106 mins., 1989, PG; Columbia TriStar):
Shelley Long plays a Beverly Hills housewife who opts to take over her
daughter's Girl Scout troop after disgruntled husband Craig T. Nelson decides
to leave her. Shenanigans (but of course) ensue once Long takes to outdoor
hikes, campfire tales, and other scout activities. Charles Fries ("The
Martian Chronicles") produced this silly but enjoyable 1989 family comedy,
which has managed to gain a semi-cult following over the years since its
initial release. Under the direction of vet Jeff Kanew, TROOP BEVERLY offers
colorful, predictable laughs and a serviceable Randy Edelman score to wash
it down with -- a pleasant piece of late '80s fluff for viewers of all
ages. Columbia's DVD offers only a full frame transfer and standard 2.0
Dolby Stereo soundtrack, but both look adequate and the movie isn't crying
out for the widescreen treatment in the first place. Supplements are also
non-existent aside from bonus trailers, but for fans, this is definitely
an upgrade from your old VHS or laserdisc release.
INSPECTOR GADGET 2 (**, 88 mins., 2003, PG; Disney):
Colorful, live-action sequel to the lame box-office hit from a couple of
years ago, GADGET 2 offers French Stewart in the role Matthew Broderick
essayed in its predecessor. Here, Gadget has to join forces with a fully
robotic new police officer (Elaine Hendrix) in order to take on the remnants
of the evil Claw's organization. This made-for-video follow-up lacks some
of the dizzying, non-stop effects of its predecessor, but that's not necessarily
a bad thing -- and neither is Stewart, whose comic abilities better suit
the lead character than Broderick anyhow. It's all forgettable, silly kids
stuff, but youngsters should enjoy it and again, it's certainly no worse
than the first film. Disney's DVD offers a "family friendly" 1.66 transfer
with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, outtakes and deleted scenes, and other extras
for youngsters. GADGET 2 was shot on location in Australia, and boasts
a number of familiar faces in supporting roles, including MAD MAX 2's Bruce
Spence and THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER's Sigrid Thornton.
NEXT WEEK: Take a ride on the GHOST SHIP, we discuss
upcoming titles, plus your comments and more. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and we'll catch you then. Excelsior!