Aisle Seat Special DVD Edition Mania
ROBIN HOOD, TERMINATOR 2, and more resurface on disc
Plus: Mail Bag and more!
By Andy Dursin
The year was 1991. Kevin Costner, fresh off his triumph in "Dances With
Wolves," did what any sane star coming off an Oscar victory would do: take
the money and run off to make a big-budget mainstream Hollywood film.
In his case, it was ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, which was
shot in England on a hurried production schedule to make it out in time
for the summer movie season.
Costner reunited with his one-time "Fandango" cohort, director Kevin
Reynolds, for the lavish Morgan Creek production, surrounding himself with
big-time co-stars -- including Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman
and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio -- in the English-lensed version of the
PRINCE OF THIEVES, of course, turned out to be a blockbuster smash,
but it didn't come easy. Costner reportedly threw Reynolds off the picture
in post-production, re- cutting portions of the picture -- including some
of Rickman's funniest passages as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Arguments
between Costner, Reynolds, and the producers joined publicized tales of
problems that flooded the media in anticipation of the release, though
the end result at least pleased the masses worldwide as the film became
a big hit.
Warner Home Video's 2-disc Special Edition DVD release, out this week
(***, 155 mins., Not Rated), includes not only some fine supplemental material
but also a new, never-before-seen Extended Version of the movie.
Apparently restoring the excised scenes that Rickman lamented were dropped
long ago, the 12 minutes of new footage exclusively belong to the Sheriff
and his comical, campy rants. This should come as good news for fans of
the film, since most viewers and critics singled out Rickman's goofy but
entertaining performance as one of the film's chief attributes.
If nothing else, Rickman's scenes help overcome the movie's biggest
liability: Costner, whose stilted delivery (his line "I'm Robin of Locksley"
remains an all-time classic) and pasty demeanor are still hard to accept
in this kind of movie. I couldn't help but notice the irony that, in 1991,
Pierce Brosnan was relegated to hosting a network TV special on the making
of the film (included on the DVD), while Costner was cast solely on his
then- popularity at the box-office. You have to wonder what kind of film
PRINCE OF THIEVES might have been with a more appropriate choice -- say,
Brosnan -- in its lead role than Costner, since the two actors' popularity
have certainly been reversed in the years since its release.
There's still much to enjoy in the movie, though. Mastrantonio -- a
last-minute replacement for Robin Wright (Penn) -- is fine as Maid Marian,
while Freeman makes the most of a potentially oddball role as a Moor who
fights alongside Robin and his merry men. Fine British character actors,
including Brian Blessed, round out the cast, and there's a memorable cameo
by a beloved actor who blows Costner off the screen at the very end.
Michael Kamen's uneven score is at least superior to many of his mickey-mousing
"action" scores of the period. The Overture and Finale are rousing and
memorable, though the rest of the soundtrack doesn't live up to its bookending
cues. That said, the DVD includes the entire original soundtrack album
in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound on Disc 2. It's not an isolated score per se,
but rather the entire contents of the soundtrack album with each cue separated
by its track title (you cannot, however, scan through the tracks like you
can on a regular CD).
Other extras on the 2-disc set include a pair of new audio commentaries,
including one by Costner and Reynolds, together again. It seems as if the
two have completely repaired the rifts they had over the years (they did
make "Waterworld," after all), though Costner does the majority of the
talking -- almost as if he himself directed the film (and apparently he
did at times). The duo also skirt the issue of who cut what and when, and
I found it particularly curious that when some of Rickman's deleted footage
appears back in the film, Costner says "this is some of the new material,"
to which Reynolds replies, "I don't know, Kev, I can't remember." (Reynolds
is likely being diplomatic here. If memory serves correct, Costner threw
Reynolds out of the editing room, with Rickman's cuts likely being Costner's
The other commentary features a less energetic track with producers
Pen Densham and John Watson, along with Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater.
It's fun, but a bit dry and best recommended for die-hard fans of the movie.
The before-mentioned, Brosnan-hosted CBS special is also included (featuring
some footage of Kamen at work), along with press junket interviews with
the stars, TV spots and the original trailer, essay and photo galleries,
and Bryan Adams performing his (godawful) hit single "Everything I Do,
I Do It For You" at Ireland's Slane Castle.
The 1.85 transfer is very good, better than the original DVD release,
with the DTS/Dolby Digital soundtracks packing a pretty good punch as well.
Despite its uneasy lead performance and production design that recalls
the Ewok Village from "Return of the Jedi," ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES
is a fun adventure flick that remains a good, old-fashioned time at the
movies. Warner's DVD is priced right and includes some solid extras (short
of a retrospective documentary and isolated score) to go along with a slightly
longer version that gives you more of what worked the first time around.
New Re-Issues and Re-packagings
T2 Terminator 2: THE EXTREME EDITION. Artisan, 1991, 152 mins.,
R. ANDY'S RATING: ***. CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Eddie
Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton. COMPOSER: Brad Fiedel. SCRIPT: James
Cameron and William Wisher. DIRECTOR: James Cameron. TECHNICAL SPECS: 2.35
Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. DVD FEATURES: Newly remastered, high-definition
transfer; theatrical and Special Edition cuts; all-new, scene-specific
audio commentary with Cameron and Wisher; Interactive Mode with breakaway
featurettes and behind the scenes footage; new featurettes on the FX and
"On The Set"; DVD-ROM features; theatrical cut in high resolution for PC
playback (Windows XP required).
Yet another re-release of T2 -- this time to coincide with the upcoming
release of TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES -- though at least the package
has been rightly advertised as a visual upgrade and "companion disc" to
the preceding release.
Offering almost none of the supplements from the features-packed "T2:
The Ultimate Edition" DVD, this EXTREME edition has two benefits going
for it: an all-new, remastered, and gorgeous 2.35, 16:9 digital transfer
that alone will be worth the purchase for fans, plus a scene-specific,
new commentary by James Cameron and William Wisher recorded last February.
While the latter is of interest since it's the first time that Cameron
has sat down and recorded an entire, full-length commentary, the DVD's
new transfer is the main draw to owning the disc. Colors are better saturated,
the contrast is superior, and the overall definition of the transfer just
that much better than the preceding DVD, which crammed an awful lot of
material (three cuts of the film and tons of extras) onto a single disc.
The new transfer takes advantage of the added space on the DVD, and comes
away with a appreciably warmer picture that will be most apparent to owners
of larger television sets.
The DVD offers both the Special Edition of the film and the theatrical
version, though the latter is an "easter egg" that can be easily accessed
by pressing the right- forward button on your remote control five times
at the main menu. Unlike its DVD predecessor, this release doesn't include
the option of watching the movie with the excised futuristic epilogue intact,
though the scene IS included in the Interactive Mode extras.
Speaking of one of the EXTREME edition's added features, the Interactive
Mode includes "text commentary"-like trivia as well as on-screen icons
that can take the viewer to optional extras like behind-the-scenes footage,
promotional materials, and other goodies. Lightstorm's Van Ling produced
the new disc, and writes in his liner notes that this release is designed
as a companion to its predecessor, taking full advantage of the improvements
in the digital medium as a whole since its predecessor's original release.
The disc also features an OK new half-hour featurette on the FX and
a shorter "On the Set" featurette, which are best left for the movie's
fans. More impressive are the PC-centric bonus features, including a Windows
high definition presentation of the theatrical cut and assorted DVD-ROM
One word of warning: the disc and plastic case are housed in a hard,
metallic outer-shell that looks cool BUT, alas, rips the plastic off the
interior DVD case when you try and slide it out. My copy did this (as have
several others reported online), so if you care about the condition of
your cover, slide it out and keep it permanently outside the metal casing
FAST AND THE FURIOUS: Tricked Out Edition. Universal,
107 mins., 2001, PG-13. ANDY'S RATING: *** (** for disc itself). CAST:
Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez. COMPOSER:
BT. SCRIPT: Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer. DIRECTOR:
Rob Cohen. DVD FEATURES: New enhanced viewing movie, "Prelude" to sequel
"2 Fast 2 Furious," most features from previous DVD release (sans Making
Of). TECHNICAL SPECS: 2.35 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Repackaging of Universal's earlier Special Edition DVD of "The Fast
and the Furious" turns out to be strictly for fans. While the 2.35 transfer
looks fine, the disc is missing the earlier disc's potent DTS track, and
certain special features -- like the Making Of featurette -- have been
dropped in favor of extras like a "prequel" to 2 FAST, 2 FURIOUS with star
Paul Walker. An "enhanced" viewing mode offers a similar experience to
T2's on-screen trivia track, and may be of interest for fans as well, though
the lack of the DTS track detracts from the title's overall quality.
On the plus side, Rob Cohen's commentary has been retained, and the
movie's car chase scenes have held up particularly well. FAST AND THE FURIOUS
is no classic, but it's an entertaining B-movie with super-charged racing
sequences that are stylishly shot and edited. If you don't have the earlier
DVD, this is a passable repackaging, but it's worth tracking down the original
if you have a chance.
New From Paramount
THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE. Paramount, 1995, 88 mins., PG-13. ANDY'S
RATING: ***. CAST: Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Michael McKean, Christine Taylor,
Christopher Daniel Barnes. COMPOSER: Guy Moon, songs by Steve Tyrell. SCRIPT:
Laurice Elehwany and Rick Copp, Bonnie and Terry Turner. DIRECTOR: Betty
Thomas. TECHNICAL SPECS: 1.85 widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital.
A VERY BRADY SEQUEL. Paramount, 1996, 89 mins., PG-13. ANDY'S
RATING: ***. CAST: Shelley Long, Gary Cole, Tim Matheson, Christine Taylor,
Christopher Daniel Barnes. COMPOSER: Guy Moon, songs by Steve Tyrell. SCRIPT:
Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, James Berg and Stan Zimmerman. DIRECTOR:
Arlene Sanford. TECHNICAL SPECS: 1.85 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital.
The '90s will be partially remembered as the decade of TV series-to-film
adaptations, at least from a cinematic standpoint. From the good ("The
Addams Family") to the bad ("McHale's Navy") and the just plain mediocre
(remember the "Leave It To Beaver" film?), it seemed as if everything except
"My Mother, The Car" was turned into a big screen movie.
Clearly one of the better transitions was made by THE BRADY BUNCH, which
catapulted into theaters -- and box-office success -- in a ribald 1995
comedy that spoofed the original Sherwood Schwartz sitcom as much as it
lampooned the contemporary times it was set in.
The Betty Thomas-directed comedy takes the original Brady family and
places them in a grunge-filled '90s that's now almost as foreign as the
gaudy era that the Bradys come from. The gags range from homages to the
classic Brady episodes (Marcia getting hit in the nose with a football,
Jan constantly trying to live up to her sister's popularity, etc.) to sexual
innuendo and 70s-vs-90s jokes, some of which have dated just a bit. Others,
though, remain quite amusing, like Davy Jones rocking his immortal classic
"Girl" to a new generation of onlookers.
Maybe it's because I grew up watching the show, but THE BRADY BUNCH
is a perfect example of how to make a kitschy TV show work on the big-screen.
Central to the fun is the cast: the kids are uniformly good (especially
Jennifer Elise Cox as Jan), with Florence Henderson and Robert Reed being
ably filled by the likes of Shelley Long and Gary Cole. Long is fine as
Carol, but it's Cole that steals the show as Mike Brady -- brilliantly
channeling Reed's persona in a hilarious performance ("wherever you go,
there you are.") Guy Moon's amusing score includes variations on TV cues
that Frank DeVol and Kenyon Hopkins composed back in the day, while Steve
Tyrell effectively remixes some classic Brady tunes to complete the experience.
While the inevitable sequel was not nearly successful at the box-office,
A VERY BRADY SEQUEL is, in many ways, superior to its predecessor.
With most of the "clash of eras" gags dropped, as well as some of the
more adult themes, the Arlene Sanford-directed sequel more closely resembles
the actual show -- taking the Bradys back to Hawaii while the fam tries
(and fails) to avoid being scammed by con artist Tim Matheson, who claims
he's Carol's long lost husband.
Sure, it's more nonsense that only fans will truly appreciate, but the
script manages to play up the sticky relationship between Greg and Marsha
perfectly, and the musical score and songs are absolutely perfect -- most
especially a homage to the forgotten Brady Kids Saturday morning cartoon
series, set to Oliver's "Good Morning Starshine."
Paramount has released both BRADY features as good-looking, 16:9 enhanced
DVDs with 5.1 digital surround. Sadly, the opportunity was lost here to
include special features like the bounty of deleted scenes that were included
in the TV prints of THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE. Still, the prices are attractive
(each DVD should fetch around $15 at most locales) and the movies look
great, leaving us to hope someone, somehow will release the original show
itself on DVD in the near future.
MURPHY'S WAR. Paramount, 106 mins., 1971, PG-13.
ANDY'S RATING: **1/2. CAST: Peter O'Toole, Sian Phillips, Philippe Noiret,
Horst Janson. COMPOSER: John Barry, Ken Thorne. SCRIPT: Stirling Silliphant.
DIRECTOR: Peter Yates. TECHNICAL SPECS: 2.35 Widescreen, Monophonic sound.
Odd WWII action movie finds Peter O'Toole as an English seamen whose
fellow crew members are killed by a German U-boat attack in the Tropics.
After being nursed back to health by a kindly nurse (Sian Phillips), O'Toole
decides to take on the enemy man-to-man in a personal, all-out assault
that John Rambo would be proud of.
Peter Yates directed this uneven adventure film, with a beginning half-hour
that seems to have been cut down from something much longer. There's little
character development but many lengthy set-pieces, such as O'Toole putting
a downed plane back together and searching local rivers for the elusive
German vessel. Throughout it all, the Stirling Silliphant script -- based
on a Max Catto novel -- never comes together, leaving O'Toole to carry
the show in a strong performance that the film itself never matches. And,
in keeping with '70s cinema, there's a downer of an ending without much
On the plus side, the film's widescreen cinematography is quite good,
and there's an effective, though sparse, music score composed by John Barry
in association with Ken Thorne. Barry reportedly wrote the major themes
for the film, leaving the conducting and supervision to Thorne (the first
of several collaborations between the two).
Paramount's DVD looks extremely good in 16:9 widescreen, while the mono
soundtrack packs a little more punch than many 2.0 stereo soundtracks you'll
hear on DVD. No extras are included on the budget (under $20) DVD issue.
New on DVD
JUST MARRIED. Fox, 95 mins., 2003, PG-13, Available June 17.
ANDY'S RATING: **. CAST: Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane,
David Rasche, Veronica Cartwright. COMPOSER: Christophe Beck. SCRIPT: Sam
Harper. DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by
Kutcher, Murphy, and Levy; deleted scenes; Making Of featurette; Comedy
Central special. TECHNICAL SPECS: 1.85 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Amiable but slight romantic comedy raked in a few dollars for "Dude,
Where's My Car" thesp Ashton Kutcher, here starring as a typical twentysomething
who falls too quickly for smart Brittany Murphy.
Before you can say "first date," the two are married and travel overseas
for a Honeymoon of Horrors, which involves a snowbound villa from hell,
a Venice "hotel" filled with loose walls and crawling insects, Murphy's
jealous ex-boyfriend, and the inevitable mix-ups and misunderstandings.
Basically a slapstick farce without enough jokes, JUST MARRIED gets
by as a "date movie" basically because of the stars' appeal. Kutcher is
obnoxious but intermittently amusing, while Murphy gives one of her more
appealing performances as a rich but not uptight young woman who falls
for Kutcher's antics. It would have been better had the film thrown in
more interesting supporting players or Sam Harper's script simply been
funnier, but it's a decent enough romantic comedy with a nice score by
Christophe Beck (best known for his work on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Fox's fine DVD offers a colorful 1.85 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack, plus
an OK group commentary track by the director and stars. Several deleted
scenes and Making Of material from the movie's press kit and Comedy Central
round out the disc.
THE PAPER CHASE. Fox, 112 mins., 1973, PG. ANDY'S
RATING: ***. CAST: Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, John Houseman, Edward
Herrmann, James Naughton. COMPOSER: John Williams. SCRIPT: James Bridges,
from the novel by John Jay Osborn, Jr. DIRECTOR: James Bridges. DVD SPECIAL
FEATURES: Commentary by producer Robert C. Thompson; the original trailer.
TECHNICAL SPECS: 2.35 Widescreen, 2.0 Dolby Stereo.
Long-overdue DVD edition of the 1973 hit finally enables us to do away
with the horrible, washed-out laserdisc and Fox Movie Channel transfers
-- for years the only way to see James Bridges' superb 1973 college drama
in its original widescreen format.
While I've never quite understood the appeal of Timothy Bottoms -- who
stars here as a Harvard Law student who falls in love with the daughter
(a pre-Bionic Lindsay Wagner) of his cranky professor (John Houseman) --
THE PAPER CHASE is a vivid and eloquent film that beautifully captures
time and place. Shot on location, Bridges' movie is a terrific drama featuring
a wonderful, low-key score by John Williams and Gordon Willis' tremendous
widescreen cinematography, all of which looks great on Fox's DVD.
The disc includes a beautiful 2.35 transfer that's got to be the best
that THE PAPER CHASE has ever appeared outside of its original release.
The 2.0 stereo sound is OK, while for special features, the DVD offers
the trailer plus a new commentary by producer Robert Thompson, who's informative
and talkative (kudos to Fox for including chapter stops for his commentary
as well as the movie proper).
Aisle Seat Mail Bag
From Peter Dishal:
Peter, alas I don't have any Insider knowledge on this one. I wouldn't
be surprised if the newsreel was the reason, though Fox has unfortunately
been slowing down re-issues from their back catalog lately. Their recently
announced Halloween promotion was a particular disappointment, since one
would have hoped some classic genre titles like THE INNOCENTS would finally
be released on DVD. Seems like we're going to have to keep on waiting,
and holding onto our laserdiscs--
I was wondering if by any chance you know anything about this --
I e-mailed Fox Entertainment a couple of days ago to ask what was going
on with their "The Enemy Below" DVD release, which was scheduled for May
20, and I got a reply saying it had been cancelled -- no reason given.
Would you have any inside information on why, or whether there's a chance
it might still happen? The description I had read even talked about some
newsreel footage they were going to include as an extra. (In the meantime,
I guess I better hang on to my laserdisc--)
From Harry Chen:
I told Harry that I'm fairly certain that the framing issues weren't exclusive
to the North American disc, but that perhaps some other, international
readers out there could help us out.
A question regarding last year's "Back to the Future" trilogy DVD
set, which had a disc with framing problems. Since I don't live in a DVD
Region One country, can somebody tell me if this framing problem exists
in all regional versions of the boxed set? Does the British region two
version have this problem? I have emailed my regional distributor (in region
three Hong Kong) but they have ignored me for months. Any comments froms
BTTF fans in other countries? Thanks and keep up the great work!
From Jeff Heise:
I thought that your review of THE MATRIX RELOADED had some
good points, and I agree that the freeway chase is incredible, but why
do sci-fi filmmakers have this obsession with pounding some form of philosophy
down our throats when they make a film? The original MATRIX was fascinating
with the idea of the world we know being a lie and the true world in danger
of destruction. Fine with me-good set pieces, interesting characters and
incredible visuals all paced just slowly enough to understand the premise
and ponder on it while watching.
Good points, Jeff. One thing I've noticed since I saw the movie is -- well,
I've pretty much forgotten everything about it, actually. It was fun for
2+ hours, it was over, and it didn't leave me with any lasting impression.
The movie's rapidly declining box-office receipts seem to confirm that,
as well, which doesn't bode too well for the third film. With a cliffhanger
that uninspired, who's going to be sleepless at night with anticipation
over the final chapter?
Four years later, and we're talking about-chocolate cake?
I thought this film was one of the biggest bundles of gas I've ever
seen in a theater. The action sequences were terrific, and I am really
curious as to how Reeves is finally going to stop Weaving's character once
and for all. But the scenes where Reeves has to listen to someone explain
what is happening both to him and to us is the equivalent to me of stopping
and starting on the freeway-it's exasperating, takes forever to get to
the end and really pissed me off. The whole scene in the restaurant will
come in handy when I go see the film for a second time but this time with
my wife (she was ill on opening night)-I can go use the restroom and stop
at the snack bar during it and still have time to play a video game!
I told a friend, when a science-fiction filmmaker dies, they become
a philosophy professor with too much tenure.
I really hope that the Waxy Brothers have gotten Joseph Campbell
out of their systems now and can get back to business with the third film
this fall. If not, then, God help me, there's always the final (I pray)
STAR WARS film in 2005.
NEXT WEEK: TV on DVD. No, really, for real this
time! I promise!! Send all emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
and have a good week, everyone.