An Aisle Seat -- Soundtrack Edition??
Andy Reviews Horner's THE MISSING and Isham's THE COOLER
Plus: TOMB RAIDER returns on DVD, and more new releases
By Andy Dursin
I agree: 2003 hasn't been a good year for film score lovers. In fact,
this past summer may go down as one of the worst for soundtracks in modern
history (or all-time, perhaps?).
The good news is that we finally seem to be coming out of the dark,
with a pair of new soundtracks I can recommend without hesitation -- pretty
much the first time this year I've been able to say that about an original
work from 2003.
Sure, I can hear "Aliens" and "Titanic" all throughout James Horner's
score for Ron Howard's new western-thriller, THE MISSING (Sony Classical
SK 93093), but after a summer spent hearing recycled Media Ventures "scores"
and bombastic techno tracks, I'll gladly take the comforting strains of
a solid Horner effort any day.
The Sony Classical soundtrack, out this week, gives you exactly what
you'd hope for: over 77 minutes of full-blooded orchestral film scoring
with typical Horner flourishes and motifs. Mixing a mourning American Indian
vocal with interesting percussion (in a more successful manner than "Windtalkers"),
Horner is able to firmly grasp the "horror" inherent in the film's story,
adapted by Ken Kaufman from a novel by Thomas Eidson. More impressive,
though, are the evocative, sweeping passages that swell with typical Horner
emotion -- moving and melancholic, and mostly recycled from past efforts
by the composer, especially at the end.
Yet, the soundtrack comes as a breath of fresh air and easily ranks
as one of the year's best efforts, even if it's only by default. After
nearly 11 months of tedious, formulaic film scoring and hardly a work I'd
pay a penny to hear on its own soundtrack album, THE MISSING is solid,
efficient and gets the job done.
If Horner's not your cup of tea, though, and you can use
some melodic jazz, by all means give a spin or two to Mark Isham's THE
COOLER (Koch KOC CD 5707). An indie movie with William H. Macy, Paul
Sorvino and Alec Baldwin, Isham's score here is one of his more thematic
and most memorable to date. Swelling with passionate riffs and occasional
big-band blasts, this jazzy and seductive soundtrack is the perfect antidote
to a year of nondescript film scoring.
On Koch's CD, Isham's original material is mixed in with a handful of
tracks performed by the likes of Diana Krall, Joey Fatone, and Sorvino
himself, and each fits the after- hours, boozy mood of the project. But
it's Isham's score -- especially the main theme heard in the opening and
closing credits -- that proves tough to turn off, encouraging repeat listening
with a melodic, rapturous sax line that's right up there with the musician's
It's not often that a director's liner notes shed much light on a film
or score, but here, "The Cooler"'s Wayne Kramer tells us how he nabbed
Isham to score the film, how he fell in love with the music, and how viewers
came up and asked him about the availability of the score after screening
it. He's right on all counts: easily one of Isham's most intoxicating and
infectious soundtracks, THE COOLER is one of the few efforts of 2003 to
merit a special recognition from the Aisle Seat. Check it out!
Sequels and Silliness: New on DVD
LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE. 117 mins., 2003,
PG-13, Paramount. ANDY'S RATING: **. CAST: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler,
Noah Taylor, Ciaran Hinds, Djimon Hounsou, Til Scheweiger, Christopher
Barrie. COMPOSER: Alan Silvestri. SCRIPT: Dean Georgaris, from a story
by Steven E. DeSouza and James V. Hart. DIRECTOR: Jan DeBont. DVD SPECIAL
FEATURES: Director commentary; nine deleted scenes including an alternate
ending; Featurettes including an interview with Alan Silvestri; trailers;
music videos. TECHNICAL SPECS: 2.35 Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
The original "Tomb Raider" wasn't much to talk about, despite achieving
a domestic gross near $150 million. A "product" doubling as the beginning
of a "franchise" for Angelina Jolie as the once-popular video game heroine,
the movie was a by-the- numbers action flick with mind-numbing, bombastic
action scenes that looked and played like a music video -- and with all
the dramatic depth of one as well.
That said, it was still moderately entertaining to watch, which is one
thing that the sequel, THE CRADLE OF LIFE, rarely is. Though the movie
plays more coherently and attempts to further develop its characters than
its predecessor did, it's also awfully tired and disappointingly dull,
once again failing to surround its cinematic heroine with a plot or supporting
cast worthy of its potential.
This time out, Lara (Jolie) stumbles upon Pandora's Box after infiltrating
an underwater tomb belonging to Alexander the Great. An evil scientist
(Ciaran Hinds) makes off with the device, leading Lara to recruit her jailed
former partner (Gerald Butler), in an attempt at retrieving it before Hinds
unleashes its power on mankind.
Jan DeBont has made some spectacularly successful films in his time
("Speed," "Twister"), and even when his movies aren't so good ("The Haunting"),
they're at least watchable and well-made. That's why the lack of energy
in THE CRADLE OF LIFE is so surprising: everything about the movie, from
its plot to its characters and visual design, is thoroughly uninspired.
Jolie again gives it her all, but Butler isn't very interesting as her
former lover, and the movie's drawn-out 117 minute running time will end
up trying the patience of even the most die-hard Lara Croft fan. Even Alan
Silvestri's soundtrack -- written late in the game as a replacement for
Craig Armstrong's initial work -- comes off as a watered-down pastiche
of his "Mummy Returns" score.
Paramount's Special Edition DVD looks fantastic (in 2.35 widescreen),
though the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is recorded at a noticeably low
level -- I had to push my center channel to the max just to hear the dialogue
(which seems to be a product of the film mix and not a problem with the
Special features are abundant, including a commentary track with DeBont
and five Making Of featurettes consisting of "Training," "Vehicles and
Weapons," "Stunts," "Visual Effects," and "Scoring." The latter offers
a solid five-minute segment profiling Alan Silvestri, who discusses his
approach to the movie, noting how late he came on- board (obviously he
makes no mention of Armstrong's score being dumped). There's ample recording
session footage on-hand here in a segment that Silvestri fans will definitely
want to check out.
Other extras include some nine deleted/alternate scenes, including a
slightly different ending; music videos; Butler's screen test; bonus trailers;
and the original web site archived for DVD-ROM perusal.
DUMB AND DUMBERER: WHEN HARRY MET LLOYD. 86 mins.,
2003, PG-13, New Line. ANDY'S RATING: *1/2. CAST: Eric Christian Olsen,
Derek Richardson, Cheri Oteri, Luis Guizman, Mimi Rogers, Eugene Levy,
Bob Saget. COMPOSER: Eban Schletter. SCRIPT: Robert Brener, Troy Miller.
DIRECTOR: Troy Miller. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary; two Making
Of segments; nine deleted scenes; bloopers. TECHNICAL SPECS: 1.85 Widescreen,
5.1 Dolby Digital surround.
Sad prequel to the Farrelly Brothers' hit was doomed right from the
start, by having a road company cast and crew trying to mimic the comedic
shenanigans of its predecessor.
In place of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are Eric Christian Olsen and
Derek Richardson, who do their best to recapture the original tandem's
deft blend of stupidity and slapstick as we meet buddies Harry and Lloyd
back at "Providence Hill High School." It's not a terrible idea for a sequel,
yet despite doing decent imitations of the original leads, Olsen and Richardson
don't really add much of their own energy to the story, which includes
the usual stupid gags, run-ins with pretty girls, and adversaries -- the
latter coming in the form of the scheming principal (Eugene Levy, wasted)
and cafeteria worker (Cheri Oteri, ditto), who plan to make off with $100,000
from the school.
What's worse is that the movie provides few belly laughs -- the script,
credited to Robert Brener and director Troy Miller, creates a plethora
of supporting players, only to limit them all to one or two scenes in an
effort to get the running time down (it's all over at the 80 minute mark
-- a telling sign). The gags simply fall flat, and the grimy, low- budget
look to the movie also doesn't help matters. New Line at least has provided
us with another superlative DVD. The two Making Of segments are on par
with the company's superior supplemental efforts, offering a fresh perspective
on the production of the movie and what the studio was aiming for. The
result is that both featurettes (the 17-minute "Making Of" and 25-minute
"Casting" shorts) are lot more honest and interesting than most studio-produced
DVD docs. There's also a commentary with the director and two leads, and
a pair of "comedic" commentaries that aren't worth spending more than a
few minutes hearing (if at all). Trailers, bloopers, outtakes and deleted
scenes round out the disc, which sports a solid 1.85 transfer, 5.1 Dolby
Digital sound, and the original script as a DVD-ROM extra.
ADAM SANDLER'S EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS. 76 mins., 2002,
PG-13, Columbia TriStar. ANDY'S RATING: **. COMPOSERS: Ray Ellis, Marc
Ellis, Teddy Castellucci. SCRIPT: Brooks Arthur, Allen Covert, Brad Isaacs,
Adam Sandler. DIRECTOR: Seth Kearsley. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and crew
commentary tracks; music video; deleted scenes with optional commentary;
nine Making Of featurettes; HBO First Look special. TECHNICAL SPECS: 1.85
Widescreen, full-frame versions; 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Adam Sandler's excursion into the world of animation is at least more
palatable than either of last two live-action films (the hideous, though
financially successful, "Mr. Deeds" and "Anger Management").
Sandler "plays" Davey Stone, a New Englander who's down on the holidays.
His elder friend Whitey opts to bail Davey out of jail and put the young
man to work doing community service projects -- something that results
in the grumpy, sarcastic guy finally opening his eyes to the magic of the
holiday season and the possibility of love with a former childhood sweetheart.
It's the typical Sandler formula of slapstick and sentiment played out
as an animated musical parody, some of which works but most of which doesn't
(and wouldn't you just know, his newfound girlfriend has a little kid in
tow). Undoubtedly the idea for the movie came from Sandler's beloved "Chanukah
Song," yet the movie itself -- penned by Sandler with three other screenwriters
-- lacks the cleverness and big laughs one might have anticipated from
the material. There are the usual crude jokes and "serious" scenes inherent
in nearly all of Sandler's movies, but at least the movie's quick pace
and musical numbers make it a little more engaging to sit through than
watching the comedian's antics on the live screen.
Columbia TriStar's two-disc Special Edition DVD is a good deal of fun.
In addition to widescreen and full-frame transfers of the movie (both of
which look colorful and clear), there's a superb 5.1 Dolby Digital mix
and plenty of supplements. These include a pair of commentary tracks, the
HBO Making Of special, some nine deleted scenes, a segment involving "Meatball"
the dog, and some nine making of featurettes that take you through the
production. Sandler fans who don't mind indulging the comedian in his usual
shenanigans will likely get a kick out of the DVD, particularly if they're
in a forgiving holiday spirit!
Aisle Seat Mail Bag
From David J. Moraza:
Andy, THANK YOU, for letting us know about the Criterion
titles soon to become extinct in their present form! I am glad to get the
tip-off as I remember just missing out on the Criterion version of 'Dead
Ringers' but did manage to snag a copy of their terrific version of 'The
Silence of the Lambs.' I remember seeing 'Marooned' at the theater when
I was in Junior High. I would love to see the version on Mystery Science
Theater though. Has it been released on dvd, or did you catch the version
ON Mystery Science Theater itself? Also I am the guy who wrote you some
months ago about 'The Haunting' when you announced it was coming out on
DVD. And I mentioned 'The Innocents' and we talked of our laserdisc copies
of that title. Any word from Fox about 'The Innocents' on DVD coming out?
David, you're welcome for the tip. MAROONED is sadly only available on
Columbia's DVD (out today, incidentally), while THE INNOCENTS is still
on the "wish lists" of many Laserphiles this holiday season. Fox didn't
turn out a Halloween batch of DVDs this year, so hopefully it'll happen
From Michael Karoly:
Michael, from all accounts (and a contact I have associated with the project),
Fincher was approached and basically wanted nothing to do with the new
DVD of ALIEN 3. Remember he was basically a "hired hand" on the project,
which was a mess before shooting began and continued to be re-written once
shooting started. The "long version" that was assembled for the upcoming
DVD apparently had his blessing, since it was an assembly he made prior
to the final cut being made (which presumably was put together by David
Giler and Walter Hill, not Fincher).
Did Fox not allow Fincher to do a commentary for ALIEN 3? Or was
he not interested? I'm really upset about this- do you have any news about
From Joe Ersey:
Regarding Bill Williams's observations in your column last
week: "And like you, I also remember the "Temple" teaser spot on the head
of the first "Raiders" VHS release. Why in the world didn't Paramount include
that on the DVD?"
From Joe Caporicio:
I know the spot well myself, and it's on not only the VHS (and Beta)
copies produced prior to 1990 or so, it's on the pan-&-scan laserdisc
editions (both CLV and CAV) from the same time as well, but as far as I
know, it never ran *theatrically* - I believe it was done for those video
releases only, and apparently the movie trailers in the DVD set have been
restricted to theatrical trailers (and a game trailer, but nevermind.).
Why, I don't know, and yes, I'd have loved it if the Indiana Jones and
the Temple of Doom teaser had been retained in this set (wouldn't it have
been great to include as an Easter egg on the Raiders one, and the disc
would have the hidden option to play Raiders immediately after the Temple
teaser, like in the old days? :)), and if the set had also included the
promo for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles that appeared all the Indy
tapes in the early '90s (for that matter, I'd love it if there were any
mention of TYIJC on the new set at all). Oh, well. perhaps when the Young
Indy DVDs appear, those promos can appear with them.
Andy, Trouble with Angels is definitely 1:85 and is missing
the sides on all transfers I have seen.
Thanks for the clarification, Joe! The DVD transfer still looks excellent
-- Columbia certainly seemed to have newly remastered it, regardless of
the aspect ratio.
From Alberto Barbosa:
Andy, I usally like your movie reviews but I got disappointed
with your's MATRIX REVOLUTIONS. Of course it would be easy for me to play
so I won't do it... but you failed to dig the movie's clues, dude that's
for sure! Shame on you. More interesting is that I got the same feeling
you wrote about just after the end. It took me some 10 minutes (a lot of
time, hum?) of reflection to conect all the pieces to finally understand
what I just saw. Congratulations to the Warchowsky bros! They really were
able to make the best mind #@!% yet. Glad I dig it! BTW, have you ever
read Herbert's DUNE? Well, I did and there's plenty of the Atreides' saga
on MATRIX... for those who want to know.
NEXT TIME: A helping of cinematic fare just in
time for Thanksgiving, including ELF, MASTER & COMMANDER and more!
Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and
we'll catch you then. Cheers!