Aisle Seat INDIANA JONES Edition
Andy Reviews the Long-Awaited DVD Debut
Plus: RUDY Deluxe, Both ITALIAN JOBs, and more!
By Andy Dursin
While we wait for the original STAR WARS Trilogy to be released on DVD
(in whatever Special Edition variant George Lucas sees fit), today marks
the long-awaited debut of the INDIANA JONES TRILOGY on disc.
It's a special occasion not only because the Indiana Jones films are
at last available on DVD, but the fact that there's never been a "Special
Edition" release of these movies in ANY format. It took years for RAIDERS
OF THE LOST ARK to be issued in letterbox format on laserdisc, and even
then, the LDs had no special features to speak of -- not even a theatrical
Paramount's four-disc box-set of the series offers movie-only presentations
of the three respective films, then a fourth DVD comprised of new supplements
from Lucasfilm and Steven Spielberg associate Laurent Bouzereau.
It's a great package that starts with new digital transfers and remixed
Dolby Digital soundtracks of each film -- and by this point, is there any
reason to re-analyze these Saturday Matinee classics? Each movie is immeasurably
entertaining on its own respective merits, though fans can still quibble
about which one is best.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (****, 115 mins., 1981, PG) thankfully
still retains its original on-screen title (despite its new packaging as
"Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark"), and remains a classic
of the action-adventure genre. With a smart Lawrence Kasdan script (from
a George Lucas-Philip Kaufman story), classic stunts and Spielberg working
at the peak of his talent, RAIDERS is still awesome fun, with Ford introducing
us to the centerpiece role of his career and Karen Allen easily providing
the best female love interest of the series.
The first sequel, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (***1/2,
118 mins., 1984, PG) was controversial in its day (along with another Spielberg
production, "Gremlins," it helped create the PG-13 rating, which was initiated
before the summer of '84 was out), and even now it's a violent ride compared
to the other Indy adventures. The script by Lucas pals Willard Huyuck and
Gloria Katz ("American Graffiti") is silly and more excessive than either
"Raiders" or "The Last Crusade," and Kate Capshaw's whiny Willie Shaw is
a comedown from Karen Allen's Marion -- so much so that it's tough for
"The Temple of Doom" not to be compared unfavorably with its predecessor.
Still, the movie's final third is a blast, and John Williams' majestic,
triumphant score may be his most inspired of the series: his themes for
the Indy-Willie romance, Short Round's Theme, the mine cart ride, and the
regal music that accompanies our heroes through the jungles of India are
simply fantastic, and when combined with the original "Raiders March,"
create a phenomenal underscore that effortlessly carries the audience through
the sequel's rough spots.
The problems with the second film were rectified with the 1989 blockbuster
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (****, 126 mins., PG-13), which
on a surface level sounds like a "Raiders" rehash but is actually, for
me anyway, the most sophisticated and durable entry in the series. This
is undoubtedly due to Sean Connery's magnetic performance as Indy's father,
Dr. Henry Jones. Connery is magnificent and his interplay with Harrison
Ford is gentle, amusing and poignant, giving the movie a warm, human center
that was completely absent from the amusement-park action of "Temple of
Doom" and surpasses the level of character development found in "Raiders."
John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott return from the original, and the
movie entertainingly reprises the quest-styled plot of "Raiders" as an
older Indy tries to track down his father, who was lost while searching
for the Holy Grail. Williams' score is again top-notch, and while "The
Last Crusade" may lack the freshness that the original contained, it's
my favorite film of the series to revisit -- Connery and Ford are so good
together that the film's strengths are only magnified on repeat viewing.
The DVD transfers all look exceptional in 2.35 widescreen (16:9 enhanced),
and the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks effectively remix and re-work the
original Dolby Surround tracks. Because Paramount included all the supplementary
materials on the fourth disc, each movie has been encoded at its top-possible
compression rate and the results are superb, easily besting the older laserdisc
transfers. This is particularly evident in the case of "The Last Crusade,"
which was never properly remastered following its initial 1990 LaserDisc
issue ("Raiders" and "Temple of Doom" were issued later on LD in widescreen
and looked exceptionally good for their time).
For supplements, the cream of this set's crop is a 126-minute documentary
on the series, newly produced by Laurent Bouzereau for this release. Dividing
the production of each film into its own, 40-minute segment, this is a
revealing and terrific effort with new interviews with Lucas, Spielberg,
Ford, Kasdan, Connery, Paul Freeman, Alfred Molina, Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw,
and most of the major participants in the series. Vintage on- set location
footage and screen tests are shown, making this every bit the revealing,
comprehensive "Making Of" fans were hoping for. Seen here for the first
time are Tom Selleck's screen test for Indy (with Sean Young playing Marion),
Karen Allen's screen test for Marion (with Tim Matheson as Indy), location
scouting with Spielberg, lots of on-set outtakes, and other bits of trivia
that fans will absolutely love. It's well produced and never dull, touches
upon the "Temple of Doom" ratings controversy and fallout, and does an
excellent job touching upon the various facets of the three movies.
Additional featurettes include a superb 12-minute interview with John
Williams, who discusses the music of the series and the conception of his
various themes. Recording session footage is shown, while Spielberg aptly
demonstrates how maestro Williams ended up combining what were originally
two separate "Raiders" motifs into the classic theme that was ultimately
used. Spielberg also rightly praises Williams' "Temple of Doom" score for
raising the movie several levels, and the more intimate approach the composer
employed on "The Last Crusade." Note that there's also a few words included
here about "Indy IV" -- the only place in this set where you'll hear talk
about the upcoming sequel.
The other featurettes, running 10-15 mins. each, include a look at ILM's
work, with a new talk with Dennis Muren; the elaborate, then-cutting edge
sound design employed by Lucasfilm wizards like Ben Burtt on the three
films; and the conception and execution of the series' various stunts.
Trailers and teasers are included for all three films, though I distinctly
recall a teaser for "Temple of Doom" (found in the first VHS release of
"Raiders") that's NOT included here.
It's a great set, though I was disappointed that Lucasfilm opted NOT
to include any deleted scenes. Surely there must have been sequences edited
out of the three movies (there were countless scenes Kasdan wrote for "Raiders"
that were excised), but sadly, there's nothing here on that front.
Otherwise, THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES box-set is every bit as satisfying
as one would have hoped. It took years for it to happen, but the end results
-- the transfers of the films and the supplements Lucasfilm and Paramount
included here -- were well worth the wait, making easily for one of the
year's top must-have DVD releases.
New on DVD
THE MATRIX RELOADED. 138 mins., 2003, R, Warner. ANDY'S RATING:
***. CAST: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving,
Jada Pinkett-Smith, Gloria Foster, Monica Bellucci. COMPOSER: Don Davis.
SCRIPT/DIRECTION: The Wachowski Brothers. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind
the Scenes featurettes; MTV Movie Awards clip. TECHNICAL SPECS: 2.35 Widescreen,
5.1 Dolby Digital.
The highly anticipated first MATRIX sequel from the Wachowski Brothers
turns out to be a dizzying, frantic blast of sci-fi entertainment that's
lots of fun to watch despite some glaring flaws that prevent it from being
a classic. The sequel dives right into the action as we find our heroes
(Keanu Reeves' Neo, Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus, Carrie-Ann Moss' Trinity)
heading to the subterranean city of Zion, where the last remnants of humanity
are bearing down for one last confrontation with the machines. While there
are those in the city who believe that collective might be the only way
to defeat the tyrannical machines, leader Anthony Zerbe believes Morpheus'
claim that only Neo stands a chance of defeating the technology that enslaved
them all and threatens to do so once again. After an effects heavy opening,
this second of two Matrix sequels grinds literally to a halt -- taking
time out for a few sex scenes and an utterly bizarre bump-and-grind sequence
between thousands of Zion inhabitants that feels just a little out of place
Once the talk and sex is out of the way, and our heroes head into the
Matrix, RELOADED finally comes to life. Neo meets with the Oracle again
and takes on Hugo Weaving's "bad cop" from the original -- not just one
Weaving, but hundreds of them, in one of the film's two must-see, jaw dropping
action scenes. A brief encounter with a villainous program guarding the
"keymaster" (not Rick Moranis, but a man who knows the location of the
source program) enables us to get a glimpse of sexy Monica Bellucci, though
her time in the movie comes and goes a little too quickly. On the other
hand, her scenes set up the sequel's most incredible and entertaining set
piece -- a dizzying, preposterous and yet awesome car chase on a futuristic
freeway that goes on for nearly 20 minutes of dazzling screen time. No
matter what you think of the rest of the movie, this sequence alone more
than justifies the price of admission.
Speaking of the rest of RELOADED, it's good but not great -- sort of
the reaction I had to the first movie, which had a little too much exposition
inbetween its memorable effects scenes. RELOADED, though, doesn't have
enough of a story to sustain itself on that front -- the jumbled script
raises the obvious religious parallels early on, but then drops them and
any semblance of a coherent story as it moves into the Matrix. On the other
hand, who cares? The movie looks and feels like the ultimate video game
you've ever played. The non-effects scenes are just filler for the money
sequences audiences will remember long after the movie is over.
Don Davis' score works tremendously well here -- it might be even better
than the original -- and while the climactic cliffhanger is a dud (it follows
through on a subplot that's barely alluded to), THE MATRIX RELOADED provides
more unforgettable visual effects than anything you've seen since, well,
its predecessor. It's a triumph of technology that hopefully will be followed
by a worthier story in the "Matrix Revolutions," which is due out in just
a few weeks. Warner's 2-disc Special Edition DVD fares exceptionally well
(as you would anticipate) in the audio and video departments. The 5.1 Dolby
Digital soundtrack is showcase-quality, while the 2.35 widescreen transfer
is extraordinarily crisp and clear: viewers needn't look further for a
The special features are decent but quite as exceptional. Found entirely
on Disc Two, the extras include documentaries on the production of the
movie, the conception of the special effects, a lengthy look at Matrix-inspired
commercials and an extensive spotlight on the production of the "Matrix
Reloaded" video game (which was unanimously panned by gamers and critics
alike, despite its high budget). Falling somewhere between self-promotional
chatter and a candid examination of the filmmaking process, these are mostly
of interest for fans, though the lengthy featurette on the making of the
freeway chase is certainly worth viewing. Most entertaining of all the
extras is a 10-minute MTV Movie Awards clip from earlier this year, featuring
Will Ferrell, Seann William Scott and teenie bopper superstar Justin Timberlake.
Note that there's hardly anything related to the upcoming "Matrix Revolutions"
aside from the trailer attached to RELOADED's end credits.
RUDY: Deluxe Edition. 114 mins., 1993, PG, Columbia
TriStar. ANDY'S RATING: ****. CAST: Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, Charles S.
Dutoon, Lili Taylor, Robert Prosky, Jason Miller. COMPOSER: Jerry Goldsmith.
SCRIPT: Angelo Pizzo. DIRECTOR: David Anspaugh. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Isolated
score (in Dolby Digital), featurette, original Making Of featurette, Sean
Astin interview, trailer. The original soundtrack CD from Varese Sarabande
is also packaged with this release. TECHNICAL SPECS: 1.85 Widescreen, 5.1
Dolby Digital sound.
One of the great sports movies ever made, RUDY reunited the production
team from "Hoosiers" (another classic sports film) in telling the real-life
story of a young man who wants desperately to play football for Notre Dame,
and makes up in heart and determination what he lacks in talent and academic
Sean Astin is marvelous as Rudy in David Anspaugh's wonderful film,
which never hits a wrong note and feels authentic at every turn. Shot on
location at Notre Dame and other Indiana locales, RUDY is as much about
hard work and perseverance off the field as it is success on it. Therein,
of course, lies the great tale of Rudy's story: after working his tail
off to even get into N.D., he never played at all until the final play
of his final game at Notre Dame, when he improbably sacked the opposing
quarterback and was carried off the field by his teammates -- a feat that
never happened before or since at the school.
The sensitive and moving script by Angelo Pizzo is marvelously acted
by Astin, Ned Beatty as Rudy's dad, Robert Prosky as a sympathetic priest,
and especially Charles S. Dutton as a field manager at Notre Dame Stadium.
Technically, the movie just feels right, complimented by Oliver Wood's
cinematography and Jerry Goldsmith's perfect score (to my mind, the last
truly "great" score of Goldsmith's career). RUDY is, as you can tell, a
personal favorite of mine, and the new Deluxe Edition release from Columbia
TriStar is highly recommended -- though only if you don't already own the
previous Special Edition DVD.
This bundle reprises the contents of the earlier DVD -- from an interview
with the real Rudy to Goldsmith's full isolated score track -- adding the
original Varese Sarabande CD soundtrack release as an extra. Hence, it's
the best way to own both the DVD and CD at a bargain price (most outlets
price it around $20), though if you have both already, there's no need
to indulge since there's nothing new here.
The ITALIAN JOBs
The late '60s were a colorful time in cinema, and the 1969 caper comedy
THE ITALIAN JOB (***, 99 mins., G; Paramount) perfectly embodied
the style of its era. In Troy Kennedy Martin's original story, Michael
Caine plays a con man who recruits a gang of thieves to knock over a shipment
of gold bullion in Turin, causing what's sure to be a massive traffic jam.
While the plot sounds traditional, the movie itself is wild and woolly
in its execution. With warm colors, a groovy score by Quincy Jones, and
a certainly offbeat cast (including Caine, Benny Hill, and Noel Coward),
the original "Italian Job" became a huge hit in England and, over the years,
a much-revered picture in its native territory. The outlandish, comical
chases and stereotypical supporting roles date the movie as a product of
its time -- along with its strange ending -- but those who love the old
"Italian Job" enjoy it for the lead performances, the slapstick hyjinks
and riveting car chases, all superbly helmed by Peter Collinson and dryly
performed by the cast.
When an American remake was planned a few years ago, fans of the old
movie -- particularly those overseas -- cried foul. Then came the casting
of Mark Wahlberg, who already top-lined a high-profile remake of a beloved
'60s classic ("Planet of the Apes"), and threatened to turn the new
ITALIAN JOB (***, 110 mins., PG-13; Paramount) into another needless
re-do of a viewer favorite.
The good news, though, is that F. Gary Gray's U.S. version is -- for
a traditional American-made action movie -- surprisingly good in its own
right. As light as this genre seemingly comes nowadays, the Donna and Wayne
Powers-scripted version follows a group of thieves (Wahlberg, Donald Sutherland,
Seth Green, and Jason Statham among them) who end up being double-crossed
by one of their associates (Edward Norton) following what was to be their
last big heist. Norton escapes with the loot and takes Sutherland down
in the process (don't worry, this was given away in all the trailers),
but Wahlberg recruits the remaining gang and adds Sutherland's safecracker
daughter (Charlize Theron) in an effort to get the gold back.
The car chases are crisply edited and exciting, the story is told with
a dash of humor (obviously not as outlandish as the '69 version, but what
could be?) while the cast is just engaging enough for the material to work.
This comes in spite of the movie's relatively scant character development,
which is one area where its more relaxed predecessor has an advantage (and
nobody is going to argue that Mark Wahlberg is a suitable replacement for
That said, THE ITALIAN JOB '03 is -- like the original -- solid entertainment
most of the way, and Paramount's DVD releases of both versions offer plenty
of special features.
The 1969 cut offers a gorgeous, 2.35 widescreen transfer that looks
immaculate. The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is superior to most soundtracks
that date from the era, while supplementary features include an engaging,
informative commentary by producer Michael Deeley and "Italian Job" expert
Matthew Field, three Making Of documentaries offering fresh interviews
and insights, multiple trailers, and a deleted scene with an introduction
from Field. This DVD Special Edition was available in Europe late last
year and comes strongly recommended for fans of the original, particularly
for its low (under $20) price tag.
Not to be outdone, the 2003 ITALIAN JOB boasts its own superior extra
features. While the transfer (2.35 widescreen) and sound (5.1 Dolby Digital)
are both up to today's expected technical standards, extra features include
six deleted scenes, a Making Of that's predictably more promotional in
nature than the featurette produced for the original film, a segment on
the script, a closer examination of the stunts and car chases, plus the
original trailer. Jolly good!
Aisle Seat Capsule Reviews
DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY-GO-ROUND (**1/2, 107 mins., 1966; Columbia
TriStar): James Coburn plays a just-released convict who returns to society
and tries to knock over a bank at LAX in this generic '60s heist picture
-- albeit one with a blackout twist ending. Coburn is cool and suitably
suave in his performance as Eli Kotch, a con man who latches onto Boston
girl Camilla Sparv and assembles a team of experts to help him put the
heist over. Bernard Girard's film is light and provides nostalgic '60s
entertainment, along with a Stu Phillips score typical of the era. On the
downside, the movie goes on a bit, and is almost too low-key for its own
good. Columbia TriStar's DVD marks the debut of the movie on video in ANY
format, and offers a clean 1.85 transfer with solid mono sound. Movie buffs
take note: the film features one of the first performances of a very young
Harrison Ford, who receives his own chapter stop (kudos to the Columbia
DVD team) for his one scene appearance!
VIEW FROM THE TOP (**, 87 mins., 2003, PG-13; Miramax):
Incredibly odd, '60s-ish romantic comedy with Gwenyth Paltrow as a small-town
girl who wants to escape her dreary existence by becoming a flight attendant.
Director Bruno Baretto's movie is over at the 79 minute mark and offers
a handful of music-video montages (and the requisite outtake reel) to pad
the running time. It all feels so arbitrary, and yet there's a terrific
cast on-hand: Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Kelly Preston, Rob Lowe, Mark
Ruffalo, Candice Bergen, and even Mike Myers in an over-the-top cameo as
a cross-eyed employee of the airline. There had to have been something
in Eric Wald's script that drew interest from the cast, yet the final result
is an ever-so-slight vehicle that seems decades out of its element. (Paltrow
recently admitted that the movie was cut to shreds, with the final cut
barely resembling the original intent of the story). Miramax's DVD offers
a sunny 2.35 transfer and bouncy 5.1 soundtrack (sporting lots of songs
and Theodore Shapiro score), though it's light on supplements, with very
brief featurettes offering little of interest in terms of how the movie
HEAVEN'S PRISONERS (**1/2, 133 mins., 1995, R;
New Line): Uneven but certainly stylish mystery-thriller from director
Phil Joanou. Alec Baldwin stars as Dave Robicheaux, an ex-New Orleans cop
who relocates to a secluded bayou with his wife (Kelly Lynch), only to
have a plane crash in his new backyard. A little girl survives, but what
transpires sends Baldwin into a web of deceit involving the local authorities
and a drug lord (Eric Roberts) with a sexy wife (Teri Hatcher) and a childhood
connection with the former cop. Based on the bestselling novel by James
Lee Burke and scripted by Harley Peyton and Scott Frank, HEAVEN'S PRISONERS
might have been the beginning of a series of films, but its poor box-office
performance (it was one of the final films from Savoy Pictures) curtailed
any prospects of a sequel. Though Baldwin's performance is a bit much,
the strong supporting cast is excellent -- especially Mary Stuart Masterson
as a stripper who comforts Baldwin. New Line's DVD offers a strong 1.85
widescreen transfer along with 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks, sporting
a strong dramatic score by George Fenton.
NEXT WEEK: The Aisle Seat Halloween Edition with
DRAGONSLAYER, CAPTAIN KRONOS, and much more! Email comments to email@example.com
and we'll see you then. Cheers!