REVIEWS BY NETTA GILBOA & CHRISTOPHER SCHANOT
DVD titles are reviewed using either a Panasonic A110 or a Creative Labs Encore PC-DVD (using the latest drivers) which is installed in a Pentium II 300 mhz with 64mb RAM running Windows98. All titles are recent releases, even though some are of the films are years old. Because DVD is a new medium, older titles are being released as new product. This will be true for some time to come.
ADULT PARTY PACK (Madacy Entertainment Group, Inc., approx. 5 hours) If you enjoy seeing nude women and busty, beautiful babes this boxed set is sure to delight. Included are five discs titled "Battling Beauties," "Stag Party," "Lethal Weapons," "Black & Beautiful" and "Fantasies." Featuring Dolby Digital audio, these discs contain women boxing topless, women stripping, women posing for you and much more. Highly recommended for those who like to be teased and who like to watch nudes.
BEASTIE BOYS: SABOTAGE (Pioneer Artists, 59 minutes) In this documentary, rap musicians the Beastie Boys perform live, in the studio, and in clips of their music videos as well as being interviewed backstage and on talk shows. Song titles include: "So What'cha Want" (performed with Cypress Hill), "Gratitude," "Sabotage," "Screaming At A Wall," "Something's Gotta Give," "Skills To Pay The Bills" and a dozen or so more. Interestingly, the band's biggest hit, "Fight For Your Right," is not included here. The DVD version includes only chapter search and interactive menus but more features are not really necessarily since the band members speak for themselves and the lyrics can be clearly heard when they perform. Sure to delight rap fans, this is a unique DVD if only because so few music titles are available yet.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS (Walt Disney Home Video, 71 minutes) Disney's first animated release to DVD reunites the characters from this hit film. Belle decided to deck the Beast's castle for the holiday despite his lack of interest and the attempts of Forte, an evil pipe organ, to stop her. Full of the kind of animation Disney is famous for, this is a seasonal title but wonderful to have anyway. The DVD version contains 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, French language track and chapter search. Highly recommended for animation fans as well as those who collect Christmas titles.
BILLY'S HOLLYWOOD SCREEN KISS (Trimark Home Video, 92 minutes) This unique comedy is about a gay man who moved to LA to be more accepted but has been looking for love in all the wrong places. He gains employment in the entertainment industry and falls for a straight man. With such diverse actors as Paul Bartel and Holly Woodlawn, this is definitely a cult film, and offers a refreshing look at gay life. This is one of the few Hollywood movies to tackle homosexuality without focusing on AIDS, and which allows frank talk and men to touch each other. The DVD version includes a digitally mastered widescreen presentation of the film, with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound, interactive menus, chapter search, theatrical trailer, foreign subtitles and a director's commentary. Worth seeing if you're gay, have ever thought you might be gay, or have been through the dating game enough to sympathize.
CRASH IMPACT BOXED SET (Madacy Entertainment Group, Inc., approx. 5 hours) Like car crashes? Then this special collection is ideal for you. Almost two dozen categories of crashes are included here such as exploding super-modified stunt cars, formula powerhouses at Silverstone and monster truck beasts. In addition, there are shots of women from a speedway bikini contest. The three discs are titled "Spills and Thrills," "The Great Smash-Ups," and "Extreme Impact." They include crash and fire scenes from Stock Car races, Indy Car races, Sprint car races, Oval Track Dirt Bike races and more. Clearly there is nonstop action here which will appeal to those who love cars, gore and stunts. Highly recommended as the only discs of its kind for those who are interested in racing and crashes.
DEEP RISING (Hollywood Pictures Home Video, 106 minutes) Treat Williams and Famke Janssen star in this action thriller about a group of hijackers who invade a cruise ship but discover the passengers have vanished. It turns out they are not alone, however, as they start disappearing one by one. The DVD version includes a digitally mastered widescreen print of the film (2.35:1), 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, French language track, chapter search and the original theatrical trailer. This is highly recommended for its special effects, plot and superb acting.
DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Anchor Bay Entertainment, Inc., 90 minutes) Part of the Hammer collection, and starring Christopher Lee, this horror title is about a group of travellers who get offered the hospitality of Count Dracula. The DVD version contains a widescreen presentation of the film (2.35:1), Dolby Digital mono audio, audio commentary by four of the actors, a behind-the-scenes home movie, a "World of Hammer" episode entitled Dracula & The Undead, French subtitles, chapter search and two theatrical trailers. This title is also known as several others including The Bloody Scream of Dracula, Disciple of Dracula, Dracula 3 and Revenge of Dracula. This is the third film in the Hammer Dracula series, but does not rely on your having seen the first two in order to enjoy it. It holds your attention and is highly recommended for those who love horror, and especially the Dracula theme.
EVIL DEAD 2 (Anchor Bay Entertainment, Inc., 85 minutes) One of the few sequels considered to be better than the original film, this classic cult horror title features the same director, Sam Raimi, and stats the original lead actor, Bruce Campbell. After surviving the first film, Ash returns to the cabin with his girlfriend and the two play a tape recording of passages from the book Necronomicon which is so powerful it unleashes evil spirits in the form of ghouls. The DVD version includes a widescreen presentation of the film (1.85:1), Dolby Digital sound, chapter search, the original theatrical trailer and interactive menus. This has amazing special effects, both for its age and for its low budget. This is a must if you like cult or horror movies, and a real treat if you're a fan of both genres. Highly recommended.
FACE/OFF (Paramount Pictures, 140 minutes) John Travolta and Nicholas Cage star in this superb, if slightly unbelievable film about an FBI agent who literally swaps faces with a criminal who is his arch rival. Directed by John Woo, this is full of action, suspense, thrills and a superb plot with great acting to pull it off. The DVD version offers a widescreen presentation of the film (16:9), choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 sound, Spanish subtitles, interactive menus, chapter search and the theatrical trailer. I thought this was the best film of the year in 1997, so it's no surprise I rate the DVD as highly recommended.
FIRST BLOOD (Artisan Entertainment, Inc., 96 minutes) Sylvester Stallone stars in this action-thriller film about a Vietnam veteran who was a crackshot killer during the war. He goes searching for his war buddy and annoys a local sheriff who decides to pick on him. After being arrested, he escapes and then goes on the run in order to outwit the sheriff and his crew. The DVD version offer a digitally mastered widescreen presentation of the film (16:9), with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound, a commentary track by the author David Morrell, a featurette called "First Blood: A Look Back," cast and crew information, production notes, trivia game, chapter search, vocally enhanced interactive menus, Spanish subtitles, closed captioning and the original theatrical trailer. This is a very impressive transfer of a classic film sure to interest Stallone's many fans, as well as Vietnam vets and those who love the action film genre.
GIANFRANCO DELIVERS (Vivid Interactive) This gay male adult DVD title stars Gianfranco, Tony Brocco, and Adam Wilde and focuses on the goings on of a popular delivery company which sends customers a package hand delivered by a stud who will service them. The DVD includes no regional coding so it's playable by all regions, a slide show, previews of other Vivid titles, an interactive game, a link to Vivid's web site, chapter search and a Men's Room of interactive scenes. While many take offense at homosexual content, for those not opposed this title is well done for its genre.
HEAD (Rhino Home Video, 96 minutes) This bizarre film, created to showcase and cash in on the popularity of musical group the Monkees, stars such diverse personalities as Frank Zappa, Annette Funicello, Carol Doda, Teri Garr and Jack Nicholson. Full of comedy and outrageous scenes, there are also eight Monkees tunes featured including "Happy Birthday To You," "Porpoise Song," "Can You Dig It," "Daddy's Song" and "Circle Sky." The DVD version contains a remastered full frame version of the film, with eight minutes of rare trailers including the TV spots, theatrical trailers and even the Portegeuse trailer. Chapter search is of course offered as well, along with some confusing things such as a listing on the back of the box for VHS Hi-Fi (!) and actress Teri Garr's name mispelled two different ways on the front cover and inside of the box. Fans of Frank Zappa, Carol Doda, Jack Nicholson and general 60s decade weirdness should love this, and of course Monkees fans of all ages will want this disc as well.
HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (MPI Home Video, 130 minutes) Originally rated X for "disturbing moral content," this film was inspired by the director seeing a news segment on accused serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. Presented as an unrated film, this is a chilling look at murder which stars Michael Rooker. The DVD version contains recollections by the director, Dolby Digital Stereo sound, interactive menus, chapter search, Spanish subtitles, behind-the-scenes notes, filmographies, and trailers for both Henry films. Long out of print on VHS, this superb horror film is uncensored and a classic title which is a must to own if you love horror films or are interested in why people feel the urge to go kill strangers.
HENRY 2: MASK OF SANITY (MPI Home Video, 105 minutes) Although this sequel features a different actor playing Henry (Neil Giuntoli), the plot is as good as the first film and involves Henry performing arson-for-hire and then forcing one of his co-workers to join him in his murder sprees. The DVD version containers behind-the-scenes notes, trailers for both films, interactive menus, Dolby Digital Stereo sound, chapter search, Spanish subtitles and star filmographies. This film is less known than the original, but sure to delight horror fans and those interested in blood, guts and gore.
JANINE AND VINCE NEIL: HARDCORE AND UNCENSORED (Vivid Interactive/IEG) Adult film actress Janine has made many films, but none involved sex with men until now. Vince Neil is a member of Motley Crue and he and Janine went on a vacation together in Hawaii and brought along a second female as well as a video camera. The tape was not made for public consumption, but somehow it ended up sold and Janine found herself in the unenviable position of choosing whether to have the film sold as an authorized work she could spend years suing over, or whether to accept the film's release and make some money by being involved with its sale. She chose the latter route and even includes a superb interview about her views regarding her career. The movie is clearly a home video, complete with several date and time stamps, and there are some scenes of aerial scenery and some shots of the sand and caves at a local beach. Janine has sex with Vince (they are both quite sunburned and do an enthusiastic job under the circumstances), as well as with the other female, and there is a three-way as well as a scene of Janine with two vibrators at once. The DVD includes a video interview with Janine, a slide show gallery, previews of other Vivid films, interactive menus, chapter search, Janine's vital stats and info, and a paper catalog of other Vivid titles. You'll definitely get your money's worth from this title. The sex is nonstop once it starts, and all of the people in it really want to be with each other. Highly recommended.
KUNDUN (Touchstone Home Video, 135 minutes) Martin Scorsese directed this drama about Tibet's Dalai Lama and his struggle to rule a nation during a very trying time in history. The DVD version includes a digitally mastered widescreen print of the film (1.35:1), 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, chapter search and the theatrical trailer. Don't miss this if you like epics, dramas, and/or Scorsese's work.
LIFE WITH FATHER (Madacy Entertainment Group, Inc., 118 minutes) William Powell, Irene Dunne and Elizabeth Taylor star in this comedy, released in 1947, about a child growing up with a tyrannical father. The DVD includes Dolby Digital audio, chapter search, biography, interactive trivia questions and answers, and a copy of the original lobby poster. This is still timely today, and is recommended for those who like comedies and/or classic films.
LOST IN SPACE (New Line Home Video, 130 minutes) The classic TV show gets remade as a motion picture with absolutely amazing special effects. Set in 2058, the Robinson family stars Gary Oldman, William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham and Lacey Chabert who steals the show in every scene she has lines in. The DVD version is enhanced for PC users with DVD players and offers a widescreen presentation of the film, two audio commentaries, deleted scenes, a featurette called "Building The Special Effects," a featurette called The Future of Space Travel," The Television Years which features synopses of the TV episodes and interviews with the original cast members, production designs, Dolby Digital audio, Apollo Four Forty music video, theatrical trailer, biographies and filmographies, chapter search and, for those with DVD on their computers, five interactive games, website access links and the original screenplay with direct links to the film. Needless to say this collection of extras is worth having even if you don't care for the film or sci-fi very much, and it's been said the DVD has outsold the VHS version of the film which is nice to hear. All of New Line's DVDs are among the best out there because of the care put into the extra features and this is no exception and will not disappoint. Highly recommended, especially if you like sci-fi or any of the actors.
MOBSTER'S WIFE (Vivid Interactive) Lexus stars in this adult film directed by Paul Thomas. Also appearing are Alexandra Silk, Kate Gold, Derrick Lane, Vince Voyeur and Mr. Marcus. The DVD features no regional coding so it's watchable in any region, multiple angles so that you have your choice of views of the action, information of the various Vivid girls including stills, live action and bios of each, chapter search, interactive menus, a link to Vivid's web site, previews of other Vivid titles, interactive fantasy rooms, footage from the AVN awards show and a paper poster of the Vivid girls as well as a paper catalog of other Vivid titles. There is also an extensive documentary on the making of the film which is unique for this genre. Those interested in the adult film genre should find the documentary alone worth the price of the disc. The movie itself has far more plot than most adult titles and is worth checking out for those who get tired of wall-to-wall sex titles.
PULLING G'S (Pioneer Entertainment (USA) L.P., 56 minutes) Interested in jets and helicopters? Superb point-of-view and perspective video put you in the pilot's seat here as you check out awesome flying footage of planes including the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, SR-71 Blackbird, FB-111 Aardvark, B-1B Strategic Bomber, C-5 Galaxy and more. Included is also a score by William S. Weisbach so there is great sound accompanying your journey. The DVD version includes chapter search and PCM 48 KHZ 16Bit stereo audio track. This is a special interest title, but highly recommended for flying fans or those who want to explore what flying feels like.
QUARTERMASS AND THE PIT (Anchor Bay Entertainment, Inc., 98 minutes) Part of the superb Hammer Collection, this sci-fi thriller is also known as Five Million Years To Earth and The Mind Benders. It's about an anthropologist and space expert who are sent to investigate a strange missile found during a London subway excavation. As they start to examine it, the craft appears to still be alive! The DVD version contains an unrated widescreen presentation of the film (1.66:1), 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, an audio commentary with director Roy Ward Baker and writer Nigel Kneale, a "World of Hammer" episode called Sci-Fi, theatrical trailers from both the USA and UK, TV spots and chapter search. This is a very well done disc sure to delight Hammer's many fans, as well as sci-fi and/or UFO lovers of all ages. Don't miss the great climax!
RANMA 1/2 THE MOVIE: BIG TROUBLE IN NEKONRON, CHINA (Pioneer Entertainment (USA) L.P., 74 minutes) This full-length anime title features one of the hottest titles in Japanese animation. The plot involves a strange girl named Lychee and her giant elephant Jasmine and a scroll that has been in her family for three generations guaranteeing happiness to whoever holds it. Lychee believes the scroll does not work, but as soon as she lets it out of her hands, her prince finally arrives. Alas, however the prince is interested in Akane who now holds the scroll instead of Lychee. In order to make things right, they must follow the prince to Nekonron, China and battle the Seven Lucky Gods of martial arts. The DVD version contains interactive menus, chapter search, the original theatrical trailer and both English and Japanses subtitles and credits. Highly recommended for those who love anime, or those who love animation but are new to the anime genre.
RANMA 1/2 THE MOVIE 2: NIHAO MY CONCUBINE (Pioneer Entertainment (USA) L.P., 60 minutes) After being stranded on a deserted island in a shipwreck, the Ranma girls start disappearing. It turns out they have been bride-napped. In order to rescue them, Ranma enters an oriental bride-off contest where he must disguise himself as a girl, then beat the scores of all of the kidnapped concubines in order to set things right. The DVD version contains an unrated print of the film, character profiles and concept drawings, choice of English and Japanese languages, English subtitles, interactive menus with music and sound, and chapter search. There is some brief animated nudity and Hi-Fi Stereo dialogue. This full-length feature film is a sequel, but is intriguing as the original Ranma film (reviewed above). Sure to delight female audiences, as it contains less violence than most anime titles, this is highly recommended for those who love animation and anime and is probably more appropriate for young children than most anime titles.
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (Artisan Entertainment, Inc., 95 minutes) Sylvester Stallone stars in this sequel with a screenplay by both Stallone and James Cameron. This time he goes back to Vietnam to search for American POWs. He gets double crossed and, armed with just a bow, arrows and a knife, he defeats his enemies. The DVD version offers a digitally mastered widescreen presentation of the film (16:9), with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound, a commentary track by director George Cosmatos, vocally enhanced interactive menus, a documentary called "An American Hero's Journey", trivia game, chapter search, prodcution notes, cast and crew information, Spanish subtitles, closed captioning and the original theatrical trailer. A superb transfer and treatment of a classic film which is highly recommended to Stallone fans, Vietnam vets, and fans of action and/or war films.
RAMBO III (Artisan Entertainment, Inc., 102 minutes) Sylvester Stallone stars in this third Rambo film in which the hero must travel to Afghanistan in order to rescue his former commanding officer, played by Richard Crenna, who has been captured. The DVD version contains a digitally mastered widescreen presentation of the film (16:9), with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound, a commentary track by director Peter MacDonald, a featurette called "Rambo III: Full Circle," trivia game, vocally enhanced interactive menus, chapter search, theatrical trailer, production notes, cast and crew information, Spanish subtitles and closed captioning. Like the other Rambo DVDs, this one is also superb and highly recommended for those who like Stallone, or the war and action film genres.
THE SAINT (Paramount Pictures, 118 minutes) Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue star in this superb film about a hacker who hacks in person rather than over computers. A master at identity changes, lock picking, information theft, and corporate infiltration, Kilmer has one of his best roles here as a spy in this brilliantly written script. The DVD version offers a widescreen presentation of the film (16:9), choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 sound, audio commentary by the film's director Phillip Noyce, interactive menus, chapter search, Spanish subtitles, closed captioning and the original theatrical trailer. One of the best films of the year, this is not to be missed by those who like the action and/or thriller genre, Kilmer and Shue fans, or anyone just looking for one of those rare films that keeps you at the edge of your seat and utterly fulfilled even after the film ends.
THE SANTA CLAUSE (Walt Disney Home Video, 97 minutes) Tim Allen stars in this delightful and funny comedy about an ordinary man who finds a man dressed as Santa dead on his property. His son convinces him to try on the red suit and the next thing he knows he has turned into Santa! The DVD version includes a digitally mastered widescreen version of the film with 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, chapter search, French subtitles and theatrical trailer. This is probably my all-time favorite Christmas film and is highly recommended no matter what religion you are.
SUICIDE KINGS (Artisan Entertainment, Inc., 103 minutes) Christopher Walken, Denis Leary, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jeremy Sisto and Henry Thomas star in this comedy-thriller about a guy whose sister has been kidnapped. He can't afford the ransom fee so he gathers together a group of his friends who in turn kidnap a retired Mafia boss to make him use his contacts to find the missing girl. The DVD version contains a widescreen version of the film (16:9), 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, a commentary track, alternate endings to the film, cast and crew information, interactive menus, chapter search, closed captioning, Spanish subtitles, production notes and the original theatrical trailer. It's rare that a thriller has a humorous bent to it, and this is highly recommended for its superb plot and the many twists it takes before the film ends.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (Pioneer Entertainment (USA) L.P., 84 minutes) This classic horror film, based on real life serial killer Ed Gein, is about a group of kids who hear a news report about grave robbings and set out to investigate. They stumble onto the home of Leatherface who intends to kill them. Shocking for its time, this is one of those rare horror films which has the same impact on every viewing, even decades later. The DVD version is a superb special edition, which includes a widescreen Digital Superscan transfer of the film supervised by director Tobe Hooper, an audio commentary by Tobe Hooper, the actor who plays Leatherface and director of photography Daniel Pearl, Dolby Digital Surround sound, deleted scenes and alternate footage, a blooper reel, still photos, theatrical trailers and TV spots, trailers for the sequels to this title, and posters and collectibles info. This is not for the feint of heart, but is an absolute must to own if you love horror film, cult films or are interested in serial killers. This is a well done DVD which really gives the fans what they want and then some. Highly recommended.
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD & RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD (Anchor Bay Entertainment, Inc., 102 minutes and 90 minutes) This horror double feature includes two complete films on one DVD disc. Tombs is in Spanish with English subtitles and Return is dubbed in English. Both are widescreen presentations (1.66:1) and although they were low budget films they are not inane like so many other low budget horror films. Tombs is about a group of evil knights from the 13th century who rise from their graves to hunt their victims using sound. They travel on horseback and by train and easily invade modern technology. Return is the second of four films about these knights, and has a superb opening sequence. Both films are superb quality and different enough from other horror films to be considered a must to own. A bonus 4.5 x 7 inch replica poster is included in the package.
TWILIGHT (Paramount Pictures, 96 minutes) Paul Newman, Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon star in this mystery thriller about an old murder that has long been covered up and now comes back to haunt those involved. The DVD version offers a widescreen presentation of the film (16:9), choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 sound, Spanish subtitles, interactive menus, chapter search, and the theatrical trailer. This has a good plot and great acting, and is the most recent film to be included in Paramount's first batch of DVD releases which indicates they felt strongly about its potential. It's well worth seeing, but I'm not sure this is a film I would need to own forever as once you've seen it you know what happens and it's probably not a plot deep enough to withstand repeated viewings. It's one of Sarandon's best roles, however, and is highly recommended to mystery fans, and those who like any or all of the stars.
WESTWORLD (MGM Home Entertainment, Inc., 89 minutes) Written and directed by Michael Crichton, this superb sci-fi film stars Yul Brenner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin. For $1000 a day vacationers can visit their choice of Medieval World, Roman World, or Westworld and, using real guns, battle robots who are designed to look, act and bleed just like humans. Something goes wrong, however, and the guests start dying at the hands of the robots. The DVD offers an Anamorphic Widescreen version of the film, with Dolby Digital sound, chapter search, theatrical trailer and foreign subtitles. There is also an eight page booklet with production notes. Don't miss this superb DVD if you like sci-fi, westerns, or Michael Crichton's other books.