November – The Green Machine ^ While Star Wars Episode I shattered sales records, the big green ogre shattered more. Shrek‘s first week of release dominated sales and outsold any DVD ever in that timeframe, and that’s not an understatement.
The Must Have: Shrek, “Empire of the Sun,” “Sopranos Season Two,” “Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Cut,” Planet of the Apes: Special Edition, “Willow: Special Edition” and “Rebecca” (CC) ^ You didn’t see that one coming did you? The big ogre got his own special edition, and regardless of the hype, it is still some of the fastest, funniest 90 minutes you’ll ever experience. Filled with cool featurettes (including the storyboard pitches for scenes not in the film) and a good-if not overly-technical-commentary, it’s filled to brim with high-quality stuff and has DVD-ROM features that are actually worth checking out. ^ Also released with almost no fanfare was Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun” from Warner, in a beautiful new edition with a great 50 minute documentary included. And let’s not forget HBO’s great Sopranos Season Two box set, as well as Paramount’s second two-disc set ever (the first was the underwhelming “Forrest Gump”), “Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Cut.” ^ Fox released the feature-packed-but-the-film-sucked-balls The Planet of the Apes: Special Edition. Unfortunately the special features were unable to look back on the film, since they were all completed three weeks before its release. Still, with reference-quality picture, sound, and Fox’s always tantalizing features, it’s a solid buy regardless of the fact you’ll be bored to tears by Burton’s lame commentary skills and never watch the movie in one sitting. ^ Criterion’s edition of Hitchcock’s first American movie, “Rebecca,” is in a splendid two-disc set that finally gives the film a chance to shine after some really sorry bare-bones releases. I suggest that all pick this one up as soon as possible. ^ Finally we have the “Willow Special Edition,” with Warwick Davis (you know, the dwarf) providing commentary and a documentary on the groundbreaking morphing effects for the film. The original EPK is included (snore…) and the movie is THX-Certified in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Gotta love that Ron Howard fantasy fest!
The Should Have Been: Apocalypse Now Redux ^ Paramount, dammit, will you ever learn? Apocalypse Now Redux was released as a bare bones movie/trailer disc that leaves so much to the imagination as to what could’ve really been done in a two-disc set. This classic film badly needs a commentary track as well as the amazing “Heart of Darkness” documentary that has gone into oblivion after half-a*s laserdisc and VHS releases.
The Hell No’s: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Special Collector’s Edition ^ I don’t give a damn how long the title is, how many discs it has, or what it has on it. When this worthless disc makes The Planet of the Apes look like “Citizen Kane,” you know it’s bad. Paramount decides not to pump up a Apocalypse Now Redux but instead release a two-disc Special Edition in hopes of scoring holiday cash? Count me out.
December – One Last Hurrah ^ Time for that holiday shopping list to grow and grow.
The Must Haves: Moulin Rouge: Five Star Collection, Almost Famous: Untitled The Bootleg Cut and Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Platinum Series ^ Baz Luhrmann’s in-your-face musical Moulin Rouge contains more cuts than a hundred music videos reminds us once again that films of this type will never die. Packed with more info than originally thought possible, this 2-disc set is a sight to behold. Dual commentaries, many (MANY) features on the production, the music, the costumes, the lighting, the directing, and the acting, enough easter eggs to fill all your baskets, soundtracks that leave you breathless, and I’m just getting started! Call in sick and make a day of it, this is the DVD set you want to take the time to get to know. ^ But let’s not count out the great Almost Famous: Untitled The Bootleg Cut, a three-disc set that finally made its way to us after a long and treacherous journey. Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Platinum Series is nothing to sneeze at either. Though not given the full Infinifilm treatment, the extras here are more than sufficient, including the feature-length documentary on John Cameron Mitchell’s long journey to making the film about the guy with a few-ahem-shortcomings.
The Should Have Been: “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” ^ Before Lasse Hallström became the Oscar-producing auteur he is now, he directed a little movie about a mentally disabled kid (Leonardo Dicaprio proving once again he can act) and his brother, played well by a young Johnny Depp. With great performances, a solid script and an overall great film, this is again another screw-up from Paramount. Where is the commentary track? The retrospective? Hell, even some text on the film and its production would’ve been nice. What do we get instead? The dreaded movie/trailer combo.
The Hell No: American Outlaws ^ Hey, here’s a high concept: let’s take a bunch of young stars and starlets, put them in the old west, and make them look cool! Yeah, that hasn’t been done before. This soiled toilet paper waste of a film is another cheap knock-off and unfortunately not the final nail in the lame-a*s teen film explosion of the late 90’s. While the disc features some interesting extras, there is just nothing that can save this sorry excuse for a film from going straight to oblivion. Find it soon at a bargain bin near you.
Get a glimpse into the future of DVD in our next part of FILM THREAT’S 2001 DVD YEAR IN REVIEW: 2002 AND BEYOND>>>