= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb
No rating indicates no screening copy Rating: NNNNN
Minority Report (DreamWorks/Universal) D: Steven Spielberg, w/ Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell. Two discs. Rating: NNNNN
Spielberg's recent plunge into dystopian fantasy with A.I. and Minority Report is one of the more heartening developments in recent big-budget American movies. Adapted from a Philip K. Dick story, Minority Report is set 50 years from now in a Washington, DC, where murders have been eliminated because the police use "precognitives" to stop them before they happen and imprison the would-be perpetrators. Tom Cruise plays the head of the "precrime" force, who finds himself framed for the future murder of someone he doesn't even know. Minority Report has chase scenes, spectacular art direction, tremendous performances (Samantha Morton is stunning as the chief precognitive), and Spielberg remains the most kinetically inventive director in American movies.
Excellent presentation on the DVD. The two-disc set is justified because the first disc is nothing but movie; all the extras have been shunted to the second disc. The extras consist mostly of 10-minute documentaries on the film's various production elements: the adaptation process, the design, a deconstruction of the spider sequence. This is one of those issues with separate wide-screen and full-screen editions, so check before you buy. The banner's across the bottom of the box.
DVD EXTRAS: Three trailers, more than a dozen production featurettes, design archive: storyboards, costumes, designs. French, English and Spanish versions and subtitles.
Unfaithful (20th Century Fox, 2002) D: Adrian Lyne, w/ Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Olivier Martinez. Rating: NNNN
In unfaithful, diane lane demonstrates how Hollywood ignores talent, or rather spends it as if it had no value. Lane has acted in the New York theatre since she was six and in movies since her early teens. She's managed a 30-year acting career before turning 40, and has been around so long that we forget she's several years younger than Michelle Pfeiffer. And age matters. I've heard complaints that she was too old to be paired with Mark Wahlberg in The Perfect Storm. She's six years older. And he should be so lucky. (Yes, I've sat through bad movies for Diane Lane nude scenes.)
Given her persistent flirtations with stardom, Lane has had a strange career. If you admire her, you've seen some dire movies between the Cotton Clubs and Lonesome Doves. For every small indie triumph like My New Gun or A Walk On The Moon, there's a Gunshy or one of those dreadful pictures with then-husband Christopher Lambert.
I recommend Unfaithful, even though it contains a third act that implodes, for her performance alone. Adrian Lyne's movies (Fatal Attraction, Lolita, Jacob's Ladder) always contain one element that's so much better than the picture as a whole that it unbalances everything. In Unfaithful, a loose remake of Claude Chabrol's La Femme Infidèle, the prize is Lane's performance as a married woman who starts messing around with a stubbly French guy (Olivier Martinez). She's really stunning -- hugely, rawly emotional, creating a character whose single indiscretion unmakes the world.
Excellent DVD presentation, but if you're watching Unfaithful for the first time, see the film first; there are lots of spoilers in the extras. Lyne consistently does strong commentaries, and the subsidiary extras, like The Charlie Rose Show with Lyne, Lane and Gere from last May, and scene commentary from Lane and Martinez, are excellent.
DVD EXTRAS: Director commentary, actors commentary, deleted scenes, alternate ending, actor interviews, Charlie Rose Show with Lyne, Lane and Gere, interview with editor Anne V. Coates, theatrical trailer, French dub, English, French, Spanish subtitles.
Back To The Future: the complete trilogy (Universal) D: Robert Zemeckis, w/ Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd. Three discs. Rating: NNN
The Back To The Future Trilogy holds up surprisingly well. Re-seeing them after more than a decade, I was struck by how the insane, triple-level plot of BTTF 2 actually holds together, and by the open-air elegance of BTTF 3, the western episode with Mary Steenburgen, which is now my favourite of the three. I'd also forgotten how terrific Lea Thompson is in the first film.
But, and this is a big but, there's a problem with this edition. Numerous shots in Back To The Future II and III are incorrectly framed in the wide-screen edition.
While the digital effects shots -- and there are a lot of these for films that came so early in the digital revolution -- are fine, much of the film is framed too high. That is, there's too much headroom in the shots, which is noticeable with an actor of Michael J. Fox's small stature. This edition was supposedly prepared with the approval of Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, but they can't have actually looked at this if they approved it.
And the extras aren't great. Writer/ producer Gale isn't a ball of fire on the commentaries, and Zemeckis eschews a commentary and instead sits with Gale for a Q&A at USC that plays over the movies, which he also did for the Forrest Gump package. Good questions and answers, but disconnected from the moment-to-moment progress of the films. The deleted scenes and outtakes are very funny, though. Universal's annoying habit of killing the audio switching capability on their DVDs means you can't dip into the commentaries at will. You have to return to the menu to turn the commentaries on or off while the movies are in progress.
DVD EXTRAS: Director-writer "commentary," writer-producer commentary, Michael J. Fox interview, trivia text commentary, outtakes and deleted scenes, contemporary and new making-of documentaries, music videos for ZZ Top and Huey Lewis and the News, design documentaries, extensive production archives (costumes, stills, design, etc), theatrical and television trailers. French dubbed version, French and Spanish subtitles.
Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie (20th Century Fox, 2002) D: Ernest R. Dickerson, w/ David Krumholtz, Jennifer Morrison. Rating: NNN
The cover shot of star David Krumholtz (10 Things I Hate About You) surrounded by hot babes makes Big Shot look like a sex romp, but this F/X telefilm is actually the story of Benny Silman, the college bookie who engineered the 1994 Arizona State basketball point-shaving scandal. It's less romp than cautionary tale and isn't so much about gambling as it is about getting in way over your head. Krumholtz is excellent as a kid from New York who suddenly finds himself dealing with connected guys from Chicago and a deranged local thug, none of whom is happy when his simple plan careens out of control. A good rent, with a couple of excellent extras, notably a half-hour videotaped interview with the real Silman shot on the eve of his prison sentencing.
DVD EXTRAS: Commentary with Dickerson, Krumholtz, Silman and producer Kevin Messick, Silman interview, NCAA video on betting, TV trailers. English and Spanish subtitles.