Rodgers & Hammerstein Anniversary Editions: The Sound Of Music (Fox, 1965) D: Robert Wise, w/ Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer. Rating: NNNNN
Oklahoma! (Fox, 1955) D: Fred Zinnemann, w/ Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones. Rating: NNN
State Fair (Fox, 1945) D: Walter Lang, w/ Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews; and (Fox, 1962) D: José Ferrer, w/ Pat Boone, Bobby Darin. Rating: NN
All these movies have solid sets of newly created extras, but The Sound Of Music is the hands-down winner, both as a movie and as a package. Julie Andrews's memories are sharp and funny, and she's all over both the commentary and making-of doc. Director Robert Wise's reminiscences are dry but detailed and insightful. The hour-long making-of doc offers lots of participation from everyone involved and a great lesson in how to transfer stage to screen. The movie itself is magnificent.
Oklahoma! doesn't have the ethereal perfection of The Sound Of Music, but it's lively fun and a first-rate production. Gordon MacRae's upstanding cowboy pumps out pure cornfed joy, giving disturbing echoes to Rod Steiger's sinister hired hand. Shirley Jones and historian Nick Redman deliver a good commentary, but the Cinemascope vs. Todd-AO gimmick is purely for film geeks.
Neither version of State Fair is great, and Pat Boone's commentary is downright awful. On the plus side, the package has a solid making-of doc and the light charm of 40s crooner Dick Haymes in the first and the swinging 60s edge of Ann-Margret in the second. They're both out of place but fun.
Extras: The Sound Of Music, Disc one: Andrews introduction; Andrews, Plummer and others commentary; Wise commentary; karaoke singalong. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish soundtracks. English, French Spanish subtitles. Disc two: Andrews introduction, retrospective doc, Andrews and Plummer in conversation, travel doc, von Trapp family biography and reunion docs, singalong, photo galleries, Mia Farrow screen test. Wide-screen.
Oklahoma!: Disc one: Cinemascope version of movie, historian commentary, karaoke singalong. Wide-screen. Disc two: Todd-AO version, Jones and historian commentary, Todd-AO vs. Cinemascope doc, 1954 TV excerpt, stills gallery. Wide-screen. English, Spanish subtitles.
State Fair: Disc one: 1945 movie, historian commentary, making-of doc. Theatrical ratio. English, Spanish subtitles. Disc two: 1962 movie, Pat Boone commentary, 1954 TV excerpt, TV series pilot. Wide-screen. English, Spanish subtitles.
Stealth (Columbia, 2005) D: Rob Cohen, w/ Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel. Rating: NN
So much boredom from so much big-bucks bang-bang. Director Rob Cohen has poured all his resources into state-of-the-art tech and none into the human side, so it's all about the machines whizzing around in an emotional vacuum. You need humans, if only to sell the effects. But here, even the incomparable Jamie Foxx (Ray, Collateral) is a cardboard nonentity. Josh Lucas, the nominal hero, is merely a spokesperson for a viewpoint, namely that war should be conducted by humans, not machines, because it's more compassionate that way.
Which is where boredom turns to nausea. The surgical-strike naval air force squad that our heroes belong to will abort a vital mission before allowing even a single civilian casualty. They can level a downtown high-rise without damaging a single bystander. Yeah, sure. Tell it to the Iraqis.
Anyway, the robot plane introduced to the squad turns rogue and has to be caught and reprogrammed so the hero can use it to rescue the girl. But the whole screw-up turns out to be the result of nefarious machinations at the command level. So much for the noble, compassionate military.
The extensive making-of doc beats the movie hands down. It's about explosions, too, but features actual humans. Chief among them is Cohen, who directed the much better xXx and who reveals that he cares only about bang-bang and techniques for creating the impression of speed. Ho-hum.
Extras: Disc one: Music doc, music video. Wide-screen. English, French , Thai soundtracks. English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Thai subtitles. Disc two: Two making-of docs, two interactive scene comparisons. Wide-screen. Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai subtitles.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory(WB, 2005) D: Tim Burton, w/ Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore. Rating: NNN
This is a typical Tim Burton bon bon - dark and bitter on the outside, sickly sweet marshmallow on the inside. Even so, this could become one of those defining movies for a whole generation, like the original Willy Wonka was in 1971, because it's that kind of story and, Burton's plodding direction aside, it's that kind of movie. It's filled with wonders and marvels, good humour and better songs than Danny Elfman usually writes. Johnny Depp finds a new set of mannerisms for the typical vaporous weenie he always plays for Burton and has great fun as Willy Wonka, who invites a quintet of kids to tour his magic chocolate factory.
He's surrounded by equally good performances. The children's accompanying parents are delightful portraits of the kinds of adults who produce monstrous children. Missi Pyle, who's always good, stands out as a competition-obsessed mother. Deep Roy, as the Oompa Loompa, steals the show with his too-brief musical numbers.
If this is a key movie for you or your kids, save your money. The extras are so thin that there's sure to be a goodie-laden special edition in about six months. Wait for it.
Extras: Oompa Loompa doc, Oompa Loompa dance. Wide-screen. English, French, Spanish soundtracks. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
The War Of The Worlds Special Collector's edition (Paramount, 1953) D: Byron Haskin, w/ Gene Barry, Ann Robinson. Rating: NNN
Yesterday's big effects spectaculars tend to look clunky today, just as today's will tomorrow. Even so, with a little goodwill this War Of The Worlds works just fine. It delivers good action, an epic scale and a strong sense of disaster, thanks to quick pacing from director Byron Haskin, a star turn from then newcomer Gene Barry and the expertise and commitment of producer George Pal, who built his career on quality effects work. The prize extra here is Orson Welles's 1939 radio version, the one that panicked America. Stars Barry and Robinson don't do great commentary, but veteran genre director Joe Dante (Gremlins) and historians Bob Burns and Bill Warren are full of enthusiasm and detail. The retrospective making-of doc features some gems, too, including Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion Martian test footage.
Extras: Barry and Robinson commentary, Dante and film historians commentary, Welles radio version, retrospective making-of doc, H.G. Wells biography. Theatrical ratio. English, French soundtracks. English subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, November 22
March Of The Penguins (Maple, 2005) Acclaimed nature documentary.
Aeon Flux Complete Animated Collection (Paramount, 1995) Every episode and lots of extras from TV's most ambiguous SF series ever.
War Of The Worlds (Paramount, 2005) Spielberg's outstanding take on the SF classic.
The King Kong Collection (WB, 1933) One of the greatest action adventures ever made. Includes The Son Of Kong (1933), Mighty Joe Young (1949) and tons of extras, including Ray Harryhausen commentaries.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb