Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (Warner, 2003) D: Jonathan Mostow w/ Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl. Rating: NNN
a hyper-expensive career-saving move on the part of Arnold Schwarzenegger - and his last film for the next few years - Terminator 3 lacks the loony grandeur that series creator James Cameron brought to Terminator 2. It benefits from the utterly perverse casting of Claire "My So-Called Life" Danes as John Connor's future wife and a daringly apocalyptic ending. Director Jonathan Mostow has a commitment to the narratively lean thriller (see his earlier films Breakdown and U-571) and a belief that when handed a great franchise, he shouldn't mess it up. T3 is undeniably pointless, but it's an honourable entry into the series and comes in at under two hours.
The DVD presentation of the film is excellent, a first-rate transfer with a lease-busting 5.1 soundtrack. Mostow's commentary is of the Ridley Scott nuts-and-bolts school but does offer a genuine insight into the practicality of contemporary mega-bucks filmmaking. The cast commentary is less informative - Schwarzenegger is as relentless as his character.
Oddly, Schwarzenegger's introduction to the film and DVD is placed on the second disc, which contains mostly odds-and-ends featurettes. The gag reel is fun, though, and Todd MacFarlane's interview on the T3 toys certainly cements his status as King of All Geeks.
Availabe in wide-screen and full-screen versions. Get the wide-screen - we don't want to encourage that pan- and-scan shit.
DVD EXTRAS Director and cast commentaries, theatrical and game trailers, assorted making-of featurettes on the film, costumes, effects, etc. Terminator saga timeline, and don't miss the Sergeant Candy scene. English, French and Spanish versions, English and French subtitles.
King Of The Hill - Season 2 (20th Century Fox, 1998) D: Mike Judge w/ Judge, Kathy Najimy. Four discs. Rating: NNNN
king of the hill, mike judge's se ries about a middle-class family in Arlen,Texas, took a huge jump in quality in its second season. The series creators became much more comfortable with the characters: uptight Hank, his go-getting wife Peggy, their husky son Bobby, who Hank believes "ain't right," and their trailer-trash niece Luanne. If it doesn't quite achieve the lunatic profusion of The Simpsons - Beavis And Butthead creator Judge is a more minimalist talent than Matt Groening - it does demand the same sort of emotional commitment to a very specific world. It's intriguing that Judge, so roundly reviled for the nihilistic antics of Beavis And Butthead, would turn to the ameliorative world of the family sitcom. Hank's conservative values are continually buffeted by those closest to him but are generally reaffirmed, even if in the most peculiar ways.
Fox presents the set in four slimline cases, which seems to be their standard format for non-Simpsons animated shows -Family Guy and Futurama are packaged the same way. The extras are nothing special, and the character commentaries, though cute on the first-season box, add little here.
DVD EXTRAS Deleted and extended scenes, director intros for each episode, select episode commentaries, Arlen School Of Drawing tutorial, animatics, alternate endings. English and Spanish versions and subtitles.
Dust (Lions Gate, 2001) D: Milcho Manchevski, w/ Joseph Fiennes, David Wenham. Rating: NNN
here's an undeniable oddity. aus tralian actor David Wenham (Faramir in The Lord Of The Rings) and English actor Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare In Love) play American cowboys, complete with "you snake-eatin' varmint" accents. They wind up in the middle of gang wars in turn-of-the-20th-century Macedonia, under the direction of Milcho Manchevski, the highly regarded director of Before The Rain. Then the Macedonian narrative gives way to two other modern stories with different narrators. Oh, and Adrian Lester, the highly regarded English stage actor, plays a black New York street criminal.
Manchevski worked on this picture for years, and it shows - you don't just dash off something this completely nuts. Magnificently photographed and extravagantly violent, it barely got commercial release anywhere. Two years after it played the festivals, the film had a tiny N.Y./L.A. opening.
It's easy to see the political/historical allegory at work in the story's violence, and the message in the relationship between Lester's character, Edge, and the dying woman who narrates the story. But if you're tired of cookie-cutter Hollywood hits, Dust is definitely worth a look. Lions Gate has given it an excellent anamorphic transfer.
DVD EXTRAS Very short making-of featurette. English and Spanish subtitles.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb