from hell: collector's limited edition (2001, Fox) dir. Allen and Albert Hughes w/ Johnny Depp, Heather Graham. Rating: NNNN
To bring Alan Moore's epic Jack the Ripper graphic novel to the screen, the Hughes Brothers travelled to Prague and built a full-scale version of London's Whitechapel district, 1888. This DVD offers a big bonus -- the directors host a tour of this jaw-dropping set, which you never get to see whole in their electrically stylish thriller.
Johnny Depp plays a drug-fuelled London police inspector who runs up against walls of official disapproval when his investigation begins to lead inexorably to Buckingham Palace. It's the same story as Murder By Decree, though without Sherlock Holmes and with a much stronger visual sense.
Excellent supplements on the two-disc set -- the Hughes Brothers discuss the transition from graphic novel to film, plus a short documentary on the history of absinthe, an art direction feature with production designer Martin Childs, an extensive "Ripperology" documentary, a score of deleted scenes with commentary from Albert Hughes, and very cool menus.
EXTRAS: Commentary track with the Hughes Brothers, Robbie Coltrane, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, cinematographer Peter Deming, alternate ending and 20 deleted scenes, six documentary featurettes, original theatrical trailer, English, French and Spanish versions.
ocean's eleven (2001, WB) dir. Steven Soderbergh w/ George Clooney, Brad Pitt Rating: NNNN
The epitome of Hollywood cool for 2001. Soderbergh follows his Oscar winners (Traffic and Erin Brockovich) with this seemingly effortless remake of the old Rat Pack caper movie, starring Clooney as the leader of a gang of con men who knock over a trio of Vegas casinos. Story is almost irrelevant -- the fun here is in Soderbergh's stylish camera work and the interplay of the star-studded cast. Who else could get Julia Roberts and then dare to keep her off-camera for the first 45 minutes of the film?
Along with the excellent wide-screen transfer, there's a pair of entertaining and informative commentary tracks, one with Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin, the other with Pitt, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia. Aspiring filmmakers should pay attention to Soderbergh's comments on building rhythm, and there are very funny throwaways, including Griffin, Pitt and Damon's impressions of producer Jerry Weintraub.
EXTRAS: Commentary tracks, three theatrical trailers, HBO's behind-the-scenes promotional documentary, short documentary on the costume design, English and French versions, English, French and Spanish subtitles.
star trek: the next generation complete season two (Paramount) dir. various w/ Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn. Rating: NNN
Star Trek: The Next Generation hits its stride in Season Two. Stewart starts to act like a commander rather than a camp counsellor, Diana Muldaur appears as Dr. Pulaski and gives him someone tough to butt heads with, and the first of the show's classic episodes arrive -- Q Who (bring on the Borg!), A Matter Of Honor (Riker among the Klingons) and their first great comic episode, The Royale. ILM's effects work is much better in Season Two as well. There are some glitches, like the Wesley-Crusher-in-love episode (The Dauphin), but this one's a good starting point if you don't know the series and the first must-have if you're collecting ST: TNG on a budget.
EXTRAS: Assorted mini-documentaries with cast and crew. English subtitles.
Also this week
The Others Nicole Kidman and ghosts.
Atlantic City Louis Malle's classic picture.
= 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