speed (1994, Fox) dir. Jan de Bont w/ Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock. Rating: NNNN
In the middle of the hilarious commentary track with screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon, Yost announces, "These characters are one-dimensional at best." This is true, but there's something irresistible about Speed. It's less an action movie than a stripped-down schematic for an action movie -- Die Hard On A Bus -- and it re-established Keanu Reeves and made Sandra Bullock a star.
You may or may not think Speed deserves the two-disc special-edition treatment. But if you do, Fox's package is deluxe: commentary tracks, featurettes, extended scenes, multi-angle breakdowns of the bus jump and the plane explosion, and a transfer so clear that in one scene you can see the cable towing the bus.
EXTRAS: Director commentary, writer/producer commentary, five making-of featurettes, extended scenes, multi-angle comparisons, interview gallery, HBO "First Look" promotional documentary, storyboard comparisons, theatrical trailer and TV spots, Billy Idol music video. English and French versions, English, Spanish subtitles.
the simpsons: season two (Fox) Rating: NNNN
Somewhere early in the second season, The Simpsons established the style that would sustain it. Dan Castellanata's Homer sounded less like Walter Matthau, and a string of classic episodes -- Bart Gets An F, Homer Vs. Lisa Vs. The Eighth Commandment, Bart The Daredevil, Itchy & Scratchy & Marge -- introduced such invaluable semi-regular players as the late Phil Hartman.
Season Two doesn't quite achieve the surreal profusion of the Conan O'Brien years, when every frame seemed to have three embedded subsidiary gags, but Simpsons fans needn't hesitate to buy. Full and entertaining commentary tracks include Matt Groening and various writers and directors on all 22 episodes. ("This is one of our many Citizen Kane homages. I think we could construct a fairly complete version of Kane out of Simpson clips," says Groening.)
EXTRAS: Simpson-mania -- Do The Bartman and Deep Deep Trouble music videos, the Simpsons at the Emmys, Bart at the American Music Awards. Commentaries, interviews.
time after time (1979, WB) dir. Nicholas Meyer w/ Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen. Rating: NNNN
The last of the great studio composers and winner of three Oscars, Mikls Rsza had a career that included music for Spellbound, Double Indemnity, The Asphalt Jungle and Ben-Hur. He had a remarkable late blossoming in his 70s, contributing memorably extravagant scores to Last Embrace, Eye Of The Needle and this film, Meyer's Time After Time, which posited that H.G. Wells (McDowell) didn't simply write about a time machine but built one, which he was forced to use to chase Jack the Ripper to 1979 San Francisco.
Time After Time has a considerable cult following, and, as McDowell says on the commentary track, it's a pleasant surprise to see how well it holds up two decades on. The effects are barely state of the art for 79, but the romantic entanglement of Wells with a modern bank officer played by Steenburgen gives the picture a beating heart, while David Warner's witty and malevolent Ripper provides a most memorable villain. This was McDowell's first American film, and he and Steenburgen married after meeting here.
EXTRAS: Commentary track with Meyer and McDowell, theatrical trailers, English and French language versions.
Also this weekAlso this week
Deuces Wild Gangs in 50s New York rumble and stink up the screen.
Dogtown And Z-Boys This documentary uncovers the fascinating history of skateboarding.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring The two-disc set offers over two hours of supplemental material.
= 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