reservoir dogs: 10th anniversary special edition (Artisan/Alliance-Atlantis) D: Quentin Tarantino, w/ Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen. Two discs. $36. Rating: NNNN
pulp fiction: collector's edition (1994, Miramax/Alliance-Atlantis) D: Quentin Tarantino, w/ John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis. Two discs. $40. Rating: NNNNN
jackie brown: collector's edition (1997, Miramax/Alliance-Atlantis) D: Quentin Tarantino, w/ Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Samuel L. Jackson. Two discs. $40. Rating: NNNN
Given Quentin Tarantino's ominous silence in the five years since Jackie Brown, it's good to have these discs as a reminder of his awesome talent. From the claustrophobic grit of Reservoir Dogs through the careening storylines of Pulp Fiction to the affectionate tribute to both Elmore Leonard (it's a wise child who knows his father) and blaxploitation goddess Pam Grier in Jackie Brown, Tarantino's put his stamp on the crime genre like no other director since Scorsese.
I put Pulp Fiction on to check the mastering and, well, there went the evening -- it's compulsively watchable, and so dense that it never feels 150 minutes long. As for Jackie Brown, a character comedy disguised as a thriller, there's no better demonstration of Tarantino's expertise than his ability to get an entertaining performance out of Bridget Fonda, one of the dullest actors in contemporary movies.
These special editions have Tarantino's imprimatur, and Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown feature first-rate transfers.
Reservoir Dogs seems slightly faded, the colours de-saturated except for the blood-red, and there doesn't seem to be a true black in the whole film.
All three come loaded: Tarantino's 1994 Charlie Rose interview, 45 minutes' worth of Pam Grier trailers, the Palme d'Or ceremony at Cannes 1994, soundtrack menus on the Miramax issues, critical commentaries on Reservoir Dogs.
Collectors' note: Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction share a packaging screw-up. The slipcover spines show them with the same catalogue number (4266), though the disc cases have the correct numbers. Of the five Reservoir Dogs slip cases, the Mr. Brown cover, with Tarantino's picture, is the rare one.
EXTRAS Reservoir Dogs: director/cast/crew commentary, scene-specific critical commentary, anatomy-of-a-scene featurette, Sundance Class Of 92 featurette, deleted scenes, influences featurette, Real Life Dog featurette, Gerry Rafferty interview, location-scouting featurette. Spanish subtitles.
Pulp Fiction: making-of documentary, 1994 Charlie Rose interview, design featurette, Siskel & Ebert Tarantino special, deleted scenes, five international trailers, TV spots, Cannes Film Festival awards, Independent Spirit Awards, stills gallery, text trivia commentary. English and French-language versions; English, Spanish subtitles
Jackie Brown: making-of documentary, new Tarantino interview, deleted and alternate scenes, Siskel & Ebert review, theatrical trailers, stills gallery, Jackie Brown on MTV, Pam Grier and Robert Forster trailer galleries, Pam Grier radio spots, text trivia commentary. English and French-language versions; English, Spanish subtitles
the outer limits: the original series, volume 1 (MGM Home Video) D: Byron Haskin, Gerd Oswald, w/ Robert Culp, Donald Pleasance. Four discs. $100. Rating: NNNN
The Outer Limits was groundbreaking in its day, though it never developed the undying cult appeal of The Twilight Zone, which, given its gentle irony and fantasy, was always a softer series. The Outer Limits, with its Cold War paranoia and bug-eyed monsters, was harder-edged. The Architects Of Fear episode was worthy of the darkest reaches of The X-Files. In all its black-and-white glory, MGM has brought us the 32 episodes of the 1963-64 season. (People looking for the legendary Harlan Ellison episodes, Demon With A Glass Hand and Soldier, will have to wait for the second-season box.)
After years in the farthest corners of syndication, the series looked bad, being dupes of dupes, but this collection restores its original shot-on-film crispness and visual combination of science fiction with film noir. The workhorse directors were B-movie stalwarts Byron Haskin (Robinson Crusoe On Mars) and Gerd Oswald (A Kiss Before Dying), and the show looks remarkably good for its time.
There's added fun in watching the directors work to conceal the cheesiness of some of the special effects. Tremendous casts, too: Donald Pleasance, Cliff Robertson, Barry Morse, Miriam Hopkins, Ralph Meeker, Ed Asner, Martin Landau, Robert Duvall.
EXTRAS A booklet containing a complete season-one episode guide.
janet jackson: all for you (Eaglevision) D: David Mallet, w/ Janet Jackson. $30. Rating: NNN
This is the HBO concert special, live from Hawaii -- the one that goes backstage for the costume changes. The unfortunate thing is that director David Mallet indulges every concert-film cliché -- the sweeping crane shot from the back of the room, too many shots of the enthusiastic audience. Someone should tell him that when you've got an electrifying performer who looks as good as Jackson, you can just put the camera on the money. The fortunate thing is the spectacular sound, much better than the broadcast version.
Jackson and band were in tremendous form that evening, and there are tracks here -- notably a feral Black Cat -- that could renovate your house for you.
EXTRAS Rehearsal footage, Jackson interview, tour footage.
friends: the complete second season (Warner Home Video) D: various, w/ Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer. Four discs. $75. Rating: NNNNN
Cuppage. Mockolate. Lisa Kudrow teaching Smelly Cat to Chrissie Hynde. Guest-starring Julia Roberts. Guest-starring Brooke Shields. Guest-starring Jean-Claude Van Damme? Tom Selleck joins the cast. Not the best season (that would be four), but season two is the emotional core season of Friends, anchored by the torturous evolution of the Ross-Rachel relationship, one of the great twisted sado-masochistic romances of sitcomland, she being a manipulative princess and he having been born whipped.
Despite the central narrative investment in that relationship, it's fun to watch the secondary "romantic" relationship of TV's favourite pseudo-gay couple, Chandler and Joey, and to watch Kudrow, without a narrative line for the season, emerge as the comic go-to guy (check The One Where Old Yeller Dies).
EXTRAS Producer/writers commentary on The One With The List and The One With The Prom Video, episode previews, virtual tour of Monica and Rachel's apartment, restored scenes, trivia quiz, complete video for Smelly Cat (so when do we get the Rembrandts video?). English, French and Spanish subtitles
Also this weekAlso this week
RATCATCHER Lynne Ramsay's weird collision of Celtic miserabilism and magic realism in a portrait of the effects of a garbage strike in Glasgow.
CHANGING LANES Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck in an odd thriller about the karmic consequences of leaving the scene of an accident.
NEAR DARK Kathryn Bigelow's vampire western finally arrives on DVD.
= 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