unforgiven: special edition (Warner, 1992) D: Clint Eastwood, w/ Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman. 2 discs. $43. Rating: NNNNN
This is a beautiful transfer, and Eastwood's savage Western noir stands up astonishingly well. Hackman's complex villain is the best performance in a film packed with them.
The SE is a bit heavy on Time critic and Eastwood biographer Richard Shickel, who does the insightful commentary, directed the 1992 making-of featurette and wrote Eastwood On Eastwood. The hour-long TNT special is included on the second disc. This package belongs in any serious collection
singin' in the rain: 5oth anniversary special edition (Warner, 1952) D: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, w/ Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor. 2 discs. $32. Rating: NNNNN
Terrific prints of this American musical classic are not rare -- the various copyright holders (currently Ted Turner) have always maintained the MGM crown jewels, and Singin' In The Rain is certainly one of those. Two great extras -- the PBS Great Performances documentary on the Arthur Freed unit at MGM, and the original film appearances from the MGM vaults of virtually every number in the picture were found and put on the second disc. Some of these are well known, like Eleanor Powell's electrifying dance to Broadway Rhythms, but some have never been on video in any format.
One blown opportunity -- instead of making a commentary track with Donen, Reynolds and O'Connor, who are very much alive and kicking, every surviving contributor to the film was shot individually for a talking-heads documentary with the usual canned stories. Still the bargain of the bunch. What are you waiting for?
true romance: unrated director's cut special edition (Warner, 1993) D: Tony Scott, w/ Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette. 2 discs. $43. Rating: NNNN
True Romance is the last major Quentin Tarantino film to get a Special Edition. It's also Tarantino's first script, and it doesn't have the reputation of the other films in this group. But this edition offers his first solo commentary, which covers the script's autobiographical nature, compares script to film and discusses the source of virtually everything in the film.
Tony Scott, like brother Ridley, gives a nuts-and-bolts commentary and Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette's track is slight but occasionally revealing. Also included are deleted scenes and scene-specific commentary by various cast members.
one flew over the cuckoo's nest (Warner, 1975) D: Milos Forman, w/ Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher. 2 discs. $43. Rating: NNNN
I can't think of a film with the madhouse as metaphor that I like, this film included, but I do respect Cuckoo's Nest. This very good transfer looks better than I remember the film in the theatre, and includes an informative making-of documentary (no contribution from Nicholson, alas), several deleted scenes and an interview-based commentary from producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz and director Milos Forman.
I enjoyed hearing Forman acknowledge something I've long suspected about all his American films -- "I thought, 'This is a Czech film!'"
amadeus: the director's cut (Warner, 1984) D: Milos Forman, w/ F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce. 2 discs. $43. Rating: NN
Forman's belated long cut of Amadeus runs three hours. I didn't like Amadeus at 160 minutes -- too often it's a movie about its own art direction and costumes -- and I like it less now that it's 20 minutes longer. Good transfer, but very light on extras. A new making-of documentary and a commentary from Forman and playwright Peter Shaffer. Eight Academy Awards? What were they thinking?
the mary tyler moore show: the complete first season (Fox Home Video, 1970-77) P: James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, w/ Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper, Ed Asner. 4 discs. $65. Rating: NNNN
Not having watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 20 years, I opened this with a slight sense of dread -- 30-year-old sitcoms tend not to hold up terribly well. MTM does, which is a tribute to the sensibilities of producers James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, the writers they gathered for the show and the sizable talents of the cast. This is a classic three-camera sitcom, glaringly lit, and after two or three episodes you realize that you're going to be stuck in those two sets -- Mary's apartment and the WJM newsroom -- for hours. And, of course, there's the embarrassing wealth of period detail -- pantsuits, sideburns, and did anybody ever wear ties as wide as Ted Baxter's?
The extras are not especially interesting -- the fourth disc is dominated by an 87-minute talking-heads documentary that leaves you wondering why Valerie Harper has had much better luck with her plastic surgeon than the alarmingly wide-eyed Mary Tyler Moore, who married hers.
EXTRAS Commentary tracks on three episodes, making-of feature, booklet with Season One episode guide, trivia game, photo gallery, Emmy Award show clips, CBS show promos. English, French and Spanish language versions; English and Spanish subtitles.
panic room (Columbia-Tri-Star Home Entertainment, 2002) D: David Fincher, w/ Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker. $37. Rating: NNN
Panic Room is a tautly constructed mousetrap thriller. A trio of home invaders (Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakum) who want something hidden in the house's impregnable panic room trap Jodie Foster and her diabetic daughter in their luxurious new house. Outstanding work from Foster, a last-minute replacement for Nicole Kidman. Fincher (Fight Club, Seven) is obsessive enough to turn a one-location movie into a symphony of unexpected angles and elaborate crane shots. The SuperBit edition does justice to Darius Khondji and Conrad Hall's dark-night-of-the-soul cinematography. Fincher collectors will want to wait for the Special Edition that's a few months down the road. Who am I kidding? Hardcore Fincher fans will want both -- this one has an unusual slimline package.
EXTRAS Trailer, English and French versions, English and French subtitles.
burnt money (Strand Releasing/Mongrel Media, 2000) D: Marcelo Pieyro, w/ Eduardo Noriega, Leonardo Sbaraglia. $40. Rating: NNN
Burnt Money is the gay Argentinian Reservoir Dogs. A group of thieves who don't know each other and wear dark suits and skinny ties get together for an armoured car heist, things go horribly wrong, and they wind up trapped in a small apartment waiting for something really, really bad to happen, which it does. Of course, with genre exercises, even those based on true incidents, it ain't what you do but how you do it, and Piñeyro manages to maintain a tone of near operatic intensity. He's helped by the consistently astonishing Eduardo Noriega, who adds another great performance to a filmography that includes Open Your Eyes (he had the role Tom Cruise plays in the remake) and The Devil's Backbone. Transfer is acceptable.
EXTRAS Theatrical trailer.
= 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