THIS WEEK IN DVD'S – Mar. 1st, 2007
Peter Pan: Platinum Edition (Disney)
You’d think esteemed, scholarly adult viewers would “grow out” of Disney movies—do thirtysomething’s really need talking fairies and flying boys in tights in their cinematic lives? (we get enough of that at home—am I right?)—but that idea is quickly and lovingly dismissed after about ten minutes of Peter Pan: Platinum Edition (Disney). The film not only translates JM Barrie’s tale of fantastical ever-adolescence for the animated film world, it relishes in it: We don’t simply watch Wendy, Michael, and John go to Never Never Land—we join them on their rapturous journey in what remains one of the more glorious filmic travelogues in movie history. And, oh, stop groaning: Yes, you need to buy this new edition (third time’s the charm, huh?). A serious upgrade from both the movie-only and special-edition releases of the film on DVD, this double-disc edition houses a jaw-droppingly pristine video transfer, an upgraded 5.1 Surround sound mix and—as usual for the Disney Platinum Series—a sea of bonus features. Sure, the set-top games are only fun the first time or two (even the five-year-old in you will grow tired of them relatively quickly), but the behind-the-scenes documentaries, still galleries and—most impressively—the blueprints for the film’s original opening will engage not only Peter Pan newcomer kiddies, but their adult companions, to boot.
Alexander Revisited (Warner)
Hideously maligned upon its 2004 release, Oliver Stone’s Alexander was the kind of shaky historical potboiler that not even 95% of die-hard Stone fans could stomach (your buddy Mike is one of the only critics who found the film’s devil-may-care eccentricity implicitly engaging and unique). I doubt that those pissed off at Stone for making such an atypical biopic will come around with Alexander Revisited (Warner), but they definitely should: At an ass-numbingly long running time of 220 minutes, this new (and supposedly final) version of the film runs the gamut—love story, actioner, historical development—and is definitely the incarnation of the film to own. In this 3+ hour version, Stone’s ambitious cinematic sprawl hovers over its audience as a peyote vision: As with Natural Born Killers or even his equally-underestimated Nixon, Stone uses insanely-juxtaposed tones and pacing to concoct a wildly enjoyable and vibrantly singular epic in the fashion only he can imagine. And while it might have been nice for Warner to release a three- or four-disc edition that housed all three different cuts of the film (theatrical, director’s cut, and now this Revisited version), it’s difficult to complain about this film’s DVD presence: Stone’s films get across-the-board fantastic video transfers, and Alexander Revisited is no exception (its 5.1 sound mix is also bone-shattering). While this writer was left wanting a commentary with Stone—all we get is an informational yet colloquial introduction to the film from the auteur—he’s happy all the same that Stone’s vision for Alexander the Great is finally mirrored on DVD.
The Heart of the Game (Buena Vista)
I gave my dear companion (and noted basketball enthusiast) P. Reo the duty of reviewing The Heart of the Game (Buena Vista) for me, since her passion for the sport (and the teams that play it) is second-to-none. This is what she had to say: “The Heart of the Game is an in-depth, exciting documentary about the ups and downs of teenage life on a girls’ high school basketball team. There are wins and losses, struggles and successes (real life doesn’t always come with Hollywood happy endings), but the real strength of this doc is how it showcases both these girls playing on a basketball team and them living their lives as members of a team who care about one another on and off the court. It is a rare and exceptional film. And when was the last time you saw a sports film where the mere act of being part of a team inspired each and every one of the game’s participants? This is a captivating and true display of life: Watch these girls—watch them work, play, laugh…and shape their future.” The disc looks great, too—in a rare occasion for a documentary, the film has both 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo tracks. The commentary track from director Ward Serrill mirrors much of the info presented in the movie, but additional deleted scenes (with optional commentary) and two bonus featurettes add intriguing background to the world of the film.
Police Story 2, Infernal Affairs 2 and Infernal Affairs 3 (Dragon Dynasty)
Dragon Dynasty (an offshoot of The Weinstein Company’s DVD distribution arm) has a few new releases of note, and they let your buddy Mike take a big bite out of some of them. Jackie Chan’s Police Story 2 is considered by many Asian-action connoisseurs to be the quintessential film of its subgenre, and they very well may be right, in a certain regard: For rootin-tootin Jackie Chan gymno-killing, this one definitely has its high-octane highlights. And this new DVD has a great Anamorphic widescreen transfer, as well as a handful of intriguing extras (a bonus that doesn’t help things: The audio commentary with Hong Kong Cinema expert Bey Logan and Hollywood butt-kisser Brett Ratner — yikes). However, I found two other new Dragon Dynasty titles — Infernal Affairs 2 and Infernal Affairs 3 — to be far more rewarding (an Infernal Affairs box set is also newly-released, but it wasn’t available for review). Yeah, I was exposed to The Departed before seeing the original Infernal Affairs, but these two engrossing sequels to the Asian hit do everything that the original did (which makes for notable, though been-there-done-that late-night entertainment), even if they become less and less dramatically imperative as the series plows on. This downward spiral continues in terms of DVD quality: Infernal Affairs 2 comes with a commentary and a few featurettes, but Infernal Affairs 3 only offers a simple, EPK-grade making-of short.