Latest Software Reviews
This B-grade time-travel yarn about a modern aircraft carrier thrust back in time to the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor has earned a devoted following. However, aside from a rush job on DVD last year from Pacific Family Entertainment, it has never seen a disc worthy of fans' attention. Blue Underground has rectified this, affectionately producing a limited edition (100,000 copies), two-disc set after picking up the floundering rights.
Mastered in high definition and presented here in a THX-optimized 2.35:1 anamorphic format, the movie has never looked better on video. Ample attention was also bestowed on the audio, with both Dolby EX and DTS ES soundtracks that impressively deliver both the roar of jet engines and the movie's hummable anthem.
The extras prove quality beats quantity. There's an interview with Troma Films executive and associate producer Lloyd Kaufman, who pulls no punches when reminiscing about director Don Taylor. There's also a fun 30-minute discussion with the Navy F-14 pilots who did the stunt flying, most memorably going up against a pair of Japanese Zeros in a key sequence. The group shares some good anecdotes, including a not-so-subtle message they sent costar Katherine Ross after she declined to meet them. Trailers, stills, commentary by the film's cinematographer, and a DVD-ROM article about the experience of the Confederate Air Force pilots who flew the vintage planes are also on deck. There's also a cool lenticular cover, in which the carrier Nimitz disappears and reappears in front of the time vortex.—Gary Frisch
DVD: The Chaplin Collection, Volume Two—Warner Brothers
If Warner's first Chaplin Collection introduced a new generation to his work, then this second box puts into clearer perspective the breadth of his talent, his prolific output, and his ultimate triumph as a filmmaker. Included are two-disc special editions of The Circus, City Lights, and The Kid, a single-disc Monsieur Verdoux, a two-disc double feature of A Woman of Paris with A King in New York, two discs of "The Chaplin Revue" (seven First National Studios shorts from 1918–1923), and the new Richard Schickel documentary Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin. In fact, such supplements to the Chaplin movies are staggering in quantity, with additional half-hour documentaries about each of the feature films, deleted scenes, extensive behind-the-scenes footage, and other relevant clips and pertinent films in their entirety.
The extras range from the fresh and illuminating to the mundane and redundant; taken together, though, they are an exhaustive testimonial. Some of the movies themselves (Monsieur Verdoux, the remarkable City Lights) play better today than others (The Circus, A Woman of Paris). All are exceptional 1.33:1 black-and-white restorations (modern portions of the star-studded Charlie are matted to matted nonanamorphic 1.85:1), accompanied by a mono soundtrack plus a slicker 5.1 remix with some newly recorded music. Traditionalists will likely eschew the remixes, but there is something for everyone to love here.—Chris Chiarella
DVD-Audio: Neil Young and Crazyhorse—Greendale (Reprise)
Greendale is a concept album about the Green family that lives in the not-too-big, not-too-small town of Greendale. There is the daughter Sun, Uncle Jed (who tears the family apart by murdering a cop), and Grandpa. Sun falls for a guy named Earth Brown, and they both run off to Alaska after the media falling Jed's case causes Grandpa to suffer a heart attack. Mixed into the confusing plot are seemingly haphazard attempts at a message. Save the forests, save Alaska, corporations are bad. . .blah, blah, blah. Keep on rocking, Neil, but try to be more subtle about it.
Like most concept albums, the songs are only there to continue the story. They're consistent, though. While none of them really rock, they're still quite listenable. "Bandit," track 6, is perhaps the best song on the album because it does break the mold. Its main drive is an acoustic guitar, and it's one of the few songs on the album that could almost stand on its own.
The 24-bit/96-kilohertz sound is impeccable. Beautifully clean cymbals and drums back up Neil's trademark guttural guitar tone. Most tracks make copious use of the surround channels—sometimes with just soundstage filler, but other times with backup singers or instruments. The liner notes help to decipher the story (somewhat). The DVD-Audio also contains a lyrics sheet, a music video, and photos.
Overall, Greendale is pretty good; it's just not great. With the release of Harvest on DVD-Audio, your dollar is better spent on that album unless you're a hardcore fan.—Geoffrey Morrison