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Universal Announces Upcoming DVD Titles, Including MUMMY RETURNS
Plus: AKIRA special edition on the way, this week's releases, and an easter egg hunt
By John Thonen
June 26, 2001
Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo face the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns.
© 2001 Universal
Universal pictures recently announced three upcoming titles that will soon be appearing on DVD with loads of extras, while looming on the horizon is a special edition release of one of the most important anime features ever made.THE MUMMY RETURNS release may not match the announcement of October's STAR WARS, EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE, but there should be plenty of interest in Universal's October 2 release of their recent mega-hit sequel. Details remain sketchy, but the DVD will offer footage from the upcoming spin-off feature, THE SCORPION KING as well as deleted scenes, director's commentary, behind the scenes footage, an interactive visual effects segment, and even a historical piece entitled "Egyptology 201." So, you'd better call your DVD retailer and ask them to wrap one up for you. Get it? "Wrap" one up. OK, OK, I'm sorry.
JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS may not strike you as genre fare, but believe me, this unjustly overlooked pop musical-satire is pure fantasy. Ignored by millions during its theatrical release, the film will hit video, from Universal, in August with a host of extras, including commentaries, music video, deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage, and cast interviews. The dismal box office failure can mostly likely be attributed to two reasons: the post-pubescent girls, who would have seemed to be its audience, didn't care for seeing both them and their favorite performers being lampooned; and the older, hipper audience, which might have gotten the film's jibes at the current record industry and its pop performers, wouldn't be caught dead seeing the film. This left it a movie without an audience. However, if you are as repulsed as I am by the manufactured pop superstars of today, you just might get a kick out of this one.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is the last, but far from least, of Universal's recent genre announcements. Mid-September will see a 20th anniversary release of director John Landis' 1981 humorous, horror hit. The disc will feature interviews with make-up wiz Rick Baker and Landis, as well as a featurette and trailer. The film will be part of a thriller collection from Universal, which will also feature Clint Eastwood's PLAY MISTY FOR ME, the Cohen Brothers' brilliant debut film, BLOOD SIMPLE, both the 1962 and 1991 versions of CAPE FEAR and HALLOWEEN II (which was directed by Rick Rosenthal, who reportedly will be returning for the next installment in this "when-will-they-stop" franchise).
AKIRA is the film that, more than 10 years after its release, remains the standard against which all anime is measured, and few survive the comparison. Pioneer was so stunned by the sales of their earlier release of this classic that on July 24th they will unveil a metal case, special edition, two-disc set. The extras include a making of documentary, a director's interview, storyboards & character designs, trailers and a documentary on the digital restoration of this landmark film. In addition, the film will be THX certified and offer a new English dub. Not to be missed.
[IMG3R]Most of the major video rental chains (Blockbuster, Hollywood Video) have established in-house labels that offer titles initially available only in their stores. With no pressing need to promote sales of these titles, screener copies are rarely available for review. From time to time, I'll pop up with a look at some of these movies, which may have debuted a week or two earlier, but which I couldn't comment on until I'd rented it myself. One such film is ISLAND OF THE DEAD, a Blockbuster exclusive starring Malcolm McDowell (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and Talisa Soto (MORTAL KOMBAT). This very somber and moody film has a great (fact-based) concept and an earnest directorial vision, neither of which make it a particularly positive viewing experience.
The title location is a real-life island off the New York City coast where the bodies of the indigent and unidentified have been buried for over a century. Director and co-writer Tim Southam tries hard to make the island and its forgotten human landfill a comment on the poor and disenfranchised in society. It's a good message, but to tell it he relies on swarms of supernatural flies (yeah, flies) that rise from the mass gravesites to torment a burial crew and a Donald Trump-like developer. Soto is beautiful, but has nothing to do; McDowell is typically sinister, and overdoes it; and the rest of the cast is just too bland an ambitious and admirable misfire.
THIS WEEK'S RELEASES
THE ALCHEMISTS from MTI, is a pretty forgettable TV-movie about genetic engineering, evil corporations and massive cover-ups. If it all sounds pretty familiar, that's because there's barely an original idea to be found here.
THE BLOB & LAND THAT TIME FORGOT from Goodtimes is a budget-priced double feature of two enjoyably trashy bits of pulp moviemaking. This combo wasn't available for preview, so I can't vouch for the quality or completeness of either title. However, since similar Goodtimes releases are widely available for under $10, I doubt you could go far wrong.
BLOOD SURF from Trimark is the latest film to join the recent LAKE PLACID and CROCODILE in the giant alligator/crocodile sub-genre. As is often the case with South African films, this one purports to take place elsewhereAustralia this timebut no matter where you set it, the film still stinks. Originally titled KROCODYLUS, this one offers a documentary film crew who get mixed up with a 30-foot croc. And believe me, this is really a crock of something.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS & DEMENTIA 13 is another "unavailable for preview" budget priced release, this one from Koch. The oddity here is in the pairing, which offers a great horror film from a director who never made another feature, Herk Harvey, and a pretty good horror film from a director who went on to a long and distinguished career, Francis Ford Coppola. While both films are worth seeing, I'd advise catching the first film in its fully restored form on the superb Criterion DVD.
DEEP CORE, the latest release from Paramount and Unified Film Organization (U.F.O.), boasts a good cast (Craig Sheffer, Terry Farrell, James Russo and Will Wheaton) and some uneven, but acceptable CGI effects from U.F.O's in-house effects department. Unfortunately, this marriage of ARMAGEDDON and 1965's CRACK IN THE WORLD (albeit with an underwater variation) rates high on the dumb scale, and the actor's look embarrassed to be reciting some of the laughable dialogue. An OK time filler, but nothing more.
DEMONIA is a seldom seen Lucio Fulci film which comes our way courtesy of Media Blasters, who generally specialize in anime fare. Why they would make this rare foray into live action horror in order to bring us one of Fulci's weaker efforts, is anybody's guess. This tale of an evil nunnery (Fulci was prone to anti-Catholic imagery throughout his career) isn't likely to satisfy any but the director's most fervent fans, though it is kind of fun to see Fulci himself pop up in a small part as a policeman.
[IMG4L]DOGMA is one of those films which I would love to say is great, but it isn't. In fact, it's kind of a grand and glorious mess. It's violent, hilarious, sacrilegious, reverent, badly paced and wildly imaginativeall at the same time. This new DVD release of the film is the same cut as previously released, but this two-disc set offers so many extras that it practically is a religious experience. There are two commentary tracks, outtakes, bloopers and about a zillion deleted scenessome of which richly deserved excising, while others are gut-wrenchingly funny. I still can't make up my mind whether director Kevin Smith really belongs behind a camera, but I have to confess that I've enjoyed almost everything he's ever done.
GODZILLA VS THE SEAS MONSTER & GODZILLA VS MEGALON is another double feature from Goodtimes, which worked these titles to death to share in the expected glories of Roland Emmerich's misfired Godzilla remake. These are two of the lesser entries in the Godzilla franchise, but if you're a Kaiju Eiga fan, this low cost offering is probably worth the price.
HOUSE: SPECIAL EDITION from Anchor Bay is a nice package for a decidedly mediocre film. Much of the filmwhich deals with a horror novelist trying to recover from past traumas by resting up in his dead Aunt's haunted houseis an uncomfortable mix of familiar horror devices and dark humor. The latter works well enough, and the cast is sincere enough, to make the proceeding tolerable. Some behind the scenes footage, production stills and cast and crew bios just barely qualify this one as a "Special Edition."
OBSESSION Director Brian DePalma's career has largely been made up of films inspired by (some say plagiarized from) the works of others. However unoriginal much of his work may be, it is at times quite effective. One such instance is this Columbia/Tristar release of DePalma's homage to Hitchcock's VERTIGO, scripted by Paul Schrader (TAXI DRIVER). The wordless opening sequence is bravura filmmaking, and the cast (headed by the under appreciated Cliff Robertson and Genevieve Bujold) is universally fine. A flop on release, this one merits a second look.
RUBY: SPECIAL EDITION is an odd little supernatural chiller that got a strong theatrical release back in 1977 in an attempt to ride the coat tails of CARRIE (both films featured actress Piper Laurie). Magic Lantern's release features the original director's cut (a lame epilogue was added on to the film by its distributors), along with production stills, cast and crew bios, and a trailer. These few extras don't qualify as a "Special Edition" in my book, but the film is effective enough to merit a look.
ULTRAVIOLET: This British made vampire mini-series has already played in the U.S on the Sci Fi Channel, but if you happened to miss it, Rykodisc gives you a chance to catch up. A deliberate pace, limited action and little in the way of the expected vampire shenanigans make this one largely a matter of taste. I found it imaginative and believable. Others simply found it dull.
[IMG2R] UNBREAKABLE: SPECIAL EDITION: Director M. Night Shyamalan made such an impact with his sophomore film, THE SIXTH SENSE that any follow-up was certain to pale in comparison. UNBREAKABLE is an ambitious misfire, but Shyamalan is such an enormous talent that his failures eclipse most directors best work. Visually striking and boasting superb performances (especially from Samuel L. Jackson), the film suffers a bit for its pacing and collapses altogether near the end, but few failures have ever contained such powerful merits as this one. This is part of Buena Vista's Vista series and features a superb transfer, a making-of featurette, interviews with the director and stars Jackson and Bruce Willis, a documentary on comic book superheroes, and a number of deleted scenes, several of which are particularly powerful.
YOUNG HANNAH, QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES: Moving quickly from the sublime to the ridiculous, we come to Magic Lantern's release of this mishmash, which was shot in Turkey and then expanded with new U.S.-filmed footage. There are no vampires; Hannah is 700 years old (which may be young in witch years for all I know); and the whole thing is dull and often incoherent. Originally entitled CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
URUSEI YATSURA TV #3 is AnimEigo's latest installment in this series, featuring episodes 9-12.
DRAGON BALL Z, FRIEZA: THE SUMMONING finds Goldhill bringing us yet another variation on the DRAGON BALL franchise, which involves characters improbably named Frieza, Gohan, Krilin, Piccolo and Nail, as well as Porunga, the Namekian Dragon. Three episodes of the popular series are featured.
HADES PROJECT Vol. 1 & 2: More anime giant robots, this time from Digital Versatile Disc, as young Masato Akitsu learns he is destined to pilot Zeorymer in a battle against the evil Hakkeshu, seven giant robot warriors who have taken control of the Earth. Also available as a box set of both volumes
RHEA GALL FORCE, also from Digital Versatile Disc, finds the Earth, nearly decimated from a global war, faced with a new threat from an alien weapon on the moon. The only hope seems to be for the last remnants of humanity to emigrate to Mars.
SAMURAI: HUNT FOR THE SWORD, from Media Blasters, recounts the adventures of youthful sword master Shinjuo and his efforts to protect a legendary sword from the evil Midage.
VOTOMS 1-13 is yet another anime release from Digital Versatile Disc. This one offers four episodes per video (for a total of 52 in the series), all of which involve armored trooper Votoms and his adventures in the corrupt Uoodo City also available as a 13-disc box set containing all 52 episodes.
EASTER EGG HUNT
BEDAZZLED (2000) is hardly a classic, but director Harold Ramis' remake of the 1967 original is a very entertaining film with an impressive comic performance from Brendan Fraser. If you were among the many who missed the film in the theaters, the DVD Angle website (dvdangle.com) has provided yet another reason to catch the film on disc. It seems that when you go to one of the "Bonus" menus and point the cursor "up," you'll get an image of the devilish Elizabeth Hurley. If you select that image you can see a 10-minute deleted scene where Fraser's character wishes he were a rock star. The scene's deletion was a wise oneit's not all that funnybut it's still a nice little extra on a film that's worth your effort to see.
Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo face the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns.
© 2001 Universal
C.H.U.D.: DVD Angle also shares a more salacious goodie from this DVD. On the main menu select the "extras" option. A C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller to those of you who have never seen this oddity) will appear. Highlight his eyes and press enter to see an uncut version of the film's "shower scene," a required sequence in any '80s horror film.
DRACULA 2000 is the major release for the first week of July, but in my view, the real fireworks come with the release I VAMPIRE, a fan favorite directed by Ricardo Freda and photographed by the great Mario Bava (who supposedly took over directing duties mid-production). In addition to American and Italian vampires, we'll be taking a look at rare Frankenstein footage, movie trailer collection, space aliens and even more anime. So don't be an idiot; be a Vidiotand be sure to check us out before you blow off your speed-search finger with a cherry bomb.
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