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Movie Renter's Guide

DVD Edition 6 - Part 31 - November, 1997

Staff

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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Austin Powers"Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery"; New Line; N4577; $24.99; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, Stereo in French; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Deleted Scenes; Theatrical Trailers; Commentary; Star Highlights and Bios; Anamorphic/Letterbox (Side B), Pan & Scan (Side A); Region ID 1; 1 hour 30 minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 24 Chapters.

Well, there was James Bond, Matt Helm, Derek Flint, Harry Palmer, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and now Austin Powers. This is, in my opinion, Mike Myers' best work. "Wayne's World" was funny as a skit on Saturday Night Live, but it was a stretch to fit on the big screen. "Austin Powers" is non-stop laughs. I first saw the film at the theater, not thinking much of it during the movie. After the film was over, I spent the next several weeks talking about it with my friends and realizing how funny it was. When I watched the DVD, I laughed throughout the movie. Starring as Austin's sexy side kick is Elizabeth Hurley as Ms. Kensington. Mimi Rogers plays Mrs. Kensington, Hurley's Mom. Michael York also stars. Austin is frozen in the 60s because his enemy, Dr. Evil (Mike Myers), freezes himself and hides in space inside a Bob's Big Boy (Hamburger joint). Dr. Evil returns in the 90s, so Austin is thawed out to stop him once and for all. Austin must also deal with the radical changes that have taken place in the 30 years he was frozen.

The disc is full of extras, including commentary by Mike Myers and Jay Roach, a look at the spy genre, cameos, deleted scenes, and a few other items. The transfer is fantastic; the 60s color scheme is "Groovy Baby!" Fleshtones all look very natural. The disc is anamorphic when the film starts, but the menu system is not. This is a little strange since most other anamorphic discs have an anamorphic menu. The extras on this disc are great, especially 7 deleted scenes. Two of the scenes are alternate endings, but two others look like they do not even belong in the film. One of these is with Rob Lowe. "Original Ending 1" and "We’re called flight attendants" look terrible. They constantly change from looking good to worse than a 5th generation VHS dub. The movie itself has no such problem. Some of the trailers are framed at 2.35:1, while the actual film on the disc is 1.85:1.  Most of the 1.85:1 DVDs I have seen are usually cropped to 1.78:1. This disc has a very small black band across the top, keeping it composed at 1.85:1.  This is the third DVD that I have seen with the scene index containing full motion video in the thumbnails.  Also buried in the extras are video clips from other films that the stars are in. Of all the scenes, the trailer for "Lost in Space" is the best. This can be found in the bio for Mimi Rogers.

SLS

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: *****(Anamorphic)
Audio: ****
Photography: ****
Violence: yes, spoof airplane type stuff
Sex: "yes, please" - Austin Powers
Language: the "S" word

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First Knight"First Knight"; Columbia; 71179; $31.99; Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo 2 in English, French, and Spanish; Subtitles in Spanish and Korean; Anamorphic/Letterbox (Side A), Pan & Scan (Side B); Region ID 1; 2 hours 13 minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer; 46 Chapters.

Sean Connery, Richard Gere, and Julia Ormond bring you a new version of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Finally Sean Connery as King Arthur . . . something people have wanted to see happen for a long time, even if he is Scottish (but after all, Richard the Lionheart was French and didn't speak English at all). I had a hard time with Richard Gere as Lancelot but I could deal with it. The story is a typical love triangle with some great sets and costumes, and nice swordplay thrown in the mix.  There is no mystical Excalibur sword or Merlin in this version.

This disc is one of the best transfers yet; it runs almost as long as T2 but is only a singe layer disc. Chapter 15, "The Gauntlet" is a feast for the eyes! There are multiple shades of blue, lots of detail, and it looks fantastic with component video and a 16:9 TV. This is definitely a disc to show someone when you are trying to sell DVD! Like other Columbia titles, the 5.1 soundtrack is on Audio 2.   The soundtrack is every bit (pun intended) as good as the picture quality. The surrounds are used well to place you there!  During "The Gauntlet" scene, I felt the blades swinging across my living room.  I thought I was going to get whacked.

SLS

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: *****(Anamorphic)
Audio: *****
Photography: ****
Violence: swordplay
Sex: some content
Language: no

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Freeway"Freeway"; Republic Pictures; 46248; THX; $24.99; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English; Subtitles in English and Spanish; Commentary; Theatrical Trailers; Letterbox; Region ID 1; 1 hour 42 minutes; Single Sided, Single Layer; 41 Chapters.

Little Red Riding Hood meets Pulp Fiction. The film stars Amanda Plummer, Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender), Brook Shields, Kiefer Sutherland, and Reese Witherspoon. The music is by Danny Elfman. Reese plays the most evil version of little red riding hood I have ever seen, with Amanda Plummer as her prostitute mother and Michael T. Weiss as her molesting stepfather (ahh . . . family values). Kiefer plays the role of the big bad wolf. After her parents are arrested, Little Red steals a car and heads out on the road to her grandmother’s house. The wolf picks her up on the way because her car has broken down. The adventure begins from there. The intro during the credits contains some really nice artwork.

This is the first title I have seen from Republic Pictures, and it is also a THX-approved title. The disc contains the director's commentary and the theatrical trailer. The transfer is good overall; it could be improved if it were anamorphic (THX should require this as part of its certification program). The soundtrack is equal to the picture quality.  Fleshtones appear very natural, and every time I see heavy saturated reds on DVD, I am still amazed at how clean they are.

SLS

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ****
Photography: ***
Violence: yes
Sex: yes
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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Terminator 2"Terminator 2 – Judgment Day"; Live Entertainment; 60441; THX; $34.99; Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo 2 in English, French, and Spanish; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Descriptive Video Services; Production Notes, Cast & Crew Bios, Theatrical Trailers; Anamorphic/Letterbox; Region ID 1; Single Sided, RSDL (Dual Layer); 2 hours 19 minutes; 73 Chapters .

T2 is the follow-up to 1984’s sleeper hit "Terminator". This time, Arnold returns to help John Conner and his mom Sarah Conner, played by Linda Hamilton. Arnold must protect them against the new T-1000 morphing Terminator. James Cameron directs this action masterpiece.

This title was supposed to have been released on DVD a few months ago, but was delayed because Live decided to give it a new transfer and soundtrack. This disc is the first to split the movie across two layers of the disc for enhanced picture quality. There is no Pan & Scan version on this disc, nor is it the director’s cut with the added footage. While I like the added footage, this is the same version that everyone loved in the theater. The disc is anamorphic and framed at 2.35:1. It features full motion video in the thumbnails and also has a transparent main menu with a scene from the movie playing in the background. When you choose the scenes index, a ball of fire engulfs the screen, and then the thumbnails appear . . . very cool!  It includes the teaser. I remember seeing this, and one of the theatrical trailers, while stuck in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield/Storm (the trailer that does not contain the deleted dream sequence).

SLS

Entertainment: *****
Video Quality: ***** (Anamorphic)
Audio: *****
Photography: ****
Violence: yes
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words

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Short Cinema "Wild America"; Warner Brothers; 15580; $24.99; Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and French; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Production Notes, Theatrical Trailers; Anamorphic/Letterbox (Side B), Pan & Scan (Side A); Region ID 1; Double Sided, Single Layer; 1 hour 47 minutes; 36 Chapters.

This is the true story of the Stouffer Brothers, who, with their film camera, set out on the adventure of their lifetime. They are in search of the Cave of 1,000 bears. Along the way they run into alligators, air strikes, and each other. The film stars Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa, and Scott Bairstow. The two older brothers dream of film making, while their younger brother has his own dream of flying someday.  Danny Glover has a little cameo in the film.

The transfer seems quite good, and all colors are rich and vibrant. Fleshtones are natural, and the outdoor scenes are filled with lots of greenery and white snow. The 5.1 soundtrack adds to the overall quality of the disc.  The scene when Thomas is being chased by the moose is a good demo scene.

SLS

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: **** (Anamorphic)
Audio: **** 
Photography: *****
Violence: kid stuff
Sex: no
Language: no

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Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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