Pete's Dragon: High-Flying Edition
SPECIAL FEATURES B-
DVD GEEK FACTOR 5.75
(OUT OF 10)
I loved this movie when I was a kid. Alas, I must now watch it and judge it as an adult. Admittedly, it isn't the colossal work of art I saw it as when I was 9. Still, I can't help but dig it, even with its flaws.
At the time, this mixture of animation and live actors was the apex of cinema technology. Child actor Sean Marshall, as Pete, still looks pretty good riding around on Elliott, the cartoon (and sometimes invisible) dragon. I did spot some suspension wires on Marshall, but you have to look pretty hard to find them. I missed them when I was a kid.
The movie is a musical, and the songs range from dreadful to quite catchy. Even the bad ones are pulled off, to some extent, because the cast camps it up quite well. I especially like Shelley Winters as matriarch of the evil Gogans, a backwoods family that adopted Elliott to use him for slave labor. She absolutely murders the song "Bill of Sale," but it's so bad, it's funny.
The music sounds better when it's being delivered by master showman Jim Dale as Dr. Terminus, a traveling salesman and a pusher of fake potions and lotions. Red Buttons is also good as his sidekick; the two make "Every Little Piece" the musical highlight of the movie. The Academy Award-nominated "Candle on the Water" gets a gooey rendition from Helen Reddy in her lead actress debut.
The best part of the movie is Elliott the dragon, and Marshall does a nice job playing to a blue screen. Their first musical number, "Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You Too)" is a real charmer.
Of course, the immortal Mickey Rooney gets to do his drunk routine as Lampie, a role that many probably thought would be one of his last. Fat chance—the guy is still making movies 32 years later. He can't be stopped!
SPECIAL FEATURES: An adult Marshall narrates a look back at the film and its technology. You also get storyboards for a deleted scene and some original demo versions of the songs. But there's no Mickey Rooney commentary, so that's a bummer.
Big Trouble in Little China (Blu-Ray)
20TH CENTURY FOX
SPECIAL FEATURES C+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 4.5
(OUT OF 5)
Here's a movie that hasn't aged well. John Carpenter's bizarre martial-arts adventure got critically panned upon its release, but has since developed a cult following. Looking at it now, Kurt Russell's offbeat performance still shines, but Kim Cattrall is a bore as the female lead, and some of the creature effects are downright awful.
Russell plays Jack Burton, a truck driver who gets himself involved in a crazy mystical martial-arts war somewhere in Chinatown after a raucous game of dominoes. A very old man named Lo Pan (James Hong) is looking for a green-eyed bride to give him youth and save his life, or something like that. Two women, including Cattrall, find themselves in his evil clutches, and Jack must save them.
The movie's fight scenes have their moments, and Russell gets some great laughs with his attitude-laden performance. But Carpenter bit off a little more than he could chew in the special-effects department, and the plot gets confusing at times. I suppose this was Carpenter's attempt at a new franchise, but the adventures of Jack Burton stopped with this film.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Carpenter and Russell deliver a fun commentary, and that's the best special feature the disc has to offer. An extended ending and deleted scenes are not worth your time.
SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 8
(OUT OF 10)
So far, this is one of the year's best films, and its best documentary. Tyson sits down for director James Toback, and the guy has plenty of things to say. He also has a tendency to be completely frightening as he says them.
Toback doesn't shy away from any of the Tyson pressure points. He asks him about his Desiree Washington rape conviction, his time in jail and his colossal loss to Buster Douglas. Tyson holds back nothing, and his candor almost melts the TV screen.
This guy is as crazy as they come, and I guess he figures he had to be to do the job he was doing. It's a strange thing to watch him sitting on couches, talking quietly about the things that happened in his career. Here is a guy who could lift huge men off the canvas with his fist—and he's saying how scared he was during his fighting days. It's a riveting performance.
SPECIAL FEATURES: While the theatrical feature was certainly focused on Tyson, the DVD is all about Toback. He offers up a commentary and multiple features of him discussing the film. It gets a little redundant at times, but it is interesting.