Chestburster Treat

'Alien Quadrilogy' is one of the best-ever DVD releases.


Twentieth Century Fox
Movie Grades: Vary
Special Features: A+
DVD Geek Factor: 10 (out of 10)

Until now, the high watermark for DVDs had to be The Lord of the Rings special editions, without argument. While Rings may still take the top prize, the new nine-disc Alien Quadrilogy boxed set will surely get some first-place votes from DVD junkies. Each of the four films in the series gets a disc featuring its original theatrical version and a special edition version. Alien: The Director's Cut, which just completed its theatrical run, has made it into the box set, and that's a good thing. Director Ridley Scott restored some beautiful footage.

Alien, Aliens and Alien Resurrection get full cooperation and commentaries from their directors, but David Fincher, director of the unfairly maligned Alien 3, refused to participate. In his absence, Fox has put together what they are calling "The Assembly Cut" of Alien 3, and the restored footage is remarkable, a definite upgrade. As for the series, my favorite film remains Aliens, Cameron's militaristic thriller that turned the series upside down, a drastic change from Ridley Scott's masterpiece, a lone-monster creature feature. Alien Resurrection is a good film until its last half-hour, where that stupid Ripley alien baby provides more guffaws than shrieks. Fincher's contribution, Alien 3, was far better than most critics have complained, and a restored intro shows that Fincher, without the infamous studio meddling, probably would've produced a better film than what the public saw.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Each film gets a separate disc containing special-feature documentaries. The last of the nine discs contains yet another, newly produced documentary on the series, as well as supplements that were contained on Laserdisc productions. The documentaries are manna from heaven for fans. High point: A supplemental feature for Alien contains a multi-angled look at the chestburster sequence. An outtake shows the little creature bursting from John Hurt's chest, then scurrying across the table and pushing a salad bowl directly into the camera lens, punctuated by an ornery Scott yelling, "Cut!"


Show: A
Special Features: B
DVD Geek Factor: 8

Ten years ago, Ben Stiller did an experimental sketch comedy show for Fox that was cancelled after 12 episodes. Later that year, the show won an Emmy for comedy writing, something it richly deserved. Fox put the show in a suicidal time slot, up against CBS's 60 Minutes, and it routinely finished dead-last in the ratings. This two-disc set provides the chance to see the series in its entirety (including the unaired 13th episode). Stiller got to run wild here, assembling a monster cast (Janeane Garofolo, Andy Dick, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross of Mr. Show fame). Perfectly directed spoofs of movies and TV shows abound, including Manson, with Odenkirk's Charles Manson replacing Lassie in a black-and-white recreation of the show. This is one of the funniest TV shows that you never saw.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are enjoyable commentaries including most of the cast for select episodes. In one of the commentary sessions that Odenkirk is absent from, he has provided a tape of himself giving stock observations like "Funny is as funny does!" and "Can I say something here?" Outtake footage includes a look at failed concepts for the original pilot and some unaired sketches.


Movie: C
Special Features: C+
DVD Geek Factor: 5

The Polish brothers are most often compared to director David Lynch, but Lynch was never this unbearably boring (and that includes Dune and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me). Guys dressed in suits representing the imperialistic American government (I guess) arrive in Northfork to coax people away from their homes, because the region will be flooded for a hydraulic dam. A flock of ghosts take up residence in one of the homes and talk a bunch of philosophic psychobabble in very somber tones. Nick Nolte, who made an ass of himself in last year's Hulk, is OK here as a preacher taking care of a sick boy. James Woods, as one of the suit guys, has a few moments, and it is interesting to find out that the Polish brothers based his fedora-wearing character on former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. The movie looks good, but it made me sleepy.

SPECIAL FEATURES: I actually had more fun watching the documentary filmed for the DVD (Bare Knuckle Filmmaking: The Construction of Northfork) than watching the movie. An interesting fact revealed is that the Polish brothers' dad, who was not a production designer, managed to build the ark that is prominent in the picture. It's also fun to see Woods goofing between takes, swearing his ass off. Listening to the brothers' commentary actually sheds light on the picture.