Now Showing at Home

Alien Anthology (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

In my first Now Showing at Home column, delivered almost seven years ago, I said the then-just-released Alien Quadrilogy was one of the best DVD packages ever put together.

Well, the same now goes for the Alien franchise's Blu-ray release, a package that impresses on many levels.

Each of the four films is presented in both theatrical and restored or director's-cut versions. David Fincher's Alien 3 may benefit the most, even though the director refused to be involved in the DVD and Blu-ray releases. (He has disowned the film.) Restored footage makes the film a little too long, but does help the plot immensely. It actually qualifies as a good movie after the re-edit.

Alien Resurrection remains the worst of the four, but only because of a final act that goes completely bonkers. Until then, the movie is actually quite entertaining, even if it does turn Ripley into some sort of strange human-alien hybrid.

Alien and Aliens remain two of the finest horror films ever made. Ridley Scott, who got everything started with his ingenious fusion of horror and science fiction, restores some major plot elements to his film, including the notion of the alien cocooning and not killing victims. James Cameron's Aliens has a few unnecessary tweaks, like a sequence involving Newt's family, that neither hurt nor help the picture.

Happily, the Alien vs. Predator movies are nowhere to be found in this collection.

Grades: Both versions of Alien and Aliens get an A; Alien 3 (theatrical) C+, (restored) B-; both versions of Alien Resurrection C+.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A treasure trove of extras. Each film comes with commentaries (the Aliens one featuring Bill Paxton is the best) and deleted scenes. Then you get a disc chock-full of documentaries dedicated to each movie. They are reconfigured versions of the documentaries that were included on the DVD release, with "Enhancement Pods" adding a lot more material. You also get another disc full of features along with each film, like artwork, additional deleted scenes and more. Many, many hours of excellent viewing time can be spent with this one.

The best of the features would be the documentary covering the hell that was the Alien 3 production. I knew the production was a legendary mess, but I didn't know that Fincher, making his feature debut, had no script. There's a remarkable moment when the director blatantly calls Fox execs morons—into a microphone, on the set—for everybody to hear.

Also surprising is deleted footage of Paul Reiser's villain from Aliens in an alien cocoon, begging Ripley for assistance. She gives him a grenade and leaves him to die. I can understand why Cameron took this out: Reiser's character would've blown them both up had he been given a grenade.

Predators (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

After the Alien vs. Predator movies bombed, producer Robert Rodriguez became involved with the dreadlocked bad boys. The result, directed by Nimród Antal (funniest name ever), is a near-miss, but it does qualify as the best Predator movie since the Schwarzenegger original.

A bunch of killers, including Adrien Brody and Danny Trejo, are dropped on a mysterious planet where they are hunted by the title monsters. The Predators look great, and some of the action scenes have a lot of pop. But the film ultimately feels incomplete, and is partially ruined by a goofy performance by Laurence Fishburne.

Still, this is a step in the right direction, and the future is promising.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Rodriguez and Antal provide a commentary, and you get deleted and extended scenes. You also get some prequel motion comics and a feature on the rebirth of the franchise.

You Don't Know Jack





(OUT OF 10)

Al Pacino should just keep making HBO movies and miniseries, because this contains his best work since his turn as Roy Cohn in the network's Angels in America. He provides a dead-on and often surprisingly funny portrayal of Jack Kevorkian, aka Dr. Death. He won an Emmy for the portrayal, and he deserved it.

He's not alone in turning in an excellent performance. John Goodman, Brenda Vaccaro and Susan Sarandon are all great in supporting roles, and director Barry Levinson hasn't made a movie this good in many years. Actually, he hasn't really made anything worth watching since Sleeper in '96, so maybe he should stick with HBO, too.

The film inserts Pacino into archival footage, but it doesn't have that cheap, comical, Forrest Gump feel, because Pacino sells it.

Levinson and Pacino didn't make a film that unabashedly supports Kevorkian's views. In fact, they go to great lengths to capture what a peculiar man he can be.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The only special feature is a small behind-the-scenes documentary that features a couple of funny quips from Kevorkian himself.


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