DVD & Video File (Starburst Reviews) DVD File and VideoFile by Ian Atkins
From Starburst's monthly Reviews section
selected from Starburst #267

Selected this month:
Mystery Men and The Haunting on VHS, plus a superb collectors' twinset of Jurassic Park

In every issue of Starburst – a major Reviews section of the latest sci-fi and fantasy media, including:

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Home entertainment releases reviewed in Starburst's Videofile and DVD File, every month – with a score of videos and DVDs to rent or buy!

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Mystery Men
30 October • Cert PG • PAL VHS
Universal Pictures

Mystery Men - order it from BlackStar

Order it from Black Star today!

If Batman Smells, Here’s The Deodorant

Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, William H Macy, Jeanine Garofalo

There are always one or two films a year that never reach the audience they deserve, often dismissed as one joke comedies which nonetheless makes them a power to be reckoned with if that one joke is actually funny.

Mystery Men is such a film: the one joke here is that the main cast are all superheroes who aren’t actually all that super, from Ben Stiller’s Mr Furious who just gets cross a lot, to William H Macy’s The Shoveller who... um... hits people with a big spade. But the genre supports this comedy, showing that it’s possible to laugh with Lycra-clad heroes rather than at them (Superman IV anyone?), and with a multi-coloured showdown against Geoffrey Rush’s lunatic supervillain and disco henchmen (including recent awards hero Emmy Izzard) it actually comes across as far more convincing than most of Joel Schumacher’s efforts in the field. A strong concept, superb cast and brilliant performances: well, what are you waiting for?

Starburst rating: 9

Jurassic Park / The Lost World Collectors' Edition
DVD R2 • Cert PG • Columbia Tristar Home Video
Screen Format: 1.85:1 • Out October 10

Jurassic Park on DVD - order from BlackStar today!

Order it from Black Star today!

And You Think Dolly The Sheep Presents Problems...

It’s no surprise that the most recent advance in cinematic techniques came through the work of one of the industry’s most influential and creative figures, namely Steven Spielberg. 1993’s Jurassic Park showed, post T2, what CGI could be used for, but also – and this is the point many filmmakers have since missed – how it could be used.

A team of scientists are invited to an island where proud John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough) is showing off his pet project: dinosaurs recreated thanks to some mosquito-recovered DNA. But thanks to some industrial espionage things soon go wrong, setting the lethal (and hungry) monsters loose, and leaving dino-expert Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to try and get them off the island alive.

Although the film starts slowly (it’s nearly an hour before the dinosaurs really arrive) the time is used to believably set-up the situation and characters, so that when all hell breaks loose, you’re right in there with it. From the water-shaking arrival of the T-Rex onwards, it becomes an unremitting action movie but with people you care about, and it deserves to be regarded as one of the best films of the last 10 years.

Not so its follow-up, The Lost World, available only through a second disc in this collection (so we hope you didn’t have plans to just buy Lost World on its own). While not a particularly bad film, it’s not actually that good, sacrificing most of its predecessor’s credibility (especially with its T-Rex-in-town finale) and three-dimensional characters for the identity of an action film; albeit a sporadic one.

Following the disaster in the first film, Hammond needs someone to visit the island where Jurassic Park’s monsters were originally bred. But as Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, as baffled at his action hero status as the rest of us) and colleagues head there, an industrial concern sends game-hunters, intent on creating a mainland amusement park. Needless to say things soon go bad and both parties are pitched together in a battle for survival against some very savage dinosaurs indeed.

It was going to be difficult to improve upon – or even live up to – the first film, and almost everything here feels exaggerated and overblown, with almost too many dinosaurs on show, definitely too many people, and action sequences (most notably in a trailer on a cliff-edge) stretched beyond endurance. While the visuals are always superb, CGI creations convincing, and Goldblum and co-star Julianne Moore do their best, this gets some points for effort. Sadly you need originality too, which this film can only rarely be accused of.

Starburst Rating (Jurassic Park) 10
Starburst Rating (The Lost World) 5

The Extras

The Jurassic Park disc, while providing some of the expected extras (a 50-minute making-of documentary, trailers, hundreds of production and development stills), really welcomes those who want to know a lot more about the production of this landmark movie. Most notably there’s a collection of test footage sequences using the animation technique Spielberg originally intended to create the dinosaurs with before discovering what CGI could be made capable of: the original kitchen sequence in particular is fascinating to watch. Also on board are clips from early production meetings plus the more usual notes on cast and crew and production.

The Lost World offers a similarly-detailed investigation into the production process, including two justifiably deleted sequences: a slow-paced boardroom scene, and hunter Pete Postlethwaite getting to smack a boorish tourist around. Again there are vast numbers of photos and drawings, plus storyboards for some of the film’s more notable scenes. The documentary this time is 53-minutes long, and accompanies some DVD ROM features, more trailers, and a look at the impressive work of Industrial Light & Magic.

Starburst rating: 10

The Haunting
23 October • Cert 12 • PAL VHS • Universal Pictures Video

The Haunting - buy it from Blackstar. Or not.

Order it from Black Star today

Scarier Than Scooby Doo. Oh No, Actually, It Isn’t

Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta Jones

It’s a good thing a film this bad only comes along rarely, as more than one a year would probably make you lose the will to live. A poor second in last year’s cinematic battle of the haunted houses, this tells the story of Liam Neeson’s fear-researcher bringing together four insomniacs (the only people guaranteed not to fall asleep during this travesty) in a house where he intends to see if they’re susceptible to tales of ghostly phenomena which are, of course, all rot.

But after over an hour of wandering around an overlit set, nothing really happens other than the FX budget goes up, until suddenly the film realises that ghosts are only scary when they’re threatening, and then it becomes a confused mass of running around and – yes – more special effects.

While fans of Shanghai Noon’s charismatic Owen Wilson might be pleased to see him here in an earlier role, there’s little else to interest beyond Zeta Jones’ dominating bi-sexual, and wondering what the bloody hell happened to director Jan De Bont after doing cinematography on Die Hard and helming Speed. That he’s working in the wrong area here is firmly evidenced by the most tense sequence being Neeson trapped on a collapsing stairwell: the only force at work is gravity, and that’s always been more the province of action movies rather than Horror.

While the film might be very rightly regarded as an FX-fest, the CGI is almost entirely of that smooth, melting-chocolate quality and is rarely even remotely convincing. Instead, it generates the idle fascination of a computer demonstration which might get you saying ‘ooh that’s clever’, but where the only thing actually scary about it is the money they’ve spent. This film tries desperately hard to get a reaction on so many levels, but it’s as leaden and obvious as the metalwork crowding the house, and the only thing it ultimately achieved was to help Liam Neeson decide to retire. You really can’t blame him.

Starburst rating: 1

Reviews © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction