Reviews of Region 2 discs from Ultimate DVD #04

Eyes Wide ShutThe Little MermaidGroundhog Day

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EYES WIDE SHUT • Back to top Rated: 18
Kubrick’s parting shot is film-making of a high calibre

The Movie

The good news: Eyes Wide Shut is very much a Stanley Kubrick film. The bad news: Eyes Wide Shut is very much a Stanley Kubrick film. Whether you love it or loathe it should depend on which side of the fence you stand concerning this most singular of modern film-makers.

Certainly the casting of Cruise and Kidman ensures the largest possible audience, while running the risk that the movie could meet with disdain from those expecting the usual multiplex fare and a glimpse of Hollywood’s finest dancing the mattress jig. What you get is a very subtle, restrained and slow burning tale of a socialite couple in New York, William and Alice Harford, whose everyday lives have been tainted by sexual fantasies and jealousy.

Very gradually Eyes Wide Shut grows into something more: a suspenseful conspiracy thriller which ultimately contains numerous red herrings, before finally becoming something substantially less.

Ultimately the narrative is self-defeating, but Eyes Wide Shut isn’t really about story. It’s more about atmospheres and style, lighting, colour, photography and performance, as Kubrick ensures his final masterpiece (which took a staggering 18 months to shoot) really is an impeccable work of art.

Some might despair at the unhurried pace and lengthy duration but be assured: 4 stars - Damn Good Discit’s hard to avert your eyes.

The Extras

“It’s not anamorphic widescreen!” I hear you cry. Fear not: an on-screen caption insists that, ‘This feature is presented in the full aspect ratio of the original camera negative, as Stanley Kubrick intended’. And Warners have obviously taken the greatest care in ensuring the best transfer possible; this is certainly far superior to the grainy print this reviewer saw at the cinema.

Thankfully, it’s also lifted from the UK theatrical version, and not an imported American edit that suffered drastic tampering to pacify censors. In this case, Region 2 wins over Region 1 by including the full explicit orgy scene.

Kubrick’s sexiest, sultriest shots are lined up for the menu screen, accompanied by Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing by Chris Isaak. We get the added value of three separate interview options: Tom Cruise (8 mins), Nicole Kidman (an unedited – and impressive – 17 mins) and Steven Spielberg (7 mins).

All discuss their relationship with Kubrick, while the two actors concentrate on the difficulties of the production, the lengthy shoot, their huge admiration for the man and their feelings over his death. By the end, both break down in tears. Judge for yourself the sincerity of 3 stars - Worth a Watchthe emotions on display.

David Richardson

Credits
Eyes Wide Shut - Buy this at Black Star

Cast • Tom Cruise
Nicole Kidman
Sydney Pollack
Director • Stanley Kubrick
Duration • 152 mins
Screen Ratio • 1.33:1
Anamorphic • No
Audio • Dolby 5.1
Chapters • 38
Languages • English
Subtitles • English, Arabic, Romanian, English for Hearing Impaired
Release Date • April 3
Distributor • Warner

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Highlight

Chapter 18 Are we watching a bizarre fantasy? A weird horror film? Eyes Wide Shut shifts gear as William attends a ritualistic orgy.

 

Also in this issue: Nicole Kidman talks about Eyes Wide Shut and more - plus DVD biographies for both her and husband Tom Cruise

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
from Ultimate DVD #04

THE LITTLE MERMAID • Back to top Rated: U

At last – the unmistakable Disney magic goes digital

The Movie

After a succession of rather disappointing Disney features, The Little Mermaid redefined the studio’s animation as a force to be reckoned with. Packed with adventure, excitement and plenty of magnificent Broadway-standard show tunes, the movie set a standard that later entries in the Disney canon would continue to live up to.

It’s a very simple fairy tale: mermaid Ariel, daughter of King Titan, is bored with her undersea home and fascinated by the world above. Saving the handsome Prince Eric from drowning, she falls in love and longs to be with him – rashly striking a deal with the demonic Ursula, a creature who is half-octopus, half Pat Butcher from EastEnders. Ariel’s tail is transformed into legs – but she loses her voice. And unless the Prince falls in love with her within three days, she will become the tortured property of Ursula.

The Little Mermaid doesn’t put a fin wrong: the cheeky humour works every time, the ‘choreography’ and shooting are radiant and it’s got the best comedy fish butchering scene in the history of 5 stars - Digital Dynamitecinema. Immerse yourself.

The Extras

A decidedly fishy lack of extra features, although the 1.66:1 picture is terrific, and the Dolby 5.1 sound comes into its own during some dynamic 0 stars - Extras-free zonespecial effects sequences.

David Richardson

Credits
The Little Mermaid - Buy this at Black Star

Cast • Rene Auberjonois
Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll
Directors • John Musker
Ron Clements
Duration • 79 mins
Screen Ratio • 1.66:1
Anamorphic • No
Audio • Dolby 5.1
Chapters • 27
Languages • English, French, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Czech, Hebrew, Greek
Subtitles • English, Dutch, Greek, Icelandic, English for hearing impaired
Release Date • March 27
Distributor • Disney

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Highlight

Chapter 15 – “Poor Unfortunate Souls”
It’s showtime, as Ariel sells her soul to the undersea devil.

Also in this issue, from the Disney Collection: 101 Dalmatians • Hercules • Pinocchio reviewed - more to come in Issue #05...

from Ultimate DVD #04

GROUNDHOG DAY • Back to top Rated: PG

The Movie

It’s something of a critical cliché to call a movie ‘Capra-esque’, but in the case of Groundhog Day the cap fits. Like It’s a Wonderful Life before it, this is a film about self-discovery, as cynical, disagreeable TV weatherman Phil Connors (Murray) is forced to re-live the Groundhog festival day in Punxsutawney over and over again.

It’s a tribute to the talents of co-writer and director Ramis that a studio ever backed this project. After all, Groundhog Day re-sets itself a mammoth 35 times, yet Ramis always finds new directions, variations and camera angles, while the economic duration ensures the film never outstays its welcome.

Frustrating, exhilarating and at times devastating, Groundhog Day is a truly beautiful film, which by the final reel has changed Phil Connors into a kinder, gentler person – no older, but wiser.

The message is simple: life is what you make it. 5 stars - Digital DynamiteSeize the day.

The Extras

Just a very concise and accurate trailer, plus filmographies that include birth dates, real names and awards. It has to be said, after years on VHS Groundhog Day is absolutely reborn as an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. 2 stars - Disappointingand the trailer (1.85:1).

David Richardson

Credits
Groundhog Day - Buy this at Black Star

Cast • Bill Murray
Andie MacDowell
Director • Harold Ramis
Duration • 97 mins
Screen Ratio • 1.85:1
Anamorphic • Yes
Audio • Dolby Surround
Chapters • 33
Languages • English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles • English, French, German, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Hindi, Turkish, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian
Release Date • March 20
Distributor • Columbia Tristar

Highlight

Chapter 18 – Perfect Guy
Murray and MacDowell at their best, as Phil uses the benefit of hindsight to try and woo Rita – over and over again….

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from Ultimate DVD #04

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