The “Indiana Jones” trilogy was meant to have the look and feel of an old-time Saturday afternoon serial, yet it’s a bit tough to pull that off when each one is a self-contained movie and the trio is spread out over about eight years. Expecting fans to wait three to five years for the next installment is a lot to ask. Nobody can hang onto a cliff that long.
So now Lucasfilm and Paramount have put together the ultimate boxed set for people who still have a dusty, beat-up fedora and a bullwhip hanging in their bedrooms and who aren’t willing to wait for an Indy retrospective to screen down at the Bijou. The three movies — “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” — epitomize escapist entertainment in the most positive way. They’re light-hearted and filled with action, and the story moves like that boulder that chases after Indy in the first film.
As in most cases of sequelitis, the original remains the best of the trilogy. It is fresh, original, fun and filled with magic moments. Remember when Indy pulls out his gun and plugs the big sword-wielding bad guy? It still gets a laugh, even after 22 years or so, even if you know it’s coming.
While “Temple of Doom” isn’t bad, “The Last Crusade” with co-star Sean Connery is almost as delightful as the first film. Connery plays Professor Henry Jones Sr., Indy’s pop, and the exchanges between the two are priceless.
The DVD package has all three pictures in widescreen format, digitally restored and remastered frame by frame. But the best part of the collection is a fourth disk with bonus material, including extensive chats with director Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas, writer Lawrence Kasdan and star Harrison Ford. It’s a blast to hear how the projects came about piece by piece, and how certain elements were carefully planned while others were happy accidents.
In all, there are about three hours worth of extras, including featurettes on the stunts, sound and music of “Indiana Jones” as well as the original trailers.
These movies spawned a lot of imitators, but there’s nothing like “Raiders” and its two siblings as popcorn movies for the ages.
Check out this special feature: The jewel of the bonus material is a feature-length documentary called “Indiana Jones: Making the Trilogy” that takes you behind the scenes for all three movies. The screen test of Tom Selleck, who was the first choice for Indy, along with Sean Young is a real hoot.
‘28 Days Later,’
Widescreen special edition
You don’t have to have a passion for horror to appreciate “28 Days Later,” but a strong stomach would help. There are rage-filled zombies in this terrific Danny Boyle-directed thriller who cruise the streets of London and the surrounding areas looking to convert fellow humans. They’re a little like lobbyists on Capitol Hill, only not quite as vicious.
Actually, the zombies are the way they are because of a deadly virus that breaks out when a few experimental monkeys are released from their laboratory cages. A plague wreaks havoc on the city of London, and a few lucky ones are left alive to fight off the blood-thirsty undead while trying to figure out how far the outbreak has spread, and how they might go about resuscitating the human race.
Most horror films are derivative and predictable. This one is a rare treat, done with intelligence and with a social conscience. The actors are probably ones you haven’t heard of, save for Brendan Gleeson, an Irish thespian who carried a great little indie called “The General” and was also prominent in “Gangs of New York.” An actor named Cillian Murphy plays the lead in “28 Days Later,” and judging by his performance, you’ll be hearing more from him. Take special note of the shots of Murphy wandering aimless and confused through the deserted London streets.
Boyle (“Trainspotting”) received tidal waves of kudos for this eerie and realistic fright fest when it hit theaters earlier this year, but he did take a few lumps for the ending in some quarters. To address that on the DVD, viewers get their choice among three alternate endings. I won’t give away the original ending, and I won’t give away the alternates. I’ll just say that there are many ways to go in a typical movie, and I appreciate any disk that gives me a choice.
There are also other tasty tidbits, like an entertaining audio commentary by Boyle and writer Alex Garland, deleted scenes and animated storyboards.
Check out this special feature: “Pure Rage: The Making of ’28 Days Later’” is almost as frightening as the movie itself. It describes the consequences to the population and the environment of a real viral outbreak. Stylistically shot, it is told with the tone of a PBS “Frontline” documentary, mixing scientists and experts with the director and cast members. It beats the heck out of most such featurettes, and I wouldn’t mind an outbreak of more extras like this one.
The complete fourth season
After four seasons of “The Sopranos,” the most surprising aspect of this magnificent show is how many of the regular characters are still above ground. Occasionally you’ll see somebody like Big Pussy Bonpensiero or Jackie Aprile Jr. take an unexpected dirt nap, but for the most part, the survival rate is unusually high.
In the fourth season, the highlight happens to be the exit of one fairly popular character, although I won’t reveal which if there are any nuts out there who don’t know the show and are waiting to watch every episode on DVD in sequence while snacking on a plate of fried calamari.
“The Complete Fourth Season” is not much different from the DVD sets of the previous three, which is, for the most part, great news. The highlights of this series are the writing, direction and acting. “Sopranos” enthusiasts don’t buy these boxed sets for the production stills or the behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Christopher gets into a little trouble with heroin. Tony has a romance with a horse, albeit a chaste one. Carmela and Furio flirt with disaster. Adriana is betrayed by a friend. All in all, the fourth season is as melodramatic as ever, but has enough character nuance to make it rise above the rest of the slop on the small screen.
This DVD package is a little chintzy on extras. There are recaps of the first three seasons, episodic previews and recaps, and cast and crew biographies. Also, there are four audio commentaries with writers Terence Winter, Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess, Michael Imperioli (who plays Chris) and series creator David Chase.
While it would have been nice to have more outtakes, deleted scenes, making-of stuff, etc., this is, after all, the fourth season, and fans have already feasted on the first three main courses and are no longer as preoccupied with nibbling on the antipasta.
Check out this special feature: The most interesting of the commentaries is on Episode 9, entitled, “Whoever Did This,” with Green and Burgess. This is the episode where one of the characters loses his head. Really. And Green and Burgess offer their thoughts on how the event was orchestrated, and how the actors approached their characters in the key scene.