The Good Life

Thursday, September 25, 2008

DVD Spotlight: Special Edition Edition

By R. Kurt Osenlund, film critic and correspondent

It's happened to me dozens of times: you buy your favorite flick on DVD and then, a few months later, the studios release a much flashier, double-disc, special feature-loaded collector's version, making yours look like yesterday's goods. Both versions feature the same film, of course, but the new one has full-length commentary with the cast and an in-depth documentary on disc two, while all yours boasts is widescreen format and one lousy theatrical trailer.

Studios pump out these revamped special editions to, obviously, make more buck on a film that's already seen successful theatrical and home video runs and, also, to appeal to hardcore collectors who may just spring and buy the new version in addition to the old. (These distributors love anniversaries -- there might be a version of "Lawrence of Arabia for every birthday it's had since DVD became the standard format.)

And then there are those lucky few who happen to have abstained from purchasing their favorite movies up until the opportune time when it gets the special edition treatment. These folks - whom I like to call "waiters" - probably have a pristine DVD library filled with as much supplemental material as actual feature films. Lucky for them, some recently-upgraded favorites have just hit the shelves.

Curtis Hanson's "Chinatown" throwback earned raves from critics the year of its release and landed Kim Basinger a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as a depressed hooker. The all-star cast also features Danny Devito, David Strathairn, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, and early turns from Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. The new edition comes with a photo gallery, cast interviews, interviews with Hanson, Hanson's commentary, and a number of featurettes on the production.

TWISTER (1996)
After throwing Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock on a bomb-strapped bus in "Speed," director Jan De Bont threw Helen Hunt and Bill Baxton in the path of a handful of destructive tornadoes in this effects-filled blockbuster. "Twister" has its share of absurdities and low points but its innovative FX - revolutionary in the depiction of natural disasters on celluloid - leaves it spinning in the mind. The two-disc special edition includes behind-the-scenes footage, commentary from De Bont, and a music video by Van Halen for their "Twister"-inspired track, "Humans Being."

Disney is often the exception in the home video/DVD arena, since they only offer their classic titles for a short time before taking them off the market and placing them "back in the Disney vault." So, the one-year-too-soon 50th Anniversary cut of this snoozing princess tale is becoming available to everyone - collectors, waiters, and common folk alike - at the same time, for a short time, on Oct. 7. This Platinum Edition features a short film, interactive games, photo galleries, and additional featurettes.

All DVDs can be ordered at


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