UltimateDisney.com Presents: May 2006 DVD Roundup

The six subjects of this, our third and latest roundup of DVDs from other branches of the Walt Disney Company, all were issued over the last six weeks. Most recently released (re-released, that is) and covered first are three action flicks from the 1990s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. In theaters, each was rated R and grossed either just below or above $100 million domestically. Now, Enemy of the State, Con Air, and Crimson Tide are treated to silverish slipcovers via modestly-priced unrated extended editions, with each cut running about seven minutes longer than the theatrical counterpart. Also critiqued here are Everything You Want and Shadows in the Sun, two independent films that ended up on ABC Family, and Deep Blue, a BBC/Miramax documentary of aquatic life which is touted as something for penguins fans but stands up as a more vast observation of ocean creatures.

Enemy of the State: Special Edition | Con Air: Unrated Extended Edition
Crimson Tide: Unrated Extended Edition | Deep Blue
Everything You Want | Shadows in the Sun

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Enemy of the State (Special Edition)
139 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut: R) / Theatrical Release Date: November 20, 1998
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Will Smith (Robert Clayton Dean), Gene Hackman (Edward "Brill" Lyle), Jon Voight (Thomas Brian Reynolds), Regina King (Carla Dean), Loren Dean (Hicks), Jake Busey (Krug), Barry Pepper (Pratt), Jason Lee (Daniel Zavitz), Gabriel Byrne ("Brill"), Lisa Bonet (Rachel Banks), Jack Black (Fiedler), Jamie Kennedy (Jamie), Scott Caan (Jones), Tom Sizemore (Paulie Pintero, uncredited), Seth Green (Selby, uncredited), Jason Robards (Congressman Hammersley, uncredited), Philip Baker Hall (Mark Silverberg, uncredited)
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 / DVD Release Date: May 16, 2006 / Black Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Glory Road, Annapolis, "Grey's Anatomy": Season One, Crimson Tide: Extended Edition, Con Air

Two Jerry Bruckheimer-produced, Touchstone Pictures-distributed movies reached theaters in 1998. Despite a cool reaction from critics, the first -- Armageddon -- brought people to theaters in droves. Bolstered by wide promotion and a prime Fourth of July week opening, the disaster flick would gross just over $200 million domestically and over half a billion dollars with international cinemas considered. The second was Enemy of the State, which claimed another traditionally lucrative holiday weekend (Thanksgiving) for its start on its way to a potent $111 million in North American theaters. While, true to the producer's unmistakable tastes, both dabbled with highly-stylized appearances and belief-testing plots, Enemy was the grittier (boasting an R rating) and also the preferred flick of critics.

A high-tech conspiracy thriller with a large recognizable cast, Enemy quite literally centers on Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith, who in two years had gone from star of the goofy NBC sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to certifiable summer blockbuster leading man), a successful lawyer with a wife (Regina King) and young son. While picking out a Christmas gift for his wife, he briefly interacts with an old college classmate (Jason Lee, now the star of an NBC comedy of his own). Unbeknownst to Dean, this short reunion puts him in possession of a tape which captures the murder (not suicide, as was reported) of a U.S. congressman (an uncredited Jason Robards). Dean's acquisition -- or believed acquisition (he's not aware of having received anything) -- makes him the clear target of those responsible for the murder. This group, which is headed by a seemingly collected official in the National Security Agency (Jon Voight), strives to disrupt Dean's life in every way possible.

In "Enemy of the State", Will Smith plays Robert Dean, a successful lawyer whose life gets flipped, turned upside down. Jon Voight is a veteran NSA official who is intent on Congress passing a security telecommunications act. Gene Hackman portrays the paranoid Brill, a man with unquestionable expertise but unclear motives.

The subject of intense discrediting tactics, Dean soon finds his credit cards cancelled, his wife suspicious of his business doings with an ex-girlfriend/recent affair (Lisa Bonet, of "The Cosby Show"), and himself out of a job. Not only that,
but his every move is being tracked by the NSA official and a devoted band of extremely well-equipped operatives who are set on finding and destroying the family man lawyer. Dean only finds aid reluctantly from Brill (Gene Hackman), a former NSA employee who is paranoid enough to foresee such a complicated scenario and respond accordingly.

Adrenaline runs high in this cleverly-constructed, thoroughly enveloping action flick in which no shot lasts longer than a few seconds. A few plot holes stem out of seeming logic gaps and the ending is both unsatisfying and overly violent, but overall, this is the best of the adult-oriented Bruckheimer films I have come across. The unsettling premise offers a sufficient "grab" and it's fascinating how easy it is to concede to each improbable tap into a person's security web; everything is sort of believable while at the same time not. In any event, there's enough running around to avoid lingering questions forming in the audience and the passing of eight years (with them, privacy-jeopardizing anti-terrorism activity) definitely doesn't make Enemy seem any less realistic. While the proceedings are far from flawless (the repeated attempts to inject a little comedy into the tension mostly fail, for instance), the missteps are forgivable and usually contribute to an element of humanity that's necessary to keep this fast-moving film palpable. As should be obvious to anyone properly schooled on '70s cinema, Hackman's character seems very much a callback (or caul-back, if you will) to the actor's protagonist in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, a film which this aspires to (down to the contrasting Christmas setting) while employing a much different set of stylistic tools.

Seven years after it first came to DVD, Enemy gets revisited in this Special Edition. The film itself is treated to an unrated extended cut, which runs 8 minutes longer than the theatrical version. Having only seen the film once prior (and several years ago), I couldn't spot what is new here, though a few racy exchanges seemed suspect. Like another recently re-released Bruckheimer production and the two this arrives alongside, Enemy loses points for not offering its original theatrical cut via branching. At 139 minutes, this pushes the limits of the genre and whatever minor changes there are don't appear to have any effect on the whole. One wonders if the theatrical cut might not resurface anytime soon. Points are gained however for the film being enhanced for 16x9 televisions, something that wasn't done last time around. While both the old and new disc's transfers are free of major flaws, widescreen TV owners should appreciate the added resolution. The lone audio track offered (Dolby 5.1) is active and involving, with plenty of sound field exploration and a solid presentation of the heavy Trevor Rabin/Harry Gregson-Williams score.

These two fellows tell you what from the movie is real in "The Making of 'Enemy of the State'." "All Access: 'The Showdown'" takes you behind-the-scenes of the bloodbath ending. The animated Main Menu employs high-tech surveillance imagery.

In the bonus features arena, there are two brief deleted scenes (2:47), which lack explanatory intros but are not befuddling without context as they are both extensions of sorts. The key new supplement, "The Making of Enemy of the State" (29:10) is a fine general documentary, which covers the filming in some detail, thanks primarily to interviews with Bruckheimer, Smith, Hackman, and director Tony Scott. While it can't stand-in for the non-existent commentary, it does hit most of the bases, from the production's demands (the building blow-up is witnessed from several angles) to the movie's goals (like re-educating people that typical agency employees are really in their mid-20s and aspiring to be like some of Bruckheimer's favorite films). It also succeeds at instilling paranoia in the viewer, as the technical advisors (former NSA workers) reveal just how much realism there is to the film's technological wizardry. "All Access: 'The Showdown'" (13:20) is like the fly-on-the-set featurettes found on the Pirates of the Caribbean DVDs: "B" roll footage shows a few takes from the film's climax and the moments leading up to them. Whether you dig the brief glimpse of Will Smith clowning around, the efforts taken to make the fake gunfire and blood packs seem as real as possible, or merely seeing the setup in a more clear (and less cinematic fashion), the effect is like being on the set, which makes this a refreshing alternative to "talking heads." Finally, there is the film's theatrical trailer (2:30), a nice and surprising inclusion. This is the only bonus retained from the original DVD; trailers for The Rock and Armageddon have been dropped as have two brief 3-minute featurettes ("production" and "filmmakers") which are probably rendered superfluous and lacking by the new featurette here.

While this is not much of a Special Edition, it's definitely an improvement over the last non-anamorphic release based on the worthwhile supplements and 16x9 enhancement. Like most extended cuts, the elongated version is not noticeably different from the theatrical cut and definitely not an improvement, but as long as consumers' supposed preference for alternate cuts and the producer/his posse have more say in Bruckheimer films than you and I, there's not much that can be done in that regard.

UD Rating: Ύ out of 5

Buy Enemy of the State: Unrated Extended Special Edition DVD from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (3-Disc Gift Set) • Holes • The Incredibles
National Treasure • King Arthur (Director's Cut) • Remember the Titans (Director's Cut)


Con Air (Unrated Extended Edition)
122 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut: R) / Theatrical Release Date: June 6, 1997
Director: Simon West
Cast: Nicolas Cage (Cameron Poe), John Cusack (U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin), John Malkovich (Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom), Ving Rhames (Nathan "Diamond Dog" Jones), Nick Chinlund (William "Billy Bedlam" Bedford), Steve Buscemi (Garland "The Marietta Mangler" Greene), Colm Meaney (DEA Agent Duncan Malloy), Rachel Ticotin (Guard Sally Bishop), Dave Chappelle (Joe "Pinball" Parker), Mykelti Williamson (Mike "Baby-O" O'Dell), Danny Trejo (Johnny "Johnny-23" Baca), M.C. Gainey (Swamp Thing), Steve Eastin (Guard Falzon), Renoly Santiago (Ramon Martinez), Monica Potter (Tricia Poe), Landry Allbright (Casey Poe)
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 / DVD Release Date: May 16, 2006 / Black Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: Enemy of the State: Special Edition, Crimson Tide: Unrated Extended Edition, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Annapolis, Glory Road, "Grey's Anatomy": Season One

A man in the wrong place at the wrong time, Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) finds himself sentenced to nearly a decade in prison for involuntary manslaughter. The narrative jumps to the end of that sentence within a few minutes and finds an excited Poe parting with his life-saving prison buddy, Mike O'Dell (Mykelti Williamson), to meet his daughter for the first time. He's catching a ride to freedom on a new military plane designed to transport the nation's vilest criminals to supermax prisons. This unfortunate arrangement is a little hard to swallow but it makes for one exciting ride when the convicts break loose while onboard and hijack the plane. U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) and DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney) are charged with restoring order from the ground while overcoming their personal oppositions to one another and Poe is their lone free ally on the plane. The narrative is an extremely simple one and the majority of the screentime is devoted to pure spectacle with all the bright flashiness that one would expect from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, whose status as an auteur outranks that of first-time director Simon West. That means there's not a lot of philosophic or artistic significance to the film, but that doesn't stop it being extremely entertaining, nor does the fairly weak dialogue or Cage's I'm-not-buying-it accent. John Cusack, John Malkovich, and Colm Meaney stand out among this all-star cast.

Poe's in control. John Cusack, world-class super sleuth. "Con Air"'s animated 16x9 menu cycles through various scenes and montages from the film.

Video and audio quality on the disc are terrific. Some very minor edge enhancement does show up, but the anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer is otherwise pleasing in every regard. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is dynamic, engulfing, and filled with bass. Unfortunately, there aren't any bonus features to accompany that fantastic treatment. Buena Vista's previous release at least included both a teaser and theatrical trailer (the latter is found on the concurrently-released new editions of Enemy of the State and Crimson Tide). This Unrated Extended Edition adds about seven minutes to the film, some of which is actually to the film's benefit, while other parts seem pointless or repetitive. Filled with graphic violence, the film was originally given a much-deserved R rating.

UD Rating: ½ out of 5

Buy Con Air: Unrated Extended Edition DVD from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: National Treasure • Hercules • The Journey of Natty Gann • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy • Lilo & Stitch
King Arthur (Director's Cut) • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (3-Disc Gift Set) • Remember the Titans (Director's Cut)


Crimson Tide (Unrated Extended Edition)

123 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut: R) / Theatrical Release Date: May 12, 1995
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington (Lt. Commander Ron Hunter), Gene Hackman (Capt. Frank Ramsey), Matt Craven (Lt. Roy Zimmer), George Dzundza (Chief of the Boat), Viggo Mortensen (Lt. Peter 'WEAPS' Ince), James Gandolfini (Lt. Bobby Dougherty), Rocky Carroll (Lt. Darik Westergard), Jaime Gomez (Officer Mahoney), Michael Milhoan (Chief Hunsicker), Scott Burkholder (T.S.O. Billy Linkletter), Danny Nucci (Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti), Lillo Brancato (Petty Officer Third Class Russell Vossler), Eric Bruskotter (Bennefield), Rick Schroder (Lt. Paul Hellerman), Steve Zahn (William Barnes)
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 / DVD Release Date: May 16, 2006 / Black Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Remember the Titans: Director's Cut, Glory Road, Eight Below

On the frontlines of a US showdown with Russia, Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) of the USS Alabama submarine is faced with orders to deploy nuclear missiles. The clarity of procedure and chain of command that are so imperative to military operations are made murky when the sub receives a truncated message that Ramsey's executive officer, Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington), insists must be followed up on before moving ahead with the attack. Protocol suggests that a truncated message is an invalid one, leading Ramsey to ignore Hunter, who then orders the relief of Ramsey's command in an effective mutiny. The conflict between the two ranking officers drives the narrative, which also gives attention to outside threats that include enemy fire and technical problems onboard. Crimson Tide takes a while to get going, but the patient will be rewarded as its engagement with a crisis of judgment and use of suspense toward the end actually turn out to be compelling. Bruckheimer's typically flashy style is a little more subdued here, but this is still very much an action film with a dramatic core. Ever the overactor, Washington annoys in parts but like the rest of the cast, capably commands his role overall.

Ramsey (Gene Hackman) confronts Hunter (Denzel Washington). Denzel Washington discusses his character in the disc's making-of featurette. The animated 16x9 menu looks a lot like the DVD cover of "Crimson Tide"'s previous DVD release.

Video quality leaves little room for complaint: mild edge enhancement and slight softness will be observed by only the pickiest viewers. For the most part, the anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer looks great and the dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track sounds even better. The platter of bonus features is a little light. An "All Access: On the Set of Crimson Tide" (10:18) featurette juggles humor with actual making-of footage and quickly wears thin while an interview-filled "Making of Crimson Tide" (19:56) provides a more valuable look at the insights of those involved with the filmmaking. There are also three deleted scenes that, while interesting to see, aren't anything special, likely explaining why they weren't edited back into this new extended cut. The inclusion of bonus features (and the new 16x9-enhanced transfer) makes this an upgrade from Crimson Tide's previous barebones release. The Unrated Extended Edition adds about nine minutes of previously unused material into the film that seems to neither add nor take away anything of great value. Unfortunately, the original theatrical cut is not included (nor is the theatrical trailer), two things that would have greatly enhanced the disc's value with little cost or effort (the trailer even appears on the concurrently-released Con-Air and Enemy of the State DVDs). The theatrical cut received an R rating and that's entirely adequate for this new cut as well.

UD Rating: ½ out of 5

Buy Crimson Tide: Unrated Extended Edition DVD from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Remember the Titans (Director's Cut) • Good Morning Vietnam (Special Edition) • The Boatniks
Scrubs: Season 2 • Chicken Little • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea • Cadet Kelly • King Arthur (Director's Cut)


Deep Blue
91 Minutes / Rating: G / Theatrical Release Date: June 3, 2005
Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Andy Byatt
Narrator: Pierce Brosnan / Tagline: Until Now We've Only Touched the Surface
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 / DVD Release Date: April 11, 2006 / Black Keepcase with Side Snaps / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: An Unfinished Life, MicroCosmos, anti-piracy

Whether oceanic life enters your thoughts on a regular basis or not, Miramax's Deep Blue is a documentary worth your time. It magnificently depicts animal activity in and around the globe's vast, salty chief landscape. Like most nature films, its greatest power lies in its impressive photography, which comes via slow motion, sped-up, and real-time footage. In fact, the visuals provide nearly all the film's power, as Pierce Brosnan's narration (which oddly replaces the Michael Gambon track heard elsewhere around the world) is sparse and rarely resonant. But even if Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, and National Geographic are a few of your favorite things, you can't help but be captivated and moved by what is recorded here. On display are crabs that roll tiny orbs of sand around the ocean shore, killer whales that toss seal pups around like juggler's balls, and, of course, Emperor Penguins sliding onto ice and communally fighting the cold. There are also hammerhead sharks, albatrosses, dolphins, mantra rays, jellyfish, and definition-eluding, electricity-producing creatures that reside in the dark, deep pockets. All this, plus a mighty polar bear getting wet while tormenting some disadvantaged beluga whales. The subjects are pieced together with fluidity and steadiness, with no species commanding more than a few minutes and no transition being too jarring. With a running time twice as long as an IMAX flick, Deep Blue does approach testing one's patience. But after a mildly sluggish start, things pick up and hold your attention with near-perfect consistency.

The march of the penguins, as seen in..."Deep Blue." This polar bear makes sure that the trapped beluga whales don't get too comfortable in their tiny unfrozen breathing space. Carrying a camera around a shark convention? This guy better be getting paid handsomely.

The DVD case boasts that this film comes "from the creators of the landmark BBC series 'The Blue Planet'." Not only is that true, but a significant amount of footage employed here was also a part of that miniseries, which aired earlier in the decade as eight 50-minute installments and has since been released to DVD in full by BBC Video. This fact makes Deep Blue something of a feature-length abbreviation of that BAFTA and Emmy-decorated program and perhaps redundant for those who already have the earlier box set. Curiously, despite the connection to that much-commended program, Deep Blue seems to be a hard sell. Just a few weeks before The March of the Penguins would open and become the surprise hit of the season, Deep Blue was relegated to a release which, at its widest, encompassed just five theaters. The contrasting box office performances of those two documentaries explains why penguins, one of more than a dozen creatures depicted in Deep Blue, adorn the DVD cover for a film which is said to "follow in the tracks of" that successful other movie. While such a tactic may be questioned, on its own merits, Deep Blue can't be. It is a focused and fantastically-photographed look at diverse life forms that too often are forgotten after childhood in favor of things that hardly seem so special in comparison. And unlike some IMAX films, this movie's splendid scenery does not leave one underwhelmed upon a standard sized television viewing.

With the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen feature presentation, the picture looks grainy at times, but considering the extreme elements, that's easily forgiven. More often, it dazzles with a sharp, detailed element delivering the remarkable appearances of living, breathing eye candy. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does a nice job of putting you amidst the various settings and succeeds in conveying George Fenton's thoughtful, compelling score. Though there is just one supplement to be found, it is "The Making of Deep Blue" (51:15), a documentary-behind-the-documentary that certainly bolsters this package. While hardly relying on talking heads, this comprehensive piece profiles the patient and daring filmmakers, recounts the challenges of the three-year filming process, underscores the importance of Fenton's work, and takes the viewer's breath away as "underwater cinematographers" elude close calls with a whale and in shark-filled waters. Perhaps this doc will give you second thoughts about becoming an ocean documentarian or confirm your life calling. Even if it does neither, it will still make you appreciate the film's potent imagery all the more. (Additional material presented on the film's comparably-priced two-disc 2004 United Kingdom Region 2 DVD release -- a 23-minute interview with Fenton, a nearly feature-length commentary by the directors, an isolated score-and-effects soundtrack, the theatrical trailer, and a photo gallery -- is sadly nowhere to be found here.)

Though given a G rating in the US, Deep Blue does contain some blood and doesn't fully shy away from the savage hunting that we don't often accredit sea creatures outside of sharks.

UD Rating: Ύ out of 5

Buy Deep Blue on DVD from Amazon.com

Buy Deep Blue (2-Disc Set) on Region 2 DVD from Amazon.co.uk

Related Reviews: Aliens of the Deep • Sacred Planet • Ghosts of the Abyss • America's Heart & Soul • Walt: The Man Behind the Myth
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy • Finding Nemo • Modern Marvels: Walt Disney World


Everything You Want
93 Minutes / Rating: TV-PG / Original Air Date: April 17, 2005
Director: Ryan Little
Cast: Shiri Appleby (Abby Morrison), Nick Zano (Quinn Andrews), Alexandria Holden (Jessica Lindstrom), Orlando Seale (Simon "Sy"), KC Clyde (Ryan Sanders), Scott Wilkinson (George Morrison), Edie McClurg (Mary Louise Morrison), Will Friedle (Calvin Dillwaller)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio); Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $29.99) / DVD Release Date: April 25, 2006 / White Keepcase / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Eight Below, Annapolis, Grey's Anatomy: Season One, anti-piracy, Glory Road, Shadows in the Sun/Everything You Want (hey, that DVD is already in), TV on DVD, "Gilmore Girls" on ABC Family

Everything You Want is an okay romantic comedy, so long as you don't demand the following things: originality, unpredictability, believability, and humor. This 2005 ABC Family movie focuses on Abby (Shiri Appleby of the WB's "Roswell"), a twentysomething art student/Borders employee who simply must decide between two promising men. One is her lifelong crush, a seemingly ideal British chap named Sy (Orlando Seale). The other is Quinn (Nick Zano), a slick classmate in need of a tutor. I guess "romcoms" aren't watched for their surprises, but there is hardly anything special or unexpected to distinguish this affair from others of its ilk. The one "twist" boasted on the front cover is plainly disclosed on the back and unsubtly hinted at early on in the film, though not revealed until a third of the way in. This "discovery", in fact, makes the central triangle all the more mindless and emphasizes that this production is most likely to win over adolescent girls, two of whom I suspect wrote the screenplay under their fathers' names. There is a simplistic understanding of young adult life, which makes gaps in logic and plot holes rather prevalent. How else to explain the ordinary collegians' sizable apartments or the fact that Thanksgiving preparations begin months in advance, during which there are numerous, enduring snowfalls?

The movie charts the central relationship from initial dislike to the obvious falling in love, with the who'd-have-seen-that-coming hitches along the way. To serve the requisite comedy, both Abby and Quinn have absent-minded roommates. Abby also has parents who are so bad they're supposed to be funny (one of whom is a slightly slimmed-down Edie McClurg), though the movie can't decide if they're absentee parents or quirky shut-ins. Nevertheless, there is not really a single laugh (though the aforementioned demographic might disagree), despite several earnest efforts by the usually hilarious Will Friedle (of "Boy Meets World" fame) as Quinn's odd, "challenged" confidant. There are, however, plenty of scenes set at Borders, which is displayed prominently enough to suspect considerable financial support from the bookstore chain, even though the portrayal of its managers is not remotely flattering. I suppose it's to the film's credit that its naοve, painfully unoriginal proceedings never become unbearable even in their most overdramatic moments. But that's as high a praise as can be offered for this straightforward romance.

At first, Abby and Quinn don't get along so well. There's no way they'll end up together! I'm pretty sure "Everything You Want" will be remembered as the first romantic comedy to take its leads to an ice skating rink! While his look doesn't scream "Eric Matthews", Will Friedle retains his most memorable character's goofy nature, even in the bonus featurette.

Picture quality is precisely what you'd expect from a recent television movie: perfection, in 4x3. Likewise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack really only explores the soundfield for the frequent summoning of female pop rock. Nonetheless, the light disc is nearly filled to dual-layer capacity, which yields a high bitrate and no audio/video shortcomings, even for something lacking the ambitions of a theatrical release. The disc also sports two bonus features, which both confirm that the movie was also framed for 16x9, making the fullscreen feature presentation somewhat of a short-sighted compromise. Seven "deleted/alternate scenes" fall more comfortably into the latter class; though they run eleven minutes long, the viewer is hard-pressed to notice what's different (usually just an additional line or two) and the lack of a "Play All" button is annoying. Most notable are "Meet the Morrisons", which more clearly explains the graves that figure largely late in the movie and poorly-titled "The Breakup", in which Appleby appears to improvise the rationale for being with Sy. The featurette "Behind the Scenes of Everything You Want" (11:28) feels geared towards someone who hasn't seen the movie and thus is promotional in nature. Its greatest surprise is that the movie is adapted from a stage play (they neglect to mention it was a Brigham Young University student production); otherwise, it's the cast and crew recapping/selling the movie, coupled with some movie clips and a bit of Will Friedle being goofy. Unsurprisingly, this piece makes the project seem far more important than the made-for-cable fluff that it is. The still menus are all accompanied by brief excerpts of the sampled pop songs infinitely looped, which make them more nerve-grating than most selection screens.

Those who found this standard ABC Family romcom worth seeing again will be put off by the high list price and perhaps the non-widescreen presentation. Everyone else, who won't care unless they're a sucker for the genre or the cast, can remain apathetic and skip this one.

UD Rating: out of 5

Related Reviews: Shopgirl • Boy Meets World: Season 1 • Boy Meets World: Season 2 • Boy Meets World: Season 3
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement • Felicity: Season 4 • Carolina • Popular: Season 2 • The Best of "Tokyo Pig"

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Shadows in the Sun
92 Minutes / Rating: TV-14 / Original Air Date: November 13, 2005
Director: Brad Mirman
Cast: Harvey Keitel (Weldon Parish), Joshua Jackson (Jeremy Taylor), Claire Forlani (Isabella Parish), Armando Pucci (Gustavo), Giancarlo Giannini (Father Moretti), Valeria Cavalli (Amalia), Bianca Guaccero (Maura Parish), Silvia De Santis (Dinnie Parish), John Rhys-Davies (Mr. Andrew Benton)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio); Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English); Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 / DVD Release Date: April 25, 2006 / Black Keepcase with Side Snaps / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: Sneak Peeks: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Eight Below, Annapolis, anti-piracy, Shadows in the Sun/Everything You Want, TV on DVD

Though its DVD was always promoted in tandem with Everything You Want, Shadows in the Sun gladly has little in common with that film beyond an ABC Family debut. Unfortunately, it also relies heavily on clichι and formula, albeit under a different set of circumstances. Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's Creek" and thrice a Mighty Duck) plays Jeremy Taylor, a book editor/agent from a London publishing company assigned to track down Weldon Parish, an American author who found tremendous success twenty years ago with something called The Shadow Dancer (the movie's working title). Since that book and the death of his wife, Parish (Harvey Keitel) has been leading a laid-back, writing-less lifestyle in a small Italian town. The movie clears its hurdles quickly: Parish goes from unfindable to contrivedly located in a matter of minutes, the transition from standoffish recluse to sage mentor takes only a bit longer. Then, it proceeds to drag on at a slow clip as its pieces fall into their familiar places.

The persistent young company man with a chip on his shoulder and permanent stubble on his face gradually begins to see eye-to-eye with the wild-haired short man content to lay aspirations aside for nights of wine, poker, and drunken bar singing. In fact, the two men, pure opposites in appearance and disposition, eventually discover they share a common foe (fear) as they contemplate writing their respective works, something Parish claims not to consider. Of course, Parish would happen to have a daughter of an age appropriate to be Taylor's love interest (Claire Forlani, putting on an Italian accent). He also has experience and insight that can open Taylor's eyes: the-standing-up-while-quickly-driving-a-convertible-and-proclaiming-"I feel alive!" scene feels obligatory, while the off-the-cuff-slug-to-the-gut is transparently set up to remove its spontaneity. Some of the exchanges approach cleverness, but with an air of triteness that the movie ignores; example: Parish pronounces "writing isn't supposed to easy" while providing a typewriter to replace Taylor's laptop.

The slick book agent (Joshua Jackson) and the wild ex-author (Harvey Keitel) walk through rural Tuscany. That's basically the movie in one frame! Jeremy (Jackson, but not Jeremy Jackson) and Isabella (Claire Forlani) share a moment. It'd probably look quite a bit better in widescreen. Joshua Jackson listens to writer/director/producer Brad Mirman in the making-of featurette. Both of these men have long free rein in the DVD's collection of interview segments.

Shot largely in the Tuscan countryside and with a predominantly Italian crew, Shadows seems clearly inspired by the local methods of filmmaking, which makes the stagnancy in the script by director/producer Brad Mirman all the more noticeable. The screenplay nevertheless makes decent use of archetypes and commonplace arcs, while providing plenty of time to marvel in the scenic locations. The inevitable happy ending may not be in tune with real world demands, but it's what those who stick with the film will want to see. While billed as something of a romantic comedy like Everything, this is much more a mentor/mentee male bonding drama, which those looking for something else might find a bit dull and those who aren't might consider retread ground. Two things are clear: the movie would have benefited from a more capable and likable leading man (Jackson's stiff acting, and reading-like delivery do hinder things) and this independent production clearly had goals beyond cable television (which explains what Keitel, John-Rhys Davies, and Giancarlo Giannini are doing on ABC Family).

Picture quality in the 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer is very good, with one glaring problem: the framing often looks cramped as if cropping has been done. The two-channel stereo sound mix is definitely simple for a present-day feature, but the track can't be faulted on its own simple merits. Surprisingly, the running time of the bonus features nearly rivals that of the film itself. First up is "The Making of Shadows in the Sun" (32:25), a pretty good documentary that mixes a fly-on-the-wall approach with interviews of cast and crew. While it suffers from inconsistent audio, it contains some mildly interesting reflections alongside footage of on-set hijinks and teenage girls tracking down the remote Italian village to swoon for Joshua Jackson. Most importantly, the featurette confirms one's suspicions; all movie clips appear in 2.13:1 widescreen, a ratio in which the film is far more comfortably framed. Why the studio would then take this 4x3 route for a DVD's feature presentation in 2006 is perplexing. Next is "Cast & Crew Interviews" (43:45), which is merely raw footage from four of the filmmaker sit-downs excerpted in the previous piece. While purporting to cover a wealth of ground (as illustrated from the strange, briefly-seen transitional graphics), this material mostly underscores the importance of editing and good sound recording equipment. The remarks from Claire Forlani, Joshua Jackson, producer Jamie Brown, and writer/director Brad Mirman approach overkill and are sloppily compiled, with mistakes retained, tail-end of otherwise deleted questions heard, and some responses curiously chopped short. Compliments abound and only a bit of information escapes; between the tinny audio, Forlani's ear-shattering laugh, the chirping crickets that drown out Brown, and Mirman's boring tone, only the most patient will endure this excessive chatter.

A little dull and formulaic, Shadows in the Sun nevertheless boasts a bit more than pleasant Tuscan photography and ends up narrowly above the low expectations for a telemovie. Its DVD does deliver a wealth of supplemental content (which would have been far more potent with the slightest bit of editing), but can be faulted for a feature presentation that undermines its imagery by formatting it for the decreasingly standard TV dimensions.

UD Rating: out of 5

Related Reviews: The Mighty Ducks (starring Joshua Jackson) • National Treasure (starring Harvey Keitel)
The Lizzie McGuire Movie • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou • The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (starring John Rhys-Davies)

Roundup posted May 17, 2006.

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