September '05

Visit the Video/DVD review archives

All Reviews by Jason Aaron

Lost (The Complete First Season)

If like me you missed the boat when the first season of Lost was airing, then you’re in luck. With this 7-disc DVD set in hand, you won’t have to wait on the edge of your seat for weeks at a time between episodes. Instead, once you’re hooked (and you most likely will be), then you can burn through them one after another. The only downside to the marathon method is that the series, of course, was not made to be viewed in that manner. In my case, there was one of the show’s earliest and slickest twists (the one involving survivalist extraordinaire John Locke) that I was able to see coming just because I watched the episodes back to back.

Still, Season One of Lost is a thoroughly enjoyable ride, thanks in no small part to executive producers Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams (creator of TV’s Alias). This story of 47 strangers whose plane crashed on a mysterious island is so laced with inventiveness, suspense and well-written characters that it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. If you’re not already hooked, then what the hell are you waiting for? (NR) Rating: 5

Lilo and Stitch 2: Stitch Has A Glitch

Of all the countless direct-to-video animated films produced by Disney over the last several years, there hasn’t been one that I thought of as anything more than a cheaply made attempt to filch some extra cash from hapless parents. But apparently there’s a first time for everything. This follow-up to 2002’s underrated big-screen feature Lilo and Stitch (and its spin-off TV show) is a surprisingly humorous and well-made flick.

A big part of what makes the Lilo and Stitch stories enjoyable is that the set-up is so oddball compared to the typical Disney fare of late. Stitch is the bug-eyed, four-armed experiment of an evil, alien genius who comes to earth and ends up living on Hawaii and befriending a young girl who’s the world‚s biggest Elvis fan (how’s that for an off-wall combo). I guess Disney still has at least a couple of creative people left in the ranks after all. More power to them. (PG) Rating: 4

Kingdom of Heaven

Director Ridley Scott was brought on board for this epic about the Crusades in order to recreate the success of his Oscar winning period piece Gladiator, undoubtedly the most overrated film in the history of the moving image. Scott does imbue Kingdom of Heaven with the same gritty intensity as Gladiator, and the film’s costumes and set designs are lavish and spectacular.

But the sprawling battle scenes aspire to the same massive scale as the Lord of the Rings (the current benchmark when it comes to killing people in colossal numbers) without capturing any of that landmark trilogy’s magic or grandeur. We’re left with a clumsy, contrived, popcorn flick that uses a pretentious moral of religious tolerance only to set up scene after glorified scene of Christians and Muslims slaughtering one another.

Capable actors like Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons are merely paraded through an endless orgy of macho posturing, stirring speeches that fail to stir and epic battles that muster significant body counts but negligible emotion. (R) Rating: 1

Crime Story (Season Two)

Finally, over two years after Anchor Bay released the DVD box set of Crime Story (Season One), we get the second and final season of this brutal, gritty and way ahead-of-its-time cop drama.

Crime Story was the brainchild of Heat director Michael Mann, who back in 1986 was best known as the creator of Miami Vice. The show was a critical darling, thanks to its slick visuals — hard-hitting storylines and breakout actors like former real-life Chicago cop Dennis Farina. Unfortunately, matched up against the hit show Moonlighting, ratings were hard to come by for Crime Story. The finale episode (more like the Season One finale) is an outrageous cliffhanger since producers never really knew if the show would survive.

The recurring storyline features Farina as a tough-as-nails cop with a hell-for-leather temper who’ll let nothing and no one stand in his way in his pursuit of a super slick, up-and-coming crime boss played by Anthony Denison. Crime Story provided an early spotlight for future well-known actors like David Caruso, Michael Madsen, Ving Rhames, Ted Levine
(Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs), Julia Roberts and even a quality performance from raunchy comedian Andrew Dice Clay. Unfortunately, this DVD set, like the first season, is a bare-bones presentation of lackluster quality. Crime Story deserves better. (NR) Rating: 5



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