Directed by Steven Spielberg
Released by Universal Home Entertainment
“Jaws will do for the ocean what Psycho did for showers”
Such was the prediction of Carl Gottlieb, co-screenwriter of Spielberg’s breakout hit and the first movie to be considered a “summer blockbuster”, breaking the $100 million in ticket sales, domestic, within it’s first few weeks. This was a prediction that would ring true for many years to come, and indeed Gottlieb says that he’s still approached by people who say that Jaws scared them away from the ocean for life.
A monster hit that spawned three sequels (with decreasing degrees of quality), the original film is not only a classic horror/suspense movie, but a classic American film for the ages, and even to this day it’s still one of the most effective man vs. nature films ever made. So it’s not surprising that Universal continues to milk the films success even if it means double-and-triple dipping on DVD releases. This year marks its 30th anniversary, so of course the studio couldn’t resist yet another version for mass consumption.
Before I go into disc details, how about a bit of plot synopsis for the six people out there that haven’t seen the movie? Surely!
In the small island town of Amity, people are being attacked by a shark. Chief of Police Martin Brody (Scheider) is convinced that the beaches, the only real source of income for the town come summertime, have to be closed immediately before any more victims turn up. Oceanographer Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss) shows up in town to give his expert opinion on just what kind of shark they’re dealing with, and comes to the conclusion it’s a massive great white, possibly the biggest ever recorded.
All the more reason to get those beaches closed and find the shark, right? The town’s mayor believes, after some local fishermen catch a tiger shark, that the problem is solved, but Hooper’s not buying it. Late at night he and Chief Brody sneak to where the fish is being stored and cut it open. Since the remains of a little boy (the last victim) are not found, he now has proof the threat is still alive.
The film then completely shifts gear as Brody and Hooper team with local shark hunter Quint (the late great Robert Shaw) to catch the shark. While up until now the film has dealt with the suspense of who would be next, once they get the fish out to sea it’s all a matter of surviving the massive beast and destroying it once and for all. As has been pointed out many times before by those far more eloquent than I, the film is really pure brilliance from start to finish and has rightfully earned it’s place among American cinema classics.
Knowing this, Universal has decided to re-release the film on DVD yet again (the last was 2000’s 25th Anniversary Edition) with only one really significant extra feature from the last.
On the first disc we have the movie, of course. It looks and sound great, but then Uni’s had three DVD releases to get it right so you wouldn’t expect much less from them. There’s a gathering of deleted and alternate takes, none of which are all that interesting and would have only served to slow the film down, so it’s understandable why they were cut.
There’s also a 10-minute “From the Set” interview with Spielberg done for a UK entertainment show back in 1974, which is a bit of fun just because everyone’s so damn young (Spielberg was only 26 when he made this movie…unbelievable). The interview was shot during the film’s second day filming at sea and serves to show the already-growing level of frustration with shooting in such an unpredictable environment.
The main feature on Disc Two is “The Making of Jaws“, a two-hour documentary that features interviews with Spielberg, Scheider, Dreyfuss, Peter Benchley (author of the book on which the film was based), Lorraine Gray (Scheider’s on-screen wife), Carl Gottlieb, and even Denise Cheshire, the first victim of the Great White. For Jaws completists, this is a must-have; for casual Jaws fans, such as myself, it’s still a must-have; it’s just a great look at how a team of relatively young filmmakers and actors managed to overcome the horrible shooting conditions and still come out with a fantastic, classic film on the other end.
Between this and seeing him talk about Duel on that film’s long-delayed DVD release, I have a much greater respect for Spielberg as a regular person. Sure he makes award-winning films left and right, but he also seems to remember every little detail about his earliest works, the films that helped make him what he is today, and he’s still incredibly enthusiastic about all of them, contagiously so. He just reminds of a big geek (granted a very rich geek) that loves to talk about movies as much as he loves making them.
Also featured on Disc Two is the “Jaws Archive”, a collection of production sketches, stills, and marketing history for the film presented in a slideshow format. Nothing too spectacular overall, but an interested look at the history of Jaws from more of a behind-the-scenes perspective.
Outside of the DVD there is a 60-page photo booklet which features behind-the-scenes and production stills, populated mainly with quotes from the various interviews in the “Making of Jaws” featurette. It’s awful pretty, but that’s about it.
So the question remains; is this release worthy of you hard-earned money once again? If you own the 25th Anniversary Edition and aren’t too interested in more special features, the honest answer is no. The film looks and sounds as good as it ever will (which is damn good) on that release. If you never plopped down your money for that version, then this one is more than worth your time, if nothing else for the complete “Making of Jaws” documentary. It’s really your call, but then you might want to wait and see what Universal comes up with for the film’s 35th Anniversary…
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The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life
Written and directed by David Freyne
Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.
Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.
The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.
Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.
Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.
Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.
The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.
The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.
Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed
Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim
Directed by Brian Coyne
Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.
Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.
So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.
I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.
Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone
Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters
Directed by Jeff Houkal
Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?
Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).
Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”
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