The Mission to Mars DVD (2000, Touchstone, 113 mins., PG, $29.99) pulls off the ultimate feat of DVD technology: The bonus material is actually better than the movie itself. The disc has more bells and whistles than the space shuttle, and the special features help transform director Brian DePalma’s spaced out saga about the first manned mission to Mars (starring Tim Robbins and Gary Sinise) into a true 21st century marvel. There’s audio commentary from the special effects wizards; a comparison of the early computer models known as ”animatics” to the finished scenes; and an art gallery of the elaborate production sketches.
A truly fascinating documentary shows how, with some bulldozers and 14,000 gallons of red paint, the ”Mars” crew turned a 300 acre sand pit near the Port of Vancouver, Canada, into the surface of the red planet. There’s also great footage that depicts how the scenes of weightlessness were filmed (hint: it involves wires, rotating sets, and lots of upside down cameras). Watch the DVD on your computer and it gets even better. The entire script is there as well as a ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” style Mars trivia game, links to various Mars themed web pages, and a phenomenal pop-up video style enhancement that offers facts and comments on every scene of the movie on topics ranging from the history of the Russian space program to the challenges of zero gravity sex. In short, the disc version is out of this world.
Movie Grade: C-
Special Features: A+
High Fidelity (2000, Touchstone, 113 mins., R, $32.99) probably won’t make anybody’s All Time Top 5 List of Great DVDs, but like the movie, about a floundering, overly analytic record store owner (played by John Cusack), the disc and its extra features have a certain quirky charm. The deleted scenes include a wonderful sequence in which Cusack goes to visit Beverly D’Angelo, who plays a sexy rich woman hell bent on selling her husband’s incredibly rare record collection for a mere 50 bucks (the louse ran off to Jamaica with a 19 year old).
There’s also a funny sequence, ultimately cut, in which Cusack considers and reconsiders his All Time Top Five List of Records (among them, ”Sun City” by the Flying Burrito Brothers, ”Ship Building” by Elvis Costello, ”Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye, and ”Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers). The ”conversations” with the filmmakers – basically just junket style interviews with Cusack and director Stephen Frears – are less scintillating. (We learn, among other things, that Cusack was ”150 percent committed to the film.”) But even those sometimes deliver. Talking about how music fuels his own emotions, Cusack says, ”Sometimes I’ll turn something off. I’m like, enough of this Bob Dylan song about death. I want to go to the circus.”
Movie Grade: B+
Extra Features: B
Here is EW Online’s list of other noteworthy new DVD releases
The Craft: Special Edition
(1996, Columbia TriStar, 101 mins,. R, $24.95)
Before the ”good” witches of the WB’s ”Charmed” there was this less than spellbinding tale of four high school misfits – including Fairuza Balk and a desperately miscast Neve Campbell – who use their special powers for some good old fashioned moviemaking.
SPECIAL FEATURES Audio commentary, featurettes, film score, deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, scene access, talent files, production notes, interactive menus
Hellraiser: Special Edition
(1987, Anchor Bay, 93 mins.. R, $29.98) Horror maestro Clive Barker’s gore fest introduced the world to the aptly named Pinhead and spawned four sequels (so far), including the upcoming ”Hellraiser V.” Also available with the incomparable ”Hellraiser II” in a limited edition ”tin.” SPECIAL FEATURES Theatrical trailer, scene access, interactive menus, photo gallery, featurette, audio commentary
This Is Spinal Tap: Special Edition
(1984, MGM, 82 mins., R, $26.98) The ”Black Album.” The foil wrapped zucchini. The fine line ”between clever and stupid.” Fresh from a rerelease in theaters, the original ”mockumentary” about everyone’s favorite bad British rock band is back in full DVD glory. To borrow a line from a Spinal Tap classic, ”Tonight, it’s gonna rock you tonight.” SPECIAL FEATURES Theatrical trailer, TV spots, outtakes, scene access, interviews, additional footage, audio commentary, music videos, interactive menus
28 Days: Special Edition
(2000, Columbia TriStar, 104 mins., PG-13, $24.95) Out of control party girl Sandra Bullock is ordered to spend the titular four weeks in a recovery center with an eccentric group of fellow addicts. Who knew rehab was so wacky? Also available in a special 2 pack with Bullock’s 1995 cyber thriller ”The Net.” SPECIAL FEATURES Audio commentary, featurette, film score, talent files, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, scene access, interactive menus