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Some Scenes Appear Alien

On the interactive DVD, the viewer can re-edit segments of 'Men in Black' using alternative footage.

September 07, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

How cool is this?

On the new "Men in Black Limited Edition" DVD (Columbia TriStar, $40), viewers can actually edit three scenes of the blockbuster 1997 sci-fi comedy. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones star as special agents assigned to protect the Earth from the scum of the universe.

The interactive editing workshop--introduced by director Barry Sonnenfeld--is tons of fun. Using the remote control, you can select among three takes for each sequence in a scene--the one Sonnenfeld used for the film and two that he didn't, featuring different camera perspectives and actor reactions. After making your choices, you can see how the scene plays as a whole and compare it to the real scene in the movie.

The scenes that can be edited are Smith trying out for the MIB team; MIB's visit to the farmhouse where Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio), the man who is possessed by an alien bug, lived; and a morgue encounter between Smith and Linda Fiorentino.

This two-disc "Limited Edition" is a must for the film's fans. It offers the movie in both full- and wide-screen versions and features extended storyboards and a clever character animation study. Using the remote control, you can follow the evolution of certain characters from the initial drawings to their final renditions on screen.

Another feature deconstructs how the special effects were done for two sequences. Using the remote, you can toggle between five different layers of completion for the climatic bug fight and the scene in which Smith and Jones speed through a tunnel.

Other goodies include extended scenes, production photo galleries, an original featurette on the making of the film, a new documentary and the "MIB" video with Smith and the alien Mikey.

There are also two commentaries--a technical one with Sonnenfeld, creature creator and makeup artist Rick Baker and the special effects team from Industrial Light and Magic, and another featuring Sonnenfeld and Jones. Both Sonnenfeld and Jones (who is pretty funny) admit they didn't know how the movie would play with audiences and frequently asked themselves if they would ever work again. For $30, Columbia TriStar is also offering a "Men in Black Collector's Series" DVD. Not included on this disc are the editing workshop, the technical commentary, the conceptual art gallery and the special effects deconstruction.

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Also new from Columbia TriStar

is a handsome special edition of Rob Reiner's acclaimed 1986 film "Stand by Me" ($30), based on Stephen King's story "The Body."

Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland and Richard Dreyfuss star in this wonderful coming-of-age story set in a small Oregon town in 1959. The DVD includes a nice wide-screen transfer of the film, talent files and production notes, a music video and a terrific new documentary, "Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand by Me," which features scenes from the film, production photos and thoughtful interviews with Reiner, the cast and King.

Reiner also provides the audio commentary.

In both the documentary and commentary, the director explains that, like Wheaton's character, he always looked for approval from his father, writer-director Carl Reiner. Reiner feels that until "Stand by Me," he was working in his dad's shadow. His two previous films, the comedies "This Is Spinal Tap" and "The Sure Thing," were much more in the style of the older Reiner's films, but "Stand by Me" reflected his own vision.

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Director Tim Burton talks about how much he relates to his 1990 fantasy "Edward Scissorhands" (Fox, $30), which has just been released in a special 10th anniversary DVD edition. Frequent Burton star Johnny Depp plays the sweet, innocent creation of an old inventor (Vincent Price).

Edward, though, only has sharp metal shears for hands because the inventor died before he could complete Edward. Just as Edward, Burton felt out of place and awkward growing up in Burbank. Besides Burton's commentary, the disc includes the wide-screen version of the film, a featurette and an isolated soundtrack that features commentary from composer Danny Elfman, who acknowledges that "Edward Scissorhands" is probably his favorite score.

*

Time hasn't diminished the adaptation of Thornton Wilder's power of the beautiful 1940 filmplay "Our Town." However, most of the prints that have aired on TV or have been used for VHS copies have looked pretty shabby.

FOCUSfilm Entertainment's DVD ($30) has restored the film and, though it's not crystal-clear, "Our Town" looks far better than it has in years.

Frank Craven, William Holden, Martha Scott, Thomas Mitchell and Fay Bainter star in the production, which was tastefully directed by Sam Wood.

Aaron Copland supplied the perfect score, and William Cameron Menzies provided the inventive production design.

The disc also includes the Lux Radio Theatre's presentation of the play featuring the movie's cast; a 1943 short subject "The Town," directed by Josef Von Sternberg; and a 1930 short subject designed by Menzies, "The Wizard's Apprentice."

*

Though there are no extras on the Criterion Collection's DVD of the 1940 W.C. Fields classic "The Bank Dick" ($30), the transfer is crisp and clear. Fields plays a henpecked husband, Egbert Souse, who accidentally foils a bank robbery and ends up becoming a bank guard. Fields wrote the film under the name Mahatma Kane Jeeves.

*

Hal Roach's beloved Little Rascals make their DVD debut (Hallmark, $15) with two volumes of digitally restored short comedies featuring Spanky, Darla, Alfalfa, Buckwheat and pooch Petey, including "Fly My Kite" and "Reunion in Rhythm."

The disc features a photo gallery of the kids and a short documentary on dog training tips featuring Nikki ("Three Wishes").

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