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A Distinctive 'Dinosaur'

DVD set goes way behind the computer-animated and live-action scenes.

February 01, 2001|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Disney's two-set DVD of "Dinosaur" ($40) leaves no question unanswered in explaining how the landmark computer-animated/live-action adventure was produced.

The film, featuring the voices of Julianna Margulies, D.B. Sweeney, Della Reese and Joan Plowright, chronicles the migration of a group of dinosaurs after meteors destroys their land.

The first disc includes a beautiful wide-screen transfer of the box-office hit (it looks better here than it did on the screen), commentary from directors Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag, and another track with other members of the production team.

There's also a fun sound-effects-only track, and the "Film Facts Fossil Dig" offers behind-the-scenes moments from the production that can be viewed separately or, if one clicks a dinosaur icon, as part of the film.

Three games for the small fry round out the disc--one involving dinosaur facts, another in which children must find hidden pieces and assemble the dinosaurs, and finally, a virtual reality game, "Aladar's Adventure."

The second disc includes more than 2 1/2 hours of extra goodies, including a look at the history and development of "Dinosaur' that offers interviews with production staff and animators, behind-the-scenes footage, a glimpse into the original story treatment (which was vastly different from the final result), a 3-D workbook (sort of an animated storyboard), and featurettes exploring the concept and design of each major dinosaur and lemur character.

A voice cast featurette, several deleted scenes and a look at the publicity materials are also enjoyable treats.

The one-disc edition of "Dinosaur" ($30) includes three games and four featurettes.

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You may not want to take a bath for a while after viewing the Robert Zemeckis ghost thriller "What Lies Beneath" (DreamWorks, $27), a chill-a-minute spooktacular starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford as a couple whose big house by a lake seems to be haunted.

The digital edition includes production notes, cast and crew bios, the theatrical trailer, an average behind-the-scenes featurette that concentrates primarily on director Zemeckis and the wide-screen edition of the film.

Zemeckis--who made this movie while Tom Hanks was losing weight and growing his beard for "Cast Away"--and executive producers Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey supply the fact-filled commentary.

The Oscar-winning Zemeckis says he tried to think how Alfred Hitchcock would have cast the movie. Instead of hiring the lead actress first, Zemeckis went after Ford because the director felt that to make the ending work, the leading man had to be a major celebrity with an indelible image. Pfeiffer was Zemeckis' No. 1 choice to play the wife.

Almost as important as finding the right actors was finding the right location. The production scouted from New England to the Carolinas to find the perfect spot near a lake. Zemeckis and company eventually shot "What Lies" in Burlington, Vt. Both the haunted house and the ominous house next door were built from scratch. The interiors were replicated on the sound stages at Sony Studios in Culver City.

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Arthur Penn received an Oscar nomination for best director for 1969's "Alice's Restaurant," but over the decades this quirky, amiable comedy based on Arlo Guthrie's hit 1967 song has virtually disappeared from the radar screen.

Thankfully, MGM recently released it on DVD ($20). Though the digital edition features the wide-screen version of the film starring Guthrie, Pat Quinn and James Broderick, the print used for the transfer appears to have some dirt and scratches as well as color fading. It would be great if MGM could restore the film.

The film basically dramatizes Guthrie's classic song of the same title. The song, with its memorable chorus--"You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant, excepting Alice"--is a long and funny monologue about a Thanksgiving dinner and how he was able to evade the draft.

The DVD includes the enjoyable trailer and very entertaining commentary from Guthrie--son of beloved troubadour Woody Guthrie--who can still weave great stories. In one scene, Guthrie turns down the advances of a 15-year-old groupie (Shelley Plimpton) because he feels sorry for her. Guthrie says in his commentary that the scene gave him the reputation of being a "sensitive male" and for years women hit on him.

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MGM has also issued the blaxploitation flick "Foxy Brown" ($15) on DVD. Pam Grier stars in this fun though dated 1974 action-thriller as a strong-willed, righteous woman who goes on a vendetta when her boyfriend is murdered by a drug ring.

Besides the wide-screen version of the film, there's also the very kicky trailer and compelling commentary from writer-director Jack Hill.

In 1973, Hill had directed Grier in the action-flick "Coffy," which made the actress an overnight sensation. Hill wrote "Foxy Brown" as a sequel to "Coffy," but American International Pictures' marketing department believed sequels didn't do well at the box office, so Hill had to make substantial changes. Though Hill believes "Coffy" is actually a better film, he acknowledges that "Foxy Brown" is best loved by Grier's fans.

Hill made "Coffy" for just $500,000. Though both he and Grier saw a boost in their salaries for "Foxy Brown," AIP kept the overall budget for the film the same. In order to pinch pennies, Hill used stunt men in some of the action roles.

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