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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Epic > Gangster > Paramount/DreamWorks Best Picture Academy Award Winners Collection (American Beauty/Braveheart/Forrest Gump/Gladiator/Godfather/Terms Of Endearment/Titanic)

Paramount/DreamWorks Best Picture Academy Award Winners Collection


Picture: C+     Sound: B- (Terms: C+)     Extras/Picture



American Beauty (1999) B/B+


Braveheart (1995) C+/B-


Forrest Gump (1994) C/C-


Gladiator (2000) B/B


The Godfather (1972) B/B+


Terms Of Endearment (1983) C/C+


Titanic (1997) C-/B+




We have already covered Titanic, so we will not go into it again, so read it at the link above.  That we have not covered these titles before shows how old these releases are.  Since they are well known enough, we will be brief.


American Beauty is the directing debut of Sam Mendez and tells the sometimes profound story of the collapse of a dysfunctional suburban family headed by Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.  He is getting fired, she cannot seem to get her career going despite making it a priority above all else, then things get crazier as


Braveheart is one of the overrated films of our time and this critic thought that before star/director Mel Gibson ran into troubles, many of which began here.  Caught up in the excitement of his epic, many missed the more obvious themes of “patriotism” and “sacrifice” that would be more about blind faith than history, while the treatment of Edward II was so trivial that that aspect was only outdone by its homophobia.  Ironically, one wonders if this would have been received the same after 9/11.  As for the Edward II factor, see Derek Jarman’s film of the same name.


Forrest Gump is even worse, a feel-good propaganda film built around the audience having pity for the title character (Tom Hanks) as he travels through history without ever being effected by it.  A dangerous proposition that came back to haunt us all, this only double set in the set gets a second chance since it originally was issued only a few weeks before 9/11 occurred.


Note that all the history being trivialized is liberal history and the revision of Vietnam as if it were WWII is a disaster.  Now years into the Iraq debacle, it is more disturbing than ever.  If you want to see a film where a character walks through America and is affected by history, see the more adult and enduing Falling Down with Michael Douglas, a great film being strangely ignored of late.


Gladiator is Ridley Scott’s return to form as a great filmmaker reviving the Biblical Epic without pretension or being religion-specific.  Russell Crowe is solid in the lead and Scott’s answer to Kubrick’s Spartacus (reviewed on HD-DVD elsewhere on this site) is only hurt by its aged digital work.


The Godfather has been played out too much between imitation, a videogame that made director Francis Coppola properly furious and way too many cable TV broadcasts that have further trivialized the classic.  Though much of it has become clichéd and even a joke in some respects, it holds up unto its own content surprisingly well.  The sequel may have escaped from the “urban Western” formula that made this original a shock blockbuster at the time, but it has Marlon Brando and that performance alone mows down any clichés or pop trivialization in itself.


Terms Of Endearment was James L. Brooks’ little film that could and became a critical and commercial success when the majors still knew how to greenlight such a project.  It gave Jack Nicholson a much-deserved comeback, made Debra Winger more than just TV’s Wonder Girl and proved Shirley MacLaine was one of the best actresses of her generation.  MacLaine and Winger did not get along on set and that helped the film overcome its almost TV-like melodramatic disposition.  If you can overcome the latter, you’ll really enjoy it.  Otherwise, Nicholson steals the show.



The anamorphically enhanced image on all seven titles are consistent, as in consistently poor.  They all lack detail, depth and are older transfers.  All are at 2.35 X 1 except for The Godfather and Terms, which are 1.85 X 1 and the oldest films in the set.  Most were 5.1 releases in the first place, but only American Beauty is in DTS 5.1, though it is dialogue-based.  Titanic is here with its inferior Dolby-only mix when it was incredible in DTS, though the recent DTS DVD was not much better.  Godfather has a surprising good sound upgrade as do previous such mono-to-5.1 upgrade of Coppola releases like The Conversation.  Overall, these are adequate, but not spectacular.


Extras vary from each title.  American Beauty has DVD-ROM screenplay with film footage and storyboards, text cast/crew bios, two trailers, a separate storyboards featurette, making of featurette and solid audio commentary with Mendez and writer Alan Ball.  Braveheart here only has trailers and a making of piece.  Forrest Gump is two-discs overloaded with two audio commentary tracks, stills, screen tests, trailers and five featurettes.  Gladiator is the single disc version stills, text notes, deleted scenes with optional commentary by Scott, fine audio commentary by Scott slide show, music montage of images from the film and a making of featurette.  The Godfather is a single only featuring another fine Coppola commentary.  Terms Of Endearment only has a commentary and trailer.  Titanic only has a trailer.


Overall, this is a set of convenience, but far from definitive versions of any of these films, like them or not.  If the price is right and you don’t care about the version, go for it.  Otherwise, find the better versions sold separately.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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