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The longest road trip you've ever taken won't feel so bad after sitting through this 90-minute "high schoolers-hit-the-road" piece of dreck. The jokes aren't funny, every character is an overdrawn cliché, and there's absolutely no one to hold our interest, let alone root for.
The story, such as it is, involves a group comprised mostly of adolescent losers who receive an invitation to meet the president after the brain among them writes a letter on how to improve the education system. The senator who delivered the invite wants to kill the president's education initiative and hopes to embarrass the administration with the kids' presence.
This is 1995 fare on DVD for the first time, and many of the film's references feel outdated, including Matt Frewer as the tightly wound principal (is there any other kind in movies?) trying to keep the trip on track. Wasn't Frewer's Max Headroom character a bad memory as early as 1990?
The disc doesn't help matters. You get a so-so 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that exhibits a lot of grain. While both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks are provided, both are lackluster. There are absolutely no extras, unless you count trailers for this and some upcoming New Line releases and a few DVD-ROM features.
If you're looking for road fun, re-rent National Lampoon's Vacation, Road Trip, or Euro-Trip. Even counting state license plates is more entertaining.—Gary Frisch
DVD: Teacher's Pet—Buena Vista
Do the little tykes for which this DVD will primarily be purchased give a hoot about picture and sound quality? Probably not. They just care that the film is about a dog who dresses up like a boy in order to spend a cross-country summer vacation with his master. And heck, what kind of screwed-up kid wouldn't love that rock-solid comedy premise?
Given that both the TV and film versions of Teacher's Pet are based on the fabulous, painterly artwork of underground cartoonist Gary Baseman, there's a good chance this DVD just might get snapped up by more than a few adult animation nerds who'll actually appreciate its painstakingly perfect 1:66:1 anamorphic transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtracks. All in all, there are plenty of worse cartoons that your kids could subject you to 500 times in a row. It's easy to discern the texture of the canvas on the painted backgrounds, a trait which goes a long way toward making the film feel more like the (gasp) fine art it is. And there are lots of quick (we're talking a half-second here) gags well worth hitting the pause button to appreciate.
Bonus materials include the pilot episode of the TV show (interesting to compare this relatively poor video quality with the film's perfect clarity) and a couple of deleted scenes that are actually just storyboards set to a soundtrack. This is interesting for grown-ups but likely to make kids fall over from lack of stimulation.—Dan Vebber
SACD: Jim Hall—Concierto (Mobile Fidelity)
Guitarist Jim Hall wasn't wild about recording Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" for CTI in 1975. Not only had it been interpreted in the late '50s, famously, by Gil Evans for Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, but producer Creed Taylor also chose the often-effusive Don Sebesky, not the skilled Hall, as arranger.
Fortunately, Taylor surrounded Hall with a dream lineup—Chet Baker on trumpet, Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Ron Carter on bass, and Roland Hanna on piano—that turned Sebesky's simple charts into one of the most distinctive sessions in CTI's history.
In the old days, the 20-minute title track took up an entire side of an LP. Now, in the album's latest 68-minute edition as a hybrid SACD, the four originals are joined by two bonus tracks and three alternate takes—even more evidence from two days in Van Gelder Studios that these master melody makers were perfectly matched. Who invited drummer Steve Gadd, now better known for more-leisurely outings with pop groups like Steely Dan? Although he might have seemed a square-peg choice for Concierto, his minimalist playing enhances this recording that accentuates melody, space, improvisation, and understatement.
"Concierto de Aranjuez" is Hall's only sketch of Spain here, though "Unfinished Business"—an incomplete bonus track based on the Mexican folk tune "Paloma Azul"—would have been a logical companion. The SACD layer becomes a valuable complementary player, too, with its heightened clarity and resonance pushing Concierto ever closer to the sound of the original masters.—Kevin Hunt