A friend of mine once said about the Ramones, "They're stupid, but they'll never lie to you." He was wrong about the stupidity but right about the sincerity. Who but Joey Ramone could do such a convincing cover of "What a Wonderful World"? In his hands, the song made famous by Louis Armstrong becomes a buzz-saw vision of a better world. With his death from leukemia not far off, the former lead singer of the Ramones wasn't in the mood for irony.
I never listen to the first four Ramones albums on anything but vinyl, so it seems fitting that Joey's first and only solo album has entered my library on DVD-Audio. There's nothing revolutionary about 5.1-channel mix—the essential elements never stray far from the front channels—but it makes this reproduction of the classic Ramones sound seem just a touch more spacious.
Marky Ramone plays drums on some of the tracks. However, the credit for bringing one more taste of Joey to the world goes to producer and guitarist Daniel Rey. His notes on the recording of the album are the most significant bonus feature, along with a charming low-rent "Wonderful World" music video. He pays tribute to Joey's perfectionism. The tall guy didn't just toss off these songs—he kept re-recording his vocal tracks onto ADAT in Rey's home until each one was perfect.
Here, then, is the voice that launched a thousand punk bands in a variety of moods: whimsical, despondent, and defiant. In the title track, ostensibly about a dying romance, he says goodbye to us all. Joey Ramone, in the finest sense, is history.—Mark Fleischmann
DVD: Red Dragon—Universal
I confess, I boycotted Red Dragon in the theater. As a fan of Manhunter, Michael Mann's 1986 theatrical adaptation of Thomas Harris' book Red Dragon, I saw no need for this remake, except to profit from people's love of Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Personally, I think Brian Cox did a fine job as the original "Dr. Lecktor," and, while I loved Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, I felt that he reduced the good doctor to an unfrightening caricature in Hannibal. I grew even more skeptical when I heard which stars would fill the other key roles: baby-faced Edward Norton as the seasoned, tormented FBI agent Will Graham, portrayed so credibly by William Petersen in Manhunter, and Ralph Fiennes as disfigured psychopath Francis Dolarhyde, originally brought to life by the entirely creepy Tom Noonan. Come on. Fiennes was too attractive when he played an utterly despicable Nazi general, and he's too attractive now.
Firmly committed to my indignation, I sat down and watched Universal's new two-disc director's edition Red Dragon DVD, and I will say that it was a very solid piece of filmmaking. Had there never been a Manhunter, I suspect I would've really enjoyed it. As is, though, I spent the majority of my viewing time comparing it with its predecessor. Red Dragon is a better-crafted film that's easier to follow, but I missed Petersen's Graham and Mann's distinct storytelling and A/V style, which served the original film very well. I will give Red Dragon kudos in the finale department, as its ending is much better than Mann's "Miami Vice episode gone bad" conclusion.
As for the DVD, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack offers clear dialogue and fine music reproduction, but there's not as much surround use as you'd hope for in a thriller. The 2.35:1 anamorphic picture boasts beautiful colors, solid detail, and deep blacks; however, if you have a 4:3 TV, you'll notice a fair amount of downconversion artifacts. The strong extras package includes two commentary tracks (one by enthusiastic director Brett Ratner and writer Ted Tally and one by composer Danny Elfman), deleted/alternate scenes with optional commentary, a true behind-the-scenes documentary that follows Ratner through the production process, Lecter's FBI case file that links all three films together, and more. Fans of Red Dragon should definitely add this one to their collection. You won't be disappointed. As for my fellow Manhunter loyalists, I recommend that you rent the film to decide for yourselves how it measures up. You might be pleasantly surprised. At the very least, you'll have a more-informed indignation.—Adrienne Maxwell