Just in time for Halloween (okay, almost, but close enough, so let’s say “Just in time for Halloween-ish”…) comes two horror titles hitting Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of the folks at Warner Home Video. The two films are an Unrated Director’s Cut of 1997’s “The Devil’s Advocate”, starring Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, and Al Pacino; and 2002’s “Queen of the Damned”, starring the late singer Aaliyah and Stuart Townsend.
We take a look at both releases below. Read along, won’t you?
THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: THE UNRATED DIRECTOR’S CUT (1997)
Keanu Reeves takes on Al Pacino in Taylor Hackford’s 1997 supernatural drama “The Devil’s Advocate”. (The film’s title basically gives away Pacino’s true identity, in case you were wondering. Mind you, not that the film ever really gets all that subtle about it.) Okay, so Reeves does his best to hold on as Pacino does what Pacino does, here playing the manipulative, scheming lawyer John Milton (oh ho!). The film co-stars Charlize Theron as the long suffering wife of Reeves’ lawyer character, who gets the offer of a lifetime to relocate to New York and practice a decidedly very questionable version of the law with the shady Mr. Milton. Will the young man succumb to the many temptations of the devil?
Pacino and Reeves may be the headliners here, but “The Devil’s Advocate” features an excellent performance from Theron, who was still pretty new to the acting game in 1997, having just made the leap from modeling. She’s great, which isn’t something I can say about Reeves. Reeves is a decent actor, but ask him to emote too much, and you’re just asking for trouble. Pacino chews scenery, as you would expect him to. Connie Nielsen, in her first big Hollywood movie, sexes up the joint like crazy as she, along with Milton, seduces young Mr. Reeves over to the dark side. The poor sap never had a chance.
“The Devil’s Advocate” is a big-budgeted thriller, with all the sheen that comes from being just that. It features some nifty visuals, and though he isn’t spectacular, for some reason Reeves’ rather wooden style of acting seems to, well, fit with his character. After all, if you can tempt an emotionless automaton like Keanu Reeves, surely the devil is invincible! (In his defense, Reeves has gotten much, much better since “The Devil’s Advocate”, but I doubt if they’ll be using his performance here during his AFI tribute.) The film has plenty of interesting moments and effective twists and turns, but it’s never as clever as it thinks it is. Nevertheless, it’s a very decent supernatural thriller, though a bit long. Okay, so it’s really long. Like about 30 minutes too long. But hey, Pacino is clearly having a blast, so there’s that.
The Director’s Cut Blu-ray features a full-length audio commentary with director Taylor Hackford and a whopping 47 minutes of very rough (work print footage would be my guess) deleted scenes (all with optional commentary by Hackford). And lastly, a trailer. I’m not a fan of lone-guy-in-a-room director’s commentary, since it tends to get too “inside baseball”, which happens here. Hackford does a good job of getting into the nitty gritty of the movie from every angle, but it definitely lacks the entertainment value that I like in my audio commentaries. If you love “The Devil’s Advocate”, though, and want more insight into it, this is your commentary, with Hackford breathlessly active throughout the track.
QUEEN OF THE DAMNED (2002)
Director Michael Rymer’s 2002 vampire flick “Queen of the Damned” is not exactly memorable, and if you do recall it at all, chances are it’s because it’s the last film that singer-turned-actor Aaliyah starred in before her way-too-early passing in late 2001. The film opened the following year, her second movie after debuting in 2000’s martial arts flick with Chinese import Jet Li in “Romeo Must Die”. Oh, what might have been…
Although titled “Queen of the Damned”, the film is actually about Lestat (last seen being played by Tom Cruise in 1994’s “Interview with the Vampire”, now played by Stuart Townsend — an improvement? Downgrade? You decide — I am indifferent myself), the vampire anti-hero of Anne Rice’s books. In “Damned”, Lestat is (literally) awakened to the world of rock and roll, and realizes his true calling is not sucking blood and doing all that vampire stuff (though he does some of those, too), it’s rocking out and partying. His lifestyle and rocketing fame, alas, awakens Akasha (Aaliyah), one of the oldest vampires, who along with others do not share in Lestat’s very public display of his true identity. They mean to stop him — but can you really stop rock and roll? Of course not! Rock and roll lives forever, man!
Bottom line, “Queen of the Damned” is kinda ridiculous. It’s definitely nothing to be “scared” of, but then again, I’m not sure if the Anne Rice novels were ever supposed to be scary. Townsend is actually pretty decent as Lestat, while Aaliyah cranks up the sex appeal once Akasha finally enters the picture. Hell, I even dug the questionable accent, but maybe that’s just me. I could have done without the human love interest in Marguerite Moreau, though, because it didn’t really seem to add much to the overall story. More action movie than horror, “Queen of the Damned” is worth a look if you’re a fan of Aaliyah and the “Twilight” movies. Girls love the pretty boy vampires, I’m told. You hardcore genre fiends looking for real horror needn’t bow down to this queen, though.
Blu-ray special features includes an audio commentary by director Michael Rymer, producer Jorge Saralegui, and co-composer Richard Gibbs. Despite all three chaps being in the same room for the commentary, there is a lot of dead time, with no one really sure when to jump in. Entirely skippable. Featurettes include “The Music of Lestat” (11 minutes), “Creating the Vampires” (10 minutes), and a brief 3 minute tribute to Aaliyah called “Aaliyah Remembered”. For those who really liked the movie’s music, two songs from the concert sequence, “Slept so Long” and “Not Meant for Me” can be viewed in their entirety (about 4 minutes each). There are also about a dozen deleted scenes, a 3-minute gag reel (playing a vampire is a lot trickier than it looks, apparently), four more music videos, and of course, the obligatory theatrical trailer.