Director Oliver Stone is celebrated in this four-film, six-disc box set collection that includes two-disc "director's cut" versions JFK
and Any Given Sunday
respectively, plus Heaven and Earth
and the documentary Oliver Stone's America
JFK is that rarest of things, a modern Hollywood drama which credits the audience with intelligence. Epic in length--this 198-minute director's cut runs 17 minutes longer than the cinema version--Oliver Stone's film has the archetypal story, visual scale and substance to match; not just a gripping real-life conspiracy thriller, but a fable for the fall of the American dream. Stone's DVD commentary is thoughtful, eloquent and considered. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and the anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 picture are both first-class. The second disc contains 53 minutes of deleted and extended versions of scenes, all of which are available with or without commentary by Stone, a 10-minute video interview with the real "X", and a half-hour examination of documents only declassified in the wake of the film's release.
Any Given Sunday is a massive 150-minute American football drama which, for all its ferocity and cynicism, is as soft-centred and clichéd as any Rocky-style underdogs-make-good crowd-pleaser. This is the director's cut with Stone's commentary ranging far and wide: he is far more interesting and thought-provoking to listen to than his film is to watch. The anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 image and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack are both flawless. The loaded second DVD includes Jamie Foxx's audition video, a routine 27-minute making-of documentary, music videos, outtakes set to music, and 33 minutes of deleted/alternative scenes with optional commentary from Stone. DVD-ROM and other features complete an exceptional package.
Heaven and Earth follows Platoon (1986) and Born of the Fourth of July (1989) to conclude Stone's Vietnam War trilogy. Where Stone won Best Director Oscars for both previous films, Heaven and Earth proved a box-office disaster and went unrecognised by the Academy. It's hard not to think that racism underlay the commercial failure, for where the hit movies addressed the sufferings of white American soldiers played by Hollywood stars, Heaven and Earth focused on the fundamental victims, adapting the true story of a young Vietnamese woman, Le Ly, who goes from village girl to freedom fighter to wife of a US marine struggling to adjust to life in America to reconciliation in Vietnam. Superbly made, with a stunning performance by Hiep Thi Le as Le Ly, and powerful support from Tommy Lee Jones, this is intelligent, harrowing filmmaking which attempts to understand and bridge the divide between nations traumatised by war. Unfortunately heavily cut to bring it down to a multiplex-friendly running time, the often brilliant 135 minutes on show suggest a longer modern classic ended-up on the cutting room floor. The DVD features an incisive commentary by Stone, who alone of major Hollywood directors fought in Vietnam. Confirming that Heaven and Earth was heavily cut is the inclusion of 48 minutes of deleted/extended scenes, including a vastly extended 22-minute opening, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 picture are excellent.
Oliver Stone's America is a 53-minute interview in which Stone talks candidly about his films, concentrating on the trio included in the Oliver Stone Collection, firing off considered opinions at a rapid rate. Also included is Stone's student film, Last Year in VietNam, clearly influenced by the French New Wave in general and L'Année dernière à Marienbad (1961) in particular. --Gary S Dalkin