DVD Review HTF Review: Get Shorty - Collector's Edition (Highly Recommended)!

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Feb 16, 2005.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Get Shorty: Collector’s Edition

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1995
    Rated: R
    Running Time: 105 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enahnced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1; French – Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish – Stereo Surround

    Release Date:
    February 22nd, 2005

    “My name is Ray. I’m a friend of Chili Palmer. Have you spoken to Mr. Palmer since your husband blew up?” – Ray “Bones” Barboni

    Get Shorty is the epitome of cool - an energetic, funny story about a movie-loving loan shark from Florida who manages to break into show biz while tracking down a movie producer who welched on his gambling debts! The film is an adaptation (by Scott Frank) of Elmore Leonard’s 1990 novel, and is probably the best of many adaptations of Leonard’s work for the screen!

    Mr. Leonard loves to get his characters talking, and one of the best things about Get Shorty is that a lot of the dialogue is lifted straight from the book. This is a good thing, since Leonard’s motley crew of fast-talking criminals, gamblers, drug-dealers, and double-talking movie folk spew out some truly memorable and snappy lines. Former cameraman Barry Sonnenfeld also makes an astounding transition into the director’s chair, as he makes things visually interesting, captures the spirit of the book, gets wonderful performances from his all-star cast, and infuses the film with plenty of subtle humor and subtle jabs at the way the film industry sometimes functions.

    By and large though, the film works because John Travolta owns the role of Chili Palmer, the tough and confident, but soft hearted and honest shylock described above. Chili is always in control, even in the stickiest of situations, and he is so utterly cool that he even makes the “Cadillac of minivans” he is given by a rental car company fit his image. Interestingly, Chili makes his way to the City of Angeles via Las Vegas, where he was on the trail of a nebbish former dry cleaner that supposedly perished in a plane crash, but is actually living quite well on the $300,000 he scammed the airline out of.

    After Chili finds the dry cleaner, and relieves him of his loot, he is enlisted by a casino executive to remind a movie producer with outstanding markers that it is time to pay up. Thus, Chili finally arrives in Los Angeles on business, but after he meets his mark, schlock film producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), the lovely and surprisingly smart scream queen Karen Flores (Rene Russo), self-absorbed mega-star Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), and Harry’s financier Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo), his mind is on getting out of crime and into the equally shady world of film production!

    Unfortunately, while Chili is trying to change careers, he also has to deal with Ray “Bones” Barboni (Dennis Farina), a mobster who he has had run-ins with in the past. Chili remains perseverant, but the longer he remains in Hollywood, the more complicated things become. You see, Harry has his hands full with his financier Bo, who not only runs drugs through his limo service, but is every bit as eager as Chili Palmer to get into the movie production business.

    Further, Chili and his cohorts have to try and convince the hottest property on Hollywood, Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), who is basking in the glow of memorable performances in Ride the Clouds and Napoleon. With Martin on board, Chili’s story has the potential to become a blockbuster. The question is, can Chili and his new pal Harry Zim avoid Ray Barboni and Bo Catlett and secure Martin’s services?

    There are a lot of characters in Get Shorty and a lot of things going on, but I do not want to reveal too much. As such, I have endeavored to provide you with only a very brief outline of the intensely interesting and amusing plot that Barry Sonnenfeld keeps moving at a steady clip.

    In terms of performances, though the entire cast contributes, Travolta is the man who makes this film such a joy to watch. As I watched him smoothly navigate through a variety of obstacles and work his charm on the other characters, I found it hard to believe that an actor with so much talent was off the radar for so many years before his career was resurrected by Pulp Fiction. Handsome, dapper, confident, funny, and every bit a movie star in this film, Travolta turns a performance that can only be described as splendid! I cannot imagine anyone else playing Chili Palmer as well, and the film certainly would not have been what it is without him.

    If you like to laugh at how silly Hollywood can be sometimes, and have missed out on Get Shorty I cannot recommend it highly enough. Scott Frank got about as close as anyone has yet to capturing the spirit of an Elmore Leonard novel, and was wise enough to borrow a lot of the book’s dialogue. As such, the film is full of memorable quotes. As I mentioned above, Barry Sonnenfeld’s direction is very solid, the film has a great look, and the performances are almost uniformly outstanding, especially that of John Travolta!

    When I read that Get Shorty was getting a brand new, high-definition anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, I was really stoked, because the previous DVD’s visuals were somewhat disappointing, especially in terms of the lack of detail. Unfortunately, after subjecting this new “hi-def” transfer to some close scrutiny, I am not quite as giddy as I had hoped to be.

    The biggest surprise is that Get Shorty still looks a bit “soft”, which was a problem with the previous DVD release. Another problem that the previous release had – an overly dark image – is also apparent here, although the improvement in contrast is more prominent that the negligible improvement in image detail.

    On a more positive note, colors are bright and bold with no smearing, which helps Ray Barboni’s pastel sport coats and the Los Angeles locations really shine! Whites are also clean, and blacks are not only brimming with detail, but remain pleasantly free of low-level noise. As a result, shadow delineation is very good, and the image has an above average sense of dimensionality to it.

    The source print is extremely clean as well, as aside from a minute amount of film grain (which should be there, as it is a film), there is no distracting print damage or debris to speak of. Unfortunately, I had one more complaint to lodge, in that the application of edge enhancement is visible on occasion, which is enough to put some people off completely.

    On the whole, Get Shorty does look pretty good, and the new transfer offers slight improvements in contrast and detail (very slight), but I was left wanting more. If you care nothing for extras, and are only interested in upgrading for a better transfer, you might want to save your money.

    MGM has given English speakers two different audio tracks to choose from this time around, in the form of Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel surround mixes. In case I haven’t done so in a while, I will remind you that I wear my DTS allegiance on my sleeve, but in comparing the two I could detect virtually no difference between the two soundtracks. As usual, timbres may have been a hair more realistic, and bass may have been a tad more composed, on the DTS track, but it really could be perception – the tracks were that close in overall quality!

    Moving on to content, the source material pretty much guarantees a front-heavy mix, but there is nothing wrong with that, and the soundstage still has a decent sense of space when needed. Dialogue, which comprises much of the audio information, is also delivered crisply in most instances, although there was a scene or two where I had to increase my receiver’s volume to hear what the characters were saying. This was a minor annoyance, to be sure, but one worth mentioning nevertheless.

    In all other respects, these two soundtracks were above average, including the smoothness of overall frequency response and reproduction of the film’s music. As I mentioned, the surround channels do not see a lot of action, but they do enhance the score and add a little ambience to the film when called upon to do so. The subwoofer is also utilized sparingly, though it provides some punch to selected sound effects, especially gunshots.



    Audio Commentary
    The feature-length commentary for Get Shorty is provided courtesy of director Barry Sonnenfeld, who is informative, entertaining, and occasionally funny. If you are a fan of the film, there is a lot here for you, as Sonnenfeld keeps talking throughout, covering everything from technical aspects of the film (especially as it relates to lighting and camera angles – he used to be a cinematographer), to some interesting casting and production issues that were resolved before a frame of film was even shot. For instance, as is also covered in the supplemental materials, John Travolta was not only not the first choice to play Chili Palmer, but he also turned the part down once it was offered. Thank the heavens that things ultimately worked out as they did!

    Some of the other things to listen for are Sonnenfeld’s comments about some of the ideas that did not make it into the final cut of the film, and some interesting discussions about the process of adapting Elmore Leonard’s wonderful book for the big screen. Bottom line, there is a lot to like about this commentary, especially if you have the level of interest and enthusiasm in Get Shorty that I do!


    Get Shorty: Look At Me
    “Look At Me” is a 26-minute featurette that focuses on the process of bringing Get Shorty from the page to the screen, via a myriad of clips from the film, behind-the-scenes footage, and vintage(1995)/new interviews with the principal cast and crew. It kicks off with Elmore Leonard discussing how his writing style is naturally cinematic, and follows with Scott Frank (screenwriter) talking about the reasons so many of Elmore Leonard’s works have been “screwed up” when they were turned into screenplays.

    Most of the time is spent discussing the Chili Palmer character though, and to that end, director Barry Sonnenfeld reveals that John Travolta was not his first choice to play Chili Palmer (fortunately the original choice did not have enough time, as he was preparing to direct another film). Further, John Travolta also turned down the role when it was offered, so outside aid was sought in helping to talk John into doing it. Continuing on, Travolta, Hackman, DeVito, and company all discuss Chili’s characteristics, including his sense of fairness and honesty, and how much of a movie buff he is.

    There is more good stuff here, as the participants also talk quite openly about a couple of the other characters in the film, Harry Zimm and Martin Weir. Apparently, Gene Hackman had reservations about doing the film because it is a comedy, and he also tells a funny story about the inspiration for the Harry Zimm character. All in all, it is a well-produced and informative featurette, and I found it well worth the time invested!

    Get Shorty: Wiseguys and Dolls
    “Wiseguys and Dolls”, which runs 19 1/2 –minutes, picks up where the previous featurette left off, and focuses on more of the film’s actors and their characters. This time, we get to hear from or about Rene Russo, Delroy Lindo, Dennis Farina, James Gandolfini, and Harvey Keitel. also contains film clips and new interviews with the participants.

    Barry Sonnenfeld also talks about himself a bit, including the fact that he was a cinematographer, which really is evident in the way Get Shorty looked. His actors chime in here as well, talking about how Barry Sonnenfeld shaped the movie.

    This is a good featurette as well, and it is formatted in a similar fashion to “Look At Me”, with vintage/new interviews being commingled with film clips and behind-the-scenes footage.

    The Graveyard Scene
    This is a 4-minute introduction to the included deleted “Graveyard” scene, where Chili Palmer gets to visit one of Harry Zimm’s movie sets in Griffith Park. The featurette’s highlights include a vintage interview with Ben Stiller and a new one with director Barry Sonnenfeld, who really liked the scene but cut it because he felt the placement of the scene slowed the film down too much. It was a great scene on its own, but if placed where Mr. Sonnenfeld indicated, I would be inclined to agree with him!

    Deleted Graveyard Scene
    This is the aforementioned 3-minute “never-before-seen” deleted scene, featuring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, and Ben Stiller, who did not make it into the final cut of the film, on the set of one of Harry Zimm’s productions.

    Going Again
    “Going Again” is a 5 ½-minute behind-the-scenes look at the creation of one of Get Shorty’s key sequences with Travolta, DeVito, and Russo. If you have ever seen the movie before, you will know it as the “Look At Me” scene.

    Though short, this is a very interesting piece, features a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage, including various outtakes of DeVito getting into character, comments by Barry Sonnenfeld, and cast interviews. Together, they offer a fascinating look at how this scene was achieved, largely by shooting whole roles of film without ever cutting the camera.

    Get Shorty Party Reel
    The party reel has a few humorous moments, but it is not much of a party. Basically, it is a shoddy-looking 1-minute reel of bloopers and outtakes, which is set to music and has no production audio.

    Page To Screen
    “Page To Screen”, hosted by Peter Gallagher (The O.C.), is a comprehensive 30-minute Bravo channel special on the making of Get Shorty. All of the expected bases are covered, and in addition to offering a really good look at how Elmore Leonard’s book became Barry Sonnenfeld’s motion picture, the special gives a historical account of the Chili Palmer character, as well as some of the sources of inspiration for Mr. Leonard’s novel. Coupled with the previous featurettes, “Page To Screen” will make you a bona fide expert on Get Shorty!

    Photo Gallery
    The photo gallery features 24 behind-the-scenes still photographs, most of which show Barry Sonnenfeld giving his cast direction.

    The original theatrical trailer (2:40) for Get Shorty is included.

    Sneak Peak
    This 8-miunte piece is a promotional (of course), but interesting look at the upcoming sequel to Get Shorty, Be Cool, which is due in theaters on March 4th. This time out, the super-cool Chili Palmer gets involved in the music business!

    Packaging and Movie Ticket
    This Get Shorty Collector’s Edition comes complete with a nice color booklet that contains some interesting facts about Get Shorty, and a stylish digipak that is a vast improvement over the previous disc’s packaging (the bullet holes are a nice touch!). Better yet, MGM has been kind enough to tuck a ticket to see the upcoming Be Cool away inside the packaging, which almost nullifies the cost of this DVD!

    Promotional Materials
    The theatrical trailer for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and Fargo are available, as are and MGM Means Great Movies Promo and: cover art for: Gangster Number One, The Usual Suspects, and A Fish Called Wanda.


    (on a five-point scale)
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    Barry Sonnenfeld had the luxury of having a great piece of work to make a film out of, but he really did a great job in the director’s chair, and put together a film that is smart, stylish, laden with subtle humor, and filled with great performances. Speaking of performances, with the possible exception of Pulp Fiction, this is John Travolta’s best performance ever – he IS Chili Palmer in a way I cannot imagine anyone else being. Thank the heavens that Travolta was encouraged to do this film, and that the original choice to play Chili Palmer had other commitments that prevented him from taking on the role!

    I talked plenty about the movie above, so let’s move on to the DVD! If you have the previous DVD, you already know the transfer lacked detail, and sadly, the visuals on this new disc are not much improved. Still, however, the transfer is definitely serviceable, and the audio sounds good, although it was not too shabby on the previous release either.

    Basically, the biggest difference between this Collector’s Edition and the previous barebones release is in the extras department, and thankfully, these offset the lack of major improvement in the film’s appearance. There really are a lot of extras in this set, and almost every one is a worthwhile experience if you like this film, from the excellent audio commentary by Barry Sonnenfeld, to the deleted scene, to the smorgasbord of informative featurettes! When you consider the extras, the classy packaging, and the free pass to see Be Cool, that makes this new-fangled version of Get Shorty a very good value, and worth getting your hands on, room for improvement in the image department notwithstanding. Highly Recommended!!!

    Stay tuned…
  2. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

    Oct 31, 1997
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    Count me in for the double dip since I got the original as a freebie w/ my DVD player many years ago.

    It really is unfortunate though that video quality wasn't markedly improved (more than you state it was, which was marginal in detail, and slightly more in contrast and color if I read right).

    I remember when double dips that were separated by years (not Daredevil/Daredevil DC or Spiderman/Spidey Superbit) often meant a marked increase in quality. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly comes to mind, as does Top Gun, Unforgiven (1994), The Right Stuff, Amadeus and Blazing Saddles. It's like the studios have gotten lazy with double dips recently and just provided marginally improved transfers in cases where a larger improvement could be had (this film, October Sky, Heat). Maybe they're sandbagging for HD releases?
  3. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Jul 27, 2004
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    I don't think you have to subject the DVD to close scrutiny - I, too, found it soft. It certainly wasn't soft in the theater. You're being a little kinder than I would be about its softness - it's not a disaster or anything, but it's quite obvious.
  4. PeterTHX

    PeterTHX Cinematographer

    Dec 30, 2002
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    Is this the same commentary from the 1996 LaserDisc?

    I enjoyed that commentary (the only reason I'm holding on to my old LD), so it would be nice if it was the one.

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