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Austin Powers Collection(1997-2002)
See individual titles for the synopses.
For more about Austin Powers Collection and the Austin Powers Collection Blu-ray release, see Austin Powers Collection Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on December 10, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mike Myers, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Clint Howard
Director: Jay Roach
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Austin Powers Collection Blu-ray Review
A groovy comedy trilogy worthy of high-definition picture and sound comes to Blu-ray courtesy of New Line/Warner.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, December 10, 2008
Several early James Bond films have now been reissued on Blu-ray. They have not aged well. Even when they were first released decades ago, comedians aimed jokes at them and spoofs like The Pink Panther and the TV series Get Smart cropped up to parody the genre. Everyone should be well aware by now that the spy saga spoof has been taken to the extreme by Mike Myers. Austin Danger Powers sports an outrageous British accent, suave swagger, crooked teeth, irresistible carpet of chest hair and fab fashion sense. In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember, we find our hero being chased by the ladies, seducing supermodels and ending the destructive designs of his nemesis, Dr. Evil (also played by Mike Myers). And Austin appears to be a better dancer than Bond! Now the trilogy is available on Blu-ray in a nifty box with slim-BD holders for each disc. Some complain about the packaging and decry the slim cases. Others bemoan the fact that they can't yet purchase the individual BDs separately. But the set is produced well, with far better picture and sound than the DVDs, and it gets an easy recommendation for fans who like Mike Myers' humor.
It is interesting to see the Austin Powers series in succession. The box office draw allowed New Line to authorize increasingly bigger budgets as the series progressed, resulting in more lavish sets and "effects" after the first film. It also allowed for better production quality, which can be seen and heard in the Blu-ray versions to far greater acclaim than their DVD counterparts. Of course, the main draw of such comedies isn't the technical merits but the humor, and all three films deliver plenty of both (although the first two are funnier and better fit all the personalities together). Austin's entire persona is made up of quirky British mannerisms and phrases, along with over-the-top facial expressions. Dr. Evil is much more subdued but has his share of quirks and probably has the best lines, such as, "I didn't spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called 'mister'." Myers also plays other characters, such as Fat Bastard. International Man of Mystery introduces agent Austin, who emerges after thirty years in a cryogenic state. He is soon battling Dr. Evil, who flies around in a space capsule that looks like the Bob's Big Boy mascot, alongside agent Vanessa Kensington, the drop-dead gorgeous daughter of his original 1960s sidekick. A constant farcical theme in the series is Austin's throwback to a more sexist, less hygeinic era. Myers does a great job playing dumb with such issues as CDs versus vinyl records. As far we we know, Austin has yet to adopt Blu-ray. Of course, digital media are just the beginning of what Austin has to learn in the modern world.
The Spy Who Shagged Me starts where the previous film left off in 1999, as Austin is honeymooning with Vanessa when, due to unforseeable circumstances, he finds himself single again. To make matters worse, Dr. Evil has returned to earth from the frozen recesses of space and is hatching a new diabolical scheme to annihilate the world. It seems Dr. Evil uses a newly developed time machine to travel back to 1969, where he steals Austin Powers' mojo, rendering Austin insecure about his libido and lacking in his charm and swagger. Luckily, British intelligence has developed a time machine of their own--a psychedelic Volkswagon Beetle. Austin must travel back in time to the 1960s, rescue his mojo and thwart Dr. Evil's plot to destroy the world. Austin's sexy counterpart is CIA operative Felicity Shagwell, who helps get his mojo working. Austin Powers in Goldmember fast-forwards three years to a new plot by Dr. Evil. This time, Austin's nemesis and his accomplice Mini Me escape from a maximum-security prison and team up with the mysterious Goldmember to take over the world. The plan involves travelling back in time to kidnap Austin's father, Nigel Powers (Michael Caine), England's most renowned spy. As he chases the villains through time, Austin visits 1975 and joins forces with his old flame, Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles), a streetwise and stylish detective who is indeed foxy. It does bear mentioning that much of the humor involves sexual innuendo intended for a mature audience, although mature audiences will probably want nothing to do with these films. The humor is certainly far superior to most of the films churned out by ex-Saturday Night Live castmembers.
Austin Powers Collection Blu-ray, Video Quality
The production merits of the Austin titles improved with each successive film, translating to slightly better picture quality in The Spy Who Shagged Me and Goldmember compared to the International Man of Mystery, although signs of noise reduction compromise the quality of Goldmember. While none of the BDs rise to the level of reference quality, they each feature vibrant colors and significantly better resolution than their NTSC counterparts on DVD. It is much easier to pick out details in Austin's fab wardrobe and other textures in 1080p. The definition is good and it certainly makes the babes look shaggadelic. Unfortunately, some digital noise reduction appears to have been applied to Goldmember, which hurts the detail. Perhaps postprocessing effects were used in this latest film. But none of the Austin titles were going to win awards for lifelike definition by virtue of the way they were originally shot, so it's a bit like criticizing a drink for being wet.
One of the main draws of the BD set is to see the film that started the Austin Powers sensation, International Man of Mystery in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the first time on home video. The previous DVD versions conformed to other ratios in their "full screen" and "wide screen" versions. The latter version of the DVD had a 2:1 aspect ratio. As with each movie in the set, the VC-1 transfer of International Man of Mystery appears mostly noise-free, with mostly small film grain visible. Some scenes show more prominent grain, but nothing too obtrusive--it will not upset even the stodgiest grain haters. The colors, while bright, do not appear artificially pumped up and there are no signs of digital postproduction or noise reduction anywhere, except for Goldmember, which shows some signs of all of the above. The good detail and signs of a quality transfer are apparent in both light and darker scenes, and on dynamically complex sequences like the launch of Dr. Evil's "Bob's Big Boy" spacecraft. No signs of artifacting or pixelation. The slightly improved production quality of The Spy Who Shagged Me and cleaner, somewhat more detailed picture is worth noting. Even Goldmember clean and the colors are vibrant, but some depth has been sacrificed in the postproduction work and/or DNRing. It's just as well, because the film really isn't as fresh or humorous as its prequels. The video has some minor problems, but it does not hold back the overall enjoyment of the set.
Austin Powers Collection Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like the video (except for the Goldmember processing hiccup), the audio also gets a bit better--and a touch more immersive--with each successive film in the trilogy. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks on each deliver convincing dialog, effects and music that has just the slightest hint of digital veneer. Since music figures prominantly into many scenes, it is important to acknowledge the strong LFE content and linear thrust of the dynamics. From the flutes in the theme song of International Man of Mystery to the horns and percussion, the highs are nice and extended and the midrange is lush without getting syrupy. I would have liked a bit more air separating the instruments that comes with the greatest recordings and higher sampling rates, but that was not to be found here. Regardless, it is an audiophile quibble. Music aside, the ambient and surround noises keep the overall experience more immersive than any other comedy I've encountered. Compared to a production like Young Frankstein, all three films' audio tracks (and their video quality while we're at it) is far, far superior. No one should expect the Austin set to deliver a Master & Commander surround experience, but it doesn't have to. It's groovy, baby, just the way it is.
Austin Powers Collection Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, there is nothing new to see here, as it's all been ported over in standard definition from the DVD versions. But honestly, there's more than enough content as it is. It would be nice to have 1080p supplements, but no real surprise that didn't happen.
International Man of Mystery--It seems like the success of the Austin Powers saga took New Line by surprise. The initial film was produced on a small budget and not many extras exist for fleshing out the bonus features. Ironically, one gets a clearer idea of how the first film came together by watching the supplementary content for the two sequels than in delving into the slim material included here. It consists only of audio commentary from director Jay Roach and Myers, 11 minutes worth of unused scenes that were well worth leaving on the cutting room floor and a two-minute trailer. If you're genuinely curious about the character creation and script development, as well as how Austin's shenanigans tie in to 007 films, by all means check out the commentary. But it's difficult to indulge in serious issues about such a farcical, silly comedy.
The Spy Who Shagged Me--By the time the second film was released, Austin Powers was a household name and New Line knew it had a hit. Powers-style exclamations such as, "yeah baby!" and "oh behaaave!" had become part of everyday conversation. So it's not surprising that the sequel has more supplements, including a hilarious "documentary" starring Dr. Evil himself. The audio commentary again features a sober Roach and Myers, but this time with writer Michael McCullers joining them. Together, they discuss the prequel and how they went about trying to one-up it in every way. A half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary follows which further describes the development of the characters, script and routines. The Dr. Evil Story was aired on Comedy Central and if you find Austin's nemesis funny, don't miss this 20-minute documentary spoof. It's an absolute gutbuster. Also of note are four music videos: American Woman, Beautiful Stranger, Word Up and a hilarious parody of Just the Two of Us, starring Dr. Evil and Mini Me. Rounding out the supplements on The Spy Who Shagged Me are 18 minutes worth of deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.
Goldmember--Figures that the worst film of the set would get the most supplements, but by the time the second sequel was in production, Austin Powers had fully earned his place in popular culture alongside James Bond himself other comedic characters like Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The audio commentary with Roach and Myers is in some ways more interesting than the film itself, and compared to the commentaries on the prequels, the pair are more lively, open and humorous in their discussion. A six-part documentary that clocks in at 42 minutes, The World of Austin Powers, is the centerpiece of the supplements, far exceeding the featurettes of the first two discs in the series. With the most lavish sets, hard-hitting effects and dangerous stunts of the Austin saga, the documentary offers some insight into Goldmember as well as what is essentially a long advert for the series overall. A 13-minute production special covers Goldmember's costumes, plot, music and actors. It's hard to recommend this type of documentary. I'd rather rewatch parts of the film. Four music videos are included: Daddy Wasn't There, Work It Out, Boys and Hard Knock Life, starring Dr. Evil and Mini Me. Rounding out the bonus content on disc 3 are 18 minutes worth of deleted scenes (don't bother) and a two-minute trailer.
Austin Powers Collection Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The humor of the Austin Powers series may be off-putting to some, but I found it in much better taste than the average Jim Carey or Adam Sandler flick. Myers is more in the tradition of Peter Sellers and Mel Brooks, representing the true comedic elite. Both Austin and Dr. Evil offer glimpses of comedic genius (and I don't use the term lightly) from Myers. Like many Brooks comedies, music and body movement factor in strongly, but Myers rarely descends all the way into slapstick antics, and when he does, it's paid off. All of these are reasons to enjoy the films in HD and I hope some outspoken critics of the set do not get in the way of most fans enjoying it. Many have complained about the packaging, but there is nothing wrong with putting all three films in a box and using slim cases to save shelf space. Not wanting to have Goldmember in your collection is a valid reason to avoid the set, but if you can find it on sale, why not go for it? If nothing else, you can enjoy the audio commentary and otherwise check out the first two Powers films in all their HD glory. With all the emphasis on the Bond releases and action thrillers that take themselves too seriously, one needs to balance one's collection with comedies like the Austin Powers BDs.
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