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Barry Sonnenfeld
John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini, Jon Gries, Renee Props, David Paymer
Writing Credits:
Elmore Leonard (novel), Scott Frank

The Mob Is Tough. But It's Nothing Like Show Business.

Drug smuggling. Racketeering. Loan Sharking. Welcome to Hollywood! Golden Globe winner John Travolta leads an all-star cast in the hysterical comedy that Times calls "smart, shrewdly crafted and hilarious!" Loan shark Chili palmer (Travola) is bored with the business. So when he arrives in L.A. to collect a debt from down and out filmmaker Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), Chili talks tough ... and then pitches Harry a script idea. Immediately, Chili is swept into the Hollywood scene: He schmoozes film star Martin Weir (Danny Devito), romances B-movie queen Karen Flores (Rene Russo) and even gets reservations at the hottest restaurants in town. In fact, all would be smooth for this cool new producer, if it weren't for the drug smugglers and the angry mobster who won't leave him alone!

Box Office:
$30.250 million.
Domestic Gross
$72.077 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 2/22/2005

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Barry Sonnenfeld
Disc Two
• “Get Shorty: Look At Me” Featurette
• “Get Shorty: Wiseguys and Dolls” Featurette
• “The Graveyard Scene” Featurette
• Deleted Graveyard Scene
• Outtakes
Get Shorty Party Reel
• Bravo Page-to-Page Look at Get Shorty
• Sneak Peek at Be Cool
• Photo Gallery
• Trailers

• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Get Shorty: Special Edition (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 16, 2005)

Nothing brings out DVD reissues like a sequel! It took 10 years for a sequel to 1995’s Get Shorty to hit the screens, but 2005’s Be Cool represents the next step in the Chili Palmer saga. Looking to capitalize on that release, MGM put out this two-disc Collector’s Edition of Get Shorty.

Shorty quickly introduces us to gangster Chili Palmer (John Travolta), the muscle who enforces loans owed to his boss Momo (Ron Karabatsos). At the movie’s start, we witness the antagonism between Chili and a colleague named Ray “Bones” Barboni (Dennis Farina) not a friend. This leads to a war between the pair that turns complicated when Momo dies. This puts Momo’s accounts under the control of Ray’s boss Jimmy Caps (Alex Rocco), and that gives Ray power over Chili.

Back to business: after he narrowly escapes a plane crash, drycleaner Leo Devoe (David Paymer) skips out and pretends to be dead so he can collect money from the airline. He abandons his “widow” (Linda Hart) back in Miami while he parties in Las Vegas. Chili tracks him there but finds out Leo’s gone to LA. Since Chili will go to LA anyway, he agrees to track down Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) as a favor to casino head Dick Allen (Bobby Slayton).

When the film jumps to California, we meet Zimm and actress/occasional girlfriend Karen Flores (Rene Russo) in bed at her house. Chili breaks in to roust Harry, but the pair start to chat and Zimm becomes fascinated by Chili’s movie pitch. It seems that Chili’s a film buff, and now that he’s in LA, he decides he’d like to get into that business.

This sets many complicated threads into motion. Harry needs money to produce Mr. Lovejoy, a flick that he hopes will star noted actor Martin Weir (Danny De Vito). Gangsters Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo) and Ronnie Wingate (Jon Gries) already have an investment in another Zimm flick, so Harry wants Chili to get them off his case and let him move on to Mr. Lovejoy. Eventually matters turn into a battle over the production of that flick and other matters. In addition, Ray comes out to find Chili and get his money, while Palmer and Karen start to fall in love.

While the enormous success of Pulp Fiction resurrected Travolta’s career in 1994, Shorty established that he could do well in other projects. Of course, Travolta’s days as a true “A”-list actor wouldn’t last; he’d soon bury himself in junk like Battlefield: Earth and Domestic Disturbance. But at least he managed to remove any doubt that Pulp was his last hurrah.

Indeed, Travolta is likely the best thing about the often-mediocre Shorty. In a lot of his later endeavors, Travolta lacks a natural presence; he forces his emotions and actions in such a way that it really feels like he’s acting. Those problems don’t mar his work in Shorty, as he stays light and loose. Granted, his accent doesn’t always convince, but Travolta keeps things lively.

The presence of a stellar supporting cast doesn’t hurt. Travolta enjoys nice chemistry with Russo, and the other actors create enjoyable personalities. They’re professionals who don’t steal the show from Travolta, but they ensure that they reinforce his lead and make the movie satisfying.

Oddly, Sonnenfeld doesn’t create a very vivid world for his actors. Often his films come across as style over substance. Like most cinematographers-turned-directors, Sonnenfeld knows his visuals, and many of his flicks like The Addams Family and Men in Black are often more convincing in stylistic ways at the expense of story and character.

In the glossy environments of LA and Miami, a tale like Shorty begs for similar treatment. That’s especially true since it concentrates on a snappy, fast-moving plot. However, Sonnenfeld fails to deliver the necessary mood. He makes the movie plod much of the time. It rarely takes on the dynamic and vibrant feel it needs.

Sonnenfeld doesn’t actively harm Get Shorty, as the cast and the script deliver enough zip to make it entertaining. Unfortunately, the director doesn’t serve the material particularly well. He creates a somewhat bland and flat piece that goes for an understated tone when it should be over the top.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Get Shorty appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While parts of Shorty looked quite good, some drab sequences made it an erratic transfer.

Sharpness varied. Most scenes demonstrated acceptable to good delineation and were appropriately defined. However, more than a few shots appeared too soft and mushy, largely because the transfer suffered from some moderate edge enhancement at times. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, though, and the movie lacked many source defects. I saw an occasional speckle, but the image usually came across as clean.

With sunny locations in Miami and LA, I expected bright, vibrant tones, and Shorty sometimes delivered those. However, despite the vivid production design, I thought the colors occasionally looked slightly dingy. They weren’t poor, but they didn’t leap off the screen like they should. Blacks were also a bit lackluster, while shadows varied from smooth and concise to somewhat dense. The very attractive scenes popped up often enough to ensure the movie usually looked good, but the less appealing shots caused the transfer to drop into “B-“ territory.

Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks of Get Shorty suffered from no particular flaws, they also got a “B-“ due to their lack of ambition. Did I notice any substantial differences between the pair? No - to these ears, both the Dolby and DTS mixes sounded very similar.

The soundfield usually focused on the forward channels. In that realm, we got good stereo imaging for the score and decent use of the sides for ambience. However, the film rarely attempted anything more involving than that. It presented general environmental information and little else. That meant the surrounds didn’t have much to do. Some shots at the airport kicked them to life briefly, but not many other sequences took advantage of the possibilities.

At least the quality of the audio remained positive. Speech consistently sounded crisp and distinctive, and I noticed no concerns with edginess or intelligibility. Music was bright and bouncy, as the score showed good range and clarity. Though few of the effects taxed my system, they always were clean and natural, with good depth as needed. There just wasn’t enough action on display to warrant a grade above a “B-“, though.

Whereas the original “movie-only” DVD of Get Shorty included nothing more than a trailer, this new two-disc set packs an expanded roster of extras. On DVD One, we find an audio commentary from director Barry Sonnenfeld. He offers a running, screen-specific track originally recorded in 1996 for the laserdisc.

On the positive side, Sonnenfeld touches on many good nuggets. He gets into locations, story issues and changes made along the way, the cast and their work, and some technical topics. However, his low-key attitude makes the track sound awfully monotone much of the time, and the commentary really drags on occasion. Occasional gaps appear, and Sonnenfeld often does little more than tell us what he likes about the movie; “I love this shot” becomes a running line. There’s enough here to make the commentary useful, but it’s fairly erratic.

When we shift to DVD Two, we start with a program called Get Shorty: Look At Me. This 26-minute and 45-second program offers the standard mix of movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from Sonnenfeld, author Elmore Leonard, screenwriter Scott Frank, and actors John Travolta, Danny De Vito, Gene Hackman, and Rene Russo. They discuss story and character issues, adaptation concerns, casting and approaches to the roles. Despite - or perhaps because of - that limited focus, “Look” offers a delightful look at its topics. We get a nice examination of the actors’ work, and the entertaining insights and stories from Hackman and De Vito help. Too many movie clips appear, but it’s a lot of fun anyway.

Next comes Get Shorty: Wiseguys and Dolls. In this 20-minute and 25-second piece, we find notes from Sonnenfeld, De Vito, Frank, Russo, Hackman and actors Delroy Lindo and Dennis Farina. “Dolls” acts as an extension of “Look at Me”, as it focuses on more character and adaptation issues. We also find details about the movie’s violence and stunts as well as Sonnenfeld’s influence on the production. It’s not quite as entertaining as “Me” since it doesn’t feature as much from De Vito and Hackman, but it nonetheless presents nice insight into the film and its participants.

For some unused material, we head to The Graveyard Scene. The four-minute and 10-second featurette features remarks from Sonnenfeld and actor Ben Stiller as they discuss the sequence’s creation and various facets plus why it didn’t make the final cut. We then check out Deleted Graveyard Scene on its own. It runs three minutes, 27 seconds and presents an entertaining piece.

For the next featurette, we get Going Again. The five minute, 19 second program presents notes from Sonnenfeld about the painful slowness of shooting movies and how little control directors usually have. He discusses this a little in his commentary, as it connects to De Vito’s decision to never allow him to say “cut”, but it’s cool to see the actual alternate takes from the actor. De Vito chimes in with a few remarks as well.

The Party Reel acts as a collection of outtakes and behind the scenes footage. The low-quality piece shows five minutes and 43 seconds of footage usually accompanied by some of the movie’s score. It’s mildly amusing to watch the actors goof around, and we eventually see some bloopers. It’s a little more entertaining than usual, but not much.

Given that this DVD exists to promote the sequel, the presence of the Sneak Peek at Be Cool comes as no surprise. The eight-minute and 10-second clip involves shots from the set and comments from Travolta, De Vito, director F. Gary Gray, producer David Nicksay, novelist Elmore Leonard, and actors Uma Thurman, the Rock, Christina Milian, Andre 3000, James Woods and Cedric the Entertainer. Don’t expect any insight into the production, as this sucker exists solely to recap the sequel’s story and characters and to promote it.

Hosted by Peter Gallagher, the 29-minute and 35-secondPage to Screen of Get Shorty offers comments from Travolta, Leonard, Sonnenfeld, Frank, Farina, author/literary critic Martin Amis, book researcher Gregg Sutter, Ernest “Chili” Palmer, literary agent Michael Siegel, producers Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg, talent agent Fred Specktor, Quentin Tarantino, cinematographer Donald Peterman, and actor David Paymer. Part of a Bravo series, the program covers Leonard’s approach to writing and the development of Shorty, its roots in reality and research, the book’s success and its slow path to Hollywood, adaptation issues and changes from the novel, themes and character elements, casting, the actors’ approaches to their roles, Sonnenfeld’s approach to the material and his work on the set, the director’s worries about the flick, and the film’s success.

Inevitably, “Page” repeats some of the information heard during the commentary and the other featurettes, but it acts as the DVD’s best general overview. It goes through the tale from start to finish quite well. It lacks immense depth but it touches on all of the highlights in a concise and satisfying manner. Heck, we even hear Travolta acknowledge that he embodies Hollywood stereotypes since he orders off the menu and doesn’t know his own phone number!

Within the Photo Gallery, we get 45 shots. These mix production images and publicity stills. We also find the movie’s trailer and some ads under the banner “Other Great MGM Releases”. That area includes promos for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Fargo.

Finally, the package includes an eight-page booklet. It includes some basic production notes and fun trivia. For example, we hear about how Sonnenfeld likes to play “Death Is Not an Option”, a contest that requires you to pick one of two unpleasant prospects such as “would you rather have sex with the key grip or your mom?” It’s a good little addition to the set.

Get Shorty often becomes funny and entertaining, but it rarely turns into something as involving as I’d expect. It enjoys strong source material as well as good performances. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver the zest and pizzazz it needs to thrive. The DVD offers adequate picture and audio along with a pretty solid package of extras. Get Shorty is a moderately amusing diversion and a pretty good DVD, but nothing here ever becomes genuinely special.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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