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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 2/14/03




Love. Exciting and New.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Look at me; I'm all Valentine-y and shit. Happy Wuv Day to all of you. Hopefully you have someone to share this incredible day with. And hopefully that person doesn't expect a billion dollars worth of candy and flowers. Hey, why do women like flowers anyway? They're dead matter. I mean, give a plant if you want to truly say, "I love/like/tolerate you." Candy? It's a trap I say. Give a woman a fattening treat and then weather the, "Do I look fat?" questions for the rest of the year. And a word of advice from me to you: "No, you do not look fat honey." I don't care if Anna Nicole is asking you.

That's about all I have to say about V-Day. I'm not big into it. Neither is my wife. We'll get dinner and catch Daredevil or something. Nothing says love like a blind vigilante.

This week we (meaning I) at Doogan's Views take a look at a bunch of great DVDs. There are only a few stinkers in the bunch. But since I was drawn to watching them I figure you might be drawn to buying them and so I can let you know if it's a sucker purchase or a good one.

I'm out of here for the next two weeks where I'll be watching more discs to plop down in front of you. Have a nice V-Day and don't go all hog-wild buying mattresses and whites this President's Day. Save that cash for the spinning discs of, you guessed it, love.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

Doogan's Views - Main Page



Gloria

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

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Gloria
1980 (2003) - Columbia TriStar

As a kid, Gloria was one of my favorite films. I caught it every time it came on HBO. Gena Rowlands was and is gorgeous, the little kid was macho and spunky, and the mafia was as badass as it has ever been in film before or since. And you know what? Gloria still holds up for me after all these years. And this new anamorphic transfer really does the film right.

Former showgirl and girlfriend to the mob, Gloria Swenson, isn't looking for trouble, but when a neighbor who happens to be the accountant for the mob threatens to turn stoolie she finds herself the unwilling protector of his young son. Writer/director John Cassevetes, best known for his gritty New York milieus (as well as his acting in classics like Dirty Dozen and Rosemary's Baby) perfectly captures the Big Apple of the 70s/early 80s where grime was the overpowering element. This was long before the days of Disney's rejuvenation of the city, a time when the city had personality and wasn't an oversized strip mall. This new DVD presents the film very well, but without a single extra. A commentary by Rowlands about the work of her husband Cassevetes would have been nice. But getting the film this well preserved is good enough for me.

Doogan Says: Great movie-only presentation of a great classic flick. B+




Spontaneous Combustion

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Spontaneous Combustion
1989 (2003) - Anchor Bay

What's this, a remake of Firestarter? This is a lame ass flick, and I can't believe there would be an audience out there anxiously awaiting its release on DVD. Although it looks fine on DVD, it's a waste of film and time. Tobe Hooper, who gave us Texas Chainsaw Massacre and... its sequel, spins the tale of a young man (Brad Dourif) who, because his parents were exposed to a nuclear explosion and given an experimental drug, basically leaks fire from his body and mind. He finds out there's a conspiracy involving his existence and brings it down. That's it. There's nothing more to add, and no reason to check this flick out unless you're a Hooper completist. Which I wouldn't expect there are many of.

Doogan Says: Waste of time, waste of money. D-




Puphedz: The Tattle-Tale Heart

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Puphedz: The Tattle-Tale Heart
2002 (2003) - Brillig Productions (Elite Entertainment)

Although I liked this film on DVD a lot, I have to wonder why it's out. I'm not saying this is garbage, because it's definitely not, but it's awfully silly to release a simple stand-alone "short" film with the promise of more to come. The good thing is the price, around 10 bucks online, so it's at least nice to know that you can pick it up at an affordable cost, although I would think it's more a rental than anything else.

The Puphedz are basically a theater troupe made up of living marionette puppets traveling the world in a pull cart. We see their show and a good time is had by all. The filmmakers used traditional puppetry assisted by computer clean up and animation, and all of it looks great. The "animation" and production values are incredible, the story is fun (a minor reworking of Poe's "Telltale Heart") and the transfer looks pretty damn good. But, I have to keep saying it: Why just one short? There are two versions, shorter (edited and censored version for TV) and a longer, gorier version for fans. The longer version works better, but if you have a weak stomach for marionette violence then the shorter version is for you. Short film fans, art film fans and fans of the odd and wacky will love it. Hopefully it won't be a one-note joke and we'll see more of these shorts and possibly a fun-filled feature in the future.

Doogan Says: Wacky fun for all. B




Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Criterion)

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Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
1998 (2003) - Universal (Criterion)

Extras Include: Commentary tracks with director Terry Gilliam by himself, another with stars Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro with producer Laila Nabulsi and a feature length audio interview with author Hunter S. Thompson; deleted scenes with commentary by Terry Gilliam; collection of storyboards and production designs; collection of original artwork by famed illustrator Ralph Steadman; audio documentary covering the before, during, and after of the Writer's Guild screenplay credit arbitration narrated by Gilliam and producer Laila Nabulsi; Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood: A BBC feature documentary with Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman; Hunter Goes to Hollywood documentary featurette; a selection of Hunter S. Thompson correspondence, read on-camera by Johnny Depp; rare material on Oscar Zeta Acosta, the attorney on whom the character Dr. Gonzo is based; stills gallery; except from Fear and Loathing audio CD

I love Gilliam. I love Criterion. And I love it even more when these two get together. This is a great DVD set, one that was a long way coming and I can't recommend it enough for everyone who enjoys reading our site and this column. If you don't know what Fear and Loathing is, you need to be schooled, and the best way to do that is watch the film. This isn't the perfect adaptation (I think that would be impossible) but it's damn near close enough for me. Depp is Thompson, Del Toro is Gonzo, and proof of both of those things is contained in the supplements on this disc.

This film, in the shortest sense, is about the ultimate road trip through a time when America was enduring its final death throes before becoming a bloated corpse thanks to the over-politicization of our society and its needs. I'm not going to get all political, but if you want to pin-point the exact moment we all lost it as a country, read the book or watch this movie and you'll see it clear as day. Anyway, Gilliam is the perfect director for this film and although it's not my favorite Gilliam film, it is up there.

The thing that really makes this disc is the supplements. It's one of those movies that really needed a great special edition DVD to make it cool. And boy is this disc pretty cool - and special as well. There are three commentaries, one with Gilliam talking in his funny, artistic and self-depreciating manner. He's having a good time, and listening to him we do too. Depp, Del Toro and producer Laila Nabulsi discuss the making of the film, the characters and the historic book. But the great thing is the commentary/interview of Thompson "live" from his compound with his assistant and Nabulsi. He rips on Gilliam, Depp, himself, he barks like a dog and sounds like he's getting drunk as the commentary goes on. Beautiful. Aside from the great commentaries, we get a couple of fun documentaries, a wonderful and rare look at Oscar Zeta Acosta (aka Dr. Gonzo) proving Del Toro simply nailed the look, attitude and performance. But the best thing on this disc is an audio documentary about the WGA script arbitration. It's a twisted story worth buying this disc for. There are piles more on this set, so if you're a fan of the film, of Criterion or of Gilliam, get your ass to the store and pick up this beautiful DVD.

Doogan Says: Criterion, Gilliam. Thompson. Perfection. A




Ernest Hemingway's The Killers (Criterion)

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Ernest Hemingway's The Killers
1946/1964 (2003) - Universal (Criterion)

Extras Include: Andrei Tarkovsky's student film version of The Killers; video interview with writer Stuart M. Kaminsky (author of Don Siegel: Director); Screen Director's Playhouse 1949 radio adaptation, starring Burt Lancaster and Shelley Winters; Actor Stacy Keach reads Hemingway's short story; production and publicity stills with actor biographies, rare behind-the-scenes stills gallery, original press book and ads for both films; Collection of trailers for Robert Siodmak films; Writer/director Paul Schrader's seminal 1972 essay Notes on Film Noir; liner notes for the 1946 version by Jonathan Lethem (author of Motherless Brooklyn) and the 1964 version by Geoffrey O'Brien (author or Hardboiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir); isolated music and effects track; Reflections with Clu Gulager, star of the 1964 version; excerpts from the book A Siegel Film pertaining to the making of the movie; production correspondence including memos from Don Siegel, broadcasting standards reports and casting suggestions.

I'm not a big fan of Hemingway. I appreciate his economy of words and tone. I like his attitude and the machismo is always nice when handled right. But the stories he told never grabbed me. His short story The Killers isn't one of my favorites. Why a couple of thugs would announce to the world their intentions of killing someone in a small town and leave everyone alive as they realize the guy isn't where they thought he was is silly to me. Neither one of these two versions of that story are what I would consider great, though they are classic to be sure. No one did femme fatale better than Ava Gardner in the 1946 version and Lee Marvin is a bad ass in the 1964 version - with one of the greatest "good-byes" ever shot. Still, I have to give props to Criterion for giving us both versions in one set. Not only that but they expertly guide us through the world of film noir with essays, liner notes, and interviews. I think this is more a chance to give us the Criterion view of noir, than a way to honor these two films. If you're a fan of classic cinema, this is a very good look into the world of gumshoes, anti-heroes and crafty broads.

Doogan Says: The films are good, but the DVD is better. B




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