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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 3/2/04




3/2/04 Weekly Release Roundup

The world of DVD coverage is STILL changing...

To keep up with the changes, we're introducing a new corner of The Bits. Weekly round-ups. In place of the previous Doogan's Views format, you'll find our look at the major titles are coming and are recommended each week, and some smaller ones that are worth picking up too. You can still expect more in-depth reviews of key titles elsewhere on the site, but for the most part, you'll get a nice introduction every Tuesday to the key releases of that week.

We're hoping you will like it. Expect things to change a bit here and there with the format, and it'll probably grow a bit to be more review-based as I find my legs. But all in all, I think you'll all have fun taking a look at what's new each week.

So with all of that out of the way, submitted for your approval are this week's recommended releases.

The big, must-have library title is, of course...


School of Rock

...from Paramount. Jack Black stars as a rock and roller in training that poses as a substitute teacher at a private school to earn some rent money, only to find that his students are actually talented musicians. With a little bit of prodding, he turns then into rockers and enters into a Battle of the Bands. Will they win? Will he get caught? We're not telling. But it's a fun ride with some really cute acting. Richard Linklater directs.


School of Rock You'll find School of Rock in stores in two different versions: rental friendly full frame and collector fave widescreen. Both feature very nice transfers with equally good sound. But the real reasons to pick this flick up are the extras. There are two commentaries, one with Jack Black and Richard Linklater, and the other featuring the kids from the film. One of the more fun extras is Jack Black's pitch to Led Zeppelin, which finds Black pleading Zeppelin to let them use their Immigrant Song in the film. This bit looks like it was filmed on set during the making of the Battle of the Bands scene, with Black getting the crowd worked up to help beg. Equally fun and funny is the episode from MTV's Diary with Jack Black and his Tenacious D cohort K.G.. showing a day in his life. If you ever wanted to see Jack Black' blurred-out ass, this is the place. Also on board is a featurette (Lessons Learned), trailers, a music video, a video diary shot by the kids during the Toronto Film Festival and a fun interactive feature called Dewey Finn's History of Rock.

Got get yourself a copy of this very funny film. It's a kick ass DVD.

The next obvious must have is Warner's...


The Chaplin Collection Volume 2


The Chaplin Collection Volume 2 This set collects remastered editions of City Lights, The Circus, The Kid, A King in New York, A Woman of Paris and Monsieur Verdoux. Each and every one of those are huge, huge Chaplin flicks. But rounding out the set is the two-disc The Chaplin Revue, which features Chaplin shorts made from 1918 and 1923. Here we get A Day's Pleasure, Sunnyside, The Idle Class and Pay Day, as well as three silent comedies - A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms and The Pilgrim. Oh, and we can't forget the exceptional Turner Classic Movies documentary, Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin.

Getting all of those films is their remastered glory would be enough, except we also get a boatload of extras, including behind-the-scenes footage of visitors to Chaplin's sets, footage photo galleries, film posters, the shorts How to Make Movies (where Chaplin shows the building of his new studio) and The Bond (a WWI propaganda film featuring Chaplin). And that stuff is just on the Chaplin Revue disc. This is a whopping box set, and if you enjoyed the first volume, you owe it to yourself to add this one to your library. If you don't have the first set yet, what are you waiting for?

Here are the rest of this week's major releases. If you're a studio PR person and you want to bring your titles to my attention, and get your discs listed in this column, drop me an e-mail.


Animated Batman

Adventures of Batman & Robin: Poison Ivy/The PenguinAdventures of Batman & Robin: The Joker/Fire & IceBatman Beyond: School Dayz/Spellbound

Warner is putting off the Batman box sets a little while longer and throwing a couple of compilation discs our way first. Three in total come out this week - two in the Adventures of Batman & Robin series, Poison Ivy/The Penguin and The Joker/Fire & Ice, as well as a nice Batman Beyond disc with two story runs, School Dayz/Spellbound. If you like animated Batman, then these discs are for you.


A Better Tomorrow 1 and 2


A Better Tomorrow 1 and 2

Anchor Bay is re-releasing these two John Woo films as a streamlined double-bill DVD. If you picked up the original sets, hold on to 'em for a while though.


The Big Bounce

The Big Bounce

If you thought the Owen Wilson film was cute, check out 1969's version of The Big Bounce from Warner. It features a very nice 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer and solid Dolby Digital Mono sound. No extras though.


Cold Creek Manor


Cold Creek Manor

No, it wasn't scary... which is too bad, because the trailer was creepy as all get out. The Touchstone disc release looks great in 1.85:1 anamorphic and it sounds good too. On board are a by-the-numbers commentary with director Mike Figgis, eight deleted scenes, a bonus alternate ending with optional commentary from Figgis (and an introduction) and two featurettes, Rules of the Genre and Cooper's Documentary, which are brief but stand up as good looks behind-the-scenes. If you're anything like my Mom and enjoy lame Lifetime Channel horror films, then Cold Creek Manor might be for you. For everyone else, rent this one first.


Curdled


Curdled

From Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder comes a truly neat cult film. Curdled stars Angela Jones. For fans of Pulp Fiction's "Gold Watch" section, she's the taxi driver obsessed with death. Here she plays the same character (Tarantino was homaging her in his film). She's a literal cleaner of crime scenes and she finds a clue that leads her to a charismatic murderer played by William Baldwin. Because she knows too much, he has to kill her... except she's as fascinated by death as he is. Is it a love match made in hell? This DVD features anamorphic widescreen at 1.85:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It's packed with the Rolling Thunder standards, including intro/outro by Quentin Tarantino, behind-the-scenes featurettes and filmmaker commentary. It's also carrying the two Curdled film school shorts this film emerged from, as well as deleted scenes, a trailer and photo galleries. It's a very cute bit of 90's independent filmmaking that is indeed welcome on DVD.


Dog Park


Dog Park

New Line gives us the lost Bruce McCulloch comedy starring Luke Wilson. You remember Bruce McCulloch don't ya? He was the funniest member of Kids in the Hall and director of the underappreciated Molly Shannon vehicle Superstar. Love him. Dog Park is the story of a guy named Andy, who's unlucky at love in theory... except he goes from babilicious Kathleen Robertson to megababe Natasha Henstridge. Loser. No extras here, but you do get very nice anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and dual 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks. This may be a rental, but it's worth checking out nonetheless.


Duplex


Duplex

How could this one fail? Stiller and Barrymore in a film directed by DeVito? Whatever it was in theaters, maybe it'll have a second life on video. Still you should just rent this one first. Look for this ultra-black comedy on DVD to have a by-the-numbers behind-the-scenes featurette and a couple of deleted scenes. It comes with full frame and 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic formats on the same disc (the way it should be), as well as Dolby Digital 5.1.


Good Boy!


Good Boy!

Hmmm... it's not often that MGM releases a special edition right off the bat, but here ya go. This kids' flick about interstellar dogs and their boy is on DVD this week as a packed release. We get commentary (billed as audio canine-tary) with the director John Hoffman and select cast members, A Dog-umentary: The Making of Good Boy!, profiles of the dog characters in the film, an interactive map, featurettes, theatrical trailers, deleted and alternate scenes and stills. All this and a full frame transfer. MGM's shooting for the kids here.


It


"It"

What is "It"? "It" is Sex Appeal and Clara Bow had it in spades. To this day, most Hollywood starlets only wish they could be as hot. It was made for Clara to exploit her sexy image, and it did so quite well. The film is a classic and very entertaining, even to this day. Image and Milestone gives us a re-issue of Image's previous release with new commentary by film professor Jeanine Basinger and a new orchestral score by Carl Davis, as well as a stills gallery and DVD-ROM material featuring director Clarence Badger on the making of the film. Fans of classic titles will really want this in their collection.


Looney Tunes: Back in Action


Looney Tunes: Back in Action

It's not a good film, but kids like it. My wife and I took our little goddaughters to an advance screening and they had a good time. Joe Dante does a good job merging cartoons and live action, but the whole thing feels flat rather in the end. But what are you gonna do? It wasn't meant to be critiqued. Like I said, the kids will love it.

And the kids will love this DVD too, 'cause it's built for 'em. You get a new Looney Tunes short entitled Whizzard of Ow, a montage of alternate footage, a tour of the Warner Studio guided by Bugs and Daffy and a handful of kid friendly featurettes (as well as an Easter egg). Warner also includes deleted scenes as DVD-ROM extras. I guess kids love computers, so that will give them something to do. But we hate that crap here.


Peyton Place


Peyton Place

Fox's newest Studio Classics release is the 1957 granddaddy to the soap opera. Weeeee! All the sex, murder and betrayal you need in one easy to swallow helping. The film stars Lana Turner, Arthur Kennedy, Terry Moore and Russ Tamblyn and is based on the lurid pop-cult best-seller from Grace Metalious. Nice. Peyton looks and sounds fine on DVD. It's not as spectacular as some of the previous releases in Fox's ode to Criterion, but it's still a good set. First up extras-wise is a commentary featuring Terry Moore and Russ Tamblyn edited together, which is nice and informative, as well as the always entertaining AMC Backstory. Oh... and don't forget the requisite Movietone News shorts (we get two with this one). It's not as extensive as some releases in the line have been, but it's nice to get this classic in our homes.


SpaceCamp


SpaceCamp

Fans of cheese from the 1980s should be quite happy with this release. Spielberg's wife, Travolta's wife, Lea Thompson and Joaquin Phoenix (before he changed his name), star as a crew of students and their teacher who are sent into space accidentally. MGM releases this fan favorite film to DVD (finally) as a (sniff) non-anamorphic movie-only edition. Gosh... MGM really needs to start doing new anamorphic transfers on their library titles. Oh, well... we're glad to get this disc in our libraries anyway. We just love Tish. She's like totally hot. Totally.


Starsky and Hutch: The Complete First Season


Starsky and Hutch: The Complete First Season

Just in time for the likely-to-be-a-hit Hollywood remake film, you can bring the original series home on DVD. Word is the film will serve as a prequel to the hit series, so now you'll be able to continue the adventure. All 23 episodes of season one are collected on five discs. They include a look at the new film, new interviews with the original Starsky and Hutch (David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser) and three featurettes. Hop into your 1974 Ford Torino and head down to the DVD shop and grab the set. C'mon, you know you have one.


Take This Job and Shove It


Take This Job and Shove It

I dunno why, but I love this film. And now I have it on DVD. So should you. It's a fun flick about a brewery executive who has to return to his hometown and fire everyone. But going back to his simple roots wakes something up in him and he snaps for the better. Full of all sorts of country cliches, Take This Job and Shove It is cheap (c'mon it's based on a country song), but it works. If you love beer, you should love this film. The DVD is a standard anamorphic transfer from MGM. Wait, anamorphic? From MGM? Well... there's nothing standard about that. Good work, MGM. No extras... but hey, anamorphic!


Also this week, be on the lookout for:

Doctor Faustus, Stargate: SG1 Volume 6, Terry Jones' live action Wind in the Willows tale Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and Universal re-releases of King Ralph, Mad Dog and Glory and the cult classic Melvin and Howard.

All in all, not a bad week for DVD. Well... unless you actually want to save your money. Then it sucks. See you in seven.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

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