Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.

Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 3/9/04




3/9/04 Weekly Release Roundup

Well... it's only a pretty good week for DVD this time around. It's not quite dumpy, but there are really only two huge releases for us to talk about. The rest will fall in the "some will want 'em, others won't" category.

All together, we get a major release, three TV sets, a couple of cult films... and some very hot chicks. So let's take a look at the one all of us are going to be putting into our libraries...



Schindler's List Schindler's List

What can we say? It's an official Best Picture; the finest made film in Spielberg's cannon and one of the greatest films ever made on the subject of the Holocaust. Although not a perfect film, it is a great film and its power is undeniable. And after witnessing the fallout from The Passion of the Christ, it doesn't pay to criticize (good or bad) films of this magnitude.

Oskar Schindler wasn't a great man; he wasn't even a good man. He was an opportunist and a profiteer who, for business reasons (and later moral ones), saved over 1,000 Jewish people in the 1930s and 40s by employing them in his factories. He was one of the greatest insiders to have - a man who was loyal and therefore trusted by the Nazi party - but he was also a man who understood the importance of looking at the big picture. For the good of business, and ultimately of man, Oskar did what we all know to be the right thing.

Because of just how powerful the film is, most people who saw Schindler saw it upon its initial theatrical release and then filed it away. So for me, seeing Schindler's List on DVD was a revelation of just how good it really is. The acting (especially Ralph Fiennes), the cinematography, the music, the sound design - all of it is first rate. Schindler is a brilliant film, and it looks and sounds incredible on DVD.

The transfer is gorgeous. The black and white photography (with a few scenes in color) looks amazing. It's an anamorphic widescreen transfer, with solid and deep blacks, minimal grain and nice detail. The sound is also quite strong. Most of it is front heavy, but when it needs to, the mix pulls some nice directional effects out. It's presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and both tracks sound very good (with the edge going to DTS).

Extras are where the disc falls a bit. Spielberg hates commentaries, so don't expect to find one here. To avoid confusion, because there will be a few editions on the shelves, we'll go over what's on all the retail versions (there are two rental versions for the Blockbusters). First, you can choose to get the standard edition in either widescreen or full frame. This edition has two documentaries. Voices from the List, made by Laurent Bouzerau, focuses on the survivors of the true events behind the story of Schindler's List. It mainly utilizes interviews and makes its point very well. The other is The Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg, which is just that: an introductory overview of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation Spielberg helped found. You'll also find some cast and crew bios and that's it.

The other edition out there is a gift set, which comes in a nifty plexiglass case. The DVD inside is identical to the one listed above, but thrown in are a book entitled Schindler's List: Images of the Steven Spielberg Film, a CD soundtrack, a limited edition senitype (film cell) and a certificate of authenticity, validating the fact that you spent 80 bucks.

It's not a packed special edition, but it's a good DVD, so be sure to check it out.

Next up, and also not to be missed, is...



Futurama: Volume 3 Futurama: Volume 3

How Fox could cancel this show is a brain teaser for every straight-thinking person out there. It was the best sci-fi television comedy ever produced, and these DVD sets prove that each time a new one comes out. In Volume 3, we get the episode where Fry and the guys get captured by amazon women and are sentenced to be humped to death... the one where Fry goes underground to get his lucky five-leaf clover... the key episode where flying disembodied brains are taking over the Earth and only Fry can save us... the episode where Fry and Bender go to jail... the one where Bender becomes a walking brewery... he one with Beck's head... the one with the Harlem Globetrotters and the time slippage... the one with Lucy Liu... the one where Fry becomes better for having worms... and the one where Fry and the gang go back in time and Fry becomes his own grandfather.

Yes, there's even more great shows left in this four disc set, but I only get a few paragraphs to make my sell.

All of the episodes look and sound great on DVD, and they all come with funny and informative commentaries, as well as deleted scenes and storyboards. Disc Four is the most loaded, with featurettes on how to draw the characters, additional clips and stills, and an alternate commentary for Roswell That Ends Well (the one where Fry does the nasty with his Grandma).

This is another great Futurama box set, which just leaves us wanting more. Damn you, Fox, for canceling this show! Damn you... and thank you too for this DVD.

So those are the "must have" DVDs for the week. What else is there?

Well...


ABC Primetime: Mel Gibson's Passion ABC Primetime: Mel Gibson's Passion

This was a quick turn-around for ABC. I haven't seen this one, so I can't tell you what it looks like or what's on it... but it hit stores on Monday. If you're a Passion junky (with your replica nail and coffee mug), then you'll probably want this too. Mel proves to be a bit nutty while making his case to Diane Sawyer, but hey... you gotta admire the guy for his... well, passions. By the way, Fox will be releasing the actual film on disc in a few months.


Brother Sun, Sister Moon Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Acclaimed filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli's film about St. Francis of Assisi isn't a fan favorite. Bad dialogue, stiff acting, a happy pop score by Donovan and only one good scene with one good actor (that would be Alec Guinness as Pope Innocent III) mar this one pretty badly. Still... damn it is a good-looking film. Fans of religious movies might get a kick out of the subject matter, but we're betting it's a bit too hippie-centric for most folks. Paramount gives us this one as a straight movie-only edition with anamorphic widescreen video and both English and French (with English subs) Dolby Digital mono audio.


Dawn of the Dead Dawn of the Dead

We covered this one on the site late last week. You can read our review here. It looks great, and is a surprisingly full special edition. Most fans will probably wait for the bigger set coming later this year, but if you see the new remake and just have to see what inspired it now, do check out this very nice DVD release.


Mona Lisa Smile
Mona Lisa Smile

Julia Roberts, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in this feminist Dead Poets Society. Sorry, hate to say it, but it's true. This film by Mike Newell examines the 1950s and how women fit into American society. There weren't a whole lot of options out there for a woman back then, and college was a place where women either learned how to be better wives by taking home economics classes or better secretary by taking typing. Or... women could teach. That's how Julia Roberts finds herself standing in front of a class of girls at Wellesley College, each with huge potential (they just don't know it yet). This film takes place at a time when everything was about to change, and Mona Lisa Smile is trying to take a snapshot of that change.

Mona Lisa Smile isn't a great film. But the acting is very, very good, which elevates it a bit. These four actresses really get on well together, and I liked them as an ensemble. Hopefully, they'll all find something to do with each other again. Maybe something fun, like a girl-powered Ocean's Eleven.

Columbia TriStar's DVD features a very nice anamorphic widescreen transfer and sound in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras include a series of featurettes. First is Art Forum, where Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin and Marcia Gay Harden discuss art, artists and their impact on the world. College Then and Now looks at how much college has changed over the years, and includes interviews with cast and crew. What Women Wanted: 1953 discusses the themes of the film. Finally, there's a video for Elton John's The Heart of Every Girl, which ends with an ad for the soundtrack, and a collection of trailers. Not bad.

Mona Lisa Smile really could have been a great film, but it ends up just being good. Still, it's worth your time for a rental.



Prey for Rock & Roll Prey for Rock & Roll

Say what you want about Prey for Rock & Roll, but it's a fun flick. In a Rocky Horror kind of way. It seems destined for a camp classic as far as I'm concerned.

Gina Gershon snarls, pisses, bites, claws and screams her way through the film as the lead singer of an all-girl rock band, who is facing the prospect of turning 40. She's wondering if she should stay with the band, which has seen better days. Covered in cliché, Prey is what you'd expect of a Rock & Roll flick, and doesn't aspire to be anything more than that. The band is made up of similar hot femmes, including Lori Petty, Drea De Matteo and Shelly Cole.

The disc features a good-looking anamorphic widescreen transfer, with nice color and moderate grain, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio, a trailer and audio commentary with director Alex Steyermark.



Sex Goddess: The Raquel Welsh Collection

Sex Goddess: The Raquel Welsh Collection

The queen of hot mamas is back, and Fox has collected some of her defining moments on DVD in one handy-dandy box set. The Sex Goddess Collection includes: Mother Jugs and Speed, Bandolero!, Myra Breckinridge, One Million Years B.C. and Fathom.

Sadly, the best film of the bunch, Mother, Jugs and Speed, is a movie-only release, as are Bandolero! and One Million Years B.C.. Fathom is the same disc reviewed here, which leaves the legendary star-filled, soft-core sex romp, Myra Breckinridge, as the sole loaded special edition.

All the films in this set include anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital sound (mono on most discs). Myra has both the R-rated and unrated versions of the film, each with a seperate commentary, one by director Michael Sarne and the other by Ms. Welsh, an episode of AMC Backstory and a bunch of trailers.

These are all fun films, and Raquel Welsh ain't bad to look at. But if you don't want all of the films in this set, we understand and are here to tell you that all are available individually as well.



The Ten Commandments: Special Collector's Edition The Ten Commandments: Special Collector's Edition

Before Mel filmed Jesus gettin' beat up, Cecil B. DeMille parted the Red Sea so that Moses (Charlton Heston) and his people could cross. Long an Easter tradition on TV, The Ten Commandments hits DVD again, this time as a special edition featuring a fascinating commentary by film historian and Ten Commandments expert Katherine Orrison, a 6-part documentary, a photo gallery, trailers and newsreel footage. Paramount brings us Commandments in very lush anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 sound. There doesn't seem to be much difference between this and the previous edition, in terms of video and audio quality, so if you're looking to upgrade you'll only be doing it for the extras.


What's New Scooby Doo? Volume 2: Safari, So Goodi! What's New Scooby-Doo? Volume 2: Safari, So Goodi!

Fans of the Kids' WB!/Cartoon Network's new revamp of everyone's favorite talking dog should dig the newest volume in the collection. Wrapping up four more episodes of the series, the presentation is pretty standard with full frame video and Dolby Digital 2.0. Extras are for the kids, featuring such things as Velma translating Scoobyspeak and details on the locations of the cases featured in these episodes. For those of you planning on seeing the new film, there's a voucher good for one kid's ticket in the case.


Zatoichi: The Outlaw Zatoichi: The Outlaw

This one has been available from AnimEigo for a while now, but you can finally find it in all your favorite video stores today. We love Ichi, and we've already reviewed this disc here. To sum it up for you... just buy it already.


Zero Woman: Dangerous Game Zero Woman: Dangerous Game

I'm picking this one just so I can have the cover in my column. I love the Zero Woman series, but as of press time, I haven't seen this disc yet. So I'm just recommending this one based on the cover. Don't tell Bill.


Also available today:

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 5 (which includes Boggy Creek II, Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders, Time Chasers and The Touch of Satan) and the Clive Owen starrer Croupier

And hey... on a personal note, if anyone out there happens to see the cult film Forbidden Zone (the one starring Danny Elfman and Hervé Villechaize -- not the Alien Abduction film or the Red Shoe Diaries entry) on DVD during your trip to the video store this week, or if you know anything about its release, drop me an e-mail. My sources say it's out today, but I can't find anyone selling it. I want it and I must have it. Let me know!

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


Doogan's Views - Main Page

E-mail the Bits!


Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2002 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com