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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 4/20/04




4/20/04 Weekly Release Roundup

It's a pretty good week for DVD, especially for the Criterion and TV fans. There's not a lot of titles, but what there is today is interesting. Plus there are some good library titles. Let's just jump in, the water seems fine.



Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

And speaking of water, that's the subject of the big title of the week. Fox's Master and Commander is available in a single-disc movie-only edition, as well as a 2-disc collector's edition. But because of my schedule these past few weeks, I have neglected to check it out. Never fear though... I can tell you that it's worth picking up, and Bill will be posting a review of it later this week.


3 Women (Criterion) 3 Women

3 Women is Robert Altman's dream-like look at the relationship between two women working at a geriatric spa in the California desert. This relationship becomes somewhat complicated when a "third woman" comes into the picture. It's not a typical Altman film, but features a brilliant performance from Shelley Duvall. Criterion releases this one for Fox with a gorgeous transfer in anamorphic widescreen and a nicely competent mono audio track. The main extra is a commentary from Altman, in which he discusses the film and his overall philosophies. You also get a trailer, TV spots and a vast gallery of stills.


The Haunted Mansion The Haunted Mansion

Another Disney theme park ride turned live-action movie. Think Country Bears more than Pirates of the Caribbean and you'll be in the right ballpark. Not a totally bad film, but not a good one either. On DVD it looks as good as you'd expect a new Disney film to look on disc. The sound and transfer are both THX certified. It's a polished turd. The extras are nice though, with plenty of fun stuff for kids and adults. There's a "tour of the house" game that is fun, a nice making of featurette, commentary with the director and writer, deleted scenes, outtakes, trailers and DVD-ROM based extras. Not a bad disc if you're a fan.


King of New York: Special Edition King of New York: Special Edition

Independent filmmaker Abel Ferrara's most commercial film is about a one-time underworld boss who's spent some time away at prison. He returns to take full control back and brings peace to the crime world, policing it himself. But redemption is hard earned and bad things happen to bad men doing good things. This DVD presents the film in full frame and anamorphic widescreen on two discs. The widescreen version gives us the film with two commentary tracks. One is with Ferrara, the other with his prized crew. Both are good and worth listening to. There's also a pair of very good long-form documentaries: one about Ferrara's career and the other on hip-hop legend Schoolly D. You'll also find a Schoolly D video, TV spots and trailers. A great DVD, actually. Check it out.


A League of Their Own: Special Edition A League of Their Own: Special Edition

It's a two-disc special edition re-boot of an early DVD title. Tom Hanks is the manager of a ragtag group of women playing baseball while the boys are off at war. Both anamorphic widescreen and full frame are on board and both look way better than the original disc. The sound is basically the same as the first release though. Extras include commentary with director Penny Marshall and two actors from the film (it's fine, nothing to write home about), a very well produced long form documentary about the film, 15 deleted scenes with introduction, a Madonna music video and trailers. If you're a fan of the film, you'll want this set.


Reefer Madness
Reefer Madness

What can be said about a cult film about the evils of marijuana? Yeah, I dunno either. This release looks better than any version that has come before it, available in both the original black and white, as well as a colorized version. It also sounds good. Supposedly, there's a remixed 5.1 track, but it doesn't have much range to back that claim up. Extras include two commentaries (including one with MST3K's Mike Nelson), a short film and a re-release trailer. Seems like a lot of work for a silly film. But Reefer Madness has its fans, so they should be pleased.


A Story of Floating Weeds (Criterion)
A Story of Floating Weeds

Criterion has another release this week: Yasujiro Ozu's two films on the same subject A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds. Both films concern a travelling troupe of actors in Japan who come upon the village of their leader, where he must come to grips with his lifestyle, his present life, and his past. The 1934 version (A Story of) is in black and white and silent (this DVD has a new piano score by Donald Sosin) and looks wonderful. It's very Donald Richie-heavy (and that's not a bad thing), with a commentary discussing both films and the differences and essay. The 1959 version is in color with a mono soundtrack and both are Criterion quality. Roger Ebert provides the commentary on the new version, which is more fan-like and appreciative rather than informative. It's a good listen though. These two film make for a great DVD and a worthy follow up to Criterions two other Ozu discs Tokyo Story and Good Morning.


Suckers
Suckers

Bits buddy Roger Nygard's film about car salesmen and the evils that they do (at work and at play) is a pretty darn good flick. You'll actually be surprised at how good the film is, so be sure to check it out. The DVD presents the film in non-anamorphic widescreen and looks okay. Probably would have looked better anamorphic, but it looks good for what it is. Audio is presented as a full stereo. Extras include two commentaries (one with the Nygard and his crew, the other with Nygard and the actors). Both are free-flowing fun (more for them than us, sadly). There's also a short film by Nygard from his youth, a trailer for Roger's Synapse released Six Days in Roswell, the trailer for Suckers and, best of all, co-screenwriter and former car salesman Joe Yannetty's hints for not getting screwed when buying a car. It's a good disc, but if it were anamorphic it would have been great.


Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!

What a boring flick. I really hoped this was a fun film, but it's a sack of nothing. Too bad. Topher is fine, Kate Bosworth is beautiful, and Josh Duhamel is alright. But together, there's nothing. It's just your standard flick about a girl who wins a date with a desperate Hollywood bad boy while her true love pines at home. The disc is just... every bit as "eh". Looks and sound fine, but no real extras save for some deleted scenes and a gag reel that is funnier than the film. This will be a rental for most of you.


Here are the TV titles hitting shelves this week:

Helter Skelter
Helter Skelter

The classic 1976 TV miniseries is finally on DVD. You can all stop scratching X's into your foreheads now. No extras, and a full frame transfer from a flawed master. Probably the best it can look, so for that it looks alright, but still.


The King of Queens: The Complete Second Season
The King of Queens: The Complete Second Season

I'm not a fan of the show, so I could care less that two seasons are on DVD. But it's not all about me, is it? The set looks a lot like the one for Season One in terms of quality and extras. You get a funny commentary with star Kevin James and creator Michael Weithorn on one episode ("Net Prophets") and a documentary (this time focusing on James). It looks and sounds like a TV show on DVD. You likey, you buyie.


The Office: The Complete Second Series
The Office: The Complete Second Series

The brilliant BBC reality spoof series just keeps on trucking on DVD. Season Two (or Series Two as they say in the U.K.) is just as good as Season One and looks and sounds even better on DVD. This is a funny show and if you like funny, you'll like this. The DVD has only a few extras (which include some hilarious deleted scenes, a video diary and outtakes), but pick it up for the show anyway.


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

This is a pretty good disc to get. Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Broadway production of Sweeney Todd has been one of those titles that we've wanted on DVD for a while now. It's a lot better than having the original audio recording on CD, because the performances are what make this chilling musical everything it is. Oh, how I wish Tim Burton did this ten years back when he was suppoda. The DVD is pulled from an older video source but looks good. There are a few video artifacts here and there, but overall not bad. The sound is nice, with a new DD 5.1 track. No extras to speak of, but just getting this on disc is a nice thing.


Also available this week:

How not to review a DVD: see page 176 of Dianetics: Visual Guidebook to the Mind (or "Mind-head: by the Guy Who Brought Us Battlefield Earth"). Paul McCartney asks that we Give My Regards to Broad Street for him. The fine documentary Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story comes out today. MGM's properly done Ingmar Bergman Collection sees the light of day. The re-release of Rachael Leigh Cook in The Hi-Line. Cult fave The Last of Sheila hits shelves. Fill your library with Fox's newest set of Marilyn Monroe Collection titles: As Young As You Feel, Let's Make It Legal, Love Nest and We're Not Married. Pick-up the inspiration for Chicago - Roxie Hart. Julie Andrews is a Star!. Finally, check out the unrated Wild Things which joins the sequel/remake Wild Things 2.

There you go. Choose your titles and be back here next week.

Hangin' tight.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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