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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 6/8/04




6/8/04 Weekly Release Roundup

Welcome back from Vacation Week to all of you. Hope you all had a good one.

This week it's back to business, and business is pretty good for those of us who focus our lives on DVD. There's a lot of great stuff coming today, including some box sets of Tarzan and Robocop, great TV shows and a handful of cool samurai films.

But first, it's all about Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston...



Along Came Polly Along Came Polly

Let's see here: Ben Stiller was in There's Something About Mary, now we have Along Came Polly. Did the producers think Stiller and a girl's name in the title equals big box office bucks and yucks? If they did, they were sorely mistaken. What Ben and Cameron had, Ben and Jen (Aniston, not J-Lo) don't. It's not a horrible chemistry, it's just not the comedy milkshake that Mary was. Stiller plays Reuben Feffer (my God, Feffer, Focker -- what's the deal with Stiller formula here?), a non-risk taking risk analyst who, after his new bride takes off with a SCUBA instructor, meets the real woman of his dream -- someone who is opposite everything he is -- and she shakes his world up. Will it be for the better? One would hope. As this is a romantic comedy, expect plenty of fish outta water elements that cater to Stiller's comedic charms. It's not a horrible movie, but it's not as funny as the ads will lead you to believe.

The DVD from Universal looks about as good as you'd expect. This is the widescreen version set at 1.85:1, and it showcases nice colors, solid blacks and good flesh tone representations. Sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 (with French and Spanish Dolby 5.1s riding along as well). Both English tracks sound good and play with the film nicely. Extras include a commentary by writer/director John Hamburg, which is funnier and more interesting than the film it supports, a short making-of featurette, a collection of deleted scenes, outtakes, an alternate opening to the film, a featurette on the ferret Rodolfo, cast and crew bios and trailers for this and other films.


City of God City of God

I'm going to leave this one short: City of God is the best flick I've seen in a long time. It borders on perfection. About the only thing I didn't dig all the way was that I didn't like the lead actor who played Rocket as much as I liked every one else -- but that's a minor quibble considering. Just do yourself a favor and pick this flick up today.

The DVD from Miramax looks and sound great. It's anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and clear subs. This DVD serves the film well. The only extra is an interesting documentary looking at the current situation in Brazil's crime drenched slums.



Field of Dreams: Widescreen Anniversary Edition Field of Dreams: Widescreen Anniversary Edition

If you build it, we will come... and come and come. Another DVD for Field of Dreams hits the streets this week. If you don't know the film, you can read our review of the original release here. This new edition, dubbed the Anniversary edition, features new deleted scenes (not edited into the film), the From Father to Son: Passing Along the Pastime featurette (where cast, crew and major league baseball players discuss their father/son relationships), a roundtable discussion with Kevin Costner and some MLB players discussing themes brought up in this film, a visit to the real "Field of Dreams" in Iowa, the From Page to Screen: Field of Dreams program from Bravo, a look at the town the film was shot in, trivia and the original commentary with the director and DP from the first release. Not a bad re-up for this film, so if you're a fan, you'll want to take a look.



Lone Wolf & Cub: Baby Cart in Peril
Lone Wolf & Cub: Baby Cart in Peril

Mmm... two Lone Wolf & Cub films released on one day. Be still my heart. Baby Cart in Peril, the fourth in the series, is one of my favorites. Itto is hired to track down a female sword master, who is cutting her way of revenge toward the sensei who raped her. Covering her body in tattoos, she plans to bring this man down and will kill anyone who stands in her way -- including Itto and his son. The transfer is gorgeous and the sound in Dolby Digital 2.0 works as well as you'd want. Extras include trailers for other Animeigo DVD releases.


Lone Wolf & Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons
Lone Wolf & Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons

The second LW&C DVD release is Baby in the Land of Demons which is another great one. This film follows a dire situation, where a clan leader wants to set up his illegitimate daughter as "his son" and put her next in line to lead the clan. This of course would bring great shame to the clan if allowed, so some people in his clan hire Itto to end it. Problems arise when it's revealed that an abbot/priest, in the pocket of the Yagyu spy network, is holding a secret confession. This film is great because it's just set piece scene after set piece scene. The beginning is the "hiring" of Itto, where five men, each holding 1/5 of Itto's fee and 1/5 of the information he needs, have to be killed in such a way as to let them live for a few moments in order to tell Itto what he needs to know. It's a pretty neat sequence. The next follows Daigoro who promises to help a lady pickpocket and when caught, is tortured to reveal who the woman is, but refuses with the fortitude of a samurai -- yet he's only a child. After that is the assassination of the abbot under water, a battle in the sand and the confrontation with the mad clan leader and his twisted family. It comes off as a great film.

Animeigo does another great job with this one and delivers a nice widescreen anamorphic transfer, solid Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and a selection of trailers, much like Baby Cart in Peril.


Mystic River: Deluxe Edition
Mystic River: Deluxe Edition

Mystic River is a flawed film, but as for an actor's showcase, it's pretty much flawless. Hollywood must agree because they gave the two leads, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, Oscars for their work. Taking a look at how childhood trauma can effect our adult lives, Mystic River is modern crime noir, a whodunit with a psycho-babble undercurrent. Penn shines as the tortured father whose daughter turns up murdered, Robbins is a childhood friend and chief suspect who was abducted and raped as a child. Did he do it, and will he do it again?

In stores, you'll fine two other versions - single disc full frame and single disc widescreen sets - and then this special edition with 2 discs of special features and a third which is the CD soundtrack for the film. Disc One is the film in anamorphic widescreen (set at 2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Both are beautiful and serve the film quite well.

Extras include dry, unassuming commentary by Robbins and Kevin Bacon on Disc One, with Disc Two holding three Charlie Rose Show interviews with Bacon, Robbins and director Clint Eastwood, two making-of documentaries (one featuring source novelist Dennis Lehane discussing the script and the cast and crew discussing the Boston locales, while the other is a more straight forward making-of with talking heads and butt-kissing). You'll also find the teaser and trailer. It's not as important film as you'd expect, but Mystic River is a good film with great acting. The disc doesn't shed too much light on the film, but if you're a fan you'll definitely want to check it out.


Zatoichi at Large
Zatoichi at Large

Another samurai flick this week from Animeigo. Read our review here.


It's a big week for TV on DVD as well. The best of the lot to me is...

SCTV Volume 1: Network 90
SCTV Volume 1: Network 90

This should really be Volume 4, as it covers the fourth season of SCTV, but since this was the first "U.S. produced" version of the Canadian show and the episodes were a full hour longer than the episodes in seasons 1 - 3, I guess it makes some sort of sense.

Time has been good to this show, as the mostly unknown cast has all gone on to be recognizable and important players in the history of comedy, and the show itself is still incredibly funny. If you like television comedy, you owe it to yourself to know this show, and this is as good a way as any. For those who already know it and are pissed that Shout! Factory didn't start with season one... chill. The other seasons will come.

This volume covers the first 9 episodes of season 4 and are as funny as anything you'll see on TV today. Each of the 5 discs in this set has a half-hour documentary with talking head interviews about the origins of the show, the comedy troupe that created it, John Candy and production design. Disc Five has an hour-long reunion Q&A taped at the 1999 US Comedy Art Festival. There are also two commentary tracks (for episodes 2 and 6 - by Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty) that are quite funny. The episodes themselves look and sound as good as a show taped on video in the 80s is expected to look. All and all, this is a set you'll definitely enjoy, and one of the best TV releases this year. With this and Freaks and Geeks, Shout! is looking to get themselves a Bitsy or two come next March.


You'll definitely want to check out these other TV releases as well...

The A-Team: Season OneQuantum Leap: The Complete First SeasonM*A*S*H: Season Six Collector's Edition

The A-Team: Season One, The Dame Edna Experience: The Complete Series One, The Dead Zone: The Complete Second Season, Just Shoot Me: Seasons 1 & 2, M*A*S*H: Season Six Collector's Edition, The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story, Playmakers: The Complete Series, Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season, Taboo: The Complete First Season, Tour of Duty: The Complete First Season and Who's the Boss?: The Complete First Season

Also coming to DVD this week...

Robocop TrilogyThe Tarzan CollectionReality Bites: 10th Anniversary Edition

... the neat WWII horror flick The Bunker, Carolina, The Creeping Flesh, The Day of the Locust, Gamera: Return of the Giant Monsters, Goodbye, Columbus, the Criterion release of The Leopard, Love Letters, The President's Analyst, Reality Bites: 10th Anniversary Edition, the Robocop Trilogy, The Tarzan Collection (which includes the films: Tarzan the Ape Man, Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan and His Mate, Tarzan Finds a Son, Tarzan's Secret Treasure and Tarzan's New York Adventure) and you'll also find outside the box, the 80s remakes Tarzan, The Ape Man starring Bo Derek as well as Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan.

See you next time!

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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