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Site created 12/15/97.

Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 11/19/04




11/19/04 Weekly Release Roundup

Lots of good stuff this week... so much so that I wasn't quite able to get to all of it. This includes Synapse's Fantasm and Fantasm Comes Again, Warner's The Iron Giant: Special Edition, Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Volume Three and Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Volume Two, Shout! Factory's Home Movies: Season One, Home Vision's Late Night Shopping and Criterion's Short Cuts. But don't worry - next week's a little slow with the holiday, so I'll take a look at them then.

In the meantime, take a gander at these choice discs...



The Bird People in China The Bird People in China

This beautiful Takashi Miike film isn't so beautiful on DVD, but if you're a fan of his oeuvre, you'll want to soldier through the DVD presentation and try and enjoy the film. Three men who don't really want to be going where they are going, head towards an isolated village in China to monitor a Jade vein. One is a salaryman, working for the company with a stake in the claim, another is an aging Yakuza who the company owes a hunk of cash to and they want to see if their debts will be paid and the third is their guide. When they finally get to the village each of them will find redemption, in their own way, and come to grips with their own stations in life. Not the typical Miike film, but a really good, well paced and fun film nonetheless. ArtsMagicDVD has been doing a service to Miike fans by bringing a large part of his films to DVD fans, and God bless them for it. Sadly though, this presentation is one of their worst. The video quality is subpar. Even though it's an anamorphic widescreen transfer, it looks like it was pulled from a VHS. It's too bad because this could have been a gorgeous looking DVD. Sound is also a fumble. Even though it's Dolby Digital 5.1, it sounds as if each of the channels is mixed the same, making it nothing more than a glorified mono track. The extras raise it up a bit. They include a commentary by Miike authority Tom Mes, which is a well-rounded and informative track, an interview with Miike, biography and filmography for Miike and the three stars of the film and trailers for this and Miike's Black Society films also released by ArtsMagic. I highly recommend catching this film, but I'm mixed on doing it with this DVD.


Blue Remains Blue Remains

There's another ArtsMagic DVD on the shelves this week, and it's a little known Japanese CGI feature. Although the animation is dated, the story is okay. A young girl and her parents are sent to a post-apocalyptic Earth to help re-harvest the Oceans, but there's a problem and the parents die, but not before throwing their daughter into cryosleep. A few years later, the young girl wakes up and, with the help from mutant friends and a robot dolphin, has to fulfill her parents job and her own destiny. But will the evil Glyptofane Sex stop her? No. The animation is clunky, but it works. If you're a fan of anime or CGI in particular, you'll probably want to check out this for the curiosity factor. Otherwise, if you're looking for Final Fantasy 2, skip it. The anamorphic widescreen looks damn good, slightly redeeming ArtsMagic for Bird People. Sound is also vastly improved with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track for both the Japanese and English dub. Extras are a bit light, with biographies and filmographies for the technical crew behind the film and an interview with the co-director/writer and trailers for this and one of ArtsMagic's other CGI animes: A.LI.CE..


Elf: Infinifilm Edition Elf: Infinifilm Edition

Cute flick. Will Farrell plays Buddy, a young man who was raised by Christmas elves in the North Pole. When he finds out he's not really an elf, he is sent by Santa (Ed Asner) and his adoptive father (played by Bob Newhart) to New York to find his biological father (James Caan) and eat lots and lots of candy and syrup. There he finds a new family, love and reason to spread the true meaning of Christmas. Elf is a very funny flick, filled with sight gags galore. New Line is marketing this as a full fledged family film, complete with a separate disc devoted to children's games and a full frame transfer. I didn't quite get how this is a kid's flick, but hey, if it helps New Line make another buck or two, more power to them. So, this is a two disc set, disc one is the anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and it both looks and sounds great. Disc Two is full frame and Dolby Digital 5.1 and it also looks and sound good. Now, considering this is a New Line special edition, I can say the word Infinifilm and not confuse you. I love the idea behind Infinifilm, love packed special editions, but the layout and function of this disc is beyond shitty. Forget the Beyond the Film tag for this format, we should dub it Beyond Shitty. I couldn't navigate through this disc to save myself, but hey... I'm just a DVD journalist, what do I know? Apparently there is a commentary with director Jon Favreau and Farrell, deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, karaoke, storybook stuff, DVD-ROM script-to-screen, digital photography features and other fun stuff. But I couldn't find it. Supposedly, this is a jam packed disc that will take you a few hours to figure out and a few more to watch and enjoy. Lucky for me, I couldn't find jack.


Fanny & Alexander Box Set Fanny & Alexander Box Set

The one thing in life that forces you to continually grow is change, and no film characters know that fact better than Fanny and Alexander Ekdahl. Fanny & Alexander is Ingmar Bergman's semi-autobiographical story about his own childhood in turn of the century Sweden and is probably one of the most touching films I've seen in a long while. Ten-year old Alexander and his eight-year old sister Fanny live in a house filled with joy. Everyone sings, plays and tells stories, up until their father Oscar dies, and their mother remarries a stern and disapproving man who wants his new family to stop living in the past... but the children can't and thus, we have a story to tell. Winner of 1982's Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, this is a great film and one so good that Bergman decided to end his big screen career with it. The Criterion Collection offers up both the 3 hourish theatrical cut and the five-hour Swedish television cut on a new five-disc collector's edition.


Both feature really nice anamorphic widescreen transfers with well rendered Dolby Digital mono sound. Besides getting the unreleased in America longer version, Criterion throws in the long form making of documentary created by Bergman himself: The Making of Fanny & Alexander, which is a just a huge extra in and of itself. But forget that, there's even more. How about a super informative commentary by Peter Cowie? Want more, do you? Okay. There's also a vintage hour-long TV interview with Bergman, a collection of video introductions by Bergman for eleven of his films, a buncha trailers, sketches, stills, behind the scenes footage and the trademark Criterion liner book packed with essays. It's a big set for a big film, and I hope you find the time to check it out. It's discovering films like this that keep me doing this job.


Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series

Bill looked at this title last week and mostly enjoyed it. Read his review here.


Both feature really nice anamorphic widescreen transfers with well rendered Dolby Digital mono sound. Besides getting the unreleased in America longer version, Criterion throws in the long form making of documentary created by Bergman himself: The Making of Fanny & Alexander, which is a just a huge extra in and of itself. But forget that, there's even more. How about a super informative commentary by Peter Cowie? Want more, do you? Okay. There's also a vintage hour-long TV interview with Bergman, a collection of video introductions by Bergman for eleven of his films, a buncha trailers, sketches, stills, behind the scenes footage and the trademark Criterion liner book packed with essays. It's a big set for a big film, and I hope you find the time to check it out. It's discovering films like this that keep me doing this job.


New TV on DVD from last week:

The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete First Season, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Seventh Season, Clive Barker Presents Saint Sinner, The Commish: Season One, Farscape: Starburst Edition - Season One, Set One, Frasier: The Final Season, The Hebrew Hammer, Kids in the Hall: Season Two (1990-1991), National Lampoon's Holiday Reunion, The Office Special, Pee-wee's Playhouse #1, Pee-wee's Playhouse #2, Richard Pryor: I Ain't Dead Yet, #*%$#@!!, Riverworld and Smallville: The Complete Third Season.


Farscape: Starburst Edition - Season One, Set OnePee-wee's Playhouse #1Smallville: The Complete Third Season


Also available this week:

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, The Chronicles of Riddick, Foul Play, Henry VIII, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, Kangaroo Jack: G'Day U.S.A.!, The Loveless, Macbeth, Peter Gabriel: Play (reviewed here by Matt), The Pickle, Ragtime, The Saddest Music in the World, A Wrinkle in Time and Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie.


The Chronicles of RiddickRagtimeFoul Play


Hang on through the weekend and I'll be back Tuesdayish with more outstanding discs.

If you can't wait, well then enjoy your turkey and stuffing and be back here in two weeks when we're hoping to have a look at Spider-Man 2.

Weeeeeeeee!

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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