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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 1/14/02



The Slow and the Disgruntled

Hey there, hi there, how do you do? It's me, Todd Doogan, back from a long winter's nap. Boy, I needed the vacation too.

Hey, is it just me, or is everyone else getting sick of DVD at this point. The industry made billions of dollars, and I think most of that came out of my pocket trying to keep up with everything that came out last year. And this year is no better. Hey, studios! Stop it already. Just put out one title a week so I can catch up. I'm kidding of course. I'll never catch up. I'll be buying DVDs for the rest of my life, or at least until something better comes out. Oh, how I love DVD.

Which brings me to Blockbuster. Wanna stick it to them and promote fun and love in the process? Good. I have an idea and I need your help. All year long I will be doing a project and once a month, one of you will be my partner. I want to send out props to our favorite brick and mortar DVD shops. Places that stock hard to find titles, genre titles and stuff for rent. Here's what I need you to do. Pick your favorite DVD shop and tell us why you like to shop there. Contact the manager and get permission to take digital photos of the store for us. And get contact info so I can contact the manager.

Each month, a new shop will be featured in The Digital Bits as our Brick and Mortar of the Month. Remember, we need the shop's help - that's why I ask that you talk to the manager. And if you happen to own a shop, let your customers know that they can drop me an e-mail about you. Send everything to me at todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

This could be a lot of fun. It'll help promote hometown DVD and stick it to the man (Blockbuster) a little in the process.

All right. This week we're looking at fast cars, winged faced creeps and samurai lovin'...


The Fast and the Furious: Collector's Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

The Fast and the Furious
Collector's Edition - 2001 (2001) - Universal

Program Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A+/A

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A+/A+

Specs and Features:

107 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 43:09 in chapter 8), Public Service Announcement from Castrol Syntec tacked onto front of film, audio commentary track with director Rob Cohen, The Making of The Fast and the Furious featurette, reprinted article (Racer X by Kenneth Li), 6 deleted and 2 extended scenes with optional commentary, multiple camera angle stunt sequence, Movie Magic (interactive look behind the special effects on Final Crash Stunt), featurette on editing the film to get PG-13 rating from MPAA, visual effects montage with music, storyboard-to-final film comparison and isolated storyboards for two scenes, Furious music video by Ja Rule featuring Vita and O1, POV City Anthem music video by Caddillac Tah, Click Click Boom music video by Saliva, soundtrack commercial, music highlights scene access (19 songs), theatrical trailer, production notes, cast and filmmakers biographies and filmographies, Easter egg, DVD-ROM features (behind-the-scenes footage, Supercar Street Challenge game demo, screensavers, wallpaper and website access), recommendations, DVD newsletter, Universal Studios Theme Parks commercial, Supercar Street Challenge game commercial, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD & DTS 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English


The Fast and the Furious knocks you down like a drunken hit and run, and leaves you wondering, "Why me?" The answer, I'm sorry to say, is this: because you chose to watch. But hey, it must be good because the film made a lot of money. (Duh!) And I'll give the film one thing - everyone here (including the extras) is full of charisma. But, man, this is a dumb-ass flick. I sat there watching it and couldn't help thinking I'd seen it before. Yes, I'm sure I have. Except at the time I think it was called Point Break. That film not only has a charismatic cast, but it was also overseen by Kathryn Bigelow, who has a lot herself. Here we're guided by the director of Dragon, Daylight and The Skulls... Mr. Rob Cohen. Cohen has some directorial charisma, but it's more sheen than style. I don't think I could pick out the Rob Cohen style if asked, but I would definitely know a Bigelow film if shown a scene. So what we get here is a lot of car races and chases, undercover cop tomfoolery and rolling heists. I like heist films, sure, but I didn't like The Fast and the Furious.

The DVD actually helps make the film a bit better. This has to be one of the best sounding DVDs in a long while. And it looks good too. Presented in a bold and colorful anamorphic widescreen, The Fast and the Furious is one of the best Universal transfers yet. But the sound! Man. Loaded with both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, it rumbles, it crumbles - it will knock you out. Crank it up and forget the silliness of the story and the hippity-hoppity characterizations. I swear, it's the first reference disc for 2002 people.

Once you're done with the film, go to the special features. Forget the commentary track. Cohen has the enthusiasm of a dead parrot. He's as monotone as a clock alarm. He could have been informative, but I wouldn't know because he put me to sleep. The rest of the extras, on the other hand, are pretty cool. I liked pretty much everything else on this disc, except the typical Universal shameless promotional fluff. Still, there's not much meaning behind these special edition DVDs anymore. There was a time that laserdisc and DVD meant film history, but now we get EPKs (that's Electronic Press Kit for you newbies).

The meaty extras include a set of deleted scenes that look like crap (and don't really add much), but they're still neat to see. And Cohen's commentary on them is, once again, annoying due to his monotone and unenthused speaking voice. The worst thing on here is a mandatory (mandatory being why it sucks) Public Service Announcement from Castrol Syntec tacked onto front of film. Paul Walker warns that the film is full of stunts pulled off by pros and not to try any of this at home. I'd say "duh", except I know some asses who already tried half this shit. There's also the Making of The Fast and the Furious featurette, which is fluffy but fun. I think the best thing, information wise, on this disc is a reprinted article, Racer X by Kenneth Li, which shows how the film began.

You also get a multiple camera angle stunt sequence for a car crash in the film. You get eight angles plus the final edit. An Easter egg features a "camera combo edit" from this scene as well. Movie Magic is an interactive look behind the special effects on the "final crash stunt" (the one with the train). I found it to be on the silly side and a bit worthless, but if you care... it's here. A short featurette on how Cohen edited the film to get PG-13 rating from MPAA is also available. At this point, the extras start to taper off (and get more fluffy), with a visual effects montage set to music from the film, a storyboard-to-final film comparison, isolated storyboards for two scenes, a trio of music videos, a soundtrack commercial, "music highlights" (which allows you to access scenes with music), the theatrical trailer, some production notes, cast and filmmakers biographies and filmographies, DVD-ROM features, a Universal Studios Theme Parks commercial and, finally, the Supercar Street Challenge game commercial. It's a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff.

When I was done with it all, I really didn't hate the movie as much as I did when I started. I came to understand that it really wasn't about anything - just lots of fast cars, with a side story or two to keep it moving forward. You can't kick a flick for not aspiring to be more than popcorn fare. At least, you can't and feel good about yourself.

The Fast and the Furious: Collector's Edition
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


Jeepers Creepers: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Jeepers Creepers
Special Edition - 2001 (2001) - United Artists (MGM)

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A+

Specs and Features:

90 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), Amaray keep case packaging, dual-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), audio commentary track with writer/director Victor Salva, Behind the Peepers: The Making of Jeepers Creepers documentary (6 featurettes combined), 10 deleted and extended scenes, Last Looks photo gallery with music, theatrical trailers (for Jeepers Creepers and Hannibal, DVD promo trailers (for Silence of the Lambs, The Terminator and Carrie), cast and crew filmographies, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), Spanish and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish and French, Closed Captioned


So what do you get when you combine elements from classic Universal horror films with all the new rules found in modern day thrillers? Jeepers Creepers is my bet. Sure, it's not the greatest creepy tale ever told. And if you sit down and really try to unravel the point behind the story, you'll be left pretty empty handed. But it is a nice ride while you're on it. Simply told, Jeepers Creepers follows a brother and sister as they drive home from college. En route, they get into a bit of trouble with a road rager... who turns out to be a potential serial killer (and who just may be even more than that - what exactly, we're never told). But when you see the final vision of the creature, you'll mutter, "Cool..." under your breath just like every one else.

Writer/director Victor Salva crafts a very well made film, with a pace that sucks you in, a tone that's quite scary and performances that are real and based very much in "our world". Never once will you ask, "What the hell are you thinking? Just get the hell out of there!" because Salva and the cast make you believe that these people would do everything you see them do on screen. There are a couple of things that slightly annoyed me, and I won't let them go unsaid. For me, the lack of a myth behind the story is a very sore spot. I like to know my movie monsters a bit more. It makes the film-going experience a bit more fun. In this first film, we don't get a history to the "Creeper" and it raises too many questions (that it will take a sequel and a prequel at least to answer). For example, who or what is he and why? The other thing that bugged me, are way too many Spielbergian references. The film invokes Sugarland Express in its camera movies, there are Duel-inspired chase scenes and the very Jaws-like score is quite noticeable. The knowledge that Salva is a Spielberg junkie only compounds the damage.

MGM presents the film in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen on DVD. Both look very good, with nice color representation, true blacks and no artifacts anywhere. Both versions live by themselves on their own layer of a dual-layered disc, and the video quality is better for it. Sound is also nicely rendered. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is spooky, loud and clear as a bell. Even the menu screens sound great. I know that there's some controversy about some audio drop-outs and sound quality not being up to snuff, but my untrained ears didn't catch anything fishy. In fact, I'd have liked a remastered DTS track, but I'm not going to hold that against the disc. For everything it is, Jeepers Creepers is a phenomenal looking and sounding DVD.

The extras only make it better. Side One showcases a very informative and easy to listen to audio commentary track with Salva. He goes into everything you want to know about the film. He discusses lighting and how this DVD is brighter than the theatrical prints, how they got the cars in the film, working with the special effects team and how much he loves Spielberg. Salva has a great commentary tone and it ends up being a very enjoyable experience. Also on the film side of the disc are cast and crew filmographies.

Side Two is even better. Without repeating himself too much, Salva co-creates a documentary on the making of the film. From design to casting, this is one of the best documentaries about filmmaking ever to come out on DVD. I was into it right from the start. It's broken into different featurettes, but you can choose to watch the whole thing at once with opening and closing credits. It's the real deal. After that is a photomontage of behind-the-scenes photos and production art, along with some theatrical and DVD promo trailers. Last, but hardly least, is the selection of deleted and extended scenes (which includes an alternate ending that I hated). The film's ending is much more impactful. All in all, this special edition is the first real must own DVD of the year.

Jeepers Creepers: Special Edition
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon

Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon
1996 (1998) - Tokyo Shock (Media Blasters)

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/C+/B-

Specs and Features:

80 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), liner notes on characters in film, promotional trailers (for Prisoner Maria, Ricki-OH and Zero Woman), film-themed menu screens, scene access (9 chapters), languages: Japanese and English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English



Reborn from Hell 2: Jubei's Revenge

Reborn from Hell 2: Jubei's Revenge
1996 (2000) - Tokyo Shock (Media Blasters)

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/C+/B-

Specs and Features:

83 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, single-layered, liner notes on characters in film, promotional trailers (for Bio Zombie, Ricki-OH, Wild Criminal and Zeiram 2), film-themed menu screens, scene access (8 chapters), languages: Japanese and English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English


Well... I asked for some samurai movies and Media Blasters kindly answered my call. No sooner had I complained of the lack of good samurai flicks on DVD, in my mail comes a pair sword flicks that are worth a spin.

Reborn From Hell is the two-part story of Jubei (Jubei Yagyu, the real-life historical one, not the fictional Jubei from Ninja Scroll), a sword master supreme who finds himself doing battle with some of the greatest samurai fighters of all time - including Musashi Miyamoto from the Samurai series (on DVD through Criterion) and Inshun Hozoin, the sexually repressed spear master. Resurrected from Hell and wishing to rule the world, these samurai warriors will stop at nothing to have their way, and Jubei will stop at nothing to defeat them.

Filmed back to back, Samurai Armageddon and Jubei's Revenge fit together nicely at about 80 minutes each. This is a pretty cool pair of films, with very neat fight sequences and geysers of blood. I can't say they're my favorite samurai flicks of all time, but seeing as they're part of a new generation of samurai film, they're not bad at all.

Tokyo Shock (through Media Blasters) has done a pretty good job with these DVDs. The video quality is a bit better than VHS, but not quite as stellar as we're used to on DVD. Part Two, released recently, looks a lot better than the first film, but it's still not perfect. Because they're quite different, I'll look at both discs separately.

Reborn From Hell: Samurai Armageddon is a dual-layered disc, with a Japanese language version (with English subs) on one layer and the English dubbed version on another - both in non-anamorphic widescreen. I preferred the English dub version, because it was easier to watch. The Japanese version is pushed up to the top to give a larger black space on the bottom of the screen for subs. I don't think we loose any widescreen image from this, but it's hard to readjust your eyes to watch the film so far up on the screen. The English dub is widescreen and centered and looks okay, although (as I said above) both versions have a VHS look to them. The sound is a serviceable Dolby stereo that doesn't fall out of favor or have any glitches that I could tell.

Reborn From Hell 2: Jubei's Revenge is single-layered and non-anamorphic widescreen. This time, Tokyo Shock got it right and just left the optional subtitles and dubbing as a remote-switchable option. The video quality is very nice, at least nicer than the original disc. Sound is on par with the first disc, in Dolby stereo in Japanese and English.

Extras on both discs include a selection of promotional trailers and liner notes for the characters used in the film, with their historical information and biographies. It's neat to know that all of these guys actually existed. And if you want an animated taste of this story, anime DVD company ADV has a cartoon version of this story called Ninja Resurrection that's pretty cool, although not as cool as the film it's riding the coattails of... Ninja Scroll (which I hear might have a sequel in the works).

I'm pretty excited by Media Blasters and their genre lines (along with Tokyo Shock, which is feeding my Japanese cinema needs). They have their Euro Horror line of DVDs, called Shriek Show, which has a very cool film coming out on disc soon - Jungle Holocaust (from Cannibal Holocaust filmmaker Ruggero Deodato). But more on that in my review when I get a final copy.

Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Reborn from Hell 2: Jubei's Revenge
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


Peace out, baby! Don't forget to send us information about your favorite DVD shop. Keep spinning those discs!

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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