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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 3/30/04




3/30/04 Weekly Release Roundup

Don't ask me what's new, 'cause the answer is plenty. We gots a couple of really great DVDs coming this week: one big one in particular. Plus there's a nice handful of video rental titles, juicy schlock and some good TV on DVD. It's a big week, so let's take a closer look.

First up is the big release I was jawin' about up above, and it's one that's not being highly touted by the studio - a fact that boggles our minds here at the Bits because it is a really good disc. That title is...



Panic Room: Special Edition Panic Room: Special Edition

I'm going to review this disc in detail later this week, but for now, know that, without a f*#kin' doubt, this is one of the best special editions to be released since Fight Club. There's probably a good reason for that - both were produced by David Prior. It's hard trying to not be an a$$ kisser with this guy. I mean, I have never met him, but I love him dearly. He understands what DVD is all about and gives us, the fans, what we really, really want and need. There are no stringy pieces of fat with the discs he produces - it's all grade A beef. And because he gets everyone on board working with him - from writers of the film to the director - he consistently gets an inside look that not everyone in the DVD production community gets a chance to get. This set makes the wait for it worth every second. Buy this set as soon as you can.


Brother Bear: Special Edition Brother Bear: Special Edition

Brother Bear comes to us from Disney as a two-disc special edition. The story of a young hunter who become the hunted and learns a new way of life is likely to be the last traditionally animated film from Disney (which is a shame). The film is gorgeous-looking, although the film itself is flawed in many ways. Kids will love it for the cool looking bears and funny moose (or is that meese?) though, and that's what counts in today's cartoon world.

Disc one of this set contains the film in an unassuming letterboxed format. The film was put into theaters in two aspect ratios, a window-boxed styled widescreen (1.66:1) for the part when the main character is a human and a full blown anamorphic (2.35:1) when he's a bear. To not confuse the kids, Disney makes it one widescreen presentation (1.66:1), which is cut in a bit, but certainly not pan and scan. Disc two presents the film in its original theatrical aspect ratios and it looks and sounds great. No complaints here. Sound is presented in both DTS and DD 5.1.

Extras are pretty nice as well. There's a commentary track with the mooses (?) Rutt and Tuke (played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas in character), a music video, outtakes, games, sing-a-longs, bear facts, kid-friendly featurettes, galleries, trailers, a making-of documentary and deleted scenes. It's a pretty nice set for an okay Disney film.



The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Platinum Edition The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Platinum Edition

TCM is out in two styles a movie-only and a Platinum Edition. We're stickin' with the Platinum, and you should too if you plan to get this flick at all. Why would this film need a high-end remake? The answer: it doesn't. But, oh well. Money talks and all that jazz. The new TCM is here and since I'm not so secretly in love with Jessica Biel, I own the film.

This new remake is the same story as before with some flourishes here and there and lots of better camera shots and some cooler special effects. But the fear is gone from this one, along with the creep factor - but we do get to see what Leatherface looks like under the mask. If that has any value, please let me know.

This Platinum edition lives up to its name with a very good-looking anamorphic widescreen and sound in Dolby Digital EX and DTS 6.1. You'll at the very least enjoy looking and listening the film even if you don't like watching it.

The extras include three audio commentaries, called essays here. Essay 1 entitled Production features director Marcus Nispel, producer Michael Bay, executive producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller and New Line CEO Robert Shaye. Essay two focuses on Technical issues with Marcus Nispel, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, production designer Greg Blair, art director Scott Gallagher, supervising sound editor Trevor Jolly, composer Steve Jablonsky. Finally writer Scott Kosar, Brad Fuller, Andrew Form, Marcus Nispel, Michael Bay, actors Jessica Biel, Erica Leerhsen, Eric Balfour, Jonathan Tucker, Mike Vogel and Leatherface himself Andrew Bryniarski round out the Essay dedicated to the Story. It's a lot of information and all three of the tracks are worth listening to.

But there's plenty more out there for you. The making-of documentary Chainsaw Redux is a damn good piece of DVD filmmaking. Everyone gets to voice their thoughts and we get plenty of behind-the-scenes nuggets. Also good is the documentary aboutEd Gein which looks at the creepy as hell man who inspired this film series as well as Psycho and Silence of the Lambs. Uhg. Rounding out the disc set are deleted scenes (including a lame wrap around piece that deserved to be cut), screen tests for Biel, Balfour and Leerhsen, a stills gallery, DVD-ROM features, video and trailers (including Bay's legendary teaser). Oh, and inside the case are some stills in a nifty envelope, along with a worthless metal plate cover. You can chuck it or put it on your wall.

TCM is without a doubt and all jabs aside, a great DVD. Too bad the film is ho-hum. Oh well.

So all that the really good stuff.

There are still some great things coming out today, they're just a little less "important". But for many of us, that means nothing.

First up is one of Bill's favorite "bad" films...



The Final Countdown: Limited Edition The Final Countdown: Limited Edition

Blue Underground FINALLY put this one out onto disc in a way we can all enjoy. You can read what Bill thinks about this legendary film here.


Screaming Dead: Collector's Edition Screaming Dead: Collector's Edition

ei Independent Cinema's new Shock-O-Rama line is trying to answer the question: "What if Hammer Horror films were first made in the days of high-end digital filmmaking?" The answer is quite simple: they'd make something like Screaming Dead.

Here a group of beautiful models find themselves trapped in an asylum with a twisted photographer and an even more twisted zombie/ghost. Will anyone make it out alive? Pretensions aside, the little film itself isn't all that bad. I mean, it's not meant to be a killer piece of cinema. As fluffy erotic horror goes, it works quite well. The video and sound quality are surprisingly good (for the feature presentation at least). Extras include a behind-the-scenes making of featurette, an E! True Hollywood Story styled documentary about star Misty Mundae, a look at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, footage from the film's premiere, photo galleries, trailers for other ei Cinema films and a look Inside the Asylum the film was shot in. If you enjoy schlock, then this disc is right up your alley.

And speaking of schlock, our favorite schlock producers have three titles coming out this week. Who are we talking about? Troma, of course.

First up is...



Fortress of Amerikkka
Fortress of Amerikkka

Taking full advantage of our current political environment Troma brings their classic library title Fortress of Amerikkka to DVD. Hot women, studly men with guns, hardcore militias, terrorist-minded mercenaries and hot-bed conspiracy theories abound in this film pitting the forested community of Troma City, CA against a group of bad men who want to take over America.


Lust for Freedom Lust for Freedom

A female cop is framed in a small rural town and sent to prison where she is groomed for a life in white slavery. Nothing exploitational there, huh? Any way, the cop rounds up the girls and fights her way out bringing revenge to the ones who have it coming.


Outlaw Prophet Outlaw Prophet

Think of this one as The Running Man meets Troma and not The Matrix meets Survivor as the box proclaims, and you might have a better idea. Bad effects, bad acting, bad writing. Bad. But fun.

All of these discs feature the usual Troma quality transfers and sound and extras ranging from trailers and ads for Lloyd Kaufman's books to music video and Troma Edge sketches. But, c'mon, we don't buy these discs for the extras or the disc quality - we buy them because they are truly bad Troma movies. And, although these are hardly great Troma movies, they are Troma movies. Buyer knows what he's getting and buyer beware.

Less than quality schlock are two from new kid on the block Razor Digital.


Gangland

Gangland

Let's see. Ice T. Coolio. Costas Mandylor. Cameo by Terminatrix Kristanna Loken. Can it be good? No. But it's bad in a fun way. It's LA, post-apocalypse, and a gang of baddies are enslaving and/or killing survivors of the end days. Throw in a flesh-eating virus and plenty of bad acting and you have yourself a fun piece of junk. The cover makes you think it's an urban flick, but it's not - it's Cyborg meets Mad Max. Sadly, the disc doesn't look all that great. Extras include the trailer, cast and crew bios, interview with cast and crew and a making-of featurette.


Palmer's Pick-Up Palmer's Pick-Up

After Sophia Coppola gave us Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation and Roman brought us CQ, you'd expect every Coppola seed to have the chops to make great low-budget films. Forget that with Christopher. A truck driver is hired to take a mysterious box to Florida and all hell breaks loose - literally. Pumped with enough celebrities to open a mall, this one is not good at all. I can't even recommend it based on its badness. Even the transfer is bad. What can I say that's nice? Uhm, it has deleted scenes. But not enough of 'em.


The Shape of Things to Come The Shape of Things to Come

Finally in the so bad they're bad group is another one from Blue Underground: H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come. Following robot warfare, the Earth is a wasteland and the Moon is the place to be. Problem is, people living on the Moon need a special medicine to counter the effects of space radiation. Jack Palance plays a bad guy who takes over the only place these survivors of the future can get the medicine and a group of heroes must go there and get it and defeat the power mad Palance at the same time. Made in 1979 when everyone was ripping off Star Wars, Shape of Things to Come is plain awful. Audio and video are serviceable in Dolby Digital mono and anamorphic widescreen. Extras include a French trailer, a TV spot and gallery of stills. Hmmm. Unless you're a connoisseur of horrid films, this one might be better left behind.


Ripley's Game Ripley's Game

This one will be a rental-only for most. John Malkovich's turn as Mr. Ripley is fun to watch but a wholly different experience from Matt Damon's portrayal. Years have past and Ripley is still playing with human lives like he's playing with a chess set. As an art dealer in Europe, he has access to many colorful souls, and when he's pulled into a new game the stakes get awfully high. It's not as fun as the first film (we'll consider this an unofficial sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley), but nonetheless it's an interesting film. The DVD looks and sounds pretty good. Nothing so great to write home, but nothing that would keep you from enjoying the film. The DVD has nothing in terms of extras (well there are sneak peaks, but so what?), so if you just rent this one no one will hold it against you.


House of Sand and Fog House of Sand and Fog

Two strangers with no initial ill will towards each other are thrown into a world where they are face to face and against each other in all possible ways. Is this a morality play, a lesson in life wrapped into a film? I dunno. I don't like the film too much, but damn is there some great acting in this film. And this DVD is stunning. Video and audio quality are off the charts good. You really have to check this disc out to understand how good it is. Extras are pretty thick with an audio commentary with director Vadim Perelman, author Andre Dubus III and actor Ben Kingsley, a making-of featurette and deleted scenes with optional commentary. Everything here will bring you closer to the art of the film, but it's such a distancing work of art, it's hard to connect with it. Still, it's a pretty incredible film even if it's hard to "like." Rounding out the set is an audition video of Oscar nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, filmographies and production notes. This is another one worth renting before you buy. Check this one out for the performances and the always incredible cinematography of Roger Deakins.


Something's Gotta Give Something's Gotta Give

We're going to very soon have a more detailed review of this one from my mother-in-law. Thought it would be fun to have a cool older chick write a review of a film about a cool older chick. Couldn't hurt to spread the love, huh? In the meantime, this very cute romantic comedy features video and audio which are both very good. Extras include two commentary tracks, one with director Nancy Meyers and co-producer Bruce Block and the other with Meyers and Jack. Both are good, but having Jack on a commentary is cool as hell I have to say. There is also a featurette, deleted scene, trailers and filmographies. Not a bad film, not a bad disc.


Vintage Erotica Anno 1950 Vintage Erotica Anno 1950

Vintage porn. Gotta love it. What can be said? It's old porn culled from a library in France. Video is sketchy from bad sources and no sound. Well, you can have the sound of a projector if you want. This disc is available by itself or with a box set called Vintage Erotica Collection that includes this one along with Anno 1930 and Anno 1940. It's not Rebecca Lord, but it's still interesting.

I'm just going to mention and run through the TV releases for you. If you love the show, they you know you'll want these sets:


CSI: Crime Scene Investigation  - The Complete Third Season CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete Third Season

Who doesn't love this show? Go buy it.


Celebrity Mole: Hawaii Celebrity Mole: Hawaii

This one actually came out last week, but it's cool enough to mention this week. It's also a pretty loaded special edition with deleted scenes, interviews and confessionals.


Homicide: Life on the Streets - The Complete Fourth Season Homicide: Life on the Streets - The Complete Fourth Season

I've never been a fan of this series, so I don't always know what the hubbub was about. So if you like the show, all 22 episodes of the fourth season is on six discs. Running commentary on one of the episodes, featurettes and interviews add to the fun of this DVD.


The Jack Paar Collection The Jack Paar Collection

This is a nice set for you old school junkies. A guest review by one of my partners-in-crime, John Babcock, can be read here.


Sanford & Son: The Fourth Season Sanford & Son: The Fourth Season

This was a season of new life for Fred Sanford and his son, who we will always affectionately know as "Dummy". After Redd Foxx got back to work after a very turbulent third season, Sanford showed everyone that this was a funny show. New creative control for Foxx might have helped. See for yourself with the Fourth Season of this often-brilliant show.


Will & Grace: Season Two Will & Grace: Season Two

This is another one that actually came out last week, but I missed it. I know a couple of folks who love this show. I'm not a huge fan, but it looks damn good on DVD. Extras include a handful of featurettes and that's about it. Could have used some commentary tracks, if you ask me.


Also coming this week:

The classic serial The Cisco Kid: Collection 1, Jersey Girl (not the Kevin Smith one, which sadly looks like it bombed), fun anime with Slayers: Excellent, a bunch of tired old folk comedies from Warner: Going in Style, The Late Show and The Sunshine Boys, the HK action-fest Vampire Effect along with some more TV shows: Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman: Season 3, afternoon animation fun with Jem: Seasons 1 & 2, and two from Showtime: Penn and Teller: Bullsh*t - The First Season and Resurrection Blvd: The Complete First Season

My eyes are getting tired from watching all of these DVDs. I'm going to bed. Oh, and if someone knows Rebecca Lord, let her know I mentioned her and that I love her. Don't worry, my wife knows.

Until next week...

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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