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Site created 12/15/97.

Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 11/12/01



Sick...

So very sick. Coughing, sniffing and gurgling. I hate being sick. I think the worst part is when you get that one nasal cavity that's so dry it hurts. The other one is stuffed so bad that you can't get an air bubble in there. But that dry one is so clear that the air burns it. Your eyes water and you hate everyone and everything. I get really pathetic too. I'm like a little kid when I'm sick. My wife takes real good care of me too, hich spoils me to no end. So the next time I'm sick it's even worse.

Anyway, that's my world. On Friday, Lucas unveiled his new Star Wars Episode 2: Bring in the Clones trailer. I'd watch it, except I don't have the DVD. I was banned from the ranch and didn't get to hang with George like Bill did. Nope. Fox and Lucasfilm hate me so much I'm not even allowed to buy the disc. I tried, but there's a picture of me behind the counter. And it bothers me because I wanna own "the greatest DVD ever produced". Did someone actually say that in their review, by the way. I saw it in a commercial last night while watching Family Guy through a Sudafed haze. I think that's shameless, because everyone knows the greatest DVD ever produced is Dungeons and Dragons. Man, that rocked. I'm kidding of course. There's no such thing as a greatest DVD. If there were, Shrek or Planet of the Apes come closer than Phantom Menace. But hey, to each their own. Dow, if youb would excuse me, I hab to bow my nobse and drink plenty of bluids. Maybe I'll have something worthwhile to bitch about next time. I doubt it, but there's always hope.

Until then... I give you a Lucas dud, an animated classic and a film that coulda, but didn't.


Willow: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Willow
Special Edition - 1988 (2001) - Lucasfilm/MGM (Fox)

Film Rating: C+

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

Specs and Features:

126 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:03:22 in chapter 19), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with star Warwick Davis, Willow: The Making of an Adventure featurette, From MORf to Morphing: The Dawn of Digital Filmmaking documentary, Easter egg featurette: The Making of Raziel's Transformation featurette (hidden in Trailers and TV Spots section), 8 TV spots, 2 teaser trailers, theatrical trailer, production photo gallery, THX Optimode test signals, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (36 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0) and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned


Willow. George Lucas conceived it; Ron Howard directed it and ILM truly made their name with it. So why isn't it the best thing in the world of cinema? That's a hard question to answer well. It sure does have a lot going for it, from pretty good acting all around (I mean, I bought everyone's motivations) to some remarkable special effects (and some really bad effects - Brownie's anyone?). But ultimately, the whole thing falls down because this feels like it's been done before. Everything is so recycled. But what are you going to do? The art of myth is the art of telling the same story over in more remarkable ways. They say there are only a few stories to tell in the world - but it's the way you tell them. I think Lucas, Howard and company just didn't tell a new story here. As much as they, or even we, wanted them to.

Willow is, in the most simple of genre definitions, the world of J.R.R. Tolkien smooshed into R.E. Howard's world. An evil queen is prophesized to be brought down by a girl born with a mark on its arm. So she shuttles all the pregnant women of her domain into cages and waits for the child to be born. When she is, she'll be snuffed - simple as that. But thanks to a quick thinking midwife, the young one is saved and starts on an adventure. Warwick Davis plays Willow, an aspiring sorcerer and hobbit-like villager who is charged with taking the newly orphaned baby from the village she's found in onward to the first tall person he finds. That tall person is Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a swordsman he finds caged along a highway. Not wanting to leave the little girl with such a scoundrel, Willow joins Madmartigan and from there it's high adventure, fairy dust, people turning into pigs, horribly conceived Brownie characters (who really should have been dropped from the film) and a really hot redhead. I could go into the whole thing more, but I'm not going to because we've all been there. I can say this: while watching this film, you'll really be watching The Hobbit, Conan, Gulliver's Travels, Wizard of Oz, Brian Froud's illustrations brought to life and a cannibalized version of Lucas' Jedi mythos, sprinkled with a little Indiana Jones for good measure. I wasn't impressed at age 18. I'm not impressed today.

Still, Willow remains a movie most wanted on DVD. And if you've been waiting for it... when you get it, you're in for a stunner, actually. I never saw the film in a theater, so I never really saw it widescreen. It was never a movie high on my list, so I only caught video and television presentations. On DVD, Willow gains a lot - it's pretty epic. This is a widescreen film through and through, and Fox, along with Lucasfilm, did it great justice. The anamorphic presentation is top notch, with bright, vivid colors and stark solid blacks. There are a few defects in the source print, but nothing that will take away from the experience of watching the film. The sound is also very, very good. We get Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround tracks and, except for a few hollow dialogue bits, I'll take the 5.1 over the 2.0 in terms of natural quality. The surround speakers get pretty wild with atmosphere and environmental effects. It's pretty trippy in the scenes contained in the woods, when you can hear bugs and birds all around you. I found a few problems here and there, with the sound being a bit "echoy" at times, but it didn't distract me from the world of Willow. All in all, I have to say this a grand treatment for this film.

In terms of the extras, I was pretty disappointed actually. There're a few things here, but all in all, nothing to write home about. There's a very good commentary with Willow himself, Warwick Davis. He loves the film and you can tell. He goes from the beginnings of his involvement and working with Kilmer to acting and special effects. The problem is, it's all his point of view. This is a big special effects film, and a well directed one at that. So where is Lucas? Where's Howard? Where's Dennis Murren for that matter? Well... they're on a new documentary about the morphing special effects. Entitled, From MORf to Morphing, it's a salute to the groundbreaking special effects created for this film that are now available for use by anyone and their grandmother. It's neat, yeah, but it only covers the morphing effects and therefore seems cursory. I want to know more about this movie. The only more there is, however, is an archive featurette on the special effects (which looks like it was made for television) and another Easter egg archived short on the morphing effects. That's all you get on the history and the making of the film. After that you get 2 teasers, a trailer, a handful of TV spots and some production photos. That's it. I guess I can't fault Lucas and Fox for not pumping too much money into this disc, but this could have easily been a 2-disc set and maybe should have been. The time is right to look back on it and see why it isn't all that great. I'd love to hear Howard's take on it. Maybe even Lucas. There's a moment in the archived featurette when Howard's asked to make a decision about a dance sequence - Howard wants to pick up where they left off and Lucas wants to start over. But Lucas is letting Howard run the show, so he acquiesces. Howard ends up starting from the beginning and there's this weird look on his face, like he didn't want to upset Lucas. That's the stuff I wanna know about. That's WAY more interesting than the morphing effects in the film to me. When you look at a Spielberg film produced by Lucas, you see Spielberg. But with Willow, I saw nothing but Lucas - right down to the Star Wars-style wipe dissolves. Interesting, no?

Maybe everyone loves Willow because it made morphing into a viable special effect. If there were no morphs, then Willow would probably be locked away in the Lucasfilm Archives with Howard the Duck. Howard pushed no envelopes, so it sees no light on DVD. But Willow, the film that made T2 and Michael Jackson's Black and White video possible, is now on DVD for every fanboy to own. Get yourself a copy and marvel away. Personally, I'm waiting for Howard. And waiting, and waiting, and waiting...

Willow: Special Edition
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


Fritz the Cat

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Fritz the Cat
1972 (2001) - MGM

Film Rating: B-

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

Specs and Features:

78 mins, NR (X), letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English and French (DD mono), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned


Who'd of thunk that a major studio like MGM would release an animated film about drug abuse, racial tension and sex? Not I. But here it is in all of its glory - welcome to DVD Fritz the Cat. All these years later, it's still quite edgy and it'll always be an important film. But hey... it's never been the greatest animated film ever made. I like it though. So, you can take that for whatever you want.

Fritz follows the seemingly single day adventure of 1960s NYU student Fritz, who's happens to be a cat drawn in Robert Crumb's cross-hatched shading style. He's a cat, yes, but he represents something much bigger. In this world, cats are the white people in the world, aka The Man. Well, along with all the dogs. Rats are the floaters, along with various types of birds and lizards. It's a social morality tale, but I don't think too much thought went into the symbolism. Now, where it gets a little more clear-cut is with the crows. Crows are black, so they are the Blacks (in this time African-American didn't exist as a term) and pigs are pigs, er, cops. So, getting back to the tale, one day while playing music in the park, Fritz finds three ladies looking for enlightenment. Taking it upon himself to open their minds (amongst other things), he brings them to a friend's pad, lays them all in a bathtub and they get jiggy (again, I doubt jiggy was a term in the 1960s, but you get my meaning). An orgy ensues with all sorts of critters jumping in and soon the police happen upon the scene. Fritz grabs a gun and shoots a toilet, causing a flood. And the party's over. He's now on the run, so off to his pad he goes to grab his things - which he quickly sets on fire, setting his dorm building ablaze. Now a wanted man, Fritz goes off to hang with Crows in Harlem. While trying to plead his social coolness case, he makes friends with a crow named Duke. Duke takes him under his wing, if you will, and they go off and do drugs and Fritz hooks up with an eager crow lady. During this act, he has an epiphany and starts a race war, which makes him public enemy number one. On the lam, he hooks up with an old girlfriend and they head to San Francisco. They break up on route and Fritz makes friends with a smack addicted bunny in a motorcycle gang and his horse girlfriend. They soon join up with revolutionaries with plans to destroy a power plant. Fritz pulls the job of setting the bomb and he's blown to smithereens. And I don't think what I've just told you spoils anything.

Fritz is a pretty cool flick. It shows its age, and in no way does the film make as much sense as I just laid it out. Animation lord (he's not really a God considering his work) Ralph Bakshi did his best to serve the time and the character, but he trips and falls along the way. You will be shocked at the activities and even the tone of the film. If Warner is planning to cut questionable cartoons from their eminent release of the complete WB Looney Toons/Merry Melodie library, there's nothing there that exceeds this film. If this can come out, hopefully we'll see Coal Black on DVD someday. If you're a fan of animation, this is a good disc to get.

The disc itself looks and sounds as good as can be expected. It's anamorphic widescreen and the colors and contrast look great. The print has about three spots of bad damage, but it's an old film that has jumped around a lot over the years. The sound is a solid mono track that serves the film well. Extras are non-existent, with nothing but a trailer and (thankfully) a one-page insert sheet. This DVD could and should have been a special edition. Maybe MGM will see some sales and come back to this one. I'm hoping that they do.

Fritz the Cat
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


America's Sweethearts

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

America's Sweethearts
2001 (2001) - Columbia TriStar/Revolution Studios (Columbia)

Film Rating: C-

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

Specs and Features:

103 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.40:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, 5 deleted scenes with option introductions by director Joe Roth, theatrical trailers (for America's Sweethearts, My Best Friend's Wedding and The Mask of Zorro, cast and crew filmographies animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned


This will be a quick review. John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones are the biggest Hollywood couple ever. America loves them, and all of the films they've been in together are just huge box office blockbusters. But there's a problem: they've broken up. Now their newest picture is going to flop, unless the studio can bring the two back together. Enter Billy Crystal as the greatest PR guy this side of the Mississippi. If he can't do it, no one can. But he'll need help... in the guise of Zeta-Jones' assistant, played by Julia Roberts. Can these two get the other two together, or will there be big problems? What do you think? But even if they do, will there be even bigger problems after that? Again, what do you think? Yeah... I couldn't give two shits either.

Sweethearts is fun, funny, cute and all those things, but I think it fails because the little films within the film (that paint Cusack and Jones as a loved Hollywood commodity) are too spoofy and make the film look like too much of a joke. If they had sold me on the idea that these two actors really are great, and didn't go so completely for the comedy HERE, then the comedy in the "real world" would have worked better. But who am I to question co-writer Billy Crystal and director/studio head Joe Roth. Nobody, that's who. So there.

On DVD, Sweethearts is as good as could be expected. It's presented in both full frame and widescreen on the same side of the disc - you choose at the start. The colors are rich and the transfer is great. The movie just came out, so it would have to look great, right? The sound is also solid in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 options. It won't explode your speakers, but it's a talky comedy - what do you expect. There's a nice extra on board - a collection of fun deleted scenes with an optional video introduction to each by director Roth. He seemed to love the film and lovingly shows off his snips. There's also the trailer, trailer for a few other films by this cast and the usual cast and crew filmographies. It's basically a movie-only disc of a flick that isn't too good, but doesn't suck either. So give it a shot if you think you might like it. The performances are all good. The film just doesn't gel that well.

America's Sweethearts
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


I'm back to bed. Back later this week with more reviews.

Until then, may the Force be with you...

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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