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The Spin Sheet

DVD reviews by Adam Jones of The Digital Bits

Land of the Lost: The Complete Third Season

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Land of the Lost: The Complete Third Season
1976-1977 (2005) - Sid & Marty Krofft/CBS (Rhino)

Program Rating: C

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

I don't particularly recall the late-seventies too well, but the shows I do remember watching held a kind of fascination for me. The big ones were Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, The Six-Million Dollar Man, reruns of Star Trek and Pippi Longstocking (don't ask). Then, of course, there was Land of the Lost. You can't help but watch this with a smile, and reminisce on the days when the whole world outside your parent's house could be turned into one of those adventures you saw TV. Your Atari was the coolest thing ever. And yes, you could recreate entire battles with your endless collection of Star Wars toys, even if you always lost your Jawas or the blasters that came with certain figures.

You look upon these things with childlike nostalgia, and that is really the only reason people continue to buy these '70's shows on DVD. But my oh my, time has not been kind to Land of the Lost. I remember tuning into the show as a kid in the wee hours of the morning, marveling at the adventures of Rick Marshall, Will, Holly and Uncle Jack, and hoping one of those realistic looking dinosaurs or Sleestaks would gobble up that Neanderthal kid Cha-Ka. The opening sequence was particularly incredible - I always thought that raft falling down the waterfall was cool. But I was only four or five at the time, and through the eyes of such a youngster, just about anything is larger than life and incredible. Although I've grown up and that kid in me is still there, with Land of the Lost I just can't help but gape at how bad the show really is. Dig those seventies haircuts! Watch Holly cower and cry from those lizard Sleestaks, who walk around like they're suffering from a serious sunburn! Wow, those rubber dinosaurs look like... well, rubber dinosaurs in front of backgrounds that reminded me of those panoramas you used to make out of shoeboxes in first grade. Hear Will declare infinite wisdom with thought-provoking dialogue like "Worth they're weight in gold in Land of the Lost!," "Nothing is what it seems in Land of the Lost!," "In Land of the Lost, danger finds YOU!" And so on. Gotta love how clean cut everybody looks. They must have a washer-dryer hook up somewhere in one of the caves of base camp. Hey, they've got the crystal matrix table, right? I guess all these elements are something people enjoy for sheer sentimental value, or to just sit back and be astonished at how much the show has aged. Nevertheless, there is some entertainment to be found in Land of the Lost, but it's difficult in the age of digital technology and Jurassic Park. This one's recommended for serious nostalgia fans only.

Even though the show has been transferred to DVD, it still suffers from being shot on full frame, analog video. For the most part the picture is pretty clean, except whenever something movies too fast and you get blurry or bleeding images. Usually it this occurs with bright objects such as torches (there are a lot of those in the show) or when the set lighting seems a little off.

The audio portion of the DVD presentation is pretty basic. Nothing has been remastered so again, it suffers from being shot on video. The dialogue echoes somewhat as if all the actors are on a set, and the environmental effects such as jungle sounds and roaring dinosaurs leave the impression that the producers have assembled their soundtrack from an audio source library.

For those of you looking for a plethora of amenities, look elsewhere. There's one audio commentary by with Ron Harper (Uncle Jack) who seems thrilled at being asked to do one, but doesn't really have much to say other than how much fun he had on the show. Harper is also featured in a short interview, in which he only elaborates more on what he says during the commentary. The best thing this collection has to offer is that it's simply been transferred to DVD, so you no longer have to put up with a crappy VHS version or bad home copy.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 7

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Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 7
1988-1999 (2005) - Best Brains/Comedy Central (Rhino)

Program Rating: D

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

Let's just lay it out on the line right here and now, so those of you I might offend won't flood my e-mail account or hack into my system; Mystery Science Theater 3000 isn't to my taste in any way shape or form. I think what the problem here is that the smart-ass "heroes" Mike Nelson and his robot buddies Tom Servo and Crow, are representative of people I can't stand. They are the people (or robots, if you must get technical) who shoot their mouths off during movies. I guess it struck a nerve, since the last movie-going experience I had, there was a group of kids next to us who chatted away as if we were in their living room. Oh, and were they 'tough'. Talking all gangsta and what not, they knew what was up except where to find some manners. And this isn't a single incident. The same thing happened when I saw The Aviator, Finding Neverland and The Incredibles. So even though ripping on the movies contained in this collection is justifiable, it just isn't funny to me because it reminds me too much of people I have to sit next to in REAL theaters during good movies.

Yes, the four films here (Hercules Unchained, Hercules Against the Moon Men, Prince of Space, The Killer Shrews) are despicably atrocious. But they're movies only brought into the limelight under unique circumstances, in this case, for the characters in the show to rip on them. Wouldn't it be more funny if this this trio of wits watched bad movies we knew, and then had something funny to say? Clearly, these selections are easy targets, and therefore easy to blast, but that doesn't make up for a lack of cleverness or original thinking from the show's writers. Jokes work when they don't rely on something else to be funny, and since the movies Nelson, Servo and Crow are watching suck anyway, where's the fun in listening to bad jokes on bad movies? Want to watch something funny and clever about bad movies? Check out Ed Wood. At least with that film, the characters are totally clueless that they're creating something ridiculous. Here, everybody is self-aware, which makes watching D-movies and listening to corny commentaries more of an endurance test than an entertaining experience.

Because this show is shot on full frame video, the picture and audio portion of the DVD presentation are merely ample. The old films were shot on film, but are superimposed behind our wisecracking heroes silhouettes, so that aspect of the picture quality is appropriately D-grade. Audio-wise, you're mostly listening to dialogue, and it just comes off a flat without any real sense of dimension. But hey, what do you expect from this kind of show?

The lack of bonus material only makes the whole package more annoying. It would have been nice at least to get some insight on the inspiration for the show, and some audio commentaries or interviews from the show's creators might have made sitting through the show more enjoyable. My biggest complaint is that for all the attitude while the characters tear up the movies they're watching, there is little personality infused into the DVD production. I'm not sure what's included on the other volumes of this series, but in today's market for DVD's, with its more discerning buyers, a show like this needs to really give you your money's worth. It doesn't. Perhaps I'm being a little too harsh, but that's my opinion.

Nip/Tuck: The Complete First Season

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

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Nip/Tuck: The Complete First Season
2003 (2004) - FX Network (Warner Bros.)

Film Rating: A

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

When I saw the countless number of billboards advertising the season premiere of Nip/Tuck two summers ago, I must admit I was extremely skeptical. In these days of crummy TV programming, when so many networks are scrambling for your attention, what could possibly be more plastic and superficial than a show about plastic surgery? Yes, I was making a surface judgment, but after incessant prodding from my ex-girlfriend, I gave in and decided to give the show a shot, confident of my opinion that it was merely going to be an exercise in surface flash and perfunctory flair. I ended up finishing the entire first season in one week. Viewing one episode a night changed rapidly into four or five episode marathons until five in the morning.

Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon star as Sean McNamara and Christian Troy, plastic surgeons practicing in Miami's South Beach, a perfect location for their ambitions to be the perfect solution to their clients' imperfections. In one of the shows clever ironic twists, their lives are a far cry from exemplary. Sean's marriage to his wife Julia (a terrifically unhinged Joely Richardson) is crumbling, he has trouble connecting with his son Matt (John Hensley), the moral and ethical standards of his practice are compromised by Christian's cavalier attitude towards accepting clients... and he can't speak Spanish.

In contrast, Christian is living it up as the James Bond of plastic surgeons, carousing about Miami Beach in a souped-up Lamborghini and seducing any woman who falls for his impeccable charm and rugged good looks. "Girls don't care if you have a two-inch pecker, hairy ass, or balls like cranberries," he says to Matt during one of his many tutorials to the insecure teenager. "What they do care about is that you know what you're doing." Indeed, but for all the confidence in Christian, who projects an image of perfection to those around him, underneath is a man in conflict with himself. For all his sexual conquests, he's a very lonely man trying to draw attention away from his many flaws, seeking attention and approval from those closest to him. His cavalier attitude towards life creates a lot of problems, and many of his exploits have serious consequences. Just check out a scene in the pilot episode concerning botox and you'll get the idea.

What sets Nip/Tuck apart from other shows of this nature is the superb writing. Much like Christian, show creator Ryan Murphy and his team of writers have such shrewd, fearless confidence that you're willing to accept whatever they throw at you. The dialogue crackles with sardonic wit. The drama presented is sincere. The characters are sharply drawn, each with distinctive personalities that make them all the more realistic and sympathetic. Many of the situations that occur throughout the show are outlandish, but perfectly acceptable featured in a show gleefully firing on all cylinders. It's refreshing to finally find a show that's being brutally honest about its lies.

So what about the surgery? I haven't really touched upon that yet because while there are plenty of surgeries performed, that's really not what the show is about. It's merely a springboard for good storytelling. Be warned however, those of you with queasy stomachs will probably cringe during those scenes, for they are realistically graphic. It serves as a great contrast to the drama.

So, finally, we get to the technical specs of the DVD presentation. The picture quality is terrific (anamorphic widescreen 1:85:1), preserving the cinematic nature of the show. The sound design is just fine, even though it's only 2-channel Dolby Surround. However, as I've said, the show carries itself with its plotted situations and crisp dialogue, so you don't really get that desire to bludgeon your ears and engulf your living room with a wall of sound. Although playing The Perfect Lie video at high volume could have its advantages. The best of the extras is easily the segment covering the make-up effects. It's the most informative and engrossing of the special features. The other documentaries are of average fare, including short interviews (too short, actually) from the actors and producers. No audio commentaries are featured on any episodes, which is a shame since it would make up for the skimpy making-of documentary.

Multi-tiered, constantly surprising, and much deeper than any breast implant or liposuction operation, here's hoping the show loses none of its vitality in upcoming seasons. Do check it out. It's worth the time. For those of you who are already addicted to Nip/Tuck and wanting more, breathe easy. Warner Bros. has confirmed the release of Season 2 on DVD this August, just in time to recap before Season 3 premieres on FX this September. Oh yeah, and the network has ordered Season 4 as well.

Adam Jones

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