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The Spin Sheet

DVD reviews by Peter Schorn and Adam Jones of The Digital Bits

Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

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Toy Story
10th Anniversary Edition - 1995 (2005) - Pixar/Disney (Buena Vista)

Film Rating: A

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

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

Reviewing a movie which is pretty much an undisputed classic like Toy Story is about as futile an endeavor as attempting to persuade a clergyman that they may be working for the wrong deity: You can talk all you want, but you're probably not going to change any minds.

After a decade of making brilliant computer-generated animation shorts like Red's Dream, Tin Toy and Luxo Jr., Pixar stepped up with their first feature-length production and just as parent Disney did with Snow White, they smashed it out of park with a technically and artistically triumphant landmark film.

For those who have been living la vida Amish for the past decade or are just returning from a trans-galactic voyage, Toy Story is about a young boy named Andy who lives in the typical Disney single-parent home with his mother and infant sister. (Where's Papa? Secretary? Hunting accident? Barracuda attack?)

Of all his toys, his favorite is a cowboy rag doll named Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks). Woody's the leader of the toys and is preparing them for the family's move to a new house when a new toy is dropped into their midst after Andy's birthday party.

This shiny plastic Space Ranger action figure, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), promptly usurps Woody's spot on Andy's bed as his favorite and dazzles the other toys with his flashy features and bravado. The other toys mock Woody's jealousy and bitterness. Where the twist comes in is Buzz doesn't realize that he's a toy - he believes he is the real Buzz Lightyear, with a laser ray and the ability to fly, and this drives Woody even battier.

When Woody accidentally knocks Buzz out of the window, the other toys shun him and Woody sets out to bring Buzz home. Adventure ensues and peril awaits right next door in the form of the toy-mutilating punk Sid (Erik von Detten) and his dog Scud. Will Woody and Buzz make it back home in one piece? Will Buzz find out that he's just a toy? Will Andy's dad come back home or are a series of new "Uncles" in his future?

Do you really have to ask?

Since just about all of you already (or should) know the movie, the remainder of this review will concentrate on the new Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition. While over 40 million DVD players were sold in the United States since Disney put the original release "back in the vaults" in May 2003, that moratorium has also meant that nearly half of the players sold didn't have a chance to cradle this animation milestone in their tray's warm embrace until now.

The original single-disc release was pretty bare-boned and the bulk of the extras materials were only available on the also OOP Ultimate Toy Box set that bundled both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 along with a third disc of goodies. For a while, these boxes were commanding princely sums on eBay, but with this release and the impending return of the sequel, they're no longer as prized, though still quite good.

Since it's likely that this edition will likely be the first copy you've purchased for your library, I'm not going to delve too extensively into what's been carried over and what got left behind. If you've only had the basic release, you want this one, too. If you've got the UTB, it's not as clear an upgrade, though still worth it.

The box art claims that this release has the highest bit rate ever used for a Disney/Pixar release and while statistics are nice, it doesn't matter if it doesn't look good. Fortunately, high bit rate or not, this transfer looks positively shiny. Actually, "transfer" is a bit of a misnomer because the disc isn't actually transferred from film, but mastered directly from the master files meaning there are no dust specks, scratches or grain to muck up the picture.

Slightly reformatted from the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 to the 1.78:1 ratio of widescreen televisions, the picture is surreally pristine. The primary colors are absolutely free of noise or smearing and detail is razor sharp. When the picture is this good, it's hard to tell if the odd anomalies that may be noted here and there are actually flaws in the source, the mastering or a nitpicker's imagination trying to spot something - anything - to fault. While I did spot a item here or there that distracted me for a moment, to mark down for them would be like sending Cindy Crawford to a leper colony for her mole - not gonna do it.

With the picture as pretty as a... uh... um... you know, metaphors are both the life and death of writers. Let's move on to a look at the sound. (D'oh!)

Master sound design Jedi Gary Rydstrom - winner of seven Oscars, but zero Betty Crocker Bake-offs - went back and tweaked out the audio mix specifically for the home theater environment with its closer speaker positions and lack of people talking on cell phones to provide the source for new Dolby 5.1 EX and DTS 5.1 sound options. (French and Spanish 5.1 mixes - presumably the old ones - are also available.)

While both options are excellent and subtle mixes that concentrate more on the environmental ambience than crazy back channel theatrics, I have to give a slight edge to the DTS track for it's noticeably louder and punchier than the Dolby track. I had to adjust my amplifier's volume level as I toggled between the tracks - louder for Dolby, then down for DTS. The dynamic range also is wide enough to mislead you into adjusting the volume during the predominantly dialogue-driven scenes, only to have a mighty sub-woofer-activating event occur and frighten your pets. When Andy and his party guests burst into his room early on and anything involving cars and trucks later occur, you'll want to make sure those Precious Moments heirlooms are properly secured against vibration. Bam-BOOM!

OK, so we've got a great movie with killer sound and picture. Is that enough for you? Of course not! You wants the extras and here's where you buckle up and I switch to Industrial-Strength Lee® Bolt-On Nails to plow through the avalanche of bonus materials starting with the first thing you see when you pop in the first disc, a sneak peek at Pixar's next fund-shifting project, Cars. The first trailer that ran with The Incredibles theatrically didn't really thrill me and the subsequent announcement that it was being kicked bay to a 2006 release indicated it wasn't coming together properly and judging from the tone of John Lasseter's intro, they know some selling may be in order.

A brief video introduction by Lasseter leads into The Legacy of Toy Story. a 12-minute collection of encomiums from the filmmakers and voice talent as well as jealous poseurs like George Lucas and Peter Jackson (who appears to be hurting for cash because he's lost a lot of weight) as they discuss what impact Toy Story had over the decade following its release.

The filmmaker audio commentary has Lasseter joined by creative team members Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Bill Reeves, Ralph Eggleston as well as producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold. Helpful subtitles identifying the current speaker are provided and several times a female voice reminds us who exactly these people are and what their job functions were.

The commentary is very lively and informative, so much so, it actually renders many of the anecdotes coming up on the second disc redundant. On tidbit was about how Penn Gillette, who was the announcer on the Buzz Lightyear commercial, was so loud that he could be heard in the recording studio lobby is punctuated by an impromptu recreation of the background chant from the ad. It's a mandatory listen.

Making the leap to Disc Two, the extras cavalcade begins with The Making of Toy Story (20:17) a comprehensive primer that walks us through the development of the story and the design and animation of the picture. If anyone thinks that computer animation isn't as legitimate an art form as hand-drawn animation because of the technology, this will disabuse all but the most reticent. If anything, it's much harder and you'll see why.

Filmmakers Reflect (16:34) is an inadvertently poignant roundtable discussion for along with Lasseter, Stanton and Docter, story supervisor Joe Ranft sits in on the piece taped in the lobby of Pixar. A lifer at Pixar after working on films such as Beauty and the Beast at Disney, he also provided the voices for Wheezy in Toy Story 2 and Heimlich in A Bug's Life and was killed in a freak auto accident on August 16, 2005, a mere month before this writing. A lot of the recollections were heard in the commentary, but it's still a nice piece. During the credits, they have outtakes and Ranft deadpans something that just slays the others. He'll clearly be missed.

Here's where the extras take a turn into Filmgeekville, starting with the Deleted Scenes section a pair of rough animated scenes and a half-dozen storyboarded storyreel bits. With their respective intros, they total 18:50 in length. Editor Lee Unkrich introduces the first part explains how they try not cut animation footage because it costs so much time and money to create them. He's joined by Lasseter and Stanton as they discuss the storyreel process and how some ideas that didn't make the cut here showed up in the sequel. The deleted scenes are Sid Tortures Toys and Rain, and the storyreel pieces are Alternate Opening: Buzz Lightyear Cartoon, Alternate Opening: Western Shootout, Woody's Nightmare, Eastern Gate, Shakes the Rattle and Sid's Comeuppance.

The geek quotient kicks up a notch in the non-threateningly titled Behind the Scenes section which tees off with Designing Toy Story (6:12), another reminder that Pixar didn't just run to the store, buy some toys and animate them, but a whole passel of drawings, paintings and design blueprints had to be generated before a power switch was ever flipped on the computers. If character designer Bud Luckey sounds familiar, it's probably because he voiced the government agent in charge of relocating The Incredibles. (Other notable Pixar vocal performers include Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton as Crush the sea turtle dude and The Incredibles director Brad Bird who was snooty costume designer Edna Mode.)

Where things really get kitchen sinky is in the Design area with its trio of subsections: Characters, Sets and Color. The Characters area has seven galleries of sketch art (totaling 11:31) and four 3D Turnarounds (2:34) which are just the motionless figures rotating to show all sides and their interaction with the light. The Sets subsection has four galleries (2:32) which are set to excerpts of the music score and three 3D Tours (3:07) which consist of looping shots of the particular set with commentary explaining what's special about it. Color clocks in at a total of 7:54 with further sub-subsections on Designing Color, Concept Art and Color Script. Art Director Ralph Eggleston provides a few minutes of thoughts about the importance of color to enhance mood and tell the story.

Moving right along we find the Story subsection with the "Green Army Men" Pitch (5:55) which shows Ranft running through the sequence in split-screen with the boards in one window and Ranft, with his pointer, in another. There's a cute intro bit to this piece, too.

"Andy's New Toy" Storyreel (4:40) is the pencil-sketch-and-voice version of Buzz's introduction to the gang and "The Chase" Storyreel/Film Comparison (3:21) is your usual storyboard vs. finished product comparison.

Now, how much would you pay for a DVD like this? Before you answer, don't forget that we still have the Production subsection and its five components: Production Tour (1:51), Multi-Angle Progression (2:07), Layout Tricks (3:25), Animation Tour (1:23), Multi-Language Reel (4:30). Of the set, the Layout Tricks one had the most interesting insights into the process, like how they handled Woody being substantially taller than Buzz. The Multi-Language Reel (listed on its title card as Toy Story Around the World) shows a scene with 30 different languages.

If you want to make fun julienne fries, you'll want to add the Music and Sound attachment with its You've Got A Friend In Me music video (2:15) performed by Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett. Designing Sound (6:35) has Gary Rydstrom discussing how they wanted to make the characters identifiable by sound alone and shows several sequences with only their sound effects. And if you can't get enough of that Randy Newman whimsy, you'll love that they've included a half-dozen song demos that clock out to 17-1/2 minutes. Songs include Plastic Spaceman 1, Plastic Spaceman 2, Strange Things, The Fool, I Will Go Sailing No More and You've Got a Friend In Me. (Crank it to 11!)

Of course, what's the point of making something if you're not going to sell it? For those wanting a look at the crass commercial side of the silicon screen, there's 10:14 of Publicity propaganda to sate your curiosity in the form of a Character Interview, trailers, TV spots, posters and Toys & Stuff. The "interview" is a corny 89-seconds of Buzz and Woody being interviewed by a way-too-cheerful human.

For those who just can't get enough of set-top player games, there is The Claw Game which is cute for what it is, but a poor substitute for an Xbox. Easter egg hunters should appreciate that on each of the menu screens is a little sheriff's star which when selected shows a few Toy Story Treats which were little interstitial bits originally made for ABC Saturday morning cartoons. If you want to see them all in a 13:02 chunk, go to the Index screen and select the star there which will then take you to a list of 13 items with a Play All option.

Whew! That's about it and there's plenty to rummage through. One notable and curious omission from the previous releases is Tin Toy, the Oscar-winning short which was a precursor to Toy Story. Why wasn't this carried over, silly rabbits?

It's amazing to see how far the technology has come in the short decade since Toy Story's release. The leap from the simple flat-shaded monochrome boxes of Tron to the vibrant tactile world of Andy's room is stunning, but compared to the Sully's flowing fur in Monsters, Inc., the undersea world of Finding Nemo, or the lush jungles of The Incredibles, it looks downright primitive in spots. Scud looks like he's made of clay, not fur, but these unsophisticated edges don't diminish the masterful storytelling that makes Pixar the new Disney in this generation's hearts and minds.

Whether you have kids or were once a kid yourself, there is no good reason why you shouldn't have a copy of Toy Story in your DVD library (as well as the upcoming Toy Story 2 reissue) for both its historical significance and its sheer entertainment value. For kids of all ages and film fans, Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition is a must own treasure. What are you waiting for? Go to the store and buy it now!

Peter Schorn
[email protected]

The Karate Kid: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

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The Karate Kid
Special Edition - 1984 (2005) - Columbia TriStar (Sony)

Film Rating: A

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

Back in 1984 (and for the next couple of years), there were two things you knew on the playground in elementary school. Everybody wanted Mr. Miyagi as their neighbor. Not to wax the car or paint the fence or sand the floor. For some reason, Miyagi represented the idea of a true friend or surrogate father. Of course, it helped that he knew a little karate too. The second thing was that crane kick. Pardon the pun, but kick me if half the playground wasn't trying that move. On the bars, near the slide, during a dodgeball game. But that's just a smidgeon of the social impact the film had on people at the time. Without all the sentiment, The Karate Kid is a classic, loaded with charm and sincerity that movie budgets nowadays couldn't even afford.

For those of you living in the Andromeda galaxy, the story concerns a wise-ass kid Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and his mother who move from New Jersey to L.A. (Reseda, if you need to get technical). Almost immediately Daniel runs afoul with a group of tough guys who are members of the Cobra Kai, a karate school run by a sadistic ex-marine. A few fights ensue, with Daniel being consistently pummeled worse each time. The only good thing Daniel has going for him is his desire to fight back, but he's hopelessly outnumbered and outmatched. Enter Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita), the soft spoken, enigmatic grounds keeper residing in Daniel's apartment building. During a particularly brutal scuffle Miyagi comes to Daniel's rescue, and single-handedly wallops the Cobra Kai's finest with a few well-placed chops, kicks and flips. Not only does Miyagi know karate, but the entire philosophy behind it. A friendship develops, and Miyagi agrees to take Daniel on as a student with only one proviso; no questions asked. From here is where the movie's greatest strength lies. Not only is it enormously entertaining to observe Miyagi's unorthodox methods, much to Daniel's dismay, but also watching the relationship develop between the two of them. Yes, Robert Mark Kamen's script follows the Rocky formula, a film that shares the same director, John G. Avildsen. But like the original Rocky, it's really the characters and their relationships that make this movie click. There is the big climactic fight, but aside from the tournament, there are very few karate sequences in the film. Kamen and Avildsen don't really seemed concerned with martial arts. That wasn't until the sequels came around, each one becoming progressively worse. This is the one to watch... the only one to watch really.

The anamorphic widescreen video transfer on this new Special Edition is excellent. The sound design is pretty basic, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix gets the job done. You don't have to worry about blasting your sound system unless you're a fan of that You're the Best tune that's played during the tournament.

Where the disc really delivers is just the right amount of extras. The audio commentary features the director, the writer and members of the cast. It gets a little crowded, but manages to still be very informative and enjoyable to listen to. There's also a 2-part "making-of" featurette that includes retrospective interviews with the cast and crew. Wrapping it up, you get two short featurettes on karate and bonsai trees, and Bill Conti talking about his musical score.

All in all, it's fine package that covers ground for both fans of the film and younger audiences, who may have yet to discover this coming-of-age story, as well.

Adam Jones
[email protected]

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

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Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
2003 (2005) - Magnolia Pictures (Fox Home Entertainment)

Film Rating: D+

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

Porn comes in many varieties beyond the first-thought-of sexual variety. There's "FX porn" which includes films which are little more than tech demos for the latest eye-popping visual effects, like Hollow Man. The Fast and the Furious was "ricer porn" and in the long history of "chop socky porn", the latest contender is Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior starring the genre's newest porn star, Tony Jaa, who's being hyped as the successor to the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

As in all porn movies, the plot is merely a device to set-up and/or excuse the action sequences. Instead of telling the story of a plucky pizza delivery man who finds him getting great tips, Ong-Bak is the story of Ting, a plucky practitioner of the Muay Thai form of martial arts in a poor rural village. After the head of the Ong-Bak, the village's deity, is stolen, Ting quests to track down the thief in Bangkok. Trained by the monks who raised him, he has been admonished to never use his skill which means, naturally, he'll be kicking mucho butt once he hits town.

Where Ong-Bak goes wrong, like most bad porn, is in wasting interminable amounts of time on the dull story. A pair of swindlers, including a man from Ting's village, is given many scenes of their grifting activities which only delays what viewers are here to see, Tony Jaa laying the smack down. Just as we don't care about how the pizza delivery boy's hopes and dreams are, this pair is annoying and superfluous, as are just about all the other characters in the movie.

So, the story sucks and the characters are meaningless - this is porn, how is the action? In a word: Boring. Ong-Bak is being hyped as a real bone-crushing antidote to all the "wire fu" pictures like Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that have people flying around like Peter Pan. Supposedly made for fans of "real" fighting like you see on Ultimate Fighting Championship, it doesn't change the fact that Muay Thai is a very dull martial art in a visual sense. With its heavy emphasis on elbow and knee strikes, it looks as if Jaa is doing about two moves over and over and over and over and over and you get the point.

In addition to the fights are several chase scenes which are meant to showcase his Jackie Chan successor credentials as a top acrobatic talent. He springs and cartwheels and makes seemingly impossible moves, but it all feels stiff and staged. What are missing are the sense of humor and the exploitation of the environment that Chan brings to his fights. Jaa leaping thru a small coil of wire doesn't have the sheer "whoa" factor that Chan's slipping through the casino money window slot in Rush Hour 2 had and that's the older, slower Chan were talking about. It also doesn't help that every time Jaa does some flashy maneuver, the filmmakers immediately show it again from up to three more angles in a cheesy instant replay that immediately yields diminishing returns.

After all the hype and an impressive early scene in which Jaa runs through a series of exercise moves that show off his body and speed, I was expecting some rollicking action and outside of a very few moments, was left sadly disappointed. I frankly don't see much breakout potential for Jaa because he and the Muay Thai style don't possess much attraction for general sensibilities. Maybe a much better film with better writing and direction could spruce things up; Ong-Bak just isn't the one to break both outside the hardcore chop socky porn audience.

On the technical side, the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is dark and gritty. Colors are muted and tend toward the yellowish-brown end of the spectrum, especially indoors. The film looks like it was shot 30 years ago and detail is soft and murky in the shadows. Outdoor scenes aren't much better, looking flat and washed-out.

Audio isn't much better with a choice of Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 or English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Neither track is very impressive, though purists will obviously go for the original Thai track. Surround activity is sporadic and not particularly impressive. If you don't feel like reading subtitles or find spoken Thai to be too alien-sounding, the English track has passable voice acting, but Godzilla-grade lip sync. (Since the story is the least interesting part, watching with the sound and subtitles off is a valid option as well.)

One glitch with the DVD's mastering is in the subtitles: The English option is the closed-captioned text for hearing-impaired viewers. This means that in addition to dialogue, sound effects like [Speaking Thai] or [Groans] appear frequently. An error like that occurred on the initial run of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and prompted an exchange program. There is no word as of this writing as to whether the same will be done with this release.

The extras are as thin as the film's plot starting with a weak couple of minutes of Tony Jaa doing a live demonstration at a French screening and a poorly-photographed demonstration of The 8 Movements of Muay Thai that also runs a couple of minutes. Given much more play is a rap music video by a French group called Tragedie which shows why we haven't heard of any rappers named 50 Franc. A making-of about the video runs longer than everything else combined and it all is marginally connected to the movie. Trailers and ads featuring the RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan) pitching the film wrap up the supplemental content.

While the desire for new faces in martial arts films is understandable, Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior - shouldn't that be Ting: The Thai Warrior? - isn't up to the job of breaking Tony Jaa as a star or Muay Thai as an exciting discipline on screen. Hardcore chop socky porn fans may find some thrills here, but for casual fans, only boredom awaits.

Peter Schorn
[email protected]

Jamie's Kitchen: The Complete Television Series

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Jamie's Kitchen
The Complete Television Series - 2002 (2005) - Fresh One/Fremantle (Capital Entertainment)

Program Rating: A

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

What's this? A reality show that actually seems based in reality? Quite unbelievable, really, in the wake of Survivor season 1700 and The Apprentice and America's Top Model and The Real World Challenge (I actually like that one, though) and American Idol and... I give up. Just affix your favorite reality hoobaloo here ____________ . Want to get into a show that has its feet placed firmly on the ground (or in the kitchen for that matter) and where the grand prize is (gasp!) personal fulfillment and no cash? If so, then Jamie's Kitchen is for you, a delightfully charming and often hilarious look at British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver as he attempts to train and employ fifteen London youths in the seven months before his non-profit eatery Fifteen opens for business.

The packaging proclaims the discs inside are The Complete Television Series, but really the show is more of a miniseries. Originally produced for The Food Network, the 2-disc set features the initial five episodes (each run a little over fifty minutes) plus two follow-up episodes that catch up with Jamie and his trainees six months later. For anyone who's worked in the food industry, a lot of the back-of-the-house activities will be more than familiar. Despite the title, the show frees itself from the boundaries of the kitchen and explores the lives of the teenagers Oliver has hand-picked, as well as jumping into his personal life. Many of the kids have attitudes, some even have emotional problems, and it's absorbing to watch how our executive chef's plans unfold and even fall apart. Not only does he have fifteen adolescents whose culinary skills peak at spaghetti and ketchup, but he's writing a new book, the finance boys are all over him as the budget for his restaurant skyrockets by the day, he has celebrity appearances to make around the world, and he's having a kid too. And while this aspect of the show makes for decent drama, it's in the kitchen where this show cooks. Sorry for the pun, but I just had to.

Each episode carries a particular theme, remaining focused instead of dashing all over the place, which could have been disastrous. The initial interviews with the kids are interesting. The food they describe as they're favorite is undeniably British. A pair of girls have horrible attendance and Oliver had doubts if he should have picked them. Of course, you have your pair of screw-offs as well. One tries to switch desserts on a chef when his back is turned. Another verbally rousts the director of Oliver's college when she tells him he can't turn in his work late. Ticket times for dishes are running way over. Desserts are fudged because the pans they were baked in aren't greased. Oliver recruits a hard-nosed German chef to demonstrate and teach precision cutting to the trainees (one of the shows best moments). Eleven out of the original fifteen chosen fail they're first food exam. All the while, Oliver tries to keep a cool head and sense of humor, throwing in wickedly witty one-liners and that ever-so-odd but very funny British slang. And this is all self-contained, expertly edited into a cohesive show that manages to both entertain, inform, and even inspire.

To be honest, I had (and still have) no idea who Jamie Oliver is. Apparently, he's the British equivalent to Emeril or something. Based on the show, this guy is a mammoth celebrity in England. With all his affable charm and hip style, it's not difficult to see why. There are occasions when Oliver seems a bit full of himself, but that goes with the celebrity package sometimes, right? The real is his sincerity in helping these kids and his passion for cooking. His philanthropist character certainly adds to the shows appeal.

Finally, the big plus from Jamie's Kitchen is that it is presented here uncut (that one wasn't a pun), so all that pleasant profanity the British use with such matter-of-fact casualness really adds something. And those accents help as well. It goes to show that the BBC (that's British Broadcasting Corporation for all you acronym junkies) doesn't pretend to live in a PG world like our American networks. The only word bleeped out is that infamous C-word. I guess saying "This problem is f***ing bigger that King Kong's f***ing scrotum" isn't as offensive as someone declaring "You've been nothing but a real c*** all day." You get the idea, so why offend when you can infer, right? Some might be put off by the language, but those of you with a keen ear will delight in some of the skillfully connected profanity combinations.

For a show that all behind-the-scenes, it would have been nice to have anything extra to put on the DVD set. Here you get stiffed. An audio commentary would've been nice covering the production side of the show. There are literally thousands of taped interviews on the hopefuls who wanted to be chosen. Why not pick some of the best ones and compile them together in to a "Who would you have picked?" kind of thing? I refuse to believe there were no outtakes or footage that was cut. The producers could have edited those together into a bloopers reel of sorts. Bios on the kids. An interactive map displaying the area of London where Fifteen is located. You get nothing, which is strange coming from a professional who knows how to whet the appetite. You get that appetizer, starting salad and main course. Just no dessert.

The show was shot on high-definition video in anamorphic widescreen and looks terrific on DVD. There are times when Oliver uses a hand-held camera and the picture gets a little grainy, but it's been cleaned up nicely. The audio portion is serviceable, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Not much of a surround dynamic since people are talking almost directly into a boom mike (you can see the film crew in certain shots). The music takes center stage on the sound mix when the trainees aren't getting grilled (damn, these just keep coming, don't they?) or Jamie yanking out his hair when specially prepared dishes for food critics go out to the wrong table. If you like that Euro-techno thing, you shouldn't have any complaints over the soundtrack. The only complaint is that the whole sound design is a bit thin, too much treble and not enough thickness. Hey, like cooking, sound is all about dynamic and texture, is it not?

I'm not sure what the going retail price is for Jamie's Kitchen and I doubt you'd be able to rent it at Blockbuster. If you can find it, give it a taste (last one I promise). It may not have the sensationalist glamour of the slickly produced reality shows broadcast on ABC, NBC or MTV. What it does have is something those shows do not, heart. Now if you'll excuse me. I'm hungry. I'm going to go get something to eat.

Adam Jones
[email protected]

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