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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 2/4/02

Reviews and Nothing But

I'm not really in the mood to open my mind this week... please forgive me. Instead, I watched a couple brand new discs, and figured I'd just jump into that. So without further ado, here are reviews featuring a down on-her-luck singer, a wrestling superstar turned naked chick and one of my five favorite flicks from last year...


Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

2001 (2002) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: D

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

Specs and Features:

103 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.40:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director Vondie Curtis Hall, music videos for Loverboy and Never Too Far by Mariah Carey, cast and crew filmographies, theatrical trailers (for Glitter, Center Stage and Dance With Me), animated film themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

Mariah Carey isn't having a good run right lately is she? Well, I'm not in the habit of kicking someone when they're down - especially when I think they have talent. And surprisingly, yes, I do believe Mariah has talent. She's got a lot going for her; she's just a big misguided. Take, for example, this flick. Glitter is a tried and true Rising Star genre film, cut from the A Star is Born cloth. But it doesn't follow the proper format, and that's its killing stroke.

Billie (Carey) is a talented girl, born to a jazz singing mother who gives her up. Growing up in the 80s, Billie wants nothing more than to be a star. So, after doing a goofy bit of performance art in a disco, she's discovered by a shady, typical, low tier producer-type who gets her to be the singing voice of his current star, who looks great but can't sing a note to save her own life. When a DJ named Dice hears of this, he offers to buy her out of her contract and make her a star in her own right. She agrees and Dice offers up 100 grand for her contract. This becomes a haunting note in the film, but for all intents and purposes, the movie takes off from this point on.

Everything Billie touches turns to gold, and her dream of someday playing Madison Square Garden is a bittersweet triumph. The end. Okay, sounds neat enough, except for one thing: Billie never looses her innocence, nor does she have any flaws. There's no alcoholism, no drug addictions, nor crazy rants or raves. She's just even Steven through the whole thing. Never does she bump or moan, never is there a conflict in sight. For a film like this to work, your main character has to really loose her innocence. She has to change as a person. Just because she gains knowledge doesn't mean that she changes. Everyone around either explodes or implodes... and Billie/Mariah just stands there, wide-eyed and innocent.

Overall, I think Glitter fails because it's straight vanilla. There's nothing to it. In terms of story, Billie COULD be a wide-eyed innocent, but she has to grow as a person. The positive I can throw in is: the music is good, the production values are very nice and surprise, the acting is serviceable (if it was coming from a lack of motivation). The writing could have been a bit better considering, but overall, Glitter is just a big empty film with no value whatsoever. I can't recommend it because there's nothing to recommend.

Video quality disc-wise is your standard Columbia TriStar fine, in both anamorphic widescreen (side A) and full frame (side B). Blacks are dense and color is very bright. I didn't notice any defects or shimmer anywhere in the video. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds very good as well. It's a wide-open presentation with lots of play. If you're a Carey fan, you'll enjoy the songs and how they're given to us here.

Extras are heavy for a non-special edition. We get a very lackadaisical commentary from director Vondie Curtis Hall, who "uhms" and "uhs" throughout the whole thing and doesn't seem too interested in discussing a bomb. He doesn't shed any light on why the film doesn't really work. Also included are two music videos. The first, for a modern version of Loverboy, is photographic proof that Mariah lost it mentally. Why she would make this video and think her loyal fans wouldn't question her common sense is a mystery. The Never Too Far video is the final scene from the film and is a good video/song. The throw away extras are cast and crew filmographies and theatrical trailers for Glitter, Center Stage and Dance With Me. Not half bad on the effort scale, but nothing worth running out and seeing. Ironically, just like the film itself.

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Joanie Laurer: Wrestling Superstar - Nude

Joanie Laurer: Wrestling Superstar - Nude
2002 (2002) - Playboy Home Video (Image)

Film Rating: A

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

Specs and Features:

26 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, Joanie Laurer: More Revealing Moments behind-the-scenes outtakes and interviews, Playmates Unwrapped and 2002 Video Playmate Calendar previews, picture gallery (manual or automatic with music options), film themed menu screens with sound, scene access (9 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0)

Oh Chynna, you're so fine. You're so fine you blow my mind. Oh Chynna! Oh Chynna!

What's this? A letter from the WWF? "Dear Mr. Doogan, we've been informed that you are referring to the artist formerly known as Chynna as simply Chynna. Please let this letter be your final warning that from this point on, the artist formerly known as Chynna shall henceforth be known only as Joanie Laurer. Thank you, signed - expensive attorneys you don't want to mess with."

Hmmm. Okay. Actually, Joanie would like to be known as Joanie the Warrior Princess/Joanie the Princess Warrior or Mistress Joanie according to this new DVD.

Wait a second, here's another note, this time from Renaissance Pictures and Universal: "Dear Mr. Doogan, please be informed that Warrior Princess and all derivatives are trademark and copyright of Renaissance Pictures, Universal Studios and USA Television. Any future use without reference to Xena will bring about a swift kick in the pants and a visit from Ted Raimi dressed as Joxer. Thank you, signed - Lucy Lawless' husband."

Jesus, this is getting out of control. Let's get to the review.

Yes, it's true. That curiosity piece from a few month ago by the glorious Playboy magazine now has it's own video production diary. And I have to say, even if I don't find big muscular girls sexy (although I have yet to be propositioned by one), I found this DVD to be very interesting indeed. Huh? Oh, crap... "Dear Mr. Doogan, you're married. Touch a muscle bound chick and your new name is Bobbitt. Signed, your wife."

Fine. I'll leave it this way, if you like Playboy and have ever been curious as to how a photo shoot goes from idea to published photo spread, or you're a fan of Chynna - whoops, Joanie Laurer - then this DVD might be right up your alley. It's nothing more than Joanie's video diary following her around on the set of her latest shoot. We see the set get built, how she posed, interviews from the cast and crew as well as behind-the-scenes stuff of Joanie embracing her newfound characters. It's not very long, but it IS shockingly watchable.

And guess what? For what it is, it's a pretty sweet special edition as well. Check this out... there's a section of extended interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff that's just as long as the video feature itself. And, for my money, it's even more interesting. Joanie in the morning, Joanie in a limo. It shows her as a fragile person much more than the feature does (and makes her out to be a 14-year old girl in a Herculean body). There's also a photo gallery collecting the photos from the shoot, some not even seen in the magazine. This feature you can click through manually with your remote, or you can turn on a slide show option that plays music and runs through the photos for you. To leave your hands open for other things, I guess. Yeeesh. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The DVD quality is very standard but very clean video, with good sound. This was shot on digital video, but with high production values so, you'll enjoy it visually and aurally.

So my apologies to WWF, Xena and, of course, my wife if I offended them. God bless you all.

Joanie Laurer: Wrestling Superstar - Nude
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Ghost World

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Ghost World
2001 (2002) - MGM/UA

Film Rating: A

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

Specs and Features:

111 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 59:49, in chapter 9), Amaray keep case packaging, Ghost World: A Comic Book Comes to Life featurette, Jaan Pehechaan Ho music clip from 1965 film Gumnaam, 4 deleted/alternate scenes, theatrical trailer, DVD previews (for Princess Bride and The Terminator), Ghost World soundtrack ad, animated film themed menu screens with sound, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Spanish and French, Closed Captioned

Ghost World, it wouldn't surprise anyone to know, was one of my favorite films of last year. I found it incredibly charming, funny and quite real. To me, it was like watching a next generation Catcher in the Rye. The observations are pure pop culture, but the identity is the same. Enid hates phonies.

The film follows two friends, Enid and Rebecca (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson respectively), as they pass from the world of high school into the real world. They are in that "ghost world" of sorts between childhood and adulthood, where you want all the things that adults have, but find it hard to let go of the comforts and curiosities of youth. That may not be the world that the title Ghost World alludes to, but it definitely takes place there. Over the course of the summer, Enid passes the time away people watching and tormenting those with slower minds than hers... which means just about everyone. First it's Josh, the local convenience store clerk, who has the only accessible car. Then it's Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a local record collector and pop culture archivist, whom the two girls set up for a prank but Enid ends up falling in pseudo-love with. It's a complicated affair and makes up a large part of the film, so I'll let the film itself explain that dynamic.

Ultimately, I really fell completely in love with ALL the characters in Ghost World and loved the movie all the way to the end. At which point I immediately got angry, because I don't quite agree with the meaning, even if, after many conversations about it, I seem to be the only one who understands it's symbolism.

I highly recommend this film. I also recommend you read the comic/graphic novel it's based on, by co-screenwriter Daniel Clowes. A lot of the same stories are in the comic, with slightly different bends. Director Terry Zwigoff, who gave us a twisted look at family life and artistic genius with his documentary Crumb, takes his first stab at feature filmmaking here. And I can't wait to see what he tackles next. Ghost World is worth a look and, hopefully, you'll like it as much as I did.

The DVD is a good way to check it out, although I was a bit disappointed overall. The video is anamorphic widescreen - a bit on the grainy and dull side, but I have to believe that this is the look of the film, so I'm going to cut it some slack. It has a very organic feel to it that translates very well to DVD. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, but since this is a talky flick, it's pretty much center-channeled except for some bigger music sequences (like the opening credits).

The extras are what I was disappointed with, because they feature nothing of real value. There are a few deleted scenes, but they aren't really worth crowing about. I was hoping that a few more of the comic's stories were told and not used, which is a not the real complaint. But the fact that there wasn't a commentary is a huge oversight in my mind. I can't believe that Zwigoff and/or Clowes didn't want to talk about the film at all. There's a lot of stuff in this movie that I really wanted to know more about. For example, if anyone out there can tell me the artist's name that did some of the poster work featured in Seymour's home, let me know. I'd love to pick up some of that stuff if I can find it. Also included is a trailer, a video clip of the Bollywood film featured in the opening credits and a short featurette on the making of the film, which isn't as valuable as one would have hoped. Oh, well. The movie is incredible, but the disc is just okay. What are you gonna do? Go pick this disc up. I'm sure you'll love the film... and that's what counts, right?

Ghost World
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Back again soon! You spin me right round, baby, right round. Like a DVD player, right round, round round...

Todd Doogan

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