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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 3/19/02

Reviews, Reviews and More Reviews

The meat of this week's column will come this Friday, but rather than cramming everything into one huge dealy, I figured I'd give you a couple reviews this time around and give you my commentary later. So, without further ado, here's trash art, a View Askew road flick and Owen Wilson trapped behind enemy lines.

Abnormal: The Sinema of Nick Zedd

Abnormal: The Sinema of Nick Zedd
2002 (2002) - Rubric Records

Film Rating: B

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

Specs and Features:

135 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), custom gatefold packaging with liner note insert, single-sided, single-layered, Why Do You Exist outtakes, Zyklon B performance and interview by Insound, photo gallery, trailer for War is Menstrual Envy, Thin Air Radio interview with Nick Zedd, behind-the-scenes featurette on Ecstasy in Entropy, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (none), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: none

Ever hear of Nick Zedd? He's the filmmaker your film professor warned you about; the director your buddies talk about in hushed tones and whose tapes they trade behind your back. He's for elite lovers of film, because he isn't for everyone's taste. His style is having no style. His form is having no form. His function is to say "Fuck you" to the very people watching the film. If you were watching one of his movies with him and he felt like you don't like the movie, like you couldn't handle it or even questioned what you are seeing, I seriously think he'd get up, pause the film and kick you out of the screening room. Not because you're not good enough, but rather because it's a waste of his time to try to connect with you.

Nick Zedd is underground New York filmmaking personified. The shame of Zedd's life is that he's officially known to mainstream audiences as the source of the quote "Zedd's dead, baby" from Pulp Fiction, taken from a fake obituary published in Film Threat magazine; a rag he hates with a passion. Zedd's much more that a pop cultural reference and, thankfully, a large collection of his short films have been collected on DVD for the first time.

Tom Thumb in the Land of the Giants (1999) - Young Tom Thumb in running through a cemetery chased by a mysterious creature/man in a cloak and gas mask and is sucked into the Land of the Giants. Looks like nothing more than a trailer (maybe?) for another planned bigger project, or maybe that's part of the "joke".

Ecstasy in Entropy (1999) - A group of strippers entertain an audience (which includes a bearded Will Keenan from Waiting and Tromeo and Juliet) by dancing, cat fighting, and uh, sucking. Yes. There's a hint of pornography here kids. We end with some color footage of "Bob" (seen again with a banana in Why Do You Exist below) fighting a masked woman.

Why Do You Exist (1998) - An interesting collection of silent character studies/interviews of some offbeat folks in Zedd's life.

War is Menstrual Envy (1990-1992) - I've never seen the longer version of this, but watching this makes we wish the whole thing was on this disc. This excerpt from Zedd's feature length film features a semi-nude, blue nun unwrapping a burn victim (and it's a real one at that, Zedd's not one to skimp the details) and outfitting him with sunglasses, hat and gun. The camera lovingly traces over his body to grand squeamish effect until Annie Sprinkle comes, kisses him and licks his entire upper body. Credits are super'ed over an actual eye surgery, just in case you're not sick enough by now.

Whoregasm (1988) - Let's see, there's He/She's, menstruation and pornography combined into a wacky psychedelic explosion. And yes, that's Zedd in the porn portion of the film.

Police State (1987) - Zedd gets hassled and beaten by the Man in New York City until he gets a gun and goes on the run.

Kiss Me Goodbye (1986) - Zedd plays D.B. Shane, a dead star who visits a fan in her dreams, kisses her then kills her. Seems fair.

Go to Hell (1986) - This one's left best as a play-by-play. A guy wakes up on street, pukes on a fire hydrant, drinks, pukes again, sees a girl in white with a black purse who gives him a flat stone, and we then see a redneck junkie who pulls blood out of a vein with a hypo. Cut to the girl in white walking through an abandoned warehouse looking through broken glass, and puke guy comes up behind her, beats her over the head with the stone and out of no where D.B. Shane (from Kiss Me Goodbye and once again played by Zedd) comes out, kisses girl and they marvel at the end of the world symbolized by a slo-mo mushroom cloud on the horizon. Yeah.

Thrust in Me (1984) - A co-production with underground photographer/filmmaker Richard Kern. Zedd plays two roles, a female version who kills herself and a male version who walks through city until he meets up with his female self, finds her dead, takes a shit, wipes butt with a Jesus calendar, fucks self in mouth and leaves. Pretty wild, but well done for a shoestring in 1984.

The Wild World of Lydia Lunch (1983) - This one's pretty cute. Lydia Lunch reads depressing letters from a nameless filmmaker (obviously Zedd based on the writing style alone) who's lost in Europe and can't seem to keep his film projects or his relationship with Lunch from quickly falling apart. This narration is illustrated by some depressing footage of Lunch herself walking through a dreary London, which slowly shows that she seemingly met up with Zedd. The whole thing gets even more depressing, when you consider the silent indifference etched on her face. The two eventually meet up, tramp over to Ireland and run around castle ruins and playgrounds with odd music playing as she cavorts.

The Bogus Man (1980) - An undercover agent reveals to us a diabolical scheme - cloning the President of the USA from his fingers! Footage stolen from the CIA illustrates the scheme. Some very early in his career special effects from f/x master Screaming Mad George.

I of K9 (aka Imitation of Kiss) (2001) - Will Keenan and another couple make out with a dog and each other. Short, silent and very odd. Part of the Ocularis Cinema Kiss Factory Event in NY.

These are admittedly odd and envelope pushing films, but they are really well done and you can't walk away from them. When I first saw a Zedd film, I wrote it off as crap, as most of you will, by just reading the summaries. But then you find yourself thinking about them. And when you go back, you really start to like what you see. That's what interesting filmmaking does. Zedd should be fed lots of money to keep doing what he's doing, because he's good at pushing buttons... and that's what counts.

The quality of these shorts ebb and flow. Some look great, some look like shit, but that's the nature of the beast. The DVD quality is fine as well - this is no Buena, Universal or New Line disc, but for an independent release, it gets the job done. The audio is mono, but sounds appropriate for the films and represents the source as best as it can.

No one it their right mind would expect any extras here, but surprisingly there are a few. Don't expect a commentary track (which would have been cool), but you do get some interesting pieces. First up are a handful of Why Do You Exist outtakes. It's not anything to boggle the mind, but they're here. Next up is a very funky Zyklon B performance and interview by Insound. Zyklon B is apparently Zedd's band, and they just hook up and make noise. Is it music? I dunno, but it's here. The best thing on the disc is an interview with Zedd, conducted by a public access show called Thin Air Radio. Nick Zedd is pretty actorly here, playing a character and giving one word answers, but he does let some interesting info out (like the title card on Police State was stolen by spray painting an actual police car - actually a few). There's also a pretty extensive photo gallery and a trailer for War is Menstrual Envy. Rounding out things are a booklet of essays, Zedd's manifesto of film and a funny behind-the-scenes featurette on Ecstasy in Entropy.

Behind Enemy Lines

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Behind Enemy Lines
2001 (2002) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: B-

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

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

Specs and Features:

105 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 52:31 in chapter 15), audio commentary (with director John Moore and editor Paul Martin Smith), audio commentary (with producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey), Behind the Scenes of Behind Enemy Lines featurette, 5 extended scenes with optional commentary from director John Moore and editor Paul Martin Smith, 2 deleted scenes with optional commentary from Moore and Smith, Pre-Vis Ejection Sequence, Minority Report theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1) and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Look kids... it's a Top Gun for the 2000s! Except, instead of hotshot F-14 pilots, we have a much more accessible F-18 navigator. You know... because navigators are more your everyday Joes than those cucumber-cool pilots. Owen Wilson plays said navigator and, because he's never bad in anything, he's good here. He's become disenchanted with his work in the U.S. Navy, playing street cop one day and then jumping sides the next because some politician says to. He'd rather fly an Airbus than take orders from some ladder-climbing nitwit. But when he's sent out from his carrier for a lame Christmas patrol to test out a new digital camera system, he and his pilot spy odd military activity in Kosovo. Unfortunately, it's something they weren't supposed to see, so they're shot down... um... behind enemy lines.

Now the film actually gets good. Before this point, the flick is all talking head crap and really (really) bad forced stylish direction that looks more appropriate for a Tony Scott/Navy Recruitment film than a major motion picture. Not that Tony Scott isn't inappropriate for a major motion picture, but one cheesy Scott brother is enough for me. None of this forced style is really any good when applied to character set-up, but when you're shooting tense action sequences and huge explosions, it's pretty cool. So all the scenes with Wilson trapped in enemy territory and running for his life are tight, thrilling and well done. I was utterly surprised that I liked this film as much as I did. You'd have to be a pretty big prude not to enjoy this flick once the action starts. Well, except the songs chosen for the film's soundtrack. Whoever picked this stuff should be fired and banished to Detroit.

Regardless of whether the film works or not, on DVD this is a great flick. The picture is top notch, with bright colors, deep blacks and nary a digital/compression artifact to be seen. There's some tricky visuals in this flick that must have been a challenge to get looking right on DVD, but the good folks at Fox pick the ball up and run with it. Not only that, but the sound design on this film is truly incredible, and this DVD really helps accentuate that. During some of these action set pieces, this DVD sound puts you right into the middle of the action. Bullets fly and explosions rumble on this well detailed DTS 5.1 soundtrack. For those without the luxury of DTS, there's also a well mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for your needy ears.

Sadly, as much as this tries to be a meaty special edition, it falls flat on its face. That's too bad, because there are underdeveloped nuggets of good stuff here. First up is a commentary track with director John Moore and editor Paul Martin Smith. Moore and Smith are sick with head colds and... well... you can really tell. That doesn't hurt the information at all, but the entire track ends up being a very laid back deal. The information flows, but I really didn't connect with it. It seems like an insider friendly, "you had to be there" kind of thing. The next commentary, with producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey, is packed with producer type stuff that neither thrills nor chills. Combined, both tracks pull you into the film from a behind-the-scenes perspective, yet fail to provide anything of impact about the making of the film. You'll also find a fluffy EPK piece, entitled Behind the Scenes of Behind Enemy Lines. It's nothing special. Looking to go deeper into the film? Well... five extended scenes (with optional commentary from director John Moore and editor Paul Martin Smith) try and take you there, but the extensions don't illuminate anything. It almost seems as if the filmmakers would rather have had these extensions in the film, instead of what ultimately made the cut... so it's a sour grapes track. The deleted scenes (with optional commentary from Moore and Smith) aren't anything special either, especially when you can't find the "Dixieland" sequence from the trailer. You know... where Wilson is trekking across the countryside singing to himself. It should be here - it was in the trailer. Wait... where's the trailer? Not here. Why? Probably because it would have reminded you of that scene being cut. Lastly, but not leastly, we get the CGI Pre-Vis Ejection Sequence, which recreates the scene from the film, except with different voice acting and CGI footage and storyboards instead of the film. Neat, but not enough to make it special. Oh... and to replace the fact that there's no trailer for THIS film, we get the Minority Report teaser trailer instead.

There's enough material here to watch if you love the film, but it's pretty hollow for everyone else. But at least Fox tries. That's more than we can say for other studios these days. Check out Behind Enemy Lines just for the experience of the DVD. That's enough to take this disc home. Everything else is gravy.

Behind Enemy Lines
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: Collector's Series

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Collector's Series - 2001 (2002) - Dimension Films/View Askew Productions

Film Rating: B+

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

Specs and Features:

Disc One - The Film
104 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, double Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:04:05 in chapter 11), audio commentary (with writer/director Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes and producer Scott Mosier, theatrical trailers (for 40 Days and 40 Nights, Clerks and Chasing Amy), video trailer for Clerks Uncensored, commercial for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back soundtrack, Dimension Home Video promo, DVD-ROM features (including screenplay viewer, enhanced cast and crew filmographies, Guide to Morris Day and the Time and Open Mic DVD "record your own commentary" feature), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two - The Extras
Behind the Scenes featurette, 6 TV Spots, stills gallery featuring (On the Set, Jay and Silent Bob Comics and Birth of a Poster), 42 deleted scenes with introductions by Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, Secret Stash (Judd Nelson in Let's Go Back to the Station House, Will and John and the CLIT, Ham Affleck and The Genius of Will Ferrell shorts with introductions), 2 Internet trailers with introduction, Why Movies Cost So Much Comicon Gag Reel with introduction, Stroke 9 Kick Some Ass music video, Afro Man Got High music video, Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back featurette, cast and crew filmographies and biographical trivia, storyboard gallery, Morris Day and the Time: Learning the Moves short, Guide to Morris Day and the Time, Easter Eggs


Kevin Smith's happy-go-lucky, drug pushing miscreants are back in this, their fifth and (so says Kevin Smith) final adventure. Sure, they'll live on in our collective minds, DVD players and the occasional comic book Smith will write from time to time. But I have to tell you, there's something incredibly sad about the fact that this is the last time Jay will sing songs about stuffing his balls into people's mouths or Bob will, as cautiously as possible, open his mouth to tell the world the truth behind so many of its injustices. These two guys have grown on a lot of us and maybe, just maybe, we're all better for having known them... even if it was just for a little while.

I'm expecting Kevin will move on to his next films Jersey Girl (by all accounts, a nod to the Chasing Amy style of heart-tugging) and Fletch Won (hopefully his first true blockbuster comedy), with an older mind and more mature sensibilities. He'd have to, because all of the immaturity even God herself could muster is heaped into Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Smith's a master of tasteless humor. It's clear that he started this whole 90s movement of bad taste filmmaking with Clerks. And filmmakers have embraced it and given us all of the pie humping, geysers of sperm and dick jokes that audiences could endure. But few have done it with the cartoonishness the movement has deserved. Maybe with Jay and Silent Bob, Smith will be putting all of it to rest for good. At least I hope so.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is an epic View Askew road picture. It goes a little something like this: Jay and Silent Bob, looking for something to do after being banished from Quik Stop property by Dante and Randal, are told by Brodie (Jason Lee, reprising his character from Mallrats) that Banky and Holden (of Chasing Amy) have sold the rights to a Bluntman and Chronic film to Miramax and they need to get some of the fat profits they're owed. So, off to Holden's loft apartment they go, where they learn that he sold his portion of Bluntman to Banky and doesn't have any connection to the film whatsoever. He also lets them know that the money should be huge, considering the buzz on the Internet. This confuses Jay and Bob, for they have never heard of the Internet. After schooling the dim-witted pair, Jay is horrified to learn that film geeks, in on-line forums dedicated to movie news, are smearing their good names. Realizing that the only way to get their names off the Internet is to stop the movie from being made, Jay and Silent Bob head off to Hollywood. And along the way, they meet a whole menagerie of new View Askewniverse characters that have already become legends for fans everywhere.

Who do we meet? Let see, there's a hitchhiker whose figured out the sure-fire way to get a ride, a double-entandre speaking nun, a van filled with a crew of mystery hunters and their talking dog, a totally separate van, this time filled with some hot animal rights soldiers and their guitar strumming boy toy (who turn out to be international jewel thieves) and a Wildlife Marshall hunting Jay and Silent Bob down at any cost (usually the cost is his own safety, sanity and reputation). Smith pulled in a lot of favors and ended up with an all-star supporting cast which includes: Ben Affleck, George Carlin, Matt Damon, Eliza Dushku, Shannon Elizabeth, Will Ferrell, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Jamie Kennedy, Ali Larter, Carmen Llywellyn, Tracy Morgan, Judd Nelson, Marvel Comics EIC Joe Quesada, Chris Rock, Gus Van Sant, Seann William Scott, Jon Stewart, E! Television's Steve Kmetko and Jules Asner, Diedrich Bader, Shannen Doherty, Scream director Wes Craven, Renée Humphrey, Joey Lauren Adams, Alanis Morissette (reprising her role as God and finally closing the book on Smith's Askewniverse), Morris Day and the Time and, finally, Jason Biggs and James Van Der Beek. Whee-who, them's a lot of Hollywood Folk!

Is it a good film? No. But Jay and Silent Bob is an incredibly fun movie. It helps to know the world these characters inhabit, but I know a few people who never sat through Smith's first films for various reasons and jumped on board with this and found themselves laughing in spite of themselves. I think Smith (along with the fans and even the movie itself) knows this is a train wreak of a film. No one would ever expect it to win an award outside of MTV or Wizard magazine. So to even criticize the film and pull it apart would be like picking on the little kid down the street because he speaks slow and rides a special bus to school. It's not fair and isn't even right. So here endeth the review of the film. You already know if you want to see it.

But this is a DVD review and, as such, I can pounce all over the mutha. The sound and video quality is very, very good. Colors are well rendered and no artifacts are to be found. This is Smith's best looking film to date, and the DVD shows that fact off nicely. The sound is also pretty good. All of the dialogue is very much center channel oriented, but the sound effects and music filter out and around the surrounds nicely. The only point that I cringed was during the Holden/Internet sequences. The soundtrack is very noticeable during this, and I don't remember it being like this in the theater. I don't know if it's a mixing issue, but I noticed it and so I'm letting you in on it. Other than that, Buena did a mighty fine job with the presentation.

Now... every fan of top-o-the-line, two-disc special editions, and every Smith fan out in there DVD land, is expecting this to be a super arch deluxe special edition. And it is... BUT. Oh... the buts, we hate them don't we? Look at me, a few weeks after my rant about special editions and I'm all over a special edition. Before I start, I will say that this is a GOOD special edition. It's actually a very nice special edition. But it's not as good or as nice as I was expecting. Why? Well, it seems awfully tired. Don't get me wrong - everything we get here is great. And we do get a lot of stuff, for sure. But there seems something... I dunno... off about it.

Let's start with Disc One and the commentary track. The track is just not as funny as Smith DVD tracks have been in the past. And that irked me. With Dogma, we got a details-to-the-wall Smith, Mosier and Pereira track. Here, we only get that laid back track with Mewes instead of Pereira. And because the film moves so fast, the details are not as forthcoming as you'd expect. Smith actually comments on this on the track, so it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Why no cast track? Maybe everyone was too busy. Maybe Smith didn't want one because he and Jay were the real focus. Either way, it hurts the run Smith had going with his DVDs. The best thing about a View Askew DVD is the commentary track, and that's just not the case here. Also on Disc One are theatrical trailers for 40 Days and 40 Nights, Clerks and Chasing Amy. There's also video trailer for the Clerks Uncensored cartoon collection, a commercial for the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back soundtrack and a Dimension Home Video promo. There are some pretty nifty DVD-ROM features here too, like a screenplay viewer (so you can read the words Smith wrote and see what ended up on screen) and an Open Mic DVD feature (so you can record your very own commentary). But since I'm not really into DVD-ROM stuff, I'll let you explore all that on your own.

The good thing, nay the shining light (and proof that Smith reads DVD reviews) is found on Disc Two in the deleted scenes section. Yes kids, we finally get a Play All feature, which helps considering the deleted scenes run a frickin' hour and a half with intros. It would be enough simply seeing these scenes, but because Smith started a "thing" with Mallrats with funny intros on his deleted scenes, I felt a bit let down here. Why? Because Smith doesn't seem like he's into it. The intros on this DVD aren't as A) funny as they've been before, nor B) are they very informative. Smith and Jay, I hate to say this, actually annoyed the hell out of me. I can see it being cool if you're hopping around and picking and choosing scenes, but in rapid-fire succession... man. It hurt. I seriously think, with the Play All feature, there should have been an end-all intro and then nothing but the deleted scenes. Save the intros for the one-by-ones. Still, these deleted scenes are great to see and have, and they look good enough to edit your own bootleg version of the film. There are some great jokes here that fell out onto the cutting room floor. I know, I'm a picky little bitch.

The other stuff, you can't find fault with at all. There's a cute, but somewhat fluffy, Behind the Scenes featurette, six TV spots (with a couple mixed up - Disney QC, you awake up there?) that get a bit repetitious until the last few that feature footage shot just for the commercials, a few stills galleries (On the Set features on the set photos, Jay and Silent Bob Comics has art and stories from the hard-to-find Oni comics and Birth of a Poster traces the many incarnations of the poster art).

There's a section called Secret Stash, which holds a loop of Judd Nelson improvs titled Judd Nelson in Let's Go Back to the Station House, Will and John and the CLIT, the requisite embarrassing Ham Affleck clip and The Genius of Will Ferrell with Ferrell doing an improv. Each comes with an introduction, although the way they're laid out is out of whack according to the intros. Oh, well. There are the two Internet trailers Smith made to fan the fanboy flames, complete with an introduction. A gag reel, entitled Why Movies Cost So Much (first shown at the Chicago and San Diego Comicons), also has an introduction stating such. Rounding out the disc's features are videos form Stroke 9 (Kick Some Ass) and Afro Man (Got High), the Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back special, extensive cast and crew filmographies and biographical trivia, a storyboard gallery featuring dirty art from Scott Mosier, the Morris Day and the Time: Learning the Moves short as well as the text-based Guide to Morris Day and the Time.

It's a packed DVD for sure. In terms of content, it's an out-of-the-stadium home run. But we've come to expect more from Kevin, and so what would be stellar from another director seems not enough from him. This material is all very good, and I think represents just about everything Smith had laying around the office. But again, for a Smith DVD production, it seems very tired. Like he didn't really feel up to the project the week he was filming the intros. I would much rather have waited for him to be on his game instead of seeing him laid back with this, his most cartoonish feature to date. I'm one of his biggest fans and I felt a bit let down. I'm sure it wasn't intentional, and I'm probably the only one who feels it. But maybe I'm not.

If you're a fan of this flick, and of Kevin's, you probably own this set already... and just having this film and these extras on disc is enough. I know I'm glad I have it. But if I were the producer of this disc, and if I could go back in time, I would have tickled Kevin and made him goofy that day, and I would have brought half the cast with me. But hey - if I could do that, fixing DVDs would be low on my list. I'd be messing with people's heads instead.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: Collector's Series
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

That's all for today. Come back on Friday for a special Doogan's Views dedicated to this weekend's Oscars. Don't miss it - it'll be a boatload of fun.

Until then, keep spinnin' those discs!

Todd Doogan

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