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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 3/23/04

3/23/04 Weekly Release Roundup

DVD is a bitch goddess it seems. One week, she gives us a buncha buncha. The next... nada.

Well, it doesn't look like a very impressive week we got going here. Only a couple of really good titles, and some things for a few of us out there who like a little bit of pop culture flava.

Oh, well. There's plenty of good stuff coming in the weeks ahead.

Since there's no reason to single any one title out this week, let's go in order.

First up...

Beyond Borders Beyond Borders

Bill thinks that this love story, set in a world of suffering, bites off more than it can chew, but presents itself as a good enough DVD. Read his thoughts here.

Beyond the Mat: Ringside Special Edition Beyond the Mat: Ringside Special Edition

This re-release of the classic wrestling documentary comes with some new commentary and featurettes. Brad thinks it's okay. Check out his review here.

Dirty Pretty Things Dirty Pretty Things

From Miramax/Buena Vista comes this Stephen Frears thriller that deserves more attention than it initially got. Hopefully this will get rectified on DVD. Chiwtel Ejiofor stars as an illegal immigrant working in London who gets sucked into a very nasty situation when he discovers a human heart clogging up a hotel toilet. Working the late shift as the hotel's night porter, Ejiofor's character has a past that makes him a prime target for the bad guys, as well as a savior for the always delightful Audrey Tautou (star of Amelie). Give this one a second chance. It's pretty damn good.

The DVD features a solid anamorphic widescreen transfer and serviceable Dolby Digital 5.1 (nothing special, but nothing disruptive either). Extras are light with a spotty, gap-filled commentary track featuring Frears, a fluffy behind-the-scenes featurette and a handful of Miramax DVD trailers. Pick this one up for the movie.

Doggy Poo Doggy Poo

Central Park Media, home to some great Japanese anime sends up a valentine made of poo. Honest to goodness poo. But, to quote my favorite convicted felon: "It's a good thing." Doggy Poo is from Korea and centers around the life-affirming story of a little dog poo who learns that all things have a place on this Earth: even poo. The animation is this 30-minute film is stop motion and it's not the best in the world, but it works. The full frame transfer is okay. There are a few artifacts here and there; leaving the picture slightly digital looking. Color representation is good though. Sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 for both the original Korean and a dubbed English. Extras include a making of that is as long as the film itself, alternate angle storyboards for the entire film, a pilot in English, galleries, trailers, a text bio of the filmmaker Jung Saeng Kwon and a music video for the end credit theme. This film is also available in stores with its soundtrack on a CD. If you're looking for a children's film that's a little different, don't look any further. This will do the job.

Gothika Gothika

Halle Berry is Dr. Miranda Grey, a psychiatrist working with some of the darkest, most twisted minds movies have to offer. One night, on her way home from work, Dr. Grey blacks out and the next thing she knows, she's inside the hospital as a patient, where she learns that she killed her husband (Charles Dutton) with an axe. But did she. This Dark Castle film (House on Haunted Hill, Thirteen Ghosts and Ghost Ship) really serves up an interesting tale with some nice jumps and bumps. Although not a great film, it's a good one and one that should please many on DVD.

The picture and sound quality from Warner is incredible. The anamorphic transfer is luscious (there is a full frame disc available separately) and the Dolby Digital 5.1 is creepy as all get out.

Extras include a nice commentary track with director Mathieu Kassovitz and cinematographer Matthew Libatique discussing the making of the film, that really bad video of Fred Durst singing "Behind Blue Eyes" with Berry and the trailer. If you're looking for a fun scary film, Gothika won't hurt you...


...but Honey might. Jessica Alba is a sweetheart. God bless her. But this film is awful. Honey Daniels is a bartender/sales clerk who dreams of one day being a great choreographer. She's got the looks and the moves, and once she gets discovered it all blows up big time for her. But is success all its cracked-up to be? Sure, why not. Honey is cliché, like a movie that should have been made in 1986 but wasn't. Alba is cute, and the film looks good. But is it worth your time? No. Not even on DVD. The disc features an anamorphic widescreen transfer that does the job along with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Nothing to criticize and nothing to write home about. Extras include commentary with director Bille Woodruff which is funny at times, but doesn't save the disc, some outtakes, a fluffy making-of, an instruction video to learn how to dance, a set of videos (one with its own making-of) and some deleted scenes. I don't think Honey could have been any better than this, and if you like dance films or A Star is Born/Glitter-styled films, then you might like this one - but probably not much.

The Magdalene Sisters The Magdalene Sisters

From Miramax comes this controversial film about a convent in 1960s era Ireland that took in troubled or too-pretty-for-their-own-good girls and forced them into slave labor as laundry women. This film focuses on three girls and believe it or not, is a story. The Catholic Church didn't like it much, but it's actually a very good film. Sound and video are very good with anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The only extra on the disc is the British documentary that inspired the film. Running about 50-minutes, it features interviews with survivors and archival footage. It's rough stuff, but makes for a good disc.

The Osterman Weekend The Osterman Weekend

Robert Ludlum's best-selling novel became legendary director Sam Peckinpah's last film, and even though the film was a disappointment, the DVD from Anchor Bay is not. In fact, it's an intriguing use of DVD as film history tool. Not only does it present the film in luscious video and sound quality (anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, 2.0 and mono as well as DTS 6.1 - all of which sound incredible), but the Bay also serves up the original "director's cut" version of the film (pulled from what looks like a VHS tape) in full frame. That's in no way a slight to the film quality, by the way. This is probably the only way we would be able to see this version of the film, so we'll take it anyway we can get it.

You'll also find a very informative and entertaining commentary track with not two, not even three, but four Peckinpah historians, discussing the film, his career and the director's process. And for those wanting to hear what the actors and production team have to say, there's also a fascinating 78-minute documentary included, entitled Alpha to Omega. Also look for a full stills gallery and the film's theatrical trailer.

Although not a great film, this DVD really does its job preserving the film and its history for us. Anchor Bay has done Peckinpah and his fans proud with this one.

Ransom: Special Edition

Ransom: Special Edition

Why? Why would you re-release a film on DVD and not update the transfer? Ask Buena Vista that question, because this re-release of Ron Howard's re-imagining of Kurosawa's High and Low features the same non-anamorphic transfer that was on the original disc. The sound is good though, and the extras make it hard to turn all you nice folks off to the disc. With a nice commentary track by Ron Howard and a handful of deleted scenes, it's already a pretty good selection. Throw in a featurette where the cast and crew discuss the themes of the film and an outtake montage and we have a disc worthy of updating the original release, but not by much. Too bad.

The Rundown The Rundown

More from Universal this week: The Rock stars in this fun little flick about a "retrieval expert" sent to pick up the son (Seann William Scott) of his boss, and getting himself mixed up bad with Christopher Walken and good with Rosario Dawson. Another "not great but good" release this week, Rundown is loads of fun and looks good on DVD. Presented in a nice anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1, you won't feel bad watching this one in your home. Extras are pretty packed as well with two commentary tracks (one with director Peter Berg and Rock, the other with producers Marc Abraham and Kevin Misher), a gaggle of featurettes (on the stunts, the locations, action set pieces, Walken and a entertainment news magazine spoof), deleted scenes and an Easter egg. The Rundown is campy fun and at least worth a rental.

Shorts! Shorts!

Every fan of DVD is a fan of film. And I believe every fan of film loves shorts just as much as they love long-form. There are some really great stories that can be told under 30-minutes, and DVD has been a mixed bag for the exploitation of short films. There have been many attempts to get them out to us, and not all worked, but I'm always hoping one hits it out of the park. I don't know if this disc will do the job, but I'm crossing my fingers.

Shorts! is a collection of 15 award-winning shorts from around the world, compiled by the Colorado Film Foundation and their Film Festival Collection DVD label. There are a lot of great little films here, but what's nicer than just having these films in our homes is the fact that we can hear the filmmakers personally discuss each of their films in-depth. Every one of these films contain at least one commentary track where the filmmakers discuss the inspirations, the production and the life of a short filmmaker looking to make their big break. It's a very nice look behind. The films themselves all look great. Most are full frame, but there are a few in anamorphic widescreen. It looks like the producers of this disc went out of their ways to get the best masters they could find for these shorts and it pays off nicely. Additionally, information about the films, awards they win, festival showings and such are updated on the official website.

This is definitely a disc worth hunting down. If you don't find one in your local shop, this set is available for purchase at The Film Festival Collection website.

Splash: 20th Anniversary Edition Splash: 20th Anniversary Edition

Tom Hanks as a lovable lug. Darrah Hannah young and hot. John Candy alive. Ron Howard trying hard to entertain. All of these elements came together like magic in this modern day fairy tale. Hanks plays Allen Bauer, a guy who meets the girl of his dreams. Problem is: she's a fish. Well, not really a fish, but a mermaid. This is a really great little film, and thankfully, it's a great special edition. Not only does it look and sound pretty darn good on DVD (remastered anamorphic widescreen and redone Dolby Digital 5.1), but it's a helluva nice special edition. First we're treated to a commentary track with Howard, producer Brian Grazer and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. It's a lively time filled with stories both personal and production related and enough John Candy worship to choke a horse. It proves to be a very fun time. There's also a new making-of documentary with new and archival interviews, audition footage of Hanks and Hannah and some trailers. Spash is a very cute time, and worth picking up on DVD.

Also available this week:

Robert Downey Jr. stars in a remake of the wonderful BBC maxi-series The Singing Detective, a young Darth Vader stars in Shattered Glass, the original Obi-Wan stars in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the hilarious television series The Richard Pryor Show hits home and the animation classic narrated by Ringo Starr: The Point.

That's it for this week. Thanks to all that wished me well from last week. We'll be back in seven.

Until then,

Todd Doogan

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