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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 5/4/04

5/4/04 Weekly Release Roundup

Greetings all. It's not a huge week for new releases, but let's just jump right in and see what we've got, shall we? Note that all the titles can be ordered from Amazon by clicking on the cover art (and you're supporting The Bits by doing so - we certainly appreciate it).

The Animation Show: Volume One The Animation Show: Volume One

I have two picks of the week. The first is The Animation Show: Volume One. Based on the successful theater revue created by animation greats Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeld, this DVD collects a vast majority of the shorts featured in the theater presentation (save for the ones that may already be on DVD in other forms, like Hertzfeld's Rejected and Tim Burton's Vincent). The DVD is huge as far as I'm concerned, and does a great service for both filmmakers and fans of cartoon shorts. This first volume gives us some really wonderful animation along with nice extras including audio commentaries from some of the filmmakers, deleted material, pencil tests, art galleries, storyboards and making-of explanations. But it's all about the toons with this set, and considering this release is coming from animators, there's a lot of love packed on this disc. Get yourself a copy today.

Tomorrow Tomorrow

The other co-pick of the week is Tomorrow. Anyone who ever wondered how great an actor Robert Duvall is and how great a writer William Faulkner and Horton Foote are, needs to check out this wonderful treasure of a film. Home Vision releases this 1971 work, which follows Jackson Hentry (Duvall), a quiet solitary man who helps a woman in need, raises her son and protects him from corruption the only way he knows how. You'll fall in love with this film, and I hope everyone goes out and at the very least rents it. The transfer is a black and white full frame presentation and serves the film fine. Sound is a mono track and the extras include the original story by Faulkner in booklet form, the trailer and an interview with Foote and Duvall discussing the film. Give Tomorrow a chance today.

The Marx Brothers Collection The Marx Brothers Collection

This five-disc set features the Marx Brothers films A Night at the Opera, A Night in Casablanca, A Day at the Races, Room Service, At the Circus, Go West and The Big Store, but it's really for Marx fans only. I, for one, am a Marx Brothers fan and I'm glad this set is on DVD, but I wish it was a bit better. The transfers for these films are pretty good, but the source material is lacking in spots - especially the crown jewel Night at the Opera. the sound is a standard mono. The extras are where this set should have shined, but there really isn't anything truly illuminating. There is commentary on A Night at the Opera (by Leonard Maltin) and Day at the Races (by Marx historian Glenn Mitchell), and both serve the films fine. But the tracks aren't going to be the reason you buy this set, as both can be lukewarm at times. There's also two short fluffy documentaries about the Brothers on Night and Day (that don't really inform you much), as well as a collection of shorts, classic cartoons, trailers and extended songs littered throughout the set (a la the classic, 2-disc special edition releases from Warner). All in all, this box won't win any awards, but you have to admit getting more Marx Brothers on DVD is cool.

The Last Samurai The Last Samurai

Tom Cruise is Nathan Algren, a former American military officer turned rifle spokesman who is living life on the back of a liquor bottle. That is, until he takes an offer to train Japanese soldiers in Western weaponry to help curb rebellion from the samurai warriors who were forced to disband in the late 1800s. When an attack goes bad, Algren is taken prisoner by the samurai and lives among them, soon gaining their respect and respecting them as well. He eventually joins them and fights on their side against the very people who brought him to this far off land. High concept: Dances with Samurai. Bottom Line: the film is okay, but the performances are better. This isn't a great flick, but it will entertain you for a few hours. Warner's DVD is wonderful with a bold anamorphic presentation and dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Extras include a very well thought out commentary by director Ed Zwick, a talking head documentary with Tom Cruise discussing the film and his character, Zwick's director's video journal, a back and forth featurette with Zwick and Cruise discussing the film (I think originally seen on Turner Classic Movies during their Samurai Weekend promoting the theatrical release of the film), featurettes about the making of the film, a History Channel documentary about samurai films, a pair of deleted scenes, a text-based feature on the way of the samurai and the film's trailer. There's a lot of good stuff on this disc. And maybe you'll like The Last Samurai enough to check out some REAL samurai films.

The Triplets of Belleville The Triplets of Belleville

I don't really know what to think about Triplets. It's a cartoon and it's cool, but it's rather freaky too. I enjoyed it, but I really don't know how to describe what it was I watched. It combines traditional animation with CGI, and it works. But man, is it a quirky flick. This DVD looks wonderful and sounds just as good. Extras include short bits of commentary for select scenes, a weird-ass music video, trailers and a featurette on the director's vision of the animation for the film. It's at least worth looking at. Maybe you'll appreciate it more than I did.

In addition to the above titles, there's lots of your favorite TV shows on DVD this week as well, including: The Bernie Mac Show: The Complete First Season, Gilmore Girls: The Complete First Season, Law & Order: The Second Year, The Osbournes: 2½ and Party of Five: The Complete First Season.

Two of the bigger TV releases are:

Samurai Jack: Season 1
Samurai Jack: Season 1

Along with giving us the first 13 episodes of this incredible and gorgeous cartoon, this DVD set gives us creator commentary (which is fun), a making-of featurette and a gallery of artwork that's so gorgeous you could print it out and pin to your wall.

Three's Company: Season Two
Three's Company: Season Two

Season Two of this series gives us the show, which was always fun, but it features the original pilot too, and it will boggle your mind. I swear. Three's Company is worth picking up just for that extra alone.

Also available this week:

Calendar Girls, Chasing Liberty, Desk Set, Elephant, Girl with a Pearl Earring and Peter Pan. Plus, you'll have a gay ol' time on DVD, thanks to New Line with their new releases of Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls in Love, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Three of Hearts and Torch Song Trilogy.

Have a good one! I'll see you back here next Tuesday...

Todd Doogan

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