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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 7/7/04

7/7/04 - Weekly Release Roundup

This is a huge, huge, huge week for DVD.

July opens with a serious bang.

Too bad I only got a few titles to review from the studios. I guess I'm going to be in the same boat most of you guys are in: standing in line with copies of The Name of the Rose, Red Sonja and Wanted: Dead of Alive tucked under my arm.

Some days it's really cool being a DVD Reporter, and others... well, that's silly. It's always cool being a DVD Reporter.

Check out the goodies hitting shelves this week.

The Butterfly Effect: Infinifilm
The Butterfly Effect: Infinifilm

Although not a great film, The Butterfly Effect is pretty neat and brings up a lot of interesting ideas. It's a bold film, and it's utterly dark nature is so anti-established Hollywood, that you have to give the filmmaker's props. Except for one thing: Ashton Kutcher brings this film way, way down.

I'm not knocking Kutcher. I like him as a comedy actor. The problem I have is he just doesn't seem to do drama very well. Originally, Leonardo DiCaprio circled around this project, and if he was in it, I think it would have been a much better film. The character as written is pitch perfect, and even if Aston isn't great in the role, he's still watchable in it. Ultimately, The Butterfly Effect is a good film, but it could have been a great film with the right casting.

The film follows a guy named Evan Treborn who discovers that by reading his diary journals, he can go back in time to places that he mysteriously blacked out. While in these time holes he can make improvements and changes as he sees them, only in true chaos theory, every change he makes leads him or the ones he loves down a horrible road in the future when he pops back into his live now. In the end, it's sort of like a It's a Terrible Life where everyone really would be better off if you weren't around. So much for happy endings, huh?

This DVD from New Line does the Infinifilm brand proud. It contains two versions of the film, the theatrical version and a new director's cut that features a cleaner edit and more character development as well as a very twisted ending that is only my second favorite of the four provided on the disc (my first in the theatrical version). We'll get to the other two in a sec. Both versions of the film look great as could be in anamorphic widescreen. The theatrical version has a Dolby Digital EX and DD 2.0 whereas the director's cut has DTS 6.1, DD EX and DD 2.0 and all of the tracks sound stellar.

Because this is an Infinifilm you can expect a lot of extras even above a second version of the film. There's a commentary track with director's co-writers Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber that is a very insightful listen. These are two lucky guys that have played the game to their advantage. There's also real world featurettes on the psychology or chaos theory and the realities of time travel. There's also a "fact track" subtitle feature, making of featurettes, the film's trailer and a handful of deleted scenes including two additional endings that serve no purpose. There's also some DVD-ROM material including script-to-screen, a stills gallery and an interactive commentary digest with director's notes.

All in all, it's another killer Infinifilm release from New Line.

Film Noir Collection Film Noir Collection

Five incredible noir films, five incredible DVDs for noir fans. This Film Noir Collection from the Brothers Warner serves as a very nice primer to film noir and it's sensibilities. Any long time reader of this site knows about our devotion to the form, but for you newbies, film noir is the genre of film dedicated to the darker elements of the world. The term "film noir" was coined by French film critics, and means "dark or black cinema." Enough with that. Each of these films represents a "school" of thought within the film noir form.

The Asphalt Jungle directed by John Huston is the dead straight heist film. It's remarkable in execution and a must own for any film fan. Gun Crazy holds elements of the carnie world, naive guy/manipulative girl relations and a bloodthirsty crime spree. It's a fun film and a great example of classic noir. Murder, My Sweet is the standard private dick tale with Dick Powell as the legendary Philip Marlowe. Private eye film fans owe themselves a watch with this one. Powell brings something to Marlowe that even Bogart left out. Out of the Past is classic femme fatale with some nice flashback story progression thrown in. This is one of THE noir films, and a glorious film at that. Finally there is the smaller gem The Set-Up which wraps the boxer story up with an often used noir trick of "real time." It a small film but very effective and very good.

All five of these films look and sound remarkable. Warner did a really great job presenting these for our enjoyment. On the extras front, Warner didn't skimp a bit. Each and every one of these discs has commentary from various film critics and experts on noir.

Jungle has American film expert and USC professor Drew Casper along with interview clips of actor James Whitmore. There's also an archived introduction to the film by Huston himself and the theatrical trailer. Gun Crazy has DVD film reviewer and noir fan Glenn Erickson from DVD Savant discussing the film and noir style quite well. He's a good listen. Murder is a laid back and informative Alain Silver as well as the film's trailer. James Ursini, co-editor with Silver on the seminal "Film Noir Reader" essay series, provides commentary for Out of the Past and discusses the finer points of noir. It's a great track, the best of the bunch actually. Finally the Set-Up is directors Martin Scorsese and Robert Wise, recorded separately. It's okay, but not as cool as we would have hoped it would be. Film fans, noir fans -- we're one and the same, and this box set contains some really great films that are all must owns. Pick yourself up a copy today.

Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election - 2004 Campaign Edition
Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election - 2004 Campaign Edition

Just in time for this year's election, how about a documentary about the travesty in Florida during 2000's? Yep. If you thought Fahrenheit 9/11 was the bomb, then you'll want to check this one out. Although the humor is out the window, this is a very good overview of the situation, the how's and why's and what it all might have meant for us as Americans. If you don't care, maybe you're part of the problem, 'cause the underlying theme of this is: the 2000 elections was the first coup to take place in America and if it can happen once, it WILL happen again. Scary stuff. Check it out. This DVD is full frame and looks and sound good. Extras include 5 additional follow-up vignettes that could easily fit into the film as well as an updated section on the film itself on the perils of electronic voting. Cue organ music.

Some interesting TV releases came out this week as well...

Batman: The Animated Series - Volume 1History of Rock 'n RollStar Trek: Voyager - Season Three

Batman: The Animated Series - Volume 1, Challenge of the Super Friends: Season One, Don't Drink the Water, History of Rock 'n Roll, Six Feet Under: The Complete Second Season, Star Trek: Voyager - Season Three, and Wiseguy: Prey for the City - Season 2, Part 1.

Also coming this week...

Big Top Pee-WeeThe Charlie Chan: ChanthologyThe Name of the Rose

…the indy film 2 Brothers & a Bride. When it comes to movies, Pee-Wee's just not the same without Tim Burton:Big Top Pee-Wee. I'm sure Chinese-Americans everyone will be pleased: The Charlie Chan: Chanthology which includes the films (also available separately): The Chinese Cat, The Jade Mask, Meeting at Midnight, The Scarlet Clue, Charlie Chan in The Secret Service and The Shanghai Cobra. Dudley and Daryl are Crazy People. An unfunny Richard Pryor poses as a doctor in Critical Condition. If there really was a Devil Man, then there must be a Devil Lady: The Complete Collection. Mr. Furley returns in the Don Knotts: Reluctant Hero Franchise Collection including The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Shakiest Gun in the West and The Love God?. Eddie Griffin is puttin' the funk in Dysfunktional Family. I almost didn't list this one: Erotic Escort Company, but then again, why not, huh? Walter Matthau and Jill Clayburgh star in First Monday in October. Ice Cube stars in The Glass Shield. Trigun this ain't: Gungrave Volume 1: Beyond the Grave. Jack! Heartburn, Boris! Island Monster/Chamber of Fear and Walter (again)! Kotch. Gotta love this: The Herschell Gordon Lewis Collection including The Gore Gore Girls, A Taste of Blood, She-Devils on Wheels, The Gruesome Twosome, The Wizard of Gore and Something Weird. It's all about the artistic process with La Belle Noiseuse. Look, two cool Japanese films: Legend of the Devil and Love & Pop. It's wedding day in Lovers and Other Strangers. Of boys Turkish deli owners and haircuts: Monsieur Ibrahim. Scorsese looks at Italian cinema: My Voyage to Italy. A must own: The Name of the Rose. Sex and politics star in The Politician's Wife. Not a great film, but stupid fun: Red Sonja. We're already living this one: Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? I scream, you scream we all scream for Sweet Potato Pie. Take Care of My Cat? No. Woody Allen at his funniest: Take the Money and Run. More cool ass noir, Universal Noir Collection titles: The Big Clock, Black Angel, Criss Cross and This Gun for Hire. The unofficial sequel to The Hunter with Steve McQueen: Wanted Dead or Alive. Dudley again in Wholly Moses! and anime from Adult Swim: Wolf's Rain - Leader of the Pack

Oh, and Disney decided to unleash a whole buncha library titles as well. Look for:

Balloon Farm, The Cat from Outer Space, Charlie, The Lonesome Cougar, The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, Greyfriars Bobby, Hot Lead & Cold Feet, Napoleon & Samantha, Never a Dull Moment, No Deposit, No Return, The North Avenue Irregulars, The Three Lives of Thomasina and The Ugly Dashshund.

See... told you this was a big week. Until next time...

Todd Doogan

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