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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 10/29/04

10/29/04 Weekly Release Roundup

Note to self: I've got to get back on the ball. I've been in recovery so long that I forgot how much fun it is to support/rag on DVD. I missed a bunch of great stuff, but it's becoming clear that it'll be next to impossible to catch up. That's why I decided not to. Nope. I'm just going to pick up and keep moving forward. Sure, I may go back and review a few titles that I missed here and there on an individual basis, but for the time being, we're going to go back and move forward.

With that in mind, here are the releases for this week, the one before Halloween. These were the discs released 10/26/2004.


Oh, and thanks again for all of you who sent in your kind words and supporting me through what turned out to be a very rough nine weeks.

The China Syndrome: Special Edition The China Syndrome: Special Edition

I've always loved this movie. I didn't always understand it, considering the first few times I watched it, it was as a kid. But I've always known good acting, writing and direction - even if I didn't know it at the time. Chine Syndrome has some of the best. A news crew with Jane Fonda as the struggling female camera personality and Michael Douglas as the struggling documentary filmmaker-making-ends-meet-shooting-news cameraman stumble into a potential nuclear meltdown of epic proportions halted by the quick thinking of technician Jack Lemmon. What follows is a eagle-eyed dissection of local news in the 70s and a frightening it-could-happen nuclear scenario (and did a few weeks later in real life on Three Mile Island). As I said, the acting, characterizations and direction are stellar. It's a truly brilliant film and even if the message is passé, it's aged pretty well. This new DVD special edition brings the film to us in anamorphic widescreen and looks really nice. Sound is a and sounds just as good with a new DD 5.1 as well as the original mono. The extras are pretty impressive. Instead of a commentary we get a duo of documentaries produced by friend o' the Bits, Laurent Bouzereau. Overview, trivia and history are provided talking head style, but it's the heads that make it worthwhile: Douglas and Fonda, most notably. A handful of deleted scenes and cast and filmmaker filmographies round out a good replacement disc for the original release. I don't usually endorse the replacement of prior releases, but this is one I think you should think about.

Dawn of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut Dawn of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut

Hmmm. I dunno. Part of me likes this one. Part of me hates it. The part of me that likes it thinks that it did a good job making a scary zombie flick with good elements and paths that differentiate it from the original classic film. The part of me that hates it thinks that George Romero nailed it once and it didn't need to be nailed again. The use of the title Dawn of the Dead was worthless because the only element that stayed the same is the mall, and in the first 7 minutes we see the WGON traffic helicopter fly by marking for fans that this story possibly takes place in the same universe, just in a different mall. I'm pretty torn, but if you're not invested in the original, then you'll probably have a fun time. The zombie effects are great, the acting is pretty good, the characters are fun and aside from the zombies being able to run, most of the film honors the original trilogy well enough. This DVD presents the film with a few more minutes of gore and a few snippets of scene work expanding the characters. It looks and sound great on DVD and there are a mall-sized group of extras to pour over. Exclusive to the Unrated edition you'll get a fun look at some of the gore in the film like exploding heads and the like. There's also a look at the make-up used. Both versions feature a silly video Andy the gun shop guy made, giving the character some depth. Doesn't work. There's also a collection of all the new footage some deleted scenes and commentary by director Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman sounding like fanboys in love with the film, the choices made and themselves. Dawn of the Dead isn't a bad film, but it's not as great as the original. But again, if you're just looking for gore and zombie death action, pick it up. You'll also find a rated theatrical cut in stores. But why?

The Deadly Spawn: Special Edition The Deadly Spawn: Special Edition

Weeeeeeeeeeeee! Here's one I never thought would ever, EVER, be on DVD. I remember seeing this film as a kid. It was in one of those big ass video boxes like Faces of Death was in. All the pictures on the back made the film look sick as hell. As it turned out, the film is a low budget labor of love. There's not much too it really. An alien seed crashes on earth, eats humans, crawls into the basement of another set of humans and eats them. Horror film fan kid comes to the rescue and saves the day. The monster effects are really sweet, but the production value is very low. Synapse does a remarkable job bringing this one to our TV screens. It's a 1.33:1 presentation from the original 16mm negatives and looks gorgeous. Sound is standard mono. Extras include gallery of photos chronicling all aspects of the film, including its NYC premiere, a comic-book styled prequel, the trailer, outtake reel (with no sound) and cast and crew biographies. You'll also find two commentaries, one with pretty much everyone but producer/co-writer Ted A. Bohus and one with, yes, you guessed it, Ted A. Bohus. If you love low grade schlock, you'll want to pick this one up.

White Chicks: Unrated & Uncut White Chicks: Unrated & Uncut

I didn't see this one in the theaters, so I can't tell you what's new and improved (if at all). I personally didn't find the film very fun (my wife did). I actually found the make-up effects scarier than those in Dawn of the Dead. Shawn and Marlon play two FBI agents who are given a shit assignment to watch over a Hiltonesque sister set as they hang out in the poshest of beach towns while someone tries to do them harm. Of course, the girls have a hiccup and don't go, so the Wayons Bros. go in disguise as them and hilarity ensues. Now they have to find out wants to hurt the sisters while keeping the FBI off the trail. It's Some Like It Hot with special effect make-up. Not as funny as it sounds, I say. But maybe you'll disagree. There are two versions, an Unrated/Uncut and a PG-13 Version. I have the Uncut and it looks and sounds great on DVD. It's anamorphic and DD 5.1, so no complaints. Extras include an informative and funny commentary with the Bros. and their big brother Keenan who directed, a making-of featurette, a look at the Bros. creative process and a look at the make-up effects. Creepy.

TV on DVD this week:

21 Jump Street: The Complete First Season
21 Jump Street: The Complete First Season

Both Fox and Johnny Depp owe their worlds to this little show that could, and I actually liked it when it first came out, and like it now. A team of young cops go undercover as high schoolers trying to root out drugs and violence. It's a can't go wrong story-line. This four-disc DVD set presents the show well enough. Full frame and stereo. Extras include a liner booklet, commentary by Peter "Penhall" DeLuise on one episode and a gaggle of interview (none with Depp) on Disc Four. If you know nothing of this show, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's a lot of fun.

More TV on DVD: The telefilm: Frankenfish. A show I never watched but hear I should: The O.C.: The Complete First Season. A new TV version of Spartacus. A fun and funny show that has seen better days, and here they are: That '70s Show: Season One. The two best reality shows on TV: Viva La Bam: The Complete First Season and Wildboyz: The Complete First Season.

The O.C.: The Complete First SeasonControl RoomMulan: Special Edition

Also available this week: If you like chicks with guns in bikinis killing the same guy over and over again, then check out Bikini Bandits: Briefs, Shorts & Panties. One of my favorite comedians gets his due on DVD: Bill Hicks: Live. A fascinating documentary you should check out: Control Room. And a fascinating mockumentary from director Peter Jackson: Forgotten Silver. A Jackass makes good on a promise: Grand Theft Parsons. Classic horror cheese: Happy Birthday to Me. Proving that genius has hiccups too: Barry Levinson's Jimmy Hollywood. One of my favorite modern era Disney films: Mulan: Special Edition. Creepy Japanese horror starring Chiaki "Gogo" Kuriyama: Shikoku. My absolute favorite John Carpenter film: The Thing: Collector's Edition (now in anamorphic widescreen). Takasji Miike is hitting it big on DVD this year. Here's another entry in your library: White Collar Worker Kintaro. Look for the anime it's based on DVD later next year. And who could forget a new entry from the Fantoma kids saluting one of their favorite director focuses: Rainer Warner Fassbinder's Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?

That'll do it for this week.

I'll be back next week with another round-up. I promise. I'm back in the saddle again.

Remember to vote next week. Or not. Suit yourself.

Todd Doogan

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