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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 11/5/04

11/5/04 Weekly Release Roundup

Whaaa... two columns in a row from me, Todd M. Doogan!?! To quote the bard Flavor Flav, "Yeaaaaaaah, boy!"

Bass? How low can you go?

First alphabetically, and first on my list of must haves for the week, it's...

Animal Farm: Special Collectors Edition Animal Farm: Special Collectors Edition

Home Vision pulled this one out of their ass. In a good way. I've always known about this one, but have never seen it. Not for lack of trying. Produced by a little known animation house in Britain, known more for commercials and propaganda films, Halas & Batchelor, Animal Farm is a very lovingly crafted version of Orwell's satiric novel of the same name. When the barnyard folk of Manor Farm decided they've had enough from their drunken brute of a farmer, they overthrow him and put the pigs in charge that make no haste in becoming just like him. It was the Who who sung, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Animated in original fashion, Animal Farm is easy on the eyes and brilliant. For a lost toon, Animal Farm looks amazing on DVD. It's a full frame transfer with vibrant colors, hard blacks and only a few moments of age shining through. Sound is a serviceable mono that does its job. Extras include a commentary by historian Brian Sibley which is nice, but pales next to the Down on the Animal Farm featurette originally done for British television. It's a wonderfully informative and entertaining piece that goes so well with this presentation on DVD. If you love cartoons and animation history, you need this disc in your collection.

Castle Keep: Widescreen Edition Castle Keep: Widescreen Edition

We complained that this film wasn't on DVD and Columbia listened: a beautiful anamorphic widescreen edition of Castle Keep is on the shelves this week and I say to you... see, if we complain in a civilized fashion, the studios will listen.

Dazed & Confused / Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Ultimate Party Collection Dazed & Confused / Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Ultimate Party Collection

Sure you can buy these discs separate, but why? Especially when you can get the super sweet Ultimate Party Collection. Yeah. Uhm, well, if you don't own either of these films on DVD, it's your chance to get them because they are worth owning. There are widescreen and full frame versions available, and both look gorgeous. Fast Times features the same extras and transfer as the original special collections edition released in 1999, but adds both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 punching up the score to a new level. The original 2.0 is still on board. Dazed and Confused benefits a bit from the upgrade, giving us a cleaner transfer, new Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 sound fields and adding nine unassuming deleted scenes, a silly fake educational filmstrip and two vintage 70s PSAs. Silly extras, but extras nonetheless. At least the video and audio are better than the previous release. If you don't own either of these films, you can't go wrong with this set.

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb: 40th Anniversary Special Edition Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb: 40th Anniversary Special Edition

We love Kubrick, you love Kubrick and we all love this brilliant film. I've got nothing more to say about the film, but you can review our reviews of the previous editions on DVD here. As for this new version, the video is jacked up to the highest degree possible. It looks superb, and that's not an understatement. The anamorphic widescreen presentation gets rid of the differing aspect ratios that Kubrick originally intended for the film, a format accurate to the negatives and maintained in the original DVD releases. It gives the film an overall more cinematic feel for home viewings, and it is worth seeing, but I wouldn't get rid of the original DVDs because they honor Kubrick's original vision. Audio is also kicked up with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. There are limitations to both of these tracks, but for the most part, they sound quite good. For purists there is also the original mono. Aside from killer video, this new release also gives us two new documentaries. The first is a discussion with various experts on the film, its realities in the face of farce and its relevance today. We get Fog of War subject Robert McNamara, Spike Lee, Roger Ebert and Bob Woodward doing the talking. It's a very informative and fun piece. Also on board is a new documentary about Peter Sellers. There's also the making of documentary from the first special edition, a biography on Kubrick also from that set, trailers, photos, the interviews with Sellers and George C. Scott used to promote the film (also from the original SE) and the extended interview with Robert McNamara new to this set. Oh, and there's also a goofy booklet inside the box case. All in all, fans of Kubrick will not want to be without this. Just keep the original version next to it on your shelves.

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

This will go down as the only film in my life I EVER walked out of. Granted I was on a date and she was really, really not into it. But still. Coming back to it on DVD, I have to say that it's a bit more watchable, but not that much. Based on Tom Robbins' book of the same name, Cowgirls follows Sissy Hankshaw (Uma Thurman), a former model who travels the United States hitchhiking. She's a master, elevating it to an art. It doesn't hurt that she has enormous thumbs that may hold a certain magic. Recruited by her former boss, The Countess (John Hurt) a transsexual of sorts who has a deadly fear of women's nether regions and their, uhm, smell, Sissy is sent to the Countess' ranch to do a photo shoot for her newest douche. There she meets Bonanza Jellybean (Rain Phoenix) the leader of a rouge group of cowgirls bent of overthrowing The Countess. There's more, but I'm running out of room. The film is surreal, wacky and bold. It's written and directed by Gus Van Sant and falls into the same hole Gerry falls into. The DVD looks and sounds great with anamorphic video and 5.1 sound. There's not a lick of extras, but I didn't really expect any.

Philadelphia: Anniversary Edition Philadelphia: Anniversary Edition

Hanks and Denzel rock the house in this really well made and important film. Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a young on the rise attorney who contracts the AIDS virus and is fired from his job at a high powered firm. Denzel is Joe Miller, an ambulance chasing lawyer who is just about the only guy in the world who would take the case. Was Beckett fired from his job because he had AIDS and can Miller prove it? Released in 1993/1994 before Hollywood (not the more daring “independent” Hollywood mind you) really embraced any aspect of the gay lifestyle, it was a revelation to film fans. It gave us a look at Tom Hanks as serious dramatist, it showed that Jonathan Demme wasn’t just a quirky genre filmmaker and it made it okay for two men to hug and kiss on movie screens in Middle America. The video and audio presentation is spot on and looks brilliant and sounds just as good. But it’s the extras you’ll really want. Director Demme and writer Ron Nyswaner discuss the film in-depth on a well produced commentary track and proves to be worth listening to every second of the way. As this is a super duper special edition, there’s a second disc filled to the digital gills with featurettes and documentaries. There are making-ofs, interviews, a documentary on AIDS patients and their individual stories, some deleted scenes and of course Springsteen’s video for the film’s title track (shot by Demme). This is a really good set for a really good film. Pick it up.

Proof Proof

Hugo Weaving plays a blind photographer... uhm, wait. Let me read that again. Blind. Photographer. Huh. Anyway, Weaving plays Martin, a bitterly blind man who replaces his sight with photographs he takes of random people and situations. He soon meets Russell Crowe who honestly reveals the subject of his photographs to him and Weaving learns to trust someone other than himself. That is until his housekeeper, who has a diabolical crush on him, grows jealous of his relationship with Crowe and sabotages it. It’s a really good movie, and the best words to describe it would be “witty,” “quirky” and “brilliant.” The video and audio are both top notch, no complaints. Extras include a sparse commentary with Weaving, a more informative commentary with director/writer Jocelyn Moorhouse, the trailer and an album of photos Martin takes during the course of the film.

The Rapture The Rapture

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel anything but fine. That should have been the tag line for this acclaimed film. Mimi Rogers plays Sharon, a swinging bisexual 411 operator ("Hold for your number please") who, along with co-swinger and mullet haired David Duchovny, finds God. Two people finding God in this world makes for only the beginning of a story though, so what follows are several spiritual reawakenings. Sharon must put together the pieces of an old life, a new life and a promised life after death in order to make decisions. It doesn't help that the four horsemen are slowly galloping toward her. As told by first-time director Michael Tolkin (writer of Robert Altman's brilliant film The Player), The Rapture finds a series of characters in extraordinary situations making choices that real-life people would make. New Line did a fine job on the anamorphic transfer. Sound is equally good. Extras include a very fun commentary with Tolkin, Rogers, Duchovny and actor Patrick Bauchau that was part of the original laserdisc release.

New TV on DVD this week:

Mutant X: Season 1 Set, Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, The Simple Life 2, The Simpsons Christmas 2, Star Trek: The Original Series - Season Two, Three's Company: Season Three, Too Close for Comfort: The Complete First Season, Traffic: The Mini-Series: Director's Cut and The West Wing: The Complete Third Season.

Star Trek: The Original Series - Season TwoThe Simpsons Christmas 2The West Wing: The Complete Third Season

Also this week:

Ali G Indahouse: The Movie, Around the World In 80 Days, California Split, Celsius 41.11, Festival Express: 2-Disc Special Edition, A Home at the End of the World, The Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 2, Mulholland Falls, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl - Special Edition (with bonus disc) and Three Coins in the Fountain.

Shrek 2The Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 2Festival Express: 2-Disc Special Edition

Oh... and on Friday for some reason, look for Shrek 2.

It’s amazing. Two weeks in a frickin’ row. Will I make it to three? Stick around and find out next week.

Stay gold Pony Boy.

Todd Doogan

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