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Site created 12/15/97.

Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 12/19/01

Arnold the Commentary Slayer

Bill mentioned earlier this week that Variety reported that big stars are starting to ask for big money for their services in providing special edition material on DVDs. We shouldn't be surprised. They've been at it for a while actually. The reason we have featurettes now, and not documentaries, is based on this same idea. If a promotional piece is under a certain amount of running time (usually 30 minutes), then the studios don't have to provide royalties to the stars in the film. SAG won't be on their backs, agents won't be harping about it and, in the future, family members won't be asking for handouts based on over usage of their parent or loved one's image.

But if these featurettes were documentary length, then that goes out of the realm of promo and into a new cash crop for exploitation. Stars don't like that, so studios don't like that and that's the bind. There are ways around it though, and we've seen some DVDs with short pieces that together, if you play them all, turn into a handy dandy documentary. But they are still featurettes underneath. Pretty sneaky sis.

We've also seen stars with axes to grind not allowing their images to be used. Hannibal would have been an even more glorious DVD if Gary Oldman allowed his face to be used for a featurette on the make-up used in the film for his character. Everyone asks why wasn't there any real discussion and footage from that make-up? Well, Gary wouldn't let his likeness be used, so the footage fell out the bottom. As fans, we lost some great stuff. And it's important to know this, because these special editions that are coming out today, one after the other, three weeks after their theatrical run suffer because of the fact that they're just too young.

If you read this site, you already know that I'm a big fan of special editions. And believe me, I'm as spoiled as anyone out there. But I'm beginning to feel that huge special editions are worthless if the film is under five years old. There's simply not much to SAY about the film. We can SHOW behind-the-scenes footage and how-did-they-do-that stuff, a la Planet of the Apes, but we don't learn anything about these movies at all. Did anyone suffer through the commentary track on PotA? It's pretty worthless. Now, I'm a big fan of Burton, but he just doesn't like talking about his films. And why should he? For years, Criterion has been providing what fans consider the best Laserdisc and DVD special editions out there, and they're usually for films where most of the cast is dead or the filmmakers are in their twilight and are only now learning to enjoy discussing a film they haven't seen in years. I say, that's the way to go. There will be a time when a journalist or film historian will dedicate himself to Burton's Ape film. Let that guy or girl talk about it, and root around the meanings or style inspirations for a while and see what was behind the curtain, so to speak. I really enjoy that sort of SE much more than these wham bam special editions we're getting more often than not. There are a few exceptions here and there, but if you pay attention you see why they rock. Fight Club was done with everyone involved in the film, from the people behind the underlying story to the guys doing post. Moulin Rouge was done with the people behind the only reason the film works at all: the crew that made the film. Does it suck that McGregor and Kidman weren't involved? At first I would hesitate to answer. And then I think about the fact that stars are threatening what I love... and then I wonder what they really have to offer on the film anyway (at least what I couldn't get from Luhrmann). So my answer is no, it doesn't suck. It just may be better that they're not involved. Unless Kidman is going to let loose why she and Tom aren't together or Ewan is going to be the first guy to call Lucas a hack, then I'm not interested.

So. Studios, take heed of this advice: unless the star really wants to be involved, or he/she was a director/producer on the project and can offer true insight into the film, don't pay these people a frickin' dime for their commentaries. DVD is for the love of the game, not for anything else. If the stars are only in it for the money, and not the art and giving back to the people who support them, then why should we care what they have to contribute? Do I want to hear what Arnold has to say about his movies? After hearing his eloquence on past editions, I say: no. Keep your words to yourself Arnold, and I'll keep my DVDs in the under forty-dollar price range.

All right, I'm off the soapbox. Today, we're looking at a TV vixen, an MTV styled musical and a parody of TV in the 80s made in the 70s. And I'm coming back one more time this week before the big Christmas Bits break with more. So, with your kind permission, I present:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season
1997 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/B+/C

Specs and Features:

540 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered, library case packaging with slip cover, audio commentary (by series creator/writer Joss Whedon on Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest), video interview with Joss Whedon and David Boreanaz, Joss Whedon on Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest, Joss Whedon on Witch and Never Kill a Boy on the First Date and Joss Whedon on Angel and The Puppet Show featurettes, original pilot script, original video release trailer, photo gallery, biographies, DVD-ROM access (includes access to website and screensaver), animated film themed menu screens with sound, scene access (15 chapters per episode), languages: English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Everyone's favorite vampire thumping hottie is on DVD. And surprise of all surprises, Buffy's actually a pretty good show. I never watched it before getting this DVD set. It has a very strong dynamic, good humor and plenty of scares. I can see why teens and adults alike love the show. The problem is, this DVD set isn't very good. I'm sure I'll hear from everyone out there, but Fox really could have done a better job. I'll tell you how.

First off, the video quality is abysmal. The picture is grainy and soft with a VHS quality transfer. I seriously doubt Fox went out of their way packaging this set. Even the sound isn't all that great. While most TV sets are coming out with new transfers, they're also coming to us with remastered audio that really sound great. There's really no excuse for it.

The extras are also pretty lame. A commentary track is provided by series creator/writer Joss Whedon, but only for the "pilot" episodes: Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest. He sounds like he really loves the show and gives us all the good news that I'm sure every fan of the show already knows (but for newbies like me, was worth hearing). It's a great commentary, and this fact makes it painful when you realize that's it. Want to hear what he has to say about anything else? Well, you can't. Unless you want to SEE what he has to say. Joss is also interviewed in a couple of featurettes. There's one per disc and they are: Joss Whedon on Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest on Disc One, Joss Whedon on Witch and Never Kill a Boy on the First Date on Disc Two (which is weird considering that Witch is on Disc One) and Joss Whedon on Angel and The Puppet Show on Disc Three (and again, Angel is on Disc Two). This shows me one thing: these supplements were prepared for the video releases (well, except for the commentary). Why Fox didn't get some new stuff together is bothersome, because this first season would have been the ripest for discussion. Oh well. Each disc also features it's own special supplement. Disc One has a bit more. There's a video interview of Joss Whedon and actor David Boreanaz talking about the show, the original pilot script, a original video release trailer and DVD-ROM access (which proves to be nothing more that access to the official website and a screensaver). Disc Two holds a lame photo gallery and Disc Three has cast and crew biographies. Whoopie. See? Lame-o. But as a fan of the show, I can't help but say that you'll still have to own this set. I mean, at least it's DVD.

Do I wish Fox went a little more out of their way for us on this DVD set? I sure do. This is a series that deserves the full DVD treatment. Maybe there were licensing and rights issues that kept this set from being what it should have been. And maybe Fox will pull up the slack and start giving us better Buffy sets in the future. I can complain because that's what I get paid to do. But if you really love the show, these discs are at least worth a spin.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Moulin Rouge: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Moulin Rouge
Special Edition - 2001 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A+/A+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A+/A+

Specs and Features:

Disc One: The Film
128 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:05:38, in chapter 20), library case with slip cover, audio commentary (with director Baz Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin and cinematographer Donald M. McAlphine), audio commentary (with co-writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce), Behind the Red Curtain "Green Fairy" supplement access feature, THX Optimizer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (36 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1) and Spanish (DD 2.0) and audio for the visually impaired, subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: The Supplements
The Nightclub of Your Dreams: The Making of Moulin Rouge documentary, Stars section with video interviews (with Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh), The Story is About section with video interviews (with co-writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce), Craig Pearce discusses early story ideas and script comparisons, The Cutting Room section with video interviews (with Baz Luhrmann and editor Jill Bilcock), 5 abandoned edits and director's mock previsualisations, The Dance section with A Word from Baz introduction, Tango extended/multi-angle sequence, Hindi extended sequence, Can Can extended/multi-angle sequence, Coup D'etat extended/multi-angle sequence, video interview with choreographer John "Cha Cha" O'Connell and dance rehearsals, The Music section with The Musical Journey featurette, video interview with Fatboy Slim, MTV Movie Awards performance of Lady Marmalade, Lady Marmalade music video, The Design section with video interview with production designer/co-costume designer Catherine Martin, 9 galleries of set design production photos, video interview with co-costume designer Angus Strathie, 4 galleries of costume design production photos and art, Graphic Design video gallery of poster art used in film with music, Smoke and Mirrors: The Evolution of the Intro featurette and The Green Fairy featurette, Marketing section with International "sizzle reel", 5 photographer based photo galleries, The Little Red Book marketing pamphlet, 2 theatrical trailers, Red Curtain Boxed Set DVD trailer, Easter eggs, animated film-themed menu screens with sound

Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the most decadent pleasure known to man - the Moulin Rouge. I'm, of course, referring to the real historical location, 'cause I'm not too big a fan of the film. Oh, it's beautiful and well told, but I thought it was a bit empty overall. It's one thing to reconstruct a bunch of pop songs for your own design, but it's another to grab ME as an audience member and thrill me from top to bottom.

Moulin Rouge isn't that incredible when you come to think about it, as an idea at least. The American musical, from vaudeville to Broadway and on to the silver screen, has always been a way to exploit pop songs. Even the cartoon was wrangled into a means to exploit a studio's library of pop songs and film tunes. It shouldn't strike anyone as odd that the most famous brands of classic cartoons are Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and Silly Symphonies. So to look at Moulin Rouge and shout that it's this wholly original idea is a bit silly. It just hasn't been done in a while. Still, the way Baz Luhrmann did it is pretty impressive. And nowhere is that fact made more clear than on this DVD.

Man, this set is even more decedent than the source material it's based on. By the true definition of envelope pushing, this DVD simply rocks. If you're like me, and could do with or without the film, you'll still be impressed. And if you're a fan of the film, you definitely won't want to be without this top-notch DVD special edition.

The film itself is presented in incredibly luscious anamorphic widescreen video. The colors are sharp, detail is razor fine and blacks are hard and clean. This is an incredible transfer. The sound (in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1) is equally stunning. Most of the mix's activity is front and center, which will set you aback at first. But when the first huge musical production kicks in, so does the surround. The music will swirl around you as fast as one of the dancers on screen, and if you don't feel your toes tapping along with the reconstructed pop songs, you're probably dead.

A beautiful representation of the film isn't enough for DVD fans, and Fox knows this. So if you're looking for an inside look into the magical world that made this film, this two-disc set will open all the doors for you. First, there are dual audio commentary tracks. Both feature director Baz Luhrmann, but on one he's joined by different members of his crew, who helped make the film look the way it does. They talk about how they did this and that, what it took and how things could have looked differently. The other track, with Baz and his co-writer, takes a decidedly different tone. This track is a bit more story based, where Baz and Craig Pearce talk like the old friends they are about their process, different story lines and working with the cast. Both tracks are pretty incredible and well done. Neither features any members of the cast, but it doesn't really seem to matter much, even if it would have been interesting.

After you've viewed the film three times (once just the straight film and then with both commentaries), set yourself up for one more run. Using a feature called "Green Fairy", you can watch the film and occasionally pop into a world that allows you to access behind-the-scenes footage and conceptual art for the major scenes, whenever a green fairy icon pops up on the left-hand side of your screen. This function will suck you in, because it's all pretty amazing stuff and gives a grand historic overview of the story and its source. Also on Disc One is a THX Optimizer feature that lets you properly calibrate your system for the film.

Disc Two is even more jam-packed. I'm not going to run a grocery list of what's here, but take a look at the specs and features up above to get just an idea of how packed this thing is. If you have a question about anything involved in the making of this film, it's answered here. Baz and company kept video records of just about everything they did and they leave bits and pieces here for us to enjoy. Some is standard behind-the-scenes stuff, like a glossy made-for-TV documentary about the film, but others are pretty cool, like video of Pearce and Luhrmann acting out the script to get a feel for the characters, or Baz using stills from the film to set-up reshoots to save the time and money of rebuilding the sets. There's tons more interesting stuff in that vein, like cast and crew interviews, some interesting deleted scenes and concepts, the original progression of story ideas and scripts, multi-angle material, clips from MTV performances and the Lady Marmalade video. Believe me when I say that it's an incredible package - one that needs to be seen to be believed. And that's coming form someone who didn't even like the film.

Moulin Rouge isn't a great film, and maybe you disagree with me on that. But I think everyone will agree that this is a great DVD set. Who knows? After a few more viewings, it may even change my mind about the film.

Moulin Rouge: Special Edition
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision
1976 (2001) - Eclectic DVD Distribution/Cult DVD

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/C/B

Specs and Features:

70 mins, R, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, animated photo gallery with music, 5 radio spots, Tunnel Vision theme song, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (12 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none

"Tunnel Vision: The No-Bullshit Network"

Tunnel Vision is many things. It's stupid, but smart at the same time. It's offensive, but it tells the truth. And most of all, it's dated. Very, very dated. But that's all right. For those of us who consider ourselves comedy historians, it's a beautiful snapshot into the 70s, before half the cast of this show made names for themselves, as well as being a member of the TV spoof family. Other family members are Amazon Women on the Moon, Kentucky Fried Movie, The Groove Tube and Mr. Mike's Mondo Video. It's a genre that doesn't stand very tall, but it sits in a very funny fashion.

Tunnel Vision is nothing more than a day's worth of programming, hand picked by a Senate committee quizzing the owner of the broadcast network Tunnel Vision about their methods. Tunnel Vision is the first uncensored television network and, as their tagline states, they're the "no-bullshit" network as well. If you can think it, chances are Tunnel Vision will show it. Made in 1976, Tunnel Vision gives us a look at what "the future" of television would look like on June 1, 1985. It's all horrifying news, mostly about Nixon, bad shows and ridiculous commercials. And most of it is pretty funny, if you dare to laugh. The type of humor Tunnel Vision is based on is pretty bad - tasteless and stereotypical. I seriously don't think the writers were saying this form of humor is actually funny, but rather, odds are, that this type of programming is possible with our mentality as a whole. Take Tunnel Vision with a grain of salt and you might enjoy yourself. The humor may not apply anymore, but the point is well-received sixteen years after the film is supposed to have taken place.

Tunnel Vision isn't a great DVD, but it's better quality than I've ever seen this show in before. The print used isn't all that great, and there are a few really weird moments in it that left me scratching my head. But the transfer works for the most part. It's a bit grainy and the color has faded over the years, but what are you going to do? The sound is plain and isn't quite up to snuff, but it also isn't distorted or hissy, and that's okay with me.

The extras are surprisingly good. This could have been a throw away disc, but it's got some interesting stuff on board. First, there's an animated photo gallery with music from the film. Who would have thought there'd be stills around for this? But here they are. Next up are five funny radio spots. Some are as tasteless as the movie, but they're well produced and here. Then you get a cut of the Tunnel Vision theme song. It sounds really good. Too bad the rest of the film couldn't sound like this. Finally, there's a theatrical trailer that's seen better days, but is neat to have anyway.

Tunnel Vision: if you take it, think about what it's saying and laugh at the point. If you leave it, that's fine too. This DVD isn't too bad. It's not the best thing out there, but it's still better than VHS.

Tunnel Vision
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Well, I'm off to prepare a few more reviews for my column on Friday. Enjoy the holiday shopping, if you're like me and plan to hunt down gifts with the other barbarians at the mall. Wish me luck and keep spinning those discs.

Todd Doogan

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