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Site created 12/15/97.

Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 12/21/01

We Wish You a Hairy Chest Wig
(and a Bucket of Beer)!

Happy holidays one and all! Hopefully, most of you out there can keep your heads out of the oven this holiday season, and into some DVDs you've either gotten already or will get soon. You know... 'cause depression is real high this time of yea- never mind.

I, myself, can't wait to get at all the toys my wife got for me this year. Yes, I peeked! No DVDs though. Bummer.

Just to let you know, a lot of you (the vast majority) out there are happy with my rant in the last column on about celebrities who want big paydays for commentaries. Those who didn't agree with me nicely reminded me that DVD isn't about "the love of the game," but rather it's a big business. My answer to that is: well, duh. But so is everything else in this world. I mean, what I'm doing right now is a business. And if you guys didn't buy DVDs, there would be no business, period. The point is, we made DVD successful. Me, you... all of us. And as a finicky lot, we can make things unsuccessful. Ask Patrick Swayze, Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme. Some of these celebrities would do well to remember that before asking for a cool mil to talk about what kind sandwich they ate on set on a commentary track.

But hey, it's Christmas! So peace, love and all that. I love you guys. Really, I do. We're all brothers in arms. We watch, we love and we buy. The studios reap that. And the creative folks get opportunities because we like what they do. When we all forget our roles, things get sticky. But for one day a year, we can all forget who we are and all be children under a tree, with love in our hearts, hope in our minds and DVDs in our hands. Everyone except me. I'm just getting toys. Wonderful toys!

Before I go on my vacation, I leave you with some quick looks at a brilliant, but depressing, Vietnam drama and a new Jet Li kick 'em up.

Read on!

Casualties of War

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Casualties of War
1989 (2001) - Columbia TriStar

Program Rating: A

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

Specs and Features:

114 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, Eriksson's War, video interview with Michael J. Fox, The Making of Casualties of War documentary, 5 deleted scenes, theatrical trailers (for Casualties of War, Birdy and The Bridge on the River Kwai), cast and crew filmographies, film themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French, Spanish and Portuguese (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Thai, Closed Captioned

"You survive in the Nam and you get to live forever, man."

In 1989, Michael J. Fox was still Alex P. Keaton, I was moving from my home in suburban New York to a Southern big city and Paula Abdul was Paula Abdul... I guess. What the hell was I trying to say? Forget the above part. Have you seen Casualties of War? Don't worry, not many have. It's a hidden gem from director Brian De Palma. After his stock rose with the success of The Untouchables, he chose to steer this film. And it's a shocker. It's about morals, redemption, humanity and the theory of one person making a difference.

Casualties of War is a brutal, harrowing and unflinching look at what the human soul is capable of, but it's a coin flip too, because it shows us both possibilities. Sean Penn plays a superior officer who loves his men and believes in his fight, but he's so twisted in his logic that the idea of taking a young girl away from her family seems right, and raping her with his platoon is just as correct. Fox can't bring himself to participate, but he also has trouble stopping Penn and company because, in the military, there are chains of command and rules. So he's bound by morals and codes that sometime work against each other. It's a complicated issue. Most of us couldn't know what we would do unless we were in that situation. And even if we say we'd do the right thing, we might be thinking the best of ourselves.

I think Casualties is one of the best films De Palma 's ever made. It's not full of gimmicks, it's well acted all the way through and it's anything but cartoony. It's a heavy piece, but a piece worth seeing nonetheless.

The DVD looks really, really good. The colors are crisp, the transfer is clean and the blacks are well rendered. The anamorphic transfer really brings the film alive. I only saw this film in the theater when it first came out, but it looks even better in my home. The sound is a very active and alive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, with a backup Dolby Digital 2.0 track that gets the job done. This is a good looking and sounding disc.

Columbia could have thrown this thing out as a movie only disc, and I would have been happy, but they go another mile. Thanks to Laurent Bouzereau, we get two additional features. The first is a current interview with Michael J. Fox about how he became involved in the film, why he took the role and what it was like working with De Palma and Penn. It runs about 18 minutes and is very well done. Additionally, there's a very nice 31-minute documentary about the making of the film, with interviews with the crew. It's also very well done and sheds vast amounts of light on the film and how it came to be, with nuggets of info about previous incarnations and pseudo-sequels. You'll also find five deleted scenes, trailers and cast and crew filmographies. Not a bad package at all.

Casualties of War is a hard film to swallow, but it's worth the meal. This DVD really makes the journey worth the trip and should be seen by everyone who loves movies. Give it a chance.

Casualties of War
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Kiss of the Dragon

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Kiss of the Dragon
2001 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: B

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

Specs and Features:

98 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 43:13 in chapter 11), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director Chris Nahon, actor Jet Li and actress Bridget Fonda), Jet Li: Fighting Philosophy featurette, Cory Yuen: Action Academy featurette, Police Gymnasium Fight (2 martial arts video demonstrations with scene from film), On the Set Action video loop, The Laundry Chute storyboard-to-scene comparison, The Orphanage storyboards, "making-of" featurette, animated production stills gallery with music, 6 TV spots, theatrical trailers (for Kiss of the Dragon, Behind Enemy Lines and Planet of the Apes (2001)), Easter egg (Kiss of the Dragon international trailer), animated film themed menu screens with sound, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Jet Li. Ya gotta love the guy. In Kiss of the Dragon, he plays a guy running from both sides of the law in Paris, France. Why? Well, to tell ya would give away too much of the plot and this is a fun film to unravel as you go. Suffice it to say, Li kicks much ass, Bridget Fonda is pretty much wasted in it and the action set pieces are pretty incredible.

Conceived by Li and French director/writer Luc Besson, Kiss of the Dragon hops from one incredible action sequence to another with little time to breathe. This is a popcorn movie if there ever was one, and it's not bad if you aren't expecting much. It's got humor, thrills, chills and just about everything else you could think of in terms of action. I recommend it for a Saturday night or lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon.

The DVD is pretty wild. An anamorphic widescreen transfer presents the film with very nice color representation, solid blacks and great detail. The picture is slightly soft, but it's nothing that will bother anyone unless you're really staring at the screen looking for it. The audio is only in English Dolby Digital 5.1 (no DTS), but it rocks nonetheless. This DVD sounds really good. Why a French track isn't here just for shits and giggles is a mystery though.

The extras go very deep, starting with an audio commentary, where everyone (director Chris Nahon, actor Jet Li and actress Bridget Fonda) was recorded separately and edited together. There's also a bunch of featurettes, starting with Jet Li: Fighting Philosophy, which is Jet on himself and how he got involved in martial arts and acting, along with his take on life. A Fonda interview is thrown in for good measure. The Cory Yuen: Action Academy featurette is neat, showing Yuen talking about his past and how he likes to work. The Police Gymnasium Fight is two martial arts video demonstrations with a scene from film, so you can get an idea how it all came together. On that menu screen, toggle over to the right to get an Easter egg - the international trailer for Kiss of the Dragon. On the Set Action is a video loop of behind-the-scenes footage. The Laundry Chute is a storyboard-to-scene comparison, where you can watch just the storyboards with sound effects, see them side-by-side with the film or just view the scene from the film itself. The Orphanage storyboards are just storyboards with a music soundtrack. Rounding it all out is a fluffy "making-of" featurette, an animated production stills gallery with music, six TV spots and theatrical trailers for Kiss of the Dragon, Behind Enemy Lines and Planet of the Apes (2001). It's a nice little special edition for a flick fans of brainless throat smashers should love.

Kiss of the Dragon is a very cool flick. It's not a great movie mind you, but it does its job well and that's what counts. This DVD is a very detailed look behind-the-scenes, worthy of anyone's collection.

Kiss of the Dragon
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

We'll see you next year. Oh, and what a year we have planned. I'm going to be jumping a rocket bike across a tank of sharks. Then I'm going to wrestle alligators for packs of smokes. Oh, you won't want to miss any of The Digital Bits 2002.

Be safe, be good and you better be spinning those DVDs. I'm making a list and checking it.

Ho, ho, ho, and all that jive.

Todd Doogan

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