Recent Comedy Posts

August 15, 2007

Superbad Screening Security

Superbad is one of the funniest movies of the year.

What's not funny are the "security measures" taken by the studio to prevent piracy at an early screening I just got back from. You can't enter with a cell phone that has a camera of any kind. You need to hand it over to an employee who seals it in a bag, and you're then given a ticket with a number (think county fair or arcade redemptions) indicating which is yours. Lose the ticket, and I don't know what the hell you do.

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February 28, 2006

DVD Review: *batteries not included

*batteries not included is one of those movies that’s fondly remembered by those who have seen it. It’s a movie that does little wrong, providing wonderful entertainment, a colorful cast of characters, and a family-friendly tone that’s hard to find anymore. It’s hard not to like this one.

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February 10, 2006

DVD Review: All in the Family Season 1

Rarely will you find a TV show that pushed boundaries like All in the Family. It's amazing how well the show holds up; it still feels controversial. Over 30 years later, it's impossible to imagine how it continues to push decency, but without Archie Bunker, the world would be a far less entertaining place.

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December 27, 2005

DVD Review: Hot Shots Part Deux

Hot Shots Part Deux is a perfect example of not only a series that died too soon, but also one of a sequel that eclipses the original. Where the original was slightly locked into parodying Top Gun, Part Deux takes on everything that would fit into the script. Jim Abrahams directs this under-appreciated near-masterpiece of a film parody, and provides more comedy than should be legal.

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December 19, 2005

DVD Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Volume 3

The third season for the animated Ninja Turtles has some truly classic moments, and it's obvious this is where the show gained some legs. The animation mistakes are rare (they were prevalent in earlier seasons), the humor stronger, and some great new characters added. This DVD set includes a dozen episodes from this season. Other episodes will likely be included in future volumes.

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December 2, 2005

DVD Review: Seed of Chucky

Completely unconcerned for the fans who found the horror aspect of the Child's Play series the best part, creator/director/writer Don Mancini brings us Seed of Chucky. There is many an adjective available for the film, mostly including variations on sick, twisted, stupid, and fun. The series slow slide into comedy ends here, and even if it's a complete opposite of the films that started it, it's a classic example of horror comedy.

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November 23, 2005

DVD Review: Son of Kong

Even on its own without comparisons to its predecessor, Son of Kong doesn't work. It's obviously cheap, quickly slapped together, and created for the sole purpose of using the Kong name. It lacks the intensity of the original, and the slapstick comedy provided from the younger beast is almost embarrassing.

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November 9, 2005

Herbie Fully Loaded DVD Review

A basic children's film, Herbie Fully Loaded picks up where the last film left off. It's a direct sequel over 20 years later, and while Herbie may be entertaining, the movie is not. It's an updated take on an old story, and only the youngest kids will find this fun.

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November 2, 2005

Office Space Extra Special Gift Set DVD Review

Note: Read a slightly more involving look at the film by reading my first Office Space DVD review.

The second round for Office Space on DVD, this time out there are actually extras. It's not a substantial amount of features, but anything above the original is an improvement. Regardless of what's on the disc, the film remains a classic, one of the most under appreciated comedies in years, and it only gets better upon repeat viewings.

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October 16, 2005

Kicking & Screaming DVD

Kicking & Screaming starts properly. The opening moments are not far off from Adam Sandler's hilarious golf outing Happy Gilmore. Mike Ditka and Robert Duvall have a spat. Will Ferrell sets up another ridiculous character created just for him. Then it falls apart.

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August 26, 2005

Stuck on You DVD Review

It's not unexpected to head into a Farrelly brothers movie and be shocked. It's expected actually. Stuck on You is different though. It's still shocking, yet it's not making every attempt to offend people at every turn. It's a somewhat different comedy from the same guys who made hair gel users think twice about the product. It actually shows restraint.

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August 18, 2005

The Simpsons Season 6 DVD Review

While fans can complain and debate about the current string of Simpsons episodes, there's no argument to be had for season six. This is one of the best, featuring some of the strongest writing, sharpest humor, and brilliantly constructed parodies. There's not a single dud in this collection.

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August 5, 2005

Ghostbusters 1 & 2 Gift Set DVD Review

There have been a recent rash of double dips in the DVD market, some of which add the most minor of content just to reap the profits from die-hard fans. Jaws, The Jerk, and Underworld come to mind. Now Ghostbusters, in all of its brilliance, is sadly stuck on that list.

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July 29, 2005

The Jerk: 26th Anniversary DVD Review

Some comedies, regardless of how classic they are, certain people just don't "get." The Jerk is one of those movies. It has nothing to do with Steve Martin, who is (as always) in top form. It has nothing to with director Carl Reiner whom despite some odd project choices is also capable of brilliant comedy. It's just not funny, and all the talent in the world doesn't change that.

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July 23, 2005

The Bad News Bears Go to Japan DVD Review

The most you can expect, generally at least, is a sequel to your favorite film that's tolerable. That didn't happen with the Bad News Bears. Things only continued to fall from there with the third and (mercifully) final movie in a series that shouldn't have been a series. Bad News Bears Go to Japan is just as lazy as the title makes it out to be.

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July 22, 2005

Bad News Bears in Breaking Training DVD Review

Leaving no potential franchise alone, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training is a miserable sequel to an original that hasn't aged well. There's lighter tone here, with the loss of Walter Mathau's character (he was married is the one line explanation), and while it seems as that would work, it doesn't. It's just not funny.

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July 21, 2005

The Bad News Bears (1976) DVD Review

Coming out of nowhere in 1976, The Bad News Bears performed well above any expectations, and looking back, it's hard to figure out why. While occasionally funny, and an excellent performance by Walter Matthau, there's no one in this movie to like. Everyone here is impossible to relate to.

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June 6, 2005

The Longest Yard (1974) DVD Review

Sports movies are almost a waste of time. Unless they're based off a true story (at least one that deserves to be told), there's little point in making them. The good team wins, the bad team loses, and you follow a basic formula. A little bit of originality is usually enough to get through, and that's something the The Longest Yard has.

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April 19, 2005

Meet the Fockers DVD Review

There are four names across the top of the DVD case for "Meet the Fockers." Everyone one of them is talented, well known, and experienced. In other words, they should know better than to be in a movie like this.

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April 7, 2005

The Bob Newhart Show Season 1 DVD Review

Every sitcom needs that one priceless moment in its first season that's instantly unforgettable. That's the sign you're on to something. That's the something the "Bob Newhart Show" is unfortunately missing. However, it managed to last six years on CBS so it did have something going for it and that was, rather obviously, Bob Newhart himself.

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April 6, 2005

Around the World in 80 Days (2004) DVD Review

Jackie Chan may not be the greatest martial artist to most people and that's fine. What Chan does is entertain. His style is unlike anyone else's and no one can do what he can (at least not with the same flair). That's why it's a real shame that on the downside of his career he chooses movies like this.

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April 5, 2005

Johnson Family Vacation DVD Review

For the most part, the National Lampoon "Vacation" series has been solid. The original is the classic family road trip movie and you can make a strong case for "Christmas Vacation" too. Though it's not associated with the National Lampoon in anyway, "Johnson Family Vacation" draws comparison simply because it recycles every single idea, resulting in a lifeless mess that is as incoherent as they come.

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March 21, 2005

Shark Tale DVD Review

For as much as these movies cost to make, you would think companies would at least try and not knock-off the competition. DreamWorks went up against Pixar with "Antz," and now again with "Shark Tale." Aside from the "Shrek" series, their computer-animated films seems to be geared more towards adults, just with plots for the kids. It ends up being a confusing mish-mash that doesn't come together in the least.

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March 16, 2005

The Incredibles DVD Review

It's a real shame that most people probably don't know Brad Bird. If they did, they would know about the "Iron Giant," a completely ignored animated movie from 1999 that never got the credit it deserved. Now he's all over the place for "The Incredibles," another ride into the Pixar way of filmmaking.

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March 1, 2005

Mr. 3000 DVD Review

The team can win, lose, or tie. That's it. Sports movies have no other options. It's something that really defeats the purpose of filming one in the first place. If it's a true story, then it's excusable. "Mr. 3000" is not, so you can easily fault it for falling into the rut that so many of these films do. If it tried to do anything different it might be worthwhile, but it doesn't.

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February 25, 2005

Cheaper by the Dozen DVD Review

Every once in a while, you just need a movie to sit down with and enjoy. You don't need deep philosophical drama, well thought out characters, or hidden meanings. Just a very simple, surface level harmless comedy is something everyone needs and these movies are getting quite rare. "Cheaper by the Dozen" is a completely different movie than the original from 1950, but it's still a wild little predictable comedy that fits the mold described above.

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December 26, 2004

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation DVD Review

They've been to Wally World. They've been to Europe. This season, things are a bit different. It's time once again to visit the Griswold family, this time for a little holiday cheer like only they can provide. "Christmas Vacation" is a somewhat unique film in the series, but it's hard to argue that it's not the best.

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Happy Gilmore DVD Review

There's a theory out there that no one really LIKES golf. It has to be the most frustrating sport in the world. That little hole has certainly sent people over the edge since the creation of the sport. Golf simply exists to let people vent their frustrations of day-to-day life. The same could probably be said for hockey, which is why "Happy Gilmore" is the perfect guy for the sport.

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December 11, 2004

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story DVD Review

Those red rubber balls hurt. Just about all of us have suffered a cruel fate at their hands at some point in out lives. "Dodgeball" takes a look at this very painful situation for exactly what it is: funny. That's assuming of course you're the thrower and not the victim.

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Office Space DVD review

There are just some movies we can all relate to. Regardless of your place in the American work force, "Office Space" has something in it you've likely experienced. Oh, it's relentlessly funny too.

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December 1, 2004

Slap Shot DVD Review

Sports comedies are probably one of the most enjoyable genres Hollywood has to offer. There's just something funny about seeing overpaid athletes look like idiots on screen, even if they do win "the big game." The year 1977 not only brought us "Star Wars," but a little hockey movie called "Slap Shot." It was probably a lot funnier back then.

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The Terminal DVD Review

Most people have a hard time waiting 10-minutes for a flight. A & E's entertaining TV show "Airline" proves that. Then you have people who just take whatever is put in front of them and just deal with it. That's the basis for "The Terminal," a great little character study about one man facing one of the most awkward situations of his life.

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November 21, 2004

Shrek 2 DVD Review

After a few false starts with animated films like "Spirit," DreamWorks finally nailed one with "Shrek." After pulling in an insane amount of box office, not a single soul on this planet wouldn't be able to figure out a sequel was coming down the pipe. It's not about whether or not "Shrek 2" is a better movie than its predecessor, it's about HOW much better "Shrek 2" is.

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November 9, 2004

A Bug's Life Collectors Edition DVD Review

Only Disney could make a movie about bugs and haul in a $163 million. Actually, only Pixar could do that. Hot off of "Toy Story," the studio went back and came out with this, "A Bug's Life." Not only is the movie gorgeous, but the quick moving story along with some very funny comedy help keep this one afloat.

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Toy Story 2 DVD Review

What does it take to prove yourself as a filmmaker? Make a sequel that's on par with the original. Pixar did just that, but actually made an even more enjoyable movie the second time around. "Toy Story 2" does everything right the first film did, while taking it even further, expanding an already brilliant concept.

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Toy Story DVD Review

Once you've figured out the technology, it's easy to forget there's a story to tell. So many moves toss in all the extravagant special effects their budget can handle, but in the end, you end up with a lifeless, shallow piece of work. Pixar is not one of those companies. "Toy Story" is a Disney classic, one of the most enjoyable, entertaining, and imaginative films to ever come from the studio.

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October 29, 2004

Army of Darkness Boomstick Edition DVD Review

The "Evil Dead" series is an odd little footnote in movie history. With each subsequent film, director Sam Raimi changed the tone completely until we ended up here with "Army Of Darkness," one those dark comedies that's garnered a massive cult following. It may not have made back its cost in theaters, but this one continues to pull in money for Artisan on DVD.

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Ghostbusters II DVD Review

It took five years for the sequel to one of 1984's biggest hits to finally get a sequel. Almost everyone returned for the second half of "Ghostbusters" and surprisingly, most of what made the first so enjoyable returns. It's not quite as funny and doesn't quite move as fast, but the improved special effects and great cast make sure this one is a worthy follow-up.

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October 28, 2004

Evolution DVD Review

Some movies are an unqualified success. Others try to make themselves out to be. Take "Evolution," Ivan Reitman's first foray into sci-fi comedy since "Ghostbusters II." It's a fairly standard and predictable summer movie, yet it spawned a short-lived cartoon series (produced by Reitman) and a video game. Only in Hollywood.

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Men In Black II DVD Review

Okay, I doubt anyone went into "Men In Black II" expecting it to be funnier than the original. It's a sequel. If you thought otherwise, you should know better. What I know is that not a single person expected to walk out angry at the fact they just wasted $22.50 to see a bomb of a movie.

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Men In Black Limited Edition DVD Review

I really don't know many people. I'm just not a very big people person. Even in that small group I do hold close, I suspect three of them were not original occupants of this planet. In fact, one of them I'm positive of. Leave it to Hollywood to prove my theories correct with "Men In Black."

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October 23, 2004

Gremlins DVD Review

Every movie has rules. These are generally included to tell you what you need to believe in order to suspend disbelief and enjoy the movie. "Gremlins" probably has one of the more memorable rule sets in movie history and even though it doesn't really stick to them, it's still one of the best things to come out of the 80's.

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October 8, 2004

Emperor's New Groove: Ultimate Groove DVD Review

No cheesy musical numbers. No overly dramatic subplots. No llamas. Oh wait, sorry. It does have a llama. Actually, that's the main character. Relentlessly funny, fast paced, "Emperor's New Groove" is the best film to come out of Disney since the early 90's (excluding the Pixar films).

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September 30, 2004

South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut DVD Review

How could a group of four grade school children begin the apocalypse? Does it matter when that group consists of Kyle, Stan, Kenny, and Eric? Released from the constraints of cable TV, "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone let loose in an attempt to offend every single person in the modern world.... and come out with one of the funniest movies of all time.

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September 5, 2004

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles DVD Review

Nearly everyone has been through some form of terror around the holidays. Whether it is not being able to catch a flight on time, realizing you've bought the wrong thing on Christmas Eve, or just dealing with the in-laws, it's a natural extension of what the season has become. Hardly any other holiday movie is easier to relate to than "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," directed by John Hughes. This brilliant comedy is a movie that should be viewed every holiday season, and maybe a few more times during the year as well. Neal Page (Steve Martin) is stuck in a board meeting, soon to be late for a flight that will get him home in time for Thanksgiving. When things don't go as planned at the airport, he meets Del Griffith (John Candy), a lovable yet infinitely annoying shower curtain ring salesman. Together, they become the flawless odd couple and their adventure becomes one that deserves a high-ranking spot in film history. Once you've experienced this film, you simply have to come back to it. The two lead actors pull viewers into every situation, no matter how absurd it may be, playing nearly every scene to perfection. Countless cameos, including Kevin Bacon and Martin Ferraro, add to the proceedings. Director John Hughes flawlessly evokes every bit of comedy from every scene, having experience with other films in the genre like "Uncle Buck" and "Ferris Bueller." The films only mishap is the ending. Though necessary to give some depth to Del Griffith, after crying through every scene due to laughter, the depressing finale has viewers leaving the film on a sour note. Regardless, this is a film that should be viewed everytime Thanksgiving rolls around in your home without question. (**** out of *****) Paramount presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. No pan and scan version is available. This is an uneven transfer, one that suffers from a ridiculous amount of grain one minute and flawlessly cleans itself up in the next. The black levels have been set a bit too high resulting in some hard-to-see sequences. Compression problems are evident, especially in the bright reds. The soft tone of the transfer eliminates any fine detail, but the print itself is almost free from any scratches or flaws. (***) Remixed into Dolby 5.1 for this release, the sound field is surprisingly active when it needs to be (the opening scenes in New York are quite immersive). The soundtrack also does a wonderful job of filling up the sound field, using every speaker. Otherwise, a few moments in the dialogue are a little scratchy, but this is a nice sound presentation for an older film. (****) Sadly, viewers get nothing in the extras department. A commentary would have been a wonderful touch since it's obvious everyone had a blast working on this film. This is a disc crying out for a special edition. (No stars) It's a shame we lost John Candy. He added so much to every film he was in, creating lovable and enjoyable characters no matter the situation. "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is a perfect way to relive his unfortunately short career and also one of Steve Martin's best. It should be noted that the film is only rated "R" because of a tirade by Steve Martin in one scene when he walks into the car rental office. Skipping this sequence (even though it is one of the funniest in the film) makes this one perfect for family viewing.

July 29, 2004

Major League DVD Review

It's been 15 years since sports fans were graced with Major League, the funniest baseball film ever conceived. It's a shame the studio ruined what could have been a decent franchise with countless direct-to-video sequels. But, you can always keep memories of the original classic alive with the decent DVD release, sans any special features of course. The Indians suck (ducks the brick being tossed from nearby Cleveland). Their owner is none to happy with the situation or the attendance. What else can the evil, completely greedy owner do but take the team to Florida (before they actually had a franchise of course)? When the manager finally gets wind of the potential move, he takes it upon himself and turns the rag-tag group of players around, taking them right into the play-offs. This is a classic example of a sports movie. It has a slew of great actors, most in their prime (Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes), great writing, hilarious quotes, and a clichÈd story that is just so enjoyable you can't help but fall in love with it. The only thing dragging it down is an overdrawn subplot between Tom Berengers character and Corbin Bernsen. These scenes take over the movie at a few points and just drag the pace down right along with them. But then Bob Uecker takes over again and all is forgiven. This is a must see classic. (**** out of *****) Major League is presented in its original aspect ratio (1.85:1) and is very clean, almost perfect at times. Solid colors reveal some compression issues and the scratches/spots on the print get really annoying in a few sequences. Regardless, this is probably better than the movie looked back in theaters and does an admirable job for a disc that has been tossed into the bargain bins. (***) Remixed sound is always a pleasure and Major League is a great example. The Dolby 5.1 track here is a great mix that really kicks in once the stadium starts to fill. The immersion factor here is outstanding for a movie this old even if the effects are limited to game sequences. Also available is standard Dolby Surround and French Mono. Can't beat Bob Ueker dubbed over in French. (***) As mention previously, the disc is lacking any features. I'm sure some of the actors would love to revisit this one for a commentary track. Come on Paramount, do something about this situation quick! Still, must give credit for the widescreen print. (*) Major League is a movie that cannot be appreciated by viewing it on the USA network. The censors have a field day with this one. It can only be truly understood fully uncut with nothing bleeped out. This is certainly the way to go if your have the urge to watch this one, but it deserves a special edition really soon.

June 30, 2004

Blazing Saddles 30th Anniversary DVD Review

Mel Brooks is a comic genius and that is an undisputable fact. This fact is made even stronger by Blazing Saddles, the 6th all-time greatest comedy according to the AFI. Granted it just wasn't Mel Brooks, but his ability to get past the hand of the censors was the key to this films success then and it still is today. This 30th Anniversary DVD preserves this absolute classic in brilliant form and tosses in some unique extras as well. The small town of Rock Ridge is in trouble. Seems that quicksand has prevented a railroad to be built as planned and the only way the project can continue is straight through the quite western town. The citizens will obviously not be happy with their town being demolished so the "assistant to the governor" Heddy...err...Hedley Lamaar (Harvey Korman), gets an idea to send in a new sheriff that will drive the citizens away. Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) earns the trust of the not-so accepting town and develops a plan to turn the tide on the rather unintelligent town-destroyers. Blazing Saddles is a film that doesn't limit itself to the Wild West. No, Saddles takes off into the Warner Brothers lot across various sets, a food court, and finally to a theater which is premiering the film. Simply put, the movie is too much of a classic to contain itself to its source material. It's a wacky, crazy, incoherent, and downright stupid film for nearly the entire running time. This is exactly why the movie is still a classic to this day. The entire cast is perfect, including Mel Brooks in various roles himself. Cleavon Little is flawless as the only real intelligent person in town and Gene Wilder is unforgettable as the Waco Kid. Even Alex Karris, a NFL player, is priceless as the hulking Mongol. Of course, not giving credit to Madeline Kahn as Lillie Von Setup in an Academy Award nominated performance would be a crime. People have blasted the film as racist and disgusting, but calling the film either of these misnomers is completely missing the point. Yes, certain words are spoken that make it seem racially motivated, but if you actually take the time to think about it, the film is actually a parody of racism and its idiocy. Should you not view the film for this reason, you are truly missing one of the greatest American comedies of all time and Mel Brooks' finest achievement. Now excuse me while I get some schnitzengruben . (***** out *****) Blazing Saddles has been restored for this anniversary and compared to the previous edition of the film on DVD, this new release is a small miracle. Though a few sequences have some minor film grain and small scratches are still noticeable, this new 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is the best this film could possibly look. The colors have been brought out to almost obscene levels and digging deep for compression problems will prove useless. Even the nighttime sequences hold together with solid black levels and barely any grain. (****) The new 5.1 surround mix was certainly something fans of the film were looking forward to when this disc was announced. Sadly, the campfire sequence that had so much potential never utilizes the format as it should. Neither does the rest of the film. There is some minor usage of the positional audio in the front speakers, but only the soundtrack makes its way into the rears occasionally. Regardless of the action sequences, the new mix brings with it crystal clear dialogue and your bound to hear something new that you have never heard before no matter how many times you have seen it. (***) To celebrate the occasion, Warner has supplied us with a fine special edition with some nice extras. Mel Brooks gives us a commentary track, but this is the same one that was included on the original release. He'll spout off some facts that even die-hard followers may not know, but it only lasts for about a hour. Next are some deleted and alternate scenes which feature some of the edited TV sequences which are used to pad the running time since so much of the film is cut when shown on network TV. In total, the scenes run for about ten minutes. Next up is a decent documentary entitled "Back in the Saddle," which interviews some of the surviving cast members. The focus is mostly on Brooks and the writers, but Gene Wilder and Harvey Korman get some time as well. The documentary is padded with nearly all of the deleted scenes mentioned above and some of the comments are redundant after you listen to the commentary, but it's great to see some of the stars of this classic today. Madeline Kahn gets a short segment from the show "Intimate Portrait" that runs four minutes and it talks a bit about her classic performance. Warner wasn't done yet and dug real deep for the TV pilot of "Black Bart," a proposed spin-off from the film after its success. Starring a young Louis Gosett Jr. as Bart, it featured various little known actors trying to replicate the characters from the film. Without the ability to let it all out due to the standards of cable TV, this is 25 minutes best spent elsewhere. Still, credit must be given for not only including this oddity but finding it in remarkable condition. There are times when this looks better than the film itself. Lastly, you can view the films original trailer. (****) Should you own the original release of this film on DVD, this is a more than worthy upgrade. The bland, dry print of old is ancient history and the extra features alone are worth the bargain basement price most stores are selling it for. Kudos for Warner for their fine job not only on the restoration of the video, but giving the movie a nice special edition that is worthy enough for any true fans DVD collection.

June 6, 2004

Ghostbusters DVD Review

As I write this, we are mere days away from the 20th anniversary of Ghostbusters, which premiered June 8th, 1984. It's spectacular opening weekend brought in $23 million dollars, solidifying it as one of the top comedies of all times. The DVD release was one of the early discs to really take advantage of the format, though the horrible menus ruin the experience. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) play scientists, kicked out of Columbia University since their "science" didn't sit well with school. Tossed out on the streets, they decide to become the "Ghostbusters." Overnight the group becomes a huge success and hires another member, Winston Zedmore (Ernie Hudson). Soon, the EPA orders a shut down of their entire system causing a disaster and the city to be overrun by an evil force. It's up to the group to save the city and defeat Gozer. This is a movie that you will enjoy more if you watch a few times. There is so much entertainment here that you'll likely miss most of it the first time around. This is a wild sci-fi movie, one that would likely inspire more recent films like "Men in Black." This mix will only work if the performances are strong. Here, they are just outstanding. Bill Murray leads most of the movie but the scene-stealer here is Rick Moranis, a close neighbor to Dana Barrett, played by the also excellent Sigourney Weaver. Moranis puts on a great show as the "keymaster," and the movies later segments are better because of it. The special effects, now at least, are hit or miss. The commentary track (more on that later) mentions a few shots that should have probably been cut, but for 1984, these are just amazing. In fact, they would go on to win an Academy Award along with another one for best song. If by some chance you have never seen it or it's been a while, now you have a reason to re-visit it. (**** out of *****) Ghostbusters is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. There is no pan and scan version available. This is a decent transfer with great color, solid black levels, and superb clarity. What knocks this one down a bit is some excessive grain and flickering. Almost every scene has something the resolution has trouble with and it really can get annoying at times. Still, the print has been cleaned up almost flawlessly with only minor instances of scratches and spots. It looks good, but it could certainly be better. (***) The re-mixed 5.1 sound is a nice touch, but a missed opportunity as well. There are plenty of opportunities for rear speaker usage but they never seem to kick in. A few sequences use them a little while, but rest assured your sound will almost always be coming out of the front speakers. The LFE channel is also used sparingly (check out the scene when their first power-up the proton packs in the elevator), but again, not as much as it should be. Regardless, voices are clear and understandable with soundtrack never sounding better. (***) This was one of the earliest discs to really pack on the special features, but the challenge is finding them. Sure the menu looks great with a rampaging Stay Puft Marshmallow man stomping along to the theme song, but it's completely disorganized and confusing. The same feature can be accessed from 3 different locations and just playing the movie will baffle those who are just now getting into the format. Anyway, here is what I THINK is a complete rundown of the features, but I very well may have missed something. The most obvious feature is the visual commentary, a great way to make a feature like this worthwhile. Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and associate producer Bill Mudjk are super-imposed silhouettes, pointing things out (literally) about the film as they go. Think Mystery Science Theater without the jokes and you'll get the idea. They all have a blast talking about the movie and pointing out mistakes. You'll get some great stories from the set as well. If you don't want the three people blocking the botom portion of your screen, you can just listen to the commentary. Scanning the menu could possibly bring you to the deleted scenes. There are ten in total and are of varying quality, but all of them are widescreen. There is a great one with Murray and Aykroyd walking in Central Park as bums. Not sure how it would have fit in the movie, but it's hilarious nonetheless. If the commentary wasn't enough, you can turn on "Tricks and Trivia," a subtitle track that gives you various information on the scene youíre watching. Up next, if you can find it, is a promotional documentary from 1984. It runs about ten minutes and shows some short clips of behind the scenes action. It's mostly just Reitman and the actors talking about the movie though. Next is a 1999 documentary that runs about a minute longer than the previous one. Various cast and crew talk about how it came to be and reminisce about the times they had making the film. The longest documentary is on the special effects team. Nearly the entire crew was brought back together for what seems like a recent interview. They'll talk over archive footage and about how some of the shots were accomplished for about 15 minutes. After this, you can see some multi-angle shots of three key sequences. Finally, you can check out some still photos along with sketches and some other movie trailers. (****) If this movie is not in your DVD collection, it should be. Excluding the menu problem, this is a great disc with an even better movie on it. There are so many classic quotes to be had, each one worth revisiting. If it is in your collection, it's a great way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a classic.

May 8, 2004

Bruce Almighty DVD Review

Jim Carrey is certainly not one of my favorite actors. In fact, I almost hate him. A small number of his movies have entertained me, but his over the top antics are just too much to bear for me, but Bruce Almighty is different. This is a great light comedy that caused a bit of a stir in the religious community (as everything seems to do), but can easily be enjoyed by the entire family (except for a few choice words). Jim Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a nearly 40 year old news reporter who's life is way out of whack. Nothing goes right....until he gets ticked off at God, played by Morgan Freeman. God decides to take a vacation and gives Nolan his powers since to see if he can handle it any better. As any mere human would, Bruce screws everything up (including his relationship with Jennifer Aniston) and it becomes his job to fix everything he made wrong. This film reunites Carrey with director Tom Shadyac, the same guy who gave Carrey his big start in Ace Ventura. This one is a bit more toned down and doesn't feature Carrey going crazy like he normally does. Well, at least not as much. The writers here have succeded in creating a great comedy for the first hour, but faltered near the end. The movie takes a deep turn that seems completely out of place and it really throws the entire package off. However, you'll still cry while laughing at some of the segments and in that, it succeeds. (*** out of *****)

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Beverly Hills Cop Trilogy DVD Review

Eddie Murphy is one actor who just can't catch a break anymore. His last decent movie was Nutty Proffesor, but ruined it with a horrible sequel. Life was terrible along with childish kiddie fair Daddy Day Care. Thankfully we have the DVD format which lets us relive his prime, including the Beverly Hills Cop series. This DVD box set includes all 3 movies in the series (each disc is also available seperately). All are only available only in widescreen, with BHC 1 and 3 being presented in 1.85:1 with the first sequel presented in 2.35:1. Each disc also features Dolby 5.1 sound, the first 2 being remixed, the third used it from the start. Dolby surround tracks are featured on all the discs as well. On to the movies.... Beverly Hills Cop is a classic in the buddy genre, a perfect blend of action and comedy. Eddie Murphy is outstanding as Detroit cop Axl Foley, drawn to Beverly Hills after a murder of his best friend. There he meets up with with two of Beverly Hills best cops, played by Judge Reinhold and John Ashton. Eddie Murphy is perfect for the role, having a blast BS'ing his way though the town to the source of the crime. Reinhold and Ashton just can't keep up with Murphy's tactics and it all blends flawlessly to make this one a true classic. (***** out of *****)

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April 27, 2004

League of Their Own 2-disc DVD review

This is the second time A League of Their Own has been brought out on DVD. The first issue was a bare bones bargain basement disc, abysmal picture and all. This new release fixes every issue of that disc and adds in a second disc of features, but there's still something missing. A League of Their Own tells the true story of the professional womens baseball league of the 1940's. It follows through the entire first season, from the initial idea to the final "World Series" game. It focuses mostly on 2 sisters (Geena Davis and Lori Petty) who are drafted onto the same team, the Rockford Peaches (coached by a drunken Tom Hanks). There is a little bit of everything from drama, player troubles, and a lot of comedy. It's a great movie that well deserved to pass the $100 million dollar mark at the box office. The movie does have some problems. 2 hours is a stretch for any comedy (though the original cut was over 4 hours accoring to the DVD!) and the ending of the final game is not only predictable, but highly cliched as well. Even with these minor issues, these are really the only problems. John Lovitz has a small but hilarious role, Tom Hanks is outstanding as usual, and haveing the actual original players have a few segments is a great touch. Disc 1 of this 2-disc set is a flipper. A 2.35:1 widescreen version of the film lies on side A and a horribly cropped pan & scam version lies on side B. The first few minutes of this movie are disturbing. Scratches, grain, and annoying flicker make it seem like this is the same print used on the original release. Things pick up after this however. The colors are superb and most of the issues from the opening moments have been conquered. A few scratches are noticeable, but it's hardly detracting. The back of the case says the film includes a Dolby 4.0 soundtrack. I didn't find it. There are no other options in the menu and it came up on my receiver as the odd Dolby 3.1. There is absolutely no rear speaker usage to be found at any point during the movie. The stadium annoucer sounds like he may be echoing into the rears, but he's not. Regardless, the sound is clear and crisp, just don't demo this movie to your close friends. A comentary is also available featuring the director Penny Marshall and some cast members. The second disc houses the usual array of special features including a great 50+ minute documentary on the film. It's split into 9 "innings" and goes through just about every aspect of the production. There are interviews with some of the cast and behind the scenes the people, but don't look for either Tom Hanks or Madonna. Guess they were too important for the feature. 15 deleted scenes have also been included. Their quality is just a notch above 14-year old VHS tape, but their inclusion is nice. There is an extra sequence with John Lovitz on a train that is a must see. Each scene also has an introduction with the director (these are selectable). Still, if the original cut was 4 hours, there has to be more. Madonna's "This Used to be My Playground" video is the final feature. Now, I'm not only stunned, but downright appalled there is nothing on this disc featuring the orignal players. There is some mention of them during the documentary, but that is it. I know for a fact that a few of them are still living and there is no excuse NOT to give them some time to speak. A commentary track would've been a special treat. This reminds of the recently released "Radio" DVD that gives nothing to the man who inspired the film. It's a shame that a studio can't give some time to the people who pretty much filled their $100 million pocket books. Regardless, this a worthy disc for fans of the film, but anyone looking for some actual facts will be seriously dissapointed. This is classic early 90's film that should be long remembered but I can't rest peacfully until the women get their due. Columbia/Tri-Star also needs to be a bit more careful about their specs on the back of the case.

February 9, 2004

Blazing Saddles collectors set DVD review

Since Al Barger so kindly reminded us of the 30th anniversary of Blazing Saddles, I figured I'd take my chance and dive into the Limited Edition Blazing Saddles Collectors DVD set. Warner Bros. is really great with these sets and this is really no exception, but you'll always ask for more considering the retail price on this thing. For this stil unaware 30 years later, Blazing Saddles tells the story of Bart, a black slave tossed into the role of sherrif in the small town of Rock Ridge by railroaders who want the land for their own purposes. The "kind" residents don't take too well to their latest aquisition (as expected of course) but thanks to their, shall we say, "lower than average intelligence level," Bart overcomes them which sets up a finale that ranks up there with the best. While I'm sure everyone has read how "racist" this movie is, it's really not. Yes, certain words are spoken that certainly make it seem that way, but the fact of the matter is everyone is this movie is a butt of a joke at some point. The ending also pulls everyone together to prove it's point. 30 years later, it still ranks in my top 5 movies of all time without question simply because it's funny, with no hidden subtext like some close-minded people are led to believe. Warner packages the DVD itself inside their hated cardboard snapper cases (which they are slowly abandoning thankfully). You'll get both the widescreen and full screen version of the film (though why you'd ever want to watch the latter is beyond me) on opposite sides of the disc. The print is only fair with heavily subdued colors, scratches all over the place, and heavy grain bringing everything down a notch. Still, it's probably better than this movie has ever looked. Sound is only available in 1.0 mono and seriously needs to be reworked. The final chapter would be a spectacle in 5.1. Hopefully Warner will fix these issues with their upcoming special edition, rumored for a mid-to-late 2004 release. The only special features you'll get is a beaten up orignal trailer (which looks like it came from a 20 year old VHS tape) and a hour long interview with Mel Brooks that runs over the film. It's not a commentary like you would be led to believe, but just a random sputtering of facts about the film that usually have nothing to do with what's on screen. Still, your bound to learn something, but a commentary by some of the surviving cast would be great. Inlcusions of the scenes that were filmed for TV would've been welcome as well (at least as an extra if their not going to be in the film). The gift set itself if presented in a sturdy cardboard case with a small reproduction poster on the front and side. The inards of the set are pulled out much like a drawer to a dresser. You'll find 8 reproduction lobby cards, a senitype (film frame matted inside a blown up picture of the frame for those not aware), and a MASSIVE replica movie poster measuring in at just over 3 feet tall. Sadly (and obviously), the poster had to be folded about 10 times to fit inside the box and actually displaying it without the folds being obvious is impossible. Also, I've seen a set of still pictures taken on the set shown on some websites but they are neither included or mentioned. A CD soundtrack would've been a welcome edition as well considering there is hardly $80 worth of stuff inside. It's hard to recommended an $80 gift set to anyone unless their true die-hard fans of the film. In that case, you could probably dig this set up for around $40 if you look hard enough and in that case, it's worth every penny. Casual fans who don't have the script memorized wil be fine with just the disc but would also be better off to wait and see if Warner pulls through on the special edition. If you've never seen the movie, then it can be recommenede to all rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, a**-kickers, sh*t-kickers and Methodists. This is Mel Brooks at his absolute best.

November 18, 2003

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Collectors Edition DVD Review

Is there anything left that can be said about Monty Python and the Holy Grail that hasn't been said elsewhere? Even if your one of 20 or so people on this continent who have never actually sat down to see this laugh-riot of a movie, you still know it. The quotes are many, the fans insane, and it's effect on pop-culture is immeasurable. This is most likely what will be the definitive version of this film on DVD and the version to own for the die-hard fans of Python classic. Is there any need to delve deep into an explanation of this films story? It's doubtful. Let's leave it at this: King Arthur goes on his quest to retrieve the Holy Grail and find brave knights who will join his court in Camelot. That's pretty much it. Along the way, the story will take on indescribable twists and turns so bizarre you'll be completely baffled by their inclusion. The only problem is that you'll be laughing to hard to even try and think about them. In all honesty, this is easily one of the single greatest comedies of all time. British humor is something that not quite everyone will "get," and that's probably the only reason why this film doesn't have the large American audience of a Mel Brooks comedy (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein). Still, those who do are literally engulfed by this films charm...and violence. Nothing beats the Black Knight sequence. Well, maybe the killer rabbit...or maybe the bridge scene...or the witch...or maybe the "bring out the dead" segment....though those credits have alot going for them... This Collector's Edition gift set comes in a glossy, thick cardboard case and is packed with some nice extras. The coolest feature is the 92 page screenplay which includes everything, even the credits (which are a must read since they do tend to go by pretty quickly on film). There's a ton of photo's (sadly in black & white) and the jokes are still priceless, even in print. A film senitype is also packed in depicting all 6 members of the Knights of the Round Table. Even the text on the back of this piece is hilarious offering a new senitype for each of the next 127,416 years...and a free tube of glue. The 2-disc set included is the same as the Special Edition issued earlier in 2003. There is far too much here to go over completely here, but rest assured you'll be playing around with this set for a ridiculous amount of time. First up is a great trip back to the original shoot locations with Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Fans go nuts at these locations and you can even purchase some coconuts to "ride a horse" through them! You can watch the film with a Japanese soundtrack with sub-titles reverted back into English (though no all is as it seems) or with subtitles "for people who don't like the film." This will play Shakespeareís "Hamlet" for the entire film in subtitle form. Why? Who cares, it's funny! There's a great commentary track which is almost funnier than the movie at times, a musical segment of the film animated completely in Lego's, a "many uses for the cocoanut" featured, behind the scenes photo's, 24 seconds of the film re-inserted, and who knows what else. Seriously, there's enough here to keep viewers busy for a day or more depending on how long you can hold back your laughter. The film has been completely remastered and it looks even better than it has previously. There is obviously some grain and compression issues, but for a film with a budget like this one, it's probably as good as it's going to get. The 5.1 sound remix is definitely powered by the center channel for the most part, but the soundtrack fills the room just like a 5.1 track should. If you prefer, you can always go with the standard mono just like it was back when the film was released. If anything is wrong with this set, it's the packaging itself. The hard cardboard packaging doesn't open very well and it could very easily crack or tear. Worse yet, both of the discs are stuffed onto one single peg. Scratches are going to be a problem with this set. With a retail price of $44.99, there really is no excuse for this. Warner remains the king of DVD gift sets with their huge boxes, full-size posters, discs contained in their standard cases, and the usual assortment of goodies. To be blunt and brief, this is the best version of one of the funniest movies all time on the best possible format. The set is packed with features (all of which are enjoyable), a beautiful senitype, a great script, and a masterful restoration job. With the exception of the packaging issues mentioned above, this is a must for any true fans of this classic. Say it with me: "Ni!"

November 13, 2003

Finding Nemo DVD Review

As I’m writing this, Finding Nemo is just behind “Spiderman” for the title of the fastest selling DVD of all time. Most likely, it will eclipse the superheroís epic within the next few days. Thankfully, this is certainly a disc that’s worthy of a space on everyoneís DVDshelf, but this is still a 2-disc set aimed at the kiddies so true film fanatics are left on the curb. Finding Nemo follows the story of Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), an overprotective father (for good reason considering the films traumatic opening moments) of Nemo. When Nemo is taken by a diver, Marlin goes on a quest that could only happen in a Disney film. Along the way, viewers are introduced to countless memorable characters, the most prevalent being Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a fish with a serious short term memory problem. Any fan of Pixars other animated films will feel right at home here. The same sense of humor that permeated Toy Story and a Bugs Life is still present though the jokes are a bit spread out for the first hour compared to their previous films. With about 30 minutes to go, the movie really begins to pick up speed and the jokes really start to fly. It’s entertaining throughout, but nothing can match the final chapters. By far, this is the best looking CG film released yet. The water effects are impossible to describe, lighting is gorgeous, and once Australia is revealed for the finale you’ll swear it’s all real. This set provides a digital-to-digital transfer that is possibly even better than the previous Pixar discs. The colors are stunning in the reef and this a great way to show off a new TV. Even when the movie begins to take on a darker tone, you’ll never catch any grain or compression issues. The full frame version included on disc 2 has been reformatted so you don’t miss anything if you choose to watch the film in this manner, but the widescreen print seems much less crammed and of better overall quality. 5.1 EX is the order of the day, and the water creates some surreal moments. The bass during some of the crashing water segments is strong enough to impress even those with a weaker system and the rears are used generously throughout. Scenes occurring inside the aquarium really make viewers feel what it would be like to be inside a glass rectangle, filter sounds and all. As a 2-disc set, there’s a ton of stuff to do and play around with. Disc one is for the film buff with tons of behind the scene art, a slew of deleted scenes (none of which were finished sadly), a nice yet brief 28 minute making-of (which really shows how much work these guys do in a film like this.…everyone had to become certified divers before they could start working!), and a few easter eggs. The “virtual aquarium” feature is an interesting idea, but the execution is seriously lacking. Each of the discs contains a different one, but the video used is grainy and boring. Most don’t even feature fish! Disc 2 is all about the little ones. The “Fisharades” game, while a novel idea, seems to have no end. There’s a nice piece featuring Jean-Michael Casteau and characters from the film that teaches kids about the coral reefs. There’s some fantastic footage to be had here and it’s an interesting watch even for the older crowd. The short film “Knick Knack” is priceless, easily one of the best Pixar has ever made. Scary since it came out in the late 80’s. There’s an tour of the studios that teach kids the basics of the animation process which is quite informative if you’ve never seen this done before. There’s a ton more to explore on this disc and it will keeps kids busy for some time. Sadly, nearly all of the features reside on disc 2 and people looking for more hardcore information are left out. The introduction on disc 1 says they had an actual director take over the helm for the documentary, but there’s hardly enough here to show how these films really get made. I think any fan would love to see some of the more stressful moments: Making deadlines, screening footage, animation screw-ups, more “how can we do this segments,” etc. Also, though I’m not one to usually gripe about packaging, it’s very irrupting to have an advertisement stuck to the front of my DVD’s. Seriously, is the offer for Dole bananas going to have an effect on your purchasing decision? Yes, it does peel off easily, but it’s annoying nonetheless. If there’s one thing that shows through in each of Pixars films, it’s how much fun these guys have making these movies. They have created what seems like one of the most enjoyable places to work in the US and it really shows in the final product. Finding Nemo isn’t the best film they’ve put out in their relatively short time, but it’s right up there at the top. My only hope is that their next film gives older viewers more choices or more detailed information.

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