Now that I've completed all of my work for school, I can concentrate on other things. For example, I have finally had the chance to catch up to a bunch of DVD releases that had passed me by, thanks to my holiday gift cards:
One of the most repeatable independent films in history, Clerks retains a certain freshness while other indie features of the era have since been long-forgotten with their "we're so kewl" pseudo-grunge attitude. Much of the reason for the film's success is because Kevin Smith made no attempt to try to impress with this film; it's just an extended filmed comedy sketch that happens to maintain interest the length of its running time because of sharp, incisive dialogue and certain universal truths (such as "working retail sucks").
Clerks. X is the tenth anniversary edition of the movie, and it contains the theatrical cut of the film and the original cut that was seen at the IFFM festival. Rest assured, all of the special features that graced the original laserdisc (which was ported directly to DVD) are here, including that brash commentary track. There are a whole bunch of new features, including a complete commentary over the alternate version of the film. I am happy say that the package doesn't waste the three discs it has, although I was consistantly annoyed by the smug intros to everything that Smith and Scott Mosier recorded.
The film itself looks better than it ever has on home video, which may not be saying much, but at least they didn't try to smooth out the grain or anything. The sound is something of a mixed bag. It has been remastered for 5.1, so the music sounds great (and the theatrical version of the film did have a great soundtrack), but the dialogue track sounds a little duller this time around. This is a minor quibble, however, and I found it great fun to revisit this movie.
While the commentary track by Tony Scott and Susan Sarandon is okay, I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by the presentation of the film. To be fair, it looks sharper than the laserdisc, but it is also somewhat darker and grainier. This film is one of the glossiest motion pictures ever made, and it should look like a magazine, and the DVD doesn't quite do it justice. The blacks just aren't black enough, either. The sound is also annoying; while a 5.1 remix would have been nice, I would at least have been satisfied if they had retained the mono track recorded in Dolby 2.0 instead of the meager low bit rate 1.0 track (although the commentary is in 2.0 - go figure).
However, while not perfect, it is certainly a workable presentation of the film, with the only former video presentation I would consider workable being the laser, as it was letterboxed, which is essential for this film more than most. If you've never seen The Hunger in its original Panavision aspect ratio, then you haven't seen it at all. The DVD also contains the trailer, which I always thought did as good a job as you possibly could selling this esoteric film ("the timeless beauty of... Catherine Deneuve! The cruel elegance of... David Bowie! The open sensuality of... Susan Sarandon!") and a collection of rather nice photographs.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
While the special features on this disc are an improvement over the previous two in terms of learning abou the creative process that went into the making of the film, it would have been nice if they had added a commentary track because Alfonso Cuarón has such an outgoing and pleasant personality, it would have been nice to have heard him discuss the movie in more detail. There are a series of interviews that has the shrunken head from the Knight Bus in order to maintain interest for children which is an unfortunately grating device.
Other features are designed to interest kids, such as the set walk-throughs of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and Honeydukes, but they maintain interest because of the inspired production design and detail of craftsmanship that went into creating the world seen on the screen. Neither of these have the same sense of discovery that the Diagon Alley walk-through on the Chamber of Secrets DVD had, but they are still fun. Unfortunately, at no point does the music get discussed, although there is a karaoke thingee for "Double Trouble." I would loved to have heard a bit more regarding the development of this score, as it is very different from the previous two entries, but much more engaging to my sensibilities.
The deleted scenes are engaging. Most of the ones that are included are just extensions of scenes, or alternate versions, but there is also material from the the Sir Cadogan subplot, which apparently was cut from the film for pacing. The actor playing Cadogan is wonderful (he appears in a game elsewhere).
The presentation of the movie itself is top-notch. While Warner didn't bother providing EX encoding for the Dolby 5.1 track, that track is well rendered. It isn't as aggressive as the one for Chamber of Secrets, but it is well detailed and has a satisfying dimensionality... and it packs the power it needs to when the situation warrants it. The Quidditch match in the storm had the house shaking. The picture isn't quite as attractive as Chamber of Secrets either, but that is more because of the visual design of the film than because of any flaw with the DVD. To be frank, the transfer is gorgeous, with deep, thick blacks and solid colors.
This DVD continues an annoying trend that started with Spider-Man, however. The trailer I liked best was the "Double Trouble" teaser, not the "Year Three" trailer, which is the one that is included. The Spider-Man 2 disc set (I don't know about the 3 disc set, I have the Superbit edition) had a trailer, but it was the crappy rock video trailer instead of the cool operatic trailer. Why couldn't they include both?
No, I haven't seen the extended version of Return of the King just yet. There are a myriad of reasons for this, but I am hoping to be able to catch up to it either tonight or tomorrow night. Soon, though...!
I am dying to see this edition not just for the completion of the story, but also because of the additional music that Howard Shore composed for the film. The message board devoted to the Lord of the Rings scores has been buzzing ecstatically since Tuesday.
I finally got notice that I passed the CUNY Proficiency Exam. With flying colors. This was the test I took that I believe I finished with the sentences, "And the capitol of Nebraska is Lincoln. Can I go now?"
Tim called me. Apparently, he and Patsy ordered a pizza up in Pearl River. It was delivered by a white kid.