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Volume 1 Issue 8 - 50 Cups Of Coffee And You Know It's On
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The Other Digital Underground
RTC's Sweet & Lowdown On DVD

The Right Turn Clyde DVD Distribution Patrol was in full effect this holiday season. For some of you, we disguised our gifts as presents from Santa. For other, we instigated those blood-thirsty riots at the Best Buy so you could sneak out the back door we propped open for you.

Since it now seems this digital "fad" is taking a foothold in the marketplace, we thought we would unload this cornuccopia of the typical RTC nonsense to help you decide whether you should replace that old tape of Bonnie and Clyde that you recorded off of TBS with a shiny new letterboxed transfer.

Things To Listen For

To paraphrase an old saying, "A commentary track a day will keep The Doctor away" (see RTC's take on the Psycho DVD in issue #7) But filmmakers' commentary tracks can inform, entertain, and even enhance a movie. But beware, for every essential Ridley Scott commentary, you're also stuck with Kelly Makin talking about bringing Micky Blue Eyes to the big screen. Here's a few that have caught our ear.

POISON - One of the more artistically cerebral indie films of the 90's is discussed on an extra track by Christine Vachon and Todd Haynes.

EASY RIDER - Commentary by Dennis Hopper. Play a game while watching this. See who remembers more about Easy Rider - you or Dennis.

CHARADE - The only commentary track that has warranted a repeat listening from MNKE. Screenwriter Peter Stone and Director / Legend Stanley Donen trade one-liners and bicker like an old married couple. Like Statler and Waldorf meets Siskel and Ebert. You must hear this.

We also recommend Hudson Hawk for Michael Lehmann's candid discussion of the film's shortcomings, Pirahna to hear Joe Dante & Jon Davison discuss the perils of Corman movie-making, and Godmoney, which is the first DVD to feature a "gag" commentary track meant to lampoon commentary tracks. Believe us, folks, the word "gag" is more appropriate than you could ever guess. And finally a stopwatch for Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe who continue analyzing Fast Times at Ridgemont High 7 (seven!) minutes after the credits have rolled.

Things To Watch Out For

Now that you have a DVD player, you must think that you are the cock of the walk with access to a whole new world of film viewing. Of course, for every Election with insightful commentary at your video store, there's 3 copies of Dennis Rodman in Simon Sez taking up shelf space. So, here are a few titles to be cautious of.

APOCALYPSE NOW... What? How could you possibly be leery of Francis Ford's Rumble in the Jungle? This caveat emptor only goes out to those people conditioned to the DVD EXTRA BONUS MATERIALS royal treatment. As far as extras go, this is a bit thin on the dessert. Especially for a movie that Film Threat claimed once had a 6 plus hour director's cut. Where is the footage of Harvey Keitel? How about throwing Hearts of Darkness on the same disc? Home video footage of Tom Waits singing at Spike Jonze / Sofia Coppola's wedding? Anything! Please.

STRANGE DAYS - Whether you would want to watch this Kathryn Bigelow-directed / James Cameron-scripted cyberthriller is a personal decision up there between abortion and extra cheese on your pizza. At least, you have to give credit to Strange Days for accurately predicting a New Year's Eve 2000 in which nothing happens. Just like real life. Thumbs down to Bigelow's "partial" commentary which would have been more insightful and engaging had she talked about movies other than this one. Or at least her kick-ass vampire flick, Near Dark (not on DVD).

NEW ROSE HOTEL - A RTC DVD rental in the classic sense of the phrase. Christopher Walken & Willem Dafoe flesh out William Gibson's Burning Chrome short story in Abel Ferrara's Penthouse-meets-Crackhouse vision of the future. Asia Argento's bends over backward to make the film watchable. (Plus she lip-synchs to Cat Power, which is kryptonite to my critical faculties) The thing that raises our eyebrows is the sticker on the front of the DVD that boasts 2 or more audio commentaries. Well, which is it? Two? Three? More? Eighty? Come on, folks. The only running commentary I want on this film is a voice telling me how to get my money back.

Things To Die For

Finally, in the short time that DVD's have gone mainstream, there are two trends that new DVD shoppers need to look for. One is releasing a movie without any extras and then releasing it a few months later as a so-called "Collector's Edition". Not very encouraging to people who are buying DVD's to replace old video copies and then having to replace them again, often for a superior transfer or sound. Such has been the case for different DVD versions of Bonnie and Clyde, Robocop, Taxi Driver, Desperado and The Silence of the Lambs.

The other evil trend is putting DVD's on moratorium or making them unavailable to buy. The Criterion Collection is the main culprit here. Their release of This is Spinal Tap featured two DVDs (one entirely consisting of bonus materials including over an hour of deleted footage). Sounds great? Well, log onto e-bay, cause this title is no longer available in stores. The same goes for DVD copies of John Woo's The Killer, Hard-Boiled, and The 400 Blows. These titles may become available again, which is more than can be said about the DVD for Frank Oz's The Little Shop of Horrors. It featured the never-before-seen "Unhappy Ending" in which everybody dies and the plants take over. Unfortunately, a dispute over who owns the rights to this footage arose and all existing copies were pulled from shelves. (And presumably placed on the same shelf with the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters, and The King of Comedy DVD's which have yet to be made available.)

This year, we hope to focus on more DVD coverage and look forward to bringing you more news at no cost to you.*



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