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DVD Review Lunchables

 

By Dennis Landmann

 

This column is dedicated to DVD reviews of various films and TV sets, except they are shorter than my normal reviews.

 


 

I, Robot   (Fox Home Entertainment, 12/14/04, Rated PG-13)

 

 

When a renowned scientist (James Cromwell) is found dead, robophobic detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) suspects an advanced robot committed the murder. According to the Three Laws of Robotics, however, a robot can't harm a human. As Spooner investigates he mysteriously finds himself marked for death, and later must team with another scientist (Bridget Monahan) to bring down a possible robot revolution against humans. I, Robot is a fun summer action film set in a believable future (2035 Chicago), and to the credit of director Alex Proyas (Dark City), director of photography Simon Duggan, and the film's special effects team the film looks absolutely terrific. The script is straight-forward in the way it presents the main story, but there is a good amount of suspense as well. I, Robot features several cool action scenes that are visually very exciting.

 

Fox Home Entertainment presents I, Robot in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality and colors look very good. Detail and sharpness appear in good shape, and no major flaws are present, though a little grain appears in dark scenes. Audio is available in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and 5.1 DTS, as well as Spanish and French dub tracks. Dialogue and sound effects are clear and easy to understand with good surround performance from the rear speakers. Optional subtitles include English and Spanish.

 

The special features include commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, a sixteen-minute "Making-of" featurette that is strictly promotional in nature but shows a good amount of behind-the-scenes footage including green screen work and special effects, a still photo gallery, and trailer.

 

VERDICT: RECOMMENDED

 

DVD Grade: 7 out of 10

 

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Garden State   (Fox Home Entertainment, 12/28/04, Rated R)

 

 

Zach Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a twenty something, emotionally detached actor who returns home to New Jersey after nine long years. Now, as he tries to re-reconnect with his past, a chance encounter with Sam (Natalie Portman) - a free-spirited girl who's everything he isn't - sets the stage for a fateful, mind-blowing take on what his future might hold. Braff's directorial debut shows a lot of promise but more importantly as a writer he tells a heartfelt story with romance and clever humor. The acting is also notable, with Braff and Portman sharing very good chemistry and turning in excellent performances, plus co-star Peter Sarsgaard is great as Andrew's friend. Garden State is funny and dramatic.

 

Fox Home Entertainment presents Garden State in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality and colors are pretty good, without any flaws such as scratches or dirt, although bits of grain appear in some scenes. Audio is available in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround as well as a Spanish dub track. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, while the music is very nicely reproduced across the front speakers. Optional subtitles include English, Spanish and French.

 

The special features include an engaging audio commentary by Zach Braff and Natalie Portman, a second commentary by Braff and various crew that is more technical, sixteen deleted scenes with commentary, a roughly 25-minute "Making-of" documentary that provides an insightful and fun look at filming with on-set interviews and footage, and a brief but amusing blooper reel.

 

VERDICT: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

DVD Grade: 8 out of 10

 

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Dodgeball   (Fox Home Entertainment, 12/7/04, Rated PG-13)

 

 

Dodgeball tells the story of Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) and his Average Joe Gym guys who must compete against egomaniacal White Goodman (Ben Stiller) and GloboGym in Las Vegas' national Dodgeball competition to raise the $50,000 needed to keep the place running. In true underdog story fashion, Peter and the team train hard to become professionals, but first they must survive the toughness of the sport. Dodgeball is pretty much a no-brainer in terms of the story, it's predictable but fun to watch as the characters face off, train, and compete against each other. The characters are fun, too, and Stiller's over-the-top performance is very comical, plus the film features some fun cameos.

 

Fox Home Entertainment presents Dodgeball in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality and colors look pretty good. Detail and sharpness are good, and there are no noticeable flaws in the presentation such as scratches or dirt. Audio is available in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround as well as a Spanish and French dub tracks. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, while the music is very nicely reproduced across the front speakers. Optional subtitles include English and Spanish.

 

The special features include a decent audio commentary by director Rawson Marshall Thurber, and actors Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn who talk about aspects of the production but mainly about the film itself, seven deleted scenes with optional commentary (most are extended scenes and the alternate ending sees Goodman's team win the 50k instead of the Average Joe's), four brief featurettes (one focuses on the actors training for Dodgeball) with interviews by the cast and others, a decent blooper reel (Stiller and Vaughn crack up a lot), trailers for Dodgeball and other Fox titles, and the film's screenplay via DVD-ROM.

 

VERDICT: RECOMMENDED

 

DVD Grade: 7 out of 10

 

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Family Guy: Freakin' Sweet...   (Fox, 12/14/04)

 

 

Family Guy tells the stories, or exploits, depending on the kind of plot with each episode, of the Griffin family, which is made up of husband Peter, wife Lois, daughter Meg, son Chris, baby Stewie, and fun-loving dog Brian. Created by Seth MacFarlane, the show ranks among one of my favorite animated shows ever, it's hilarious, crude, and addicting just like South Park. For "The Freakin' Sweet Collection," MacFarlane chose to include his five favorite episodes: When You Wish Upon A Weinstein, Road To Rhode Island, To Love And Die In Dixie, I Am Peter Hear Me Roar, and Lethal Weapons. While these are not necessarily the best episodes of Family Guy out there in my opinion (it depends who you ask), they're still very funny.

 

Fox Home Entertainment presents Family Guy in 1.33:1 fullscreen format. Colors look good and the presentation is overall quite nice. Audio is decent with clear dialogue presentation from the front speakers. The special features include a hilarious in-character audio commentary on Road To Rhode Island by Brian and Stewie. Both engage in frivolous discussions about the show's shoot, their dislikes about various things (they insult each other from time to time), and much more, such as acknowledging towards the end they are running out of material.

 

Carried over from the season sets are commentaries for the other episodes except for Weinstein, which is rather odd. The material exclusive to this DVD is a new interview with Seth MacFarlane as he discusses his new show American Dad. The following featurettes are available: funny clips for American Dad (5:57) that will make you excited about the premiere, "Seth MacFarlane Talks About American Dad" (7:23) which repeats the clips cut to his comments, and "Family Guy Season 4" (15:27) in which he lists the reasons for picking the five episodes and towards the end a few clips from the upcoming season are shown.

 

VERDICT: RECOMMENDED

 

DVD Grade: 7 out of 10

 

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Reviews Posted January 24, 2005

 

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