DVD Review – Kill Bill Volume 2, The Fog of War, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Rain Man

Shiny Wonders

(Originally published in Inform Magazine, September 2004)

As a way of inaugurating this all-new DVD column, can we just immediately express our love for the shiny discs with the huge capacities? It took us a while because our reaction to anything new is generally ‘oh another fad to get the brain-dead-with-too-much-money masses happy.’ It always takes us a while to be converted to anything new but converted we have been, as sure as any selfish bastard who takes lots of drugs will eventually be an incredibly annoying and especially evangelical born-again Christian.

Even the DVD charts are wonderful. Gone are the days when whatever movie that had been released six months ago would dominate; they’re still there but leavened by classics that have had some care taken over their DVD release, as well as the finest TV box sets and compilations. As I’m writing this the especially rubbish Halle Berry film Gothika is number one, but the new 24 box set is number two and the awesome Simpson series four box set is number six, with the new revamped version of Pulp Fiction still up there.

There’s also the phenomenon of the commentary, which we’ve got a lot of time for. Whether it be Paul Merton and Ian Hislop gleefully pointing out the startling amount of times Angus Deayton has ever mentioned drugs or prostitutes during the history of Have I Got News For You (rather a lot as it happens), or Peter Jackson lustily pondering on how he could have made the Lord of the Rings gorier, to the disgust of his co-writers Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens. You probably regard commentaries in the same stand-offish, ‘it’s too nerdy’ way as I but, be honest, you’ve probably also listened to them just as much as the ‘proper’ film. And secretly prayed for Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino to finally do at least one.

Speaking of which, let’s get to what we’re supposed to be doing here with the release of the Quentin meister’s second installment of Kill Bill. Despite Tarantino budgets being something less than stellar – as well as his aversion to computer effects – his films tend to belong on the big and wide screen rather than home viewing. That said, it’s doubtful there’s any other filmmaker whose works are so beloved on the small screen after a night out and a takeaway.

Kill Bill Volume 2 is not quite as great viewing on the small screen as it’s predecessor, however. If we’re going to cheerfully ignore the fact that they’re just two parts of the same film and therefore eminently watchable consecutively, then Vol 1 scores way more than Vol 2, being a virtually plotless gorefest of Uma Thurman in a skintight yellow jumpsuit killing everyone she meets. Vol 2 merely features a hell of a lot of talking as Tarantino tries to justify the events of the first half. The extras on the disc steer clear of the commentary but do feature a making-of featurette with Tarantino enlivening the normally dull proceedings with his sheer exuberance about everything and anything. There’s also a deleted scene with David Carradine in a swordfight with a supposed cockney assassin whose accent is closer to Sydney the city than Sydney James.

The point of this column is to avoid films that might be very worthy object in themselves but don’t really exploit the DVD format. So The Fog of War, whilst being a splendid documentary, isn’t really our thing. Even though the DVD release contains 7 additional scenes which, whilst watchable, don’t really add much to this study of post-war American politics and interventionism.

What we’re here for is relative rubbish like Scooby Doo 2: Monster’s Unleashed. The film is the not really very good follow up to the original which tried it’s best to be likeable with the presence of both Rowan Atkinson and the Scrappy Doo as the villain. The best jokes having been used in the first film, Scooby Doo 2 suffers from Austin Powers syndrome in that it all looks a little tired.

On the DVD there’s plenty of extras but they’re not terribly interesting to anyone who isn’t a fan of the film. Most of the behind the scenes featurettes focuses on how the CGI Scooby was created, which is akin to watching computer generated paint dry. There’s also the unavoidable point that Scoob is clearly no Gollum when it comes to believability. Of greater interest is an interactive game in which you have to find Shaggy’s pants, but only marginally. I suppose kids like DVDs too.

But I prefer stuff like the new Rain Man special edition DVD. Almost 20 years on and the film still hasn’t redeemed itself from shameless sentimental pap, but this release does feature some especially entertaining audio commentaries from two of the (many) writers and director Barry Levinson, in which we discover that even dumb films like this seem to go through millions of rewrites and bruise more writer’s egos than a particularly brutal Booker Prize jury.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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