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Bubble

Magnolia Home Entertainment
Movie B+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

Say, didn't James DiGiovanna just review this in the film section a couple of weeks ago? He sure did. Bubble was released to theaters on a Friday, and the DVD came out the Tuesday after. Director Steven Soderbergh has agreed to release six films this way, and Bubble is the first.

Is the film any good? I would say yes, it's very good. Did it require a theatrical release before hitting DVD a few days later? Given that "straight to video" has a rather negative stigma on it, I would say the movie was worthy of its theatrical run. Could they have waited a couple of months before putting out the DVD? Probably, but no harm done.

Soderbergh has assembled an interesting cast of unknowns to tell a story about a doll factory and a tragedy connected to it. Debbie Doebereiner, a former KFC manager, is terrific as Martha, a doll-face painter who has a crush of sorts on co-worker Kyle (an appropriately sullen Dustin James Ashley). When an attractive new worker shows up at the plant (Misty Dawn Wilkins), a strange love triangle forms. The performers are excellent, and I'd be interested in seeing them in other projects.

Bubble unfolds in a very interesting way, and Soderbergh employs a minimalist technique that he can't really put to good use in the Ocean's Eleven movies. Yes, the whole production is a bit of a stunt as far as current distribution standards go, but the movie is a good one, and if they get better from here, No. 6 in the series should be a mind-blower.

Special Features: The DVD is no rush job. There are a couple of shorts that put the spotlight on the unknown cast (Doebereiner visits her KFC and promises signed DVDs for everybody). Two commentaries, one from Soderbergh and Mark Romanek, the other from the cast, shed plenty of light on how the project came together. A deleted scene that would've changed the ending significantly is proof that less is more.


Velvet Redux: Live MCMXCIII

Rhino
Show C+
Special Features You get nuthin'!
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

The Velvet Underground reunited for a brief stretch in '93, and their show was supposed to make it to the U.S. Some squabbling between Lou Reed and John Cale resulted in plans for a U.S. tour being scrapped, and all we got was a pretty good CD and VHS tape.

Now comes this DVD of a Paris performance, and it is evident why this show didn't make it overseas. These guys look and sound bored and uninterested. If you close your eyes, some of the tracks like "Heroin" and "Femme Fatale" sound OK, but the overall presentation is really stiff. One gets the sense that Reed would rather be anywhere other than on stage with Cale.

Guitarist Sterling Morrison died shortly after the reunion and breakup, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime gig. Too bad the Velvets couldn't have had a better time, because the music deserved it. If the reunion interested you, get a copy of the CD which includes a terrific version of "All Tomorrow's Parties," sadly missing from this show.


Corpse Bride

Warner Home Video
Movie B+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

This stop-motion-animation delight just got nominated for a Best Animated Movie Oscar, one of only three films to receive the nomination this year (and none of them features CGI animation). Directors Tim Burton and Mike Johnson are helping to keep old-school animation techniques alive in the age of computers with a project that was kicked around for many years.

Victor (voice of Johnny Depp) is set for his arranged nuptials with Victoria (Emily Watson), but a mishap in the land of the dead ends with him being wed to the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter). Danny Elfman provides some fun, if not altogether catchy, music, and the animation is top-notch.

The Corpse Bride herself is an amazing creation, a sympathetic animated character whose eye is constantly popping out. Credit the animators and Bonham Carter for creating something so memorable. Depp, who rarely delivers anything short of genius, does excellent work with the nervous Victor. Other voices to be heard include Albert Finney, Tracey Ullman and Christopher Lee.

Hopefully, this won't be the last of Burton's stop-motion-animation treats. These things take a long time to make, but let's hope for at least two more before the creator joins the ranks of the land of the dead (where I'm sure he will be delighted to live).

Of the three movies nominated this year (the others being Howl's Moving Castle and Wallace & Gromit), this one is most deserving of the Oscar.

Special Features: Plenty of featurettes dealing with everything from the music, to the animation, to Burton himself. A great feature shows some scenes from the film, with live-action footage of the actors voicing the parts. Most of the actors, including Depp, show up to be interviewed about the production. No commentaries to be had.

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