April 01, 2006

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Heads up, animation fans.  Last year's kick-ass fantasy extravaganza, Howl's Moving Castle, (directed by Hayao Miyazaki and based on the Diana Wynne Jones novel of the same name) is now out on DVD.  I highly recommend this one.  Also available on DVD in the States for the first time is My Neighbor Totoro.  Totoro is widely regarded as Miyazaki's best film. and if you've enjoyed any of his other films, you should check this one out.

If you have already gotten a look at MirrorMask (which I mentioned last month), and want to sample some other movies that Neil Gaiman wrote or adapted for the screen, be sure to check out Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, which was adapted to English by Neil.  The Miramax DVD features English language subtitles, and a passable English language dub, both based on Gaiman's script.  Also available on DVD is one of the first items that Gaiman wrote for the screen, Neverwhere, which actually started out as a screenplay for the BBC miniseries, and was later adapted into the novel of the same name.

Once you've put yourself in the mood for some BBC miniseries action, you should definitely check out their adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, which, given the dense and un-cinematic nature of the original prose, is better then anybody could have hoped for; in fact, it's quite good.

Just as last month brought you the interesting failure that was Dune, the extended edition, this month brings us Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist.  Some of you may have seen, or heard about The Exorcist: The Beginning, which was also a prequel to the Exorcist.  This movie wasn't very good.  It wasn't mind-numbingly awful, like the first sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic.  It just wasn't very GOOD. Well, actually, yeah, it WAS pretty bad.

Of course, like many Hollywood franchises, behind the Exorcist prequel was a long-running fight between the studio and the movie's original director, Paul "Taxi Driver" Shrader.  This fight got so bad that when Schrader turned in his version of the movie, the studio rejected it outright, and hired a new director (Renny "Deep Blue Sea" Harlin) to come in and shoot an almost entirely different movie, with only about 20% of the Renny movie coming from Shrader's shooting.

People have been talking about the "Paul Shrader Cut" of this movie for some time. . . Long before the actually-released movie hit the theaters, the internet was filled with rumors of how much better The Shrader cut was.  Internet fanboys around the world hoped that the DVD would have both versions of the movie, but last year they were disappointed.  Now, however, the studio has relented and quietly released Paul Shrader's Exorcist prequel as a separate DVD, with the title "Dominion:  The Prequel to the Exorcist".  The DVD features commentary by Shrader, which is a little dry at points, but also filled with some juicy details.  And while Dominion is no Taxi Driver, or Raging Bull, it is a pretty damn good movie -- much better then, say,  the actual Exorcist prequel.

If my descriptions of the different versions of The Exorcist Prequels seem a bit convoluted (or at least a bit intriguing) I recommend you take a look at an interview that The Guardian UK did with Shrader at ( http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,1175811,00.html)

Until next month. . . .

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