Latest Software Reviews
South Park was just warming up in season four, with the introduction, sans fanfare, of handicapped Timmy, who has since developed his own enormous following and would go on to be a dominant force throughout a year ranging from the esoteric nostalgia of the Trapper Keeper to the boys' first Holy Communion. (A chill just shot down my poor mother's spine.) This oddly timed season contained 17 episodes, with original airdates between April and December of 2000, ending with another fecally gifted yuletide and an homage to the "Spirit of Christmas" video short that began it all.
That video short was animated with construction-paper cutouts; subsequently, all others utilized computers that emulated that paper feel, but those intended textures don't fare so well on DVD, taking on a layer of pixellation in the backgrounds of many of the soft shots, presented in standard 1.33:1. Still, the colors are bright, and the low-rent look has always been a part of South Park's charm. The Dolby 2.0 sound is neither bold nor enveloping but a fine mix, cleanly capturing the boisterous, dialogue-heavy sitcom hijinks. Continuing Paramount's successful approach of adding brief creator commentaries to each installment, Trey Parker and Matt Stone lend their reflections and wiseass "insights," when not comparing Scientologists to Nazis or trashing Phil Collins, the man who stole their Oscar.—Chris Chiarella
DVD: The Lost Boys Special Edition—Warner Brothers
I was too young to see this R-rated film in theaters, so I talked my older brother into renting the VHS tape for me. It's been my favorite ever since. Nothing epitomizes the '80s better than a movie with the two Coreys—Haim and Feldman. This is the story of two teenagers (Haim and Jason Patric) who move with their divorced mother to Santa Carla, California. Patric gets involved with the ultimate wrong crowd—a group of vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland.
The DVD's extras package is a welcome treat. You get commentary with director Joel Schumacher, deleted scenes, a music video, and the theatrical trailer. The highlight, though, is The Lost Boys: A Retrospective, which catches up with Sutherland, Haim, Feldman, Schumacher, and others. It's interesting to hear how the film affected the stars and where their careers are now compared with then. Three more featurettes discuss everything from Schumacher's vision to the possibility of a sequel. The only glaring omission from the package is any kind of interview with Jason Patric.
The 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer is not as pristine as that of a recent movie; however, this film is from 1987, so what you do get is impressive. The video handles colors and dark images well. Some scenes quickly cut from light to dark, and it nicely presents these transitions, with plenty of detail in both instances. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also impressive, making good use of the surrounds, especially during that classic opening scene.—Amy Carter
DVD-Audio: John Hiatt—Bring the Family (A&M Records)
It's scary when record companies dig into their archives and remix a classic. John Hiatt, considered by some to be one of the best songwriters alive today, created one of those classics in 1987 when Bring the Family was originally released. Accompanied by Ry Cooder (guitar), Nick Lowe (bass), and Jim Keltner (drums), Hiatt's raw mastery of words and music may not have resulted in overwhelming commercial pop-chart success, but it certainly has stood the test of time as a standard in adult rock. Happily, the new multichannel 24/96 DVD-Audio release is a faithful and gentle repackaging of the original.
The approach to the surround mix is more than a re-creation of space but not so aggressive as to ruin your focus on the performance. In addition to the high-resolution, multichannel version, the disc includes superb 24/96 two-channel and Dolby Digital 5.1 sections. There's a slightly mellow warmth to the sound's overall character, which adds to the charm of such enduring Hiatt classics as "Memphis in the Meantime" and "Have a Little Faith in Me."
A pair of stereo music videos from 1987, "Thank You Girl" and "Have a Little Faith in Me," are included on the standard DVD layer. Although they look a little dated compared with today's mega-productions (for much less-compelling songs), it's a nice bit of nostalgia to have on the disc. There's also a catalog listing of Hiatt's other albums and track names. It's a keeper.—Darryl Wilkinson