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Dark City: New Joe's Quick and Dirty DVD Review
Reviewed by Joe Hourcle, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Alex Proyas (director)
Genre:   Mystery / Thriller / Science Fiction
Released:   1998
Review Date:  
Audience Rating:   Rated R
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

Welcome to New Joe's Quick and Dirty DVD Reviews

Well, these days, you shell out $10-$50 for something that looks like CD, only it's in a box which has now been tainted by mass AOL mailings, and you wonder, for a while, without opening it (as they have not only the shrink wrap, and the sticker across the top to tell you what it is, but the other half dozen or so pieces of tape that inform you that there's a 'security device enclosed' in the package) if it'll be worth the money.

So well, you get it home, break the shrink wrap, spend 20 min trying to get the damned pieces of tape off the box so it'll open (without popping out your SOG/Gerber/Leatherman/whatever, as that might damage the package), you pop it into your player, and sit back, unable to fast forward through the FBI warning. You hit the 'scene forward' button to skip past the 'look at all of the other movies that you didn't buy' intro, and get to the fabulous DVD menu...

Only to find out that you probably could have done a better job on your etch-a-sketch. The 'special features' included are a list of the jobs which the director was fired from while he was in high school.

After seeing some of the good, we've started to realize just how bad some of the worse ones are. Folks are cranking out DVDs these days just to put them out there, without any real craft behind them. It's like MTV during the late 80s when videos suddenly became 'here's the band practicing' that they got some roadie to film in Super-8.

I am NOT going to review the movies. Many of these movies are great, and are well worth the price of the DVD without any special features. Some movies suck, but have very nice DVD features. Most of the time, if you didn't like the movie, you're not going to buy the DVD. If, however, you've got $20 in your pocket, and can't make up your mind between three different movies, this might help you.

In an effort to standardize on a '1 to 10' scale, as our illustrious leader, Jason, has mandated, I therefore propose the following scale:

1. Wow, am I feeling ripped off right now.
2. Damnit, I could have just rented this crap from Blockbuster.
3. I wonder if I can return this.
4. Oh, c'mon. I could have done that.
5. Um... it wasn't too bad, I guess.
6. It looks like someone actually might have taken some time to put this together.
7. Yeah, okay, it was worth skipping lunch so I could afford it.
8. Why the hell are people still buying the VHS version?
9. This could single handedly prove that DVD is better than VHS
10. <speechless> <eyes tearing>

Odds are, no matter how much crap they put on there, if it's still crap, it's still not going to rank past a 4. If there's one or two spectacular things, it might make a 6 or an 7, but it's going to take something massive to make me give it a 9 or a 10.

Now, I'll try as I might to make sure that the movie itself doesn't interfere with the ratings, but you might get a point or two of skew, due to the fact that I'll probably consider a documentary on a movie that I didn't care about to be crap, therefore, you'll actually have to read the review, and not just look at the number.

-----

Dark City

Dark City's one of those movies that if you haven't seen, you really should. It's nice to watch a movie that isn't one of those cookie cutter cop buddie movies, and actually has both good special effects and a plot that someone didn't pull out of a cereal box. Of course, we care about the DVD and its special features, not the movie that they try to toss in there to get you to buy the little plastic disk.

Dark City's been out for a while, and so, it's missing a few of the nice little tricks that they do to spice up newer DVDs, like the little animated clips in the 'scene selection' screen, but it's still packaged damned well. The morphing cuts between menus are a very nice touch, and blend in well with the concepts from the movie.
Of course, besides just the 'scene selection' which every DVD has, there are the other two 'must have' items - the trailer, and the 'cast and crew' listing. It's nice that they list the crew details, and not just the cast, this being a rather special effects heavy movie. They're also kind enough to give us some headshots so we know who these folks are, as we're ignoring the text, and looking to see if there are any good cleavage shots of Jennifer Connelly.

You also get the commentary audio tracks, which well, I personally don't tend to listen to, as… well, it's sort of like having that know-it-all-friend with no life (we all have them), sitting next to you and commenting on how he prefered when ActressX had her hair short like when she was with ActorY in FilmZ, which was directed by DirectorW. In this case, we not only have the folks who made the film commenting, but also Roger Ebert. Personally, I didn't care, and didn't listen to either track. For those of you who care about all that filmography crap, I'm sure you'll love it, however.

There's also a nice collection of concept sketches for both costuming and set design, which those of you artsy people might like, and there's a whole bunch of text that I'm sure someone out there will probably read - some comparisons to some old movie called Metropolis and a comment by that guy who wrote Good Omens with Terry Pratchett. There's also something called 'To Shell Beach', which for the life of me, I have no clue at all what the hell it is. I think it's a game or something.

Overall, I'm going to have to give this a 7. A little bit of a 'making of' video on it might have pushed it all the way to 8. I was most impressed with the morphing cut scenes, but there was just too much plain text stuff for my liking.


-RevSF columnist Joe Hourcle and Film/DVD editor Jason Myers agree on two things: British comedy and Jennifer Connelly.

 
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