DVD release has the advantage of being good
By G. Michael Dobbs
This week's DVD column features a great political thriller and an example of why television animation was so awful in the 1980s.
This under-rated thriller about a presidential assassination may not have received attention from movie fans when it was in theaters earlier this year, but it is well worth your time if you enjoy an original story told in a unique way.
Although telling the same story from different points of view is not new, writer Barry Levy and director Pete Travis created an revolving format: an American president in Spain for a terrorism summit is shot and the story is told from the point of view of a Secret Service agent (Dennis Quaid), a tourist (Forest Whitaker), a Spanish police officer, and ultimately the terrorists themselves.
Quaid's character is an agent who six months before took a bullet for the president and is considered to be on shaky emotional ground still. His performance strikes just the right note of being a man who is at first unsure of his abilities who comes to realize he is still capable of doing his job.
To write more about the plot would be a great disservice as there are several major twists and turns. A solid, entertaining thriller, this film should be on your viewing list.
Comedy Central's Home Grown
Way back in the dim, dark 1970s, Warner Brothers Records used to have collections of their artists on promotional albums that were very cheap as a way to introduce listeners to new artists and music. That's what I thought of when I received this three-hour collection of sample episodes and segments from several Comedy Central original series.
Since most, if not all, of the shows represented on the disc are already available on DVD, I can't imagine who would want this disc, unless it's aimed at people totally unaware of the Comedy Central programming.
There are complete episodes from "The Sarah Silverman Program" (yeech!), "TV Funhouse" (truly and enjoyable bizarre), "Strangers with Candy" (also quite bizarre, but in a good way), "Lewis Black's Root of All Evil" (very funny), and "Reno 911!" (a classic).
There are also sketches from "Chapelle's Show," "Drawn Together," and one of my favorites, "Viva Variety."
As extras, the disc has an episode of the 1980s PBS staple, "the Joy of Painting," an educational film showing what webs spiders weave when they've been given LSD and several animated shorts from "The Animation Show." There's no particular connection between the extras and the contents of the disc.
It's a fairly inexplicable artifact, but does have some good moments.
Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
Are there fans for this fairly obscure television science fiction series from the mid-1980s out there who have been clamoring for its release?
As regular readers of this column know, animation is of particular interest to me buy my book "Escape! How Animation Broke into the Mainstream in the 1990s" at your favorite online bookseller but I have to admit when this DVD came across my desk I had no previous knowledge of the show.
The 1980s were not a good time for television animation. Shows were aimed at kids and children were thought of as a fairly non-discriminating audience who would watch just about any junk tossed their way.
And there was a lot of junk that was repeated and repeated and repeated.
In a way, I hesitate to totally trash this derivative science fiction series, as creator Robert Mandell is just so proud of it in his on-camera interview. Basically, Mandell whose father was in television production created a show that would clearly cash in on films such as "Star Wars" with a space western written and designed in the United States and animated in Japan.
The result was the kind of show that freely borrowed elements from a variety of sources that didn't always gel together.
The four-disc set has the previously unseen demo reel, commentary from Mandall, and original music tracks. It's been given a pretty lavish treatment for a show that, as far as I'm concerned, made little impact over 20 years ago.