DVD Tuesday: ‘Animal House’ & ‘Newsradio’

by W. Andrew Powell

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Brendan Fraser in Journey to the Center of the Earth

Join Delta House for their 30th anniversary with the release of National Lampoon’s Animal House on DVD, while Brendan Fraser goes on a Journey to the Center of the Earth. Plus, check out the top 10 Halloween horror films, and the hilarious 90s television series, Newsradio.

National Lampoon’s Animal House
If you think of Die Hard as the grandfather of the action movie, then Animal House must surely be the sleazy uncle to raunchy comedies everywhere.

At Faber College in the grand old year of 1962, the Dean of the school comes up with a plan to get rid of the scummiest, most debauched fraternity on campus, Delta House. With the help of Omega house, the dean will try everything, but the party animals at Delta will be happy to go out with a bang, and a party to end all parties.

Crass, lewd, and loads of fun, Animal House is a classic comedy that is still hilarious, and it’s been thirty years since it first came out. The jokes are great, for the most part, and the cast is laugh-out-loud funny, especially John Belushi, Tim Matheson, James Widdoes, and Donald Sutherland. Karen Allen also appears in the film, but she’s more of a treat of relative calm next to the crazy antics.

While I’d recommend the film for comedy fans, the features and quality of the DVD are nothing special. Video quality is mediocre at best, and the features are definitely half-baked, the worst being a “Where Are They Now” “documentary” that catches up with the Delta crew today. Yeah, it’s that bad.

The “Yearbook” documentary on the other hand is pretty impressive, and interviews all the key people, looking back at some behind-the-scenes footage and explaining how the film was made.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Don’t let me get too cynical, but every time Walden Media releases a new film, I die a little.

Their fantasy films not only suffer from brain-dead plots and storylines, but on top of that, in an age when special effects are nothing less than photo-realistic, Walden Media creates films with creatures and visuals that somehow always look fake. Case in point, The Chronicles of Narnia films and Bridge to Terabithia.

Journey to the Center of the Earth could be the company’s first film where I’m a bit more excited, but that’s based more actor Brendan Fraser than anything else.

Fraser stars as Trevor Anderson, a science professor travelling in Iceland with his nephew Sean, played by Josh Hutcherson, and their guide Hannah, played by Anita Briem, who take a wrong step inside a cave and drop miles beneath the Earth. What they find is a whole other world, populated by dinosaurs, strange creatures, and a weird landscape, and they have to find a way to escape.

First-time director Eric Brevig, who was formerly a visual effects supervisor for some of Hollywood’s biggest action films, is a good man for this job considering his history with effects-driven films.

The value of the film was initially its 3D presentation in theatres, so just be warned that a lot of the effects were meant to jump out at you. On the small screen, it’s a little less impressive, which does nothing for the already weak storyline.

Halloween Horror
With Halloween just a few days away, there’s also still time to go pick up your favorite horror films. Last year I asked readers and a number of celebrities which films they loved the most, and came up with a top 10 list based on their answers.

Top 10 Halloween Flicks
10. Aliens (1986)
9. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
8. Army Of Darkness (1992)
7. Scream (1996)
6. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
5. Halloween (1978)
4. Poltergeist (1982)
3. Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
2. The Shining (1980)
1. The Exorcist (1973)

Television on DVD…

Newsradio: The Complete Series
Despite the horrific packaging, which is nothing more than a box and a cheap plastic tray that piles all of the discs on top of each other, I was stoked about the arrival of Newsradio on DVD. Capturing all 97 episodes, the collection is a fun trip back to the 90s, and one of the better comedies of the decade.

Starring the hilarious Dave Foley, Stephen Root, Andy Dick, and Phil Hartman, not to mention Maura Tierney, Newsradio follows the weird and wonderful employees at a radio station in New York City. Foley plays the newly hired news director, who has to make friends with the firmly rooted employees, and his eccentric boss, played by Root.

The collection features commentary tracks on a huge number of episodes, bloopers, and featurettes on the making of some episodes.

Also out this week, the fifth and penultimate season of The L-Word, the complete collections of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; The Flintstones; and the first five seasons of 24.

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