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PleasantvillePleasantville and Her Majesty Mrs. Brown on DVD


Paradise Lust?

New Line home video's "Platinum Seriess" release of "Pleasantville" is a pleasant social commentary/comedy with enough DVD extras on it to make life pleasant for movie students and videophiles alike.

The story of a pair of teenagers who get zapped into a 1950's sitcom, "Pleasantville" shows us writer/producer/director Garr Ross's version of the effect of change on a static society. That's because Pleasantville, the town, is locked in a 1990's vision of 1950's nostalgic perfection - until David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese WItherspoon) arrive and prove to be the apple that gets the townfolk expelled from their particular Eden.

As things change, they slowly go from a black and white world to one laced with - and eventually taken over by - good old 1950's Technicolor.

There are no villians in Pleasantville; in fact, you can care about practically everyone in the movie. The story's conflict comes between the innovators who embrace change with open arms and those who love ther idyllic life in Pleasantville and want to hang onto it.

The parallels between Pleasantville and real life are obvious and not particularly subtle (there are even signs in stores telling "Coloreds" to stay away), but that's a small downside to what's actually a warmhearted tale of people finding themselves in a variety of ways.

As a DVD, this widescreen "Platinum Edition" is outstanding. Video and PC extras abound - and the picture and sound quality are what you'd expect from the digital format.

A pleasant inclusion is a "video test" section that lets you adjust your TV to best reproduce the colors of the movie. We recommend using it - and then leaving your TV adjusted that way when you're done. The test sequence is really entry level compared with real test discs like "the Video Essentials," but every little bit helps.

Other audio/video extras include audio commentary by auteur Gary Ross, an isolated audio track of the score, with commentary by composer Randy Newman (there's also some great old music in the soundtrack), and a behind-the-scenese featurette ("The Art of Pleasantville").

And that isn't all. There's also Fiona Apple's music video of "Across the Universe," her cover version of the old Beatles song that accompanies the closing credits, a storyboard gallery and the original theatrical trailer.


Then there's the PC section, which (unfortunately) includes that damn PC Friendly software (why can't it just use your regular Browser). The upside is that you get the screenplay (well, most of it), complete with storyboard illustrations, and you can access it scene by scene - and you can play scenes from the screenplay or print the screenplay out (great for film students).

There are also Web links that give you access to cast/crew information and trivia.

There aren't much in the way of liner notes, but considering everything else you get this isn't much of an oversight. You do get some illustrations of some artwork from the movie (stuff supposedly painted by Jeff Daniels' Character), along with a chapter list and PC instructions.

In all, it's a wonderful DVD, not just a pleasant one.

Pleasantville, Platinum Edition, from New Line Home Video
124 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
starring Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J.T. Walsh
Written, produced, and directed by Gary Ross

Her Majesty Mrs. Brown

Victoria's Secret

Her Majesty Mrs. Brown is a pretty intriguing movie, though as a DVD it isn't much more than a movie.

Starring Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Scotsman comic Billy Connolly in a dramatic role, it recounts the friendship between Her Majesty and John Brown, an unswervingly loyal servant with a mind of his own. The Queen has been mourning the death of her beloved husband for an inordinantly long time.

When Brown comes on the scene, however, his irascible personality and devotion to his Queen causes her to begin living again - at least to a certain extent. The resulting close friendship between the two rubs the Establishment (including the Prince of Wales) the wrong way, however, and some of them begin plotting a way to get the Queen to resume her public duties while getting the interloping Scotsman out of the way.

There are some lovely Scottish highland locations in this film, as well as powerful performances by the well-cast cast. Comedian Connolly holds his own very well among such powerful presences as Dench (whom younger viewers may know best as the new "M" in Pierce Brosnan's James Bond movies).

As a DVD, Her Majesty Mrs. Brown is nothing special. The widescreen picture and sound quality are acceptable but, despite the labelling of "Dolby Surround" on the packaging, the movie is in two channel stereo. The lack of center channel information means voices could come from a wide band across the front of your listening room, depending upon where you're sitting.

Still, if that's the way the movie was made that's the way it was made. It's too bad that the audio wasn't mixed with such considerations in mind, however.

Extras are virtually non-existent, too. You get the theatrical trailer and chapter stops - and a brief blurb on the jacket's rear panel - and that's it.

So, while Her Majesty Mrs. Brown is an enjoyable film - especially for the PBS/BBC set - it leaves something to be desired as a DVD.

Her Majesty Mrs. Brown, from Miramax Home Video
105 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1), stereo
starring Judi Dench, Billy Connolly, Antony Sher, Geoffrey Palmer, Richard Pasco, David Westhead
Written by Jeremy Brock, Produced by Sarah Curtis
Directed by John Madden


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Updated May 13, 2006