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"Waking Ned Devine""Waking Ned Devine" and "Wing Commander" on DVD

"Devine Comedy" Effective - "Wings" Effects-Laden

Waking Ned Devine is a gentle comedy set in a tiny Irish village where everyone knows everyone else's businesses. And therin lies the rub...

Two old friends, Michael and Jackie, learn that someone in the village has won the big lottery prize, and set out to make sure that they're the best friends of whoever it is - so they have a better chance of sharing in the wealth.

Well, it turns out that Ned Devine was the lucky winner, except that the news caused him to shuffle off the mortal coil - and there he sits, in front of his TV, ticket stub in hand.

No longer needing to kiss up for a portion of the prize, Jackie and Michael plot to replace Ned and claim the money for themselves.

What follows is a lovely tale of greed, mistaken identity, friendship, community, and, of course, fraud.

Ian Bannen and David Kelly (who viewers may remember as "O'Reilly, the incompetent contractor in Fawlty Towers") star as Jackie and Michael and they, like the rest of the cast, are charming. You really care for the people of this little village, and hope they manage to pull off their highly illegal scheme.

Offered only in widescreen, the DVD sports the usual excellent picture and sound, though there isn't a lot of surround on the rear tracks (not a big deal in this kind of movie) - and despite the Dolby Digital logo on the package, it's in Pro Logic, which isn't a big deal in a small, rather intimate movie like this.

Extras are virtually non-existent. You get the besides the theatrical trailer, chapter stops, and subtitles, you get a decent cast/crew bio section, but that's it. There aren't even any liner notes except for the blurb on the package back.

But as a movie, Waking Ned Devine is first rate. It'll bring a smile to your face, and isn't that what it's all about?

Waking Ned Devine, from Fox Searchlight Pictures
91 minutes, widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Pro Logic
Starring Ian Bannen, David Kelly, Fionnula Flanagan, Sysan Lynch, James Nesbitt
Produced by Glynis Murray and Richard Holmes
Written and Directed by Kirk Jones

Wing Commander

Here's a concept that proves turnabout is fair play.

While there've been quite a few computer games that were inspired by (or ripped directly off from) movies, Wing Commander began life as a successful series of computer games. In fact, the movie is directed by the games' creator, Chris Roberts, which shows he's not against branching out.

Fans of the game will undoubtedly already be up to speed with many of the characters and situations, but newcomers won't find it difficult to catch up. That's because we've seen most of this stuff before, in various war and sci fi movies.

Roberts has mined the previous material well, but putting his own twist on things. The resulting story is reasonably entertaining as young and veteran soldiers fight a desperate war against fearsome aliens, coming of age and coming to terms with each other and their own prejudices as the story unfolds.

In Wing Commander, humanity faces being wiped out at the hands of the cat-like Kilrathi. After war breaks out, the human Confederation is having trouble keeping its borders intact against those pussyfooting bad cats - who mount a surprise attack on a Confederation outpost and capture a 'navcom" device which gives them the hyperspace jump coordinates for Earth. This means the bad guys now have the ability to pop out of space right at Earth's doorstep - an alarming prospect, inded.

Wing Commander won't win any awards for originality, plot, dialogue, or any of that stuff, but it still manages to be enjoyable. The international cast of "youngsters" and veterans includes Freddie Prinze Jr, Mathew Lillard, Saffron Burrows, Jurgen Prochnow and David Warner in a story that blends elements of films like "Das Boot" and "The Last Starfighter," "Battlestar Galactica" with books like "Starman Jones." The result is a big of a hodgepodge, but one that's more enjoyable than expected.

As with other recent Fox DVD releases, you have to access the Dolby Digital soundtrack from the "Languages" menu; the film defaults to Pro Logic, which seems silly. Sound and picture quality are terrific.

The film's only available in widescreen, and extras include a sparse cast list, theatrical trailer and TV commercials.

Our review copy was a prerelease screener, so we have no idea what liner notes there are, if any.

We went into "Wing Commander" expecting a really lame exercise in "movie" making - and were pleasantly surprised.

Wing Commander, from 20th Century Fox
2.35:1 widescreen, Dolby Digital
STARRING: Freddie Prinze Jr., David Warner, Matthew Lillard, Saffron Burrows, David Suchet, Jurgen Prochnow
Based on a story and characters created by Chris Roberts, Written by Kevin Droney, Chris Roberts and Mike Finch
Produced by Todd Moyer. Directed by Chris Roberts


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Updated May 13, 2006