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DVD Roundup:

DVD Roundup: Serenity, Cinderella Man


We here at SMART-POPCORN.com don't traditionally review DVD features...  Our foremost concern is with the feature film or documentary itself.  However, from time to time we may have the opportunity to review pre-street copies and other "review copies" of DVDs.  When such opportunities present themselves, we'll be reviewing them here, in the DVD Roundup column.  So let's get started, shall we?


Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Nathan Fillion, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Summer Glau

It's no big surprise to anyone who's listened to the SMART-POPcast that some of our staff love all things Serenity- and Firefly-related. (For more on our opinions of the film, listen to Episode 4 and/or check the reviews on the Serenity movie page.)  For our upcoming Serenity special episode, we pulled a lot of strings to get a pre-street screener copy from Universal.  And that we did. Unfortunately, this is such an early copy that the menus and some of the bonus features are not yet available.  Here's the list of final DVD features as per Amazon.com:

  • Commentary by: Writer/Director Joss Whedon (Dolby Digital 5.1)

    Director's Commentary is one of the features missing from our copy of the DVD.  However, judging by his commentary on the Firefly series DVDs, Whedon will not disappoint in including interesting anecdotes both of the technical aspects of getting the movie made as well as personal aspects as to what the characters and story "mean" to him. Here's hoping the final copy might include some cast members on the commentary track.
  • Deleted scenes and outtakes

    My mantra regarding deleted scenes is that: "They're usually deleted for a good reason."  In other words, they're pointless or silly.  The deleted and extended scenes for Serenity are an exception to the rule, although it's understandable why they were cut--most of them attempt to bridge the gap between series and feature film, and that amount of exposition is frankly unncessary.  (Newcomers don't need it, and "Browncoats" can connect the dots.)  About half of the deleted scenes deal with Inara (Morena Baccarin) and why she'd left the ship.  Once scene, in particular, I wish they'd left in: just before the crew nervously enter Reaver territory, Mal (Nathan Fillion) and Inara share a soft, quiet moment in which they mull over regrets for ignoring an obvious romantic bond between the two.  Most of the other features deal with The Operative, the Alliances unnamed assassin.  I wish they'd kept some of these scenes, too, for as chilling and badass as The Operative was, these scenes show his more calculated, cunning side, which help to flesh him out as a more well-rounded villian-type.

    Outtakes consist mostly of various cast members fudging their lines and shouting expletives, and last about as long as the Firefly series outtakes do.
  • Future History: The Story of Earth That Was
  • What's in a Firefly
  • Re-Lighting the Firefly

    These featurettes very closely mirror some of those available on the Firefly series DVDs and even include some Firefly footage (good to see Fox being a good sport about things).  Future History briefly details Joss's vision of using a future setting to reflect on historical events, i.e. the American Civil War, and also covers the concept of American and Chinese cultures homogenizing to form the Alliance. What's in a Firefly is the special effects featurette, showcasing two key scenes from the movie: the Reaver chase, and the final descent to Mr. Universe's planet.  The most interesting featurette is Re-Lighting the Firefly, which is not about lighting the set but actually about the cast, crew, and fans' initiatives to keep the Firefly 'verse alive and getting a feature film made.  (This covers a lot of the same ground we expect Done the Impossible, the fan documentary about the fans, which we should be reviewing sometime soon.)  It's great to see the amount of love and appreciation Joss Whedon and the whole cast have for the universe they created--it's clearly as endearing to them as it is to us.
  • Joss Whedon Introduction

    I'm not sure, but I believe this was actually an introduction he gave either to the San Diego Comic-Con or to an early screening of the film.  It's a good companion to Re-Lighting the Firefly, and you can really tell how overwhelmed Joss is by the fan reaction to Firefly and how sentimental the series/franchise is to him.  By the end, he's nearly in tears: "We've done the impossible, and that makes us mighty."

Cinderella Man

Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, and Paul Giamatti

Comparisons to Rocky, Raging Bull, or even Million Dollar Baby are somewhat unfair, because this is less a boxing movie and more of a depression-era period piece.  With every punch taken and every jab thrown, Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) stands for a generation battered by the hardships of the Great Depression but refuse to stay down for the count.

  • Feature Commentary with Director Ron Howard; Feature Commentary with Writer Akiva Goldsman; Feature Commentary with Writer Cliff Hollingsworth

    Ron Howard isn't the most interesting director to listen to, but he's no slouch. He tends to make eclectic choices as a director, so it's interesting to learn what he was thinking in each case.  I'm not sure why they didn't combine the two writers into a single commentary--it's unlikely that anyone will have the patience to listen to both commentaries individually.
  • Deleted Scenes with (On/Off) Commentary by Director Ron Howard
  • The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man
  • The Man, The Movie, The Legend: A Filmmaking Journey
  • Ringside Seats

    These are your standard "bonus feature" featurettes: choosing the
    cast, explaining the concept behind the film, and training for the
    boxing scenes.
  • For the Record: A History in Boxing
  • Jim Braddock: The Friends & Family Behind The Legend

    As with all biopics, there is the obligation to tread upon the "more true" history of the characters portrayed.  You can find some of that here, although if you're looking for a broader picture of history, you should always look at multiple sources.  (For instance, there's been some controversy over Cinderella Man's portrayal of Max Baer.)

CONTEST: Win a copy of Cinderella Man on DVD!  Just send your name and mailing address to contests@smart-popcorn.com.  Winner will be chosen at random.  Must be 18 or older and a resident of the United States to participate.  Contest ends December 31, 2005.

Author: Thom Stricklin 1725 Words Published: 17 December 2005
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