Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Total Movie: April 2001

Here we are once again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly blog about one of the movies I own.  This time, doing something a little different.  It's an old promotional DVD called Total Movie: April 2001.  This is in my notes at May 15, 2017.

Total Movie:  April 2001

Back in the early days of DVD, whenever I’d invited friends over to partake in a movie night, their eyes would usually turn to an unusual DVD called Total Movie: April 2001.  They’d pull it off the shelf, take a look at it, nod with understanding, and then put it back.  That DVD still sits on my shelf, and I’d long wanted to explore it for this column, knowing it would be a little more unusual that I usually do here.

Total Movie launched in the fall of the year 2000 as an Americanization of the legendary British film magazine Total Film.  But, Total Movie had its own unique gimmick.  You know how computer magazines used to come with a CD-ROM full of demos?  Well, thanks to the new technology of DVD, each issue of Total Movie came with a DVD, full of previews of upcoming DVDs, trailers for upcoming theatrical films, and some of the hottest viral videos going around the Internet.

Yeah, this was the year 2000.  Internet was still mostly dial-up, and streaming video wasn’t viable yet, but videos still got shared through file-sharing.   Back in my final days of college, my computer science major buddies would show off these videos they’d just downloaded.  Bored computer animators doing epic space battles between the starship Enterprise and Imperial Star Destroyers.  Raunchy cartoons like Tripping the Rift.  That’s also where I first saw the legendary Star Wars fan film Troops.  In fact, that’s why the first issue of Total Movie made waves across the home theatre message boards I frequented back then.  The first DVD in the first issue contains the only official DVD release of Troops

I finally got my first DVD player in January of 2001.  A few weeks later, I snatched up the latest copy of Total Movie on my way home from work.  I primarily got it for the free DVD, and not for the cover story on the upcoming movie version of Josie and the Pussycats.  For this issue, the editors added an extra gimmick to the DVD.  They said that they’d been getting lots of reader feedback, asking if they could somehow create a proper DVD case for the free DVD, rather than just the little paper envelope it came in.  Since these magazines that came packaged in a clear plastic bag to help contain the free CD usually also contained a piece of paper listing what was on the CD, the Total Movie editors decided to print onto that a proper DVD insert and liner notes.  All you had to do was provide your own empty DVD case.  As soon as HMV started selling the empty cases, I clipped out that insert and gave Total Movie: April 2001 an honoured place in my DVD library.

Sadly, it was the only Total Movie DVD that wound up in my library.  The April 2001 issue wound up being the last one.  The gimmick of the free DVD made the magazine a little too expensive, and the sales figures just weren’t there.  Total Film licensed the Total Movie name to a different publisher, and the magazine re-launched a year later.  But the content wasn’t there, and the free DVD became a public domain movie that you had to send away for.  Total Movie 2.0 came and went just as fast as the original. 

But I still have my copy of Total Movie: April 2001, and I toss it in every once in a while, just to remember those exciting early days of DVD.  Let’s take a look at it.

There’s two short films on the DVD.  The first is an animated film called The Killer Bean 2, which they proudly proclaim was #1 on iFilm.com.  In this world of humanoid beans, a loud party is keeping our titular Killer Bean awake at night.  When he calls to complain, and the party-goers just mock him, the Killer Bean grabs his guns and goes to settle the score.  And the majority of the film is just one big gun fight.  The Matrix was still fresh and new, so there’s lots of bullet time shots.  It’s cute.

The second one is my favourite of the two, Me and the Big Guy, which is a comedic spin on 1984.  In our brutal totalitarian regime, where Big Brother is watching you, our hero is actually quite friendly and chipper.  He affectionately refers to the massive telescreen that monitors his every move and broadcasts an ever-watching picture of Big Brother as “the Big Guy,” and regards Big Brother as his wacky roommate.  Eventually, the picture of Big Brother comes to life, just so Big Brother can tell our nameless protagonist just how freaking annoying he is, and that our protagonist should just cave under oppression already.  It’s got a pretty clever twist ending, too.  It must exist on YouTube at this point, I suggest you seek it out.

I wonder if these guys ever went on to greater things.  The Killer Bean 2 was created and animated by Jeffrey Lew, who went on to be an animator and do some of the CGI for the Transformers movies and Tron Legacy.  Cool.  Me and the Big Guy was written and directed by Matt Nix, who went on to create the TV shows Burn Notice, The Good Guys, and the upcoming X-Men TV series The Gifted.  Double cool!

Next up, we have the trailers.  The big three on here are for three of the bigger films of 2001.  First, there’s our first glimpse of Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.  Man, I haven’t seen that since I saw it in the theatre in 2001.  I remember thinking, “The best we can hope for is mid-range Indiana Jones rip-off,” and I remember coming out of the theatre going, “Yup, about what I expected.”  The second is for the first Shrek, which I haven’t watched in a while.  I remember enjoying the first one, but the sequels made me want to puke.  I’ve been told the first one hasn’t aged well, so I’m curious.  Maybe I’ll do that one next.  And the third notable trailer is Memento, which is still high on the list of classics I haven’t seen.

Then we get into the meat and potatoes:  previews for upcoming DVDs.  They’re mostly just the trailers, but some are kind enough to throw in a featurette or a deleted scene.  The one that gave up the most on this was the film Gladiator.  We’re treated to the trailer, a deleted scene, the menu screen animation, a featurette, and a preview of director Ridley Scott’s running commentary.  Gladiator is another one I haven’t seen since I saw it in the theatre back in the year 2000.  I wonder if they still boast that it’s the best-selling DVD of all-time.  Given that statistic, I, too, am stunned that I don’t own it. 

But I do remember specifically picking up this issue of Total Movie because the DVD contained some of the bonus features for Dogma.  There was a controversy around the Dogma DVD that wound up getting it pushed back a few months, so this free DVD was all we got for a while.  Here, we have the trailer and the blooper reel, which is pretty cool.  The other big DVD release being promoted by this DVD the 25th anniversary edition of Rocky, with the trailer and one of Sylvester Stallone’s retrospective interviews. 

They also offer up an original featurette called Behind the Menus, where they preview some of the interactive material on DVD-ROMs.  A lot of DVDs boasted DVD-ROM material, where you could pop the DVD into your computer, and then watch the movie synchronized with the screenplay or the storyboards and things of that nature. 

And that concludes my afternoon of browsing my old copy of the Total Movie: April 2001 promotional DVD.  Total Movie was a concept just a little ahead of its time, as I don’t think DVD was quite mainstream enough for a free DVD full of trailers to be popular.  And now, it’s an idea that’s behind the times, as all that stuff – trailers, deleted scenes, featurettes – we can all grab off YouTube if we’re craving a preview.  But in those early days of DVD, it was something to get the young film aficionado excited. 

No comments: