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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dane Cook - Vicious Circle
Dane Cook - Vicious Circle
HBO // Unrated // November 28, 2006
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted November 14, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Feature

Dane Cook has been a fast rising star. Some might say 'he's only a stand-up comic', but this star has gained a 'rock star' status. This is pretty rare for a comedian to gain such a following and in such a short amount of time.

Dane is also the object at the end of a very large poking stick as other comedians supposedly are a bit upset over the rising star and his talent, or perhaps lack there of. The questions raised about Cook have been if he's even all that funny, or if his material has been stolen and altered to be made his own. His material has said to have been quite similar to that of Louis C.K., another performer that had his moment to shine on HBO recently with the series Lucky Louie. Dane Cook has denied the allegations of stand-up plagiarism. Many have chosen sides on the issue, fans and comedians alike. In the end the only thing I can think of is how many times I've heard the same material between different comedians in the past already. Despite the fact that many stand-up comics use the same subject matter for material over and over again, it's all gone without mention in the past. It seems to all fall squarely on Dane because of his 'rock star' status.

If you want to find out if Dane Cook is funny or not, you can finally see for the first time on DVD a full length performance by the trivialized performer. HBO has given Cook quite a large moment to shine after the smash success of his first two CD's Harmful If Swallowed and Retaliation. He's had royal treatment with a short televised series on HBO called Tourgasm which followed Dane and other comic friends around the country as they toured. Then came along Vicious Circle, a feature length stand-up that lasted an hour and a half. Usually large names like Bill Cosby or Robin Williams get a feature length treatment, and here we find Dane Cook in the same situation. So again the question comes up, is he really all that funny?

Comedy for me is a way to laugh and have a good time. I love stand-up and can appreciate all the major names in the business. Some take it as far as to call it a serious form of art, and for those that do it for a living I can certainly appreciate and understand that as well. No matter how you take comedy though, there are certainly major differences between Dane and other performers and you can see them all in this event. There's a very distinct line that's drawn with most comics as to how they tell a joke and deliver the punch-line. Facial expressions and body language all have something to do with the delivery as well, but Dane Cook has twisted the old format to suit his own abilities on the stage.

The jokes he does tell are a bit more modern and 'new age', and a lot of the time his laughs don't come from jokes at all but from his stories and his body movement. Body language is always somewhat of an emphasis for comics, but Dane Cook's body is his own prop. He's always moving around and working the stage. Appropriately at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston in front of 18,000 people, Dane has been placed on a circular stage in the center of all attending. He makes full use of the stage as expected with overly dramatic body language to emphasize pretty much everything throughout the entire show. I'll ask the question one more time. Is it funny?

Yes.

Many might be skeptical on Dane's performance abilities. He's been labeled by many as a comedian that does more performing than joke telling to sell his act, but I have to say 'so what'? As a movie reviewer, I can certainly run off a list of names of flicks that would have been garbage if held to strict standards. We all could probably name some movies that were low on plot but high on their popcorn flick fun factor. The whole package and presentation can make a difference. In the end Dane Cook is what again I'd like to refer to as a 'new age' comic. Usually his jokes bounce around from one thing to the next, but for his HBO stand-up special Dane has perfected the ability to tell stories and interlace them all together without any hiccups. His style of comedy is more on par with the younger generation, which would include anybody who grew up playing the video games or watching the television shows of the early eighties. Dane Cook may stray from what might be considered acceptable around the rest of the comic community, but there's no doubt about it. He's entertaining to watch and because he's so lively and hyper on stage he gets the laugh every time. His ability to emphasize and act vocally is also another large portion of the laughs he receives. This is apparent as he's become famous by only being heard on CD's thus far. Put the vocal talent and physical abilities together and you have yourself a professional actor at the helm of a comic microphone.

With all of this in mind and the experience under his belt to have his full talent exploited on the stage, Dane is certainly able to keep up his what seems to be exhausting pace on stage. He's so active and lively and as I've said before, has perfected his ability to tell stories and keep everything strung together nicely. This DVD has two discs. The first disc has the originally broadcasted for HBO version running at ninety minutes. The second disc holds an extended cut that runs at two hours. This is a really nice cut for the fans. For most though, the original cut shown on HBO is going to be the preferred version of this stand-up event. Again, the fans will appreciate the extended cut but we're getting extended portions of bits already seen in the original version, and the other additional pieces we get are distractions from the show. One such example is a girl that shows up at the stage saying it's her birthday. The ninety minute cut has been edited together to give us that flawless continuity, where the extended cut does have some of those 'hiccups' in place.

Video

Vicious Circle is presented in an anamorphic widescreen presentation that will fill your entire screen. The image has no issues with artifacts or edge enhancement. Black levels are nice but you might be fooled into thinking they aren't. A lot of the time we're seeing close-ups of Dane on stage with the spotlight shining down on him, and this makes the background of the audience appear to be washed out. This is not so, as you can tell in far away camera shots that it's merely due to the lighting on Dane up close. The audience is covered in a dim blue lighting and black. This is presented very well. The colors are natural and come out nicely with good contrast when there are actual dark portions of the screen to compare them to. Overall a very clean presentation and sharp presentation. The only thing that really could have made it better would have been sharper long shots.

Audio

We're getting this presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital. This is kind of disappointing considering we have Dane on a round stage and there's certainly a nice opportunity to give a full arena surround sound track here. The 2.0 track works well enough though and sounds very nice itself as expected for a comedy act by HBO. The vocals are strong without biting your eardrum, and the crowd uproars are heard very well. Again though, it sure would have been nice for some surround.

Extras

You could probably consider the entire second disc a 'bonus' with the two hour cut on this disc. What's pretty nice is that there's a symbol that appears in the bottom right hand corner of your screen any time you're viewing new material. Unfortunately, this symbol can get quite obnoxious as it will show up at the beginning of a bit that we've already seen but had been extended. The symbol also could have been a little smaller so it wasn't such a distraction, or there should have been a feature to turn it off if you didn't care to actually see what was new or not. You can however view these additional scenes by themselves via the menu if you wish.

There's a sneak preview of the upcoming DVD set of Dane Cook's Tourgasm which should be coming sometime soon.

A behind the scenes featurette is the only other real extra, but it's not skimpy. It's a decent length that could probably air on television as a half hour special. We get to see the checks on stage hours before the show is performed, as well as interviews with Dane, the director of this stand-up event, and Dane's buddies who appeared with him on the Tourgasm tour. You get to see the fans do crazy things in order to get better seats, and we also get to see some real kindness as a lot of people in the back rows are given tickets for the front!

Overall

If you aren't sure what all the fuss is about, now is your chance to at least rent this DVD and check out Dane Cook yourself with Vicious Circle. I would have to give this DVD for stand-up a high recommendation. Dane Cook may not be the average comic, but he certainly is always entertaining to watch. Who cares if he doesn't use the same formula for joke telling as most other comics do for their art form? The entire package works together very well and it's because Dane Cook knows how to exploit the things he knows he's good at. He's very animated and very much in tune with what you might call generations X and Y. Dane's performance in Vicious Circle is very down to earth as he talks about many things that could be personal and even embarrassing, yet everything he touches on are things we can all relate to in almost the exact manner he describes them in. His ability to tell such comedic stories and use his body as a prop does him well and anybody that enjoys stand-up comics should definitely enjoy this performance by the man who invented the double fingered 'su-fi' symbol. What's holding back this set from getting a collector's series rating would be the disappointing fact of not having surround sound for such a large turnout comic event, and a lack of additional bonus materials. The entire extended feature on another disc is warmly welcomed and it's nice to see it all pieced together instead of seeing the additional content as 'deleted scenes', although you certainly can view these scenes separately if you wish. Perhaps some extra effort into making this feature accessible for ninety minutes or two hours via seemless branching would have been nice, but now I'm knit-picking.
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