(the movie review, video/audio quality reviews for this new edition of "Dogma" will remain the same as the previous edition since the a/v quality of this new edition is the same - the supplements are the only difference.)
I remember when I first read the script on the internet for "Dogma". It was a original, wild piece of work and kind of like a great novel, I kept reading it till I'd finished it. Although I kind of enjoy the final product, it's not quite as entertaining as it read on the page. Although director Kevin Smith's movies have always been talky, "Dogma" goes on a little too long at over two hours for its own good.
An odd religious comedy/drama about the Catholic faith, Smith's trademark vulgar language remains from his other films, and most enjoyably, we get the return of Jay and Silent Bob(Smith himself), the duo that have been in every one of Smith's films. The two get some of the best lines, and stoner Jay has some of the funniest observations that he's ever had in Smith's movies.
Two outcast angels, Loki(Matt Damon) and Bartelby(Ben Affleck) have been cast out of Heaven and end up wandering around, looking for a way back. They discover that if they enter into a Church in Jersey, they can get back into heaven, but the only bad thing is that by doing so, they end existence in the process. A human named Bethany(Linda Fiorentino) finds herself on the journey to keep the angels from going through the loophole, but only later does she learn the role she plays in the greater whole. Keeping her company on the journey, and trying to score with her, are our two heros - Jay and Bob. Meeting up with them along the way is the 13th apostle(Chris Rock) and a muse(Salma Hayek).
The film goes on a little too long at times, but I was entertained by the ride. Stopping at many points along the way to discuss the nature of religion, the film provides some very interesting conversations, but the film could have done with a little editing here and there to pick up the pacing. Smith is sort of like the Farrelly Brothers in a way. Although their films are sort of different in nature, neither are really the best filmmakers, technically, in the world. He can tell the story with dialogue, but he just needs to work on telling the story visually. Luckily, on "Dogma" he has a little help from "Rushmore" cinematographer Robert Yeoman, who does a rather nice job presenting Smith's first film shot in the wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
I still think "Chasing Amy" is Smith's best work to date, but "Dogma" still has its fine moments - it just could have been a shortened a little. And of course, I'm still angry that Jason Mewes was overlooked for a best supporting actor nominee at the Oscars. Seriously.
VIDEO: Luckily, Tristar took over DVD duties for "Dogma" and they've done a fine job with the presentation. The film's 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer shows off a sharp, clear image that offers rich, natural colors that never show any signs of bleeding. Black level is strong, and flesh tones are natural and accurate. Sharpness and detail was very good throughout, as well - the picture looked well-defined and crisp, although a little "flat" at times, lacking depth.
I didn't see much to complain about with the effort, although there was a minor, slight trace of pixelation once or twice. Other than a couple of tiny instances of that, there's no shimmering, and the print used is crystal clear and clean of any marks or scratches. A very nice transfer from Columbia that does justice to Robert Yeoman's fine cinematography - and I liked that the film was shot in 2.35:1, although a lot of people seemed not to. The full_frame presentation that was included on the original edition is not included here and it's not missed as it really cropped out a lot of the image.
SOUND: I was actually kind of suprised by how active the audio for "Dogma" was. With creative and occasionally agressive use of the surrounds, the action and various effects come through clearly. The occasional score sounds fine as well, and nicely recorded. Dialogue, like any Kevin Smith film, is always the focus, and it's always easily understood.
MENUS:: The main menu is animated as the bible is fast-forwarded to a page that has the "Dogma" main menu. The second disc also has a main menu that opens with animation, but different. Another amusing bit is there's an old woman who, in-between menus, talks about how watching "Dogma" is a sin and how you should remove the disc now. Very funny.
Commentary: This is a cast and crew commentary, including director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, View Askew historian Vincent Pereira, actors Jason Mewes, Jason Lee and Ben Affleck. There'a few jokes early on about why Matt Damon was not able to join the group. As with any View Askew commentary, this is an incredibly funny affair with some great jokes and smart humor about the obstacles during production as well as some stories from the set.
As with any commentary where he's involved in, Ben Affleck dominates quite a bit of the proceedings, joking about what's going on in the scene as well as pointing out where Smith lacks as a director. Smith also has some great stories such as the fact that it wasn't always easy working with Fiorentino.
You can opt to play the commentary track with the "Follow the Buddy Christ", where an icon pops up for about five seconds every so often throughout the picture where, if you click on it, you can see video of the group commentating about the film, but these video clips are fairly short. The interesting thing is that there's two video boxes at the same time as the comedy of a Kevin Smith commentary can't be captured with just one camera. Although the multi-angle way of going about this kind of thing would have been easier, this still worked okay for me (as long as I reacted quickly with the remote and of course, it takes me forever to react to anything.) The commentary itself is very funny and there's some very big laugh-out-loud moments as the group jokes about the film and each other, but the track is suprisingly the slightest bit more serious than the other tracks. It would have been nice if Chris Rock and Matt Damon had been able to join the proceedings, but at that point it would likely have been too many people all at once.
The bleeps that are at the opening of the track and occasionally elsewhere during the commentary are Disney/Miramax references - as the studio didn't want the documentary that was going to be included on this special edition to be on, either.
Commentary Two: This is a commentary from director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and V.A. historian Vincent Pereira. Mosier was unhappy with the first track after it was recorded because it was all jokes and didn't give much information about the making of the picture (wait, all of the Smith tracks are jokes...). Anyways, Mosier wanted a more technical commentary so he organized this track where the group talks more about the details of the making of the picture as well as some of the drier technical information. There's certainly still some jokes on this commentary, but it's more about the behind-the-scenes on the roles of the crew in certain scenes and how scenes were filmed & where. I'm pleased that the cast/crew were able to have fun for the first track and this commentary provides more production information.
Deleted Scenes: About 100 minutes worth of deleted scenes are included in this sections. Separated and with introdutions from Pereira, Smith (as well as Smith's new child) and others, the scenes fall into a couple of catagories - some are just nice to have on the disc, but certainly wouldn't have worked as they don't push the plot or really go anywhere. Some of the other scenes are very funny and could have worked, but the picture was already a little lengthy at 128 minutes. The famous "Fat Albert" sequence has made it onto the disc and the Jay/Silent Bob song & dance sequence is screamingly funny. That should have been left in as it's comedic gold.
Outtakes: There's about 13 minutes worth of various goofs, alternate takes and funny bits. Some bits, especially a couple of Affleck gags (also check out Affleck's goofs on the "Bounce" DVD outtakes for more hilarity) are incredibly funny while some are just merely amusing. At the end of it all there's a bit called "Why Kevin Smith Doesn't Like Improvisation" - as he's stated before in the "Chasing Amy" commentary, he's not a fan and this scene sort of shows why. For a few minutes, Affleck and Damon improv their way through a scene and it really doesn't work too well (not to mention Affleck consistently is about to laugh).
Storyboards: Storyboards for three sequences: "Mooby Sequence", "Triplet Attack Sequence", "No Man Attack Sequence".
Also: Trailer, cast/crew bios and promo spot for Jay and Silent Bob's secret stash store (or, if you don't want to go to the store, just order online at viewaskew.com). In the booklet, there's a new essay from Smith about his experiences with "Dogma".
Final Thoughts: Although it's a dissapointment that the documentary isn't included, Smith has said that he will attempt to find another way for it to be viewed in the future. As for the final product, the two commentaries are a lot of fun (as are any View Askew commentary) and the amazing amount of deleted footage is interesting and entertaining to go through. JM Kenny, who produced the "Mallrats" DVD, has also done a wonderful job here. Highly recommended.