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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Mystery > Horror > Zombies > British TV > Skits > Hot Fuzz (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format + Widescreen DVD-Video) + Shaun Of The Dead (HD-DVD) + Big Train – Seasons One & Two (BBC DVD)

Hot Fuzz (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format + Widescreen DVD-Video) + Shaun Of The Dead (HD-DVD) + Big Train – Seasons One & Two (BBC DVD)


Picture: B+ & B-/B-/B+/C+     Sound: B+ & B-/B-/B+/C+     Extras: C     Films/Episodes: C



If you cannot get enough of Simon Pegg, you are in luck.  The comic actor from British TV now making an impact with two comic feature film bloodfests finds an early TV hit finally coming to the U.S. on DVD and his two hit films exclusively on HD-DVD.


From back in 1998, Pegg was part of the ensemble skit cast for the BBC hit Big Train, which BBC Home Video has issued at the same time that his second cult-hit-to-be Hot Fuzz arrives on DVD and an HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format disc.  The series is in the mode of SCTV, SNL, Mad-TV, In Living Color and Monty Python, yet it is a mix of skits that work, about as many that don’t and is often saved only by its British sensibilities.  For Pegg fans, it is a must, yet for others, it is worth at least a look to see if you find it funny.  The seasons are short enough to fit on one DVD each, but offer many skits.  The show also features Catherine Tate, whose new show we have already looked at and were far less impressed with.


In 2004, Pegg released the surprise worldwide hit Shaun Of The Dead, yet another send-up of the George Romero zombie classics that has had much more resonance with fans than most.  It is also as annoying as Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Bob Clark’s indie hit that was the first to lampoon Romero’s original 1968 Night Of The Living Dead.  Shaun sometimes seems like a love letter to the Romero films, then allows itself to get caught up in excess blood and gore that spoils its wit.  Edgar Wright directed and if nothing else besides it Britishness saved it, the teaming of Pegg and Nick Frost was a winner.


Hot Fuzz (2007) starts out as a different and promising film as Pegg plays a no-nonsense cop who is paid for his efficiency by being sent to a small British town where the worst thing seems to be poets escaping their owners.  The opening introduction using Adam Ant’s Goody Two Shoes is a nice touch.  After meeting the townies and reprimanding a bunch of underage drinkers, a murder takes place.  Some try to write it off as an accident, but it is obviously more and a very potentially interesting mystery begins.


Unfortunately, it becomes an excuse to repeat everything from Shaun Of The Dead when some wacky plot twists ruin the set-up and all the film can offer is blood and gore.  Pegg and Frost are funny without trying, but the film cannot seem to bring out the very best of them throughout.  However, this is meant to cater to Shaun fans, so the rest of us get left out.  Hope they go a new direction next time.


At least the 1080p 2.35 X 1 VC-1 digital High Definition image quality of both films on HD-DVD look really good, as shot in Super 35mm by David M. Dunlap and Jess Hall respectively.  Color is consistent, depth is nice and definition is solid.  Both have Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mixes that are better than standard Dolby would be, with Fuzz supposedly offering EX and turning out not to, but they still are about the same in quality.  The soundfield are good and dialogue recording is fine in both cases.  The DVD flipside of the Fuzz HD-DVD and separate widescreen DVD-Video are not bad for standard definition, anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1.  Sometimes, such versions have varied from Universal, but they are virtually the same in picture and sound quality here, with standard Dolby Digital 5.1 (EX on Fuzz again) just fine, but not as good as the HD tracks.


Big Train has various aspect ratios, but the show itself is 1.33 X 1 and though it is not going to look as good as a new feature film in either format, the transfers fare very well for a TV skit series with consistent color.  Definition can be an issue and some analog PAL video effects look dated.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has no surrounds of any kind.  Extras include stills, cast/crew audio commentary on select shows and text cast/crew bios on both seasons, plus a half-hour of deleted scenes on the first season, 13 minutes of deleted scenes on the second season and 7 minutes of the German version of the show on the second season.


The HD-DVDs both have deleted scenes, several various featurette bits and trivia meters.  Shaun adds TV Bits, uncensored audio commentary and casting tapes, while Fuzz has commentary optional on the deleted scenes, press tour in the U.S. piece and the duo doing scenes as Sean Connery & Michael Caine.  All in all, these are interesting releases, though somewhat overrated.  We can only hope Pegg and Frost will find a new artistic breakthrough, or be stuck in a niche that does not do all of their talents justice.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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