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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Cast:
Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes, Jesse Howell, Franchesca Clifford, Eliza Schneider, Jennifer Howell, Mona Marshall
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
What began as a construction-paper film short evolved into a veritable pop-culture phenomenon for Trey Parker and Matt Stone's outrageous animated comedy series, South Park. Centered on the hilarious misadventures of four potty-mouthed grade-schoolers in the perpetually wintry environs of South Park, Colorado, the series skewers the vagaries of the modern American cultural landscape with politically incorrect humor and satirical plotlines ranging from homophobia and terrorism to boy bands and talking poo. This collection presents 10 episodes chosen by Parker and Stone as the series' best: "AWESOM-O," "Best Friends Forever," "Casa Bonita," "Good Times with Weapons," "Red Hot Catholic Love," "The Return of the Fellowship of the Rings to the Two Towers," "Scott Tenorman Must Die," "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset," "Towelie," and "Trapped in the Closet."

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 308 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 10/3/2006

Bonus:
• “The Spirit of Christmas” Short
• Four Bonus Episodes
• Mini-Commentaries for All 10 Episodes
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


South Park: The Hits - Volume I (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 15, 2006)

While prior South Park compilations offered episodes that followed particular themes, the newest one comes as a more strict “best of”. Entitled The Hits: Volume 1, this set presents 10 shows hand-picked by series chiefs Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I’ll look at each one in order and offer my own thoughts about them.

DVD One:

Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset (aired 12/1/04): “All the fourth-grade girls idolize a rich, famous and spoiled socialite. They even have her brand-new toy set that comes complete with video camera, night vision filter, play money and loseable cell phone. Disturbed by the corruptive influence the trashy celebrity has on all little girls, one of the town’s favorite citizens challenges her to a ‘whore-off’”.

Time for an easy target! Paris Hilton was a tired a topic already by late 2004 and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to skewer her. I will admit the show takes a few decent tangents as it makes its points, but these aren’t enough to fully redeem the program. I do like the look at the young Mr. Slave, though.

The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers (aired 11/13/02): “The boys embark on a journey to return The Lord of the Rings to the Two Towers video store but their parents try to stop them to get back the ‘precious’ porno they accidentally left in the box.”

This show boasts a cute concept but lackluster execution. Really, it feels like a five-minute segment stretched for a whole episode. Maybe we get a giggle or two, but most of the episode drags and plods.

Best Friends Forever (aired 3/30/05): Due to his obsession with the Sony PSP, Kenny gets hit by a truck and dies. When he gets to heaven, he finds out that the forces of good need him to lead an assault against Satan. Before this occurs, though, doctors bring him back, and he gets stuck in a “persistent vegetative state”. This starts a battle between those who want to keep Kenny alive and Cartman, who wants him dead to snag his PSP.

This episode’s obvious take on the Terry Schiavo controversy will date it in the future. It doesn’t present a particularly memorable view of the issues, to be honest, though I like the way Cartman manipulates matters simply for his own self interests. A few clever moments occur, but this show doesn’t stand out as especially strong.

Good Times with Weapons (aired 3/17/04): “The boys are transformed into Japanese warriors after they buy martial arts weapons at a local flea market. Their sworn enemy, Professor Chaos, confronts them and a highly stylized anime battle ensues.”

I like the parts where the kids turn into ultra-muscled warriors, and these become especially amusing when the scenes transition between fantasy and reality. The boys’ attempts to cure a wounded Butters but not get in trouble with their parents also entertain in a perverse way.

Casa Bonita (aired 11/12/03): “Kyle’s parents are taking him and three of his friends to Casa Bonita for his birthday. Kyle chooses Stan, Kenny and Butters to celebrate with him at Colorado’s version of a Mexican Disneyland. When Cartman finds out he’s not invited, he arranges for Butters to conveniently go ‘missing’.”

God help me, but I do love Cartman-centered shows. When Eric is at his most conniving, the series usually soars. His maniacal obsession over Casa Bonita makes him nuttier than usual, and the program’s climax – in which he tries to pack in as much fun as possible in a very brief period of time – is terrific.

AWESOM-O (aired 4/14/04): “Cartman dresses up like a robot, calls himself AWESOM-O and moves in with Butters in a plan to learn all of Butters’ secrets and then use them against him. While Butters is thrilled to have a new best friend, the US Army believes AWESOM-O is some new secret weapon, and Hollywood is after the phony robot to develop their next big blockbuster.”

The idea behind this episode is one of the series’ oddest – and a lot of fun. Cartman’s plan is great, and the way it inevitably backfires is even better. The show turns out to be a real winner.

Trapped in the Closet (aired 11/16/05): Stan tries to have fun but not spend money, so he takes the Scientologists up on their offer of a free personality test. The results of this allege that he’s totally miserable and needs to invest in their programs to be happy again. He does so and makes an impression on the Scientologists with his insanely high “Thetan levels”. They think he’s the reincarnation of their leader L. Ron Hubbard, so Tom Cruise becomes despondent when Stan doesn’t think he’s a very good actor. Cruise goes in a closet and refuses to leave.

Easily this set’s most controversial episode, “Closet” takes shot at easy targets. I mean, the Scientologists and Cruise aren’t exactly clever subjects for mockery. The many jokes about Cruise’s refusal to “come out of the closet” gets old; it’s a cheap gag and one that grows old quickly. That said, “Closet” gets in a fair number of amusing digs and becomes reasonably entertaining despite some tired elements.

DVD Two:

Towlie (aired August 8, 2001): “The boys get a new videogame system and their plan for the foreseeable future is to play it! When the government steals their new Game Sphere, the boys will stop at nothing to get it back. Their one hope for infiltrating the top-secret lab when the Game Sphere is being kept is to team up with Towlie, a genetically engineered towel who only wants to get high.

If nothing else, “Towlie” goes down as something different. Actually, the Towlie character comes across as little more than a riff on Mr. Hankey. However, the episode proves reasonably amusing, mostly because through all their adventures, all the kids want to do is get back their videogame console. Plus, it’s tough to dislike a program that features probably the only Alien Resurrection parody ever aired.

Red Hot Catholic Love (aired 7/3/02): “When the Catholic Church sex scandal negatively impacts church attendance in South Park, Priest Maxi travels to Rome to confront religious leaders about a solution. After intensive counseling about the issue, the boys are still confused. Cartman distracts everyone when he pulls off what was believed to be scientifically impossible.”

The last part offers the best elements of “Love”. Cartman theorizes that if you put food in your mouth and crap out of your butt, then logically if you put food in your butt, you should crap out of your mouth. That’s a hilarious concept, and the way the show follows it works even better.

Otherwise, “Love” is a pretty average episode. The priests offer an easy target, and while the show provides some funny shots - the presence of aliens at the Roman convention proves surprising and amusing, and one surreal segment puts Maxi into the Vatican catacombs ala the old “Pitfall” videogame. Otherwise those parts of the program are lackluster. Still, the poop-related part of the show makes it good.

Scott Tenorman Must Die (aired July 11, 2001): This program finds Cartman the victim of eighth grader Tenorman. That kid convinces Cartman to buy a supply of his pubic hair with the promise this means he’s reached puberty. When the other boys tell Cartman he’s a fool, Eric goes on a campaign of revenge against Tenorman, all in the hope he’ll get back his money. Matters continue to escalate as Tenorman consistently gets the better of Cartman, at least until the shocking conclusion.

”Tenorman” offers a strong show. The battle between Tenorman and Cartman is plain fun to see, and the bizarre ways that they fight against each other seem very entertaining. And when I say that the ending’s shocking, I mean it; I kept expecting to find out that parts of it were in jest, but they weren’t, which makes the whole thing all that much more amusing. It’s a great ending that helped turn “Tenorman” into a very memorable episode.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

South Park: The Hits – Volume One appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I found visuals here that strongly resembled those of the prior few seasons.

Sharpness appeared strong. Occasional bouts of light softness showed up, but these seemed modest, especially compared to earlier seasons. Overall, the shows remained pretty concise and accurate. Shimmering was minimal, and jagged edges - a consistent concern in the past - were fairly minor. Curved lines still looked a bit rough, but not as much as during prior shows. No issues with source defects occurred.

Colors also demonstrated fairly good delineation. The tones mostly seemed pretty clear and vivid, and they didn’t suffer from significant signs of noise or bleeding. They were acceptably lively. Black levels tended to be somewhat drab and gray, and shadow detail usually looked slightly too dark, but not terribly so. This was a good representation of South Park and offered the show about as positively as possible.

As for the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of South Park, the soundfields offered a modest spread to the mix. Most of the material stayed within the front spectrum, where I heard mild use of directional effects and some decent stereo music. Vocals usually stayed in the center. Audio moved adequately across channels as well, though there's not a great deal of panning or directional sound apparent. The surrounds mainly added some light ambience that reinforced the music and effects; it gave me a decent impression but didn't contribute much to the experience.

Audio quality appeared good but unspectacular. Speech sounded natural and distinct, and the lines blended well with the action. Only a smidgen of edginess cropped up, as the lines usually were without defects. Effects were clean and acceptably accurate, and music seemed clear and smooth with moderate but decent bass heard at times. South Park presented a bland but decent auditory experience as a whole.

As we shift to the extras, we start with the usual “mini-commentaries”. We get these for all 10 episodes with creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. These begin at the start of each show and last a total of 29 minutes and 11 seconds.

Parker and Stone tell us the general rationale behind how they chose the programs in this set and get into details of each episode. They give us various specifics about the shows and also tell us why each one made this compilation. They tell us about the controversy related to “Trapped in the Closet” as well as other interesting issues. Note that even though they already did commentaries for eight of the shows involved, they offer new chats here. That’s a nice fresh aspect of the set, and I continue to really enjoy these fun commentaries.

In addition, DVD One presents some Previews. We get promos for That’s My Bush!, South Park Season Eight, Mind of Mencia, and Drawn Together.

We also get four bonus episodes on DVD Two. Here’s what we find:

It Hits the Fan (aired June 20, 2001): In this program, a TV network decides to break a taboo and use the word “shit” on the air of its hit show Cop Drama. Ratings go through the roof, and the term becomes just about the most popular thing ever, as the entire populous starts to fling it about wildly.

However, people start to become violently ill and die for no apparent reason. This disease spreads more quickly with the greater use of “shit”, and the TV network escalates the profanity with each new episode of Cop Drama. Eventually the TV folk plan an evening of “Must Shit TV”, in which they’ll use the word with insane abandon.

The boys of South Park - Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny – discover that the increased use of profanity in society causes the illness that abounds. The swearing also awakes the Knights of Standards and Practices, an ancient order who try to protect the world. You see, it just so happens that curse words got that title because with excessive usage, they actually curse people. So along with the boys and Chef, the Knights need to stop the swearing and save the country.

South Park may well be the only show on TV that can successfully support and oppose heavy swearing at the same time. Of course, the program revels in the use of profanity, and its makers gleefully run a counter onscreen to keep track of each use of the word “shit”. However, they also come down on the side of responsibility; the Knights and their cause actually seem appropriate and helpful, as the show doesn’t really mock them. It’s a weird balance between the two sides, but the program somehow makes it work.

Timmy 2000 (aired April 19, 2000) focuses our wheelchair-bound friend. In this episode, the school staff seems unable to deal with the mentally-challenged Timmy. Mr. Garrison interprets his incoherence as insolence, despite the fact the kids point out Timmy’s retardation. Principal Victoria also becomes angered, but they eventually decide that Timmy can’t work because he has an attention deficit disorder; a doctor tests him in an unusual way and soon puts Timmy on Ritalin.

When the other kids see that Mr. Garrison now requires virtually no work from Timmy, they declare that they have ADD as well, and the quack doctor agrees. Soon the entire class is doped up on Ritalin, and their unusually high level of compliance drives the staff nuts.

In the meantime, Timmy stumbles across a flailing metal band, the Lords of the Underworld. His spastic wailings fit perfectly into their music, and the group soon rockets up the charts. They win a coveted spot to open for Phil Collins at a music festival, but their popularity becomes so enormous that the billing gets reversed. A jealous Collins – most definitely not voiced by the real singer – sabotages the band when he convinces the band’s guitarist to quit. Of course, a happy ending eventually ensues, although some controversy about whether fans mock or love Timmy crops up along the way.

“Timmy” provides a nice look at various actual issues. Amazingly, it views the whole ADD issue in a surprisingly accurate and fair light. It argues correctly that Ritalin is an over-prescribed drug used simply to placate kids who really don’t have attention deficit concerns, but it also states – also correctly – that some students really do benefit from it. The show also looks at the ways that we view the handicapped and reminds us that treating them like china dolls is almost as bad as mocking them.

Of course, since this is South Park, the episode doesn’t function like the message show I just described. It has the usual level of silliness and crude hijinks. I loved the ridiculous “test” for ADD used by the doctor, and the bizarre decision to voice Collins ala one of the Gumbys from Monty Python was also inspired. “Timmy” offers a solid episode.

Fat Butt and Pancake Head (first aired 4/16/03): “One of Cartman’s body parts becomes famous overnight and rivals the popularity of another superstar. The real ‘Jenny from the Block’ is enraged to learn that a new ‘Diva’ has stolen her record deal and her boyfriend. Taco kisses!”

The hilarious “Butt” entertains for a variety of reasons. From the surreal aspects of the Jennifer Lopez hand puppet to the amusing songs to Cartman’s psychosis, this program works awfully well. It’s one of the series’ all-time best shows.

The Death Camp of Tolerance (first aired 11/20/02): “Mr. Slave and Lemmiwinks make their debut as Mr. Garrison desperately tries to get fired from his new job as the boys’ fourth grade teacher.”

The set ends with this excellent program. With Mr. Slave, the Museum of Tolerance, and Lemmiwinks the gerbil, we find many amusing elements. Political correctness gets a nice jab in this terrific show.

Of particular interest to fans, DVD Two also includes the original Spirit of Christmas short. The five-minute and 15-second piece offers the first-ever glimpses of the South Park kids. It’s crude but entertaining and great to have for archival reasons.

Despite its title of The Hits, I think this South Park collection includes a fair number of misses. At its best, we get some truly inspired episodes, but a fair number of them are lackluster. This makes the set awfully uneven, as does the fact that nothing from the series’ first three seasons appears here.

The DVDs offer good picture and sound plus some nice extras. The “mini-commentaries” continue to entertain and inform, fans will delight over the inclusion of the original “Spirit of Christmas”, and the four bonus episodes are consistently terrific. Actually, those extra shows are better than almost all of the programs regarded as “hits”! This is a nice collection for fans who want a South Park sampler, but more dedicated viewers will be happier with the full season sets.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4444 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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