Latest Software Reviews
The premise behind Funny Ladies is a good one: a four-DVD set featuring uncensored standup routines from some of the best female comediennes in the business. Most of the material dates from the early nineties, and the outfits and hairstyles are often funnier than the stand-ups themselves. Unfortunately, the real joke is on anyone who purchases this travesty of a collection.
Although there are certainly some funny moments on Funny Ladies, they are few and far between. To make matters worse, each comedienne only gets about six minutes of screen time. Six minutes of a very young Margaret Cho will leave you wanting more, but you'll be truly thankful when Morgan Fairchild's lame political standup gets the hook at the three-minute mark. And that's really the big problem with Funny Ladies: for every Ellen DeGeneres and Janeane Garofalo routine, you're stuck with filler from Jenny Jones (yes, that Jenny Jones!) and a bunch of other hacks you've never heard of. Each disc is only about forty-five minutes long, so you really have to wonder why this set wasn't put onto two discs with a significantly lower price. The 1.33:1 picture and Dolby stereo sound are adequate at best, and there are absolutely no extras to speak of. All of this for a retail price of almost $40—now that's funny.—Gary Maxwell
DVD: Eddie Murphy Raw—Paramount
If you watch the first ten minutes of Eddie Murphy Raw, you'll know that there was no bigger star in the world of show business in 1987 than Eddie Murphy. From the moment Murphy takes the stage, he is in complete control of everyone and everything in the room—he simply oozes star power. Unfortunately, Murphy left out one minor detail when filming Raw: He forgot to be funny.
After taking a four-year break from stand-up to focus on movies, Murphy returned to the stage in 1987 for a sold-out tour. His last concert video had caused much controversy due to its foul language and excessive homosexual bashing, but clearly Murphy wasn't fazed by the criticism as his performance in Raw picks up right where 1983's Delirious left off. The big difference is that the youthful spark and enthusiasm that propelled Delirious seem to be gone. Eddie's older and in a bad mood, and it shows. More than half of the film is taken up by an anti-marriage monologue that is mean-spirited, offensive to women, and simply not very funny. A few of Murphy's spot-on impersonations—most notably Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor—provide some much-needed laughter, but it's too little, too late to salvage Raw.
The 1:85.1 anamorphic transfer is as spotty as Murphy's performance, with a grainy picture and noticeable speckling. The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound is solid, but extras are harder to find than laughs—there's not even a trailer. It seems that Murphy may have taken much of the criticism of Raw to heart, as his next film role was the sweet and innocent Prince Akeem in Coming to America. That film was a hit, but Murphy was never again as big as he was before Raw showed everyone a nasty side of Eddie that should have stayed hidden.—Gary Maxwell
DVD: Larry the Cable Guy: Git-R-Done; Ron White: They Call Me Tater Salad; Bill Engvall: Here's Your Sign Live—Image
These three DVDs come from the comedians who make up the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, minus Jeff Foxworthy. Bill Engvall's stand-up is as funny as ever, but Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy make up just about the two most opposite ends of comedy. You'll like one or the other, probably, but both are funny in their own ways.
The video is pretty sharp and detailed, considering that which each DVD you're getting the same shot: a man on stage with occasional flashes to the audience for reactionary laughs. You'll notice some grain, but the comedy acts will take your mind off the less-than-perfect picture. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack almost seems like a waste. Listen during parts of Larry's stand-up, and you'll hear some sounds move across the front speakers, from right to left and back again, but that's about all the action you'll really get. You'll certainly hear laughs all around you, giving you the feeling that you're right in the middle of the audience.
The extra packages are sparse, to say the least. All three DVDs feature still galleries (although, I've never understood the appeal of this extra). This is the only bonus material you'll find on the Bill Engvall DVD. Larry the Cable Guy also gives you "Bathroom Humor," a short involving him in the restroom. Ron White sits down for a one-on-one session and tells a few funny stories from his days getting started in stand-up.—Amy Carter
DVD: Bill Cosby: Himself—20th Century Fox
Bill Cosby showcases his unique brand of comedy in this 1982 concert from Toronto in Bill Cosby: Himself. Using only a lone chair on an otherwise empty stage, he is expressive and relaxed in this clean-language performance. What strikes me is the pace of his calm and assured routine, never rushing and always entertaining, spinning stories detailing the humanity and quirkiness of it all. There are no special features or extras, the stage backdrop is simply changing primary colors, deep and rich, and sound is stereo only. I clicked on my DVD player's "dialogue-enhancer" and that helped to make up for the lack of 5.1 surround sound. A 1:85.1 anamorphic widescreen or full-screen choice is available, and although the picture is somewhat speckled, it's not distracting. If a Chris Rock routine is the whiskey, then this is the water chaser; cool and soothing.—Tony DeCarlo
DVD: Amnesty International's We Know Where You Live, Live!—Image
With a healthy dose of the decidedly dry wit of the English, Amnesty International assembles a plethora of the U.K.'s finest comedians and performers to celebrate the organization's 40th anniversary in We Know Where You Live, Live! Eddie Izzard serves as the event's emcee, keeping the mood light while raising awareness of human rights violations around the world—no small feat for anyone paid to make people laugh.
Recorded live in London's Wembley Arena, the DVD's two-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack doesn't have a lot of dynamic range on the musical acts, but dialogue is generally easy to understand—despite the thick brogues. Where the disc really shines is in its widescreen, 1.78:1 presentation, which features razor-sharp details and a realistic color palette.
Extras on the disc include an amusing bus tour around London's embassies, in which Izzard points out the countries that are accused of human rights abuses, and a not-so-interesting BBC News report on the event itself.—Christy Grosz
DVD: Platinum Comedy Series: Cedric the Entertainer/Starting Lineup and Steve Harvey/One Man —20th Century Fox
Steve Harvey ratings:
Two of the "Kings of Comedy" take to the stage in a pair of DVDs showcasing their Showtime at the Apollo brand of black-themed humor. Neither comic shies away from controversy; unfortunately, neither is uproariously funny either.
Cedric the Entertainer, whose comic turns in movies like Barbershop and Intolerable Cruelty are far funnier than his stand-up here, introduces some budding African American and minority comedians in a concert taped in Biloxi, MS. Only one, J.J., is mildly amusing; much of the humor falls flat, mired in stale 2001 references.
Faring better is Steve Harvey, presented in performances taped in both Augusta, Georgia, and an HBO special taped in Dallas and oddly presented as a supplement. The highlights are bits about Ebonics and O.J. Simpson, and while some of his jokes are dated, they're at least sprinkled with timeless truths.
Both the 1.33:1 video and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio are unimpressive. The picture is grainy and occasionally choppy, and the audio is frequently out of synch, for a distracting Japanese monster movie effect. Extras on both discs are as slim as Cedric is rotund. Fans might find some of this a hoot. Mainstream audiences will be better off renting Barbershop 2.—Gary Frisch