Latest Software Reviews

DVD: Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition—Buena Vista
Everyone wanted Mary Poppins to be their nanny when they were kids. Rosy cheeks, cheery disposition, and never cross? That's just ideal. However, lucky Jane and Michael Banks were the two children who got to enjoy her company, and this fine presentation of the classic musical will make you jealous of those two kids all over again.

The 1.66:1 anamorphic picture is crisp and clean, but you'll notice certain instances of edge enhancement. This is most noticeable during the scenes that incorporate cartoons into the film. However, for a film that's celebrating its 40th anniversary, the video looks remarkably clean. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio also gets the star treatment in this mix. According to Buena Vista, this version has been remixed with Disney's 5.1 Enhanced Home Theater Mix in an effort to uncover dialogue that was previously inaudible on the original track. Truth be told, I don't have every movie line memorized, so I wouldn't know a new line from an old one. However, what I did hear was an active mix that incorporated all of my speakers and sub.

The extras package is nicely separated into "Music and More" and "Backstage Disney" on a separate disc. "Music" includes a deleted song, a sing-along to "Spoonful of Sugar" and "Jolly Holiday," and a reunion with Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), Dick Van Dyke (Burt), and music composer Richard Sherman. Dyke even dances! "Backstage" features an hour-long featurette on the making of the movie, which is interesting to watch. On the first disc, you'll find commentary from Andrews, Dyke, music composers Richard and Robert Sherman, and Karen Dotrice, who played Jane Banks.—Amy Carter

DVD: Garden State—20th Century Fox
Zack Braff, the lovable doctor from NBC's Scrubs, wrote, directed, and starred in Garden State. Normally I would say that trifecta is the recipe for a self-indulgent disaster, but in this case it really works. It's the old story of messed-up boy meets messed-up girl, and together they reduce their respected messed-upness. It's remarkably well done and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.

It seems like it was raining every day of shooting, so the overall look of the movie is rather muted. The picture is noise-free but not as detailed as some sharp DVDs. It is, of course, anamorphic and sports a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Your surround speakers and subwoofer aren't going to get much of a workout from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but the dialogue and excellent music come through loud and clear.

While there aren't many extras, the ones you do get are pretty good. There are two commentary tracks, one with Braff and costar Natalie Portman and the other with Braff, his director of photography, the editor, and the production designer. This same group offers commentary on the many deleted scenes. There's a decent making-of documentary with lots of interviews and behind-the-scenes info. Lastly, you'll find an outtake/blooper reel.

If you're looking for a well-made movie to put you in a good mood, this one will do it every time. It's worth a buy just for that.—Geoffrey Morrison