DVDs: Dec 05, AU Edition

James Fletcher has two good reasons to stay home on a hot summer night
DVD_SUBMARINERScover.jpgSubmariners: The Complete Series
4 stars

During the 1980s the Australian government took the dramatic step of constructing a new Collins Class submarine fleet, to be built in Adelaide and homed in Western Australia. But from the outset things did not go well with massive budget blow-outs and numerous flaws surfacing in the design and mechanics of each boat.
After the initial public relations disaster, which played out in both parliament and the media, the negative attention eventually subsided and for the past few years has remained relatively quiet. But now, a new six part made-for-television series takes a look at the Collins Class fleet from a very different perspective.
Submariners, released as a two DVD set, is a unique independent series filmed aboard the Collins Class flag ship HMAS Rankin during its crew shakedown and subsequent voyage around the globe in preparation for RIMPAC, the world’s largest military war games, off the coast of Hawaii. With the cameraman and producer granted unparalleled access over three month at sea, the Rankin is revealed warts and all in an intimate profile of her strategic capabilities and crew dynamics. In fact, director Hugh Piper reveals a military culture which suffers from an 80% divorce rate, continually demonstrates its resistance to change, and sincerely embraces the Australian spirit of camaraderie – to the point of hazing rituals which, shall we say, don’t always benefit the Navy’s reputation.
However, the series does manages to capture the claustrophobic habitat and isolation of life aboard a submarine, and to its credit efficiently strips away the Hollywood glamour to instead reveal a raw and unnerving sense of distress, a feeling which is effectively demonstrated when the Rankin’s air supply becomes toxic after an engine malfunction while submerged as well as during a tense and unrelenting cat-and-mouse game played against a US Naval destroyer.
Set against some breathtaking cinematography, the series is both an intriguing insight into modern high-tech warfare paralleled with the reality of life aboard a military submarine, a theme which is mirrored in the DVD’s two galleries featuring images from renowned photographer Jon Davison. And surprisingly, the series also manages to blow the Collins Class reputation as a dud right out the water.

lord of the fans copy.jpgRingers: Lord of the Fans
4 stars

After the recent spate of pop-culture fan-boy documentary DVDs such as Trekkers and Comic Book Confidential comes Ringers: Lord of the Fans – and with it a breath of new life to revitalize a tired and neglected genre.
Without question, Peter Jackson’s cinematic adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy has carved its way into film history, drawing audiences as diverse as university academics, heavy metal rockers and the palest of Star Wars geeks, but love or hate Jackson’s interpretation, Tolkien’s novels remain a seminal part of modern pop-culture. And it’s from this perspective that Ringers explore the evolution of its global fan base.
Utilising a unique blend of animation, interview techniques, reenactments and a superb soundtrack, Ringers explores the history and inspiration behind Tolkien’s Middle Earth from its initial conception to the critically disastrous release of The Fellowship of the Ring before it found a home within the counter-culture of 1960’s America.
Resonating with comedic moments and fascinating trivia, Ringers also delves into the various incarnations of LOTR’s influence in western culture over the past 50 years, from an hilarious pre-Star Trek Leonard Nimoy gaily singing “Happy Hobbits” to the cryptic, drug-infused lyrics of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album and John Lennon’s failed big-screen adaptation.
But it’s the impressive celebrity talent that director Carlene Cordova intercuts with interviews from Tolkien’s enthusiastic fan base that drives home just how wide-spread the series’ influence has become. Featuring many of the film’s cast, including Dominic Monaghan (who also supplies the film its charismatic narration), Ringers also includes interviews with fantasy writers Clive Barker and Terry Pratchet, Motor Head front man Lemmy Kilmister, filmmaker Cameron Crow and actor David Carradine who, along with many others, sing the praises of Tolkien’s visions and themes.
Released as a Special Edition, the DVD includes a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes, along with deleted scenes, an amusing audio commentary from the production team, and some hidden material. Overall the DVD manages to deliver a fun, entertaining and fascinating look at the culture and influence that LOTR’s still maintains in today’s society.